Category Archives: Augsburg and Trent

Is, not Be: The Necessity of realizing God is with you!

Thoughts driving me to the refuge found in the cross of Christ.

Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.
4 But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love,  TItus 3:3-4 NLT

In what I have to say I may not be joined by any ground swell of public opinion, but I have a charge to make against the church. We are not consciously aware of God in our midst. We do not seem to sense the tragedy of having almost completely lost the awareness of His presence.…
Revival and blessing come to the church when we stop looking at a picture of God and look at God Himself. Revival comes when, no longer satisfied just to know about a God in history, we meet the conditions of finding Him in living, personal experience.…

No one knows the Father like the Son because He emerged from the bosom of this Trinitarian Mystery that John says is love. Notice John doesn’t just say God shows love. God is love. This is a huge distinction. The love of God is God. That means it’s not sentimental. It’s incredibly powerful. It’s ruthlessly determined. It’s determined to give itself away at any cost. And one problem we will have with the God who really is, is that he’ll invite us to do the same.

As I write this, I feel rushed, I feel anxious, there are so many things to do to prepare for the weeks to come, there are people I need to see now, there are things I need to figure out how to defuse, and move past.

I didn’t want to do my readings and prayer this morning, or maybe it was I was tempted not to. (Last night Bible Study was on the Lord’s prayer and “lead us not to temptation!”) Satan would love me not to break and spend time…and my own flesh is weary.. and the pressures of the world… well lets not go there.

In the worship service, what some call the mass, there is a phrase often repeated that we need to correct. It sounds like a blessing in modern English, yet it was a statement of fact in the old days.

“The Lord BE with you!” Is how it sounds in most Lutheran and Anglican Hymnals, and in the missals our our brother and sister Roman Catholics.

We need to hear that as “The Lord IS with you!” (and us who guide worship – desperately need to hear, “and also with you!”)

Tozer had it right – to often we enter worship and go all the way through it without giving a thought to the presence of God. That He IS with us, in that moment, a participant in worship–more active even than we are. (side note: as I write this, my grammar checker tells me that the words “the presence of” are not needed for clarity! I think the church has unknowingly done the same! ) We must recognize that we are standing on holy ground.

This is the God of whom Keating is speaking, The God who IS love. A love that is powerful, ruthlessly determined to make Himself known, and willing to give up everything for the benefit of those whom He loves.

I need to know that – as do you. And there are days we desperately need to know this!

We need to know what Paul told Titus about..

We need to see God reveal His kindness and love…and in order to do that, we have to be drawn into His presence. He needs to clean us, teach our hearts and souls and minds that He loves us. If we don’t get that point right, everything else we do as a church is worthless, hopeless, and pitiful.

We have to get HE IS HERE. HE IS with you and me. RIght now, at our desks, or in our work places. He is here to heal, forgive, comfort, lift up, and give us hope. Hope for this life… and for eternity.

He is with you my friends.
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The Lord IS with you!

AMEN!

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), 251.

The “Secret” to Real, Life-changing Worship

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.   Col 2:13–14.  NLT2

25  Please, LORD, please save us. Please, LORD, please give us success. 26  Bless the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27  The LORD is God, shining upon us. Take the sacrifice and bind it with cords on the altar. 28  You are my God, and I will praise you! You are my God, and I will exalt you! Psalm 118:25-28 (NLT2)

What should happen in genuine conversion? What should a man or woman feel in the transaction of the new birth?
There ought to be that real and genuine cry of pain. That is why I do not like the kind of evangelism that tries to invite people into the fellowship of God by signing a card.
There should be a birth from above and within. There should be the terror of seeing ourselves in violent contrast to the holy, holy, holy God. Unless we come into this place of conviction and pain, I am not sure how deep and real our repentance will ever be.

First of all, it is true that not only should Christians regard and recognize as sin the actual violation of God’s commandments in their deeds, but they should also perceive and recognize that the horrible, dreadful, inherited disease corrupting their entire nature is above all actual sin and indeed is the “chief sin.” [6] It is the root and fountainhead of all actual sins.

