Author Archives: justifiedandsinner

Our Need for Contemplation…

1  O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. 2  I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. 3  Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! 4  I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. 5  You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy. Psalm 63:1-5 (NLT2)

In a nutshell one could say that the goal of Asiatic contemplation is the escape from personality, whereas biblical prayer is essentially a relation between persons and hence ultimately the affirmation of the person.

We know God aright when we grasp him not in his might or wisdom (for then he proves terrifying), but in his kindness and love. Then faith and confidence are able to exist, and then man is truly born anew in God.

Luther’s words in green above come from a pamphlet (the forerunner to the blog) on the contemplation of the suffering of Jesus. It is a pretty difficult read, as he takes us through contemplating the incredible power of sin, that breaks us down, the crushes us…

that we to often choose.

It is painful, and though I hate to say it, it should be. We need to be horrified by the actions we have done, the words we have said, both in anger, and simply to do damage to those we dislike or are jealous of, we need to take a moment, and examine our thoughts to realize how little we control them.

And then, find relief, not in our own resolve, or our ability to make things right, or even survive our brokenness, but in the presence of God, in the Holy Spirit’s comfort and gentle careful cleansing of our lives, our hearts, minds, souls… all of it.

This is the meditation that Pope Benedict XVI discusses, the relationship we have with God, and He with each and all of His people. It is what affirms us, this new birth in God that we have to really contemplate – that we really have to sit and discover.

And in that contemplation, as we gaze on the power of God, as we realize what He has done and is doing, we can cry out praise, much as the Psalmist does.

It is in those quiet moments, contemplating the riches of God, revealed in Christ so that they may be revealed in our lives, that the desire for God’s work becomes stronger and stronger.

So take some time, not just a moment. Consider the cross and the grave… let the Spirit help you know the entire picture, how you’ve been broken, and how you’ve been healed…

For the Lord is with you…

(no matter which side of the Tiber you are, or whether you are on the bridge)

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 24.

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), 13.

When A Christian’s Experience is More Important than Knowledge

Devotional Thought of the Day:

5  I trust your love, and I feel like celebrating because you rescued me. 6  You have been good to me, LORD, and I will sing about you.
Psalm 13:5-6 (CEV)

O children of God, seek after a vital experience of the Lord’s lovingkindness, and when you have it, speak positively of it; sing gratefully; shout triumphantly.

548    If you feel the Communion of the Saints—if you live it—you’ll gladly be a man of penance. And you will realize that penance is gaudium etsi laboriosum—“joy in spite of hardship,” and you will feel yourself “allied” to all the penitent souls that have been, that are, and that ever will be.

I grew up among a generation that was told not to focus on experiences, not to trust our feelings. to only focus on a logical, rational presentation of Christianity.

I’ve also seen the other extreme in my youth, where people chased after religious experiences, who wanted to feel the positive vibes that come when experiencing the supernatural, I think those excesses of the late 60’s and 70’s led to the pendulum swing of the 80’s and into the new millenium.

Both sides treat the other side with suspicion, both sides blame the other for the death or at least the hospice status of the church. ANd both try to convince me and others that their focus is the best and only hope, relying not on God for the growth of the church, but on man’s wisdom, and man’s ability to create the right… environment… that will bring about revival.

While I think both are wrong, and grow weary of both, I do think think that a sign of revival is an experience, Not one of great passion, not one of great signs and wonders.

Instead a humbling experience, one that touches the depth of our brokenness, and leaves us tired, exhausted, and in awe of what we’ve encountered… the grace of God.

That is what Spurgeon is talking about with the term loving kindness. cHesed in Hebrew, it is that experience of the merciful love of God that comes to us in our brokenness, in the depth our our sin, when we are with hope, and dries our tears and whispers to us that we are forgiven, that we are being healed, and restored.

That is what Escriva is talking about with the joy in the midst of hardship, the experience that causes us, in the future when we sin again, to pray for repentance and restoration with confidence,

It is the quiet celebration of the Psalmist, who though he believed there was no hope, found that hope in the middle of despair.

