Monthly Archives: October 2022
We Need to Be Shocked Back to Life! (Spiritually )
Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.
Romans 8:23 (NLT2)
The question keeps coming up in John’s Gospel: Where does this man Jesus come from? Does He come from God or only from man? The question is the most basic one that can be asked about us and our love. Are we and our love born again from above, from God? Or are we and it only the product of human nature? The answer to this question makes an infinite difference, the difference between Heaven and Hell in the next life.
This work, which begins in the new birth, is carried on in two ways—mortification, whereby the lusts of the flesh are subdued and kept under; and vivification, by which the life which God has put within us is made to be a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.
Thirty years ago, I was defibrillated 5 times. Just like you see on every medical show when they should “clear” and electricity is passed through the body, with the intent of rebooting the electrical and chemical nature of our body, so our heart will restart and run normally.
Spiritually, we need something like that. What Spurgeon called vivification, the idea of bringing us back to life, being born again, where God brings us to life. Kreeft indicated this was the one question that matters, the one most basic to our life, and the one that makes the greatest difference, period
The problem is when we want to be brought back to lift without dealing with what caused us to whither and die. If all the paramedics and ER doctors did was to shock me back to life, and never try to address the cause, it would have mattered not. The same is true spiritually, and while one day we will be free from all sin and suffering, God is freeing us from its effects, even now. This is the mortification that Spurgeon said was part of the same work – the process of eliminating the rot caused by sin, and sin itself.
Mortification isn’t easy, neither is vivification. Both require drastic changes, and discipline and some pain. And yet, the life that is provided, free from the rot, free from the pain, is beyond words.
God is with us, He’s the great physician, the one that does both pieces of work… that makes it not just a possibility – but a promise.
So let Him get to work on you…
Let Him draw you to the cross – where both things happen, as the sinful you dies, and you are raised with Christ Jesus. Amen!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 26.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Is It That Obvious? Romans 3:19-28 – A Reformation Day Sermon from Concordia Lutheran Church
Is it that Obvious?
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace, peace, and love of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in your life be…obvious.
Hook: Oblivious to the obvious
It is very clear that the very first word in the first reading this morning was not needed!
It shouldn’t have to be used!
It is completely understood!
Everyone can see the point without explaining it!
It is so simple, and everyone should “get it”
At least, people should be able to understand it.
The word obviously can only truly be used where it is unnecessary. Because, if it is that obvious, do you really need to tell everyone it is obvious?
I mean if you ask me what’s wrong when see me rushing towards a restroom with a plunger in my hand, do I need to waste time saying, “Obviously, a toilet’s overflowing!?”
Or if you ask Bob what’s wrong when you see Bob kneeling by his left rear tire with another tire and a lug wrench in his hand, does he need to really say, “OBVIOUSLY, I have a flat tire!”
Or when the Sherriff pulls you over, and do you have to ask him if there is something wrong? “Obviously, you were going 85 in a 30 mile per hour zone!” (Or was that me?)
We should know those things—just like Paul and Luther and everyone else in their days–would understand clearly what was obviously wrong.
- Luther’s Obvious Problem
Here the scripture again,
Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
This part of the passage, was indeed quite obvious to young pastor Luther. Nothing bothered him as much sin, and it haunted him. It caused him great distress. He would recount many times this story,
When I was a young man at Isleben, I went with the rest in procession, on the day of Corpus Christi, and had on my priest’s attire: it happened that I was in such sort affrighted before the Sacrament, which Dr. Staupitz carried, that I thought I should have fallen down stark dead. Now when the procession was ended, I confessed, and opened my grief to Dr. Staupitz. He said, ‘O! your thoughts are not Christ’s
Obviously, Luther felt that he had no excuse, he knew he was guilty before God. And God’s word did indeed show him how sinful he was…
Just as it shows me how sinful I am, and how sinful each one of you is.
Obviously, if I am that bad, that horrid, I don’t belong up there.
If all there is, is the law which condemns us, if all we know of God is the judge who shows we are guilty of sin, and deserving of condemnation, we are without hope.
I should also note that while we may deny we are sinners, or deny our thoughts, words and deeds are sinful.
Usually, we go one way or the other… we fight and deny that our thoughts, words and actions are sin… or we look at them and condemn ourselves in disgust.
This should be obvious, left on our alone, life is shattered, broken, and the thought of being in God’s presence should cause us to experience terror.
- Paul’s point..But now….
