Monthly Archives: February 2020
1 Cor. 3:1-9
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus help you see God at work, causing you to depend on the fact God loves you!
Teaching Little Ones ( or Big Ones!)
There are a lot of amazing things in life. The Grand Canyon, the dawn on the Atlantic Ocean’s beaches and the sunset’s you see sitting on the sands of the Pacific Ocean. Things people do also amaze me, whether it is skilled athlete, or our musicians.
Or our preschool teachers, especially Lisa and Lorena – who work with the tiniest of toddlers. Keeping them focused on a lesson, and sitting still in chapel, well, mostly still
Keeping big kids focused is hard enough, I can’t imagine the faith that results in patience that God gives our teachers!
That’s why Paul will compare the Corinthians (and us) to infants in Christ! For while they should be focused on what is important, they are not. And so in frustration Paul tells them that he has to treat them like toddlers, or people that have absolutely no clue about the love and mercy of God.
Sounds kind of harsh, doesn’t it?
But all we have to do is look around, and we see the leaders who act as if they are playing out back in the playground. Then we see similar things among our church leaders. I will freely admit to getting distracted from what is important, and acting more than a toddler at times! I want what’s mine! Give it back! That’s not fair!
In the background, Jesus waits, for the Holy Spirit is at work… and will use God’s word, including these words penned by Paul, to correct us, to help us to focus, to get us back into what comes close to a line!
Distracted by what is not important
In the readings from 1 Corinthians, we see what was the distraction of the day. It was who the people followed. It must have been a significant problem, for Paul spends some time on it.
For some reason, they tried to establish a spiritual pedigree. I have seen that – even among pastors! They somewhat jokingly compare whether they were trained at our Ft. Wayne Seminary, or St. Louis Serminary! How ludicrous, especially when they know that the best pastors come from Irvine!
Can you imagine if people here argued about whether the Lord’s supper was better from the hand of Pr. Mazemke, or Pr. Rossow, or Pr. Hsu, or Pr. CHen or from me? The bread and the wine are what is important, not whose hand put it into your hand.
If that is true for the communion we serve, it should be true for the message we give. As long as that message is about Jesus, about His love for you, about His forgiveness, that message that we sum up in a couple of statements…
The Lord is with YOU! ( and also with you)
Alleluia! His is risen! (He is risen indeed!) and therefore (we are risen indeed!)
Everything else, including which pastor brought you to know Jesus, or where you learned about His love, isn’t as important as the fact that God loves YOU!
What is important
You see, the intellect, the charisma of the pastor, that is not what caused you to believe. It was not by your reason or strength nor mine. It is, and always will be the presence of the Holy Spirit that causes the growth.
All of us and everything we do is used by the Holy Spirit, whether it is the music team, or Lisa teaching the kids, or Sandi keeping the books, or Dane, Bob, and Tom as they bring other people the Lord’s Supper. Even our coming to the altar is about one thing – letting God do the work of making a masterpiece of our lives,
Hear the verse again,
What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.
To truly being to understand that verse, we need to replace the word seed with the word, us,
What’s important is that God makes me grow!
What’s important is that God makes us grow!
God causes the growth in each one of us, and in us as a while.
We must realize this my friends, this is what is important, the work God does in your life! In our lives together. Seeing that He is working in our midst, through each other, all to the same purpose of helping everyone know God is actively part of their life. That is perfecting them, transforming them as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians,
“17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 
That is the purpose – that God is making us more and more like Jesus… that’s the goal and that is how God will continue to work in us, and through us.
That is what encourages pastors to do what we do, and empowers us to be there… -when we see people grow in their ability to depend on God, to trust in Him, to believe in Him. For the miracle we see occurring is that transformation that only the Holy Spirit can be credited for…
and so we shall… (lead into doxology…)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
24 The LORD doesn’t hate or despise the helpless in all of their troubles. When I cried out, he listened and did not turn away. 25 When your people meet, you will fill my heart with your praises, LORD, and everyone will see me keep my promises to you. 26 The poor will eat and be full, and all who worship you will be thankful and live in hope. Psalm 22:24-26 (CEV)
Joshua, please come and rescue us! The Amorite kings from the hill country have joined together and are attacking us. We are your servants, so don’t let us down. Please hurry!” Joshua 10:6 CEV
Grace and mercy are there where Christ on the cross takes your sin from you, bears it for you, and destroys it. To believe this firmly, to keep it before your eyes and not to doubt it, means to view the picture of Christ and to engrave it in yourself. Likewise, all the saints who suffer and die in Christ also bear your sins and suffer and labor for you, as we find it written, “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfil the command of Christ” [Gal. 6:2]. Christ himself exclaims in Matthew 11 [:28], “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will help you.” In this way you may view your sins in safety without tormenting your conscience. Here sins are never sins, for here they are overcome and swallowed up in Christ.
