Monthly Archives: May 2019
Devotional Thought of the Day:
31 “So don’t worry and don’t keep saying, ‘What shall we eat, what shall we drink or what shall we wear?! That is what pagans are always looking for; your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness, and all these things will come to you as a matter of course. Matthew 6:31 (Phillips NT)
Therefore, I maintain there is no one who can know everything that the Holy Spirit says in this short psalm. If they had to proclaim or teach something from this psalm, they would not know where to begin. In order to shame these evil people and to honor the word of God, I have decided to interpret this psalm myself. I would like people to see both how clear and common it is and how it is nonetheless unfathomable. Even if it seems obvious (which it is not), nonetheless in virtue and power it is unfathomable, and it always renews and creates a clean heart and refreshes, washes, comforts, and strengthens us without end. I see and learn daily how the beloved prophets studied the Ten Commandments from where their sermons and prophecies had their sources and springs. Let us now divide this psalm into four parts—prophecy, revelation, instruction, and admonition.
Benedict XVI told the young prisoners n the prison of Casal del Marmo in Rome on the 18th of March, 2007, “We have recalled that God loves us: this is the source of true joy. One can having everything one wants and still be sometimes unhappy. On the contrary, one could be deprived of everything, even freedom or health and still be in peace and joy, if God is in our heart. So therein lies the secret: that God is always in the first place in our life.”
Before him, St Augustine said, ‘Sometimes the doctor makes a mistake in promising the patient health of the body. God gives you a sure and free healing, that is salvation’. This is the first point: this confusion between health and salvation. Make no mistake, let us look for salvation and many things will follow.
“How is your spiritual health?”
More important than your financial health, your physical health, even more important than your financial health is the question of your spiritual health.
You many think differently, and could point to reasons why mental health or physical health is more important. You could claim that poor financial health could affect the rest.
I know a lot of people in poor health, and they know joy. I’ve been on the mission field and seen the smiles of children and adults, and know they have something the richest people in the word do not. I’ve worked with people challenged by illnesses of the mind, who even through their challenges, find peace and comfort at the altar, where they receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
Yet we often get confused about what it means to be truly “healthy.” And the thing we omit the most is our spiritual condition. We refuse to ask ourselves
– are we struggling with a particular temptation or sin
– are we repressing anger and resentment
– are there people we’ve offended that we need to seek forgiveness from
– do we realize we are in the presence of God, God who loves us.
– are we taking the time to adore God, and to realize the work He is doing in us, renrewing us as the Spirit cleansses us, and empowers our will and our deeds?
– Do we depend on God more than we distrust the world’s leaders, (or trust and depend on them? )
– Do we trust and depend on God to make all things work in our lives for good. All things, including the crap we don’t like.
I think most of us are afraid to ask this question.
We feel like the negative answers would result in massive amounts of guilt, the pain of judging ourselves, the feeling of failure and condemantion. The shame of falling short.
But unless we ask ourslves, we will never resolve to apply the easiest healing remedy that exists for anything. For it is simply being in the presence of God, hearing His promsies, receiving His blessing that renews and refreshes us. This is the salvation that Augustine spoke of, a deliverance from spiritual death to an abundant life, now and forever,
This is why Luther said Psalm 118 was so deep, for this is what it reveals, and celebrates and drives into our soul at levels beyond our comprehension.
We need this, for it transforms our life, it actually helps us really live life
It is when this is taken care of by God, as we realize His work, that life changes… it really changes.
Heavenly Father, help us to ask the hard questions of ourselves, and those we care about and are responsible for guiding in the faith. Help us to desire to see Your work in our lives, that our shame and guilt are left behind, as we seek You, and Your influence in our lives. We ask this, knowing Your love for us, revealed in Jesus Chrsist. AMEN!
