Category Archives: Augsburg and Trent

There is only one place to go, to find hope

Devotional Thoughts Reminding Us of our Hope in Chirst… while dwelling ina  seemingly broken world.

“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the LORD sees every heart and knows every plan and thought.   1 Chronicles 28:9 NLT

So, too, those who boast of great learning, wisdom, power, prestige, family, and honor and who trust in them have a god also, but not the one, true God. Notice again, how presumptuous, secure, and proud people are when they have such possessions, and how despondent they are when they lack them or when they are taken away. Therefore, I repeat, the correct interpretation of this commandment is that to have a god is to have something in which the heart trusts completely.

When I think of the angels who veil their faces before the God who cannot lie, I wonder why every preacher in North America does not begin preaching about God—and nothing else. What would happen if every preacher just preached about the person and character of God for an entire year—who He is, His attributes, His perfection, His being, the kind of a God He is and why we love Him and why we should trust Him? I tell you, God would soon fill the whole horizon, the entire world.

A third fruit of the night of spirit is the purification of our idea of God, the God of our childhood or the God worshipped by the particular group to which we belong.…

The number of people in the last 24 hours who have mentioned the need for Jesus to come back right now is staggering. Person after person, so disturbed by the grief, by the anxiety, by the brokenness, mention the prayer, “Maranatha,” which simply means, “come Lord Jesus.”

We recognize that His return, and the promise of eternity, seems to be the only hope we have. Perhaps we’ve given up on the idea of creating heaven on earth. The naivete of creating a perfect world—shattered by the events on the daily news.

Life has crushed our dreams and our idols. Luther and Keating sadly point to the necessity of this. Our false gods, our ideas of god that we blindly accept, must die. Otherwise, there is no way for us to gain that most precious commodity: hope.

David, at the end of his life, calls for Solomon to go through such a process. To intimately know God means to know WHO He really is, who He reveals Himself to be. That means Solomon had to have his illusions shattered. He needs to know God, not just have theories and handed down knowledge about God. He needed to know the God David loved and trusted. Solomon needs to go from trusting the God of his father and his ancestors to simply trusting God.

It isn’t easy…. it is necessary….

For only knowing God’s heart and mind toward His people can we find that we actually don’t have to go anywhere for hope.

It is here, for He is here. You dwell in His presence, as do I.

Amid the tears, He holds and comforts us.

Amid the smiles and laughter, He is there as well.

Tozer desired that we get to know Him, and that pastors would help their people get to preach in a way people get to know the God that loves them enough to die on the cross. That we could live… now and eternally.

He’s there, and if you don’t believe it, let’s talk. Let me help you get to know Him..and encourage me to know Him more, while we see Him revealed to us. For then we will know His peace which is beyond reason.

Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism” Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 387.

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), 145.

The Purpose…

Thoughts to encourage us, as we are drawn to Jesus..

Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you. 12  With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever, 13  for your love for me is very great. You have rescued me from the depths of death. Psalm 86:11-13 (NLT2)

I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17  asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. Ephesians 1:16-17 (NLT2)

2  God is my Father! If you meditate on it, you will never let go of this consoling consideration. Jesus is my intimate Friend (another rediscovery) who loves me with all the divine madness of his Heart. The Holy Spirit is my Consoler, who guides my every step along the road. Consider this often: you are God’s… and God is yours.

I show them (the sacraments) due honor when I believe that I truly receive what the sacraments signify and all that God declares and indicates in them, so that I can say with Mary in firm faith, “Let it be to me according to your words and signs” [Luke 1:38].

King David, the writer of the Psalm above, found his identity so enveloped in his intimate friendship with God. So much so that he was called a man whose heart resonated with God’s, for that was his goal. As the church fades in American, we struggle to find to resonate with things. The next book that is right on, the next new believer’s course, the next mission statement, the next strategy of consolidation or repurposing.

Without resonating with the heart of God, none of those options are worth the outcome of a bowel movement.