I sat in the E.R. hallway, trying to come up with something to calm my anxious soul. The lady, screaming profanities at the top of her voice didn’t help, but I was able to pray for her, and the staff that tried to calm her down. The flood of traffic, and the delay at seeing how I was bothered and comforted me at the same time. After all, if they were really worried about me, wouldn’t they have me in a bed, and be constantly looking in on me?
So I sat in the hall… trying to block out the noises, trying to find some sort of peace.
My prayer was not so different from the people sending word to Joshua ( whose name is shared with our Savior Jesus) Lord have mercy! Come help… make everything all right.
It took a while, six hours later to say I had severe gas bloating….
Six hours that seemed like a year.
As I have struggled with a few serious health issues over there, I will admit, I have wondered if God hates me. I have wondered if this sin or that is not forgiven, and that is why I have to suffer. I wonder if the suffering I help people endure in the churches I pastor is my fault, It is not a challenge to spiral, to let depression or anxiety fill the space where I forgot God was…
He is still there of course, as Psalm 22 reminds us. He has not forsaken us in our sufferings, He is there. Reminding each other of that..of God who is present, who is merciful, who is loving,,. well, that is how we carry each other’s burdens.
As to sin being the cause of our personal suffering, and the suffering all around us, consider the words Luther was able to pen…
Here sins are never sins… for here they are overcome and swallowed up in Christ!
Be at peace, Christ has not only overcome the world, He has overcome your world.
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), 105.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
The Israelites tried some of the food, but they did not ask the LORD if he wanted them to make a treaty. 15 So Joshua made a peace treaty with the messengers and promised that Israel would not kill their people. Israel’s leaders swore that Israel would keep this promise. Joshua 9:14-15, CEV
Concern for achieving unity “involves the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike.”But we must realize “that this holy objective—the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ—transcends human powers and gifts.” That is why we place all our hope “in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Man looks with suspicion upon God, so that he soon desires a different God. In brief, the devil is determined to blast God’s love from a man’s mind and to arouse thoughts of God’s wrath.
There was nothing that Jesus sought more than faith, except love. Faith is the necessary beginning of the Christian life, but love is its consummation
Listening to my favorite “radio” channel the other day, they played one of the songs I hate and love. Musically, John Lennon’s Imagine is right up there, and I understand the sentiment, the yearning, the great desire for there to be peace, and unity in this world.
Musically, I love the piece, it is my favorite style of music, the ballad. But what Lennon demands people to give up, doesn’t guarantee there to be real peace or real unity. For he is asking them to give up things that clearly define us, our culture, our beliefs.
Most of all there is one line that bothers me, far more than most.
I’ll get to it, in a moment. (It’s not the one you think!)
In my readings this morning, the Israelites fell into the same trap for peace. Tired of conflict, they entered into a covenant, a sacred treaty with people that was based on lies. They sought something good, but they didn’t look to God. and they fell prey to their own desires. This would become a curse to them, and to the Gibeonites for centuries.
This is what Luther was talking about, as they didn’t even bother to consult God, but made up their own mind. Satan blasted God’s love from their minds, giving them a goal, a god to pursue, and they did earn for a time, God’s wrath. ( I’ve always wondered what would have happened if they went to God and pleaded with Him to save these people? We can not ever know, but we have examples of such prayer!)
What did satan steal form them? What did he blast at? The religious structures? The doctrines of the Faith? The traditions, the laws, and promises?
No, Luther says, it is the love of God that Satan would have out of sight and out of mind.
Kreeft tells us that Jesus sought love more than faith. What are the two greatest commands?
And what do we have faith in, if not the absolute love that God has for us? He loves you, and He loves me. Absolutely! Purely! Passionately! With such love that He doesn’t ignore our sin, but He deals with it, and had planned to – from before the foundation of the world!
That is what sustains us, and that is what can create true unity, not just unity that hides conflict, but true unity and true peace. That is where the Catholic Catechism has it correct, our hope for unity is found, not in the boardroom, not in the halls of academia, but at the altar, where we find ourselves enveloped by His love.
Which brings me back to Lennon, and the line that bugs me, that I truly can’t accept. It is not the one about no religion. It is this one,
Nothing to live or die for…
Love does have something to die for, One who loves will die for the one who is loved.