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 130). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Buttet, N. (2012). The Eucharist, Adoration and Healing. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 111). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 He made no difference between us and them; he forgave their sins because they believed. 10 So then, why do you now want to put God to the test by laying a load on the backs of the believers which neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry? 11 No! We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.” Acts 15:9-11 GNT
Great faith, like great strength in general, is revealed by how easily it works. Most of what we call a struggle of faith is really the struggle to act as if we had faith when in fact we do not.
Imagine a jacket lying on the ground. If someone picks up the garment holding it from the end of one of its sleeves, or from one of its pockets, the result would be a considerable mess. You have to take the jacket from the shoulders to hang it properly.
Something similar happens with worship: to adore is to take life by the shoulders and not by the sleeve. Anyone who puts God at the top of the values of their existence, notes that ‘everything else’ happens to occupy the place it should. By worshiping God one learns to relativize all things which, although important, should not be at the centre, that do not relate to it.
I recently was told I was “a man of great faith.” I am not sure what the person meant by that, but to be honest, in my understanding of it, I am not.
That is not saying I don’t aspire ot be a man of great faith, o how I wish I was. But I am like the father, who told Jesus, “I believe! Help me in my lack of belief.”
This morning, I came to the three readings I copied and pasted above, and it reinfoces the need to discuss what great faith is, or even having faith.
The middle one resonates as true – faith – a deep dependence of God, is so much of who we are that to operate depending on God is easy, it is natural. If I am questioning my faith, and asking if I have enough, then what I really need to be doing is asking God to strengthen my faith, to undergird it, to help me depend on the Holy Spirit more than I depend on my own reason, my own will, my own power.
Deep faith means we act in prayer, knowing that God has answered Paul’s prayer in 2 Thes 1:11 – giving us the desire and completing the the He causes us to do, by faith. It happens, and we even sometimes act without realizing it, as we minister to those people who are the least of these.
That kind of deep faith is taking the God at His word, at what He’s promised to do, and depending on it. That is what the final quote discusses, hanging up the jacket the right way. When we worship God because of what He’s revealed at the cross, at the altar, in the word, everything else takes its place relative to it. Life comes together, like a plan in the old ATeam series – though it often doesn’t come together in the manner we think it should. But as our faith deepens, as we come to depend on God more and more, the more that becomes a cause for joy.
You see this in the quote from Acts, the apostles and early church, struggling with what the Gentiles beocming part of the church meant, kept God’s work at their focus. They joy was not in the agreement they “brokered” but in the very knowledge that God had worked in others, bringing them to the greatest challenge of faith.
Depending that God has saved us, that He has forgiven us sll of our sins. There is faith at it hardest challenge, the most illogical thing, even the most foolish thing that we believe in as His people. (see Proverbs 17:18) Yet, that is where faith begins.
To know that God loves us enough to do something foolish – to be responsible for all of our debt, all of our sin. To depend on Him to restore us from the brokeness that sin creates in our lives.
This is where faith struggles the most, right at the beginning, To truly live life knowing and depending on our sin being forgiven, depending on the renewal and reconciliation that happens as God does this miracle, is life changing. To know that my sins, my thoughts, words and deeds of which I am ashamed (or should be ashamed) are taken care of by God.
It is at that moment, as we realize this, that our faith soars, that our praises rise, that we are in awe of God. It is there we find the Holy Spirit revealing to us through word and sacrament this wonderful, glorious, marvelous love of God.
And it is then that we can dive deeply into this relationship, not fully understanding why God would do this..
This is the deepest moment of dependence of God, and the moment when HIs love for us overwhelms us.
Lord God, even as we have to depend on You in the daily struggles of our lives, help us depend on the acts in which You draw us into Jesus Christ, cleanse us of sin, and restore and heal us. Help us know that love which does all this – and then walks us through each day. We pray this in Jesus Name! AMEN!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Aguirre, J. I. M. D. (2012). Eucharistic Adoration and Sacred Scripture. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 109). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10 (TEV)
952 You run the great risk of being satisfied with living, or thinking that you have to live, “like a good boy”, who stays in a cosy and neat house, with no problems, and knowing only happiness. That is a caricature of the home in Nazareth. Because Christ brought happiness and order, he went out to spread those treasures among men and women of all times.
