Author Archives: justifiedandsinner
The Paradox of Freedom and Faith
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to the cross!
If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free. John 8:36 (TEV)
Not that grace somehow adds to an otherwise imperfect creation, but that grace puts a stop to our misguided attempts to usurp God’s place and so allows creation to shine forth in all its glory
The “world” is the body of those who hate, because they are prisoners of their own narrow illusions and petty desires. They cannot recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit because they are not willing to conform their lives to His inspirations. They cannot become free with the freedom Jesus compared to the unpredictable blowing of the wind, for they are rooted in their own attachments and bound down by their own compulsions. They have a fixed way of acting (which may be wild and erratic and possess a spurious “freedom” of its own) and they cannot break away from it. They have rendered themselves incapable of doing anything but their “own will” in the sense of their enslaved will. Only the Spirit Himself can penetrate their hard carapace of resistance, and too often they will not let Him do so. They are unable to love freely because they are afraid of freedom.
The power and effect of faith are especially seen in temptations, when sin, death, devil, and hell are overcome. Nor are these weak enemies; they bring out perspiration, weaken our limbs, and make heaven and earth cramped. When the devil and death come, no one can help except only the person who has said, I am he who shall sustain thee. Under such conditions we learn what faith is.
Yesterday, my son’s high school was locked down, and for several hours I waited for him to be released. First, they were kept secure in a classroom. Then, they were escorted to some fenced in tennis courts where, eventually, they were released to parents. The parents waited in the sunlight for hours, because of miscommunication.
My thoughts upon getting into the car hours after I arrived was the old phrase, “Free at last, Free at Last!” A couple of hours of inconvenience, and yet I treated it like a lifelong trauma. ( A little projection here, as I was also wanting to deal with some other traumatic events)
So I was thinking about freedom as I came across these words this morning. And the illusion of freedom was shredded, again and again.
When we clamor and protest to have freedom, we must contemplate two things:
- What are we wanting freedom from?
- What do we want to do with this freedom?
Answering those questions will help us determine whether what we want is truly freedom, or simply the ability to serve our own preferred slavery –to our lusts and desires, our addictions and other sins that plague us. The problem is, enslaved to those things–we don’t even realize we are enslaved! Or, if we do, the lure of that which we are enslaved to overshadows the life we don’t know we can live.
Luther’s words about faith are clear here. It is not an easy fight to overcome sin. It requires a lot sweat and a lot of tears. It takes prayer, and mostly, it takes dying with Jesus on the cross to break those shackles, and the work of the Holy Spirit to draw us to that cross.
Forde’s words are so clear to that as well, as the Holy Spirit convinces us to set aside our self-idolatry, nailing that sin to the cross as well. That when the Son sets us free- we can begin to see glimpses of the glory of God.
There is freedom from everything we need to be free from – hatred, violence, anxiety, resentment, sin, guilt and shame…
And there is freedom to do one thing… to love.
Upon getting home, just before 6, homework and chores awaited both my son and I. As did dinner. We weren’t free to do whatever we wanted, but we were free to do that which was good, and beneficial. Mostly, my family was free to be together. And so it is with freedom we find in Christ Jesus-we are free to be in the presence of God, to know His love, to be with our brothers and sisters in Christ…
This is accomplished simply by having faith in God, depending on what He’s promised – that He will set you truly free..
Gerhard O. Forde, “Hearing,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 144.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 132.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 102.
To Pray and Worship with All Your Heart and Soul….What does it mean?
Thoughts drawing me closer to Jesus and to His cross!
No, I’m not drunk, sir,” she answered. “I haven’t been drinking! I am desperate, and I have been praying, pouring out my troubles to the LORD. 16Don’t think I am a worthless woman. I have been praying like this because I’m so miserable.” 1 Sam. 1:15-16 GNT
Are we presently missing important elements of worship in our churches? I speak of the genuine and sacred offering of ourselves as we worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Who can object to pious and righteous talk? Soon the whole enterprise takes off like a magnificent balloon, rising on the strength of its own hot air, with marvelous descriptions of the Christian life, the abundant life, spirituality, and the like. The minister becomes a guru rather than a proclaimer. The balloon rises perhaps until the stratospheric air can no longer support it and so it bursts and falls ignominiously back to earth. Or it is like Andersen’s fairy tale about the emperor’s new clothes? Everyone feels compelled to go along with the game until the naive little boy blurts out the truth: “But he’s naked!” Then all the pretense collapses.
