Category Archives: Book of Concord
A Hard Devotional Thought for these Days
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided his clothes and cast lots. Luke 23:34 CSB
It appears that too many Christians want to enjoy the thrill of feeling right but are not willing to endure the inconvenience of being right.
Therefore the entire sum of what it means not to kill is to be impressed most explicitly upon the simple-minded. In the first place that we harm no one, first, with our hand or by deed. Then, that we do not employ our tongue to instigate or counsel thereto. Further, that we neither use nor assent to any kind of means or methods whereby any one may be injured. And finally, that the heart be not ill disposed toward any one, nor from anger and hatred wish him ill, so that body and soul may be innocent in regard to every one, but especially those who wish you evil or inflict such upon you.
I knew what was coming today in my Bible reading.
It made me want to delay it as much as possible.
The words from the cross above frustrate me… significantly frustrate me. Especially if the Apostle Paul’s words are echoing through my mind at the same time.
Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 CSB
Yesteday, I was planning the service for the day after the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Flashing across my news feed and social media were call for revenge, including a horrific prayer for it to have quickly, to wipe out a people. It wanted revenge, not justice, and definitely not mercy.
And my first reaction was to agree, even as it soured my stomach… and I knew it was wrong.
Did I mention following Jesus was inconvenient?
Another line from the Scriptures, this time from Jesus,
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45a (NLT2)
This isn’t just inconvenient… I don’t even have the words.
It is more tha just difficult, it is impossible… at least for me.
Never mind those who have killed people in what they consider war… this is true for those in all sorts of positions. Some actively hate, some unintentionally hurt (how could they not see their own narcicism?)
But on this day, as I read of Jesus on the cross, I realize again how much I have to be united to that cross, to let my narcicistic self die there, and rise to life with Him. How that means I give up my desire for revenge (though I call it justice – let’s be honest here) I need His mercy, I need His love…
I need Him to heal me of my hurt.
This isn’t about being weak, about not standing up for what is right and wrong. Luther’s quote makes that clear – we can’t let our hearts be ill-disposed, but rather we need to lift these enemies to the Lord in prayer, and desire, as God does, that they come to repentance. That’s not being weak….
It is accepting the inconvenience of following Christ, and realizing that Him joy
As we do, it will take prayer, it will take a lot of thought about the cross, and the grave, and why Jesus, for the joy set before Him,… set aside revenge… and loved.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, trans. F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau (n.p.: WORDsearch, 2003).
Devotional Thought of the Day
2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 (NLT2)
Whoever, therefore, gives himself up to obedience, must needs detach himself totally from his own opinion. “What though each one,” says St. Francis de Sales, “has his own opinions, virtue is not thereby violated; but virtue is violated by the attachment which we have to our own opinions.”1 But alas! this attachment is the hardest thing to part with; and hence there are so few persons wholly given to God, because few render a thorough submission to obedience.
True faith requires that we believe everything God has said about Himself, but also that we believe everything He has said about us. Until we believe that we are as bad as God says we are, we can never believe that He will do for us what He says He will do.
It is one of our modern idols.
It’s not made of gold or wood, or bronze, but it is as surely an idol for modern times.
We believe we have the right to our opinions, we believe we have the right to think and say whatever comes to mind.
Not only do we believe we are entitled to our opinions, but the world is entitled to them as well. And we will freely tell in them on our Instagram page, our Twitter, our Facebook page, and our blogs.. (err…hmmmm)
De Ligouri had it write when talking about the need to slay these idols, and this attachment is the hardest thing to part with in our lives. It cannot save us, it cannot bring healing to our lives, it cannot be trusted, swayed by our emotion, and our fallen logic.
Our opinion can create a false sense of pride, or it can abuse us. THat is why Tozer reminds us to believe what God has said about us, both that we are bad, and that He can take care of that…. and has. Only dwelling in Christ, believing in God’s opinion do owe find what we truly need, and then with that, we find His comfort and His peace. When we lay aside our opinion, and seek Christ, we see things far differently, for His opinion matters, and ours is revealed for what it is… and falls aside.