Without that kind of love, the kind that sacrifices self, unity, and peace is but a dream…
One last word, that love is not something you have to dream about, for God loves us that much, that Jesus would die for you… because He loves you. And in doing so, all that would impede peace…are shed, and are left behind, as we discover this new life in Jesus.
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 218.
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), 103.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 77.
Devotional Thoughts of my Day:
My Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I am grateful that you hid all this from wise and educated people and showed it to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that is what pleased you.
22 My Father has given me everything, and he is the only one who knows the Son. The only one who really knows the Father is the Son. But the Son wants to tell others about the Father, so that they can know him too. Luke 10:21-22 CEV
With all these things against us, now—in the very depths of our sorrow, wherever we may be—now, as much in the valley as on the mountain, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” “Ah, but,” you say, “see how I am arrayed! my graces are not bright; my righteousness does not shine with apparent glory.” But read the next: “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” The Holy Spirit shall purify our minds, and divine power shall refine our bodies, then shall we see him as he is.
I used to think, (and sometimes still do) that with enough learning, with enough time spent in meditation and prayer, that I would gain in my understanding of how God works in life. Why does He allow this or that to happen, or that, how He makes everything run, heck, why he allows “those people” to have authority over a country, a city, a denomination, a church.
I thought I would understand what God’s idea of justice is, and be able to work towards it. Yet I resonate with a pastor who wrote these words over a century ago. I am not able to show grace to all people, and my ideas of righteousness/justice are not always glorious. It is broken, and because I can’t figure out what God is doing, and when that happens I get frustrated, agitated, anxious.
Eventually, using after a period of depression, in the midst of the brokenness I realize that we don’t know everything, we aren’t God, but what we have been shown is more than enough.
We’ve been shown, given, united to Jesus. And in Him, the Holy Spirit is at work, preparing us for the day when we shall meet the Father face to face.
This doesn’t mean I don’t work for justice and righteousness in this world, that I give up and leave it all to fate. In fact, it means that I take my role as an evangelist, and ambassador of reconciliation more seriously. (You should as well!) For as we walk with Christ, as we feel His comfort and peace overwhelm our anxiety and frustration, we take what we know of Jesus, and share it with others.
Especially those struggling with the concept of justice, who struggle against unrighteousness.
We need to know Jesus is there.. we need to know His work, which results in our being revealed as the children of God, and that nothing can separate us from Him. AMEN
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Devotional Thought of my day:
The LORD was like an eagle teaching its young to fly, always ready to swoop down and catch them on its back. Deut. 32:11 CEV
The Christian far oftener disgraces his profession in prosperity than in adversity. It is a dangerous thing to be prosperous. The crucible of adversity is a less severe trial to the Christian than the refining pot of prosperity. Oh, what leanness of soul and neglect of spiritual things have been brought on through the very mercies and bounties of God
This treatise is another example of Luther’s remarkable ability to withdraw from the heat of controversy into the pastoral atmosphere of serene devotion. The entire writing echoes his experience as a pastor and confessor constantly in contact with men and women who were terrified by the maze of popular customs and practices observed by the church in connection with death.
In reading the forward to Luther’s sermon on dying, I was struck by how often it was reprinted. His theology was still in the early stages of reforming, His battles with leaders of the Roman Catholic Church were just beginning. And as noted, he set this aside to help a friend, one terrified by all the stuff that surrounded death. His friend and many others would listen, for they were in what Spurgeon calls the crucible of adversity.
That crucible doesn’t have to be related to physical death. The death of a dream, the death of a relationship, the termination from a job, or the fear of any of these things!
Spurgeon’s quote comes from a section about the challenges of dealing with abundance, the challenge s of dealing with prosperity, and yet he notes the blessings of adversity, of being oppressed, of being under pressure. I resonate with that, for I know the most challenging, the most severe temptations which I face, the places where sin appears to have it greatest grip on me, are the places where life is easier, where I am not running to God.
It is better for me to write from the point of my own despair, for there I find this passage from Deuteronomy to be true. God will catch me, I know he will, even as I struggle with the fears and anxiety caused by the fall.
Most of the time I don’t realize this, I am not looking for it, I am too overwhelmed by the impending crash. I forget how faithful His promise is because my eyes are on me and my situation.
But in the midst of falling, He is always there…
And eventually, I hear the Spirit’s call and know the comfort of God’s presence, a presence that is there anyway. As I grow old, I realize that I eventually will, and that too calms the frayed nerves, lifts me out of my depression, and helps me see those around me, who need ot be lifted up by those same wings.