Paul exhorts us to take for granted that we have already received as a pure gift in baptism all that we need in order to attain salvation by virtue of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. We have only to enter by faith into the kingdom that has already been established in the depth of our spirit and take possession of it. Thus, if we truly give ourselves to God in faith and open our minds and hearts to him, we may begin to find him in the silence of the prayer of faith very quickly

I just received several ads for several events on worship. Some of these were invites from friends, somewhere corporate ads for conferences, with nationally renowned speakers. Each was interesting, and if it wasn’t for working on my dissertation, I would probably attend one or two of these events, probably the ones that are more small group dialogue based, and see worship as more than singing.

As I was reading my devotional readings this morning, I was struck by an old thought.

The power of worship is not based on the music, or how a liturgy is delivered.

The power of worship is a reaction to the power of God, which delivers us from the bondage of sin!

The more we feel the pain caused by our sin, and the “violent contrast to the holy, holy, holy God, the more His merciful healing touch means to us. The more that means to us, the more worship is generated in our soul. This is the point of Tozer, but it is also seen in the quote from the Lutheran Confessions, seen in blue. There we see the incredible debilitating power of original sin, for in that would all other sins are created.

Sin is brutal, and though we know in our minds the cause and the cure, to deal with it is hard. It is painful, and to be honest, we would rather treat the guilt and shame as if it were grief. We will deny we sinned, or that it is as brutally painful as it is. We will try to negotiate or bargain away the pain it causes. We will get angry, at God, at others, and finally, honestly, at ourselves. Our inability to do anything about it can cause severe depression, and ultimately, we have to options to accept.

That we are sinners, so we might as well enjoy it.

Or that God loves us so passionately, so completely, so intimately that He took on that sin, removed it, and brings us into His Kingdom.

All that weight of guilt and shame is gone. The wounds of our sin and the world’s unrighteousness – healed completely! What was broken in our lives is restored completely! Better than the original! What was corruptible is incorruptible, what was mortal, now is immortal!

This is the masterpiece God has made of our lives,

An amazing masterpiece.

Looking in the mirror, seeing our lives as Jesus does, for this is the joy He looked forward to as He died for you an me… is amazing.

It is worthy of all our thanks, and all our praise.

So the secret to powerful, pure worship… is found when we see ourselves as wretches, but realize God saves wretches like us….and so we cry out to Him.

No other sophisticated, choreographed, orchestration compares to knowing the God who loves us is here.

Lord, help us cry out to You, for only you can heal our sin caused wounds. Only You can restore our brokenness. Only Your mercy and love can change us. Help us see Your hand at work… and then, Father, receive our praise and thanks! AMEN!

 

 

 

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

“Article 1: Concerning Original Sin. The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, 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), 533.

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), 231.

I would rather not…yet I must

Thoughts that drag me to Jesus, and to His cross!

9  Then the LORD reached out and touched my mouth and said, “Look, I have put my words in your mouth! 10  Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow. Others you must build up and plant.” Jeremiah 1:9-10 (NLT2)

To offer a sinner the gift of salvation based upon the work of Christ, while at the same time allowing him to retain the idea that the gift carries with it no moral implications, is to do him untold injury where it hurts him worst.

Evangelical churches just as even at the time of the holy apostles horrible errors arose in the same way among those who wanted to be called Christians and boasted of their adherence to the teaching of Christ. Thus, some wanted to become righteous and be saved through the works of the law (Acts 15[:1–29*]); some denied the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15[:12*]); some did not believe that Christ was the true, eternal God [1 John 2:22–23*]. The holy apostles had to confront such teachers sharply in their sermons and writings, although at that time, such highly significant errors and serious controversy would involve a great deal of offense, both to unbelievers and to those weak in the faith.

After the fall he must have said, ‘O God, what has happened to me? I’ve become so blind and deaf. Where have I been?’ I have no doubt that this is what happened. It was a dreadful fall.

Friends of mine have worked with a county rescue unit. Every once in a while they do a rescue that makes the news. The rescue is often daring, using a helicopter to render aid to some hiker or climber that if they didn’t do this work, would have died, alone and broken.

The thing is, to talk about the rescue, you have to know what happened to patient,

For if you are going to be rescued, you need to know the danger you face, and the fact that you can’t get out of the crisis on your own.

