Monthly Archives: November 2021
Thoughts to enocurage you to adore Jesus, and to celebrate His role in your life!
27 So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. 1 Corinthians 11:27-28 (NLT2)
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT2)
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? 3 Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. 4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall. 5 But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. 6 I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me. Psalm 13:2-6 (NLT2)
The philosopher Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” If a common philosopher could think that, how much more we Christians ought to listen to the Holy Spirit when He says, “Examine yourself.” An unexamined Christian lies like an unattended garden. Let your garden go unattended for a few months, and you will not have roses and tomatoes but weeds. (1)
Master Gabriel,164 pastor in Torgau, asked Dr. Martin Luther about that passage of Paul to Timothy [I Tim. 4:5], “For it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”
Dr. Martin Luther replied, “Godly men acknowledge that all things are of God and consecrate them through the Word of God when they pray. To them all things are pure when they are used according to God’s will. (2)
When Tozer quote Socrates, it sounds familiar, and even Biblical.
After all, Paul warns the church that each person should examine themslves prior to receving the Lord’s Supper. The wanring about being jduged for sinning against the Body and Blood of Christ is serious.
I think that Tozer and Socrates have something different in mind than the Apostle Paul. It is not a bad thing, but Paul is talking about something more significant, I would say something more critical. Someting that requires more than anyone is capable of addressing on their own.
That is where Luther comes point out what is necessary, the prayer that God consecrates, man doesn’t.
Our examination simply to recognize the necessity of Christ’s Body to be broken, His blood to be shed. The sacrifice of Christ, and the covenant it creates, is the only answer to what we see when we examine our lives. For what we see are the wounds caused by sin, the brokenness caused by our self-idolatry, the times where we think our desires outweigh the wisdom of God.
The prayer of Psalm 13 anticipates this work of God that occurs as we are consecrated as the consecrated bread and wine, the very Body and Blood of Christ are taken and we commune with God. There we celebrate that God has removed all that offends Him, and where He renews our spirit. All the promises given to us in our baptism – when we were united with Jesus in HIs death and resurrection – all this is renewed as we commune with Him….
And then, renewed, revived, free of the burdens of guilt, shame, resentment, we begin to see this God we worship more clearly…. and praise goes into another level.
So examine yourself… realize how great your need is… and realize it is answered…
God loves you… that much!
(1) A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
(2) 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), 244.
Thoughts to help you depend on Jesus more than yourself!
20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. Matthew 13:20-21 (NLT2)
Few sights are more depressing than that of a professed Christian defending his supposed rights and bitterly resisting any attempt to violate them. Such a Christian has never accepted the way of the cross. The sweet graces of meekness and humility are unknown to him. He grows every day harder and more acrimonious as he defends his reputation, his rights, his ministry, against his imagined foes.
The only cure for this sort of thing is to die to self and rise with Christ into newness of life. (1)
When I read Tozer’s words, I immediately got defensive.
After all, there are rights, and then, there are our rights.
I can easily apply this to ideas that don’t seem a big deal to me, like masks and shots. People will tell me this ia slippery slope., and I will shrug it off. There are other rights, that I don’t see as such, but are demanded in these days. THen there are rights that we find here in the U.S.A. that are not rights in other places and in other times..
THere is one thing for sure, we demand our rights, and we fear them being taken away. We will do anything to demand them and defend them.
Then Tozer comes in and brings up the cross, where every right was abandoned…. voluntarily abandoned…
Do we have to imitate Jesus in this?
Can’t we just enjoy the ones we have, and when the time comes when they are taken… turn to God for help (read revenge)
We know the answer…
This is the nature of being with Jesus..
Lord, help our attitude when we go about , claiming our rightes were violateeeeed, to see that the only thing we need in life is You. AMEN!