From his intimate conversations with God, David learns so much of God’s love that he automatically responds with praise. He realizes what God has done, far more than you learn from a theology text, or the latest book written to motivate us to keep trying to do things that are beyond our comfort zones. We see the same heart in Luther’s thoughts on the sacraments. Meditating on them leads Luther to accept, as Mary did, what God has planned and promised. St. Josemaria encourages such meditation as well, as he concludes that when you realize the divine madness that is the love of God, you will never let go of the hope it gives.

You don’t find such love by reading—you have to experience it. That is the idea of knowledge (epiginosko in Greek) . Study alone does not impart such knowledge—it comes by experiencing God’s presence as God reveals and enlightens our hearts. The Apostle Paul, another brilliant man, desires this for his people, and that is what he asks God for, for them.

The purpose of this all – to intimately know God. We all need to experience His presence and love in a way beyond description, but in a way that teaches us.

It is what I desire for myself, as David did.. and what we need to learn to desire, not just for our friends at church, but for all people.

Lord, teach us Who You are… and who we are in Your sight. 

 

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

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), 101.

We need (to be) Committed, Exapendable Believers

Some thoughts for the day

11  There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12  You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13  For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14  Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. Hebrews 5:11-14 (NLT2)

The contemporary moral climate does not favor a faith as tough and fibrous as that taught by our Lord and His apostles. The delicate, brittle saints being produced in our religious hothouses today are hardly to be compared with the committed, expendable believers who once gave their witness among men. And the fault lies with our leaders. They are too timid to tell the people all the truth. They are now asking men to give to God that which costs them nothing.
Our churches these days are filled (or one-quarter filled) with a soft breed of Christian that must be fed on a diet of harmless fun to keep them interested. About theology they know little. Scarcely any of them have read even one of the great Christian classics, but most of them are familiar with religious fiction and spine-tingling films. No wonder their moral and spiritual constitution is so frail. Such can only be called weak adherents of a faith they never really understood.

But this I say for myself: I am also a doctor and a preacher, just as learned and experienced as all of them who are so high and mighty. Nevertheless, each morning, and whenever else I have time, I do as a child who is being taught the catechism and I read and recite word for word the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Psalms, etc. [8] I must still read and study the catechism daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the catechism—and I also do so gladly  Luther’s introduction to the Large Cathechism

Essentially, there are two components in the care of your own soul: God’s word and prayer. The first is the means of the Holy Spirit to sanctify your soul and body. The second is your response; the result of your sanctification, you could say

It took constant effort to keep ourselves in some semblance of peace when we were seeking fantastic goals that were constantly frustrated, setting off the afflictive emotions of anger, grief, fear, pride, lust, greed, jealousy, and the other capital sins. As the false self diminishes and trust in God increases in the night of sense, our energies can be put to better purposes

There was a lot of richness in my readings this morning.

Some of it seems caustic, and the context of Tozer and Luther’s quotes were far more so that what I cut and pasted here. words 50 and 500 years ago still sting, because the church still faces the same challenges it did then, and even back when the church was young, and the Book of Hebrews chided believers for not maturing in their relationship ith God.

Part of me, reading this, wants to figure out to save the church, to find a way to preach so powerfully that the church just finally wakes up and grows up! (It doesn’t help that I’ve been listening to Keith Green music for the last week!) Gosh, if only there was some way to get us all fired up for Jesus!

Luther’s got the idea, echoed by Senkbeil and Keating. Before I see God transform my people and my community, I have to see Him, and allo him to circumcise my heart, to cut away those emotions Keating identifies, as well as the sin. Only the Holy Spirit can remove sin, and its minions—guilt and shame. That is why Luther would go back to basics, to the Prayer, to the word of God, to the Creed, to be reminded of these things that God is doing. That is why Tozer would point people to the heavier classic works of Christianity – not for theological training, but to ask the hard questions. The questions that help us take up and bear our crosses–the truth that we desperately need Jesus.

Not just to remove the stain of sin….

