Monthly Archives: September 2020
Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 Do what God’s teaching says; when you only listen and do nothing, you are fooling yourselves. 23 Those who hear God’s teaching and do nothing are like people who look at themselves in a mirror. 24 They see their faces and then go away and quickly forget what they looked like. 25 But the truly happy people are those who carefully study God’s perfect law that makes people free, and they continue to study it. They do not forget what they heard, but they obey what God’s teaching says. Those who do this will be made happy. James 1:22-25 CEV
Hence a closer look is in order. A real assent to a proposition includes the intellectual acceptance of it plus the concrete carrying out of it in the nitty-gritty of daily life, that is, making this truth part of one’s personal reality
It is also taught among us that such faith should produce good fruits and good works and that we must do all such good works as God has commanded,6 but we should do them for God’s sake and not place our trust in them as if thereby to merit favor before God.
Assent, Belief, Faith, Trust, Dependence. Obedience (to hyper-hear)
We need to realize that these are synonyms, and that realization has a specific reason. All of those words lead to actions based on them. If they do not create action, they are merely sophistry, thoughts that lead no where, and are vain and worthless.
The challenge is letting the assent/belief/etc. determine the action, rather than the action defining the faith. This is important, it is critical to understand that the relationship precedes and causes the action.
Despite our focus on the Doctrine of Justification, this has always been part of Lutheran Doctrine! We can’t separate Eph. 2:8-9 from verse 10. It is one solid concept.
8 You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better than we deserve. This is God’s gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own. 9 It isn’t something you have earned, so there is nothing you can brag about. 10 God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are. Ephesians 2:8-10 (CEV)
One movement – God calls us to life, draws us into this relationship with Him, and then we work with Him, serving others, helping them, being within Him.
So what is it that God is calling you to do? Where is your dependence on Him leading you to walk with Him? Who is God leading you to be there for, reminding them that the Lord loves them enough to die on the cross for them.
Then, depending on His grace, go to them – and serve… knowing the God you depend upon is with you!
Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 41.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 31–32.
Ezekiel, the people of Israel are like dead bones. They complain that they are dried up and that they have no hope for the future. 12 So tell them, “I, the LORD God, promise to open your graves and set you free. I will bring you back to Israel, 13 and when that happens, you will realize that I am the LORD. 14 My Spirit will give you breath, and you will live again. I will bring you home, and you will know that I have kept my promise. I, the LORD, have spoken.” Ezekiel 37:11-14 CEV
Abraham certainly had sufficient ground for a disputation when he heard God’s words about offering up his son, because these words were patently contrary not only to reason and to divine and natural law but also to the eminent article of faith concerning the promised seed, Christ, who was to be born of Isaac. He could have asked if this command was to be understood literally or if it was to receive a tolerable and loose interpretation. But as on the previous occasion when Abraham received the promise of the blessed seed of Isaac, although this seemed impossible to his reason, he gave God the honor of truthfulness and concluded and believed most certainly in his heart that what God promised he was also able to do. So Abraham understood and believed the words and command of God plainly and simply, as the words read, and committed the entire matter to God’s omnipotence and wisdom, knowing that God had many more ways and means of fulfilling the promises concerning the seed of Isaac than he could comprehend with his blind reason.
But even if we had not fallen, even apart from sin and its consequences, a second reason for the imperfection of our knowledge of God is that we are finite. Only a finite image of the infinite God can appear in a finite mirror. The only mirror that reflects all of God is God. The only one who knows the Father perfectly is the Son.
A character named Harry Callahan once noted, “A man has to know His limitations!” It is a brilliant piece of advice, possibly based in Socrates admonition to “Know thyself” But that is not all we need to know, it is nt all we need to experience.
We need to know God’s limitations as well. We may not be able to understand them, but we can know them.
Abraham had an idea of them, so he determined that God could be trusted, even if God did something that seemed inconsistent. And so he took his son up the mountain in order to sacrifice him. God wants him to do that, well God gave him the son, though his wife was 40-50 years beyond childbearing age! And so he knew God’s limitations, simply the promises God has made, and the love which causes those promises to be fulfilled.
