Category Archives: Ancient Future

He is Here…but i struggle to focus on Him

Thoughts that draw me closer to Jesus

Even now my witness is in heaven. My advocate is there on high.
I need someone to mediate between God and me, as a person mediates between friends. Job 16:19,21 (NLT2)

This does not mean that we do not have unwanted thoughts during prayer, but that we return again and again to the basic consent of self-surrender and trust. We say “yes” to that presence, and every now and again enter into union with it as we identify the divine presence in Christ’s humanity with the divine presence within us. When we say, “Come, Lord Jesus,” we should remember that Christ is already here and that his coming means that he becomes more and more present to our consciousness.

Somebody asked, “Doctor [Luther], if a parish minister absolves a woman who has killed her infant child and afterward the matter becomes public through others, should the parish minister, when asked, offer testimony in this case before a judge?”
“By no means,” said the doctor [Martin Luther], “for the forum of conscience is to be distinguished from the forum of the civil government. The woman didn’t confess anything to me; she confessed to Christ. But if Christ keeps it hidden, I should conceal it and simply deny that I heard anything.

When Fr. Keating mentions prayer being interrupted by unwarranted thoughts, I breathed a sigh of relief. I struggle with that often, for even while I am praying for someone or about some situation, my mind wanders far off. Then, rather than refocus on the cross, my soul struggles with my spiritual lack of focus, I wallow in guilt and shame.

I need to run back to the cross, I need to find my comfort and strength and direction there. I need to find Him in my consciousness. And like Job, i know my advocate is in heaven, but I need to know He is here on earth, with me as well. A mediator who is more than that, a mediator who is a friend. 

There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus is here. But to convince my hear and soul of that, and that Jesus is a friend…sent by God the Father, is a little more of a challenge. Especially when my mind struggles to focus on our relationship.

As I was reading my devotional readings this morning, I kept coming back to Luther’s words about a pastor. I know I speak for Christ, and as I hear other pastors, and they speak the words that declare us righteous, holy, for our sin has been removed. I treasure those words, and what they mean to me and to other believers. What hit me from Luther’s answer was that not only is the pastor put there to say those words, but He is there to hear the sins, the failures, the words loaded with grief and shame as well.

Hearing that opens a door, it helps me see another side of Christ – that He is will to hear those words, despite how they confess my betrayal of Him. He desires to take that burden away, ridding me of the weight of it. And then to bring me into the presence of God the Father, saying “Abba, look who I’ve brought home…this is my friend..”

Thinking about those moments, and other sacramental moments, helps calm me enough to see His presence. To just realize the presence of God, is one thing – to realize the purpose of His presence, to spend time with us, with me, is another. He is there as Job requested, to intercede with the Father, to comfort with His presence, to share in a love that goes beyond our words.

Knowing this helps the focus, and when it loses its sharpness, causes me to remember, and look again to see my Friend, who is already here with me, and there with you.

Heavenly Father, help us realize the presence of Christ in our lives, and that He has drawn us into His death so that we could rise with Him! Help us, when our concentration fades, to still see His face, and be drawn back once again into His love. Thank you for not giving up on us, but caring for us and teaching us to be compassionate. We ask this in Jesus’ name. 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), 183.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 395.

How to be Holy…How to See Revival Begin

Thoughts which draw us to Jesus!

Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed* and he himself* will be saved on the day the Lord* returns.
6 Your boasting about this is terrible. Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.* 8 So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old bread* of wickedness and evil, but with the new bread* of sincerity and truth.  1 Cor 5:5-8 NLT

11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. 12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.  Psalm 103:11-12 NLT

I would like to see a church become so godly, so Spirit-filled that it would have a spiritual influence on all of the churches in the entire area. Paul told some of his people, “ye were ensamples to all that believe” and “in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad” (1 Thessalonians 1:7–8).