But it is obvious to most that real worship and praise isn’t bursting forth from the average Catholic congregation during the opening hymn or song. We aren’t experiencing the jubilatio of St. Augustine’s communities. But we can! The next time we sing at Mass, let’s dare to really sing. Sing with all your heart and soul. Dare to open your mouth and praise God
I wonder what would happen if Tozer saw today’s church, if he would see the missing parts of worship restored. I can think of people here and there whose sacrifice seems significant, yet, I don’t know it is., or what really lies behind the sacrifice–or if it is really one.
I fear that for many of us, our worship is like Forde’s critique, that we are no more than a spiritual version of the Emperor’s new clothes. I fear that we will find there is nothing there, that my sermons have lifted people into a pious, blind life that seems to soar until it crashes. That the verses and choruses we sing are sung out of a love for music, and not without recognizing the presence of the One our voices praise.
We need to sing with all our heart and soul, and that doesn’t mean loudly, or with great power. It means all of it – much as Hannah does in the reading from 1 Samuel. To pour out the pain, the brokenness, the barrenness, to just let it flow out….
You see, praise comes from meeting God in that place, and letting Him raise you up. It means pouring out everything in our prayers, holding nothing back, to let God minister to us. Then our praises take on an other worldly quality, coming from our healed hearts and souls.
It doesn’t take courage as much as desperation.
But the result is glorious – for we come to depend on God in a way that cannot be created or maipulated by skilled planning, or the most incredible of organists, choirs, praise bands or soloists. Yet each, as they encounter a God who cares, adds their voices together–lifting the God who lifted us up.
And for every Hannah, we can then become be like Eli, who ministered to her, on the Lord’s behal
Tozer, A. W., and Gerald B. Smith. 2008. Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Forde, Gerhard O. 1990. “Hearing.” In Theology Is for Proclamation, 137–38. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Talbot, John Michael. 2023. The Lord’s Supper: A Eucharistic Revival, Berryville, ARK. Troubador For the Lord Publishing.
Jesus is INDEED the Savior of the World: A sermon from Concordia on John 4:25-30, 39-42
Jesus is indeed the Savior of the World
† I.H.S. †
May the grace and peace of God be so clear in your life that you declare with the Samaritans, “now we know He is indeed the savior of the world!”
- Woman at the well
She was the first person Jesus to whom Jesus confessed He was the Messiah, the Christ.
He simply said to her, “I am He.”
She wasn’t a princess; she didn’t come from a powerful family major metropolitan city. She wasn’t even married, but so desperate she shacked up with someone who used her, but who could provide a roof over her head.
It turns out she was a princess, the daughter of not just any king, but the King of kings.
Because of that relationship, there were no games with Jesus’ answer. He would play with the Pharisees and Sadducees, never answering their questions, as they weren’t ready for them. She didn’t get a convoluted answer, as Jesus gave Herod and Pilate.
“when He comes…he will explain everything to us…” she said, with hope it might be…
Jesus replied, “I AM he!”
A relationship, long dormant, was formed in that moment, as this lady became someone’s daughter, and realized this man who knew all about her, loved her in a way she never knew she could be loved….
But that is only the beginning…
- Are we blind like the disciples?
There is an interesting reaction by the disciples, that sort of proves how naïve they were.
They ask, “What do you want with her”—at least that is what it translates out to in English. But the word is zeteo—the word for pursuing, it is the word for desiring something from someone.
After all, why would Jesus be talking to “one of them?” Why would He be interested in a lady who was one “their” castoffs?
I struggled with that word desire – and I think I understand why translators didn’t translate it more clearly. Why would you use the word desire, with all the potential mis understandings?
But that is where their sin comes in, as in their minds they are seeing this lady as, well, not a lady. I can leave it there.. right?
They bore false witness against their neighbor – they shattered the 8th commandment.
And because of that, they couldn’t understand a good reason for Jesus to want to be found in her presence.
They couldn’t understand his desire to reveal who she really was
She was a daughter of the King of Kings
And she proved it…. She went and gathered others who were meant to be God’s.
Leaving her bucket – the reason she was there behind, she went into the village, and invited others to see.
And this is where the gospel story gets interesting….
