Category Archives: Augsburg and Trent

Pursuit of Happiness? Don’t try, for it is futile…

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought for this Day:

13  “You have said terrible things about me,” says the LORD. “But you say, ‘What do you mean? What have we said against you?’ 14  “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the LORD of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins? 15  From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.’” 16  Then those who feared the LORD spoke with each other, and the LORD listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name. 17  “They will be my people,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. Malachi 3:13-17 (NLT2)

The true Christian ideal is not to be happy but to be holy. The holy heart alone can be the habitation of the Holy Ghost.

59 All this, then, is the office and work of the Holy Spirit, to begin and daily to increase holiness on earth through these two means, the Christian church and the forgiveness of sins. Then, when we pass from this life, he will instantly perfect our holiness and will eternally preserve us in it by means of the last two parts of this article.

I know it is part of the Declaration of Independence, but I’ve see too many people try to pursue happiness, and get lost in the frustration, and come to the conclusion that being happy is simply an excecise in futility.

That futility leads to the kinds of sin that the reading from Malachi above talks about. If we are pusuing happiness or pleasure for its own sake, we will never find it. Then we will start to question God, as if somehow He was responsible to make us happy, or at least remove the barriers to happiness.

There is a problem in this that the founding father’s of the United States didn’t see two hundred and fifty years ago. Simply put, happiness should not be the goal, it is not the destination or our reason for living.

Happiness is caused by life being lived in the maner it should be… not by something we do, or something we chase. It happens when we find contentment and peace, a side effect of those two things that cannot be pursued as well.

Luther understood this, as he saw the need to reveal the work of the Holy Spirit. That work, strengthening our ability to trust, to depend on Jesus. It is there, dwelling in the presence of God, the Holy Spirit dwelling in ours. that our lives set apart to walk with Him, that we find everything we need, including joy. The joy that comes when we realize our lives, as broken sa they appear, are treasured by God. A joy that goes far beyond mere happiness, that sustains us in the midst of every thing… even the hardest trauma.

A joy that passes all understanding, for our hearts and minds are maintained in Jesus, secure and safe.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 418.

Know Someone Struggling with Sin? Are You? Here is something to think through….

Devotional Thought of the Day:

8 My enemies, don’t be glad because of my troubles! I may have fallen, but I will get up; I may be sitting in the dark, but the Lord is my light. 9 I have sinned against the Lord. And so I must endure his anger, until he comes to my defense. But I know that I will see him making things right for me and leading me to the light. Micah 7:8–9 (CEV)

11 Our people defeated Satan because of the blood of the Lamb and the message of God. They were willing to give up their lives. Revelation 12:11 (CEV)

It is comparatively easy for most of us to do something difficult for a day or two, but it is less likely that we will be faithful to our resolution for a month or two. And very few indeed will sacrifice comfort and ease for years on end—unless they are deeply in love, real love.

It is the herd of elephants that are in the room.

It is the sin in our lives, the sin that so easily ensnares us, breaks us down, isolates us from people.

We know that God is our light, but yet sin still has a grip on us. We are afraid to admit it, afraid to tell our pastor/priest, afraid to tell them, even though we know they are there to help us realize we are forgiven.

We would rather bury it, deny it, act as if it wasn’t there. Pastors make this easier, when we talk about “their” sin, rather than yours (never mind ours) And in this false comfort, we will glide along, oblivious to the crap we surround ourselves with, and praying, not for forgiveness, but that it never comes to light.

In the midst of this, we have Micah’s words that will encourage us to face the discipline of God. Words that encourage us to endure His anger, the pain our betrayal caused. To do so, knowing it is temporary, to endure knowing that the One who is angry WILL COME TO OUR DEFENSE!

He will make things right! He will declare us righteous. His anger will pass, (it was at the cross) and He is making us new.

The Blood has been spilled, poured out for us to take and drink, as we eat His Body. We have His word, His promises that tell us how the Spirit is the guarantee of His dealing with our sin, and restoring us.

This is our hope… if you are struggling with sin, even you are feeling God’s discipline, know He is dealing with it. Know He loves you, and the proof is that discipline that precedes the healing.

And dwell in His peace.

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 105.