We aren’t talking about seeing a miracle that leaves everyone applauding like a Superbowl victory, (Well heaven parties like that) but one that leaves us like the feeling, having worked all night, to see the break of dawn…knowing that peace and rest is near… yet struggling to believe it.

We have to experience this healing, we can’t just “know” it happened once. We need to struggle with it, to ask, ‘could God have really loved me this much, and then be assured, by scripture and by the sacraments, yes, He does.

THis experience is contagious, it sweeps communities and nations, it changes individuals and countries, it changes the church, which welcomes sinners home with confidence, expecting to see the miracle again that reminds us of our miracle…. as we share in something that leaves us… awe doesn’t seem strong enough a word.

This experience can’t be manipulated, it is not subject to our feelings or our knowledge. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, drawing us, even dragging us to the foot of the cross, helping us see we belong there, nailed to the cross, sharing in Christ’s death, and wondering why we are even allowed near Him. And then coming to the realization that because we died with Him, we rise from the dead with Him.

That’s not head knowledge, that is life…and that life has to be lived….

Heavenly Father, help us to see the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, drawing us to the cross, uniting us to His death and resurrection. Help us to see this, not as observers, but from actually experiencing the reality of the SPirit’s work. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN!



C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1322-1325). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and… what we are afraid to talk about in the Church.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom everyone who does wrong or causes others to sin. 42 Then he will throw them into a flaming furnace, where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain. 43 But everyone who has done right will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. If you have ears, pay attention! Mt 13:41-43 CEV

Properly speaking, true repentance is nothing else than to have contrition and sorrow, or terror, on account of sin, and yet at the same time to believe the Gospel and absolution (namely, that sin has been forgiven and grace has been obtained through Christ), and this faith will comfort the heart and again set it at rest.1
6 Amendment of life and the forsaking of sin would then follow, for these must be the fruits of repentance, as John says, “Bear fruit that befits repentance”
(Matt. 3:8).

We must give ourselves wholly to this matter, for the main benefit of Christ’s passion is that man sees into his own true self and that he be terrified and crushed by this. Unless we seek that knowledge, we do not derive much benefit from Christ’s passion……..
No meditation or any other doctrine is granted to you that you might be boldly inspired by your own will to accomplish this. You must first seek God’s grace and ask that it be accomplished by his grace and not by your own power. That is why the people we referred to above fail to view Christ’s passion aright. They do not seek God’s help for this, but look to their own ability to devise their own means of accomplishing this. They deal with the matter in a completely human but also unfruitful way.

Star Wars would not be beloved the way it is, unless Luke and his family had to deal with their dark side. The Lord of the Rings would not be the same unless you experience the dark journey of two Hobbits, Smeagol and Frodo. We even see it in the old classics like The Count of Monte Cristo and Les Miserables, as the hero’s are survive their own darkness,

Every good epic tale had those dark times. Time s that some survive, some do not, and yet all bear the scars of throughout their lives. This is called a meta-narrative, a truth seen in God’s general revelation, that becomes clear in His specific revelation in scripture.

What these stories touch on is our own spiritual walk, what they illustrate is our own spiritual journey.

And just like Luke is afraid to face the darkness, like Frodo has to get used to his darkness calling him to wear the ring, of Val Jean dealing with his own brokenness, we have to face our own.

We have to face our sin. We have to own it, and the pain of the brokenness. As Luther writes about mediating on the cross, he goes ballistic on this point, ( I am hoping he is equally powerful about grace – but I have gotten there yet!)

Our sin does need to have an impact on us, crushing us, terrifying us at first, but as the Augsburg Confession discusses we have to believe in the gospel, that we’ve been forgiven, healed.

The weeds of Matthew 13 don’t want to admit they need that care. They go about doing wrong and encouraging others to do wrong. They refuse to see their brokenness, and therefore see no need for the cross, and the God to die upon it, bearing the weight of their sin.

They are Smeagol/Gollum, Vader and they Emperor, Javert, and those who betray the young sailor. They find their place in the darkness, and are afraid to deal with the evil they see within themselves.

