Author Archives: justifiedandsinner

Why did you think this would be easy?

Thoughts I pray help you depend on Jesus..

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28 NLT

But I will make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn so I can multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. 4 Even then Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you. So I will bring down my fist on Egypt. Then I will rescue my forces—my people, the Israelites—from the land of Egypt with great acts of judgment. 5 When I raise my powerful hand and bring out the Israelites, the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” Exodus 7:3-5 NLT

Some of you know something of that which has been called “the dark night of the soul.” Some of you have spiritual desire and deep longing for victory but it seems to you that your efforts to go on with God have only brought you more bumps and more testings and more discouragement. You are tempted to ask, “How long can this go on?”…
Yes, there is a dark night of the soul. There are few Christians willing to go into this dark night and that is why there are so few who enter into the light. It is impossible for them ever to know the morning because they will not endure the night.

For every nail that pierces Christ, more than one hundred thousand should in justice pierce you, yes, they should prick you forever and ever more painfully! When Christ is tortured by nails penetrating his hands and feet, you should eternally suffer the pain they inflict and the pain of even more cruel nails, which will in truth be the lot of those who do not avail themselves of Christ’s passion.

One of my mentors, Dr. Rodney Vliet, once told a bunch of us that it was not reasonable to think our families wouldn’t suffer because of the ministry we all hoped to enter. He was quite blunt, and said that there would be times where our families’ wants and desires would be sacrficed because someone in the church was in trauma. There would be times where even their needs would be laid down as a sacrficie.

Some are told today that not only does family come first, but family’s comfort should come first.

I struggle with this… a lot. For I’ve found out that Dr. Vliet was right. Not just the vocation of the pastor or worship leader, but the vocation of every volunteer in the church – wheter and elder, a sunday school teacher, or the person who gets up early…

Being a Chirstian includes being part of both the Church, and a church. And that means being a servant to others. Putting them first, even above other commitments.

Even when the ministry is tough, and you want to run. Moses wasn’t promised an easy kingdom too lead – first he had to deal with Pharoah, then, once free of that – he would have to deal with Israel! Ministry wasn’t easy then, nor would it be for the judges, the prophets or the apostles.

Nor should we expect it to be easy, simple, and able to be blocked out on a standard schedule.

Tozer talks about the dark times, the times where it is so dark we want to quit, where we think we’ve reached our max burnout level, where we can’t see how God is going to work.

And then, looking to Him on the cross, we see our suffering is not what we deserve. Jesus saved us from that. I love that point of Luther’s that we deserve so much for our sin, that any sacrifice we make because we are forgiven, to help others know, is worth it. …

Sacrifice is not as great a sacrficie as we think, compared to Jesus. Even martyrdom is not, for we die to bear witness to a death that bore all of our sin, Leave your burdens behind, tkae up your cross and walk with Jesus, knowing that His work thorugh you will save others from Hell. It doesn’t matter if you are a preacher, a missionary, a preschool or junior high Sunday School teacher, or someone who visits shutins…

what ever the sacrifice, it is worth it… for people will experience God’s love… for you do not make the sacrifice alone…

He is with you…. just cling to Him…

A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).

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), 9.

What do you need? How will it happen? The purpose of self-examination!

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.

When the truth hurts…and is necessary

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).

The Ministry of Theology

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

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.

Why Did I Fall…again?

What was the difference between Javert and ValJean? The priest who cut straight to the heart

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.

How can I praise Him… in this mess?


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.

Where Peace Begins – The Real Reformation.

Thoghts to provoke our adoration of Jesus…

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24  Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 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. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, Romans 3:23-25 (NLT2)

Consciously or subconsciously, the fear that God is far away, absent, doing something more important than paying attention to me, or that he is so mad at me he won’t even look at me, fills the imagination of peace-challenged followers of Jesus. Our actual understanding of God the Father—not what we think we should believe—is a reliable indicator of our ability to live in peace and pass it on to others.

As I’ve looked at the life of Martin Luther, I see a trememendous change in him. We talk about him as the father of the Reformation, but you won’t have the reformation, or the equally important counter reformation, without the real reformation, the transformation that occurs as the Holy Spirit circumcises his heart, and cuts away all that is not of God. (see Colossians 2:11)

Without that, without what happens when Luther reads the passage above from Romans, there is no peace in his heart, there is not relationship with God, and the Reformation (and the Counter-Reformaiton) would mean nothing.

Everything abotu Christianity depends on the cross and Christ’s death there. For that is where He freed us from the penalty of sin. When we trust this, even thoguht we don’t comprehend it, life is transformed – everything is changed, and the Spirit of God brings peace into our weary, tired souls.