The problem is with our finite knowledge, how we picture God is so limited, and because of our experience, so flawed. We only know imperfect love, and mercy that always has a cost. We know how fragile our on motives are, how even when we do good, we may not be doing it for the right reasons.
This is why we need to go back to the promises God has always made people. We need the Spirit to breathe into us life, we need to be set free of what oppresses us. To get to the place where we can take a deep breath, and realize He is God.
And that He has brought us into His presence…. and with Him we are home.
Lord, work in our lives, and through us in our communities. Help us, even with our limitations, to experience Your presence, and Your love. AMEN!
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 577–578.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 141.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
You people aren’t faithful to God! Don’t you know that if you love the world, you are God’s enemies? And if you decide to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. 5 Do you doubt the Scriptures that say, “God truly cares about the Spirit he has put in us”? James 4:4-5 CEV
1002 To save mankind, Lord, you died on the Cross. And yet for one mortal sin you condemn a man to a hapless eternity of suffering. How much sin must offend you, and how much I ought to hate it!
I have to wonder, do we hate sin?
Do we hate any and all idolatry?
Do we hate it when people use God’s name (or titles) as cuss words, or damn others with it, or just don’t call on Him?
Do we hate it wen people don’t take time to find the rest and recovery they need, for God is their fortress? Do we get righteously angry when others steal that time that others are supposed to spend with God?
Do we hate it when people dishonor their parents, or rebel against any parental authority over them?
Do we hate it when people hurt others? What about when they refuse to help others in need? Others that God put in their life, so they could help them?
Do we hate it when people try to break up marriages, or say that marriage isn’t needed, that it isn’t a gift? Or take advantage of others for personal gain?
Do we hate it when people become victims of others, when their livelihoods are taken?
Do we hate it when people have their reputations damaged, either by lies, or by a presentation of their faults that was specifically meant to hurt them?
What about when people are envious, when people want what others have, more than they are happy that God entrusted them with that blessing?
These are hard questions, but what happens if we don’t ask them?
And one final question,
If we don’t hate sin, how can we truly rejoice in the mercy that forgives them at the cost of Christ’s death?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 So, Ezekiel, tell them I am saying: How can you think the land is still yours? You eat meat with blood in it and worship idols. You commit murder 26 and spread violence throughout the land. Everything you do is wicked; you are even unfaithful in marriage. And you claim the land is yours! Ezekiel 33:25–26 (CEV)
2571 Because Abraham believed in God and walked in his presence and in covenant with him,10 the patriarch is ready to welcome a mysterious Guest into his tent. Abraham’s remarkable hospitality at Mamre foreshadows the annunciation of the true Son of the promise.11 After that, once God had confided his plan, Abraham’s heart is attuned to his Lord’s compassion for men and he dares to intercede for them with bold confidence.12
And what decides it is your love. “In the twilight of our lives, we will be judged on how we have loved”, says John of the Cross, one of the great Christian mystics and lovers. From the beginning to the end, love is the guiding thread that leads us through all the labyrinths of time and life and history.
I have to admit that Ezekiel’s words scare me.
I look around us these days, and we are not so far from the disobedience and idolatry that was prevalent then. The use of “we” there is intentional, these is as much idolatry and character assassination in church as is there is in the world. There is as much wickedness and narcissism found in the church as outside of it. We try to claim that we do the right thing, that we make all the right moves, but how can we know that, without the dependence on God, the willingness that dependence brings to let Him correct us?
We need to have a relationship with God, we need to welcome into our lives as Abraham welcomed him at Mamre. We need to know His love to the point where we trust Him to guide us through the labyrinths. St John of the cross is correct, our judgment will be based on how we have loved. Not because of our works, but because that love testifies to whether or not we’ve experienced His love for us, whether God is at work in us, transforming us. You see this in Abraham, as he welcome God to his habitation, and his annoyance at his nephew turns to concern, to trying to save his nephew’s city. This change in attitude can only occur when we realize God’s role in our life. It is not an act of our will but the transformation that happens when we know we are loved.
That has to be the solution for this time of racial unrest, for this time of bitter politics, for this time when everyone is on edge. That love of God will not only forgive that brokenness and sin, it will bring reconciliation and healing to us, and through us, to our time.
It is that simple… if you want to make a difference, spend time with the one who will make a difference for you.
