Monthly Archives: July 2022
Three different times, I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Co 12:8–10. NLT
When the doctor’s (Luther) wife exclaimed, “How can people be so wicked and defile themselves with such sin!” the doctor said, “Ah, dear Katy, people don’t pray,” and then he added, “I think if God had commanded women to take on every man who happened along and in like manner commanded men to take every woman who came by—in short, if things were the opposite of what they are—people would earnestly have sighed for the institution of marriage.
Our lofty idealism would argue that all Christians should be perfect, but a blunt realism forces us to admit that perfection is rare even among the saints. The part of wisdom is to accept our Christian brothers and sisters for what they are rather than for what they should be.…
The Gift of Understanding reveals what is hidden in the major truths of Christian doctrine. The Gift of Understanding perfects, deepens, and illumines faith as to the meaning of revealed truth, adding new depths to the mystery to which we consent. For instance, it could be some aspect of the Holy Trinity or the greatness of God. It could be the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. It could be the infinite mercy of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In other words, it is not merely the affirmation of something we believe and assent to. A characteristic of the Gift of Understanding is that it provides a kind of living experience of the mystery.
Luther’s wife and Tozer would have gotten along well! Both of them could voice their frustration with people who don’t mature in Christ, who still struggle, and sometimes embrace the sin that defiles them. Tozer had to remind himself and the church that Christians aren’t perfect, not even the holiest of us.
This doesn’t mean that we use some trite phrase to excuse the sin and unrighteousness that we should have set aside! “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven,” is one of them, which seems to allow for Christians to have the freedom to go and sin some more!
Nor do I think we should use what Luther jokes about, a kind of reverse psychology/spirituality that encourages people to feast on their sins till they make them sick to their souls. That didn’t work when my dad tried to teach me the evils of drinking, it won’t work with sin either. Luther’s point is that it wasn’t the sin, it was that whatever is labelled good – whatever is encouraged, our sinful nature will rebel against it!
For me, the frustration of this is one of my weakest points. I am not the most patient person, and I hate seeing myself or others endure the consequences of our own sin and sin nature. TO watch this over and over, to watch people make bad choices for themselves over and over, leaves me dry, worn out, burnet out.
Oddly enough, that is when God works the best.
That is when those blessed sacramental, incarnational moments occur.
It is when people begin to live in the mysteries, especially the sacramental ones, where they experience the love and acceptance of God so profoundly that they (and their pastor/friend) are in awe, and lose the ability to talk.
Those are the moments when we realize how sufficient, how effective, how precious the grace of God is.
I only wish I could say with Paul that I always treasure my weakness, that when I experience them I know something astonishing is about to take place. I wish I could say that, and it is a lesson that is being taught to me, over and over and over…
And Jesus never fails to amaze me, as those moments that impact others come out of moments of my most profound ineptness, weakness, and sense of failure. In those moments, when God’s grace is so manifest – the spiritual growth is amazing as its lack was disturbing.
He is here! He is God! He is guiding and caring for us!
and in that, I can rejoice, and find rest, and praise Him.
I pray the same for you! And then I will rejoice in what God is doing in our lives. That is our moments of weakness, and in our moments of frustration with other’s weakness, we can remember God is at work… and He is creating masterpieces of our lives.
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), 415.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 209.
15 As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness. Psalm 17:15 (NKJV)
18 All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (TEV)
Against both of these errors we believe, teach, and confess unanimously that Christ is our righteousness neither according to his divine nature alone nor according to his human nature alone. On the contrary, the whole Christ, according to both natures, is our righteousness, solely in his obedience that he rendered his Father as both God and a human being, an obedience unto death.
Then there are the men who are good but not great, and we may thank God that there are so many of them, being grateful not that they failed to achieve greatness but that by the grace of God they managed to acquire plain goodness.…
Every pastor knows this kind—the plain people who have nothing to recommend them but their deep devotion to their Lord and the fruit of the Spirit which they all unconsciously display. Without these the churches as we know them in city, town and country could not carry on. These are the first to come forward when there is work to be done and the last to go home when there is prayer to be made. They are not known beyond the borders of their own parish because there is nothing dramatic in faithfulness or newsworthy in goodness, but their presence is a benediction wherever they go.