We no longer have to come up with excuses, or defend what we’ve done, we rely, we depend we believe God has made it right. Everything just falls aside, as the Holy Spirit prepares us for being in intimate fellowship with God,

This was so amazing to Luther, that any anxiety, and angst he felt was not about his sin, as much as helping others be free from the burden of it. And by no means was he the only one who hasmade this a priority in preaching and ministry…

This is what it is all about….

You are free to be in a relationship with the Creator of everything… for that is what God has wanted since the Garden. It is His plan… It is His hope… it is our reality.

The Lord is with you, for He has made it happen! Rejoice!

Hunter, Todd D.. Deep Peace (p. 60). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

What Does It Mean to Know Jesus.

Thoughts encouraging our adoration of God!

24 Now to him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen. Jude 24-25 CSB

Everywhere … we find persons who are Bible-taught but not Spirit-taught. They conceive truth to be something which they can grasp with the mind.
If a man holds to the fundamentals of the Christian faith he is thought to possess divine truth. But it does not follow. There is no truth apart from the Spirit.
The most brilliant intellect may be imbecilic when confronted with the mysteries of God. For a man to understand revealed truth requires an act of God equal to the original act which inspired the text.
(1)

But how is such sanctifying done? Answer: Just as the Son obtains dominion, whereby He wins us, through His birth, death, resurrection, etc., so also the Holy Ghost effects our sanctification by the following parts, namely, by the communion of saints or the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting; that is, He first leads us into His holy congregation, and places us in the bosom of the Church, whereby He preaches to us and brings us to Christ.
For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel.

I’ve occasionally heard the comment, “to know in the Biblical sense.” It refers to the use of the word “to know” as a polite way of saying that this man and this woman had sexual intercourse. They interacted in an intimate way, and often without much thought… and the experience was hopefully enjoyable for both!

That this same word for “knowing” is used to describe a relationship with God is troubling for some. Mainly because our society, inspired by Plato’s nonsense about the physical realm being evil, thinks of physical intimacy as dirty, perhaps because of the desire that often accompanies it. Therefore, using similar terms like intimacy or knowing them
becomes troublesome. Knowledge is then reduced to the realm of the mind, the academic, the collection of data about God.

This is why when evangelists and apologetics appeal to the mind, convinced that knowledge is the key, and they miss the mark. These are those whom Tozer acknowledges are Bible-taught but not Spirit-taught. They are the reason Luther states that we can know nothing of God unless the Holy Spirit offers that revelation and imbeds it, not just in
our minds, by driving it deep into our hearts.

This Spirit does this, of course, through the ministry of preaching and the sacraments that preaching drives us toward as we commune with Jesus. This is experiential knowledge, something that teachings our heart and soul as well as
our mind. It is what drove Pascal, one of the greatest thinkers, as he wrote how the gospel burned inside him. It is what comforted Luther as he embraced trauma from within and without. Tozer knew that comfort, too, it would seem, as
he actively tried to help his people experience it.

That comfort, also described as peace and rest in scripture, is the essence of knowing God. It is the work of God we experience as the Holy Spirit leads us into the presence of God. It is when we joyfully realize that we are blameless
– that all is well and right and just because of Jesus on the cross.

This is where worship comes from, this joy of being the presence of God. It is to praise and honor and be amazed at the Lord, who is our refuge and strength. Knowing God results in a desire to thank Him, to praise Him, to adore
Him for what He has done…. just as the psalmist does, even if it is as repetitive and joyously simple as Psalm 150.

Just praise Him!

for He is our God… and He has made us His people! AMEN!

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

(2) Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, trans. F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau (n.p.: WORDsearch, 2003).

Why We (even Luther and a Catholic Saint) Need a “Safe Place”

my safe place… where bread and wine, Body and Blood of Jesus and His people Celebrate their intimate communion with Him!

Thoughts that help us to adore Jesus, and encourage our devotion to Him..

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. 5 You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials 7 so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. I Peter 1:2-9 CSB

When we really come to admire and love the most sacred humanity of Jesus, we will discover each of his wounds, one by one. When we undergo periods of passive purgation, which we find painful and hard to bear, periods when we shed sweet and bitter tears, which we do our best to hide, we will feel the need to enter into each one of his most holy wounds: to be purified and strengthened, rejoicing in his redeeming Blood. We will go there like the doves which, in the words of Scripture, find shelter from the storm in the crevices in the rocks. We hide in this refuge to find the intimacy of Christ. We find his conversation soothing and his countenance comely15 because “those who know that his voice is gentle and pleasing are those who have welcomed the grace of the gospel, which makes them say: ‘You have the words of eternal life.’”