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 617.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 135.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you. 17 The Spirit will show you what is true. The people of this world cannot accept the Spirit, because they don’t see or know him. But you know the Spirit, who is with you and will keep on living in you. 18 I won’t leave you like orphans. I will come back to you. John 14:16-18 (CEV)
The Incarnation was already a stupendous feat of intimacy. God did not just love us as an other but became one of us. Yet even this was not enough for Him, not enough intimacy. Jesus told His disciples that it would be better for them if He went away so that He could send His Spirit (Jn 16:7). Why is that better? Wouldn’t we all prefer to have Jesus still with us physically? Wouldn’t He draw a crowd of millions if it could be advertised that Jesus would appear in the flesh?
He had become incarnate. Jesus was born of Mary. John 1 tells us that He came and made life among us, and those who saw him beheld the very glory of God.
There are days I am jealous of Peter, and Matthew, and even James the lesser. They lived with Jesus, they camped out under the stars that were made through Him. What a relationship with God they must have had! How easy must have it been to just talk to God, and morning devotions must have been just… awesome!
3 years of walking with Jesus, of experiencing life in the presence of God! What a blessing, what an incredible blessing!
We are equally blessed, but we don’t often take the time to appreciate that our relationship with God is even more intense, even more intimate. For God did not just come and dwell among us, the Holy Spirit dwells in us.
God is us!
So intimate that our deepest, darkest thoughts are exposed, and as we pray, they are prayed for with groans that go beyond our hearing. (see Romans 8) Healing us, transforming us into the likeness of Christ, enabling us not only to do God’s will, but to desire to do it, because we know we are loved.
We need to think on this, so spend time getting to know that One who lifts us up, and carry’s us. We need to listen to the Spirit’s call and directions, even when we don’t like it. We need to even allow the Spirit to change our calendars, for there will be times the Spirit will minister to others beyond our imagination! Or times where we need to slow down, and let the Spirit minister to us.
This is the deepest for of intimacy we will know, until we have arrived before the throne of God.
I pray that we realize the presence, the intimate, transforming, comforting presence of the Holy Spirit more and more each day.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 132.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. 8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:7-9 (NLT2)
We do not read anywhere that God delighteth in the cloud-capped mountains, or the sparkling stars, but we do read that he delighteth in the habitable parts of the earth, and that his delights are with the sons of men. We do not find it written that even angels give his soul delight; nor doth he say, concerning cherubim and seraphim, “Thou shalt be called Hephzibah, for the Lord delighteth in thee”; but he does say all that to poor fallen creatures like ourselves, debased and depraved by sin, but saved, exalted, and glorified by his grace. In what strong language he expresses his delight in his people! Who could have conceived of the eternal One as bursting forth into a song? Yet it is written, “He will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.”
2531 Purity of heart will enable us to see God: it enables us even now to see things according to God.
Though their good works are still imperfect and impure, they are acceptable to God through Christ because according to their inmost self they do what is pleasing to God not by coercion of the law but willingly and spontaneously from the heart by the renewal of the Holy Spirit
I am presently taking a class in pastoral counseling. For most, it is their first course in the subject, as it can be taken, and therefore it is good to see the first 3 hours of the course dedicated to helping the students develop listening skills.
But as I read these passages in my devotions, I wondered how developed our listening skills are, when it comes to God? If we don’t listen, how can we ever begin to realize how He sees us, how can we understand the love, and the mercy.
For instance, I have heard part of the quote from Isaiah in more sermons and lectures I can account for. Usually it is something like this, “God is so higher than you, you can never understand His mysteries, you just need to shut up and obey!” But I rarely, if ever, heard it in the context of the generous forgiveness of our sins! That is its context, there is focus of those thoughts that are beyond us! His desire that we turn to Him.
I think that is because we can’t see what the Lutheran Confessions, the Catholic Catechism and Spurgeon all encourage us to see, the way God sees us. If we believe He sees us as pure, we begin to realize that as our reality. Our works then, done to brink Him joy rather than “prove” our righteousness take on a different nature. Most important we bein to realize God rejoices in our lives, and invests in us His love in a way that transforms everything.
Not because we deserve it, love doesn’t give a rip about what is deserved… it instead desires the best for who it loves, and it does everything to help the beloved achieve that!