Yesterday was one of those days I am glad I am a pastor. Not because of anything I did, but simply because I saw everyday people ministering to others as Jesus would have done. 5 different situations, 4 of them in my church, and one of them in a church I am trying to help, showed me the kind of people that Tozer’s quote describes.
People in ordinary walks of life, who blessed others, and thought nothing of it. Their deep trust in God resulted in a “unconscious display” of the Holy Spirit’s work! THere wasn’t 1000 conversions, or a hospital filled with people who were healed. A young couple were helped with some challenges, a handicapped lady found peace during a medical procedure, a young man was encouraged in his preparation for seminary, an church elder asked for help in caring for their pastor, I see it in a daughter, who honors her mom by caring for her in ways beyond description, and a grandmother, energized and active in her two grandchildren’s lives. There are more stories, none of them “heroic” yet all of them living a life that is being transformed by the Holy Spirit as they look to Christ, as they depend on His work in declaring them righteous and holy. They are my version of Hebrews 11, the group we can talk about by saying, “by faith they….”
This is what it means for Jesus to be fully God and fully man, He has the ability to connect the sacred and the secular, the holy and profane, so that there can be this kind of change. He makes us righteous, He makes us Holy, He works through us!
These people are the church, they don’t ask “What Would Jesus Do?” but are evidence of “What did Jesus do!” His ministry thorough them is obvious, because of what God is doing in them.
It is a wonder to behold, and therefore, I rejoice.
I need more days like yesterday… or maybe, I just need to open my eyes more
God is work in wondrously common ways, through people who simply trust in Him. I pray I see His work in and through you, as you see His work all around you!
Article 3: The Epitome of the Formula of Concord; Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 495.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015). 7/27/2022
Thoughts to draw us closer to Jesus on the cross
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 15:56-57 NLT
The man who does not prefer the evil of death to the evil of sin loves God his Father but little. God has ordained that this evil be brought to an end by death, and that death be the minister of life and righteousness.
The voice of unbelief says, “Yes, I’m a believer. I believe the Bible. I don’t like those modernists, liberals and modern scientists who deny the Bible. I would not do that for the world. I believe in God, and I believe that God will bless.” That is, He will bless at some other time, in some other place and some other people. Those are three sleepers that bring the work of God to a halt. We are believers and we can quote the creed with approval. We believe it, but we believe that God will bless some other people, some other place, some other time—but not now, not here and not us.…
If we allow the gloomy voice of unbelief to whisper to us that God will bless some other time but not now, some other place but not here, some other people but not us, we might as well turn off the lights because nobody will get anywhere.…
Some may look at the title of the blog and expect I will try and condemn all the sinners out there.
It is to you that I write this, wondering why you have given up the true battle against sin. The battle that was won at the cross, where every peson created
Especially those who commit “those” sins, the ones that we bash because they aren’t our sins.
Sin is sin, and it has the power of the covenant law behind it, and all who sin are accursed. Every single one of us deserves condemnation.
Which is why Luther would prefer to deal with death that sin. At least death is temporary!
Because of Christ, the evils of death and dying are temporary. There is something that is free of sin on the other side, and it frees us from the guilt and shame on this side, too.
For the conservative – that is our only victory against those who deny scripture. Our victories aren’t won by arguing against them, winning battles of logic, or at least engaging in it. Those aren’t victories. They are all losses, because of souls that walk away not knowing the mercy of God, and not seeing it in action.
I think we have taken the attitude that Tozer describes, it isn’t time for revival, or it is happening over there in Africa, and over there in South America. We’ve believed the lie that we are in a post-Church culture, and that we cannot win the battle against evil. And so we turn off the lights, or at least encourage others to turn off the lights, and give to those places who might have a chance.
To fight this, the church has to recover the vision of Christ, who came into a world that was totally in darkness… 400 years without a prophet. An empty temple, and only the illusion of being the people of God. It is time, in every era, it is the place, for God would redeem us all, and this gospel is for you and your household, your extreme legalist neighbors and the liberal progressive ones as well.