But the main characters do not find their redemption in their heroics, they are almost surprised they survive, as they consider how close they came to embracing hell. There is a sense of joyous relief, even awe, as they look to their surviving the journey into darkness.

This is truly what happens to the sinner, drawn to the cross, where Jesus is lifted up. To get there, we need to see the brokenness sin has cause in our lives. We need to consider what would have happened if Jesus wasn’t sacrificed, and realize how incredible the love of God is that saves us from what we earned.

It isn’t all hell, fire and brimstone, for we know, we are fully confident in our deliverance. Yet… that confidence comes from realizing the painful emptiness that is the the effect being imprisoned by sin, and being rescued, the bonds shattered as the nails pierced Jesus’ wrists and ankles.

We have survived, in Christ overcoming our sin, we have endured. He has seen our darkness, more clearly that we ever have… and loved us more than despising the darkness.

May our lives reflect that love.. that would not let us go…

AMEN!

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 34–35.

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), 10-11

This Place is Wonderful but….
Luke 21:5-28

 † I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ strengthen your faith, and help you endure until we get to our final destination.

Wow…. Look at all this!

I think I understand the disciples, and their awe standing in the midst of the Temple, the place they went, because God had put His name there.

When I walk around this place, there are memories and feelings that will always come to mind. The disciples had to show Jesus the stonework and the memorials, in awe of what God had done there, what He revealed here.  And though this church is not as impressive as Herod’s Temple, there are precious memories of God at work in His people here.

Memories of tears shed together, memories of laughter, some memories that combine the two in a twisted dance.

I cannot imagine Jesus walking with us here, and saying, ““The time is coming when all these things will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”

I wouldn’t want to hear it, I can’t imagine this altar rail here, or the baptismal font gone, or even the pulpit I hide behind, as I play my guitar as we sing. 

For just as the disciples looked at the Temple as the place, the place they could meet God, so too I can’t but see faces, present and past, as they met God in this place.

And so I understand their reaction of shock, as Jesus spoke… this place will be completely demolished..

When is it coming?  Uhm?

The disciples begin to recover from the words of Jesus, and then they make it worse, they ask, when is this coming?  What do we look for?

I wonder if they want to make sure they aren’t there, or what?

You see, the temple had been looted and destroyed before. Because of sin, it had been destroyed and abandoned.  I can’t imagine this happening to this place, but even so, there will be a day when this place doesn’t matter anymore.

Jesus looks at them, and knowing their hearts, it must have broken His to reveal what has to happen before the end comes..

Even so, He will answer them honestly and scare the heck out of them. He’s going to tell them about false prophets, wars, earthquakes, famine, plagues, terrifying moments, miracles, persecution, people charging you with false crimes and dragging you into court, betrayal by family members, and just about everyone hating you! All sorts of lovely things! 

Sounds like a normal week around here?

Seriously, all he is saying is between that time and the time when temples and churches will have fulfilled their role, life is going to be rough,  It is going to be impacted by the sins of billions of people, those in the past, and those presently alive.  Jesus tells the twelve that people will kill “some” of us! Paul describes this as the earth groaning under as if in childbirth! 

In the midst of the list there are a number other things,

Did you catch the part about miraculous signs from heaven?  Even more importantly, did you catch two very important words to hear…

DON”T PANIC!!!

In the midst of the grief, the pain, the anxiety as we hear about all these horrid things, and we see them happening, DON’T PANIC!

I don’t know about you, but when someone tells me there is nothing to panic over… I immediately look around to see what should cause me to panic!  Heck, if certain people were to tell me that, I would assume that panic is and underestimation of how I should react!

Why should I panic if God reminds me that there will be a day when this place is not longer here?  I can tell you why.  I look around and see what God has done.  I see the communion rail, and think of the kids that would not leave it, including a 50 year old named Chris, because this is where they experienced Jesus presence.  I think about the back seat, back by the sound board and I think of Warren giving me a thumbs up, Or Mando, Or Clyde, or the two original Concordia Deacons who challenged me to find something in this room that would show the gospel…

Churches and Temples matter because they are places where we regularly found God’s presence, and therefore could rest and find peace In these sanctuaries, in these places that are holy, because we know we encountered God here.