Faith requires our Intellect be taken Captive

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

I know what you are doing. Everyone may think you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! You have only a little strength left, and it is almost gone. So try to become stronger. I have found that you are not completely obeying God. †3 Remember the teaching that you were given and that you heard. Hold firmly to it and turn from your sins. If you don’t wake up, I will come when you least expect it, just as a thief does. Rev. 3:1-3 CEV

Oh, what union is this! It is a depth which reason cannot fathom, that we thus feed upon Jesus. “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” It is also an invitation to enjoy fellowship with the saints. Christians may differ on a variety of points, but they have all one spiritual appetite; and if we cannot all feel alike, we can all feed alike on the bread of life sent down from heaven.

2735 In the first place, we ought to be astonished by this fact: when we praise God or give him thanks for his benefits in general, we are not particularly concerned whether or not our prayer is acceptable to him. On the other hand, we demand to see the results of our petitions. What is the image of God that motivates our prayer: an instrument to be used? or the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? (2779)

Since the Holy Scriptures call Christ a mystery over which all heretics break their heads, we admonish all Christians not to pry presumptuously into this mystery with their reason, but with the holy apostles simply to believe, close the eyes of reason, take their intellect captive to obey Christ, comfort themselves therewith, and rejoice constantly that our flesh and blood have in Christ been made to sit so high at the right hand of the majesty and almighty power of God!

When I was in doing my undergraduate work in preaching, the British pastor Spurgeon was held up to be a paragon of reason. A great man who explained the scriptures in a way that amazed people. We were urged to imitate him.

Yet I don’t remember the passion in his quote above (in purple) nor his appeal for the Lord’s Supper and to realize it is unexplainable, unfathomable, by our greatest minds. Read it again, see the incredible appetite that he notes all believers should develop, an appetite that displays our unity in Christ!

Likewise, the quote from the Formula of Concord, admonishing those who would pry presumptuously into this mystery with their reason, tells of something wonderful, and amazing. It encourages us to let Chirst take our intellect captive… to turn it over to God, and rejoice!

The Catholic Catechism’s rough question, about how we perceive the God we pray to nails our intellect once more. Give up trying to reason God into what you want, stop trying to find the way to manipulate Him, and realize this is the Father who sent Jesus to suffer on a Cross for you…

This is how the situation the church is facing in Sardis is avoided. People who were considered mature in their faith, but lived an empty life. That forgot the wonder of the teaching that Christ had made them His own, a gift for the Father. A teaching that left them in awe, that made them realize the moments in prayer, and in sharing the feast together in the presence of God were beyond any treasure they would ever know. That nothing could explain it.

Some may thing this means following Christ is not for the intellectual, the people who are brilliant, who are able to capture the knowledge that is beyond so many of us. That simply isn’t true, for these blessings are beyond their ability to explain as well…and the smartest people know their limitations as the ancient philosopher Socrates did, as well as the Solomon. (That time wandering with God will make the earthly knowledge more practical in its application to the benefit of man!)

The more I age, the more I seen the wisdom of this passage from Paul, “

1  Friends, when I came and told you the mystery that God had shared with us, I didn’t use big words or try to sound wise. 2  In fact, while I was with you, I made up my mind to speak only about Jesus Christ, who had been nailed to a cross. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (CEV)

This matters… and makes all else relevant, for if we don’t know Jesus, we simply chase after the wind…

He loves you! He died for you, so that you would rise with Him! And the Spirit dwells with you, until Jesus returns.

Rejoice.. and desire to experience His love more and more….e

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

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 656.

The Formula of Concord: Solid Declaration: The Person of Christ. from Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 609–610.

A Deepening Confidence

Devotional Thought for the Day:

16 The three men replied, “Your Majesty, we don’t need to defend ourselves. 17 The God we worship can save us from you and your flaming furnace. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we still won’t worship your gods and the gold statue you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18 CEV

Dost thou feel that all thy desires are satisfied in Jesus, and that thou hast no want now, but to know more of him, and to have closer fellowship with him? Then come continually to the fountain, and take of the water of life freely. Jesus will never think you take too much, but will ever welcome you, saying, “Drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.”

2652 The Holy Spirit is the living water “welling up to eternal life”3 in the heart that prays. It is he who teaches us to accept it at its source: Christ. Indeed in the Christian life there are several wellsprings where Christ awaits us to enable us to drink of the Holy Spirit. (694)

Prayer is no illusion. God’s will and ours really do touch and interact in prayer, not in the way that a human father’s and son’s do, but in the way that the divine Father’s and Son’s do. The ultimate dignity of prayer lies in the astonishing fact that through prayer we share in the very life of the eternal Trinity.