“This ought especially to be taught, that confession’s not made to man but to Christ. Likewise it isn’t man who absolves but Christ. But few understand this. Today I replied to the Bohemians,134 who insist that God alone remits sins and are offended by my little book on the keys. Wherefore one should teach that men make confession to Christ, and Christ absolves through the mouth of the minister, for the minister’s mouth is the mouth of Christ and the minister’s ear is the ear of Christ. It’s to the Word and the command that one should pay attention, not to the person. Christ sits there, Christ listens, Christ answers, not a man.”

The fundamental theological principle of the spiritual journey is the Divine Indwelling. The Trinity is present within us as the source of our being on every level.

Too many “experts” have given up on the church.

Some find the answer for Chirstianity in starting new groups of believers, some suggest having present small churches die, so that their legacy is not one of faith handed down, but property and financial treasures.  Doing such is meaningless at best. For the new ministries planted because there are money start off on, they soon to will age, and not having the example of fortitude that leads us to survive during the lean times.

The key to a nation finding itself in revival is not the redistribution of funds. The key to revival is the spread of revival from a city to the country. The key to a city is found in a church experiencing revival.

And a church experiences revival when its people know God has forgiven them, and dwells in their midst.

When a person knows the purest joy as God lifts their sins away, and they no longer have anything to fear, nothing to feel guilt or shame over, no resentment hidden deep within scars caused by others.

There, revival is found. and the church grows without thinking about it, for the presence of the Lord is undeniable. No one needs to say “share” this.. or “invite a neighbor,” The joy they know, forgiven and free, the presence of God that comforts, empowers and compels them to live in the truth that is thiers, is tangible.

That is why private and public confession is so important. People need to hear they are forgiven.

We have to know this – both in general, and in specific to the sins which have haunted us for years, and decades.

Knowing we are forgiven, knowing the presence of God in our lives also develops the eternal perspective we need, developing in us a desire to see God come.

When this happens, the church explodes… then the community, then the nation….

Sp of you are dealing with resentment, with guilt or shame, go talk to your pastor or priest… and find out God has forgiven you!

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

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 394.

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), 182.

The Cost of Intimate Prayer: Don’t Say I didn’t warn you!

Devotional Thoughts for this day:

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

I will sing of the LORD’s unfailing love forever!
Young and old will hear of your faithfulness.
2 Your unfailing love will last forever.
Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens. Psalm 89:1-2 NLT

What Satan intends for evil, God uses for good. By these assaults we move from mere intellectual comprehension of his grace to very personal and experiential enjoyment of the multifaceted dimensions of God’s comforting mercy and love.
Prayer and meditation do not occur in blissful peace in some sweet never-never land or beautiful isle somewhere, but in the throes of real life. Prayer, meditation, and spiritual warfare are a package deal. The struggle goes with the territory in God’s economy. Pain, distress of body and soul, emotional struggle and spiritual assault come to all of God’s people. And you can be sure that they will come to you—if they haven’t already

Just as the First Commandment instructs the heart and teaches faith, so this commandment leads us outward and directs the lips and tongue into a right relationship with God. For the first things that burst forth and emerge from the heart are words.

The songs of prayer
The songs of prayer lodge in our mouths.

Let us sing through the snow.
At the dinner table.
On the rooftop where we dance.
May these sounds heal our ears
and those distant ears that hear.

This morning I want to start with Luther’s words in dark blue above. They sound so nice and innocent at first, for if we recognize God is God, and specifically the God who loves us, then words of praise will just force themselves from our heart, through our vocal cords and we will use God’s name to praise Him. An awesome picture!

Just like the Psalmist who sings of God’s unfailing love forever! If only our lives were that simple! If only we were aware of His grace every moment of every day! Then we would spend more time talking to God, thanking Him and giving our problems and anxieties to Him, trusting Him to deal with them

Except that the easier life is, the more like I am to forget God exists. I won’t remember how faithful He is, unless I have a need, and then see His faithfulness as He comforts and cares for me.