It is not time to shot out the lights. It is the time to reflect the light of Christ, which will shatter the darkness…
It is time to rescue people from the curse of sin.
It is the time to see the Spirit poured out here and now.
It is time..
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), 130.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people; come near and rescue me.
5 Let me share in the prosperity of your chosen ones. Let me rejoice in the joy of your people;
let me praise you with those who are your heritage. Psalm 106:4-5 NLT
The ninth Fruit of the Spirit is Self-control. Self-control as a fruit of the Spirit is not the domination of our will over our emotions. It is rather our awareness of God’s abiding presence and is the result of the infusion of God’s steadfast love. Hence our former compulsive reaching out for security, affection and esteem, power and status symbols ceases.
The others, however, who are not so callous and dissolute but would like to be good, should not absent themselves (from the Eucharist), even though in other respects they are weak and frail. As St. Hilary has also said, “Unless a person has committed such a sin that he has to be expelled from the congregation and has forfeited the name of Christian, he should not exclude himself from the sacrament,” lest he deprive himself of life.
Keating’s words are powerful, for they recognize the truth.
If self control is a matter of will-power, I might as well give up now. There are too many points where self control is overwhelmed. The desires we have will eventually break us down and overwhelm us. Hunger and Lust are two examples – if we feed them to often, or not enough, they will dominate us, wanting to be fed, or fed more. Other desires include a need for recognition, a need to be valued. That is where security comes from – the position of having meaning, knowing we are needed in a place, by those around us.
Simply put, if we are needed, our place in life is secure.
The problem is when we feel we aren’t needed, then all our desires run rampant, and we become open to addictions of every sort.
Keating makes self-control focus not on man’s will-power, but the infusion and enlightment that comes as the Spirit inswells in us. No longer do we need to be needed, for we know God has a place for us. We no longer need to be valued by the world, because again – He shows us our value as He sends Jesus to the cross, and to the altar. THe more aware of HIs presence in our lives, the less we are needy for others to recognize us.
Hence the Psalm’s cry, for God to come nearer, for God to include us. It is a cry for that security, that recognition, for the need to be valued.
Luther nails it as well, in describing who should come to the Lord’s Supper. It is the life-hack for those who are empty, broken, feeling worthless, and therefore are out of control. There reconciliation and rehabilitation happen, as God lovingly pours peace into our lives. That is why Luther welcomes believers who are struggling. In fact, he encourages them, reminding them they are the reason the feast exists. He quotes Hilary saying this is where we find life! Even as our life began anew when we were baptized, so we find renewal as the Father gives us Christ’s body and blood.
This is who we are, this is our security, that God Himself has paid the highest cost to make us HIs own people, and brings this reminder to us as often as we are drawn to HIs altar. This is where healing happens, and reconciliation, and where peace is poured out – because we are valued by God. It is where we know best the presence of God, the presence that floods through us and helps us realize – nothing comes close to feeding us like this.
Lord, help us to find our life in You, as we receive Your body and Blood frequently. And may our desire for these moments grow, and overwhelm all other desires as You provide for all our needs. AMEN!
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 195.
Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism: The Sacrament of the Altar”, Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 473.
Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus… and closer to the cross
“Now, O LORD my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. 8 And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! 9 Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?” 10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— 12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! 13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! 14 And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.” 1 Kings 3:7-14 (NLT2)
As I say, I have been sitting on these boards for many years, and there are always two kinds of board members: those who can see the miracle and those who can only see their calculators and their strings of calculations.…
The people with the calculators have seen the problem, but they have not seen God. They have figured things out, but they have not figured God in.
Then somebody said, “Yet Paul seems to distinguish, Doctor, when he declares, ‘Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved’ [Rom. 10:10].”
The doctor replied, “Here confession means perseverance, for St. Paul means to say, ‘Faith must express itself and be confessed, and one must abide in it, otherwise faith disappears again.
The eighth Fruit of the Spirit is Long-suffering (patience). Long-suffering is certitude in God’s unwavering fidelity to his promises. Our security is no longer based on anything we might possess or accomplish, but rather on our conviction of God’s unfailing protection and readiness to forgive.