I’ve often wondered about the confidence the three men had in God. As I’ve wondered about it, I’ve also heard the same question of these willing martyrs and those who have proven the words, that they were willing to die rather than worship some other God. Those questions and comments usually run this way,

“Pastor, what those martyrs did was amazing, I don’t think I could ever handle that!” Or, “Pastor, I would fail if that was my test, does that mean I am not saved?”

I think we see the confidence the men had, and feel like far less faithful people. We struggle when the government says we can’t worship in the buildings God dedicated for that purpose, We struggle when persecution means we don’t like it when people don’t agree with us.

So how could we walk into a furnace, confident that God was with us, whether we bake, broil, or simple dance and sing?

I think the context is important, what the people around the king wanted to take from them was the most important thing in their lives.

Their time with God. Their time of prayer and adoration and meditation. Their time of being reassured of His presence, of His love, of His promises. Far from home, this is what God them through each day.

That is why Spurgeon talks about drinking in Christ, and why the Catholic Catechism talks of the Spirit facilitating our new life of which Christ is the source! And Dubay’s incredible thought that in prayer we not only let God share in our lives, we share in the life of the Trinity. (This is why I describe the liturgy as a dance – that the prayer and meditation of a liturgical church service is simply a sacramental prayer.

This isn’t a do this, and you will gain the confidence to be a witness of God. It isn’t a way to exercise and strengthen our muscles of faith. That confidence grows stronger, not by our effort, but simply because of the joy we know, as we find peace in God’s presence. That presence of God means so much that we would allow nothing to supplant it, we would desire to have it more, to share it with those around us.

This isn’t an illusion, a coping mechanism, a opiate for those who struggle in life. Prayer is the greatest reality we can encounter. For through it, even the most heated moments, can become a time of joyous fellowship… one that hopefully will amaze those we pray for who persecute us… to the point they begin to praise God.

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

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 637.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 148.

Dealing with a Spiritual Fog

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Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 My friends, while you are waiting, you should make certain that the Lord finds you pure, spotless, and living at peace. 15 Don’t forget that the Lord is patient because he wants people to be saved. 2 Peter 3:14-15 CEV

Prayer cannot be reduced to the spontaneous outpouring of interior impulse: in order to pray, one must have the will to pray. Nor is it enough to know what the Scriptures reveal about prayer: one must also learn how to pray.

But we still cannot change God, can we? No, we cannot. But is that why we pray? To change omniscient Love? Isn’t it rather to learn what it is and to fulfill it? Not to change it by our acts, but to change our acts by it.

To be sure, God’s name is holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may also be holy for us.

Time for some honesty.

I am struggling through my devotional time this morning. Too many distractions, phone calls, texts, emails. Add to that the weariness of 202 days of COVID. Back pain worse than usual adds to the total, not to mention grief and stressors that are there. I feel like I am in a deep fog…spiritually.

This is where I need to be, oddly enough, still trying to pray, and meditate, searching for my Lord’s voice, eventually, this is where my heart will find its rest.

Part of my mind hears other, save yourself for work, you have tasks to do. I’ve been mocked by others, who say they don’t need such a time, they pray throughout the day, holding conversations on the fly. I’ve got others who see no pragmatic reason for prayer, since God is all knowing, all powerful and what He does is for our best anyway. (Assuming of course that we love Him and are called according to His purposes. ) So if we can’t change what God’s going to do… why bother?

It’s time to breathe. to slowly and simply pray, to e quiet, and realize where I stand is holy ground – as is the place where you are standing. We aren’t professional prayers, there will be days of struggle. God knows that too, that is why there is the Holy Spirit there to comfort us, to empower us, to help us find the will and desire to keep seeking, to keep struggling to hear His voice.

in that process, God will strip away everything that divides us from Him. The anxiety, the grief, the pain will help sharpen the focus, and the sin will drift away. Been through this cycle enough to know this, even as I am stuck in it once again.

God is here, He sees us, and is working even now… and knowing His patience and desire guarantees that I am not alone in this struggle. that I am not alone in working on this moment.

He is here, so I can pick up the tablet again, and read His word, and see the stories of those who struggle as well. Struggle though I may, I know He struggles with me.

Lord, please don’t only have mercy on us, reveal that mercy clearly! AMEN!

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 637. (#2650)

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 147.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 346.

Time to Pray God’s will is done…in us.

