Category Archives: Augsburg and Trent
We need to learn to hate everything that…
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to His cross!
Solomon moved his wife, the daughter of the king of Egypt, from David’s City to a house he built for her. He said, “She must not live in the palace of King David of Israel, because any place where the Covenant Box has been is holy.” 2 Crhonicles 8:11 GNT
(Luther states) “We are free from the Law, which ceases with Christ in a twofold sense: first imputatively, when sins against the Law are no longer imputed to me, but are remitted for the sake of the most precious blood of the spotless Lamb, Jesus Christ, my Lord; then, by expurgation, when the Holy Spirit is given me, so that, having received Him, I begin to hate from my heart everything that offends His name and to follow good work.”
But here’s the Question: Do we cry out to Jesus to save us right now When you sing hosanna do you really cry out, or do we just mumble the words? Cry out!
As I read what Solomon did with one of his wives this morning, I felt convicted of my sin, but it took a while to process why.
And then I saw it – he stashed his wife away because the relationship he had with her wasn’t holy. Not saying it couldn’t have been holy, but he married her, interacted with her, and allowed her to keep worshipping the gods of Egypt.
And I wonder how often we do that with our sin, and our “religious life.” How often do we compartmentalize our lives, placing our favorite sins and idolatry in a different place? That way we can attend church, or a Bible Study/prayer meeting and not feel the conviction we feel. But it also means we don’t pray as we should, we don’t look for mercy as we should, we don’t “cry out” as JMT urges us to do.
We won’t cry out to Jesus to save us, until we see that there is something from which He needs to save us.
It can’t just be, “oh, I sinned again, I will confess it on Sunday,” as if there is no big issue involved in our sin, that we can deal with it anytime–this week, this month, next year, 10 minutes before Jesus returns.
Luther is right, – we need to learn to hate our sin, and everything in us that offends God.We need to hate those actions, those words, those thoughts, and what tempts us to do, say and think them. We need to realize the damage they do, and hate that as well. SO that we can – with JMT and all the angels and archangels and company of heaven cry out hosanna – save us! We need to desire God’s power reconciling us, and look forward to both private confession and absolution, and the confession and absolution given to us all as we gather together as the church.
This is a need in the church, in all believers, and the answer to our cry for mercy will transform the church, it will bring a time of revival, as people begin to live in hope–freed from the bondage of our sin. What joy will be seen and experienced as this happens! For happen it will.
Lord, help us to hate that which was never meant to be part of our lives, and let the desperation that hate causes lead us to the cross, where that sin is removed. Thank you Lord, for saving us, cleansing us, and making us Your Holy people. AMEN!
Uuras Saarnivaara, Luther Discovers the Gospel: New Light upon Luther’s Way from Medieval Catholicism to Evangelical Faith (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), 13.
John Michael Talbot , The Lord’s Supper: A Eucharistic Revival. (Berryville, Arkansas, Troubador of the Lord Publishing, 2023) 71
Are You Where You Are Supposed to Be?
Thoughts that drive me to Jesus, and to the Cross.
10 One day spent in your Temple is better than a thousand anywhere else;
I would rather stand at the gate of the house of my God than live in the homes of the wicked. Psalm 84:10 GNT
For the entire gospel testimony is unanimous that Jesus’ words and deeds flowed from his most intimate communion with the Father; that he continually went “into the hills” to pray in solitude after the burden of the day (e.g., Mk 1:35; 6:46; 14:35, 39). Luke, of all the Evangelists, lays stress on this feature. He shows that the essential events of Jesus’ activity proceeded from the core of his personality and that this core was his dialogue with the Father.
Thus the spiritual life of the minister, formed and trained in a school of prayer, is the core of spiritual leadership. When we have lost the vision, we have nothing to show; when we have forgotten the word of God, we have nothing to remember; when we have buried the blueprint of our life, we have nothing to build. But when we keep in touch with the life-giving spirit within us, we can lead people out of their captivity and become hope-giving guides.