- Steps to believing
This lady, revealed to be the daughter of the King of King go and gathers everyone in the town. AND THEY LISTEN TO HER AND COME!!!!!
They are so enamored with Jesus that they ask Him to stay with them, and this Jewish Rabbi breaks every rule in the book and does so. He not only dines with heathers, he stays in their homes.
He invests them the very mysteries of God, for hear what happens.
So he stayed for two days, 41 long enough for many more to hear his message and believe.
They came to trust and depend on Jesus! This crowd of outcasts who weren’t part of the right ethnicity, the right culture, never mind from the right schools of religious thought. Heck – these people wouldn’t even be allowed in the synagogues of Jesus day.
Yet he stayed with them, and they came to trust in Him, for their salvation –for their life, even before the cross!
What’s more – the faith went deep—listen to these incredible words
Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”
That word know there—they understand, they comprehend that He is not just the Saviour of the Jews, and not just that of those who are Abraham’s descendants – He is the Savior of the world—He is the savior of all!
They have begun to love and trust in God the way the Lady does, not just because she told them, but because they experienced His love for them. This is remarkable – this is what it is all about – this relationship that God wants with all people – everywhere.
This is the place where every parent should want their children – to know God is their Savior – not just because they said He is, but because they know Him. This is what every pastor wants of every person, not just in their church but their community—for every person to know Jesus, to experience His love, to be relived by His mercy.
TO experience the love of God, to experience how much He cares and He lifts your burdens off of you, as He cleanses you, as the Spirit dwells within you… this is what you need to know of Jesus.
To have that relationship with God that we encourage each other in, yet which is so intimate and shared with the Father who calls us His children, with Jesus who calls us His brothers and sisters and friends. With the Spirit who ministers to us in a way that is beyond words. TO know Jesus wants to have this relationship with everyone, no matter the depth of their sin – it can happen…
To have you depend on God – not just because I and the elders tell you about Him, but because you know Him… and knowing Him, lets us praise Him… forever! AMEN!
The Secret to Church Burnout! Knowing the Cross is more than Atonement
Thoughts driving me to Jesus and to His cross.
Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. 13 Go and find out what is meant by the scripture that says: ‘It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’ I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.” Matthew 9:12-13 (TEV)
If a pastor finds himself resenting his people, getting petulant and haranguing them, that is a sign that he or she has quit thinking of them as sinners who bring “nothing in themselves of worth” and has secretly invested them with divine attributes of love, strength, compassion, and joy. They, of course, do not have these attributes in any mature measure and so will disappoint him or her every time. On the other hand, if the pastor rigorously defines people as fellow sinners, he or she will be prepared to share grief, shortcomings, pain, failure, and have plenty of time left over to watch for the signs of God’s grace operating in this wilderness, and then fill the air with praises for what he discovers.
The presupposition seems to be that God’s intention even originally was to relate to us in terms of law and justice, but that this intention was frustrated by sin. The sin subsequently has to be “paid for.” Jesus is sacrificed to God instead of us to make such payment.
There is a subtle but profound difference, however, when one understands the “for us” to mean that he was sacrificed to do us to death as old beings and raise us up to newness of life in faith, when one assumes that God’s intention all along is to relate to us in terms of love and mercy.
If you are part of the church – you will burnout.
It is not if, it is simply when.
I don’t care if you are a pastor, a lay-leader, or someone who shows up once or twice a month, you will burn out. I guarantee it, based on 25 years of ministry as a pastor and 33 years where I was not a pastor.
We will realize we are the broken, we are the outcast, we feel let down by people, and often the leaders who we look up to, forgetting that they all struggle with sin and temptation. Peterson is absolutely correct in his analysis – we are sinners, and we interact every day with people who are also sinners. As they accidentally or intentionally betray us we contemplate leaving. Frustrated, we wonder why these saints (for certainly they are also that) can’t be trusted, and we find ourselves scheming to counteract their actions. Which frustrates us even more, causing even more burnout.
So the question then is not avoiding, hiding or denying burnout exists, but is embracing it and surviving it, depending on God to do so. Understanding Peterson’s point is crucial – that we need to anticipate that our people are indeed sinners, in need of grace.
Forde takes is deeper, reminding us the cross is more than where our sins were pain for, it is where we die and are raised with Jesus. It is where we realize the law that condemns was a temporary system to drive us to Jesus- not the old plan of how we should live and atone for our sin. The cross is where true fellowship starts, as we share in His death, in order to share in His resurrection.