And though we know better, the concept of change, and even loss threw the disciples into a panic!

In the midst of the brokenness – look up… your Salvation is near!

What we have to remember, what we have to know, is that God isn’t tearing us away from what we love, to abandon us in the day of judgement. We aren’t going to stand there, wondering if we are going to heaven or hell. We don’t have to fear suffering His wrath, suffering and struggling more with sin and doubt. The ark of the covenant won’t be needed, as Jeremiah promised, neither will the font and the altar.

All these things are simply the shadows of the reality of Jesus.

That’s why he tells us “Don’t panic” and why angels say “don’t be afraid”, “don’t be anxious”

Jesus tells them why, just as He tells us, . 27 Then everyone will see the Son of Man* coming on a cloud with power and great glory. 28 So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”

It is an interesting word, this word “salvation”. Not the usual word, but the word for destruction – specifically the destruction of all the constrains us, all that has bound us up, all that has stolen from us joy, all that has made life challenging. Everything is redeemed and restored.

We may lose the shadow – but we never lose our Lord!

There is our hope..

Don’t panic, don’t fear, look up and see your Lord, coming to set you free,

And until then, He keeps you safe… no matter what, and yours is the peace of God which passes all understanding.  AMEN!

Is Church worth the Investment of Time

Devotional Thought of the Day:

40  He came back and found his disciples sleeping. So he said to Peter, “Can’t any of you stay awake with me for just one hour? 41  Stay awake and pray that you won’t be tested. You want to do what is right, but you are weak.” Matthew 26:40-41 (CEV)

530    Many Christians take their time and have leisure enough in their social life (no hurry here). They are leisurely, too, in their professional activities, at table and recreation (no hurry here either). But isn’t it strange how those same Christians find themselves in such a rush and want to hurry the priest, in their anxiety to shorten the time devoted to the most holy sacrifice of the altar?

I’ve probably spent twenty-five hundred hours of my life “in church”.

That might sound like a lot, until you realize I’ve been alive for some 475, 449 hours.

Sure, you could add in the time in Bible studies, both formal and informal. Chapel services, funeral and weddings might a few hundred more hours. and times of prayer and meditation may double the total.

But even then, I as a pastor, probably spend less than 2 percent of my life, “in church: and in prayer.

Not much of an investment.

Not given the eternal consequences, nor give the peace and comfort those eternal consequences bring, nor given the joy that walking with God brings in this life. Joy found even in the midst of chaos, in the midst of pain, in the midst of grief.

Yet some complain when church goes over 65 minutes (or in my case 90) We are willing to be free with our time, but sometimes we get all hot and bothered by spending more time with God.

We’ve got important things to do, people in great need to see, things that MUST get taken care of, and don’t you know, we are advised to take care of ourselves?

and so our flexible time becomes that we spend with God……

I am not writing this out of a sense of piety, the idea that what all good Christians do is spend 2-3 hours on Sunday, plus one on Wednesday night in church and 30-45 minutes a day in prayer. If we are doing it to prove how good and holy we are, that time would be better spent.

I am urging us to do this because we need, even desperately need that time with God. Life is too challenging, it is too broken, it is to wild. We need God in our lives, and we need to remember His promises to be there.

Savor your time with God! Enjoy the moments without stress! Turn over to him all the things that cause anxiety and pain, the things that could cause guilt and shame…. and then just enjoy His presence and the Love He shares with you.

Amen!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1282-1285). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Emptiness of Religion?

Religion

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9  but the LORD himself takes care of Israel. 10  Israel, the LORD discovered you in a barren desert filled with howling winds. God became your fortress, protecting you as though you were his own eyes. Deuteronomy 32:9-10 (CEV)

Consequently, in our efforts to work out the theological and anthropological basis of prayer, it is not a question of proving the validity of Christian prayer by the standards of some neutral reasonableness. It is a case of uncovering the inner logic of faith itself, with its own distinct reasonableness.

