Category Archives: Ancient Future

Maranatha – for the right reason!

Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to the Cross

2 Let me see you in the sanctuary; let me see how mighty and glorious you are.
3 Your constant love is better than life itself, and so I will praise you.
4 I will give you thanks as long as I live; I will raise my hands to you in prayer.
5 My soul will feast and be satisfied, and I will sing glad songs of praise to you.  Psalm  63:2-5 TEV

We are delivered from ourselves when we finally seek God for Himself alone!

Our union with Him depends on His love for us, which is simply the extension of the Father’s love, through Him, to ourselves. And the charity of Christ, which springs from the Father as from its hidden and infinite source, goes out through us to those who have not yet known Him, and unites them, through Christ in us, to the Father. By our love for other men, we enable them to discover Christ in themselves and to pass through Christ to the Source, the Beginning of all life, the Father, present and hidden in the depths of their own being. Finding Him, they who have long been torn and divided by the disintegrating force of their own illusions are able to discover and integrate themselves in one.

Too often these days, I find myself tired of life… and I know I am not alone.

I want to cry out, “Maranatha!” (which means ‘Come Lord Jesus!) with all I am. I so want Jesus to come back, to bring His people into the presence of perfection in the presence of God the Father.

I want God to return, I really, really want Jesus to return and put an end to all the suffering, all the evil, all the health issues, all that I see people going through…

And as I contemplate how wonderful it will be to be free of all of that, I realize I am praying for His return for the wrong reasons.

I need to grow in this area – perhaps more than any.

I need to want Jesus to return, simply so I can be with Jesus, to be welcomed into His presence, and God our Father. I need to have what Tozer speaks of, to be delivered of everything that is me, and simply seek to be with Him.

Merton is correct as well, that the only way this happens is Jesus. Our union with God depends completely on His work, on the Spirit’s cutting open and circumcising our hearts. It is that love, which spreads through us out into the world, that enables us to praise Him. As the Spirit draws us into Christ, everything the Psalmist says is now real, as God reveals Himself – and we know He is everything.

He is our life,  our hope, our joy, our love, and He reveals Himself in us, much as He reveals Himself in and under the Bread and Wine.

Lord Jesus, as we go about our days, help us to recognize your presence. May we see you in the people we speak to, and may they see You as You love them through us! May the Spirit help us to empty ourselves, so that truly our lives are Yours, and may we long for Your return. AMEN!

 

 

 

A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).

Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 135.

 

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.

Amen!

 

 

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.

Christians Know This, But Do we Depend on it?

Thoughts which draw us closer to Jesus, and to His cross!

Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. Matthew 6:33 (TEV)

When the prophets try to describe for me the attributes, the graces, the worthiness of the God who appeared to them and dealt with them, I feel that I can kneel down and follow their admonition: “He is thy Lord—worship thou Him!”

Here everything must be abandoned: friends, acquaintances, the whole city of Jerusalem, and everything belonging to these and to men; for all this neither gives, nor aids comfort, until the Lord is sought in the temple, since he is in that which is his Father’s. There he can truly be found and the heart is made to rejoice, otherwise it would have to remain without the least comfort.

Annie Dillard goes to church: “I know only enough of God to want to worship him, by any means ready to hand.… There is one church here, so I go to it.” It doesn’t matter that it is out of fashion, she goes anyway: “On a big Sunday there might be twenty of us there; often I am the only person under sixty, and feel as though I’m on an archaeological tour of Soviet Russia.”
It is unfashionable because it is ridiculous. How can searchers after God and seekers after beauty stomach the “dancing bear act” that is staged in Christian churches, Protestant and Catholic alike, week after week? Dillard, cheerfully and matter-of-factly, goes anyway.

Most Christians know we are to seek first Jesus Christ and His righteous life.

But do we do it?

Peterson’s Annie gets it, I think.

SHe chooses to go to a church which isn’t particularly proper or professional. She goes to a small church where two or three are gathered in His name, and share in His gifts of word sacrament. Finding the God she barely knows, but knows enough to know she has to worship Him, that is her focus…

A million and one things to criticise, but she goes to find God, in the middle of His people.

She succeeds, for God will always be found where He says.

Arriving there, Tozer’s words make sense—it is too much to try to comprehend the God who draws us into His presence. There, realizing the very special incredibly intimate relationship He has created, we are drawn to our knees and our face flooding with tears of joy; we praise Him!