The new life is not completely revealed yet, it will be on the day of Jesus’ return.
Until then, we strive to know Jesus more, to give Him the sin which burns us out – for He promised to cleanse us from our sin and all unrighteousness. This cleansing leaves us where we are supposed to be – confident in His presence.
Forde, Gerhard O. 1990. “The Preached God.” In Theology Is for Proclamation, 129. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Peterson, Eugene H. 1989. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. Vol. 17. The Leadership Library. Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX:
Morals or Healing and Fellowship?
Thoughts that pull me toward Jesus, and to His cross!
Those left in the land were the five Philistine cities, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who lived in the Lebanon Mountains from Mount Baal Hermon as far as Hamath Pass. 4They were to be a test for Israel, to find out whether or not the Israelites would obey the commands that the LORD had given their ancestors through Moses. 5And so the people of Israel settled down among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 6They intermarried with them and worshipped their gods. Judges 3:3-6 GNT
People (and particularly people who come to church and put themselves in touch with pastoral ministry) see themselves in human and moral terms: they have human needs that need fulfilling and moral deficiencies that need correcting. Pastors see people differently. We see them in theological terms: they are sinners—persons separated from God who need to be restored in Christ.
Everything depends on seeing how absolutely God has succeeded in having mercy through the cross. The old being who is bound to its god projects, insistent on controlling its own destiny, is put to death. There is nothing to do but await the actual and living Word of proclamation summoning to life, to faith in the God who does not stop until indeed carrying through concretely in the proclamation on the promise, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” And now it is for you.
Whenever I read the first seven Old Testament books, I wonder about those people whose faith was fickle, who would easily fall away from the God they experienced, the God in whose presence they dwelt. They would abandon Him, and struggle with life.
Such an example is found as they do not complete the process of moving into the promised land. They want all the appearance of being the people of God, but they have a struggle hearing His word and following through on it. They set themselves up for more challenges and trials and tribulations by doing what was right in their own eyes.
The more I read these books, the more I see today’s church. Not the society, the church. We try to behave as if we are ethically and morally pure. Peterson gets to that, in his analysis of how people and their pastor view them.
We can’t justify their actions (or our own), and we know it.
We can only declare them justified by the blood of Christ, which covers their sins.
They need to be restored, we can show them God doing that restoration. As Forde put it, “summoning us to life… ”
Restoring us from immorality, towards the day when our body casts off mortality for immortality, the day when our “conversion” is done. (Phil. 1:6)
This is the goal of Christ, not just the church, or its pastors. It is why the death of Jesus must be proclaimed, so that we have this life!
Peterson, Eugene H. 1989. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. Vol. 17. The Leadership Library. Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub.
Forde, Gerhard O. 1990. “The Preached God.” In Theology Is for Proclamation, 126. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Knowing Jesus Means Letting Him Deal with the Anxieties Caused by Having Relatives. A Lenten Sermon
Jesus: The Pathway to Peace
Knowing Jesus Means Letting Him Deal
with the Anxieties caused by having relatives
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus strength help you see the blessing of God’s faithfulness even in the midst of family related anxiety.
- Dysfunction Junction
I love when I find in scripture people struggling with issues similar to what you and I do. It is said there is nothing new under the sun, and that includes all the things that stress us out, that cause us anxiety, that cause our minds to overthink and fear how bad reality is….
And that includes the stress and anxiety caused by family!
Look at the family in the gospel! They could stress out anyone! First you have the helicopter mom, who drives her kids insane, wanting them to be successful! She demands that Jesus give them the top two spots in the kingdom of God! Can you imagine how embarrassed they were? I can still hear their muttered whisper echo through time….. “mom… please don’t, mom please stop! Mom!!”
And they could not, could not disappoint her when Jesus asks them if they can suffer the way He will…
Of course, the boys…. Err men weren’t something to write home about either. So argumentative they were that they are recoded for history as “the sons of thunder.
I imagine all three stressed each other out, quite a bit. Maybe that is why dad was always out fishing!
- Serious harm
We all have stories about some crazy uncle, or some cousins who seemed to thrive on being a pain in the neck. There are other relatives that cause real stress, real pain, and therefore real anxiety. The kind of thing of hurt that starts when we are kids, that affects us until we retire.