Devotional Thought for this day:

To everyone who shares with us in the privilege of believing that our God and Savior Jesus Christ will do what is just and fair. 2 I pray that God will be kind to you and will let you live in perfect peace! May you keep learning more and more about God and our Lord Jesus. 2 Peter 1:1-2 CEV

The sentence that precedes this cited paragraph brings us exactly to our point: “Worse yet, the poll results suggest that what we know has very little effect on how we live.” This statement could be expressed in neon lights, for it says exactly what lies beneath the remarkable resistance we are analyzing in this chapter. “What we know has very little effect on how we live.” This applies not only to a wise use of food, but also to what we know from the beautiful moral teachings of Scripture, what we see in the lives of the saints and celebrate in our liturgies all through each year. “What we know has very little effect on how we live.”
However, a caution is in order. The general statement should be qualified, for there are people who are growing in deep conversion as they are growing in prayerful intimacy with the Trinity.

As a failure at dieting, I know that Dubay is right when he compares what we know about dieting having an effect on how we actually eat and drink. Even more concerning is projecting that insight into the life that should be lived based on our knowledge and trust of God. We know how we should live, we know what would please God.

Yet, the Apostle has to pray that those who trust in God grow, not just in their knowledge of God, but their intimate knowledge of Him. (gnowsei in Greek is knowledge, the intimate kind of knowing shared between a husband and wife that are in love. ) It is as if this is our greatest battleground as a believer, this knowing God deeply.

It isn’t that the option is there, the entire liturgy, from the songs and hymns, to the readings, to the prayer, to the intimate time of the Lord’s Supper. The nurture of this relationship is provided, the opportunity to explore the love of God together is part of the reason the church exists. (the other reason is to invite people to join us!)

So why aren’t we falling deeper in love with God? Why aren’t we becoming truly holy, why aren’t our lives becoming more and more dedicated to God? Why isn’t prayer becoming easier and our desire for that time becoming stronger, and even unquenchable?

I could come up with 10,000 reasons, each taking up time and effort. But perhaps it is better to do as Peter does, and pray for each other, and perhaps for ourselves. What would happen if we truly begged Jesus, as the old hymn noted, to have His own way with us?

It is time to find out…

Heavenly Father, do not look on us as if we are weak and broken, and unable to relate to You. Instead, send Your Holy Spirit to set us afire, purifying our hearts and empowering us to live life walking as the children You love. We pray this in the name of Jesus, Your Son, our Lord and Friend, who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, AMEN!

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 51–52.

The Paradox of the Pinnacle of Holiness

Devotional Thought for the Day
5  Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.
2 Corinthians 13:5 (MSG)

This passage reminds us that during the offering the Eucharistic liturgy all of us are to taste, to experience fully—not something less—of this paschal mystery. Indeed, this renewal of the Lord’s covenant in Mass draws the faithful into a compelling love “and sets them afire”. This burning love reminds us of Psalm 34:8 where we read of tasting and drinking deeply of the goodness of the Lord. When a person reaches this depth he is close to the pinnacle of holiness.

True and worthy communicants, on the other hand, are those timid, perturbed Christians, weak in faith, who are heartily terrified because of their many and great sins, who consider themselves unworthy of this noble treasure and the benefits of Christ because of their great impurity, and who perceive their weakness in faith, deplore it, and heartily wish that they might serve God with a stronger and more cheerful faith and a purer obedience.
70 This most venerable sacrament was instituted and ordained primarily for communicants like this, as Christ says, “Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Likewise, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

The “pinnacle of Holiness!’ I love the images that come to mind from such an idea. A tangible sense of the sacred, of standing on holy ground, of being so aware of the presence of God that you collapse on your knees and cry out of the purest joy.

How I wish everyone could simply ascend to that pinnacle. To know that you are that blessed. To be able to resonate with Mary as she is told she will be the mother of God incarnate, to know that undeniable experience that we are God’s, that He has brought us into His presence.

Such is what Dubray is describing, the at the moment experience of communing with God, of encountering Jesus in the sacrament. But he also indicates it is a moment of renewal, or restoring the promises of the covenant. The quote from the Lutheran Confessions, (Specifically the Formula of Concord) gives us the context, and why that renewal is necessary.

The Lord’s supper isn’t the kind of feast that is given to the victorious. It is the feast given to the broken, to the homeless, to those who are hungry for something that they cannot satisfy. That is when it makes the difference, that is when this meal brings the most joy. It takes self examination to realize we are at that point, where without God breaking into our world, we are doomed.