It is the relieved heart that overwhelms the voice and causes it to sing praises. It is the broken heart that is rescued and healed that tells others, even distant others, of God’s healing!

And as odd as it sounds, Senkbeil is right. The more Satan attacks a mature Christian, the more we do not fight, but run inot the arms of our Lord, knowing His death rebukes Satan and  totally defeats him. The more we spend time in God’s presence, the more we release our hearts’ burdens. It is a blessed circle of freedom, one that affects not only us, but others, as they hear our sincere praises, and see lives at peace amid chaos. Satan and his minions will do everything they can to stop this. But all that should do is drive us back to the hope of the cross and empty grave. This sounds like a high cost, spending time in prayer and becoming susceptible to attack, but it is more dangerous for Satan, as others see his attempts backfire

Trials will come for a season, yet they will cause a closer, more intimate relationship with God. This I’ve found true in my life, over and over. God is there, and the more trauma I see, the more oppression, the more things don’t make sense, the more it is time to stop everything, pray and count the blessings we have, because we are His children.

Heavenly Father, help us hear your offers of comfort in times of trauma, or when Satan is prowling about. My our hearts praise You, even as we recognize Your salvation, and the peace found as we find refuge in You. Amen!

 

 

 

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 256.

Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism”, 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), 392.

Hawksley Workman from  https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/   for 5/27/2022

This is Ministry…

Thoughts leading us to Jesus, and because of which, we adore Him:
1  Then this message came to me from the LORD: 2  “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? 3  You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. 4  You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. 5  So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal. 6  They have wandered through all the mountains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them. Ezekiel 34:1-6 (NLT2)

The Christian minister, as someone has pointed out, is a descendant not of the Greek orator but of the Hebrew prophet.
The differences between the orator and the prophet are many and radical, the chief being that the orator speaks for himself while the prophet speaks for God. The orator originates his message and is responsible to himself for its content. The prophet originates nothing but delivers the message he has received from God who alone is responsible for it, the prophet being responsible to God for its delivery only. The prophet must hear the message clearly and deliver it faithfully, and that is indeed a grave responsibility; but it is to God alone, not to men.

In those cities and places, likewise, where the parish churches have no certain boundaries, neither have their rectors their own proper people to govern, but administer the sacraments to all promiscuously who seek it, the holy synod commands bishops, that for the more perfect security of the salvation of the souls committed to their charge, having divided the people into fixed and proper parishes, they shall assign to each its own perpetual and peculiar parish priest, who may know his own parishioners, and from whom alone they may lawfully receive the sacraments; or they shall make such other provision as may be more profitable, according as the character of the place may require

Someone reminded once again me that evangelists are also physicians for souls; new converts need a physician of the soul just as long time members. A lot of listening, consoling, absolving, praying, and blessing was just as important for Sonia, the zealous new convert, as it was for George, the patriarch of a family known as “pillars of the church” for generations.

As I read from the writings coming out of the Council of Trent this morning, those words in blue hit me hard. It wasn’t like resonated in a good way, but like play a guitar and one key is so far out of tune… it hurts.  People who go to a church may not know the man who is preaching, if he is even in the same building and not located on another campus, and his picture live-streamed into that building. There is a disconnect there, and while thye have someone preaching at them, it is not the same as a conversation with them, know them and having the ability to call in a moment and have them pray.

It’s not just true in big churches, COVID has done this to many family sized (50-300 member churches) as our people have been spread out, and limited to digital contact or a phone call or two. As much as I like bringing my thoguhts together on this blog, I would rather have 4 or 20 people in a Bible study, or a dedicated prayer time. There is something about the people of God, gathered together, spending time in His presence together.

Tozer’s comment about the pastor being a descendant of the prophet fits in here. God has a message for a specific group of people, and has placed the pastor there to give it to them, in a way they can understnad it. That means you have to know them well enough to spek into their heart. That is scary for both the pastor and the people. But if it doesn’t happen., if this connection isn’t made, then people spread out, and begin to do what is right in their own eyes–and that includes the pastor.