Thank you Lord Jesus, for being there in times of despair, the times when the brokenness is too great. Sustain us then, when we can’t seem to realize Your presence. Sustain as well, when things are good, and we forget our need to depend on You,. AMEN!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
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), 98
Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
29 The LORD our God hasn’t explained the present or the future, but he has commanded us to obey the laws he gave to us and our descendants. Deuteronomy 29:29 (CEV)
29 Things hidden belong to Yahweh our God, but things revealed are ours and our children’s for ever, so that we can put all the words of this Law into practice.’ Deuteronomy 29:29 (NJB)
29 “The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions. Deuteronomy 29:29 (NLT2)
“For the true unity of the church it is enough to agree concerning the teaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions or rites and ceremonies, instituted by men, should be alike everywhere.”
Although very few of those who express their uneasiness have a clear picture of these interrelated factors, there is an instinctive grasp of the fact that liturgy cannot be the result of Church regulations, let alone professional erudition, but, to be true to itself, must be the fruit of the Church’s life and vitality.
I read the verse in red in the first translation this morning. It piqued my interest because I get frustrated when I cannot understand the things going on in life. That has been happening a lot recently.
So i started looking the passage up in other translations. Sometimes that helps, sometimes I have ot go a bit deeper than that. I use the NLT in our church, and the NJB is the first full Bible I ever owned. I like it just like people who grew up with the KJV are not comfortable with more modern translations.
Turns out I like all three, but the NJB resonates the most with me.
To paraphrase it, “what God has made a mystery, these things we cannot know. That is good. The things God has revealed to us, this is what is needed for us to live in the relationship He created with us…. (at the cross) For the Law is not just the commandments, but the entire covenant, the entire description of our relationship. It is the explanation of, “I am your God, and you are my people!’
That’s the message – that is the mystery that we can’t conceive of, but we need to know is true. We have to have that, far more than why we have to understand some of the evil things that happen in this world or even the odd and unexplainable things.
Even if we understood the present or the future, could we change it?
No. Not really. We might even be more frustrated than we are with things all in the dark.
But if we know of God’s presence, HIs promise, HIs love, that changes it all…. and we can His peace and comfort in that revelation.
And this is where the two quotes about liturgy come in, for the liturgy needs to communicate God’s presence, love, and mercy above all. It cannot be the same, for it has to address the place where people are at, the struggles they face, the despair they know, and to reveal to them that they can depend on God, that He wants them to do so!
That means the liturgy may look a little different here from there. It gives expression to God coming into the presence of His people and healing them of their brokenness. And liturgy comes out of that feeling., as the people respond to the merciful, comforting loving presence of God. That is why liturgy is fruit, proof of the vitality of a congregation, proof of the truth revealed to them. And it is why those who would use the liturgy to bind the church are not protecting the church, but severely damaging it. Damaging it far more than the changes they fear ever could.
Liturgy is the expression of the faith of those who enter into worship and must always remain so. For then it gives voice to what God has revealed, and where He has not, where we don’t get it, the liturgy will bring comfort and peace.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Cinnfessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 173–174.
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 86–87.
11 Then you and your family must celebrate by eating a meal at the place of worship to thank the LORD your God for giving you such a good harvest. And remember to invite the Levites and the foreigners who live in your town. Deut. 26:11 CEV
But anyone who has been forgiven for only a little will show only a little love.”
48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 Some other guests started saying to one another, “Who is this who dares to forgive sins?”
50 But Jesus told the woman, “Because of your faith, you are now saved.t May God give you peace!” Luke 7:47-50 CEV
Agape also looks at the true, real, and objective good of the beloved rather than at subjective feelings, whether of the lover or of the beloved. It looks at needs rather than wants.
I imagine that when Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to a special dinner, he thought he was doing Jesus a favor. Give the homeless but popular Rabbi some food, introduce him to some powerful people. give him a chance to get a leg up in life.
Simon may have even thought he might learn a thing to use in a lesson he would teach later. If you would have asked him if he was thankful for the presence of Jesus in his home, he would probably just.. stare at you, as if you were on some planet.
I wonder if we treat God the same way.
We do our devotions, we try not to sin, we go to church and even give some money, and God should be thankful to us. We would never say it, but we often treat God like He should be thankful for us!
So like Simon, we forget what God is doing in our lives, we forget how much He loves us.