Paul’s word “obviously” is going to be countered by something…but before I get to them – I want to share a little more about Luther and his mentor. Luther wrote,
“Staupitz used to comfort me with these words: “Why do you torture yourself with these speculations (about your sin and damnation)? Look at the wounds of Christ and at the blood that was shed for you. From these (your eternal destiny) predestination will shine. Consequently, one must listen to the Son of God, who was sent into the flesh and appeared to destroy the work of the devil and to make you sure about (your eternal destiny) predestination.
What Staupitz was trying to show Luther was what Paul talked about in the Romans passage,
25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. Romans 3:25 (NLT2)
He goes on to write,
27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. Romans 3:27-28 (NLT2)
We are made right, by God. We just need to trust Him at the promises he always made in the church.
For someone so haunted by his past and present sin, this news was radical. We are fully forgiven, fully cleansed, declared as righteous and holy as Jesus is, because Jesus was our sacrifice. Jesus’ body shed for us, His blood spilled out for us, as the sacrificial offering.
The word there is a very special word – it talks of the sacrificial blood poured out on the Ark of the Covenant, once a year – which covered all of the sin of all of the people of God, covering it for a year… til the next sacrifice would do the next for the next year’s sins.
Christ’s blook cover’s all sin, for all time.
- It Is world changing…
This is what changed Luther from a guilty, shamed crazed monk into a pastor who wanted everyone to know that Christ has set them free.
Luther would struggle with a lot of the other stud in the church, both with the Catholics, but even more with reformers like Zwingli and Kaarldstat – men who would dismiss the work of the Holy Spirit.
But his core–and you see this in the Small and Large Catechism – is what Jesus does to cover the obvious problem of our sin, to bring us clean and holy to the Father, where something becomes even more obvious… God Loves us.
and we are His, for God gives us the ability to depend on Jesus’ love and work in our lives.
Knowing this , we experience the peace of God, which passes all understanding, as our hearts and minds are in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
 Martin Luther, Luther’s Table Talk:.
The Scriptures and the Small Church
Thoughts which Drive us to Chrsit and His Cross…
“This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: All this may seem impossible to you now, a small remnant of God’s people. But is it impossible for me? says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.Zec 8: NLT
When I whistle to them, they will come running, for I have redeemed them. From the few who are left,
they will grow as numerous as they were before. Zec 10:8 NLT
4 This is what the LORD my God says: “Go and care for the flock that is intended for slaughter. 5 The buyers slaughter their sheep without remorse. The sellers say, ‘Praise the LORD! Now I’m rich!’ Even the shepherds have no compassion for them. Zec. 11:4-5 NLT
10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! Phil. 3:10-11 NLT
This means that as we sit in faith, opening to the fullness of the presence of God within us, we share the dynamic of the Paschal mystery. In other words, when we stop acting out of our false self and the emotional programs for happiness by deliberately entering into silence and solitude during the time of Centering Prayer, we are immersing ourselves in a special way in the Paschal mystery. The Paschal mystery is Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection, the most comprehensive manifestation of who God is, as far as this can be expressed in human terms.… In the midst of a community praying together in Centering Prayer is the Risen Christ.
As I read the prophet’s words, I cannot but think of what I heard from so many church “experts” today. Not just in my Lutheran body of believers, but across denominations. Once again we are hearding that small churches do not matter. That they have no hope, I saw this back in the 90’s, and I have been seeing it for the last decade or so…
I think there were “intended for slaughter” much as the false shepherds and and false prophets who would profit from the few left in the Holy Land.
These churches are still valid, they are still places where word and sacrament are provided, blessing the people of God. Perhaps they need to be discipled better, encouraged better, that they need to spend more time, being still and knowing God is there. Time spent contemplating the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, something we as believers, something we as the church knows
As St Paul noted of Abraham, “This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing. Romans 4:17 (NLT2) This is true for the church, and it happens as the church they dwell in Jesus Christ. THat is how revival always happens, not in the mega churches, nor among the great speakers. It happens when the presence of Christ is revealed, and His mercy cleanses hopeless sinners, recreating them into saints. What was considered impossible, is now possible–because of Jesus.
So let’s encourage each other, let’s see us lift up the small churches, and pray for them, and as we can, help them see they dwell in Jesus.
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), 302.