But to walk with us, to be with us,

For then life is sanctified, and our energies are put to a better purpose… for God has removed what isn’t us.

That is the way we become more dedicated, and yet expendable. For what happens to us is not as important. We are expendable because we realize our walk with God is greater than our self-preservation. The more God cuts away that which is not us, the more He recreates us, the more we long for eternal life, and yet the message we communicate becomes a message that convinces people that we walk with God.

Not because of the eloquence of the words, but because we depend God in this life, we know how He provides, and that means more than anything. That is why, despite struggles with sin and doubt, we keep coming back to Him, we keep wanting to hear His voice, and we realize that anyone who knows this can replace us, for the remarkable thing is not that we are witnesses of His glorious love, but the love that we have witnessed. A love that goes beyond anything we’ve known…

A love that changes everything, and mostly changes us.

Expendable simply means that love means more to us than life, because that love is eternal… and it is life.

 

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

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), 380.

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 243.

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), 140.

This is Ministry…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Call to Intimately Know What We Preach…and Hear

So look at Apollos and me as mere servants of Christ who have been put in charge of explaining God’s mysteries. 1 Corinthians 4:1 (NLT2)

Many of us who preach the unsearchable riches of Christ are often pretty dull and hard to listen to.
The freshest thought to visit the human mind should be the thought of God. The story of salvation should put a radiancy in the face and a vibrancy in the voice of him that tells it. Yet it is not uncommon to hear the wondrous message given in a manner that makes it difficult for the hearer to concentrate on what is being said. What is wrong?…

We learn to trust God beyond our psychological experiences. And we become more courageous in facing and letting go of the dark corners of ourselves and begin to participate actively in the dismantling of our prerational emotional programs. We cannot escape from the worldliness that is inside us, but we can acknowledge and confront it. The invitation to allow God to change our motivation from selfishness to divine love is the call to transforming union.

As I’ve suggested, pastors do everything by God’s word. They listen with ears tuned to the word of God, they speak words taught by the Holy Spirit in his word, they pray by means of the word, and they bless by means of the word. By constant exposure to these words of Christ, you begin to see things from his perspective. You develop the eyes and ears of Jesus. You watch and listen with his outlook. And that includes the lost. When Jesus beheld the milling crowd by the shore of Galilee, “He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36). It was a pitiful sight. Sheep without a shepherd are in dire straits. His heart went out to that vulnerable throng.

Tozer’s bluntness is a something I am learning to appreciate. The reading I encountered this morning is the basis for the call to know intimately what we preach – and what we hear. If the message we are going to hear and share is going to be worth all the time invested in prayer, study, and some deep thought about the subject, it needs to be a message worth treasuring.

We must realize that what was true for Apollos and Paul is true for us. We explain the greatest of mysteries, the fact that God loves us, and desires for us to join Him, and share in the glory of Jesus.

That means investing time in deep thought about God -based on what the scriptures teach us. Not just taking it out on Monday or Tuesday to study for this week’s sermon, but reading it for the same reason we desire to share in communion with the people and with God. These are the times where we are so overwhelmed by God that we beg Him to transform us.  For his transforming us comes, not from academic study and planning, but from time spent with Him.

That transformation cannot remain individualistic in scope – that is the point that Senkbeil is making. The more God transforms us, the more we reflect Christ, the more we cannot stand seeing people wander around in bondage of sin, This desire to see them come to find the peace we know infuses our sermons, our Bible studies and our prayers. This infusion transforms the preaching and sharing of Christ with those around us.

Passion returns to the pulpit and to those seated in the church, when God’s word reveals God’s desire for us to be His people, and the works He does which draw us to Him.

Lord, infuse Your pastors with Your outlook, even as Your Spirit works in the hearts of those they serve in the church. Help us all, I pray, to treasure all you have called into existence, that we may know that You love the world, and us in it. 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), 126.

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 223.

The Need of Pastoral Presence…

Thoughts to encourage our running to Jesus, for help, and to adore Him.   

Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him. Acts 8:30-31 NLT

I’m against the idea of putting the “big preachers” on tape and playing them back to the congregations that feel they are being starved by listening to “little preachers.” Fallacy, brethren—a thousand times, fallacy!
If we could have the Apostle Paul on tape recordings and let him stand here and preach, he could do no more for you than the Holy Ghost can do, with The Book and the human conscience.…
Oh, brethren, I would not detract from God’s great men, but I can safely say that that’s not what the church needs.

Yet what God joined together is often divided in contemporary practice. Pastors are increasingly pressured to make a choice. They can either be an evangelist or a shepherd, a missionary or a pastor. Likely you’ve faced some pressure on this yourself either overtly or subtly, asked to choose between two options that are actually false alternatives. It’s usually put this way: Would you rather be a missionary, actively gaining souls for Christ in an increasingly godless world or will you settle for just being a mere chaplain, quietly tending the faithful as a kind of soul custodian? Refuse to play that game. That’s an arbitrary distinction detrimental to the church’s life. It’s time to reject this false dichotomy and set aside the caricatures and exaggerations being lobbed from one camp to the other.

In Tozer’s day, the temptation was to play audio recordings of more famous pastors, instead of listening to less famous, and perhaps less skilled or less charismatic pastors in the community speak Christ into the lives of the people sitting before them.  Today, it is livestreaming the sermon into a local facility, with a staff member or even a pastor acting as a site coordinator.

While I agree with Tozer’s position, I would perhaps phrase it differently, focusing more on what a local pastor, even in a small (30-75) or micro-church (10-30) brings to the people of God gathered together by God.

Senkbeil’s words confront a similar issue – which role does the pastor have in the life of his people or community? By redefining him as one of two choices, eliminating the definition of the role he has as pastor…

To pastor someone, you have to be present. A Pastor has to speak into their lives, therefore a pastor has to laugh and cry with them. A Pastor has to be there to tell them their sins are forgiven, andbe there as they commune – to point out this is the Lamb of God who takes away their sin.

You can learn from a book, or a video, and find some encouragement…but a pastor is needed for the real ministry. A  pastor has to be present in the lives of the people he guides into the presence of God – so they realize God is present. If the pastor is just a disembodied voice, or a charachter on movie screen, the presence is lacking.

Similarly, the pastor is there, but he is there differs from person to person. To some he will be the evangelist, to some the chaplain, to a few he takes on the prophetic role…confronting them in their sin. All of those roles/techniques serve one purpose – as the pastor is used to guide people into the presence and the glory of God from where they are…

If you are are pastor – keep serving – keep speaking about Jesus being presnent in the places you are with your people – that He laughs and cries with them, even as you are laughing and crying with them. ANd that Jesus will sustain them, and the Spirit will help them know the unexplainable love and peace of God.

if you are one of God’s people, find the pastor who does this – no matter how awkward or unpolished he is… but listen to him, – and let him know you are there, investing in his improvement.

and then together – be the church.

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

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 221.

The Pastoral Need for the Lord’s Supper

Thoughts to draw you closer to Jesus…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 123.

The Cure for Spiritual Tantrums…

Why not run here….

Thoughts to encourage running to Jesus!

But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the LORD his God and heal me! 12 Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.
13 But his officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir,* if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it?
2 Kings 5:11-13 NLT

Liberal Protestant theology understood this in a fundamental way when it expressed Jesus of Nazareth as the pure face of the eternal Father’s love beyond the Old Testament’s teaching of the Father who shows two faces, the face of wrath and the face of love.

Step by step, materially then spiritually, as you see from the text, especially as we read on, he is left with only one thread of consolation: the fact that God is God, the Creator who can do whatever he likes; and nobody can say to him, “You can’t do that to me.

….nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing, and therefore they remain in eternal wrath and condemnation. For they do not have the LORD Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Why We Throw Spiritual Tantrums….

He was a grown man, a leader of leaders, appreciated and loved by his king.