As we wait for the coming revival, there are many things that challenge God’s people.
Enrollment at many seminaries is dwindling, Christian colleges and universities are struggling as well to recruit many more who they can HELP prepare for ministry.
Many mid size churches, in decline prior to COVD (and in denial about that) are not rebounding after COVID. Smaller churches are struggling, and are often told to give up. (It may be phrased in more noble words, but the message is still the same)
People are dealing with more trauma, more polarization, and being put under great pressure to compromise and approve of sin. This is not new, but where it was “Don’t ask, don’t tell” I have had people tell me it is no longer “right” to even think this way. Or if I do, I recognize the consequence, that my thoughts mean I cannot be their friend anymore.
Tozer’s accountants have taken over. The context is Phillip’s comments about the cost of feeing the crowds that had gathered to hear Jesus speak. He saw the problem; he saw the cost. He overlooked that God was there…with him. Feeding the 5000 wasn’t the primary mission of Christ, but it was part of the journey.
Dealing with our day to day needs must be done, and sometimes it seems about as hopeless as feeding 15000 people with a few hamburger buns and two filet of fish patties.
That brings me back to the dilemma. DO we live by the calculator, or do we persevere–depending on the providence of God. Do we confess with Luther that God redeems and restores, even that damaged by sin, or do we give up, and walk away? Do we walk with Keating as well, who also brings into play God’s redeeming action destroying sin.
We must continue to trust God, we must continue to treasure the gifts of love poured out through His words and sacraments. We have to pray for the simple wisdom of Solomon, rather than pray for the earthly victories we think we must have.
For God will take care of the lesser tings. Miracles will happen, people will see their lives transformed, ours will be transformed as we walk with Jesus, as we depend on Him. It is from that kind of faith. Solomon wanted something more, something that calculators couldn’t measure, but his people would be able to see affected them more than money. Revival doesn’t happen because planners and accountants see it is time. It happens because people depend on God and look for His appearing.
That is what we need now, a confidence in God that spawns wisdom, that tells us when to put the calculators away, that rejoices in the amazing things God is doing, for He loves us.
Lord Jesus, help us to be aware of Your presence and providence, and may that awareness cause our faith to deepen until we see revival break forth, and people return to you. AMEN!
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
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), 402.
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 194.
Thoughts that draw me closer to Jesus- and I pray it causes you to draw close as well!
20 No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? Romans 9:20-21 (NLT2)
590 Don’t forget that you are just a trash can. So if by any chance the divine gardener should lay his hands on you, and scrub and clean you, and fill you with magnificent flowers, neither the scent nor the colors that beautify your ugliness should make you proud. Humble yourself: don’t you know that you are a trash can?
Hence it is easy to answer all kinds of questions that now trouble people—for example, whether even a wicked priest can administer the sacrament, and similar questions.  Our conclusion is: Even though a scoundrel receives or administers the sacrament, it is the true sacrament (that is, Christ’s body and blood), just as truly as when one uses it most worthily. For it is not founded on human holiness but on the Word of God.
I remember being asked what I wanted to be when I grow up by a family friend, a priest by the name of Fr. Alex.
My answer to him is actually what I do, and where I find my joy. I get to put into the hands of people the precious body of Christ, broken that they would be made whole, healed of their brokenness.
But there are two parts of that I wonder about.
The first is whether I will do something different when I grow up. There is a part of me that thinks this is temporary, that at some point, i will need to get an actual job! That someday I will need to decide what I want to be when I grow up.
The second thing is more serious, and that is that I don’t deserve the incredible blessing of being the waiter at this feast. That who I am should disqualify me from such an important task as connecting people to God. I resemble St Josemaria’s trashcan, and I know it.
And I wonder why God doesn’t find someone holier, more charismatic, more right for such a precious position. I am tempted to look around, and realize that all pastors and priests wander around with similar thoughts.. In my more sane moments, I know that all pastors and priests should feel that way, but when I am down, I don’t see that.
Two things keep me going. The first is the thought from the Lutheran Confessions. That even if I were the most broken, unholy, sin-filled person on earth, the Lord’s Supper is still the Eucharist, and people still commune with God. The promises He makes to HIs people are not diminished by the staff being perfect.