The church is…. God and His People, together
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and the cross:
This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Here is the man called the Branch. He will branch out from where he is and build the Temple of the LORD. 13 Yes, he will build the Temple of the LORD. Then he will receive royal honor and will rule as king from his throne. He will also serve as priest from his throne,* and there will be perfect harmony between his two roles.’ Zec 6:12–13. NLT
16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:16-17 (NLT2)
In our time we have all kinds of status symbols in the Christian church—membership, attendance, pastoral staff, missionary offerings. But there is only one status symbol that should make a Christian congregation genuinely glad. That is to know that our Lord is present, walking in our midst!…
For this reason every poor sinner should act in such a way as to hear the Word diligently and not doubt that the Father is drawing people to himself. For the Holy Spirit wills to be present with his power in the Word and to work through it. This is the drawing of the Father.
To develop the contemplative dimension of the Gospel, charismatics have only to deepen their listening to the word of God in Scripture, remembering that this word also dwells within them. There is no opposition between the outward and inward word of God
I am not sure of the sense in which Keating is using the word charismatic, whether in view of a personality or regarding the movement of the church, but either way, the point is made. The word of God needs to resonate with our souls, we have to hear the gospel with our hearts and souls, not just our ears. The word of God, just as the Holy Spirit does, needs to make its home in us. That is the same point Luther made – that through this word, God is drawing us into Himself, through the work of the Holy Spirit.
As it does, the idea of managing (actually manipulating) church growth becomes unnecessary. I am not saying the church should not rejoice in growth, or reach out into our communities and our world, but it should be what drives us. It needs to be a reaction to the word of God, tot he presence of God in our lives, right here and right now. That causes real growth, the joy of knowing we walk with God, that He has redeemed and reconciled us to Himself. Tozer is absolutely right, the only measure of a church that matters. Does it know and believe that Jesus is with every person in the church, and boding them together as one? That is the work of God’s word and the Sacraments establishing and strengthening the fellowship, the community we have with God.
Without the presence of Christ, without the word and sacrament taking root in us, there is nothing. We know that, but that same word and sacrament stays central to our lives. Word and sacrament because it is the conduit through which Christ and His grace is poured into us.
He is our hope, our joy, our life. Without him, we are nothing. WIth Him walking in our midst – we are His people – the Church.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
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), 652–653
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), 300.
Time To Stop Carrying ALL that Weight; The Power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus–Christ crucified for us.
Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 2 Corinthians 5:20 (TEV)
You should get into the habit of admitting your sins to each other, and praying for each other, so that if sickness comes to you, you may be healed. James 5 (Phillips NT)
Concerning confession it is taught that private absolution should be retained and not abolished.
“The genuine sacraments, therefore, are Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and absolution (which is the sacrament of penitence), for these rites have the commandment of God and the promise of grace”
The Christian story of Christ’s merciful love for sinners teaches us to trust in God. This allows us to have the courage to acknowledge and confess our sins. Confession takes courage. When we go to the priest in the Sacrament of Confession, we are exhibiting courage, a courage based on the merciful love of God. Too often men fail to face their sins and faults out of fear—fear of who they are and what they have done. But this need not be, as Jesus Christ has come to free us from the bondage of our shame and sin and remake us through His grace and the life of virtue.
It happens maybe once or twice a year. One of our preschoolers will come up to me with a big smile on their face and point (or rub) my stomach and ask, “Pastor, why are you so fat?” The parents, usually shocked by their kids sincere curiosity, tell their children, “Don’t say that–Pastor is not fat!”
I look at them in a moment of sheer shock. Not because of what their children observed, but by their denial of the obvious truth. I carry well over 100 pounds of weight I don’t need to carry. I know it, it can’t be hidden, it is what it is–and I and my doctors really want me to shed it.
Spiritually, we do the same thing, far too often. We either are carrying to many burdens, are weighed down by guilt and shame, or we are telling people (and ourselves) that the weight we carry means nothing, it’s not really there–it is not crushing our relationships with people, and destroying our lives.
And the solution God has given us is so simple. The church and its shepherds (whether pastor or priest) are agents of reconciliation. Luther adored–I can find no other word to express his feeling towards it–the results of being absolved of sin.
Over and over in scripture, the promise of forgiveness is made, and then delivered at the cross, in baptism, in the Lord’s Supper, and as we confess our sins, and hear a dear brother, speaking for God, tell us we are free. As a pastor, I have to tell you the weight I’ve seen lifted off of people is.. beyond words. And I’ve felt that weight lifted off myself.