Second, I give thanks to him for these precious gifts, that he has revealed his name to me and bestowed it upon me, that I can glory in his name and be called God’s servant and creature, etc., that his name is my refuge like a mighty fortress to which the righteous man can flee and find protection, as Solomon says [Prov. 18:10]

I’ve heard people mock the youth for needing safe places, a

I’ve heard people make fun of brave people who state that they need a safe place.

Part of me wants to ensure those who make fun of others realize that they need a safe place as well. The easy way to do that is to firmly correct their errors! First, the error of their failure to love their neighbor. Second, their belief that they are beyond the need for a refuge, a sanctuary, a safe place.

Luther needed such a place; he wrote sermons and more than one hymn about the ability to find safety in the Mighty Fortress that is God. The words he wrote were not as much a doctrinal manifesto as the cry of a heart that needed comfort, that needed peace. Look a the words of his cry in what was never meant to be the battle anthem it has become. Look at the description of the prayer. He knew God was his safe place…

St. Josemaria also found that refuge, that place to hide, as he meditated on the love which welcomed the wounds borne at the cross. This is where we find the greatest and truly only safe place, where even sin cannot do its damage. It is paid for; it is forgiven.

At this point, in such a sanctuary, the words of Peter become so much more than words!  Go up – and read them again!

There is an ability to deal with grief in various trials. It only comes in those intimate moments with God where we realize His ultimate plan. That amid the refining of our faith, as God removes all that is not of Him, that we find a joy that goes beyond anything we can explain. We may not even think of the eternity promised because we are now experiencing a foretaste of it as we rejoice in Christ!

This intimate grace, so full of compassion, so incredibly healing, as we find rest and peace, this is the glory of God, dwelling in us!

This is our safe place, amid the battles, the storms, the complications, the woundedness, and brokenness….

There are times I hate all of that… and yet… in an odd sense, I appreciate it all. For in it, when I don’t run, I realize I have a safe place….there… amid it all, in Jesus.

Lord, in the middle of life, when we are at our wit’s end… help us to remember that You are our safe place, our sanctuary, our Mighty Fortress.  AMEN!

Oh – and stop making fun of people who know they need safe places – and invite them into yours!

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

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 43 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 201.

Thoughts for those dragging….

Thoughts to encourage you to adore Jesus… and entrust yourself to His care.

32 And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received their dead, raised to life again. Other people were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. 38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
39 All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.
Hebrews 11:32-40 CSB

I want to live so fully in the Spirit that all my thoughts may be as sweet incense ascending to Thee and every act of my life may be an act of worship. Therefore I pray in the words of Thy great servant of old, “I beseech Thee so for to cleanse the intent of mine heart with the unspeakable gift of Thy grace, that I may perfectly love Thee and worthily praise thee.” (1)

In this life every one must carry his cross; but St. Teresa says, that the cross is heavy for him that drags it, not for him that embraces it. Thus our Lord knows well how to strike and how to heal: He woundeth, and cureth, says Job.3 The Holy Spirit, by his sweet unction, renders even ignominies and torments sweet and pleasant: Yea, Lord; for so hath it seemed good in Thy sight. Thus ought we to say in all adversities that happen to us: So be it done, Lord, because so hath it pleased Thee.

As I read the 11th chapter of Hebrews, I feel inadequate, week, and by no means deserving of being in the same book, never mind being in the same chapter of these giants of the faith.

Especially right now, I am dragging… and I struggle, wondering if there is another way, a less exhausting way, to do what needs to get done. It is getting done, but it seems like it is taking so much more…

And then in my devotions I came across de Ligouri’s words, and I think I found an error. The reason I am dragging is that I am dragging my cross rather than embracing it. Instead of looking for where God is working, I am focused on what I’ve been gifted to endure. I should know better!

Those in Hebrews 11 endured far more than I ever will! They embraced their crosses, they didn’t try to gain a release from them, they embraced them – knowing the end is Christ, and knowing He would sustain them through the storms. That is how “ignominies and torments” are rendered sweet and pleasant. (that does sound wonderful!) The problems aren’t removed… they are just changed into moments of communion with Christ…

That is where Tozer’s prayer completed my reading this morning. The idea of living in the Spirit sound incredible, even unbelievable. It is truly, our reality. Praying that we realize this is a great idea! For God will cleanse our heart, and empower us to love Him… that is why the cross is there in the first place. For Him to embrace us, as we learn to embrace Him… and rise with Him into a new life.

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

(2) Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 486.

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