We don’t even think about abandoning everything – we just do. We abandon our sin, we abandon those things we think will make life perfect; we abandon our fears and anxieties and simply desire to join Annie, and worship God, who loves us.

Seek Him first and then be aware He is here… and allow that to change and guide your life. When you mess up – be assured, He will be there.

He loves you.

A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 35.

Eugene H. Peterson, 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., 1989), 88.

When (Our) Reason and Logic Fails…there begins hope

WHat do we do, when we find gaps in our logic?

Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and to HIs cross.

They assembled before Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! All the members of the community belong to the LORD, and the LORD is with all of us. Why, then, Moses, do you set yourself above the LORD’s community?”
When Moses heard this, he threw himself on the ground and prayed. Then he said……  Numbers 16:3-5  NLT

Give yourself to the LORD; trust in him, and he will help you; he will make your righteousness shine like the noonday sun.  Psalm 37:5-6 NLT

For no one desires to be lifted if he is unaware that he has fallen, just as one who does not feel the pain of a wound does not seek to have it healed. Therefore, these people must first be shown that the things they love are vain, and then carefully (and over time) they should be made aware of the usefulness of the things they ignore.

We must be careful to follow neither the customs of the world nor our own reason or plausible theories. We must constantly subdue our disposition and control our will, not obeying the dictates of reason and desire.

Faith in God is possible now. What we are blind to is not the law of God, but the glory of God—calling into being that which is from that which is not.

Most of us like to think we are reasonable. Yet we can often see that which is unreasonable in others. Indeed, a loto f the counseling I do will hear the complaint that the other party is “unreasonable” or is too “emotional”

It is too bad that we cannot see the frailty of our own reason, and our need to be suspicious of it. Otherwise, we could prevent our own rebellion, whether we are rebelling against God, or against those whom God has allowed to be in place.

What we need to do is follow Moses example. Whether we are the one’s questioning someone else’s reason, or those whose logic is being questioned, we need to throw ourselves down, and pray and seek God’s wisdom. We desperately need to follow the psalmist’s advice, and give ourselves to the LORD who has saved us already.

This is the only hope for those who know their reason is faulty, that their logic has significant holes and gaps. The challenge is realizing it, for we are blind and deaf to such problems. This is nothing new – Gregory the Great points it out quite clearly, as well as reminds us it takes time to first realize we are broken, to stop defending it, and then to hunger for the healing found in the logic, the logos of Jesus.

It is only then, as we grow and humbly cope with our broken reason, that we can see that our problem wasn’t God’s logic, His definition of right and wrong. Rather, the biggest hole in our reason was not accounting for the glory of God!

For God creates something out of that which is nothing. He does this for one reason – He loves us. Broken, injured, flawed, yet being reconciled and healed and conformed to the image of Jesus.

Heavenly Father, with grace and patience, correct our flawed logic and reason, our emotions and feelings as well. Help us to welcome the Holy Spirit’s work in conforming us to the image of Jesus, cutting away that which is not like Him. We pray this in Jesus’ name.. AMEN!.

 

St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 194.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 25.

Gerhard O. Forde, “The Preacher,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 77.

An Unexpected, Dramatic Change…that testifies to more than the Resurrection

Thoughts which draw me to the cross,

I do this in order that they may be filled with courage and may be drawn together in love, and so have the full wealth of assurance which true understanding brings. In this way they will know God’s secret, which is Christ himself. 3  He is the key that opens all the hidden treasures of God’s wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3 (TEV)

All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (TEV)

When he was dead and buried, his followers did not get together in a little liberal clique and comfort themselves with the fact that they still had his teachings. It was over. Mostly his disciples seemed afraid that they might share his fate!

To remit a man’s past without transforming his present is to violate the moral sincerity of his own heart

The apostle reminds us that we are to conduct ourselves in a Christian manner toward our persecutors, who, to a great extent, are to blame for the distress of the saints. It is well to observe that we are not merely advised, but commanded, to love our enemies, to do them good and to speak well of them; such is the fruit of the Spirit.

The observation in blue is one we need to meditate on, this dramatic and unexpected change in the lives

From locked in a room, scared out of their wits, grieving the loss of their mentor, the One who gave them life, to praying in jails, to rejoicing in martyrdom.

The change is stunning, and some would call it evidence of the resurrection.