A good deal of my time this year has been spent contemplating the question that is the title of this post. I’ve had three distinct possibilities, three times I was a finalist for a position, and once I received a call to pastor a different church. All three interested me, and I dread the idea of having to decide between my present call and them.
But the question about where I am supposed to be is far deeper than a geographical location, or what vocation I have. In fact, the locations where we live and what we do are meaningless without the insight of “where we are” offered by the psalmist.
We have to imitate Jesus, and rely on our location in response to our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our identity is determined by our awareness of our proximity to God. If we know we are in HIs presence, everything else takes on a new dimension, a new meaing. Our families, our workplaces, our hobbies all become a way in which to experience God’s love, and to see the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.
This is essential for the entire church – and it resolves with all of us taking our positions as ministers, as those who serve people, that they might know Jesus. Intimacy with God is the core of our spiritual leadership–it is also the core of our spiritual lives. Without interaction with God prayer, meditating on the gospel and the sacraments, there is little that we can and should attempt to do. Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI ) is correct – all we are and do flows from our intimate – yeah – intimate connection with God.
I believe that is what the psalmist knows, and puts into words… it is being there in God’s presence that is the most desirable place to be.
And then we can give people the hope we find there, with Jesus,… as they are called and drawn to the One lifted up on the cross.
Joseph Ratzinger, Behold The Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 17–18.
Nouwen, Henri J. M.. The Living Reminder (p. 73). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
The Accidental Benefit of Darkness and Evil ( the blog I didn’t want to write)
Thoughts that push me towards Christ, and the Cross.
4 He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God. 5 Just as we have a share in Christ’s many sufferings, so also through Christ we share in God’s great help. 6 If we suffer, it is for your help and salvation; if we are helped, then you too are helped and given the strength to endure with patience the same sufferings that we also endure. 2 Corinthians 1:4-6 (TEV)
Even darkness, even evil, even death, even sin: all of them, seen by the light of the sacramental fire, become capable of helping the work of God. They can contribute accidentally, but existentially, to the life, growth and liberty of our souls.
Christ upbraids the disciples with their unbelief and hardness of heart. He does not reject them, nor deal too severely with them, but reproves them. It is not an insignificant matter that the Lord rebuked his disciples; for unbelief is the greatest sin that can be named. Christ tells them the cause of their unbelief when he says that their hearts are hardened, still he deals mildly and gently with them. This is told us for our comfort, lest we despair, when, lacking in faith, we doubt, stumble and fall.
It will take a lot to write this post.
I don’t enjoy encountering the dark moments of life. Neither do I like dealing with evil.
Whether the moment is personal, and is my own journey through darkness, depression and even despair, or whether it is walking beside someone, I really struggle. And as these journeys overlap and pile up, I get weighted down.
As do most pastors, teachers, counselors, and others who continually walk with people through the darkness.
I believe it is the primary reason that there is such burnout in the ministry today. We’ve spent 40-50 years pretending that everything is perfect in the church, looking for process after program, going through consultants and coaches (how many of them burnt out in ministry?) and fail to deal with the darkness, evil and the grief that shadow our lives.
And so we are crushed…. our faith, that ability to depend on God, melts like a ice cream cone in the desert in August. It’s at that point, that sin and temptation become so powerful, as we look for someway to escape, someway to cope with the pressure building up inside us. And when those sins and temptations fail to, the darkness grows more pervasive, more stifling.
Except for the promise of Jesus.
In Him, we have the promise that His great help – we have the promise of His presence, and His love and mercy. We have been given the Holy Spirit – who has the title of the comforter, and there is so much comfort there that we instinctively comfort others.
That comfort is seen in Luther’s explanation of Jesus correcting his disciples. Luther makes it clear that Jesus doesn’t reject them outright, nor is the severity enough to crush them. But as he qon’t quench a candle’s wick that is barely flowing, Jesus, with great love and wisdom, ministers to us in our times of weakness. It is shared in the scriptures not to make them appear weak, but to help us in our time of despair, doubt, and stumbling.