This is what Joseph dealt with, the fights and betrayals and failures. King David’s children were even worse in how they treated each other, something that destroyed him as he watched them.
The hardest part of addressing the anxiety and stress caused by relatives is not what they say, or do, or do AND say. That hardest part is our sin. Paul talked about that with the church in Ephesus when he wrote, “26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Ephesians 4:26 (NLT2) It’s our reaction to the sin, to the betrayals, to the pain caused by those who should love us more than the rest of the world.
Our kids, our parents, our brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces can do things we don’t like, that cause us to worry, that cause us heartache. We can’t control that – but sin can occur when we loose our ability to control our reaction.
And it is often our sin, or our desire to sin, that causes us as much anxiety and stress. Our feeling that we have to do something, anything…that leads to sin in thought, word and deed. I mean how many of us are willing to let those things go for a couple of months, or years, or even a decade without letting it anger us, hurt us, or just frustrate the hell out of us. How do we deal with their sin, without wanting to sin ourselves? And that causes even more anxiety and stress….
- God lifting the burdens
- Gospel Answer
- OT Response
As we go through this Lent, the purpose of this series is not to face our anxieties and things that cause us stress. It is to shed those anxieties off, to let Jesus remove the burdens they cause, to heal the wounds they leave behind.
That is what Jesus means when He says, “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.”
That is His response to the disciples’ arguments about who is the greatest. He doesn’t point at this one or that, he points out that He is hear to serve, and to pay off the debt we find we are in to God and each other.
He does away with the sin and its punishment, leaving us free….
This is the work of God that Joseph witnessed, the reason he would weep when his brothers were expecting vengeance.
He knew God would work it out, and His trust in God allowed him to say those incredible words, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.”
That is where forgiveness and reconciliation begins, in seeing what God can do with the situations that cause anxiety and pain. Sometimes we need to be patient and faithful waiting to see God’s plan work out – hopefully it won’t be a decade like Joseph and His brothers.
God did what He promised. He always does. That is what the cross is about, healing the broken relationships now, and forever.
A Rock Concert and the Change of Church Traditions
Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and to the Cross
The people in front scolded him and told him to be quiet. But he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David! Take pity on me!”
40 So Jesus stopped and ordered the blind man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41“What do you want me to do for you?” “Sir,” he answered, “I want to see again.” Luke 18:39-41 GNT
Jesus came preaching the forgiveness of sins in God’s name and we killed him for it. How can it be said that we did it? We were not there. It is important for the proclamation to encompass this because the universal claim of the cross to be for us all depends on it.
If we are willing to add the appeals from the book of Revelation to the weight of the other Scriptures, we discover God saying to us that the earth on which we live is not self-explanatory and certainly not self-sufficient.
If we bully people into talking on our terms, if we manipulate them into responding to our agenda, we do not take them seriously where they are in the ordinary and the everyday.
Nor are we likely to become aware of the tiny shoots of green grace that the Lord is allowing to grow in the back yards of their lives. If we avoid small talk, we abandon the very field in which we have been assigned to work.
Last night I went to a concert in town. The band, Chicago, had three original members from the founding of the group in 1967, when I was 2 years old.
I expected to see a lot of people ten to twenty years older than me. Sure enough, a little more than half the crowd fit that demographic. A few more where my age, from the height of Chicago’s popularity, but a significant amount were younger, even much younger. The concert has been sold out for a while as well. During the second set, the band announced that they were doing some old favorites from the 1980’s, and the place went ballistic. People were dancing, singing, going crazy in the aisles. Young, old, and the young, digging the music, the beat, the atmosphere!
It got me to think about the theories I have been hearing for years about church services, how they need to be planned for certain demographics. Too often we project our fear of not being respected by others of different ages? They won’t get us, because we don’t think we have much in common with them.
Yet in this midst of a rock concert, there was no thought to age. or culture. There was enjoyment of the moment. There were hearts touched by the lyrics and the music. What communicated in the 70’s and 80’s communicates still.
So why doesn’t the gospel? Why doesn’t the liturgy?
Perhaps it is not with those who haven’t come yet.
Perhaps it is more about us, and our fears and anxieties.
We find a church that does something we treasure, that meets us just as Jesus met the blind man. We may not always understand the impact of the cross on our life, but it is always there. As we are taught about it, as we confess it with our singing and prayers, we celebrate it as we eat His body and drink His blood. We should be in the moment just as much as when we are singing “Saturday in the park” with 2,000 people.