I think it is more than that, for the Lord Jesus had promised something when he went away, that He would send the Paraclete – the Holy Spirit. (John 14:16, 15:26)

It is the Holy Spirit that transforms us, for God could not simply forgive our sins. There had to be a reason for that, and that reason is fellowship with God. That transformation Luther discusses as  well, for there is no reason to love our persecutors, to do good to them, and to speak well of them. The Holy Spirit draws us together in the love that the Trinity shares, that Jesus embodied, that the Holy Spirit pours into our life, as our transformation is accomplished.

This changes us from a liberal or conservative clique into the body of Christ, gathered around His altar, celebrating His love and His work. I am not trying to diminish the importance of the Resurrection, but the transformation in Christians is due to work of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies and preserves us.

This is why the change in the apostles and disciples is so radical, and why it is proof of something far more potent than a resurrection 2000 years ago.

This change testifies to and celebrates the presence of the Holy Spirit in His people, the church.

God is with you – right now, right here…

and He changes everything….

 

 

 

Gerhard O. Forde, “The Preacher,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 73.

A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 20.

Why “HE IS RISEN” is not “He rose”

Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and the Cross

Isaac had come into the wilderness of “The Well of the Living One who Sees Me” and was staying in the southern part of Canaan.
After the death of Abraham, God blessed his son Isaac, who lived near “The Well of the Living One who Sees Me”. Gen. 24:62, 25:11 GNT

Jesus left that place, and as he walked along, two blind men started following him. “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” they shouted. 28  When Jesus had gone indoors, the two blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I can heal you?” “Yes, sir!” they answered. 29  Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “Let it happen, then, just as you believe!”— 30  and their sight was restored. Jesus spoke sternly to them, “Don’t tell this to anyone!” 31  But they left and spread the news about Jesus all over that part of the country. Matthew 9:27-31 GNT

If I, even for a moment, accept my culture’s definition of me, I am rendered harmless.

If, for example, someone came asking us to intercede for them before some powerful man who was angry with him but did not know us, we would immediately respond that we were unable to intercede on his behalf because we do not have a relationship with the man in question. If, therefore, a person is too ashamed to intercede for another on whom he has no claim, how could anyone possibly assume the role of intercessor before God on behalf of the laity if he does not know himself to be in the intimacy of his grace because of the merits of his life? And how can anyone possibly ask for the forgiveness of another when he does not know if he is himself reconciled?

IT is in this perfect self-realization by contact of our own anguished freedom with the life-giving Freedom of Him Who is Holy and Unknown that man begins the conquest of death in his own soul. This finding of our true self, this awakening, this coming to life in the luminous darkness of the infinite God, can be nothing but a communion with God by the grace of Jesus Christ. Our victory over death is not our own work, but His. The triumph of our own freedom, which must truly be our triumph if it is to save us from death, is nevertheless also and primarily His. And consequently, in all these meditations we will be talking of contemplation as a sharing in the death and Resurrection of Christ.

We need to cling to God and pray: Merciful God, thou hast permitted me to become a Christian, help me to continue to be one and to increase daily in faith

In the great Easter acclimation, the church shares its hope as they yell, “He IS Risen, Indeed!” The tense of the verb is not mistaken – whether it is 33 AD. 700 AD, 1500 AD, or 2022 – Jesus is Risen!

Yes, the action originated nearly 2000 years ago, but it is still present tense. The impact of the resurrection is right now, wherever you are reading this. Peterson’s point about culture not defining us is based on the fact that Christ, the Christ who is Risen defines us. We are His!

St. Gregory shows the important of this relationship extends beyond the individual.It is from knowing the Lord is present that He is Risen means we are Risen. If we do not realize Chirst’s presence, how can we introduce people to Jesus? How can we promise them the healing of Jesus, unless we have experienced the power that raised Christ from the dead in our own lives. We need to live in that experience every moment of our lives.

Merton sees the same thing, in the selection I read from his work – our meditation, our contemplation has to be wrapped up in the death and resurrection of Jesus – for this is where we find His victory that is the triumph resulting in our freedom. Everything is based there, everything exists in that resurrection. That is this moment as well.

This presence of life is why Luther’s echo of the Apostle Paul – we have to cling to Jesus, even as we count on HIs clinging to us. This is the reason Hagar could name a well “the Lord who sees me”, and the well’s name stuck, a testimony to God’s presence in the life of one forgotten. It is the reason the formerly blind men went and told everyone. Christ was with them…

He is Risen. Therefore We are risen.