We all need to be ministered to, the atheist, the person God is transforming from scratch, the person God’s been working on for decdes.

And the most needed and hardest ministry happens when the pastor and people are laughing and crying together. As souls are comforted…and healed by the same power which raised Christ Jesus from the grave.

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

Theodore Alois Buckley, The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (London: George Routledge and Co., 1851), 201–202.

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 234.

The Pastoral Need for the Lord’s Supper

Thoughts to draw you closer to Jesus…

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 56 And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”  Acts 7:55-56 NLT

Acedia means a lack or absence of care. And that’s deadly. Whenever we grow numb to Christ’s saving work and the Father’s gracious gifts by which he makes us and preserves us, spiritual boredom takes hold, followed by apathy and subsequent despair. Where acedia takes root in the soul of a pastor, the flock suffers greatly.

There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives.

The gift of contemplative prayer is a practical and essential tool for confronting the heart of the Christian ascesis—namely, the struggle with our unconscious motivation—while at the same time establishing the climate and necessary dispositions for a deepening relationship with God and leading, if we persevere, to divine union.

As I look at the deacon, Stephen, I see a man who is living in the moment. He is not bound to anxiety or fear. He is not burnt out, and He cares about the people with whom he is interacting. The power of the resurrection is something he wants them to know; he wants them to know Jesus.

As I look at the church today, there are many pastors and church leaders that are suffering and struggling, not only in their lives, but in their spiritual lives as well. The are well able to teach the doctrines they believe in, if they still do. But they don’t care, or they are tired of caring. There is something lacking behind the doctrine, a “so what” to the “what” that is so well known and taught. Acedia or Ascesis is so evident in the lives of many I talk to in the church, and the constant work wears the men and women in ministry down.

The hard question is, if this is happening to our leaders, then what is happening to the flocks with which they have been called to shepherd?

Keating talks of the answer to this being contemplative prayer. A time to stop and listen, to contemplate what it means to dwell in the presence of God. To take the time to listen, to invest in the relationship by letting God “hear” us — so that we know He has.

Perhaps this is why the Lutheran Confessions call prayer a sacrament, a sacred time where God’s grace communicates deeply, intimately with the hearts of His people.

It is one of the other sacraments that I run to, that I long for, when spiritual burnout, spiritual fatigue, and life just sucking. The Lord’s Supper is so precious, the peace that comes from being united to the death and resurrection of Jesus is beyond measure. Sharing it with my people, whether in the sanctuary, or in their homes, lifts me out of the spiritual funk (and often physical/psychological funks as well).

Here is the theology behind this – we know that when we take and eat the bread, we unite to Christ’s body (koinonia). The same when we drink from the cup, there is unity with the sacrifice of Christ. But anytime God unites us with the death of Christ Jesus, there is the absolute promise of the resurrection! Knowing this is our reality, and someday will be a visible reality, stirs the soul, and revives me. This is not just some activity or obligation without an impact in our lives. To realize we commune with God, in that instance, He draws into His glory, and gives us a tangible lesson in how deep His love is for us.

Every pastor gets tired, every pastor gets weary and suffers from burnout. The same for elders, deacons, ministers of every type. I do not know a pastor during COVID who didn’t think of hanging it up – and finding some other field of work. The answer is that divine unity that Keating points out, the “manifest presence” is how Tozer describes it. Stephen, even in the face of martyrdom, finds his hope there, as he gazes into heaven and sees the glory of God.

That is the experience of the altar, whether serving the people of God, or receiving it with them.

We need that… so let us not neglect it, but run to it. AMEN!

 

 

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 210.

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

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), 123.

The Church Desperately Needs Fools and Madmen – if we are to survive.