Yet the mass was not instituted for its own worthiness, but to make us worthy and to remind us of the passion of Christ. Where that is not done, we make of the mass a physical and unfruitful act, though even this is of some good.

I have often heard people criticize the church by saying the Christianity is a relationship, and not a religion. I have to disagree, or at least qualify it.

If by religion you mean something man can study as an observer, measuring its logic, finding ways to make it more productive through analysis and basically controlling it, I agree. I think this is clearly the point Pope Benedict XVI made, when writing back when he was a Cardinal

If by religion you mean doing things for their own value, and not because they interact with God, then, yes, religion is nearly worthless. Luther makes this point clear with his comments about the worship service, what he calls the mass or gathering.

But neither would define “religion” that way, as if it could be simply studied by anthropologists and statisticians. They would, despite their differences, define religion, true religion, as the relationship God arranges for us, and draws us into, a life with Him.

Prayer then, isn’t something to be dissected, in order to prove the validity of it as a practice. It is something we engage in, a discussion with the One to whom logic and reality are a creation, and more than we can understand. It is beyond the ability to study, this form of divine communication. One can’t measure the peace it brings, or the comfort given by God, as we dialogue with Him.

In the same way, a mass or worship service is worthless when we expect it to be special on its own, we we simply become spectators, listeners, those who can critique and make value judgments on it, as if the congregation was an Olympic medal judge, and the pastor and other leaders were competitors. ( which means i have to be careful asking my wife to “grade” my sermons! I should know better!)

Prayer and worship matter because of the interaction, the conversation where God makes us worthy to interact with Him, the interaction when we hear Him respond as we pray and meditate on His word. As we realize His care, His nurture, His was of guiding and protecting us, even in the hardest times.

These times are precious, because He draws us out of our life and into His, even as He invades our life, to create in it something wonderful, something that is so awe-inspiring that He is glorified. This is the religion He formed, the practices He has given us to make sure we know that He is active in our lives.

Without His active presence, spiritual disciplines and gathering together around the Him and the blessings He bestows in the sacrament is nothing. Yet, the ironic thing is, He is active even when we are not aware.

Religion, the Christian Religion, is not empty and worthless, we just need to open our eyes… and see the One who has drawn us into it.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 18.

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), 8.

Why (I HOPE!) I write these things

16  If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! 1 Corinthians 9:16 (NAB)

The quick and widespread acceptance of this tract attests to the inner needs of the common people. Writings such as this, with their pastoral emphasis, attracted even more readers than those concerned with protest. While no single, specific cause can be cited which impelled a polemically busy Luther to write such a treatise, it can be assumed that his contact with the people in the parish forced him to take note of the areas in which the search for peace and salvation was most desperate.

The quote from Luther’s Words above is most interesting to me.

In the midst of all his troubles with the Roman Catholic Church, with all the wars of words (and threats of bodily harm) he took the time to write the document, entitled, “A Meditation on Christ’s Passion”. Something utterly pastoral at first glance, something that the translator/editor commented upon above…. saying his contact with people forced it, as their search for peace and salvation was most desperate.

Our time is no different, and it is my prayer that what I write hear, or even on facebook or Twitter, and in my sermons responds to that need. People desperately need the kind of peace that God promises, the kind that is beyond explanation, beyond understanding, that keeps our hearts and minds safe, even during the largest of traumas.

A peace that is needed by people of every age, of every ethnicity, of every nation.

I’ve been through a lot in my life, enough to know times where peace is the last word I would use to describe my life. I’ve been there for people too, as life crashes, as loved ones die, as others deal with trauma that they can do nothing about, no matter how strong they think they are.

And into those times, I pray they know God’s peace. Even if I don’t know their situation, perhaps these words, or a video of our church service, provides for them the knowledge of the gospel.

The knowledge of God’s mercy, and His love, and mostly, His presence.

I pray that is what these words do for you my reader…

He is with you, He will take care fo anything broken in your life… and you know His love…

And if I am not doing that… please wallop me upside the head… please.