We need to know this, everything else in life depends on it.

We being all the people in the world.

so if you know… let those around you know as well. He IS Risen!

 

Eugene H. Peterson, 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., 1989), 21.

St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 44.

Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 10–11.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 399.

Some Changes… yet the same message!

Then God commanded, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate day from night and to show the time when days, years, and religious festivals Gen 1:14.GNT

Now all this happened in order to make what the Lord had said through the prophet come true, 23*“A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel” (which means, “God is with us”).  Matt 1:22-23

How foolish it is therefore for the inexperienced to assume pastoral authority when the care of souls is the art of arts.1 For who does not realize that the afflictions of the mind are more hidden than the internal wounds of the body

This true bride-love God presents to us in Christ, in that he allowed him to become man for us and be united with our human nature that we might thus perceive and appreciate his good will toward us. As the bride loves her betrothed, so also does Christ love us; and we on our part will love him, if we believe and are the true bride. Although he gave us the wisdom of all the prophets, the glory of all the saints and angels, and even heaven, yet would we not esteem them unless he gave us himself. The bride can be satisfied with nothing; the only one thing she wants is the bridegroom himself. “My beloved is mine and I am his.”

A seller of purple, Lydia traveled to the market of her day, and undoubtedly she had found freedom and satisfaction in that era when women were not counted at all.
But Lydia heard the Apostle Paul tell of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the Lord opened her heart. In Christ she found an eternal answer, which career and position had never been able to give.

Religions do not, in fact, simply supply answers to questions. Or at least they do not confine themselves to this until they become degenerate. Salvation is more than the answer to a question.

Every November 1, I change up my devotional reading list. It is like saying goodbye to old friends, and trying to get used to new friends.

Except this year.

This year, the new selections are like meeting an old friend who has had massive changes in their appearance, yet re the same person inside.  At least that is my impression after the first day. The readings, from a early Roman Catholic Pope, a different selection from Luther, Tozer and Merton all bring home what I’ve dedicated my ministry to, as well as my academic career.

We need Jesus…. and we need to guide people into the presence of Christ, despite what they think they know of Him. This sounds simple, but only after 25 years of ministry and three degrees do I feel like I’ve only begun to understand how to bring people into the presence of Christ in such a way they find healing and peace. Pope Gregory is right, this is an art form, not an academic exercise. But there is nothing–absolutely nothing–more important. Getting people to open up and share their woundedness is rarely possible in an hour. Sometimes it takes a decade. But when it happens, and they learn to walk with Jesus a step or two… oh how wonderful it is!

This is what Luther is trying to help us understand, as he urges us to understand God’s love, and His good will (care) for us, in the intimately deep way that  a husband should care for his wife, knowing her needs, caring for her when life is challenging. Knowing that Christ cares for us this deeply, this completely, allows us to toss aside that which burdens us, just to spend time with Him–being His. We need this time, more than anything, for from it comes the ability to care for others, even as we’ve been cared for by Jesus.

Again–the idea of SoulCare is right there, in front of everything.

That is what Lydie found, as Tozer commented. Ahead of her culture by two millennia, this woman ran a very incredible, high profit business. And found something all the success in the world could not provide. A soul at peace! A soul that was content in waiting for what God has planned for those who love Him because she heard Paul’s voice, and the Holy Spirit showed her the love and care of Christ…for her.

Which brings us to Thomas Merton, the wild card in my reading this year. And yet he nails it, this idea that our religion isn’t just an answer to a question. Christianity is more than dealing with the questions of sin, guilt, shame, death, even more than questions about heaven and hell. It is about the relationship with Jesus, who is God-with-us—even now! Right where you are reading this. He is Immanuel, God with us! Knowing this changes everything about life. As Luther noted – everything else falls aside, and we concentrate on the One who loves us.

Which brings us to the last quote, the odd translation of the Good News Translation in Genesis 1 – where God established the night and the day to determine the timing of religious festivals. The Hebrew there means “appointed times”, which makes me think there is a point here, since the order seems a little odd. Days, years and holidays (holy days) seems more logical than days, years and seasons. These appointed times/religious festivals where special times of rest, where God gathered His people to allow them a chance to rest, and to heal. A time to be cared for, cleansed, assured that God loves, even adores His people. This is what heals the soul, this incredible blessing of knowing God’s attitude toward us!