It is that moment that we have to share. It is that moment that we can invite them into, much as we would invite them to a concert.
It doesn’t matter it if is worship led with guitars, or organs, whether the pastor is wearing shorts and polos or a chausable. You may change some – but don’t do it till you know you will recognize Christ in the moment. You find that naturally, not forcing it, and you help them find it normally, naturally. That is something most evangelism materials don’t tell you…
It matters if, in the moment, you recognize the presence of God caring for you.
Your heart and soul recognize it, at a far deeper level than a concert.
The Lord is with you… and desires to be with them.
Forde, Gerhard O. 1990. “The Preached God.” In Theology Is for Proclamation, 122. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Tozer, A. W., and Gerald B. Smith. 2008. Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Peterson, Eugene H. 1989. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. Vol. 17. The Leadership Library. Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub.
An Ancient Italian “Blessing” (I want to be true) – A sermon on Psalm 32:1-7
An Ancient Italian “Blessing” (I want to be true)
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ create in you an eager repentant Spirit that rejoices in the God’s presence!
- We should be envied!
There is an old Italian “blessing”, which mommas used on their children when they are misbehaving! That “blessing” is this:
“I hope your children grow up to be …. JUST LIKE YOU!”
Oddly enough, the Psalmist would agree, but without the sarcasm.
You, according to the Psalmist, you are to be envied greatly! People should want to be just like you! Well, at least in one way!
Let me explain. Our translation reads:
“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! 2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”
In looking up the word “joy”, I discovered it means “to be envied with great desire” So we could translate this
“Greatly envied (with a desire to be like them) are those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is forgiven. Yes, how we should envy (and wanna be like) those whose record the LORD has cleared from guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty”
So you are to be greatly envied, and people should want to be just like you!
- Our stupidity!
Well, except there is a problem—at least the writer of this Psalm had one, and I think some of us might as well. He describes the problem spiritually in verse 3:
3 When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
That sounds like a bit of a problem!
I need to be clear here, not all physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering is caused by refusing to confess your sin. But there is a definite correlation between suffering from the guilt and shame sin causes and one’s well-being.
Sin can and does rip us apart.
We need relationships, and it destroys them. It can cause a type of paranoia—as we are afraid someone is going to find out. It creates all sorts of stresses, as it disconnects us from God and from those who love us and would have us live in peace. Even if we convince ourselves that our particular sin isn’t that bad, living a life based on that lie hollows it out until it collapses.
Sin drains us,
It wipes us out..
And makes our life hollow.
There is only one way to deal with this—though it is a joyful one.
- Our Joy!
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone!
I know how much courage this takes to stop trying to hide all the guilt. But as much courage as it takes, the reward of knowing those sins are completely lifted and tossed away…
All of it – forgiven!
All the guilt—gone!
Think about that for a moment…
Not one thing should haunt you.
Not one thing should you even regret!
As much as we contemplate our sin and brokenness during Lent, it is for this purpose–to know the relief of Psalmist–the absolute joy of the weight being lifted off of us!
We really need to take the time and think through what God has done to us… what He continues to do in our lives. …
Therefore, the psalmist says people should envy us, as we live forgiven lives, empowered by the Holy Spirit! For the burdens we no longer carry, or at least that we aren’t to carry,.. so many do! This is what Jesus came to do, to free us from the sin which stops us from being with God!
So many walk around, living with guilt and shame….so many people walk around without knowing God really loves them, without experiencing that love.
- What happens next
The change is so incredible for the psalmist – that feeling the relief inwards; he turns to those around him
Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. 7 For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory!
This is an evangelistic spirit.
Wow, God, you did this for me! All of us need to know this – we all need to pray—we all need to experience this relief, especially before the waters rise, and judgment occurs.
The more you know God has done for you, the more you need to share it with others, to share with them how God heals and protects and hides us from trouble, the more we need to invite people into the safe place we have found.
This is Christianity at its simplest… to realize the incredible way God has called you to His side, cleaning you up along the way, as you invite others into a peace that is beyond explanation….as Jesus saves them, as the Holy Spirit takes us residence with them, as sin and satan the fear of death are tossed out like yesterday’s trash…
This is our hope, and it is the very reason people should be envious of us, why we want them to be just like us.