All of my readings this morning touched on such crisis moments. From Luther’s perception of Adam’s grief and guilty ridden sorrow, to those being led astray and teaching false or incomplete doctrine. ozer mentions one of those ways of teaching – that somehow omits the idea that repentance includes change. (For my Lutheran readers, those who focus on Article IV of the Augsburg COnfession and ignore Article VI)

The task that God gives Jeremiah, and every prophet, priest and pastor since.  Some people and people groups we need to help realize they are rescued, for they still struggle as if they were lost. Others we have to show how lost and in danger they are. The latter often requires a humbling and painful experience, as reality is regained.

This isn’t easy, often, caught up in sin, or devastated by brokeneness, there is something similar to shock, and denial of their predicament is dominant. To minister to them in love, we have to help them be aware of where they are at, and the consequence of inaction.

Yet this is our blessed role, and at the end of the day, seeing them head for home, forgiven, cleansed and relieved is one of the greatest blessings a minister can experience. God has saved another child,

So for their sake, and to please the Father, preach about people’s real need for Jesus, and His presence and love and ministry to them.

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), 525.

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), 426–427.

May We Never Think This Life Is Normal!

Thoughts that drag me to the cross of His mercy

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 (NLT2)

6  “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant. 7  I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. Isaiah 56:6-7 (NLT2)

In times of extraordinary crisis ordinary measures will not suffice. The world lives in such a time of crisis. Christians alone are in a position to rescue the perishing. We dare not settle down to try to live as if things were “normal.” Nothing is normal while sin and lust and death roam the world, pouncing upon one and another till the whole population has been destroyed.

Paul says, “While we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:11). Thus, according to his view, the passion and resurrection of Christ are going on all the time. They are always present and not limited to an historical moment. It was rather an historical moment which introduced the eternal values of the cross and resurrection into the whole of time. We participate in Christ’s divine life through baptism and the other sacraments. As a consequence, we must learn how to express the risen life of Jesus rather than our false selves in our conduct and relationships.

We also believe, teach, and confess that no church should condemn another because the one has fewer or more external ceremonies not commanded by God than the other has, when otherwise there is unity with the other in teaching and all the articles of faith and in the proper use of the holy sacraments,

I’ve heard people talking about the “new normal” in relation to both COVID and the price of gas. Just get used to things being broken, and hardships, for life is different now. Get used to the new morality, or at least how it is being re-defined.

And the church hears these things and marshals its people to go to war at the ballot box, and on Social Media. I’ve even heard that such times will find us allied with folk we shouldn’t be allied with, for politics and apparently faith makes strange bedfellows.

And once again the Church has entered the wrong war, and is using the wrong weapons.

Because of that, it is losing the war for control over public opinion, and far, far more importantly, we aren’t even in the battle for people’s souls. We are letting them be destroyed, and dare I say, the church is even helping by destroying people’s faith.

Tozer is correct, and we must realize that we always exist in crisis. Add to that the idea of Keating, that our way of battle is not promoting ourselves, but dying to self, that Jesus may be seen, instead of us. That those who are baptized become the evidence of Christ’s death and resurrection. That must be our strategy, that must be our missional value.

How about this for a mission statement for a church?

Making manifest Jesus’ love, by dying to self! 

This is how we see our real enemies, sin, self-centeredness, and Satan defeated.

Our weapons are simply, the early Lutherans identified them as all that is necessary for church unity.

Teaching people what they need to know about Jesus, and sharing Him through Baptism, Absolution and the Lord’s Supper.

Each of these sacraments helps us see how we died to self and have risen in Christ. Each shows us the love and mercy of God. They do so for they are commissioned by Jesus to deliver that promise.

You want the world to change? You want everyone to do what is right? You want to win the war we are in?

Know Jesus, experience His love poured out on you… share that victory with others, seeing them freed from what Christ has freed you- not from – but to… to share in the glorious love of God.

For that … should be what we consider normal.

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), 223.

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), 516.

Pay Attention! You (and yours) ARE NOT FORGOTTEN!

Thoughts that drag me backt to Jesus and the cross…

“Pay attention, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I, the LORD, made you, and I will not forget you. 22  I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” Isaiah 44:21-22 (NLT2)

For if Christ by the touch of his most innocent flesh has hallowed all waters, yes, even all creation, through baptism, how much more has he by the same touch of his most innocent flesh and blood sanctified every form of death, all suffering and loss, every curse and shame for the baptism of the Spirit, or the baptism of blood!