The Lord is with you! And there is a reason for Him to be here. To show you that you are loved.

This is what this religion is about – not just the answer to a question, but a relationship deeper and more precious than anything we can experience… and we are only just beginning it.

May we know this – more and more thoughout this next year!

God’s peace!

pastor dt

St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 29.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 384–385.

A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).

Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 1–2.

Hope for the Apathetic Congregation or Denomination

Thoughts that drive me to the cross, and the mercy of Christ.

32  Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. 33  Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. 34  You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. Hebrews 10:32-34 (NLT2)

The amount of loafing practiced by the average Christian in spiritual things would ruin a concert pianist if he allowed himself to do the same thing in the field of music. The idle puttering around that we see in church circles would end the career of a big league pitcher in one week. No scientist could solve his exacting problem if he took as little interest in it as the rank and file of Christians take in the art of being holy. The nation whose soldiers were as soft and undisciplined as the soldiers of the churches would be conquered by the first enemy that attacked it. Triumphs are not won by men in easy chairs. Success is costly

We also believe, teach, and confess that in a time when confession is necessary, as when the enemies of God’s Word want to suppress the pure teaching of the holy gospel, the entire community of God, indeed, every Christian, especially servants of the Word as the leaders of the community of God, are obligated according to God’s Word to confess true teaching and everything that pertains to the whole of religion freely and publicly. They are to do so not only with words but also in actions and deeds.

As the words of Tozer came on my screen this morning, I grieved. They seem as accurate now as they did in the 80s, when they were published. The church, at least in the United States, is stagnant. Churches are closing, or trying to survive, the present declines. Pastors are leaving the ministry in record numbers, many to start para-church ministries or become consultants. Others are retiring from ministry, or looking to find an easy place to serve out–until they can retire. Denominational leaders are telling even viable churches that there is no long-term hope.

We aren’t just apathetic…it seems we are aggressively choosing to abandon ship, and to encourage others to do so.

And then, as I continued in my devotional readings, I come across the words of a church in the midst of spiritual warfare in the days after Luther. The encouragement then was to confess Christ with words AND actions AND deeds publicly.  To not compromise the gospel (and if it isn’t about Christ – who cares). This wasn’t the matter of giving up a few hours on Saturday. or subsidising a ministry or mission. This was life at stake. But they sacrificed, they served and taught and loved and shared Christ.

The same occurred in the times addressed in the Book of Hebrews. Again, the history is taught to us, but the last verse is the most important.

For it gives us the reason and is what should empower us to go against the flow of the church in decline. Read it again,

34  You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. Hebrews 10:34 (NLT2)

They didn’t need a pastor to berate them from the pulpit about their apathy. They didn’t need to be shamed into giving more time and money. No one was told they weren’t a good Christian unless they did this or that… (though some will be confronted from time to time) They didn’t need the stick, they needed to be reminded of the carrot.

The better thing.

The best thing.

To be in the presence of God without all the crap we deal with in this life. To know the joy of being loved beyond imagination, to share in the peace that goes beyond everything else. This is what we have to preach, what people should experience in worship and bible study and in thier own devotions, as Paul’s prayer comes true:

19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:19 (NLT2)

If a church, or a denomination were to realize this, no church would close, or downsize or find themselves with a unfilled list of duties and positions. It just won’t happen.

To know we are loved and God is with and guiding us now until we are before His throne…. that is what the church needs to help people experience.  For then our hope will be contagious, not harnessable by any program.

So let us share what we know from the time at the altar, and from the dark nights when we pray until God grants us sleep. For out of such struggles comes the assurance of His presence and love as we are given hope for eternity. AMEN.

 

 

 

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

“Smalcald Articles: Article X”, Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 637.

The Road to Holiness Starts With Significant Failure…

Thoughts that drive me to Jesus Christ, and His cross:

The king’s demand is impossible. No one except the gods can tell you your dream, and they do not live here among people.”  Daniel 2:11 NLT

605    “Father, how can you stand such filth?” you asked me after a contrite confession. I said nothing, thinking that if your humility makes you feel like that—like filth, a heap of filth!—then we may yet turn all your weakness into something really great.

The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.…

When the wisemen around the King heard his demand, they heard only a death sentence, for they knew all their intellect and wisdom was not up to the king’s demand. And unknowingly scripture records a prophetic statement – that only a God that would live among men could possibly save them.

There was no other way. The task was too great.