The second thing is more important – God put me here – for people/ He is the Potter who made me what the person that He placed in this position. His decision, His call, His equipping, and His responsibility. He is the one who cleaned up the trash can and put something beautiful in it.
Which is where you come in….
The bread that is the Body of Christ in my hand it is there for you.
Those words in my sermon, they are there to be heard—so that you will know Jesus, and experience HIs love.
Those words, when I say, “you are forgiven” are there, and I know them well, for I am forgiven as well.
There is another lesson for here as well. IF God can do this with me, He will certainly do amazing things in your life, to bless others. You may struggle with that thought – but God will make it happen. Just walk through life, knowing you are loved.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 468.
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ keep you aware of the Spirit’s comforting, cleansing, empowering and guiding presence in your life!
Inventory Management Systems
Thirty-five years ago, I was the night shift manager at McDonalds. There was a lesson I learned there. A lesson I think we need to learn regarding our relationship with God.
And that lesson is the backbone of this sermon series, which I’ve titled “Inventory of Blessings”
We have to keep track of our assets. We have to know what we have to work with each day. At McDonalds, it was burger patties, bread, French fries and all the stuff that went with them. If you didn’t take inventory, you could have too much on hand, and it could go bad and cost the company money. If you don’t know you need to restock, and you run out of French fries—you lose not only sales—you lose your customer base.
While we can never have too many or too few blessings from God, we need to take inventory of them often, so we know what we have to depend on as we go through life. This is far more important than having enough burgers or filet-o-fish in the freezer!
We see King David doing such an inventory in Psalm 41 this morning. And it wasn’t as easy—but that is a good lesson for us to live as well.
- Look how great God Is!
He starts out well in verse 1, taking inventory of God’s work!
The Lord gives joy to those who help the poor
The Lord rescues those in trouble
The Lord protects them and keeps them alive.
The Lord gives removes all obstacles. (gives them prosperity)
The Lord rescues them from enemies
The Lord Nurses them when they are sick and restores them to health!
Wow—look at all the things David saw God doing for others! What an amazing thing it is, to see God at work in the lives of people around you! To see the God whose given His name (which we replace with Lord) as how His people are to know Him, at work in the lives of people, is a truly amazing thing.
What an amazing thing to know God in this way!
The more he considers, the closer he gets to praying a prayer that God desires to answer.
4 “O LORD,” I prayed, “have mercy on me. Heal me, for I have sinned against you.”
David reaches out and confesses his sin…he’s taken a huge step, trusting God to heal him of the damage sin causes. David entrusts his very life, and all its brokenness to God…
And at that moment… all hell breaks loose.
- Wait—my confession wasn’t supposed to be used against me!
David goes right from pleading for forgiveness to overwhelming paranoia.
But my enemies say nothing but evil about me. “How soon will he die and be forgotten?” they ask. 6 They visit me as if they were my friends, but all the while they gather gossip, and when they leave, they spread it everywhere. 7 All who hate me whisper about me, imagining the worst. 8 “He has some fatal disease,” they say. “He will never get out of that bed!” 9 Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me.
One problem that happens when we are entrusting our lives, including sin, to God, is demonic interference.
Satan and his demon horde would do anything to stop us from realizing how present and compassionate God our Father is! There are many games that can be played! One of the greatest is to get us to look at how the world condemns us for the sin that we just confessed!
David thinks, “How people would gossip about me!” They would meet out in the parking lot, or at the coffee shop and mock me. I can hear the exaggerations now!
It is not beyond reason to picture shame and guilt as demons, fighting to keep their claws hooked in our heart and soul, trying to convince us that the world hates us, not because of who we are, but because of what we thought, what we said, what we did.
Everything we saw God doing disappears in this fight!
Sometimes, that paranoia is right on!
That little line about those who are closest, those who eat with you, betraying you, is something most of us know, and deal with, as the deep wounds caused by loved ones turning against us…
Even Jesus felt those wounds, as all 12 of the apostles abandoned him at the cross. Two of the closest, Peter and Judas, abandoned him as clearly as King Saul and David’s son, Absalom, betrayed David.