Lord, this day, take into captivity any thoughts, any opinions which are not from You. Renew our hearts, souls and minds by the power of Your Spirit, and help us to enjoy the peace and comfort there is, as our minds reflect the mind of Jesus. Amen!
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gcill & Son, 1887), 410.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Come and see the wonders of God; his acts for humanity are awe-inspiring. Psalm 66:5 (CSBBible)
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:26 (CSBBible)
When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross, when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly; we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
When somebody inquired whether a person [under the papacy] would be saved if he had not embraced this teaching of ours, he [Martin Luther] replied, “I really don’t know. God might have had regard for his baptism. This could do it. Even so, I have seen many [monks] die with a crucifix held before their eyes [as was then customary]. In spite of everything else, the name [of Christ] proved to be effective on their deathbed.”
When Jesus comes to the soul in Holy Communion, he brings to it every grace, and specially the grace of holy perseverance. This is the principal effect of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, to nourish the soul that receives it with this food of life, and to give it great strength to advance unto perfection, and to resist those enemies who desire our death.
Most of my college professors were focused on reading, studying, and preaching the Bible verse by verse. That is called exegetical preaching. Exegesis is the art of drawing the message from the text. All the professors taught this way, except one, my preaching professor. He would criticize me to no end, saying that “unless you preach the gospel, you may have given a good message, but you haven’t preached. And that gospel requires you to bring them to the cross. (Doug Dickey, multiple times in 1984-1986. He wanted you to include God’s grace, God’s love, God’s mercy, and if you didn’t – back to the library you went until you did!
I think that needs to be a rule, not only for preaching but for worship. We need to bring the people of God to the cross – We need to be there as well! Oh, do those who preach and lead worship need to come to the cross! We need to see with the Psalmist – the wonders of God as He acts on our behalf! We need to see Him take on death and destroy it! We need to see Him triumphant over our sin! That is why the Lord’s Supper explains the giving of Christ’s Body and His Blood shed for us! The entire service needs to focus there to journey with the cross throughout the week!
The cross needs to be there; the sermon and the sacrament need to draw us to Jesus! Look at the monks Luther describes, as they die, they just wanted to focus on the crucifix, to be in awe of God’s love for His people.
Can you preach verse by verse and still proclaim the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus? I believe so, but will the cross and the resurrection be your primary focus? The same question may be asked to those who preach topically,
who do a series on marriage or faith. Or those who preach from the pericope, the rotation of verses over 1 or 3 years. You must go to the scriptures, see how they point to Jesus, and work on that passage until you figure out how! The same as the worship service is formed, how does each song, each reading, each prayer draw people into Christ and make them more aware of His love! Of course, the decision on whether to offer commune fits there as well! Where else is the work of God as manifest at that moment, as people commune with the Body and Blood of Christ? (1 Cor. 10:16)
It is not preaching unless Christ crucified is revealed, nor is it worship if we are not brought to that cross in awe and celebrate that death was for us. This is why we gather… this is the refreshment given. It is time to celebrate!
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 125.
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), 87–88.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 224.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 He did what was right in the LORD’s sight just as his father Amaziah had done. 5 He sought God throughout the lifetime of Zechariah, the teacher of the fear of God. During the time that he sought the LORD, God gave him success. Chron. 26:4-5 CSB
18 A large number of the people—many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun—were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passoverb contrary to what was written.c But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good LORD provide atonement on behalf of 19 whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God,d the LORD, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” 20 So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people 2 Chron 30:18-20 CSB
Many Christians submit to great fatigue, and expose themselves to many dangers, to visit the places in the Holy Land where our most loving Saviour was born, suffered, and died. We need not undertake so long a journey, or expose ourselves to so many dangers; the same Lord is near us, and dwells in the church, only a few steps distant from our houses. If pilgrims, says St. Paulinus, consider it a great thing to bring back a little dust from the crib, or from the holy sepulchre in which Jesus was buried, with what ardor should not we visit the Most Blessed Sacrament, where the same Jesus is in person, and where we can go without encountering so much fatigue and so many dangers!