Nevertheless, he stomped around and threw a tantrum that would make any 3-year-old proud! Arrogant, proud, and unwilling to admit his need, he was ready to give up his healing. Pride and arrogance are a deadly combination. If not for some of his men’s bravery, he would have spent his life cursed…

At least once a month – usually once a week, I find myself falling into the same trap. Be honest, you do as well. We want what we want when we want it, how we want it, acquired in the manner we planned!

Like Liberal Theology, we want to strip Jesus of his role as judge and only recognize him as the face of what we consider love to be. As He works to heal our brokenness, we tell Him to stop – and say the unthinkable, “you can’t do that to me!” We see it all around us; we’ve learned it well from society! We hear, “you can’t charge us that much for gasoline!”, “you can’t give me a bad grade,” “You can’t let my health fail,” and “you can’t tell me my coping mechanism is a sinful addiction,” “you can’t tell me this behavior, lifestyle, choice are wrong!” The list grows, and we throw more and more tantrums…

The officers that called Naaman to stop whining took a chance. They confronted him because the prophet was speaking for God, who didn’t have to heal him but provided a way he could be healed. They led him to take the step of acknowledging God didn’t have to heal him. He realized God could do it, and God was the one who set the terms.

In our case, the terms are particularly nasty.

“Take and eat; this is my body, broken for you!”

“Take and drink; this is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sin!”

Hearing those words, we know what Luther wanted us to know about Jesus. That is, His mindset toward us – which leaves us confident of His love and the blessing He poured out upon us! He united us with His death and His resurrection.

I know this, and I think you do too… yet we will throw a tantrum today, no later than tomorrow. I pray someone will be there to remind us of the heart of God, and His attitude toward us, which is necessary to facilitate our healing. Tomorrow, the same challenge appears, and the only way out of such sin… is through the cross.

It is difficult to go there, but it is more exhausting not to run there! We actually sometimes need those tantrums, to remember why God is in charge… to know we can hear and recognize His voice, His invitation, His desire to comfort us.

So come, and know you are welcome at the altar.

So stop the tantrum… and drag your Naaman with you…

Hans Urs von Balthasar, Love Alone Is Credible, trans. D. C. Schindler (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 148.

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), 117.

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), 440.

Prayer is like a jacuzzi…

a jacuzzi near a tree
Photo by Erik Mclean on Pexels.com

Thoughts to Encourage Your Devotion to Jesus…

But when you pray, go into your own room, shut your door and pray to your Father privately. Your Father who sees all private things will reward you.” Matthew 6:5 (Phillips NT)

The habit of breaking off our prayers before we have truly prayed is as common as it is unfortunate. Often the last ten minutes may mean more to us than the first half hour, because we must spend a long time getting into the proper mood to pray effectively. We may need to struggle with our thoughts to draw them in from where they have been scattered through the multitude of distractions that result from the task of living in a disordered world.…

First he invites Christians to pray his very own prayer along with him, joining their prayers to his. “Our Father,” he invokes, by these words implying that any Father of his is our Father too. Since we pray in and through Jesus to the almighty Maker of heaven and earth, we have the privilege of approaching him as beloved children

From God’s point of view, it is not accomplishments but efforts that count. If we accept our poverty and limitations, but still go on trying, we will rate higher than everybody else in God’s book, just as the poor widow did.… If we make the effort and receive that one precious point for trying, God can take his pencil and start adding zeros after it.

As I was confronted by Tozer this morning, I struggled with his honesty. I don’t know how often I start to pray or read the scriptures and find my mind wandering off into space. I find myself checking a text, answering an email, or thinking of someone I need to call. Many things demand my attention, and I don’t even struggle to fight them off. I try to justify it by saying I am growing old, and my concentration isn’t what it once was… but that is just a poor excuse.