And in the middle of dealing with all this, we sin again, having taken our eyes off of God. forgotten that we had cried out, and we miss His answer…
- It doesn’t matter He is here!
This is when we need to take inventory of God’s blessings the most.
That is when we need someone to say something we respond to with, “and also with you!”
We need to take inventory and remember our great asset is the presence of God Almighty in our lives. The God who brings us peace and comfort, whose presence gladdens our heart, who cares and protects us so well that we can sleep the night in true peace…
He is here!!
Remember all the things David saw do for others? He again asks God for mercy, and then they all come true for David.
Here how the psalm declares these praises:
10 LORD, have mercy on me. Make me well again, so I can pay them back! 11 I know you are pleased with me, for you have not let my enemies triumph over me. 12 You have preserved my life because I am innocent; you have brought me into your presence forever. 13 Praise the LORD, the God of Israel, who lives from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and amen!
David gets back to business. He cries out for God’s mercy and healing!
Look at verse 12 one more time: “12 You have preserved my life because I am innocent; you have brought me into your presence forever.”
David said this, and we can and should say it as well,
God, You have preserved my life because I am innocent; you have brought me into your presence forever.
That is the work of Jesus at the cross… because of His death, where our sin was nailed to the cross, we have entered, not will enter, have entered the presence of God—where we will dwell forever!
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT2)
That is the day we are looking for, this day when our life in Christ is revealed to the whole world. When we see God, in whose presence we dwell….
Until then—take inventory often, realizing that you already dwell in His presence. He has cleansed you of sin, comforted and healed you! For this He has promised you…and promised you can help others realize these blessings… and praise God with them.
For you dwell in His presence and know His peace! AMEN!
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you realize God’s desire that you come close to Him, and let Him give you life!
- This is what the Lord Says!
Often, I have people, mostly unbelievers or agnostics, tell me that they picture God in two different ways.
The Old Testament God is a God of wrath, who condemns people to hell as he smites them with fire and brimstone.
Then they see a different God in the New Testament, one that is, if anything, too merciful and tolerant.
When they hear the words that we did today, “This is what the LORD says, it is with a deep dark voice, almost like Darth Vader, or James Earl Jones, with every word punctuated and emphasized, rolling out like thunder. They anticipate what follows will be a harsh lesson, a caustic disciplinary correction or worse.
THIS IS WHAT THE LORD SAYS…..
And while hearing God’s voice may get a little uncomfortable, it is not because it is strong and harsh and demanding.
Rather, I think that is it too comforting, too intimate, and it reveals us needy as it pictures us drinking in God’s glorious love, much as an infant would be content and filled…
- Why does this make us uncomfortable?
There is a part of us I think likes to picture God as the mean and distant authority figure, of whom it is said, “just wait until your Father gets home!”
We aren’t as comfortable with God being the nurturing, comforting God that He is compared to in these words He gave to Isaiah. Just studying the passage is Hebrew, which is far more blunt and descriptive, was overwhelming, never mind projecting that level of care and intimacy on my relationship with God! Knowing God is that close, that aware of our needs, and that willing to provide for them–no matter the mess we make, is astonishing.
More than that, it is frightening to think we can be that dependent on God.
The same God who sees the mess we make of life, which is nowhere near as nice as that baby’s diaper.
It amazes me, and to be honest, I struggle with the idea that God knows us that intimately. He knows when we have messed up our lives. He even warned us about it, told us not to do it, but assured us He would be there to clean up the mess.
But we struggle with God being that close, that aware… We can be like the 2-3-year-old who’s done wrong and tried to hide it. Go all the way back to the garden, and you see men and women trying to hide their sin, trying to hide their brokenness. And so rather going with God when He calls us to spend time with Him, we hide out, thinking we can delay our getting in trouble, and maybe even escape getting in trouble.
As if any kid could fool their parents at that age…
Yet we still try, and we still mess up our lives, sometimes in spectacular ways.
And during cleaning us up, God gives us what we need, just as He taught us to pray for it, as we pray the Lord’s prayer. Just like the momma in Isaiah.