Thoughts to help us run to Jesus…

Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time,* said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about! 50 You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” John 11:49-50 NLT

They say, “God has abandoned him. Let’s go and get him, for no one will help him now.” 12  O God, don’t stay away. My God, please hurry to help me. Psalm 71:11-12 (NLT2)

Scripture’s commandment to turn the other cheek does not contain a primarily ethical meaning—to overcome oneself, or to give the other an example of one’s self-mastery or enlightenment—but the meaning of love, which “demands that one suffer humiliation with the humiliated Christ rather than receive honor, to be seen as a fool and madman for Christ’s sake, who himself was seen primarily as such, rather than to be esteemed as wise and clever in this world” (Ignatius of Loyola)

Now note that deliverance from evil is the very last thing that we do and ought to pray for. Under this heading we count strife, famine, war, pestilence, plagues, even hell and purgatory, in short, everything that is painful to body and soul. Though we ask for release from all of this, it should be done in a proper manner and at the very last.
Why? There are some, perhaps many, who honor and implore God and his saints solely for the sake of deliverance from evil. They have no other interest and do not ever think of the first petitions which stress God’s honor, his name, and his will. Instead, they seek their own will and completely reverse the order of this prayer. They begin at the end and never get to the first petitions. They are set on being rid of their evil, whether this redounds to God’s honor or not, whether it conforms to his will or not.

The Canaanite woman had the kind of faith which penetrates the clouds. She would not take any kind of refusal as a real refusal, as a real “no.” She kept on praying with faith. The more she was tried, the more she placed her trust in Jesus, until she finally achieved her goal and got all she wanted. This is the disposition God waits for in the crisis of faith: trust in his mercy no matter what kind of treatment he gives you. Only great faith can penetrate those apparent rebuffs, comprehend the love which inspires them, and totally surrender to it.

Barely a day goes by without ads or advice about how to save the church. Here is how to make your preaching more relevant, how to do outreach online, and how to grow this ministry, that ministry. If only you had a program like Alpha or Rooted or follow Purpose Driven Church theory or…

For someone who doesn’t even know what a box is, never mind think out of it, my answer for what the church needs to do is described well in the devotional readings I encountered this morning.

The answer to survival is that we again need the church to be considered fools and madmen/women.

The phrase comes from the reading of Balthasar – and refers to people who are willing to be humiliated for no other reason than we do so with Jesus. The world would say we are nuts; we are fools. We embrace the suffering we encounter, whatever God allows, to seek Him and find Him and be with Him.

That is what Luther was getting at as well, as he explored the phrase, “deliver us from evil.” It is not the first plea in the Lord’s prayer but the last. It is not the most important thing – in fact, the most important thing is that we use God’s name to address Him. We need to set it apart for those deeply intimate conversations. We ask to ask for a lot, but only last do we ask for delivery from evil. If we believe all else is answered and delivered, where is the power of evil? It has already been broken and shattered.

Take a moment and think about it – what has Satan left if we are sure God’s Kingdom has come, and God’s will has been done?

This is what servant-leadership truly is in the church, being willing to embrace the suffering and remind people of God’s presence in the most broken parts of their lives. It requires tenacity, not to endure, but to pursue God like the Samaritan woman Keating praises! Jesus praised her, for she trusted that Jesus loved her and her daughter. We need to seek that experience of His love and His mercy, counting on Him to reveal Himself there.

That is why we endure… to depend on Christ – to dwell in Him… and as we do, we serve amid brokenness. We embrace it, knowing that God rules, and therefore it works. and if the world things we are fools and madman… that’s okay.

Balthasar, Hans Urs von. 2004. Love Alone Is Credible. Translated by D. C. Schindler. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 42. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

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

The Question about Ministry…

In Awe of His love…

36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! 37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.” John 3:36-38 NLT

5  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. Interlude 6  Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. Psalm 32:5-6 (NLT2)

That person sitting across from you in your study or lying in a hospital bed is just another wayward child of God the Father, each in their own way yearning to return to the Father’s house. Baptismal therapy is nothing more and nothing less than a return to baptism and the ongoing application of the gifts bestowed once in that sacred bath by which sins are forgiven and life restored.