And there He is, renewing us. Healing us, comforting us, empowering us.

There, in an under the bread and the wine..

Jesus…for us…

A foretaste of the feast….

and yes, a holy moment beyond compare, until we stand before the throne.

Lord, as we approach Your Altar, to share in Your feast, help us to understand that we so need it, help to experience our unity in You, that was delivered in our baptism, and is renewed as we share in Your Body and Blood. AMEN!

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 44.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 582.

A Man Has to Know God’s Limitations…

Ezekiel, the people of Israel are like dead bones. They complain that they are dried up and that they have no hope for the future. 12 So tell them, “I, the LORD God, promise to open your graves and set you free. I will bring you back to Israel, 13 and when that happens, you will realize that I am the LORD. 14 My Spirit will give you breath, and you will live again. I will bring you home, and you will know that I have kept my promise. I, the LORD, have spoken.” Ezekiel 37:11-14 CEV

Abraham certainly had sufficient ground for a disputation when he heard God’s words about offering up his son, because these words were patently contrary not only to reason and to divine and natural law but also to the eminent article of faith concerning the promised seed, Christ, who was to be born of Isaac. He could have asked if this command was to be understood literally or if it was to receive a tolerable and loose interpretation. But as on the previous occasion when Abraham received the promise of the blessed seed of Isaac, although this seemed impossible to his reason, he gave God the honor of truthfulness and concluded and believed most certainly in his heart that what God promised he was also able to do. So Abraham understood and believed the words and command of God plainly and simply, as the words read, and committed the entire matter to God’s omnipotence and wisdom, knowing that God had many more ways and means of fulfilling the promises concerning the seed of Isaac than he could comprehend with his blind reason.

But even if we had not fallen, even apart from sin and its consequences, a second reason for the imperfection of our knowledge of God is that we are finite. Only a finite image of the infinite God can appear in a finite mirror. The only mirror that reflects all of God is God. The only one who knows the Father perfectly is the Son.

A character named Harry Callahan once noted, “A man has to know His limitations!” It is a brilliant piece of advice, possibly based in Socrates admonition to “Know thyself” But that is not all we need to know, it is nt all we need to experience.

We need to know God’s limitations as well. We may not be able to understand them, but we can know them.

Abraham had an idea of them, so he determined that God could be trusted, even if God did something that seemed inconsistent. And so he took his son up the mountain in order to sacrifice him. God wants him to do that, well God gave him the son, though his wife was 40-50 years beyond childbearing age! And so he knew God’s limitations, simply the promises God has made, and the love which causes those promises to be fulfilled.

The problem is with our finite knowledge, how we picture God is so limited, and because of our experience, so flawed. We only know imperfect love, and mercy that always has a cost. We know how fragile our on motives are, how even when we do good, we may not be doing it for the right reasons.

This is why we need to go back to the promises God has always made people. We need the Spirit to breathe into us life, we need to be set free of what oppresses us. To get to the place where we can take a deep breath, and realize He is God.

And that He has brought us into His presence…. and with Him we are home.

Lord, work in our lives, and through us in our communities. Help us, even with our limitations, to experience Your presence, and Your love. AMEN!

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 577–578.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 141.

Seeing Things from a Different Perspective

can you laugh with Jesus?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
7  Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. 8  “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:7-9 (NLT2)

We do not read anywhere that God delighteth in the cloud-capped mountains, or the sparkling stars, but we do read that he delighteth in the habitable parts of the earth, and that his delights are with the sons of men. We do not find it written that even angels give his soul delight; nor doth he say, concerning cherubim and seraphim, “Thou shalt be called Hephzibah, for the Lord delighteth in thee”; but he does say all that to poor fallen creatures like ourselves, debased and depraved by sin, but saved, exalted, and glorified by his grace. In what strong language he expresses his delight in his people! Who could have conceived of the eternal One as bursting forth into a song? Yet it is written, “He will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.”

2531 Purity of heart will enable us to see God: it enables us even now to see things according to God.

Though their good works are still imperfect and impure, they are acceptable to God through Christ because according to their inmost self they do what is pleasing to God not by coercion of the law but willingly and spontaneously from the heart by the renewal of the Holy Spirit

I am presently taking a class in pastoral counseling. For most, it is their first course in the subject, as it can be taken, and therefore it is good to see the first 3 hours of the course dedicated to helping the students develop listening skills.