Some may say they simply confess to Jesus, and He takes care of it. That is fine and good, and that kind of confession and absolution, or that in a church service works for many people. But there are sins we commit, that haunt us, that stop us from interacting with a person, or group of people. That stop us from praying, or spending time with God. Those are the sins we need to hear are forgiven–audibly, looking in the eye someone who says, “God put me here to tell you this one thing. Your sin is forgiven! In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit! Go in peace!”
And so you shall!
I urge you , Let God change you, from being His enemy, to being His friend. AMEN!
“Augsburg Confession: Article 11 Confession” 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), 44.
“The Apology of the Augsburg Confession” 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),
 Tim Gray and Curtis Martin, Boys to Men: The Transforming Power of Virtue (Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2001), 54–55.
Temptations and Trials are…. Beneficial?
Thoughts which drive me to the cross….
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 24 Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (NLT2)
The comfort extended by Luther is rooted in the fact that the person assailed by temptation is a member of the communion of saints and is armed with God’s Word. The tempted person, however, should realize that there is always a benefit that accrues to him from such assaults, although he dare not attempt to divine it. Finally, he invites the tempted person to a fuller faith in Christ, but Luther warns that before the trials subside, they will first flare to greater intensity.
751 Faced with the marvels of God, and with all our human failures, we have to make this admission: “You are everything to me. Use me as you wish!” Then there will be no more loneliness for you—for us.
I came across Luther’s words first this morning and thought that the words for those enduring temptations apply to those facing trials. A long theological discussion could be had on linking the two, but they both are thought to challenge our ability to remain closely intimate with Christ Jesus.
The irony is that the benefit is exactly the opposite of the goal of Satan. Rather than break us away from Christ where we can be devoured, the trials and temptations of life should drive us ever more to the cross where we were crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20).
The challenge, whether trial or temptation, is the realization that God is at work in our lives, that we benefit from these assaults when we realize God uses them (not causes the) to draw us back into His care. That is why the Psalms are filled with words like refuge and fortress and sanctuary, for that is who God is! He is our fortress, our refuge and sanctuary.
This is a mystery, how things Satan and his minions use to set in our path God will turn into blessing beyond compare, as we find ourselves hidden in Christ Jesus (Col. 3:1-3). While we can’t explain the mystery, we live and experience it, some of us over and over.
This then leads to some of the most powerful ministry in our lives, for while suffering is beneficial, the lack of it may not be. That is why Paul talks about freedom in view of its benefits. His bottom line is sacrifice for others is beneficial, and focusing on what we think is good for us. This is the same thing St. Josemaria speaks of when he suggests we pray “use me as you wish!” No matter the cost, for as we grow in Christ we are sure His benefit outweighs what we must endure.
God is with us. We come to know that more, when He opens our eyes in the darkness, and shatters it.
Undergoing trial and temptation? Run to God, and give thanks when you find yourself in His care. AMEN!
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), 182.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Dealing with Setbacks, and Failures
Thoughts driving me to Jesus, and His cross.
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18 (NLT2)
We can afford to follow Him to failure. Faith dares to fail. The resurrection and the judgment will demonstrate before all worlds who won and who lost. We can wait.
732 O Jesus! I rest in you.
733 Trust always in your God. He does not lose battles.
I am struggling this morning. It is not failure persay, but to many things are failing.
Some of them are petty, minor computer problems, forgetting to do this or that, struggling through my devotional readings.
Other failings are significant. The health of a couple close friends, the state of few congregations and their pastors, other issues that I am not a liberty to discuss. It is tough not to dwell on these things, to feed into a loop of depression and despair. There are days, like this one, where I struggle to get moving, to get the tasks I need to get done. Especially my devotions, as I am not sure whether to be disappointed at God, mad at Him, or just ignore Him. (see Jeremiah 20:7, 9 which could be my life verse!)
I did anyway and came across Tozer’s words in blue. And I wondered, if we can afford to fail, can we be afford to be in situations that are failing? If we can take something on which most likely will fail and endure it, can we be in a situation where bodies and spirits are failing?
I believe so, and for the same reason. The Judgement awaits! God’s power, which Josemaria tells us to depend upon, will never lose the battle, never mind lost the war. That allows us to rest in Him… that allows us to endure failures and failings, for in Him, those things are promised to work for good, and nothing can ever separate us from Him!