The heart of the Easter mystery is our personal discovery of intimacy with God which scripture calls “innocence.” It is the innocence arising from easy and continual exchange of the most delightful kind with God.…

This morning I received official notice that my Ph.D. dissertation was fully accepted – the writing can “officially” begin. But it is something that has been forming in me for the last 28 -30 years. The readings this morning echo that concept. The nature of the ministry is bringing people into the glory of God. They are restored to dwell in that place!

Ministry is the work of reconciliation – the workers are sent out to gather people in the harvest – bringing them into eternal life. Doing that work only happens in the way the Psalmist experiences. When I know my sin is forgiven when I stop trying to hide my guilt. The response is simple. I want others to experience
the freedom, the peace, the life that comes in knowing Christ Jesus!

Senkbeil describes this revelation as the forgiven sinner sees the person as another prodigal – another wandered who is lost, trying to find their way in the world. The ministry then reminds the person what God has done in them as He cleansed them in baptism. If the person hasn’t been baptized, sharing the news of God’s mercy and compassion on those in bondage to sin. Yes, we desire; we hope and pray that they experience the intimacy with God that Keating talks about as he describes the sinner’s innocence.

This is what drives ministry – at its basic and best, it is the desire for others to experience the love of God that is unexplainable. A love that is beyond measure that leaves us experiencing innocence, righteousness, justice, and holiness, all because God loves us, and He is here.

This is ministry, as we have freely received – we freely give… This leaves you – and those around you with a question to ask. Do you need to hear that God loves you – and is merciful to you…. Or do your need to be the one that helps others find a deep, intimate, healing relationship with Jesus?
(I can help you either way!)

Heavenly Father, send forth Your Spirit on all believers, that they may realize how deeply You love them. As they experience the innocence that comes with salvation, help them share Your love with those around them. We pray this in the name of Jesus, your Son, our Savior and Lord!  AMEN!

Senkbeil, Harold L. 2019. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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

The Rule of Preaching…

The Ark of the LORD remained in Philistine territory seven months in all. 2 Then the Philistines called in their priests and diviners and asked them, “What should we do about the Ark of the LORD? Tell us how to return it to its own country.”
3 “Send the Ark of the God of Israel back with a gift,” they were told. “Send a guilt offering so the plague will stop. Then, if you are healed, you will know it was his hand that caused the plague.”
1 Sam. 6:1-3 NLT

The great deficiency to which I refer is the lack of spiritual discernment, especially among our leaders. How there can be so much Bible knowledge and so little insight, so little moral penetration, is one of the enigmas of the religious world today.…
If not the greatest need, then surely one of the greatest is for the appearance of Christian leaders with prophetic vision. We desperately need seers who can see through the mist. Unless they come soon, it will be too late for this generation. And if they do come, we will no doubt crucify a few of them in the name of our worldly orthodoxy. But the cross is always the harbinger of the resurrection.

The great folly of the pope’s church is that it’s based only on the external rule of reason, without the Word of God, and our salvation is supposed to be bound up with outward child’s play. If this had only had to do with moral and legal matters!”

This post may seem a bit harsh, but I believe it is needed these days.

The folly that Luther once charged “the pope’s church” with is no longer only their problem. It never was only theirs, nor does it affect all of those who preach in Roman Catholic Churches. It is the same issue that Tozer recognized in the 1970s-1980s, and unquestionably my generation has come to know the vanity he foresaw in his time.

The church has become like the Philistines, who could not figure out how to deal with dwelling in their presence. They recognized that something Divine was in their midst, and they saw the effects of the discipline God was pouring out on them. (Note I said discipline, not condemnation.) We’ve lost the ability to discern the presence of God and are even more unable to discern what that presence means. As Tozer said, we have some much Biblical (Theological?) knowledge, but so little of it penetrates past our mine to impact our hearts, our souls.