I was dealing with a fairly uncomfortable situation this morning, and as I wa completing my devotional reading I came across St Josemaria’s comment about being satisfied, about being comfortable.
I am still trying to process this one, and the scripture above it. To be honest, I would rather not do so.
Living as a Christian isn’t always satisfying, and it certainly shouldn’t be considered comfortable. It shouldn’t be, in the normal sense of the word, we shouldn’t be comfrotable with the American Dream, a life where everyhting has its place, and life runs like a smoothly runinng machine.
Because that isn’t life. it is reduced to being a robot.
Life, real life is lived in the brokenness, in the moments where we are weak, in the moments of being uncomfortable where God has led us. The moement we have to talk to the lady who had to celebrate mother’s day on the day her mother died, and is grieving. The friend whose work is breaking him down, and he doesn’t realize it, the couple that loves each other, but doesn’t know reconciliation is possible.
It is there we see God bringing healing, it is there we see God at work, it is in those moemnts that aren’t satisfying, comfortable and easy that we find a peace that goes beyond all understanding.
That is why St Paul could use the word content in describing them, for he had learned, he had been taught that it is then that Christ must become our strenght, for we have no other option but to depend on Him,and His love.
Ultimately, getting out of our “comfort zone”, out of our perfect lives is what we need. So rejoice in the moments that aren’t personally satisfying, you are about to see God’s work revealed.
Heavenly Father, when we are undergoing the challenges of life, help us to rejioce in them, as they cause us to be drawn closer to you and depend upon You more. Even as we struggle, may we see revealed the power of the Holy Spirit, comforting us and enabling us to endure. In Jesus name!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3860-3864). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— 2 then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. 5 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.
Philippians 2:1-5 (MSG)
947 May you acquire the custom of concerning yourself every day about others, and give yourself to the task so much that you forget you even exist!
Many of us live in our own world, A world, that though we are broken, is chock full of stuff that gives us little chance ot be who we are. In reality, it gives us little chance ot find out who we are. And finding meaning in our lives? After so many years, it seems useless, and perhaps, even a waste of time.
I think part of our problem is trying to determine who we are from some theoretical, philosophical or even psychological study. These tools can tell me a lot of things about me, but they don’t tell me who I am. For example, my MBTI personality type is ENFP, and as I read the description, I resonate with it. It describes aspects of my personality, of my traits and behaviors.
However, I am more than that.
Ultimately, we are the children of God, the men, and women that Jesus says He no longer addresses as servants, but as friends, beloved friends. We are, as the church and as individuals, being transformed into the image of Christ, therefore the image of God.
And His nature should begin to be seen in us.
That is what St. Paul is talking about, this idea of being like Christ. Not that we have to or we aren’t saved, our merits gain us nothing in view of salvation. We are like Jesus because of the incredible love and comfort He pours out on us. If you have experienced this love, this fellowship with Christ, then we do begin to lose ourselves in Him, caring for those who He has brought into our lives. As we realize His love for us, that love is passed on to others, even to those the world tells us it is impossible to love. It is what happens
And our life is saved by losing it. By taking up the cross and following Him.
That is what St. Josemaria talks about as well, as we minister to the various broken people, ministering to the least of these, the sick, the imprisoned, the widow and orphan, the brokenhearted, to mourning, the hurting, the lost. We do it because as we are in fellowship with God, there is no other option, it becomes natural. (see article VI of the Augsburg Confession)
This is how we find “ourselves,” this is how we know who we are.
We are His.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3843-3845). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 Do not restrain the Holy Spirit; 20 do not despise inspired messages. 21 Put all things to the test: keep what is good
1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 (TEV)
I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intelligence or power. But the Holy Spirit call me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith.
