Monthly Archives: April 2021

Stop pretending that everything is good…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

17  I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the LORD has done. Psalm 118:17 (NLT2)

We rejoice and are glad in Thee who hast had compassion upon us, and hast delivered our souls. And we beseech Thee, enlighten our hearts, so that Thy birth may minister to us grace against sin, death, Hell and the power of the Devil; and by Thy Holy Spirit comfort and sustain us in the perils and pains of the last hour. All of which we ask, O precious Jesus, who art blessed and exalted forever, for the sake of Thy miraculous incarnation. Amen.

Those who share in the cross do not need to verify their activity with triumphalism because they know that the cross itself is already a triumphant victory.

On August 3, 30 years ago, everything in my life changed.

I died. After a signifcant bout with Arythimic Tachycardia, paramedics and doctorshad to defibrillate me 5 times. I woke up days later, when my heart was medically able to keep a normal rhythm. Since then I’ve had implanted defibrillaors put in, replaced, and replaced again. I have had two heart valves replaced with mechanical valves. Cardiomyoapthy is an issue, because of the meds, diabetes would as well.

Life changed that day. So much of it changed.., and so many things I enjoyed, I miss.

Boogy-boarding, martial arts, basketball, volleyball, running, other activities. My life for 30 years has been more sedate, less dynamic, and there are times where life simply is not good. It is not enjoyable. I’ll be honest, there are times it is seriously depressing, when things ae dark. And Satan knows how to get the most out of such times.

It is one of the reasons I like reading Luther and Pope Francis, and now Loehe.

They treat life as it is, broken, and not the way it should be. They acknowledge the dark stuff, and the work of Satan in our lives. Consider these words of Luther’s,

I’ve heard no argument from men that persuaded me, but the bouts I’ve engaged in during the night330 have become much more bitter than those during the day. For my adversaries have only annoyed me, but the devil is able to confront me with arguments. Often he has offered an argument of such weight that I didn’t know whether God exists or not. I shall now confess this to you so that you won’t believe him. When I was without the Word of God and was thinking about the Turks, the pope, the princes, etc., he came and struck against me with weapons. But when I have taken hold of the Scriptures I have won.

I can’t pretend everything is good in the middle of the battle, in the throughs od despair. I used to try, and it would exhaust me. Jeremiah 20:7 became my go to cry, not just because of my pain, but because of the pain I watch others endure. That too is a challenge, as I’ve watched people deal with guilt and shame, as I’ve watch them overwhelmed by grief or anxiety, as I’ve watched them struggle, and those around them struggle.

The idea of the “triumphant, victorious Christian life” is not in my wheelhouse.

I deal with these dark times now differently that I did when I was younger. I accept that life isn’t a bowl of cherries, or that I don’t have the spiritual equivelant to Tom Brady’s football career. And words like Loehe’s are there to help me focus on what is good and right.

The love and compassion of Jesus.

For as I realize that, as it is revealed through the Word and the Sacraments, I don’t care about the stuff that I’ve lost. I care about what is coming, and I can look to Jesus. And that is everything.

To know He sustains me in those dark times, to know He takes care of everything Satan can throw at me, to know that life has more meaning than a perfect set in volleyball, or a spinning crescent kick connecting.

There is life made whole, even in the midst of the pain, and the loss, because there is Jesus.

SO I will live, and I will tell people what He’s done.

He’s made me, and you, His own.

and that means more than anything else, than everything else.

It even makes the darkness, gloriously a light in His glory.

May my words help you to see this, so that we can stop pretending that everything is good… and know that because He loves us… it is serenely beautiful.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 133.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 123–124.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 93.

Ministry in the Shadows…

St Aiden on Holy Island

Devotional Thought for our Days

6  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he rescued them from their distress. 7  He led them by the right path to go to a city where they could live. Psalm 107:6-7 (CSBBible)
13  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he saved them from their distress. 14  He brought them out of darkness and gloom and broke their chains apart. Psalm 107:13-14 (CSBBible)
19  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; he saved them from their distress. 20  He sent his word and healed them; he rescued them from their traps. Psalm 107:19-20 (CSBBible)

Aidan’s statue, Holy Island
Aidan stands. His head is close to the heart of the cross.
His eyes, far-seeing, scan the horizon, the joyous venturing of little boats.
A torch burns clearly in his grasp, a faithful challenge in his generation, meeting, listening, heart-connecting.

In his shadow is a place I covet, a challenge in a present time and confluence of cultures.
Aidan, let me lie down in your shadow. While I live may I be the shadow of a Rock in a weary land, a shelter from the heat.