God does His work by the operation of the Spirit, while Christian leaders attempt to do theirs by the power of trained and devoted intellect. Bright personality has taken the place of the divine afflatus.
I have been blessed to visit Rome, and pray in many of the churches there. Some I found irresistable, such as the church in the Villa Tevere, and the church that was made our of the home of St. Francis of Assissi. I have preached in China as well, and found in a little church along a small canal the same sense of being in a refuge, being in a sanctuary. There was something special about those places.
De Ligouri’s words therefore resonate with me, although his visit to the Most Blessed Sacrament and mine differ – for his is the Eucharist in a monstrance, to contemplate upon in prayer. Mine preference is to find that same thing as the people of God receive the Body and Blood of Christ, in and under the bread and wine.
In either situation, seeking the Lord is not about encountering physical torment. That may be needed, and it may not be. The challenge is what Is mentioned in Chronicles, being taught the fear/awe of the Lord. Be able to know that we should be terrified, as we are sinners gathering in the presnce of the Holy. At the same time, realizing in awe that God still accepts us anyway. He will deal with our sin… and still welcome us.
And welcoming that teaching is part of our journey. To allow God to inspect our lives, the deepest parts, to let Him find what lurks within, and carefully cut it away. To admit, as Hezekiah and His crew did, that we aren’t ready to enter into the feast, and to cling to a God who is merciful.
That is our journey… that is our hope.
This God of ours… and make no mistake, He is ours, for the Holy Spirit walks with us on this journey. Note the healing that was done to Hezekiah’s crew? That is being done in our lives today… making us right and whole, so that we would be welcomed in the presence of God.
It is a hard journey to make, for we don’t know what lurks within us. We just recognize the Spirit’s work, especially as we bow and kneel with others at the rail… and receive Christ again,
It doesn’t matter where… the Holy Land, Rome, Jiangmen, Macao, Cerritos or Lawrence, Mass.
He is our God, and we find refuge, sanctuary, and serenity as we feast with Him, and His people.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 181.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Devotional Thought for the Day:
53 Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth: if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in yourselves. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them to life on the last day. 55 For my flesh is the real food; my blood is the real drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them. John 6:53-56 (TEV)
The sermon is part of the “Eucharistic transaction.” As Williams (Rowan Williams – Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury) says, “We are there at the Eucharist so that we may be changed into [the likeness of Jesus Christ], from glory to glory. We are not there to change certain things in the world, which we then adore from a distance. We are there so that the transubstantiation may occur in us.” Preaching itself has a sacramental quality in radical orthodoxy because its subject matter is transformation. The very act of talking about such transformation is itself a part of the transformational event.
Let us ask our Lord that we may be souls who are ready to work with a heroism that proves fruitful. For there is no lack of people here on earth who, on being approached, turn out to be nothing but large, shiny, glossy leaves. Foliage, just foliage and nothing more. Meanwhile, many souls are looking to us, hoping to satisfy their hunger, which is a hunger for God. We must not forget that we have all the means we need. We have sufficient doctrine and the grace of God, in spite of our wretchedness.
Likewise, they teach that one holy church will remain forever. The church is the assembly of saints in which the gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly.
There is a lot of talk, during COVID, that the church will never be the same after it is over. That at least one-third to one-half of the people who have not been to church durign this time will not come back again. They will simply sit at home, in their pajamas, drinking their coffee and watch church on YouTube.
I understand the concern, and the anxiety in this time. How do you keep a church going if the people don’t gather together? Some may think I am talking about the organization, So they plan how people can be the church without the organization.
I am not talking about the organization, and that is why I think the anxiety is pessimistic, and more than that, I believe it is wrong. If forgets what the church is.
You see, it is never, nor has it ever been about the structured organization. It is about the gathering, about being in the presence of God, together. About the communication and communion with God. What Williams talks about as the Eucharistic moment, the time for the transformation of sinners into saints, about what they are calling the moment of transubstantiation in us, those who believe and depend and cry out to the God who has come into our lives.