This I count onmore than ever in life. I Know I have to walk through the shadows; i know the effect they might have on me, but I also know He is there… and he will get me through this… as promised. I may not be able to change my attitude, or even find the light in my darkness, but I know it will be there…I know He will be there.
Merton’s words are absolutely accurate–these times are ones that accidentally cause incredible growth in our souls. For they show us how complete the works of Jesus is in our lives. W learn this through the sacraments, and the promises scripture gives in them. How Christ’s death – which we are united to in them, means we live in Him, and He in us. It may be an accident from Satan’s perspective, but it is well within the promise of God revealed in Romans 8 – all things work for God… and nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Now to learn to be patient through such trials!
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 173.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 153.
The Hidden Cost of Worship!
Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus… and to His cross.dd
75 We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks to you! We proclaim how great you are and tell of the wonderful things you have done! Psalm 75:1 GNT
They who do not feel their sin, and are not dismayed, nor see their infirmities, profit not a whit by it, nor do they delight in it. Though they hear the gospel, it has no effect upon them, except that they learn the words, and speak of what they have heard. They do not treasure them in their hearts, and receive neither comfort nor joy from them.
It were well, if the gospel could be preached only where faint-hearted and conscience-stricken ones are found. But this cannot be, and for this reason it bears so little fruit. The fault is not in the gospel, but in the hearers. They hear it, but they do not feel their own affliction and misery, nor have they ever tried to feel it.
The Last Supper must be understood and proclaimed also as such. Just as in baptism we meet our death and the promise of new life, so also here we encounter the death of the old and the hope of the new. “When you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). It is death-dealing to pretentious god-seekers to be reduced to eating a bit of bread and drinking a sip of wine for salvation. But just so it is also life-giving in the promise. It is the breakthrough of the new in the midst of our time.
THE sincerity of all prayer, whether liturgical or private, depends on the fundamental acknowledgment of our actual spiritual state. We have to have some realization of what we are supposed to be, of what we are not, and of what we are. The first step towards a liberty that is a free gift of God’s grace is the free acknowledgment of our own need for His grace.
As I was reading Psalm 75 this morning, I thought about why we praise God.
It is not because He is all powerful, or all knowledge. It cannot be based in fear anymore than it can be through some idea of manipulating God into saving us.
So where does worship come from? From realizing that God is at work in our lives.
And that is where the horrible, ugly, truth comes into play.
We need Him to work in our lives.
We need Him to do so because we are broken and crushed by the world and by our own sin.
Luther’s words drive this point home- noting how we have to feel our sin, we have to recognize our brokenness. Not so we can be belittled or terrorized by it – the sin does that on its own. But we need to face it, so we can say that we are forgiven it. This hurts most of the time – for the same reason pulling stitches and dressings off of wounds hurts. Merton agrees with this – explaining that we have to understand where we are, in order to understand grace. Forde nails the point home, when talking about the mystery of the Eucharist, and how such a simple piece of bread and sip of win is so transforming–because it is the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. The promises in it are amazing, if we only take the time to think through it.
It is there, at the altar, and at the baptismal font, that the great miracles in our lives happen. THey may also be the most overlooked, for they are sublime. As we come to understand them, the true glory of God, His love, is made known to us. ANd worship should well up inside of us,
Letting God deal with our darkness is needed for worship to really soar. So let Him in… and know the Lord is with you!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 142.
Gerhard O. Forde, “Proclaiming,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 178.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 162.