The words spoken by Christian tongues today are unfortunately anything but fire. They taste all too much like water that has been left standing and is barely lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. We have no desire to burn either ourselves or others, but in not doing so we place ourselves at a distance from the Holy Spirit and our Christian Faith degenerates into a self-made philosophy of life that wants to disturb as few as possible of our comfortable habits and relegates the sharpness of protest to a place where it can cause the least inconvenience to our customary way of life. If we elude the burning fire of the Holy Spirit, it is only at first glance that being Christian seems easy for us. What is comfortable for the individual is uncomfortable for the whole. Where we no longer expose ourselves to God’s fire, the frictions among us become insupportable and the Church, to quote Saint Basil, is torn by the cries of interior factionalism. Only when we are not afraid of the tongues of fire or of the strong wind that accompanies them does the Church become an icon of the Holy Spirit. And only then does she open the world to the light of God.
My youngest years were spent on the fringes of the Charismatic Renewal Movement in the Roman Catholic Church. And like many, I witnessed abuses, the one lady who always had to have a prophecy, the crowd of people mumbling their prayers, each one trying to be louder than the next, the people that claimed spiritually giftedness, only to go hang out after the prayer meeting talking in ways that weren’t godly. I know too many people who bore scars and are afraid of churches because of those days.
(Note: I have seen similar folk in most of the churches and denominations I’ve been associated with over the years.)
And noting the extremes of such movements, if people stay in the church, they end up in churches that deny the Holy Spirit works in any miraculous way today. They come so close to embracing a form of deism, thinking that God left us the scriptures (and maybe the sacraments) and therefore we need nothing else, even His presence.
You really can’t claim that Pope Benedict or Martin Luther were charismatic or pentecostal extremists. In fact, most would assume they are contrary to the position of those movements.
Yet they both see an incredible need for the church to be ministered to by the Holy Spirit. Their words resonate with St. Paul’s about ot restraining the Holy Spirit, but heeding the Spirit’s call, and taking joy in the work of the Holy Spirit, as He calls, gathers, enlightens us and makes us Holy.
Such is a miracle, it is a supernatural work. It goes beyond on anything we can control, and therefore it makes us nervous. Theologians and people who need to understand get anxious, and as we realize God’s ways are not our ways, that who He sends us to serve, that those He brings us to love are not whom we would choose. Nor it the way we are to minister to them the way we would prefer.
As Pope Benedict notes, this isn’t the most comfortable of places to be, as we are directed by the Holy Spirit, given gifts and abilities, insights and a new heart (see Ex 36:25ff) that resonates with the will and desire of God.
So how do we listen and hear? How are we guided by the Holy Spirit? How do we know if what we are hearing is the Spirit’s guidance?
Luther would say prayer, meditation, and faith-building stress. For the more we look to Christ- the more we realize He is our hope, our life, the revelation of the Trinity’s love, the more we are hearing the call, the more we are gathered, made holy and used by the Holy Spirit to reflect the glorious love of God into the darkness of this world.
So don’t hold back the Spirit… don’t depend on your own reason or strength, but rather depend on God, as He reveals Himself in scripture.
And dwell in His peace!
Luther’s Small Catechism: Part 2 The Creed: Article Three
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 159–160). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 159–160). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Concordia’s Service on Sunday May 12, 2019
More Blessed to Give than Receive!
† In Jesus
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so transform your life, that you just don’t know it is better to give than receive, but that you give yourself completely…
If there is a day that I don’t have to look far for a sermon illustration, today’s sermon passage from Acts 20 is it. Here is the primary verse for the passage…
“It is more blessed to give than to receive”
and then think
Hmmm… could there be a connection there? You know, those ladies who have given so much, and whom most of us have benefited from,
Most of us struggle to really understand this passage but if there is a group of people who do, it would be moms! Been watching a lot of pics on FB this week, of friends whose kids are graduating college. The largest and perhaps the quietest, proud smiles are on the faces of the moms. Heck, half the time, they are the ones taking the picture! The same for my cousins, putting up pictures of their sons and daughters at recitals or ball games! I think they find more joy at the moment than their children do, and the sacrifices, well are forgotten.