The people of God were told that after they made their sacrifice of the first blessings of the harvest, they were to eat a meal to give thanks to God for the harvest. Eat of the very things God provided in the harvest, but here is the point, to thank God for what He provided! They were to be so thankful, that they invited others to share in the feast- others that God may not have provided for at all.
That’s where Kreeft’s comment intersects with this thought. We have to realize that God has enough wisdom to know where and how to answer our prayers. More importantly, that His love looks at the objective good, and provides for what we need, not just the things that will make us wise, or content.
Including the forgiveness of all of our sin, and in doing so, revealing to us the love and interest God has in our life. I don’t think we can see what to be thankful for, that He is providing in our lives. But realize what that forgiveness opens up for us, what it reveals to us, that is the beginning of realizing what it means when you hear, “The Lord is with you!”
So let’s have a feast, in the presence of God, and give thanks for all He has done!
(Don’t forget to invite a foreigner and those who don’t get the same provision you do!)
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 67.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 People of Israel, every year you must set aside ten percent of your grain harvest. 23 Also set aside ten percent of your wine and olive oil, and the first-born of every cow, sheep, and goat. Take these to the place where the LORD chooses to be worshiped, and eat them there. This will teach you to always respect the LORD your God.
24 But suppose you can’t carry that ten percent of your harvest to the place where the LORD chooses to be worshiped. If you live too far away, or if the LORD gives you a big harvest, 25 then sell this part and take the money there instead. 26 When you and your family arrive, spend the money on food for a big celebration. Buy cattle, sheep, goats, wine, beer, and if there are any other kinds of food that you want, buy those too. 27 And since people of the Levi tribe won’t own any land for growing crops, remember to ask the Levites to celebrate with you.
28 Every third year, instead of using the ten percent of your harvest for a big celebration, bring it into town and put it in a community storehouse. 29 The Levites have no land of their own, so you must give them food from the storehouse. You must also give food to the poor who live in your town, including orphans, widows, and foreigners. If they have enough to eat, then the LORD your God will be pleased and make you successful in everything you do. Deut. 14:22-29
Fifth, your trust must not set a goal for God, not set a time and place, not specify the way or the means of his fulfilment, but it must entrust all of that to his will, wisdom, and omnipotence. Just wait cheerfully and undauntedly for the fulfilment without wanting to know how and where, how soon, how late, or by what means. His divine wisdom will find an immeasurably better way and method, time and place, than we can imagine.
714 Yours is a desire without desire, as long as you don’t put firmly aside the occasion of falling. Don’t fool yourself telling me you’re weak. You’re a coward, which is not the same thing.
Prayer is hard.
Every week, with 50-80 people, I pray for about 150… Some are just people we need to pray for – those in government, those serving people and responding to protect and heal. Others are grieving, or are ill, others are facing a struggle that cannot be discussed.
And we pray… I attempt to lead us in putting all these people, and their concerns, in the hands of God.
There is a balance between telling God what to do and having the faith that God not only will act but is acting at this moment. Part of me wants to say with Jesus, “not my will, but Yours.” and part of me wants to be the old lady that hassled the judge.
And to this I hear the words, “you aren’t weak, you are a coward..” and I wonder if it is true, at least when it comes ot prayer. Am I afraid to really let God have everything in my life? Am I willing to let Him answer my prayers in His time, in His wisdom, in His way? Luther advocates this, but how hard is it to do? And how the heck did he learn to wait “cheerfully and undauntedly” without even the slightest bit of knowledge or control?
That’s why I asked which comes first, true prayer or true worship?
I think it has to be worship!
And we can’t worship until we know why we worship! That is how the Old Testament passage relates. One of the major tithes the people had to gather, 10 percent of their harvest, and all the firstborn of their flock was to throw a party! What kind of party? A party to “respect” the Lord- to realize His presence, to realize how He provides and cares for you. To celebrate the fact you aren’t alone.
With that knowledge, prayer seems… easier, it seems more natural, it seems to be how we are to relate to God, for it is in response ot how He cares for us.
I only have thoughts about whether prayer is effective when I am not thinking about God, when I am not in awe of His presence, of His love, of His care. When I am focused on that, such as during a worship service, prayer flows, it works, it is…
So, if you are struggling, if you aren’t sure God is with you, get with some other sisters and brothers in Christ. Be reminded of God’s love and mercy, and His presence… and praise Him for that, together. Then pray about what stresses you, what causes you anguish, anxiety, stress, pain…
And leave it in the hands of the Lord who loves you.
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), 89.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.