(1) A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Thoughts that I pray cause you to adore Jesus, your Savior…
Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.”* She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” 14 So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered. Genesis 16:13-14 NLT
Rector Bernard von Dölen,142 minister in Herzberg, complained bitterly about his arrogant auditors who despised the reading of the catechism. Dr. Martin [Luther] was greatly disturbed and fell silent. Then he said, “Cursed be every preacher who aims at lofty topics in the church, looking for his own glory and selfishly desiring to please one individual or another. When I preach here143 I adapt myself to the circumstances of the common people. I don’t look at the doctors and masters, of whom scarcely forty are present, but at the hundred or the thousand young people and children. It’s to them that I preach, to them that I devote myself, for they, too, need to understand. If the others don’t want to listen they can leave. Therefore, my dear Bernard, take pains to be simple and direct; don’t consider those who claim to be learned but be a preacher to unschooled youth and sucklings. (1)
Nonetheless, for Luther theology was not a detached academic pursuit circumscribed by the walls, procedures, customs, and language of the university, but a matter of life and death. He took God seriously. Nothing is more important in man’s life than his relationship to God. The chief function of theology (and of the theologian), then, is not to speculate about God or even to systematize man’s knowledge of God. Rather its function is to lead men to and strengthen them in faith. For Luther faith meant specifically trust in God through Jesus Christ. Inevitably Luther’s classroom extended far beyond the university and the circle of educated students to whom he lectured there. (2)
The pastoral care that is provided to Hagar never ceases to amaze me. She is not the one through whom the promise is given; that is Sarai, her mistress, the one who has the power of life or death over her. And yet, God takes the time to
visit with her. He cares for her, ministers to her, and cares for her son (who will be a challenge.) Finally, God restores her to her former place.
It works with the two readings I had this morning, which talk about the ministry of theology. Usually, seminaries and universities studies in scripture and ministry describe that the other way, with courses on the Theology of Ministry. Rarely do you hear people talk about the ministry of theology. People will talk about types of theology, Systematic, Exegetical, HIstorical, and Pragmatic, but rarely will there be a focus on how theology is supposed to be used to
minister to the church.
Those readings talk about it in Luther’s usual blunt style. Theology is not primarily an academic topic to be studied and dissected, according to Luther. Theology has a particular role, to be used to help man deepen their dependence
on God, to encourage spending time meditating on the move and mercy of God, to experience His love and presence, in a way that the Apostle Paul said was beyond words. (see Ephesians 3:17-19) This is the chief function of theology,
which seems all but lost these days.
Consider the advice to Bernard, who talked with the arrogant visitors he had, nitpicking on everything. Luther’s direction is to ignore them and preach the gospel to the hundred or thousand people who need to know the gospel and understand why hope is found in Christ. (this is Peter’s idea of apologetics, when he writes, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.“ 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT2)
This is what we are here to do, to use the knowledge and understanding that studying the word of God gives, as the Holy Spirit draws them to Jesus and brings light into their lives. This is not only the role of theology but also liturgical worship, pastoral care, and counseling. This is the focus that all those who lead in the church are called to do, to work with all we are, and to present everyone perfect in Christ. ( Colossians 1:28-29) For us Lutherans, this is what the 6th article of the Augsburg Confession is about, as our good works are the fruit of our faith.
May Theology be restored to this glorious ministry, of causing others to grow deeper in their dependence/faith/trust in God. And may the church ever see it as a tool dedicated to that purpose.
(1) 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), 235–236.
(2) 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), x.
But the LORD came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. 6 “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! 7 Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”
8 In that way, the LORD scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why the city was called Babel,* because that is where the LORD confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world. Genesis 11:5-9 NLT
Satan knows that the downfall of a prophet of God is a strategic victory for him, so he rests not day or night devising hidden snares and deadfalls for the ministry. Perhaps a better figure would be the poison dart that only paralyzes its victim, for I think that Satan has little interest in killing the preacher outright. An ineffective, half-alive minister is a better advertisement for hell than a good man dead. So the preacher’s dangers are likely to be spiritual rather than physical, though sometimes the enemy works through bodily weaknesses to get to the preacher’s soul. (1)
33 You never want “to get to the bottom of things.” At times, because of politeness. Other times—most times—because you fear hurting yourself. Sometimes again, because you fear hurting others. But always because of fear! With that fear of digging for the truth you’ll never be a man of good judgment. (2)
As I get older, and as I watch people around me age, I have learned that when people fall, it is not enough to pick them up and send them on their way. You need to determine why they’ve fallen, what let to it, and therefore, will it happen again? For example, is the fall because they are a klutz like me? Or is it that the place they fell has to many hazards? Or is it something different, a problem with their heart or mind, muscles or spine?