Mom’s give a lot, and some of them, when their children succeed, or simply have learned that lesson that was so hard to teach them, find their reward, and know the sacrifice was worth it.
So they have a small grasp on what it means when Paul mentions Jesus’ teaching on “it is more blessed to give than receive.”
And yet, there is more to it, as we shall see.
The struggle and the answer
The challenge of understanding these simple words is that most of us don’t recognize when someone is sacrificing something in order to help us. We didn’t see our mom’s at the end of a long day, cleaning the house, or doing the laundry.
We don’t understand why they would work so hard, or our fathers would work so hard, until we faced the same thing, until we wanted something for our children, for those we care for… then sacrifice became the norm, often without even thinking.
Yet prior to that, we assumed that was our mom’s role. That is what parents do, they are supposed to wrap their lives around us kids. They are, along with our grandparents, supposed to spoil us rotten.
And when they disciplined us, we never understood the phrase, “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you….”
But it did….
Well, I think it did!
But we have to encounter the need to sacrifice out of love, we have to have it happen naturally before we understand it… or at least experience it. It has to get by that part of us that wants to get, get! Get!!
That part of us that is sure what we want is best, that we know what is right, and that throws a tantrum. What? You don’t think adults throw tantrums?
We are quite good at it!
Look at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or listen to conversations at Starbucks or a bar if you don’t believe me!
Remember, we are called to love. Love our moms, our spouses, our families, our friends, neighbors and enemies…
That means we can grow in this blessing of giving more than we receive.
Let me give you an example.
Susan, last year when Ethan one of your preschool students ask you to be his sponsor when he got baptized.
Did you think about how much you and your teachers invested in Ethan? Of the time you taught him about Jesus, or held his hand on the way to chapel? Or were you just in awe of being asked?
That is what it means, that it is better, it is more of a blessing to give than receive!
Context! Context! Context!
And that brings us back to the context of our passage.
You see, Paul isn’t talking about being a mom to the leaders of the church in Ephesus. He’s talking about shepherding them, about their need to shepherd the people God entrusts to them…. About our sharing Christ’s love, no matter the cost, with the people God brings us into contact with.
He says this,
24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
Ultimately, that is our job, to help all of “our” kids know that God isn’t going to “get them” when they screw up, but that He wants to fix what they’ve broken. A relationship, a level of trust, their own internal life.
Because that is what the cross was about, the ultimate lesson in the idea that it is more blessed to give than receive.
For we received the forgives of sin, and the promise of everlasting life, the ability to know that God will be there for us, with us.
And Jesus gave His life so that God the Father would gain a family of saints. Including all that depend on Him.
For that is what faith is, realizing how much God has promised, and depending on Him to provide it. The forgiveness of all sin, the promise of eternal life, and the promise of His walking with us now.. even as we learn to give the gift of salvation to others.
This is what Paul wanted to give everyone the knowledge of, and as he did, as Susan did, as I have done, we realize what it means that it is more blessed to give than receive.
As we do we realize, as we see it over and over become real to others, that it is in giving that we realize how precious the peace of God is that He draws us into, a peace that goes beyond all understanding, even as, like a mother hen, He protects our hearts and minds in that peace. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
40 But God raised him from death three days later and caused him to appear, 41 not to everyone, but only to the witnesses that God had already chosen, that is, to us who ate and drank with him after he rose from death. 42 And he commanded us to preach the gospel to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God has appointed judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets spoke about him, saying that all who believe in him will have their sins forgiven through the power of his name.” Acts 10:40-43 GNT
Worship is not only submission, but also translates into the mystery of ‘communion’ and ‘union’.
A conversation I had this week touched on the idea of liturgical worship and its connection to evangelism. I thought it interesting that it wasn’t considered as a natural progression.
Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be, given all the years of worship wars that have dominated churches, especially those who have a formal liturgy. Who defines worship and liturgy as what happens in a formal, even antiseptic manner as God blesses His people in a gathering and they respond back with canned prayers and hymns barely sung.
That isn’t worship – although it should be, too often we go about it so mechanically that it isn’t worship. It is simply a machine, a time where we keep everything highly organized and controlled. ( I am not sure if this is to stop our freedom, or to place God in a box!)
In the passage from Acts above, we see Peter describing a complete form of worship, the time where Jesus gathers His people around them and blessed them, and shares a meal with them. Here is our model for the mass, for the gathering on Sunday morning where we come to be taught and fed by God.
Worship includes that time of letting God provide for us, care for us. IN order to do that, we get at the heart of what submission is – not to bow in fear of getting beaten up or abused if we do not but submitting and letting someone else care for us. Think of Peter at the last supper, struggling to submit to Jesus washing his feet. Worship is realizing that we need God’s word, we need to hear of His promises and love, worship is letting Him feed us at the altar. This is the beginning of worship and it includes the prayers where we lay our entire lives before God, trusting Him to cleanse us, to heal our hearts, our minds and souls of the brokenness that is caused by our sin, and to allow Him to do whatever He finds pleasing with our lives.
It is that last part that is also communion, that is also the sweetest of unions. And yet it continues past the benediction, past the exit from the church, past the coffee and doughnuts.
That communion, that sweetest of unions occurs even as we reveal that Jesus is the Messiah, the one who judges His people as being righteous, as being Holy, as being worthy of being the children of God.
For that is what we learn, and re-learn in our church services, it is why our confession says “the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to give people what they need to know about Jesus Christ.”
And that is what our world needs to know… all about Jesus.
That is what our families, our friends, co-workers, and neighborhood needs to know… they need to know the love of Jesus…
The Jesus who died for us, and with whom we are risen to a new life, a life lived in communion. A life lived, being fed and feeding others.
Lord Jesus, help us to grow in our dependence on You, submitting ourselves to Your love and care. Thank You for inviting us to commune with You, to be united to You, and the Father and the Holy Spirit. AMEN!
Aguirre, J. I. M. D. (2012). Eucharistic Adoration and Sacred Scripture. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 101). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
devotional thought of the day:
8 Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy. 9 You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The river of God has plenty of water; it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so. 10 You drench the plowed ground with rain, melting the clods and leveling the ridges. You soften the earth with showers and bless its abundant crops. Psalm 65:8-10 (NLT2)
21 King Josiah ordered the people to celebrate the Passover in honor of the LORD their God, as written in the book of the covenant. 22 No Passover like this one had ever been celebrated by any of the kings of Israel or of Judah, since the time when judges ruled the nation. 23 Now at last, in the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah, the Passover was celebrated in Jerusalem. 2 Kings 23:21-23 GNT
For as soon as the word of God rises up within you, the devil will track you down and afflict you. [This will] make a real doctor of you and, by making you suffer such devilish assaults, will teach you to look for and love God’s word. For I myself (if I, mouse dirt that I am, might mingle myself with pepper) have a great deal to thank my papists for, because they beat, belted, pressed, and frightened me so through the rampaging of the devil that they made a rather good theologian out of me, which I otherwise would not have become.
They had lost their vision.
But not a corporate vision with mission statements, and measurable goals and strategies. Not a vision created in board meetings and through surveys of congregations. Not a vision of the future, or of the goal they wanted to aim at.
They lost the vision that scripture says the absence of leads to death. (Proverbs 29:18a (King James Version) The kind of vision that Paul tells the Corinthian church transforms them. The king of vision that changes a sinner into the saint he was designed to be –
The vision of Christ crucified, and risen, revealing the love of the Father. It when we see that when it dominates our vision, that everything else we encounter we find ourselves in awe of, knowing that God created this to bless us. That is what the Psalmist is so amazed at, as he looks out at the world.