Why The Report of the Death of the Church is Highly Exagerated!
Thoughts which draw me to Jesus, and to the Cross
1 When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5 I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NLT2)
We shall see that in order to enter fully into communion with the life brought to us by Christ we must in some sense—sacramentally, ascetically, mystically—die with Christ and rise with Him from the dead. The whole life of the Kingdom of God consists then in the gradual extension of the spiritual effects of the death and resurrection of Jesus to one soul after another until Christ lives perfectly in all whom He has called to Himself.
This gospel is to us a true example of firm and perfect faith. For this woman endures and overcomes in three great and hard fought battles, and teaches us in a beautiful manner the true way and virtue of faith, namely, that it is a hearty trust in the grace and goodness of God as experienced and revealed through his Word.
Is the church dying? Is it dead? Is it no longer relevant to a society that ignores its brokenness? Will we continue to consolidate and merge ministries, selling this off to try something different over here? Will we believe the post-covid reports abut what the decline in church attendance means?
There is no doubt attendance is less across all Christian denominations, but what does that mean?
I think it is time to listen to St. Paul, and focus on the cross of Jesus, to think through that which is our only hope, to realize we have died, and risen with Him. We have to get back to that message – for the sake of our people. Merton states this clearly – the whole life of the Church nad its believers consists of the death and life of Christ, and our unity with it. Luther adds the grace of God experienced and revealed through His word which proclaims Christ crucified.
We can’t afford to be in a defensive position any longer! In fact we should have never gone down that road to begin with, relying on our own intellect and ability to strategize the next moves for the church..
Paul, one of the greatest intellects in the history of the church, says he abandoned the things which communicated loftier ideals with larger words.
Just Christ. Just the cross.
This is where we die, and live…
This is the message that sparks revivals and reformations. That Jesus dwells with His people, His church. This is what is seeing churches in other places in the world grow so fast they are sending missionaries here.
God at work, in the lives of people, redeemed and reconciled by the body and blood of Christ shed on the cross, and found on the altar.
Let’s celebrate that love, that passion, that presence… and depend on Him. As we do, we will find the rumors of the death of the church to be greatly exagerated, and in fact, lies from hell.
Merton, Thomas. 1976. The New Man. London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. 1915. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern.
The Unobserved Sacrament… that we desperately need
Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and to the Cross
16 Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. Hebrews 4:16 (TEV)
16 Be joyful always, 17 pray at all times, 18 be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus. 19 Do not restrain the Holy Spirit; 20 do not despise inspired messages. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-20 (TEV)
The New Testament language is as plain as can be—in Christ through His death and resurrection, every legal hindrance has been met and satisfied: taken away! There is nothing that can keep us from assurance except our own selves.
Let us quit trying to think our way in, to reason our way in. The only way to get in is to believe Him with our hearts forevermore!
Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.
Imagine having tickets to some major amusement park, going in, and standing in line for 3 hours to ride the newest, greatest ride in America. As you get there, as it is time to take your place, you decide, its not worth it, and you walk away, apathy. All of that time and money invested, is now wasted, never to be used for something else. Or imagine someone giving you the best seats to the Superbowl, or to a favorite concert–plus the airfare and limo rides and access to all the good stuff, and just as you get there, you decide, “Nah, this isn’t worth it,” as you walk away.
Every person and every church has access to God the Father, because someone else paid the admission price, and waited for us to enter the presence of God the father with great confidence, but what do we do with this access? Tozer is right, to often we are the ones who dismiss the access…
Despite the encouragement to pray and be thankful, despite the commands and promises attach to it, the church has been not one that prays all that much. Not just today, even back in Luther’s day. even back in the 1st century.
We need to pray; we need to pour our hearts out to God, assured that He will provide what we need. His love, His mercy, the faith we need, even persecution and trauma that draws us closer to Him. We need to talk to Him enough that we can thank Him for the good things – and the challenging things in life as well.
The joy doesn’t come from the problems, but the awareness of God’s presence, His protection, His care, from the healing He causes. That hope comes, not from academic knowledge, but from experience. That is why the early Lutherans still considered prayer a sacrament, as sacred action that we need to keep at all the time. Not because doing that shows off our holiness, but because we need to be lifted up by God, we need to hear Him speak of His mercy and love..
So pray… and pray for me..
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 213.