This is the faith of the three men about to head into the furnace–they trusted God, whether they were going to be rescued or charbroiled. They knew the love of God and His promises, and they knew His presence. In that they found the peace that enabled them to know the hope of eternity. And so failure or success was little different in their eyes. They could wait, as Tozer noted, if their deliverance wasn’t in this minute, for it was sure.
As is ours…
So if you have to take a risk, that some might know God’s love, take it, and fear not failure.
And if things are failing, know He is there.. and you can depend on Him…
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Escrivá, Josemaría. The Way (p. 129). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Hope for the Apathetic Congregation or Denomination
Thoughts that drive me to the cross, and the mercy of Christ.
32 Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. 33 Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. 34 You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. Hebrews 10:32-34 (NLT2)
The amount of loafing practiced by the average Christian in spiritual things would ruin a concert pianist if he allowed himself to do the same thing in the field of music. The idle puttering around that we see in church circles would end the career of a big league pitcher in one week. No scientist could solve his exacting problem if he took as little interest in it as the rank and file of Christians take in the art of being holy. The nation whose soldiers were as soft and undisciplined as the soldiers of the churches would be conquered by the first enemy that attacked it. Triumphs are not won by men in easy chairs. Success is costly
We also believe, teach, and confess that in a time when confession is necessary, as when the enemies of God’s Word want to suppress the pure teaching of the holy gospel, the entire community of God, indeed, every Christian, especially servants of the Word as the leaders of the community of God, are obligated according to God’s Word to confess true teaching and everything that pertains to the whole of religion freely and publicly. They are to do so not only with words but also in actions and deeds.
As the words of Tozer came on my screen this morning, I grieved. They seem as accurate now as they did in the 80s, when they were published. The church, at least in the United States, is stagnant. Churches are closing, or trying to survive, the present declines. Pastors are leaving the ministry in record numbers, many to start para-church ministries or become consultants. Others are retiring from ministry, or looking to find an easy place to serve out–until they can retire. Denominational leaders are telling even viable churches that there is no long-term hope.
We aren’t just apathetic…it seems we are aggressively choosing to abandon ship, and to encourage others to do so.
And then, as I continued in my devotional readings, I come across the words of a church in the midst of spiritual warfare in the days after Luther. The encouragement then was to confess Christ with words AND actions AND deeds publicly. To not compromise the gospel (and if it isn’t about Christ – who cares). This wasn’t the matter of giving up a few hours on Saturday. or subsidising a ministry or mission. This was life at stake. But they sacrificed, they served and taught and loved and shared Christ.
The same occurred in the times addressed in the Book of Hebrews. Again, the history is taught to us, but the last verse is the most important.
For it gives us the reason and is what should empower us to go against the flow of the church in decline. Read it again,
34 You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. Hebrews 10:34 (NLT2)
They didn’t need a pastor to berate them from the pulpit about their apathy. They didn’t need to be shamed into giving more time and money. No one was told they weren’t a good Christian unless they did this or that… (though some will be confronted from time to time) They didn’t need the stick, they needed to be reminded of the carrot.
The better thing.
The best thing.
To be in the presence of God without all the crap we deal with in this life. To know the joy of being loved beyond imagination, to share in the peace that goes beyond everything else. This is what we have to preach, what people should experience in worship and bible study and in thier own devotions, as Paul’s prayer comes true:
19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:19 (NLT2)
If a church, or a denomination were to realize this, no church would close, or downsize or find themselves with a unfilled list of duties and positions. It just won’t happen.
To know we are loved and God is with and guiding us now until we are before His throne…. that is what the church needs to help people experience. For then our hope will be contagious, not harnessable by any program.
So let us share what we know from the time at the altar, and from the dark nights when we pray until God grants us sleep. For out of such struggles comes the assurance of His presence and love as we are given hope for eternity. AMEN.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
“Smalcald Articles: Article X”, 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), 637.
So Heavenly Minded I am Good on Earth
Thoughts that drive me to the cross
20 “But Judah will be filled with people forever, and Jerusalem will endure through all generations. 21 I will pardon my people’s crimes, which I have not yet pardoned; and I, the LORD, will make my home in Jerusalem with my people.” Joel 3:20-21 (NLT2)
We must resist every attempt of Satan to palm off upon us the values that belong to mortality. Nothing less than forever is long enough for us. We view with amused sadness the frenetic scramble of the world to gain a brief moment in the sun.…
The calendar tells me it is another Monday, even though I am “technically” on vacation, I know the workload that awaits me this day. Because it is another Monday, there is a sense of lethargy, and a question why I am wasting my time on writing that will only be read by two or three people, or if I am lucky 4 or 5.