Daniel will step in, and walking with God will have the impossible made possible, the unknowable revealed, and will become the savior of the wisemen. All of them, even those who served other gods and demons.

His words to the king reinforced this: it isn’t about our strength or power.

And it is not because I am wiser than anyone else that I know the secret of your dream, but because God wants you to understand what was in your heart. Daniel 2:30 NLT

That’s why St Josemaria finds hope for the man confessing the filthiest of sins. For he has realized the need for assistance that only God can provide. Not only can He help and heal us, He will. He promised that help, that comfort.

Similarly, Tozer finds that the man so convinced that he cannot purify himself has finally reached the point where holiness is assured – because his only option is to look to Jesus!

Therefore, while receiving the sacraments is important, it is critical to meditate on what God is doing, as He sprinkled water on us, as He feeds us His body and Blood, as we realize what it means for Him to say, “My Child, you are forgiven all your sin, all injustice has been cleaned from our lives. We need to think that through, not just 2 minutes before church. These sacraments were not established, so God could look down on us as well behaving muppets. He established them so that we could be ministered to, so that we would have something tangible to remember, to think through, to have our souls captivated by. As He captures out hearts and minds, we reflect His glory into the dark world in which we live. That is what holiness is, to be so caught up in the relationship that we unconsciously take on the image of Jesus.

Our God is here. He is with us… and He makes us holy, as we find peace in His presence.

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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

Our Need for the Sacrament

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.  2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT

Each time we consent to a new light on our weakness and powerlessness, we are in a deeper place with Christ.… Christ in his passion is the greatest teacher of who God is. Sheer humility. Total selflessness. Absolute service. Unconditional love. The essential meaning of the Incarnation is that this love is totally available.

Brother Lawrence expressed the highest moral wisdom when he testified that if he stumbled and fell he turned at once to God and said, “O Lord, this is what You may expect of me if You leave me to myself.” He then accepted forgiveness, thanked God and gave himself no further concern about the matter

Second, those who find that they are prompted to partake of it merely because of the order of the church or from habit, who, if wholly free to choose, would not come to it with good will and longing, also must not partake of the sacrament. As St. Augustine says, the sacrament seeks a hungry, thirsty, and desirous soul which yearns for it. But those who go only because of command or out of habit feel no desire or longing for it, but rather horror or dread, so that they would rather be away from it than near it. A person with a yearning heart does not wait for a command, nor is he moved by precept or habit. Such a man is driven by his need and his desire. He has his mind fixed only on the sacrament, which he desires.

Last week I was at a pastors’ conference with 200 plus peers of mine. Most of us were tired, emotionally drained, approaching or in burn-out. It’s the nature of ministry. Those who do it well, risk their health, including their mental health.

The planners of the conference had decided the theme would be SoulCare, providing it for our people, ensuring our families get it, and forcing ourselves to admit we need it, and then act on it. But the planners (I was one,) knew our pastors needed to get such needs out in the open – but also realized there would be reluctance and resistance against such baring of our souls.

There is a need to address this –  as Keating explains. It is only as we see ourselves wounded and broken, do we really see Christ’s active care for us! The love that is there, to comfort us, to pick us up, to heal the wounds and cleanse us from sin… IT IS HERE–FOR HE IS HERE!

Brother Lawrence realize the same thing as Tozer quotes him. Without the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we are going to sin, and if sin and dwell among sinners, we will become wounded, and broken. That is why God planned from before the foundation of the world to be here with us…to rescue us, to deliver us.. to nourish us.

That brings us to Luther – and his words about the Lord’s Supper, the Sacrament of the Altar. We shouldn’t fell like we have to go because it is the rules. Never!  We need to go because we need that intimate moment with God, as we eat the Body and bring the Blood of Christ Jesus. We need to desire this moment for where it brings us, deeper into a relationship with Him. This time of truly experiencing the God we come to know in the sacrament, the One who loves us.

The Lord’s Supper is where the spiritually broken learn to find hope and healing, as the Spirit ensures the promises that accompany it are communicated to us. It is where we find ourselves, weak and powerless, coming to realize we are welcome in the presence of God, that He shares every aspect of Himself with us., transforming us into His image. ( 2 Cor 3:16)

We need Him – as do our people.

So let us be encouraged to gather around the altar, and know our Lord ever more deeply, as He provides for us, as promised. AMEN!

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 277.

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), 171.

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