Each of the possible causes can be dealt with, (even my being a klutz!) but you cannot apply a solution or treatment unless you know the nature of the cause. What one might do for the klutz will not help the person whose mind is challenged. Moving the fall hazards out of the way might help one person but another might need a walker, and another person might do better off with heart medications.
This is true spiritually as well. Why did that person fall, why is this leader struggling, what is going on, and how does the leadership crash and burn? Not all fall the same way, or for the same purpose.
The people at Babel fell and were scattered because of their pride, and their inability to see their need for God. Their fall would be reversed at Pentecost, and the divisions between people groups would begin to heal.
The attempts of Satan to paralyze those in ministry is another cause of a fall. Those pressures, whether of temptation or oppression, whether physical or spiritual, wear out the man, his preaching and administration of the sacraments lacks the conviction it once had, and the entire church – and their community is affected.
When people are falling, or have fallen, when they have become ineffective and paralyzed, there must be more than just lifting them up. (If in fact, anyone bothers to do so!) It is not often simple, nor is it easy. St. Josemaria identifies the reasons why we hesitate – we don’t want to embarrass the person who is fallen. Or we are afraid to look for the reasons, the matters of the heart and soul, or the tripping hazards that Satan has entangled them, lest we get caught up in their pain.
Even more challenging is when we are falling when we are struggling. For a pastor to admit this is rate – we are just too afraid in the implications.
We must trust in God in these moments, more than any other time in our lives. We have to know the promises He has made to us, the power that is behind the promises, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. This will enable us to dig to the bottom of the issue, finding the hope that is in Christ Jesus. In Jesus, there is hope for those who have fallen, and for those who are struggling. That is what the cross is about, and why we preach Christ crucified…for us.
For in Him, we find peace, and that He is at work, guarding our hearts and minds. AMEN!
(1) A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
(2) Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Thoughts to encourage you to adore and cling to Jesus…
5 The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. 6 So the LORD was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. Genesis 6:5-6 NLT
Through all the changes scenes of life, in trouble and in joy, the praises of my God shall still my heart and tongue employ!
Of His deliverance I will board, till all that are distrest, from my example comfort take and charm their griefs to rest. (Evangelcial Lutheran Hymnal of 1927 – Hymn 75 by Tate and Brady)
There are days I wake up, and I wish God hadn’t promised to flood the earth again. I look out and see the devastation of sins. Sins of Omission, Sins of Comission, deliberate ones, and ones that were not intended, but happened anyway. Let me be honest, my sins and the sins of others take a horrible toll on me, and I can understand how it breaks God’s heart… for even as guilty of sin as I am, it breaks mine. I am reminded again of Luther, in his monk’s room, melting down and screaming in the middle of the night at Satan, and despairing of his own life. Been there…
Would He come down and just end it all – a flood, a fire, the second coming!
So how do I find it possible, in these troubled scenes of life, to find the joy and peace needed to praise Him?
There is only one way, to look to the cross and see how God’s promise comes to fruition there. How he carefully circumcises our heart, cutting away the sin and damage its caused. Scripture also uses the term from which we get cauterizes for describing the healing that can take place, as God seals off the wounds, and uses the Body of Christ to bring healing to the wounds.
It is defintely hard to see, in the midst of the troublemd waters, in the midst of the pain, and the way our minds spiral because of the pain.
Yet, He is there…. having died for all the sin, wanting to transform us, and redeem the time. Let us encourage each other to look to Him.
For there is our hope… found in the love that drove Him to the cross, and raised Him from the dead.