My mind wanders through the readings from my devotions, and I keep thinking I am caught in a time trap. I am thinking about this from the perspective of what the return on investment will be in these days, rather than the impact of the words in my heart, and how they have changed my, my preaching and teaching. I can only pray that these changes impact others.
Tozer was correct – Satan will try to steal our joy, by making us think through things for the value they present today.
If you are only looking at today, forgiveness and mercy make no difference – sin will just creep in tomorrow.
If you are only thinking about today, reconciliation makes little sense.
Neither does time in pray or meditating on scriptures like the one in Joel.
But eternity does exist,
We have something to look forward to, and Satan can’t steal that from us.
Nor can he steal from us the presence of the Holy Spirit, who transforms us into the image of Christ, readying us to dwell in the glory of God.
So what God puts in front of you this Monday – rejoice in it, trusting God to use it for good, for He loves us.
We get caught in in phrases
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
God cheated! (and still lost?): A sermon on Genesis 32:22-30
God Didn’t Fight Fair! (and still lost!)
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus increase our desire to cling to Jesus and never let go! (Even as we know He won’t let go either!)
- Did God Cheat?
I titled this sermon God didn’t fight fair and still lost, but I was tempted to title it, “God cheated”. Here is why I wanted to say that:
“When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
We know from later in the passage and from other places in the scripture that the “man” was God. So look at the passage again….
God saw he wasn’t going to win… so he dislocates Jacob’s hip. Hmmm, I wonder if that’s a legitimate technique for the next family fun night?
But there are two huge issues here…
The first – God can chea…err not play fair?
The second—God can lose?
Those things may not make sense…
Until you realize that God’s goal was for Jacob to not only get the blessing, God wanted him to treasure what he gained.
A little background, in case you are not familiar with this man who wrestled with God. From his very birth, he was a didn’t play fair! He took advantage of his brother’s hunger and gained his inheritance. He would later take advantage of his brother’s absence and steal his father’s blessing for the firstborn, effectively taking over the family.
If there was an easy way to get something—he did it. If there was a scam, or a way to deceive someone, he was there.
Another way to say it, Satan knew how to tempt him, and he fell into sin every chance he got.
Most of us don’t have Jacob’s moral fiber, or lack of it. But we cannot say that Satan has no clue about how and when to tempt us. Maybe it is gossip, some nice juicy truth and rumor that makes someone look bad. Maybe it’s not spending time with God, finding your sabbath. Maybe the temptation is revenge and wanting something bad to happen to someone who did you wrong. Or maybe it is lust…
Everybody has their sin, and needs to be confronted with it by God, so that God can bless them, healing them by removing the curses they had earned. For every sin, whether thought, word or deed, earns a curse, a punishment.
Only God can bless us by removing the curse.
And as Jacob finally went home, as he would meet his brother the next day… he needed to be free of his past, the guilt and shame. He needed to find his blessing, and this stranger, he was certain, was the one to give him that blessing.
That’s what happens when we encounter God, we know it, even if we can’t put words to it, or explain the blessing that is to be ours.
- What was different – The Blessing ( why he wanted to know the name
The question that needs to be asked is what changed in Jacob, that would make him so tenacious. Why did he have to receive the blessing?
It had to be the blessing that he expected.
He wanted to know the man’s name to confirm, but God simply blessed him. That blessing confirmed it, for Jacob, now renamed Israel, confessed who the man was…
Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.”
What he expected, he could testify to, a place he encountered God. He experienced being in the presence of God and even could demand a blessing—and received it.
That is what you and I need, to realize the blessing that is ours as we interact with God.
If we only had a place where we could wrestle with God. Where we could question Him, struggle with Him. Where we could recognize His presence and never want to leave it, but stay there until we were sure we were blessed by Him.
Where could there be a place like that? Where is our place where we can wrestle with God, demand a blessing, (hopefully not get a dislocated hip)
Here at the altar rail is a place to do so. A place where His love is, as we take His body, broken so we could be healed, and His blood shed so we could be forgiven.
Where God would remove the burdens we have, the weaknesses, the curses. Even if we can’t explain it, we would know that He is with us. Where we could bring others who need healing as well.
Here is the place that changes life, as God comes to us, and we hold on for the blessing. This is where we know we are loved… and cared for, it is where we find peace. This is where we see God, and live. AMEN