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), 5.

Why so much talk about faith ( and so little of it?)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Jesus turned. He saw the woman and said, “Don’t worry! You are now well because of your faith.” At that moment she was healed. Mt. 9:22 CEV

29 Jesus touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, you will be healed.” Mt. 9:29 CEV

5  Jesus could not work any miracles there, except to heal a few sick people by placing his hands on them. 6  He was surprised that the people did not have any faith. Jesus taught in all the neighboring villages. Mark 6:5-6 (CEV)

Some people meditate on Christ’s passion by venting their anger on the Jews.1 This singing and ranting about wretched Judas2 satisfies them, for they are in the habit of complaining about other people, of condemning and reproaching their adversaries. That might well be a meditation on the wickedness of Judas and the Jews, but not on the sufferings of Christ.

We are taught, by past experience, that the more simply we depend upon the grace of God in Christ, and wait upon the Holy Spirit, the more we shall bring forth fruit unto God. Oh! to trust Jesus for fruit as well as for life.

Their faith made them well.

And their lack of faith stopped Jesus from working in their midst.

We hear so much about faith, and yet we have such a vague understanding of it. We say we practice our faith, we have statements of faith, we know we are saved by faith (through grace – but what does that mean?) There are faith healers, and people who promise that you will have an ever increasing faith. SOme will say faith is a noun, something we base our lives upon, some will say it is a verb, and our life sucks because we don’t have enough of it.

WIth all these ways the word is used, it is no surprised we are confused!

Luther starts his meditation on Christ’s passion by talking about the ways people screw up meditating on Christ’s passion by meditating on everything else but the passion of Christ. I included one example above, but he will include several. In the same way, we screw up faith, talking all around it, but never engaging in it, never engaging in Christ, never depending upon Him as Spurgeon urged us to do, with our lives, with the mission and vocation God has laid on us all.

Faith is simply a description of the relationship we have with God, where we depend on Him, recognizing He is God and we are His beloved people. It is a relationship where we are confident of His presence, and confident of His work in us, and being patient to let it happen.

It is not easy to do, in fact it is impossible to do!.

It is simply a way we live, knowing His presence, taking time to remember that, and being grateful for what He did to create this relationship, to reveal Himself and His love. You can’t do states of existence, any more than you can force a relationship. But existing in it defines you in relation to the “Other”, the You to your I. Everything we are, defined by that relationship where He provides all we need.

That’s faith…..

So be still, know He is God, then move, guided by Him through life. 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), 7.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Great Expectations for the Church in America

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9 As Jesus was leaving, he saw a tax collectorq named Matthew sitting at the place for paying taxes. Jesus said to him, “Come with me.” Matthew got up and went with him.
†10 Later, Jesus and his disciples were having dinner at Matthew’s house.r Many tax collectors and other sinners were also there. 11 Some Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and other sinners?”
12 Jesus heard them and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. †13 Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.’ I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.”
Matt. 9:9-13 CEV

Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators. When a calm reigns on the sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship moves not to its harbour; for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too.

In the readings for the course I am in, I am finding great hope for the church, even the church in the United States and Europe. The times are similar to the times when great revivals broke out in our past, when people began to worship God, abandoning all else.

The statisticians and consultants will tell you different, but their projections of based on recent trends, and on philosophies that place the future of the church in the hands of the pastors, and those who train and equip them. If it is up to us, this indeed may be the post Christian and post church era. THinking about it more, no not maybe – it is.

But what is our downfall, can be turned into the very thing that will bring revival to our land. For when we fail, maybe some will call us back to what brings revival.

Faith.

This is the time when our faith, that wonderful gift of depending on God for everything in life becomes reality. When in the despair of the storm, we reach out to the Lord who is with us, and He leaves us in awe, as the storm obeys His commands.

It is when we realize that Matthew, that we can join Jesus on His mission to heal the hearts and minds and souls of people, (and when we realize that includes our hearts and minds and souls) that movement in the church happens. When we grieve over our sins, and are comforted by the power of the Holy Spirit, who draws us into God’s presence.