When our Bohemian interrupted to say that he still had doubts about baptism, he [Martin Luther] replied gently,“When you first came here you were not at the stage which you have now attained. Continue to be patient. Give our Lord God time. Let the trees bloom before they bring forth fruit. Who was I before? I used to worship saints who hadn’t even been born! The time hasn’t come yet for me to speak otherwise [about baptism], I should now say, but wait and you’ll see what the Word of God is and can be.”

To embrace the cross, courage and endurance are needed. There are some “strong” Christians who undertake apostolic work but falter when faced with difficulty. They don’t know about patience.

What requires patience also requires the ability to endure exhaustion. Whether a marathon, or a long journey in a car, or the ministry, one must be able to endure the shadows. One must endure the times where you aren’t sure you can make it another mile, another hour, another day. Life is filled with such shadows, as we work through a world that has no direction and no ability to see where we are going, and yet we strive to define progress in so many areas.

Most of the people we minister to live there, in those shadows of exhaustion. Not quite in spiritual darkness, but neither are our lives always filled with the glorious light of Christ. We are not patient; we want our life on earth to be heavenly. When we cannot see that perfection, the shadows form, and tired and weary, we are anxious, not knowing when the next storm will hit or this one will subside.

We need to embrace the cross, not just with strength but patiently. We need to, as Luther advises, be patient and give the Lord time. (this not just with those we minister to, but with ourselves!)  We need to see what the Word of God is, and what it can be.

That is why I find so much hope in my reading from Psalms this morning. There we see people cry out to the Lord, those lost in their wandering, those imprisoned by gloom and shame, and those whose foolishness caused their own suffering. The eventual response was to cry out to God to have mercy, and His response was to rescue them. In those times in the shadow, it is good to find the Aidans of our time. Those whose lives point us to Jesus. Those who keep close to the cross and draw us there. They dwell in the shadows as well (why else would they need torches?), and as they are in the presence of Christ, their shadow is a place of rest, a place of peace. As Jesus delivers us, slowly, we too become like Aidan, or Paul or Peter, and we dwell in Christ! Others will come, and we will learn to deal as patiently with them as God deals with us. Aidn’s image is so powerful, in the shadow of the cross, he provides light to others!

This is life in the shadows; this is ministry in the shadows… be patient. Find those who help you keep your heart and head near the cross, and then look for those who need to be drawn into His presence, and provide them the rest, the sanctuary they need, in the shadows.

Andy Raine – https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/meditations/meditation-day-16/ (text reformatted to fit the page)

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 92.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 132.

Christian Obligations?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

29  I will establish his line forever, his throne as long as heaven lasts. 30  If his sons abandon my instruction and do not live by my ordinances, 31  if they dishonor my statutes and do not keep my commands, 32  then I will call their rebellion to account with the rod, their iniquity with blows. 33  But I will not withdraw my faithful love from him or betray my faithfulness. 34  I will not violate my covenant or change what my lips have said. Psalm 89:29-34 (CSBBible)

By grace alone are we saved. God doesn’t want to be obligated to anybody. Once we believe, he tells us (and this, too, is by grace), ‘Give, and it will be given to you [Luke 6:38]. You are bound to give in any case, whether out of pity for the Turks or some other unfortunates, so you may just as well do it when I command it.’

Christian life can never be reduced to an oppressive set of rules which leave the soul in a state of exasperation and tension. Rather, it accommodates itself to individual circumstances as a glove fits the hand, and it says that, as well as praying and sacrificing ourselves constantly, we should never lose our supernatural outlook as we go about our everyday tasks, be they big or small.

The quotes I use may seem ironic to amateur theologians.

The Roman Catholic saint demanding in a very Lutheran manner that the beleiver is not, and should not be, oppressed by the law. Luther saying we aren’t obligated to anyone, but then saying we are bound to give, even to our enemies, as God has commanded it. These seem opposite the way their church bodies are normally reprsented. And of course a Psalm, which talks of discipline and punishment when God’s instruction and rules are not flaunted and disrespected.

So, is a Chirstian obligated to obey the law, to honor what God has established, or not? Are we indebted to God, and tberefore we have to keep in step with His demands or face His wrath? And what good is it to say that we are saved by grace, when we then become enslaved to God?

We talk about all this in very theological terms, but what does it mean for the average guy who may come to church once a month or less?