That is where the folly, even the silliness of preaching is seen.

We study more of the form of the message – than the message itself. We want to know what commentators perceive, rather than spend time quietly meditating on the text itself.  We don’t want to invest the time, perhaps because we don’t value how God is working and can work in us. This is seen on Saturdays, as websites hosting sermons receive many hits (my blog is no exception – 6% of all my hits are on Saturday night before midnight!) We are not preaching out of the depths of our heartache and healing.

We simply take others’ works and present them, expecting that their results will become ours.

What is not then communicated is that incredible fact that in the blood, sweat, and tears needed to prepare a message for the people of God, the message is prepared. As we encounter Him working in our lives, as shown on every page of scripture. That is why meditating on scripture is so praised in scripture. That is why allowing God to apply His truth in you – before you hear what others say
is crucial. We need to have more of an answer than the Philistinean priests… we need to be able to help people see God, and respond to Him. 

As pastors, priests, and preachers, we need to talk with our Lord more.. listen more. Then, the grace which reveals to us His presence and peace…we can show to our people.

The Lord is with you!

Lord, help us not be satisfied with passing on what others think about You and Your word. Instead, help us to experience the love beyond dimensions and the peace beyond understanding, as You restore us… and then help us to guide others into that same place.  AMEN!

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

Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 54. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Trickle Down Discipleship…

This isn’t discipleship…

Thoughts to encourage us to cling to Jesus

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.* 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God,* is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. John 1:16-18 NLT

The law of the leader tells us who are preachers that it is better to cultivate our souls than our voices.… We cannot take our people beyond where we ourselves have been, and it thus becomes vitally important that we be men of God in the last and highest sense of that term.

So the struggle ensues: Every baptized believer lives each day on a battlefield in this fallen world, contending not just against the devil but also wrestling with the compulsions and obsessions of his own sinful flesh. These forces conspire to defile and desecrate the holiness that belongs to every baptized believer. That means that the Christian life in this world calls for constant vigilance; the Christian is always under siege and at war with the devil, this sinful world, and his own sinful flesh.

I am not sure what I believe regarding trickle down economics – and this post is not a challenge to convince me one way or another. But I am going to apply the theory to discipleship. That discipleship is something that trickles down – or perhaps trickles up – since pastors and other ministers are servants, not masters. But if the pastor/minister is to be a shepherd, they need to be disciples – and they need their time sitting with the Master, being taught and healed and cleansed by Him.

Senkbeil explains why – the struggle. Every pastor, every priest, every director of Christian Ed or elder or member of the altar guild is involved in a struggle. No, not a struggle, the struggle. And that requires constant vigilance – not to fight the war by one’s own strength – but to be vigilant by keeping one’s eyes on Christ! There is our only answer, our only hope, our only refuge – just in Jesus.

For as the gospel points out, He reveals to us the Father, and the Father’s love for us. And so we have to listen and think, and be “illuninated” by the Holy Spirit. (This is Luther’s phrase from the catechism – it means the Spirit has to turn the lights on in us… so we stop stumbling in the dark!) Without that ongoing ministry of sanctification, we don’t know the glory and joy of being freed – and we can’t lead others through it.

Tozer says we can’t lead where we haven’t been. You can’t take someone thorugh the ominous oppressive darkness, unless you are going thorugh it, guided by Jesus. We can’t help them deal with that which defieles and desecrates them, unless we’ve come to that place where healing begins as Jesus deals with that which still tries to defile an desecrate us.d

This isn’t about us just leading people in spiritual disciplines as if we were a PE coach or drill instructor ordering people around. We have to be there, familiar with the muck and mire, familiar with the despair, haunted by the grief and shame – but familiar as well with the joy of having the weight lifted from us by Jesus. We have to depend on Him, we have ot see how much He loves us, how faithful He is to us.

and living in Christ – well that does trickle down – or up…


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

Senkbeil, Harold L. 2019. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

“Take off your shoes!” –Hope for the Dead/Dying Church

white converse all star high top sneakers
Kick off your shoes, this is holy ground, this is home.