But as I read these passages in my devotions, I wondered how developed our listening skills are, when it comes to God? If we don’t listen, how can we ever begin to realize how He sees us, how can we understand the love, and the mercy.

For instance, I have heard part of the quote from Isaiah in more sermons and lectures I can account for. Usually it is something like this, “God is so higher than you, you can never understand His mysteries, you just need to shut up and obey!” But I rarely, if ever, heard it in the context of the generous forgiveness of our sins! That is its context, there is focus of those thoughts that are beyond us! His desire that we turn to Him.

I think that is because we can’t see what the Lutheran Confessions, the Catholic Catechism and Spurgeon all encourage us to see, the way God sees us. If we believe He sees us as pure, we begin to realize that as our reality. Our works then, done to brink Him joy rather than “prove” our righteousness take on a different nature. Most important we bein to realize God rejoices in our lives, and invests in us His love in a way that transforms everything.

Not because we deserve it, love doesn’t give a rip about what is deserved… it instead desires the best for who it loves, and it does everything to help the beloved achieve that!

This is who we are… the beloved of God, the ones whom He sees as His people, and because of the cross as His righteous people, the ones He loves. We may not understand it compeltely, we may struggle to see it His way. But we can experience it, and that experience is strengthened through the hearing and meditating (not studying- meditating) on His word, receiving the sacraments and in prayer.

We need these things, for in them is revealed His thoughts, His mercy and His love.

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

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 605.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 568.

The True Evangelical Life…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

26 Moses knew that the treasures of Egypt were not as wonderful as what he would receive from suffering for the Messiah, and he looked forward to his reward. Hebrews 11:26 CEV

Putting the saint’s observation in simple contemporary terms may help. Bernard was saying that there are more men who give up serious alienation from God, mortal sin, than there are people who give up small wrongs, willed venial sins. And there are even fewer who grow into heroic virtue and live as saints live. If we are not saddened by this realization, we ought to be.

1 The law of God serves (1) not only to maintain external discipline and decency against dissolute and disobedient people, (2) and to bring people to a knowledge of their sin through the law, (3) but those who have been born anew through the Holy Spirit, who have been converted to the Lord and from whom the veil of Moses has been taken away, learn from the law to7 live and walk in the law.

I love to tell the story, for those who know it best; seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest!

Being and Evangelical should not be about a political perspective, To be honest, it shouldn’t even be a theological perspective, as in choosing to be more Reformed, more Arminian, even more Lutheran or Catholic, or catholic.

Being Evangelical is about life, and about our greatest need in life. After reading Dubay’s comments (purple) above, Jackson’s beloved evangelical hymn made more sense to me. I need to keep hearing the gospel, not to celebrate what Jesus has done, but in order to continually be evangelized, to continually be confronted with my guilt, not so I wallow in shame, but because I need the grace of God to be applied to my life today, in this moment.

I need to go from rejoicing and being satisfied that the cross saved me, to imitating Christ. Some might call this sainthood, Wesley would talk about a second infilling of grace. Lutheran theologians talk about it as the Third use of the Law. I prefer Luther’s view of living in the promises made to us in our baptism. Or living the Evangelical life. Letting the news of God’s love, of His mercy being applied and washing away our sin so affect us, that our lives are changed. Not by our actions, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We need to realize that God’s work isn’t done in us, yet. Paul would describe this in several ways in Romans. The battle with old Adam, the struggle with feeling like a wretch because we can’t seem to conquer temptation, even the attitude of some that others must eat the way they do, and worship n the way they do, because they’ve arrived and everyone else has not.

We can’t be passive in our conversion, as if just being saved is enough. Not that we active make ourselves holy, the Spirit does, as the word of God, law and gospel bring us healing. We need to learn to desire that, to rejoice in it, to welcome it, and more than anything else, to expect and look for it.

To become like Moses, who would learn to set aside the things of this world, to embrace the suffering that comes with following God. The suffering of having our hearts circumcised, as sin and its cohorts are cut away. Suffering as we share this incredible joy that is affecting our life with others.

That is what the evangelical life is really about…

Lord, help us to hear anew of Your love and mercy daily, and grant that we would never tire of seeing You at work in our lives… AMEN!

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 12.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 563–564.

Alan Jackson, “I Love to Tell the Story”

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