Why Pastors and Priests (like me) Need Church…
Words that drive me to Jesus, and to the Cross…
10 As the priests were leaving the Temple, it was suddenly filled with a cloud 11shining with the dazzling light of the LORD’s presence, and they could not go back in to perform their duties. 1 Kings 8:10-11 GNT
20I am telling you the truth: you will cry and weep, but the world will be glad; you will be sad, but your sadness will turn into gladness. 21When a woman is about to give birth, she is sad because her hour of suffering has come; but when the baby is born, she forgets her suffering, because she is happy that a baby has been born into the world. 22That is how it is with you: now you are sad, but I will see you again, and your hearts will be filled with gladness, the kind of gladness that no one can take away from you. John 16:20-22 GNT
While they are thus in fear and terror, the Lord brings them peace, not by removing any danger, but by quieting their hearts.
Now the liturgy is meant to form the individual Christian. Hence we have to learn how to understand its symbols, in order to absorb the lessons which they convey. But at the same time the liturgy is more than symbolism and more than ritual. Through the medium of the Church, which He has entrusted with the task of guiding, sanctifying and instructing mankind, God exercises a sacramental action upon the spirits of men of faith.
I have been thinking about church a lot recently, trying to understand why in parts of the world, the church is growing faster than it ever had, and why in others, it is rapidly shrinking.
I would love to blame the shrink on the amped up political atmosphere, as extremists in every spectrum try and force their way into power. Whether it is legalism or lawlessness, whether it is tieing to the secular conservatism or secular progressivism, the tactics are much the same.
I could blame it on apathy, and a country not able to escape the consequences of isolation.
I could blame it on a season dominated by every sin and temptation known to mankind.
Placing blame will do nothing – except causes dissention, more division and accelerate the decline of the Church, as sanctuaries empty—as they no longer are sanctuaries, as people find no refuge or peace in the places dedicated to communion with God.
I need the church to be such a place–a refuge, a sanctuary, the holy ground were peace overwhelms the struggles I am embroiled in this life. Luther’s words resonate with this, as he pictured God not taking away the struggles, the chaos, the anxiety or the pain. Instead, He quiets my heart, and the hearts of those with whom I share God’s word, the peace given them as I share with them the Body and Blood of Jesus.
Merton identified this as the sacramental action of God, as He pours out the blessings, the mercy, peace and love which forms us, creating a faith, a dependency on God, wherein the awe we find in His presence, makes everything else an inconsequential shadow. That all sounds like heavy theology tainted with a bit of mysticism.
I wish I could explain it in a simpler way, but the peace of the moment is beyond explanation, Jesus illustrates it well, in the moment a new mom holds her baby, and all the travail and even the mess isn’t important… the baby is here..
or in our case, God is here.
and like the priests – we are so in awe, that all we can do is enjoy the presence of God.
(Merton was wrong – this isn’t individual. It is who we are…together – the family of God)
This is why I need the church, the people of God gathered around His word, the people who receive His sacraments… who experience His peace..
I get to see it, facilitate it and that is awesome… but what is better – I participate….
I am so looking forward to this tomorrow… will you join me… either at Concordia, or with the saints in another location, but sharing in the same presence of the same Lord.
Please… come and know His peace and healing!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 138.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 160.
Evaluating Life: Personal, Spiritual and that of Your Church
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to the cross…
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind. 2His disciples asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents’ sin?”
3 Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents’ sins. He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in him.
They answered, “You were born and brought up in sin—and you are trying to teach us?” And they expelled him from the synagogue. John 9:1-3, 34 GNT
We begin to wonder whether we really have taken the words seriously, whether we are really sincere, or perhaps whether we really have accepted Jesus as our “personal Savior,” whatever that is supposed to mean. I may hear the words “Your sins are forgiven,” but then wonder whether it could be really me that is meant, or whether it is even relevant to my needs. We become a prey to adverbial theology. Do we really, sincerely, truly, personally, believe? Do we live abundantly, joyously, affirmatively? Do we think positively, praise gratefully, respond generously? What do I do if I just do not see all those marvelous things happening that the preacher is always on about?