This is who we are… the beloved of God, the ones whom He sees as His people, and because of the cross as His righteous people, the ones He loves. We may not understand it compeltely, we may struggle to see it His way. But we can experience it, and that experience is strengthened through the hearing and meditating (not studying- meditating) on His word, receiving the sacraments and in prayer.
We need these things, for in them is revealed His thoughts, His mercy and His love.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 605.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 568.
The Power of Focus: NOW!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so mesmerize us, that His presence in our lives consumes and transforms all our thoughts!
Desire – but how do we?
There is no doubt in my mind, that the people of Concordia know what it means to joyfully adore God. I’ve seen you do it.
I’ve even seen it in the hardest of times, when God’s joy overwhelms everything else we encounter in life.
And that is one of the marks of revival, this joy that lifts us up, that incredible joy that comes as we realize that God is here, that God is at work.
He is at work here!
In each of our lives, whether we are here in the courtyard, or watching it live right now, or watching it a year from now on YouTube, God is at work in our lives.
One of the challenges we face in realizing this revival is focus, and Psalm 27 is going to help us stay focused on the fact…
The Lord is with you!
At He is at work!
That is why the Psalmist wrote,
The one thing I ask of the Lord— the thing I seek most— is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.
This is the attitude we have, when we realize God is at work, a work we name revival – bringing life into the church. When we see that, we want more, we can’t help it, we want to see God at work in our lives, and the lives of those around us.
So how do we stay focused upon this work of God? Where do we look for it?
Well let’s keep looking at the psalmist, who knew this revival.
5 For he will conceal me there when troubles come; He will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. 6 Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music.
David’s joy comes in the midst of troubles,
He tells us he realizes that not only is he in God’s presence during these times, but the reason why he does. He realizes that God is protecting him, that God has him, right in the midst of his holiness, for that is what it means to be in the sanctuary.
The Apostle Paul taught this to the church when he wrote,
Focus on His Call
1 You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2 Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!
Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)
Paul and David agree – even as we live in this world, our real reality is found in the presence of God, that is where we belong, and Jesus will make sure we get there. Remember that, rejoice in it, whether in the midst of COVID, fires, heatwaves, earthquakes, even as we mourn, or get anxious because of the world.
You can shout for joy, and sing and praise God with music….
For He has promised that everything will work out for you, and nothing can separate us from God!
Focus on His Promise
How do we do that? The psalmist helps us there as well!
Even in the midst of the Old Testament, here is the realization, we can hear God say, Come and Talk with Me!
Come and talk of your struggles, come and talk of the heartache, and pain. Come and talk of your dreams, asking God to bless them, to fine tune, them, even correct them, and our thoughts, come and talk to Him, here, even when we struggle with sin, or feel so ashamed that we can’t imagine Him calling to us.
The Lord God, creator of all, says, Tom, come and talk with me. Bob, come and talk with me. Debbie and Cyndee, come… come and talk with me.
And our heart learns …. to respond… Lord, I am coming!
And revival has been realized!
This is so mind-blowing
To realize God wants us to come to Him, to talk to Him, as a child should talk to a Father,
That time with God is so powerful, so incredible, so reviving and resuscitating that we can’t imagine life without it. This is what our last words from the psalmist testifies to…as He pleads with God!
9 Do not turn your back on me. Do not reject your servant in anger. You have always been my helper. Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me, O God of my salvation!
I don’t think this is really a fear, as much as it is a realization, hearing Him, hearing the invitation to come and talk with Him, knowing He will listen, knowing He will act brings such life to our lives, we have to ask, is this going to end….
And hear God’s answer.
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age!”
Matthew 28:20 (NLT2)
Assured of this, there is revival… and we realize it…
Holy Spirit, come open up our hearts, show us how you are reviving our lives, our church and the community in which we live. Re-kindle in our lives the joy of Your salvation! And may the revival You are helping us realize, change the world!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
26 Moses knew that the treasures of Egypt were not as wonderful as what he would receive from suffering for the Messiah, and he looked forward to his reward. Hebrews 11:26 CEV
Putting the saint’s observation in simple contemporary terms may help. Bernard was saying that there are more men who give up serious alienation from God, mortal sin, than there are people who give up small wrongs, willed venial sins. And there are even fewer who grow into heroic virtue and live as saints live. If we are not saddened by this realization, we ought to be.