That is why a church broadcast can, for a time, temporarily fill the gap. But long range, people need the altar to come to and commune. That is why the Lutheran confessions talk about the church being where the gospel is proclaimed and where the sacraments are distributed. Communication and Communion, the presence of Christ with us all.
This is the church… and as those who preach and lead realize that people will return, hungry for the Word and the Sacrament, and sharing in it. And from here, we will go out into the world, to gather others to Jesus, to share in that sweet Communion.
Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 63.
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
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), 43.
Devotional Thought of the New Year
5 Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to GOD.” Suddenly the pressure was gone— my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. Psalm 32:5 (MSG)
Brother Lawrence expressed the highest moral wisdom when he testified that if he stumbled and fell he turned at once to God and said, “O Lord, this is what You may expect of me if You leave me to myself.” He then accepted forgiveness, thanked God and gave himself no further concern about the matter.
“Tell the backslider,” says the Lord, “I am married unto him.” Was there ever a tenderer message?
My beloved Jesus, I am not yet perfect; but Thou canst make me perfect. I am not dear to Thee, and it is my own fault, because I have been ungrateful and unfaithful; but Thou canst make me become so, by inebriating me this morning with Thy love.
Gracious and Exalted Savior, we are not worthy to receive the mercy and goodness which Thou dost give us, and on account of our sins are far too unclean and weak rightly to receive this salutary gift. Sanctify us therefore in body and soul by Thy Holy Spirit; prepare us and adorn us with grace to draw near Thy holy Table.
What a way to start a year… with such refreshing prayers of de Ligouri and Loehe, a Catholic Mystic and a Lutheran Pastor. Add in Tozer quoting Brother Lawrence, a protestant quoting Roman Catholic lay monk, and the message is reinforced again. And yet, that is the only way to beging a year….
To realize our imperfection, and our hope!
Such is the way of Christ, who knew our sin, and still died for it. He knew our struggling with it, and sends the Holy Spirit.
It is no wonder deLigouri talks about God causing us to be inebriated to be drunk on the love He pours into us. To be dressed in the very grace of God, to be clothed with jesus.
This has been the way… it has been planned since the beginning, and sinners have become holy by experiencing the giddiness, the feeing lightheaded, that happens as the burdens of guilt, shame and resentment are lifted off of you.
This is how we need to start the new year. This is what you need to experience throughout 2021… It is what I need more than anything as well….forgiveness, pressures and burdens lifted….
God with us…
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 89.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 31–32.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Be careful to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 You are to labor six days and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. Do not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey, any of your livestock, or the resident alien who lives within your city gates, so that your male and female slaves may rest as you do. Deuteronomy 5:12-14 CSB
For this reason, holy souls endeavor to remain as long as possible in prayer after Communion. The Venerable Father Avila, even when he was given his missions, used to remain for at least two hours in prayer. Father Balthasar Alvarez used to say, that we should set great value on the time after Communion, imagining that we hear from the lips of Jesus Christ himself the words that he addressed to his disciples: But Me you have not always with you.
It is not advisable, as many do, to begin to read immediately after Communion: it is then better to spend at least a short time in producing holy affections, and in conversing with Jesus, who is then within us, and in repeating many times words of tenderness, or some feeling prayer.
We are living out the joy of walking with Jesus, of being with Him, of carrying his cross with love, with a spirit that is always young!
For a few months now, we have worshipped as a church outside. At first, the hot summer temperatures were a challenge. Those have been replaced by the challenges posed by the cool Southern California winter. There have been challenges with smoke from fires, and a couple of rainstorms.
But what I think is the greatest challenge is the missing altar rail.
Outside, there is a parade by the pastor, the deacon who serve the people of God the body and blood of Christ. A spiriutal conveyor belt without time to pause, to contempalte, to let the presence of Christ’s body and blood be appreciated, reveled in, amazed at.
We go through the line, return to our seats and wait for the service to continue….
Especially during advent, where we left the altar open for peopel to stay as long as they needed. To find in that pause of time, the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the amazing mercy of Christ. The chance to pour out our broken lives, to be made complete as God comes to us, and dwells in us.