Perhaps we can understand Jesus’ identity as the Son of God more clearly by thinking of him in terms of the revelation of the Trinity. That revelation affirms what the mystics of all religions have intuited: that the ultimate nature of infinite being is love. God, the ultimate reality, the absolute, in a way beyond our comprehension, is a community of persons. As the Father has life in himself and pours it into his Son, and they rejoice in it together in the procession of the Holy Spirit, so the Son who has life in himself, shares the divine life with the whole human family through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and invites everyone to the banquet of eternal life.

There are days I need to go back, and think through who God is. If I don’t understand that, there is no way I get through life.

Buddha supposedly said, “Life is suffering.” In the 1980s, someone revised it a little, saying, “Life’s a *itch, and then you die.” Without knowing God, without knowing HIs heart, these fatalistic statements are all there is….

But if I can process who Jesus is, how the God-man dynamic works, I can’t say I understand, but I begin to know… God wants me to know He loves you… and even me. As I realize that God, that Jesus came to us… with one purpose, to gather us to the Father. That here, HIs cross provides that point were everything heals, become holy, becomes healthy.

Theology doesn’t unlock every deep thought, every mystery of the faith. But it gives me enough understanding where I can see the importance of what is experienced. Luther’s comment about baptism not just make us holy, but making holy even every minute of suffering and death is like that. Christ’s death changes it all…

And allowed us to be returned to God…

He never forgot about us. He could not!

ANd on a Monday, this is the message I need to experience…. even if I can’t understand how or why…

Jesus is God, He’s come… and therefore, you are never forgotten!

 

 

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 142.

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), 220.

Do We Dare Ask This Question?

Thoughts which draw (or drag me) to Jesus… and His cross

1  “Look at my servant, whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, who pleases me. I have put my Spirit upon him. He will bring justice to the nations. 2  He will not shout or raise his voice in public. 3  He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. 4  He will not falter or lose heart until justice prevails throughout the earth. Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.” Isaiah 42:1-4 (NLT2)

How does this come to pass? Surely, it comes to pass when you hear that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, has by his most holy touch consecrated and hallowed all sufferings, even death itself, has blessed the curse, and has glorified shame and enriched poverty so that death is now a door to life, the curse a fount of blessing, and shame the mother of glory. How, then, can you be so hardhearted and ungrateful as not to long for and love all manner of sufferings now that these have been touched and bathed by Christ’s pure and holy flesh and blood and thus have become holy, harmless, wholesome, blessed, and full of joy for you?

Oh, how can we get men and women around us to realize that God Almighty, before the beginning of the world, loved them, and thought about them, planning redemption and salvation and forgiveness?

When divine love overflows from the interior life of the Trinity into our hearts, it immediately confronts our false selves, and we experience conflict. A struggle arises between this pure goodness—sheer giving—and the ingrained possessiveness, aggressiveness, and self-seeking which are so characteristic of us in our present condition. Thus, at the very heart of life is the challenge of sacrifice; of dying to our present condition in order to move to a higher level of life. This can only happen by letting go of the false self. Suffering and death are not enemies, but doors leading to new levels of knowledge and of love

Tozer’s question (in green) annoys me.

Primarily because the church today, including me and mine, does not ask it enough. THere are days I am not sure we care enough to ask it.

We need to ask it—and we need to find the answer.

My thought is that we need to find the answer first. We see signs of it in both Luther’s and Keating’s writings from my devotions this morning. They both talk about the impact of Christ’s presence and love in our lives. That as Jesus touches our wounds, our brokenness, they take on the same rich holiness that His wounds did on the cross, and at the resurrection.

And seeing His glory all of life and even those pains and torments become blessings.

For through them, we reach out to Him in our despair, and He lifts us up, and heals us. They become contacts points for His knowing His presence, for we don’t look for it at other times. This allows us to sacrrifice our pain, our resentment, our thirst for justice, all that which feeds our basic desires for self-preservation.

The freedom that follows is that which Isaiah prophesied would happen because of God’s chosen Servant, whom we know is Jesus. That prophesy’s subject is what Tozer wants to know how to communicate.

I think the only way is to make the church so aware of what it has… for a church that knows God thinks about them, cares for them and loves them.

If we know that, we can’t stop talking about Him, trying to help others receive the blessings of seeing HIs presence revealed to them.