He realizes this is all God’s provision.
The same thing happens as King Josiah and his people find the Books of Scripture in the temple, and understand the glory that had been lost for two generations. The incredible story of God saving His people, so He could dwell among them
As the Holy Spirit makes the word of God come alive in them, the celebration is greater than any in Israel’s history, going all the way back to the Judges. (which would therefore include Solomon’s time!)
When we become in awe of God’s work in our midst, when we realize it is God at work, and it is proof of His love, the joy is amazing! Even in the midst of the trials and afflications of Satan! (he has a vested interest in you not seeing what is revealed in scripture, and will throw everything at you to prevent it!) This struggle, also known as Tentatio works against Satan’s purpose, for when we recognize it as such it can drive us deeper into scripture. It can, and does deepen our dependence on God
Luther said it was this that gave him such and understanding of Grace, for the pressure focused his vision of a God who was merciful, loving and present, blessing us through His word, and through the Sacraments.
Again, from the Apostle Paul,
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT2)
(James gives voice to this as well, in the first chapter)
So how in the middle of the struggle, do we find this endurance? It is through prayer and meditation on the word of God. It is found in the awe that comes from see Him keep the promises He has made, of His the devotion He has for His people, and the way He wants to relate, to interact with us. It is found as the Spirit reveals His love to us, and adoring Him, the Spirit consoles, comforts and changes us.
Without a vision of God, without realizing that, “the Lord is with you!” we perish. But as we realize that love, as He becomes our vision, not even the power of Satan can separate us from His love. In fact, realizing Satan’s attempt to distract us and separate us from the Love of God, will kindle the fire to help it grow.
Lord Jesus, help us to stay focused on You, to experience the dimensions of Your love, even though we can’t understand it fully. AMEN!
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 123). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
He also broke in pieces the bronze snake that Moses had made, which was called Nehushtan. Up to that time the people of Israel had burned incense in its honor. 5 Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; Judah never had another king like him, either before or after his time.
2Kings 18:4-8 GNT
14† As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way, the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:14-15 GNT
Very well, let it happen in God’s name, except that I make this friendly request: if you want to have my books at this time, do not, on pain of death, let them hinder you from studying the Scriptures themselves
The Bronze Serpent, once a tool crafted and used by God’s command to bless the people of God, to provide them a source of healing, this incredible, miraculous tool had turned into an idol. People worshipped it, prayed to it, honored it.
And for the sake of the people, Hezekiah destroyed what had become an idol.
Luther saw the same potential in the books he had written, that people would take those books and value them above scripture itself. He feared the idea that people would spend more time in his books than in scripture. It terrified him.
I think today he would either be the first to burn the books which bear his name, or rejoice that they are gathering dust on the shelves.
Things that are supposed to point us to Jesus, that are simply signs or foreshadows of the Lord coming to us, loving us, cleansing and healing us from the damage sin has caused in our lives.
And w become dependent, we place our faith in these tools, rather than in the one they point to. It may be a building, a pastor’s blog, ( or the pastor himself!) a youtube channel of sermons, or books. In some cases, it might be a translation of the Bible, or a collection of hymns we have grown up with, or even the liturgy. It might even be the denomination that you thought was as Biblical and orthodox as it gets.
These things point us to Jesus, they can be used by the Holy Spirit to bring us comfort, but we can’t depend upon them, we can’t make them our life.
It is that point when we being to depend on them more than realizing that they only point to God, that we’ve turned them into an idol. ANd that is when, like the bronze serpent, or Gideon’s ephod, they need to be destroyed.
What will help is realizing what the item or person did in the first place. They focused our attention on Jesus, they informed us of God’s loving care for us. As we look to Jesus, as we find peace as we realize the dimensions of His love, these idols will fade away.
As they should.
And realize this, even in the moments you miss your idols, the Lord is with you.
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 121). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.