While we walk in the faith of his righteousness, God has patience with the poor, frail righteousness of this earthly life. He honors our human holiness by supporting and protecting it during the time we live on earth; just as we honor our corrupt, filthy bodies, adorning them with beautiful, costly garments and golden ornaments.
The baptismal character conforms us to the priesthood of Christ by an indelible spiritual sign which makes us able to unite ourselves with the worship by which the Incarnate Word, as Mediator between God and man, drew a fallen creation back into union with His Father. The sacramental character is, therefore, an orientation of our souls towards our Source and our Last End, in worship.
The questions in blue above are not rare in my experience.
I’ve heard people ask them in jail, in hospital beds on hospice, in counseling appointments, and conversations over breakfast and lunch. People who know about Jesus and want to go to heaven, but somehow struggle with their role in it. People wonder if their own lack of faith is why their entire life feels like they’re caught in quicksand.
I’ve seen the same kind of evaluation occur as pastors meet with their elders or their board of directors. They look at attendance numbers; they look at finances, and they see the struggle that the future might bring.
If we slow down, if we take the time to see where we are at, we will have dark moments where we doubt–either personally or as part of the family of God. Which we need to do, we cannot continue to live in denial of dumpster fires in our lives and churches. We need to realize we are broken, and often, more broken that can be dealt with on our own.
That isn’t a bad thing.
You see, our brokenness, like the blind man’s, is not always our fault, or caused by the environment around us. Even if it were, it still has the same fix, the same hope of being restored, to the same end – that God is glorified.
So don’t listen to those who tell you that it’s all because you are a sinner, or you are too broken, or anything else.
God has patience with us when we are broken and weak–that is what Luther reminds us of from my devotions this morning. We are dressed with Christ’s life, His righteousness, just like I put on my compression socks to deal to make up for my varicose veins. He works wih our brokenness, our frailty, our weakness. David confesses that God treats him that way, as does Jeremiah and Paul. Many others in scripture show this rule to be in our lives.
That is why our hope filled reality doesn’t depend on whether someone says we aren’t good enough, or we are spiritually dead. God is carrying us, God is breathing life into our bodies, God is recreating us in our baptism, as He brings us into the resurrection of Christ Jesus.
It is His work, it is His love for us that guarantees it can be done… no matter how bleak the examination is. Examining our lives is to provide hope – to show us where God has taken us from… not to show the depth of our decline.
Look to Him – He started you on this journey, accompanies you on it, and guarantees it will end as you enter the Father’s rest.
Gerhard O. Forde, “Proclaiming,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 159.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 125.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 144.
The Paradox of Freedom and Faith
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to the cross!
If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free. John 8:36 (TEV)
Not that grace somehow adds to an otherwise imperfect creation, but that grace puts a stop to our misguided attempts to usurp God’s place and so allows creation to shine forth in all its glory
The “world” is the body of those who hate, because they are prisoners of their own narrow illusions and petty desires. They cannot recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit because they are not willing to conform their lives to His inspirations. They cannot become free with the freedom Jesus compared to the unpredictable blowing of the wind, for they are rooted in their own attachments and bound down by their own compulsions. They have a fixed way of acting (which may be wild and erratic and possess a spurious “freedom” of its own) and they cannot break away from it. They have rendered themselves incapable of doing anything but their “own will” in the sense of their enslaved will. Only the Spirit Himself can penetrate their hard carapace of resistance, and too often they will not let Him do so. They are unable to love freely because they are afraid of freedom.
The power and effect of faith are especially seen in temptations, when sin, death, devil, and hell are overcome. Nor are these weak enemies; they bring out perspiration, weaken our limbs, and make heaven and earth cramped. When the devil and death come, no one can help except only the person who has said, I am he who shall sustain thee. Under such conditions we learn what faith is.
Yesterday, my son’s high school was locked down, and for several hours I waited for him to be released. First, they were kept secure in a classroom. Then, they were escorted to some fenced in tennis courts where, eventually, they were released to parents. The parents waited in the sunlight for hours, because of miscommunication.