We need to sink into prayer like we do when we go into a jacuzzi. It requires great patience and the acceptance that it takes a little while to get used to it. But when we do, the comfort it gives, the stress it relieves, and the benefit it brings us are beyond belief. So it is with prayer, the first five to ten minutes are tough. Still, eventually, Satan will tire, and the distractions will dissipate. You will find yourself welcome in this conversation with God.

We need to realize that we belong in that moment. There is a point in entering a jacuzzi when you know you can take the final step in, when the heat has moved up your legs as blood returns to the heart, and you are internally ready. We can boldly enter the water then, and in the same way, as we pray, we get to the point where it just becomes a bold move. We are up to our necks….dwelling deeply – nothing else but our Lord, listening, comforting, directing, healing, empowering.

It takes effort because we are, as Keating notes, poor and limited. What we have to offer doesn’t seem enough. We go on trying, encouraged by the Father of Jesus, our Father, who loves us. And as we struggle, we learn to keep praying, knowing we will find ourselves in a moment with Him. Then we learn it was not about us straining to reach Him but realizing that He came to us.

Distracted as you are praying? Find a quiet place – keep praying… even if it is simply savoring the Lord’s Prayer or personalizing Psalm 8, 23, 139. Keep trying to pray, seek His face, His voice, and His care. You will get there… and then the feeling is incredible…for He is your God, and you are His.

Lord, help us to be patient while we enter the waters of prayer. Help us to keep praying until the distractions pass, and all we know is You and Your love. AMEN!

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

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

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

The meaning of the empty tomb…

8 Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed—9 for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then they went home. John 20:8-10 NLT

This changes the conversation on problems in the ministry immensely. Yet most of us still don’t get it. We keep focusing on visible things and neglect the spiritual. Ironic, isn’t it? You and I both know that most of our work involves things that are invisible, yet very real. No one has ever seen God, after all, and yet you and I daily teach and preach about him to others. We console, comfort, rebuke, and exhort the faithful using the invisible power of the Holy Spirit mediated through the word and sacraments. Forgiveness, peace, holiness, joy, consolation—all these are intangible and beyond the range of the senses, and yet our work revolves almost totally around these invisible things. It’s strange, then, that when confronted with roadblocks and obstacles in ministry we address only things we can see, touch, and measure externally.

But if we view creation with the eyes of love, then we will understand it, despite all the evidence that seems to point to the absence of love in the world. We will understand the ultimate purpose of creation: not only the purpose of its essence, which we seem to make some sense of through the various intelligible relationships among individual natures, but the purpose of its existence in general, for which no philosophy can otherwise find a sufficient reason.

The disciples had a lot to learn, as does every Christian.

But it is not just something discovered in the classroom or found by reading blogs or listening to podcasts. Like the sermons preached every Sunday in a million churches, lectures, lessons, and the ubiquitous podcasts and blogs are heard by the intellect. The “aha” moment that struck up such a passionate response in praise on Sunday is gone by Tuesday, or perhaps Wednesday.

This was true of the disciples – they heard Jesus speak of his death and resurrection. They heard that the seed needs to fall to the ground and die, then life is given to a multitude. They heard all the parables. The Apostle John said that until the moment they entered the tomb… they still didn’t understand the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.

They had to encounter and experience the incredible love of God, at work at the cross, and then,  only then, in the darkest spiritual despair, find the living Lord. The impossible had to happen – they would never understand it until it was experienced. The word of God simply points to that experience, where forgiveness, peace, holiness, joy, consolation – all these things Senkbeil points to and more, flood the life of one who knows Jesus died and rose… for them.

As we encounter Jesus, risen from the dead, life can make sense. Existence is no longer an ordeal to be navigated. It is about God’s love for us and the ability to love He enables in us. That is the ultimate purpose of Creation seen in the empty tomb… we need to know the power of His resurrection – for it is at work in us.

This was done…

for us!

The scriptures reveal this; this is what the sacraments help us experience.

We need to look in the tomb… we need to experience the death and resurrection of Jesus. We need to finally understand…He is Risen, and therefore we are risen indeed!   All praise and glory to our Lord! Amen!

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

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

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