 

 

 

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 141–142.

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), 218.

The Difference Between Singing Praise Songs and Worship.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

15  But what could I say? For he himself sent this sickness. Now I will walk humbly throughout my years because of this anguish I have felt. 16  Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live! 17  Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from death and forgiven all my sins. 18  For the dead cannot praise you; they cannot raise their voices in praise. Those who go down to the grave can no longer hope in your faithfulness. 19  Only the living can praise you as I do today. Each generation tells of your faithfulness to the next. Isaiah 38:15-19 (NLT2)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ lays hold on us with all the authority of sovereign obligation. It says that the Christian church is to go and make disciples—to go and make disciples of all nations. The moral obligation of the resurrection of Christ is the missionary obligation—the responsibility and privilege of personally carrying the message, of interceding for those who go, of being involved financially in the cause of world evangelization

“Pray! For hope no longer lies in arms but in God. If anybody defends us against the Turk,18 the poor children who pray the Our Father will. Our wall and firearms and all the princes will probably leave the Turk untouched. I told the master builders too, ‘Dear Sirs, why are you spending so much time building? Unless prayers build a wall that declares that angels surround you with protection, your wall is worthless.

As I am pursuing a doctoral degree in worship, talking to people has been interesting.

They think this is a music degree, that it has to do primarily with the instruments I play, and the songs I have written.

It doesn’t.

My breakfast with a friend this morning was an experience of worship as much as when I pick up my guitar and play with our liturgical band on Sunday morning. As we talked about the brokenness we’ve witnessed (and went at the side of others!) As we talked about where God has guided us on very unique tracks to where we serve, him in the public sector, me in the church, there was a sense of what Hezekiah talked of in the scripture passage from Isaiah above.

We’ve experienced it all, the need to be humbled, the oppressive anguish, the discipline (corrective action) taken, I have had the challenges to health, he’s witnessed others experience them, and we’ve seen God deliver us from it all.

Sharing that is worship. Appreciating, even being in awes of how God has guided us is praising and glorifying God. I left a little less tired, a little more able to expect to see God’s work today, a little more determined to pray before the actions I know are coming, and less time building the walls which cannot protect me.

Tozer talks of a sovereign obligation to be missional—that because of the resurrection, we must share the hope born from experiencing God. I agree there is a need for that action, but I don’t think it is as much a moral obligation as we think of obligations, something done in repayment of something that has benefited us. Rather, it is as a subconscious spiritual compulsion to love those we are sent into the midst of, for surely God has done sent us into these places.

Surely singing is part of this, how this attitude is formed, how it buries itself deep in our sub-conscious, along with hearing the word of God and receiving the sacraments. The Holy Spirit uses all of this to form us in a way where the life of worship is just part of who we are. We struggle with it of course, allowing sin and the brokenness we observe to distract us temporarily us from our life in Jesus. Even then, God is at work, delivering us, calling us back,  and getting our attention.

And because of that, with Hezekiah and all who have been re-born in baptism and faith, we worship Him. In sanctuaries, and our homes, and even over breakfast at Polly’s.

God is good.. and He is with us!

 

 

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), 419.

Why is Spiritual Growth such a Long Ordeal?

Thoughts that drag me close to Jesus

Three different times, I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Co 12:8–10.  NLT

When the doctor’s (Luther) wife exclaimed, “How can people be so wicked and defile themselves with such sin!” the doctor said, “Ah, dear Katy, people don’t pray,” and then he added, “I think if God had commanded women to take on every man who happened along and in like manner commanded men to take every woman who came by—in short, if things were the opposite of what they are—people would earnestly have sighed for the institution of marriage.

Our lofty idealism would argue that all Christians should be perfect, but a blunt realism forces us to admit that perfection is rare even among the saints. The part of wisdom is to accept our Christian brothers and sisters for what they are rather than for what they should be.…

The Gift of Understanding reveals what is hidden in the major truths of Christian doctrine. The Gift of Understanding perfects, deepens, and illumines faith as to the meaning of revealed truth, adding new depths to the mystery to which we consent. For instance, it could be some aspect of the Holy Trinity or the greatness of God. It could be the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. It could be the infinite mercy of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In other words, it is not merely the affirmation of something we believe and assent to. A characteristic of the Gift of Understanding is that it provides a kind of living experience of the mystery.