My thoughts upon getting into the car hours after I arrived was the old phrase, “Free at last, Free at Last!” A couple of hours of inconvenience, and yet I treated it like a lifelong trauma. ( A little projection here, as I was also wanting to deal with some other traumatic events)
So I was thinking about freedom as I came across these words this morning. And the illusion of freedom was shredded, again and again.
When we clamor and protest to have freedom, we must contemplate two things:
- What are we wanting freedom from?
- What do we want to do with this freedom?
Answering those questions will help us determine whether what we want is truly freedom, or simply the ability to serve our own preferred slavery –to our lusts and desires, our addictions and other sins that plague us. The problem is, enslaved to those things–we don’t even realize we are enslaved! Or, if we do, the lure of that which we are enslaved to overshadows the life we don’t know we can live.
Luther’s words about faith are clear here. It is not an easy fight to overcome sin. It requires a lot sweat and a lot of tears. It takes prayer, and mostly, it takes dying with Jesus on the cross to break those shackles, and the work of the Holy Spirit to draw us to that cross.
Forde’s words are so clear to that as well, as the Holy Spirit convinces us to set aside our self-idolatry, nailing that sin to the cross as well. That when the Son sets us free- we can begin to see glimpses of the glory of God.
There is freedom from everything we need to be free from – hatred, violence, anxiety, resentment, sin, guilt and shame…
And there is freedom to do one thing… to love.
Upon getting home, just before 6, homework and chores awaited both my son and I. As did dinner. We weren’t free to do whatever we wanted, but we were free to do that which was good, and beneficial. Mostly, my family was free to be together. And so it is with freedom we find in Christ Jesus-we are free to be in the presence of God, to know His love, to be with our brothers and sisters in Christ…
This is accomplished simply by having faith in God, depending on what He’s promised – that He will set you truly free..
Gerhard O. Forde, “Hearing,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 144.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 132.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 102.
To Pray and Worship with All Your Heart and Soul….What does it mean?
Thoughts drawing me closer to Jesus and to His cross!
No, I’m not drunk, sir,” she answered. “I haven’t been drinking! I am desperate, and I have been praying, pouring out my troubles to the LORD. 16Don’t think I am a worthless woman. I have been praying like this because I’m so miserable.” 1 Sam. 1:15-16 GNT
Are we presently missing important elements of worship in our churches? I speak of the genuine and sacred offering of ourselves as we worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Who can object to pious and righteous talk? Soon the whole enterprise takes off like a magnificent balloon, rising on the strength of its own hot air, with marvelous descriptions of the Christian life, the abundant life, spirituality, and the like. The minister becomes a guru rather than a proclaimer. The balloon rises perhaps until the stratospheric air can no longer support it and so it bursts and falls ignominiously back to earth. Or it is like Andersen’s fairy tale about the emperor’s new clothes? Everyone feels compelled to go along with the game until the naive little boy blurts out the truth: “But he’s naked!” Then all the pretense collapses.
But it is obvious to most that real worship and praise isn’t bursting forth from the average Catholic congregation during the opening hymn or song. We aren’t experiencing the jubilatio of St. Augustine’s communities. But we can! The next time we sing at Mass, let’s dare to really sing. Sing with all your heart and soul. Dare to open your mouth and praise God
I wonder what would happen if Tozer saw today’s church, if he would see the missing parts of worship restored. I can think of people here and there whose sacrifice seems significant, yet, I don’t know it is., or what really lies behind the sacrifice–or if it is really one.
I fear that for many of us, our worship is like Forde’s critique, that we are no more than a spiritual version of the Emperor’s new clothes. I fear that we will find there is nothing there, that my sermons have lifted people into a pious, blind life that seems to soar until it crashes. That the verses and choruses we sing are sung out of a love for music, and not without recognizing the presence of the One our voices praise.