1 The law of God serves (1) not only to maintain external discipline and decency against dissolute and disobedient people, (2) and to bring people to a knowledge of their sin through the law, (3) but those who have been born anew through the Holy Spirit, who have been converted to the Lord and from whom the veil of Moses has been taken away, learn from the law to7 live and walk in the law.
I love to tell the story, for those who know it best; seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest!
Being and Evangelical should not be about a political perspective, To be honest, it shouldn’t even be a theological perspective, as in choosing to be more Reformed, more Arminian, even more Lutheran or Catholic, or catholic.
Being Evangelical is about life, and about our greatest need in life. After reading Dubay’s comments (purple) above, Jackson’s beloved evangelical hymn made more sense to me. I need to keep hearing the gospel, not to celebrate what Jesus has done, but in order to continually be evangelized, to continually be confronted with my guilt, not so I wallow in shame, but because I need the grace of God to be applied to my life today, in this moment.
I need to go from rejoicing and being satisfied that the cross saved me, to imitating Christ. Some might call this sainthood, Wesley would talk about a second infilling of grace. Lutheran theologians talk about it as the Third use of the Law. I prefer Luther’s view of living in the promises made to us in our baptism. Or living the Evangelical life. Letting the news of God’s love, of His mercy being applied and washing away our sin so affect us, that our lives are changed. Not by our actions, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We need to realize that God’s work isn’t done in us, yet. Paul would describe this in several ways in Romans. The battle with old Adam, the struggle with feeling like a wretch because we can’t seem to conquer temptation, even the attitude of some that others must eat the way they do, and worship n the way they do, because they’ve arrived and everyone else has not.
We can’t be passive in our conversion, as if just being saved is enough. Not that we active make ourselves holy, the Spirit does, as the word of God, law and gospel bring us healing. We need to learn to desire that, to rejoice in it, to welcome it, and more than anything else, to expect and look for it.
To become like Moses, who would learn to set aside the things of this world, to embrace the suffering that comes with following God. The suffering of having our hearts circumcised, as sin and its cohorts are cut away. Suffering as we share this incredible joy that is affecting our life with others.
That is what the evangelical life is really about…
Lord, help us to hear anew of Your love and mercy daily, and grant that we would never tire of seeing You at work in our lives… AMEN!
Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 12.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 563–564.
Alan Jackson, “I Love to Tell the Story”
A Thought to encourage our devotion to Jesus
10 “But now I tell the people of Israel this is my new agreement: ‘The time will come when I, the Lord, will write my laws on their minds and hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11 Not one of them will have to teach another to know me, their Lord.’ “All of them will know me, no matter who they are. Hebrews 8:10–11 (CEV)
Oh! marvellous mystery! we look into it, but who shall understand it? One with Jesus—so one with him that the branch is not more one with the vine than we are a part of the Lord, our Saviour, and our Redeemer! While we rejoice in this, let us remember that those who are made partakers of the divine nature will manifest their high and holy relationship in their intercourse with others, and make it evident by their daily walk and conversation that they have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. O for more divine holiness of life!
I love reading some pastors and priests from generations past. It doesn’t have to be someone famous like Spurgeon, although there is a lot in his works.
They show a more natural awe of God’s work, a joy of being found in the presence of God that I would hope I transmit to my people, though there are days I doubt it. I wouldn’t call their work poetic, but there is an art in the way they used their words, a sense of language that envelops you in the thought. in reading it, the way in which they write has to be savored, you simply cannot rush through it.
In this care, the words explain a phenomenon that every revival is based upon, the unity, the communion we have with Christ! Being found welcome in the presence, not just tolerated, but that God wants us there! How incredible! How amazing!
It should be so amazing that this incredible relationship should be made manifest, it must be revealed as we relate to others, not a matter of force, not a matter of will, it just has to reveal itself !
That is what the love of God does, when we atually sit down and realize the Lord of the Universe, has done this, He has come to us, He has made us His people… we actually know Him. We intimately are known by Him, and He calls us His friends.
Think about that today… and rejoice, for the Lord is with you!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).