Luther’s wife and Tozer would have gotten along well! Both of them could voice their frustration with people who don’t mature in Christ, who still struggle, and sometimes embrace the sin that defiles them. Tozer had to remind himself and the church that Christians aren’t perfect, not even the holiest of us.

This doesn’t mean that we use some trite phrase to excuse the sin and unrighteousness that we should have set aside! “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven,” is one of them, which seems to allow for Christians to have the freedom to go and sin some more!

Nor do I think we should use what Luther jokes about, a kind of reverse psychology/spirituality that encourages people to feast on their sins till they make them sick to their souls. That didn’t work when my dad tried to teach me the evils of drinking, it won’t work with sin either. Luther’s point is that it wasn’t the sin, it was that whatever is labelled good – whatever is encouraged, our sinful nature will rebel against it!

For me, the frustration of this is one of my weakest points. I am not the most patient person, and I hate seeing myself or others endure the consequences of our own sin and sin nature. TO watch this over and over, to watch people make bad choices for themselves over and over, leaves me dry, worn out, burnet out.

Oddly enough, that is when God works the best.

That is when those blessed sacramental, incarnational moments occur.

It is when people begin to live in the mysteries, especially the sacramental ones, where they experience the love and acceptance of God so profoundly that they (and their pastor/friend) are in awe, and lose the ability to talk.

Those are the moments when we realize how sufficient, how effective, how precious the grace of God is.

I only wish I could say with Paul that I always treasure my weakness, that when I experience them I know something astonishing is about to take place. I wish I could say that, and it is a lesson that is being taught to me, over and over and over…

And Jesus never fails to amaze me, as those moments that impact others come out of moments of my most profound ineptness, weakness, and sense of failure. In those moments, when God’s grace is so manifest – the spiritual growth is amazing as its lack was disturbing.

He is here! He is God! He is guiding and caring for us!

and in that, I can rejoice, and find rest, and praise Him.

I pray the same for you! And then I will rejoice in what God is doing in our lives. That is our moments of weakness, and in our moments of frustration with other’s weakness, we can remember God is at work… and He is creating masterpieces of our lives.

 

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), 415.

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), 209.

The Myth of Self-Control (and the life hack we need!)

Thoughts that draw me closer to Jesus:

Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people; come near and rescue me.
5 Let me share in the prosperity of your chosen ones. Let me rejoice in the joy of your people;
let me praise you with those who are your heritage. Psalm 106:4-5 NLT

The ninth Fruit of the Spirit is Self-control. Self-control as a fruit of the Spirit is not the domination of our will over our emotions. It is rather our awareness of God’s abiding presence and is the result of the infusion of God’s steadfast love. Hence our former compulsive reaching out for security, affection and esteem, power and status symbols ceases.

The others, however, who are not so callous and dissolute but would like to be good, should not absent themselves (from the Eucharist), even though in other respects they are weak and frail. As St. Hilary has also said, “Unless a person has committed such a sin that he has to be expelled from the congregation and has forfeited the name of Christian, he should not exclude himself from the sacrament,” lest he deprive himself of life.

Keating’s words are powerful, for they recognize the truth.

If self control is a matter of will-power, I might as well give up now.  There are too many points where self control is overwhelmed. The desires we have will eventually break us down and overwhelm us. Hunger and Lust are two examples – if we feed them to often, or not enough, they will dominate us, wanting to be fed, or fed more. Other desires include a need for recognition, a need to be valued. That is where security comes from – the position of having meaning, knowing we are needed in a place, by those around us.

Simply put, if we are needed, our place in life is secure.

The problem is when we feel we aren’t needed, then all our desires run rampant, and we become open to addictions of every sort.

Keating makes self-control focus not on man’s will-power, but the infusion and enlightment that comes as the Spirit inswells in us. No longer do we need to be needed, for we know God has a place for us. We no longer need to be valued by the world, because again – He shows us our value as He sends Jesus to the cross, and to the altar. THe more aware of HIs presence in our lives, the less we are needy for others to recognize us.

Hence the Psalm’s cry, for God to come nearer, for God to include us. It is a cry for that security, that recognition, for the need to be valued.