We need to sing with all our heart and soul, and that doesn’t mean loudly, or with great power. It means all of it – much as Hannah does in the reading from 1 Samuel. To pour out the pain, the brokenness, the barrenness, to just let it flow out….
You see, praise comes from meeting God in that place, and letting Him raise you up. It means pouring out everything in our prayers, holding nothing back, to let God minister to us. Then our praises take on an other worldly quality, coming from our healed hearts and souls.
It doesn’t take courage as much as desperation.
But the result is glorious – for we come to depend on God in a way that cannot be created or maipulated by skilled planning, or the most incredible of organists, choirs, praise bands or soloists. Yet each, as they encounter a God who cares, adds their voices together–lifting the God who lifted us up.
And for every Hannah, we can then become be like Eli, who ministered to her, on the Lord’s behal
Tozer, A. W., and Gerald B. Smith. 2008. Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Forde, Gerhard O. 1990. “Hearing.” In Theology Is for Proclamation, 137–38. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Talbot, John Michael. 2023. The Lord’s Supper: A Eucharistic Revival, Berryville, ARK. Troubador For the Lord Publishing.
A Rock Concert and the Change of Church Traditions
Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and to the Cross
The people in front scolded him and told him to be quiet. But he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David! Take pity on me!”
40 So Jesus stopped and ordered the blind man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41“What do you want me to do for you?” “Sir,” he answered, “I want to see again.” Luke 18:39-41 GNT
Jesus came preaching the forgiveness of sins in God’s name and we killed him for it. How can it be said that we did it? We were not there. It is important for the proclamation to encompass this because the universal claim of the cross to be for us all depends on it.
If we are willing to add the appeals from the book of Revelation to the weight of the other Scriptures, we discover God saying to us that the earth on which we live is not self-explanatory and certainly not self-sufficient.
If we bully people into talking on our terms, if we manipulate them into responding to our agenda, we do not take them seriously where they are in the ordinary and the everyday.
Nor are we likely to become aware of the tiny shoots of green grace that the Lord is allowing to grow in the back yards of their lives. If we avoid small talk, we abandon the very field in which we have been assigned to work.
Last night I went to a concert in town. The band, Chicago, had three original members from the founding of the group in 1967, when I was 2 years old.
I expected to see a lot of people ten to twenty years older than me. Sure enough, a little more than half the crowd fit that demographic. A few more where my age, from the height of Chicago’s popularity, but a significant amount were younger, even much younger. The concert has been sold out for a while as well. During the second set, the band announced that they were doing some old favorites from the 1980’s, and the place went ballistic. People were dancing, singing, going crazy in the aisles. Young, old, and the young, digging the music, the beat, the atmosphere!
It got me to think about the theories I have been hearing for years about church services, how they need to be planned for certain demographics. Too often we project our fear of not being respected by others of different ages? They won’t get us, because we don’t think we have much in common with them.
Yet in this midst of a rock concert, there was no thought to age. or culture. There was enjoyment of the moment. There were hearts touched by the lyrics and the music. What communicated in the 70’s and 80’s communicates still.
So why doesn’t the gospel? Why doesn’t the liturgy?
Perhaps it is not with those who haven’t come yet.
Perhaps it is more about us, and our fears and anxieties.
We find a church that does something we treasure, that meets us just as Jesus met the blind man. We may not always understand the impact of the cross on our life, but it is always there. As we are taught about it, as we confess it with our singing and prayers, we celebrate it as we eat His body and drink His blood. We should be in the moment just as much as when we are singing “Saturday in the park” with 2,000 people.
It is that moment that we have to share. It is that moment that we can invite them into, much as we would invite them to a concert.
It doesn’t matter it if is worship led with guitars, or organs, whether the pastor is wearing shorts and polos or a chausable. You may change some – but don’t do it till you know you will recognize Christ in the moment. You find that naturally, not forcing it, and you help them find it normally, naturally. That is something most evangelism materials don’t tell you…
It matters if, in the moment, you recognize the presence of God caring for you.