Thoughts to draw us closer to Jesus….

When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” 14 “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” 15 The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told. Joshua 5:13-15 NLT

So it is in the Church of Christ. It is literally true that some churches are dead. The Holy Spirit has gone out of them and all you have left are “the remains.” You have the potential of the church but you do not have the church, just as you have in a dead man the potential of a living man but you do not have a living man. He can’t talk, he can’t taste, he can’t touch, he can’t feel, he can’t smell, he can’t see, he can’t hear—because he is dead! The soul has gone out of the man, and when the Holy Spirit is not present in the Church, you have to get along after the methods of business or politics or psychology or human effort.

In this petition you will notice that God bids us to pray against ourselves. In that way he teaches us that we have no greater enemy than ourself. You see, our will is the most formidable element in us, and against it we must pray, “O Father, do not let me get to the point where my will is done. Break my will; resist it. No matter what happens let my life be governed not by my will, but by yours. As no one’s own will prevails in heaven so may it also be here on earth.” Such a petition or its fulfilment is indeed very painful to our human nature, for our own will is the greatest and most deep rooted evil in us, and nothing is dearer to us than our own will.
Therefore, we are asking for nothing else in this petition than the cross, torment, adversity, and sufferings of every kind, since these serve the destruction of our will. If these self-willed people really thought about this and noted that they are praying against their own will, they would turn against this petition or even be frightened by it.

Over the years, I have worked with several churches that I was told were dead, or would soon be dead. My first church was one of these, and yet it is now nearly 20 times more than it was when I got there 25 years ago. (Most of that growth after me…. to be honest) The desk I sit in presently, one expert said would be abandoned 8 years ago…as the church was impossible to save. We are still here, in some ways struggling… yet more alive than ever.

I didn’t think either was, for the Holy Spirit was there. There was a hunger to hear about God, His compassion, mercy and forgiveness.

I’ve also seen much larger churches where that hunger was non-existent, and Tozer would say they are dead, even though they have hundreds or thousands showing up on a Sunday. They have the book of the month club which shows them how to “do” church right. Or they adapt the latest thing from the mega chruch in the next city, hoping to replicate what is happening there. Their faith ends up to be more in the program, than in the person of Christ. And so year after year, the “hope” for the future changes. Their guide book changes, and they get further and further from trusting in Jesus.

Here is where Luther’s discussion of the phrase, “Thy will be done” is so relevant. Whether a chruch is 12 or 50 or 5000, will it seek the Father’s will – knowing that their own will must die at the cross? Will they embrace the suffering, the sacrifice, the death of their preferences, in order to see what God is calling them to be? That is a dangerous prayer! If we realized what it could cost us, as Luther pointed out, people would run rather than pray it…

Unless they realize how desperate they are…. and that God is their only hope. Individually – and as a congregation.

As Joshua and Israel met Jesus as they crossed the Jordan, we see what all church leaders and their churches need to realize. God doesn’t have our back because He is impressed with His partners in ministry. God isn’t impressed with our plans for His church, the systems and visions we “borrow” may not work in our setting, especially if we put our hope in the system or vision, and not in the Lord.

He is the Lord, He is God. He is the one that gives each church its mission and vision in each community. It is His presence that turns the sancturary and campus into Holy Ground.

For He has come to dwell with us….and that is the other reason to take off your shoes… you are home. When our will is crucified, when our plans and desires are nailed to the cross… we have not only died, we are risen in Him, together.

Take your shoes off, make yourself at home in His presence, and let Him lead His people….

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

Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 42. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

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