This is what Matthew’s gospel is talking about, when it says that Christ came to invite sinners to be His followers. As the Holy Spirit draws them to Jesus, the church will stop its slumbering, it will stop its decline.

Not because of great preaching, but simply revealing Christ. Not because of powerful praise bands or stunning choirs, but because we simply begin to experience the grace of God, poured out on us, and knowing the relief, the joy, the power of God’s work, we invite other sinners to join Him, depending on Him, and letting all else, including sin, drop to the side.

We are at a point in the church’s life in America where we will realize that our perfect liturgies, our dynamic programs, our logic and theology, our programs won’t grow the church, nor stop it from dying.. The only thing that can is the Holy Spirit, healing sinners by drawing them to Christ Jesus. And those sinners depending on Him. ANd that includes you and I.

Heavenly Father, stir us sinners by the power of the Holy Spirit, to respond to Your invitation follow Jesus, to walk with Him. Help us to welcome the Spirit’s healing our hearts, souls and minds, and not just ours, but those in our community. We pray this in Jesus name! AMEN!

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).



Sometimes it is so good, you have to share

Devotional Thought of the Day:

28  And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. 29  When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 (MSG)

Salvation may be described as the blind receiving sight, the deaf receiving hearing, the dead receiving life; but we have not only received these blessings, we have received CHRIST JESUS himself. It is true that he gave us life from the dead. He gave us pardon of sin; he gave us imputed righteousness. These are all precious things, but we are not content with them; we have received Christ himself. The Son of God has been poured into us, and we have received him…..

The scripture passage above was one I included in a blog a few days ago. It is something I am dealing with, something I, to be honest, am struggling with, as I observe some disconcerting things in the Church, and as I observe some stress and pain, and as I see people who are immune to seeing that stress and pain.

I know that desperation, and the fire burning in the guy. (Jeremiah knew it too – check out Jeremiah 20:7)

There is a tendency to fight or flee. TO argue till they see our side, until they follow our holy rules and acknowledge our superior wisdom, or to take the ball, our ball, and walk away. We don’t see a third option, and to be honest, we often do not want to see that option.

Because it means we lose, that our agenda is set aside, that we have to humble ourselves and work with our adversaries, not only do we have to work with them, we have to listen to them… and instead of winning or losing, instead of compromising, we have to seek God together.

Tony Campolo used to tell the story of walking from a parking structure in Philadelphia to a big meeting, some major players were going to donate a large sum of money to back some mission efforts he was developing. Important stuff, millions of dollars on the line. He was late, and as he walked down the street, he noticed a homeless guy walking toward him. He did what most of us would do, he tried not to make eye-contact with him. After all, he was in a hurry, to do something incredible for God!

Every once in a while he would look up – and the guy had zeroed in on him. I think he used the word, “crap” or perhaps something stronger. He realized he only had a $20 in his pocket, and didn’t want to waste it. The guy approached, Tony got anxious, nercous, tried to think of something to say.

“mister, I want to give you something”

“HUH????”

“Here, you need this, as he tries to hand Tony the cup in his hand”

Tony accepts it, he can feel the heat through the cup. Then he looks and it is a steaming cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee. He’s like “how much do I owe you”

The guy explains, “Nothing Mister, someone gave me enough for two cups this morning, and mine was so good, I had to give the other to someone else. You looked so stressed out, I had to give it to you. Haven’t you had something so good that you needed to share it with someone else?

I’ve heard Tony tell that story, of that horrible cold, wet Philadelphia day probably 5 or 6 times. Each time he does it with a tear in his eye, as he remembers the swirling feelings of guilt and joy.

Back to my original point.

Paul describes us too well,

28  And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. 29  When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 (MSG)

Here is the cup of coffee we need to savor,

Look back u to the words of Spurgeon in purple.

Go ahead…

no really – and if you did ,,, think about it again. really work through it.

Now that is your cup of coffee, and you and your adversary, you and the person in the church who is causing you pain, the one you think you struggle with, that is inconvenient, needs to know this.

Now go and share you cup of coffee…

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

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