I think we first have to talk about prior to being drawn into God’s grace. In those times our slavery isn’t by choice. Satan and the demonic world oppress and enslave the one who doesn’t know they can believe in God. There is no choice about it, we are born into sin, and even in sin were we conceived. Involuntary slavery, and we live life in ways that are more oppressive.

When we are freed from that power, we still have to deal with a tendency to sin. Paul describes in Romans 7 how it haunts and depresses him. But then, in the midst of despair, he finds the relief in Christ’s declaration from the cross that all is finished. That we are free, that there is no condemnation for those who are drawn to the cross and join with Him there.

And unlike sin, which demands us serve its desires, Jesus invites us to walk with Him, to let Him be in control of our life’s journey. We join Him, trying to remember that He is in charge, that He is Lord. It is dependency, it is, in a way, voluntarily ceding our will, our futire (and past and present) into His care. It is, because of experience, knowing His direction is the safest, the one that occurs in peace, the one of healing. Letting Him be in total control of our lives, is the blessing of the cross and the resurrection.

Call it slavery if you want… yet it is the most glorious of freedom as well.

This is life in Christ.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 91.

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

When Grace Compels, and Causes Us to Act.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

3  Restore us, God; make your face shine on us, so that we may be saved. Psalm 80:3 (CSBBible)

It is also necessary to make a thanksgiving after Communion. There is no prayer more dear to God than that which is made after Communion. We must occupy this time in acts of love and prayers. The devout acts of love which we then make have greater merit in the sight of God than those which we make at other times, because they are then animated by the presence of Jesus Christ, who is united to our souls.

As a Lutheran, I am well attuned to the fact that we are saved as God’s gift to us. There is not one thing we must do to be saved. God will hear our cry, just as He heard the Psalmist. Heaven isn’t a reward for good people, it is a place of rest that God prepared for the sinners, for the broken, for those that found their only hope – is found in Him.

So when a religious writer says that we must do something, that it is “necessary”, I take a step back. I look at why it is necessary, why we must do this thing. Is it to impress God that He might save us?  Is it to earn His admiration? Or is there something that has happened, that compels us to respond with thanks, praise, and even adoration?

30 years ago, this summer, I died. I experienced a cardia arrest and had to be shocked 5 times. Before the fire department arrived and rendered that aid, a lady did CPR on me. She was the secretary to the Dean of Students. When I asked if there was anything that I could do to show her my thanks, she indicated no, there was not. That bothered me, and in a way it still does. I had a need to show my thanks, I felt compelled to do so.

That feeling is what I believe de Liguori means when he says it is necessary. Someone saved you, He revived you, He brings you healing, and in the celebration of that, how do you not give Him thanks?

I would disagree with de Liguori’s pronouncement of those prayers being more meritorious, for I believe it is not about merit, nor value, but the fellowship. Certainly, we should be aware of the presence of Christ as we share in the Eucharist. But that awareness should be remembered and realized throughout the week. And anytime we experience that love, as we realize our deliverance, as we see what God is saving us from, we must respond… with thanks, praise, and adoring the one who saved us.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 227.

The Church and the Irony of its Worship!

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

Devotional Thought of the Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God is with us!

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus! Son! Risen Savior!

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

Simple Message!

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

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

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

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

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

“Alleluia! He is Risen!”

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

That message would be remembered!

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

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

The Message Obscured

There are two reasons teams fail at the telephone game.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can’t do that anymore!

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

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

A simple message…

Alleluia! HE IS RISEN!

  • But, ALLELUIA! HE IS RISEN!

And therefore… I AM RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!

Paul continues on,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • This is the Message

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 87–88.

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

how to change church….

Devotional Thought of the Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is our life, in Christ!

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



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

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

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

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

In Jesus Name

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

  • Do we “get it.”

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

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

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

What the cross opens up for you is amazing.

A.W. Tozer explained it well,

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

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

We know we are welcome.

  • Sin Exists

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

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

We must realize what it could have cost us.

Everything.

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

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

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

But what happens next… what does this mean…

How do you make sense of His brutal death?

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

  • This is love – we couldn’t

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

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

This is the point of God’s love.

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN!


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

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

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

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

Jesus! Son! Savior!

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

  • What was Jesus’ Body Language

I wish I was there in the garden.

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

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

Was Jesus angry, resigned, disappointed?

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

As importantly, how did the apostles hear this?

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

  • They Could Not, Neither Can We!

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

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

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

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

Sounds like guilty consciousness!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We could not…so He did…

  • Go Ahead and Rest

With all that, hear Jesus’s words again,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He has not abandoned you or me.

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

….

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

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