Luther nails it as well, in describing who should come to the Lord’s Supper. It is the life-hack for those who are empty, broken, feeling worthless, and therefore are out of control. There reconciliation and rehabilitation happen, as God lovingly pours peace into our lives. That is why Luther welcomes believers who are struggling. In fact, he encourages them, reminding them they are the reason the feast exists.  He quotes Hilary saying this is where we find life!  Even as our life began anew when we were baptized, so we find renewal as the Father gives us Christ’s body and blood.

This is who we are, this is our security, that God Himself has paid the highest cost to make us HIs own people, and brings this reminder to us as often as we are drawn to HIs altar. This is where healing happens, and reconciliation, and where peace is poured out – because we are valued by God. It is where we know best the presence of God, the presence that floods through us and helps us realize – nothing comes close to feeding us like this.

Lord, help us to find our life in You, as we receive Your body and Blood frequently. And may our desire for these moments grow, and overwhelm all other desires as You provide for all our needs. 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), 195.

Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism: The Sacrament of the Altar”, 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), 473.

Revival IS Coming… but what until then?

Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus… and closer to the cross

 “Now, O LORD my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. 8  And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! 9  Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?” 10  The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. 11  So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— 12  I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! 13  And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! 14  And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.” 1 Kings 3:7-14 (NLT2)

As I say, I have been sitting on these boards for many years, and there are always two kinds of board members: those who can see the miracle and those who can only see their calculators and their strings of calculations.…
The people with the calculators have seen the problem, but they have not seen God. They have figured things out, but they have not figured God in.

Then somebody said, “Yet Paul seems to distinguish, Doctor, when he declares, ‘Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved’ [Rom. 10:10].”
The doctor replied, “Here confession means perseverance, for St. Paul means to say, ‘Faith must express itself and be confessed, and one must abide in it, otherwise faith disappears again.

The eighth Fruit of the Spirit is Long-suffering (patience). Long-suffering is certitude in God’s unwavering fidelity to his promises. Our security is no longer based on anything we might possess or accomplish, but rather on our conviction of God’s unfailing protection and readiness to forgive.

As we wait for the coming revival, there are many things that challenge God’s people.

Enrollment at many seminaries is dwindling, Christian colleges and universities are struggling as well to recruit many more who they can HELP prepare for ministry.

Many mid size churches, in decline prior to  COVD (and in denial about that) are not rebounding after COVID. Smaller churches are struggling, and are often told to give up. (It may be phrased in more noble words, but the message is still the same)

People are dealing with more trauma, more polarization, and being put under great pressure to compromise and approve of sin. This is not new, but where it was “Don’t ask, don’t tell” I have had people tell me it is no longer “right” to even think this way. Or if I do, I recognize the consequence, that my thoughts mean I cannot be their friend anymore.

Tozer’s accountants have taken over. The context is Phillip’s comments about the cost of feeing the crowds that had gathered to hear Jesus speak. He saw the problem; he saw the cost. He overlooked that God was there…with him. Feeding the 5000 wasn’t the primary mission of Christ, but it was part of the journey.

Dealing with our day to day needs must be done, and sometimes it seems about as hopeless as feeding 15000 people with a few hamburger buns and two filet of fish patties.

That brings me back to the dilemma. DO we live by the calculator, or do we persevere–depending on the providence of God.  Do we confess with Luther that God redeems and restores, even that damaged by sin, or do we give up, and walk away? Do we walk with Keating as well, who also brings into play God’s redeeming action destroying sin.

We must continue to trust God, we must continue to treasure the gifts of love poured out through His words and sacraments. We have to pray for the simple wisdom of Solomon, rather than pray for the earthly victories we think we must have.

For God will take care of the lesser tings. Miracles will happen, people will see their lives transformed, ours will be transformed as we walk with Jesus, as we depend on Him. It is from that kind of faith. Solomon wanted something more, something that calculators couldn’t measure, but his people would be able to see affected them more than money. Revival doesn’t happen because planners and accountants see it is time. It happens because people depend on God and look for His appearing.

That is what we need now, a confidence in God that spawns wisdom, that tells us when to put the calculators away, that rejoices in the amazing things God is doing, for He loves us.

Lord Jesus, help us to be aware of Your presence and providence, and may that awareness cause our faith to deepen until we see revival break forth, and people return to you. AMEN!

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), 402.

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), 194.

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