- The closeness we need!
That is what we really need! For God to be that close! For Him to care for us.
The joy that comes from realizing not only can we depend on God that much, but that He desires us to, is amazing.
One pastor I was reading said it this way, this week.
“Before our response to his invitation — well before! — there is his desire for us. We may not even be aware of it, but every time we go to Mass, the first reason is that we are drawn there by his desire for us.” (Pope Francis)
The think that I still try to grasp, that I want each one of you to realize, is that God wants us to be there with Him. He loves caring for us, just as much as a mom loves caring for her baby.
He knew we would sin, prepared well to clean us up and make us perfect, and comforts us even as we grieve.
This was what the cross was all about, proving to us that God cared this much for us, that He desires for us to dwell in His presence.
And by us, I don’t just mean those of us in this room, but all of those whom He created, and calls to be changed, and then changes them. People we help by sharing this understanding that God told Isaiah to record for all the people of God.
This is something we need to count on, and make sure we understand is always ours, this comfort and peace given to us through Jesus Christ. AMEN!
Even now my witness is in heaven. My advocate is there on high.
I need someone to mediate between God and me, as a person mediates between friends. Job 16:19,21 (NLT2)
This does not mean that we do not have unwanted thoughts during prayer, but that we return again and again to the basic consent of self-surrender and trust. We say “yes” to that presence, and every now and again enter into union with it as we identify the divine presence in Christ’s humanity with the divine presence within us. When we say, “Come, Lord Jesus,” we should remember that Christ is already here and that his coming means that he becomes more and more present to our consciousness.
Somebody asked, “Doctor [Luther], if a parish minister absolves a woman who has killed her infant child and afterward the matter becomes public through others, should the parish minister, when asked, offer testimony in this case before a judge?”
“By no means,” said the doctor [Martin Luther], “for the forum of conscience is to be distinguished from the forum of the civil government. The woman didn’t confess anything to me; she confessed to Christ. But if Christ keeps it hidden, I should conceal it and simply deny that I heard anything.
When Fr. Keating mentions prayer being interrupted by unwarranted thoughts, I breathed a sigh of relief. I struggle with that often, for even while I am praying for someone or about some situation, my mind wanders far off. Then, rather than refocus on the cross, my soul struggles with my spiritual lack of focus, I wallow in guilt and shame.
I need to run back to the cross, I need to find my comfort and strength and direction there. I need to find Him in my consciousness. And like Job, i know my advocate is in heaven, but I need to know He is here on earth, with me as well. A mediator who is more than that, a mediator who is a friend.
There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus is here. But to convince my hear and soul of that, and that Jesus is a friend…sent by God the Father, is a little more of a challenge. Especially when my mind struggles to focus on our relationship.
As I was reading my devotional readings this morning, I kept coming back to Luther’s words about a pastor. I know I speak for Christ, and as I hear other pastors, and they speak the words that declare us righteous, holy, for our sin has been removed. I treasure those words, and what they mean to me and to other believers. What hit me from Luther’s answer was that not only is the pastor put there to say those words, but He is there to hear the sins, the failures, the words loaded with grief and shame as well.
Hearing that opens a door, it helps me see another side of Christ – that He is will to hear those words, despite how they confess my betrayal of Him. He desires to take that burden away, ridding me of the weight of it. And then to bring me into the presence of God the Father, saying “Abba, look who I’ve brought home…this is my friend..”
Thinking about those moments, and other sacramental moments, helps calm me enough to see His presence. To just realize the presence of God, is one thing – to realize the purpose of His presence, to spend time with us, with me, is another. He is there as Job requested, to intercede with the Father, to comfort with His presence, to share in a love that goes beyond our words.
Knowing this helps the focus, and when it loses its sharpness, causes me to remember, and look again to see my Friend, who is already here with me, and there with you.
Heavenly Father, help us realize the presence of Christ in our lives, and that He has drawn us into His death so that we could rise with Him! Help us, when our concentration fades, to still see His face, and be drawn back once again into His love. Thank you for not giving up on us, but caring for us and teaching us to be compassionate. We ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN!
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 183.
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), 395.