Your heart and soul recognize it, at a far deeper level than a concert.
The Lord is with you… and desires to be with them.
Forde, Gerhard O. 1990. “The Preached God.” In Theology Is for Proclamation, 122. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Tozer, A. W., and Gerald B. Smith. 2008. Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Peterson, Eugene H. 1989. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. Vol. 17. The Leadership Library. Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub.
An Ancient Italian “Blessing” (I want to be true) – A sermon on Psalm 32:1-7
An Ancient Italian “Blessing” (I want to be true)
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ create in you an eager repentant Spirit that rejoices in the God’s presence!
- We should be envied!
There is an old Italian “blessing”, which mommas used on their children when they are misbehaving! That “blessing” is this:
“I hope your children grow up to be …. JUST LIKE YOU!”
Oddly enough, the Psalmist would agree, but without the sarcasm.
You, according to the Psalmist, you are to be envied greatly! People should want to be just like you! Well, at least in one way!
Let me explain. Our translation reads:
“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! 2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”
In looking up the word “joy”, I discovered it means “to be envied with great desire” So we could translate this
“Greatly envied (with a desire to be like them) are those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is forgiven. Yes, how we should envy (and wanna be like) those whose record the LORD has cleared from guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty”
So you are to be greatly envied, and people should want to be just like you!
- Our stupidity!
Well, except there is a problem—at least the writer of this Psalm had one, and I think some of us might as well. He describes the problem spiritually in verse 3:
3 When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
That sounds like a bit of a problem!
I need to be clear here, not all physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering is caused by refusing to confess your sin. But there is a definite correlation between suffering from the guilt and shame sin causes and one’s well-being.
Sin can and does rip us apart.
We need relationships, and it destroys them. It can cause a type of paranoia—as we are afraid someone is going to find out. It creates all sorts of stresses, as it disconnects us from God and from those who love us and would have us live in peace. Even if we convince ourselves that our particular sin isn’t that bad, living a life based on that lie hollows it out until it collapses.
Sin drains us,
It wipes us out..
And makes our life hollow.
There is only one way to deal with this—though it is a joyful one.
- Our Joy!
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone!
I know how much courage this takes to stop trying to hide all the guilt. But as much courage as it takes, the reward of knowing those sins are completely lifted and tossed away…
All of it – forgiven!
All the guilt—gone!
Think about that for a moment…
Not one thing should haunt you.
Not one thing should you even regret!
As much as we contemplate our sin and brokenness during Lent, it is for this purpose–to know the relief of Psalmist–the absolute joy of the weight being lifted off of us!
We really need to take the time and think through what God has done to us… what He continues to do in our lives. …
Therefore, the psalmist says people should envy us, as we live forgiven lives, empowered by the Holy Spirit! For the burdens we no longer carry, or at least that we aren’t to carry,.. so many do! This is what Jesus came to do, to free us from the sin which stops us from being with God!
So many walk around, living with guilt and shame….so many people walk around without knowing God really loves them, without experiencing that love.
- What happens next
The change is so incredible for the psalmist – that feeling the relief inwards; he turns to those around him
Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. 7 For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory!
This is an evangelistic spirit.
Wow, God, you did this for me! All of us need to know this – we all need to pray—we all need to experience this relief, especially before the waters rise, and judgment occurs.
The more you know God has done for you, the more you need to share it with others, to share with them how God heals and protects and hides us from trouble, the more we need to invite people into the safe place we have found.
This is Christianity at its simplest… to realize the incredible way God has called you to His side, cleaning you up along the way, as you invite others into a peace that is beyond explanation….as Jesus saves them, as the Holy Spirit takes us residence with them, as sin and satan the fear of death are tossed out like yesterday’s trash…
This is our hope, and it is the very reason people should be envious of us, why we want them to be just like us.