Not that having a rail to kneel at does all this. BUt it provides the opportunity for the pause that we need, the de Ligouri talks about so enthusiastically. The rest that we need, that was created for us by God, that was part of the Ten Commandments. Something so important that we are commanded to share it with those who work for us, who work with us, even providing it to those among us who are alien and foreigners. This is what people need!
This is a time we need to provide – but how… and how long….and how do we help people spend that time in awe of what has been given them in the sacrament. All questions – but none that prceclude giving people a few moments to ponder, to be in awe, to feel the relief that flows through us, as we experience the love of God.
God is with us… He gives Himself for us…
God read that last sentence again, and again…
We need to take time to process this, not just continue on with the service…
Something to ponder… so that others can ponder this gift of God’s love…. and then celebrate it…
btw – if you like this topic – consider this song by Bob Bennet,
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 75–76.
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 406.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
26 Judah said to his brothers: “What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood? 27 Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites, instead of doing away with him ourselves. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” His brothers agreed. 28 They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. Some Midianite traders passed by, and they pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and took him to Egypt. 29 When Reuben went back to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not in it, he tore his clothes, 30 and returning to his brothers, he exclaimed: “The boy is gone! And I–where can I turn?” 31 They took Joseph’s tunic, and after slaughtering a goat, dipped the tunic in its blood. 32 Then they sent someone to bring the long tunic to their father, with the message: “We found this. See whether it is your son’s tunic or not.” Genesis 37:26-32 (NAB)
As I was working through my devotional reading this morning, I was thinking of Luther’s claim that Jesus, and the Gospel is on every page of scripture. You see above part of my reading for this morning, and I tried to see if I could see Him there…
And I did, and obscure vision of Him for sure, the kind that lends itself to Luther’s explanation that people worship God, but fail in that they do not know God’s attitude toward them.
The brothers sinned against Joseph. No doubt about that, and if their father found out, they would lose everything. Perhaps they sold him because they thought their father would love them more if he was not around. Maybe they were just tired of his getting the best of everything. Maybe his visions, shared in a condescending way, were just to much. So they stole his life from him, or at least they tried.
In trying to deal with the consequences of their sin, they chose to cover it up, to conceal it, to hide it from their Father. So they killed an animal, and its blood was what concealed their sin. It meant the Father would never, ever find out what they did, and they could find a way to live with the other guilt, if they felt any at all.
Of course it didn’t work! They would eventually be found out, they would eventually bow to their brother, and dad would find out what they did….
But they had an idea, that the shedding of blood could cover their sins…
And in that we see Jesus in this passage. His blood, shed to cover sins, cleanses, not just covers. The writer of Hebrews explains,
“For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” Hebrews 9:13-14 (NAB)
If only they had understood God’s attitude toward them! If only they had known their heavenly Father would not only provide the forgiveness, but arrange for the resonciliation with Joseph, and with their dad, Israel. If only they had know how much God longed for them to not dwell in sin and its companions, guilt and shame. They almost had it… if only they had realized the blood that would do what they needed.
God would free them, just as He frees us…as He reveals His glory, that is His love and mercy, that are active in our lives, right now, today, even as you are reading this….
Heavenly Father, help us see and experience Your love for us, revealed in Christ Jesus. Help us to know we don’t need to cover up our sin, we don’t need a scapegoat, we don’t need to throw someone else under the bus… for You are with us. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 Our Lord, how long must I beg for your help before you listen? How long before you save us from all this violence? 3 Why do you make me watch such terrible injustice? Why do you allow violence, lawlessness, crime, and cruelty to spread everywhere? 4 Laws cannot be enforced; justice is always the loser; criminals crowd out honest people and twist the laws around. Habakkuk 1:2–4 (CEV)
12 God’s people must learn to endure. They must also obey his commands and have faith in Jesus. 13 Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Put this in writing. From now on, the Lord will bless everyone who has faith in him when they die.” The Spirit answered, “Yes, they will rest from their hard work, and they will be rewarded for what they have done.” Revelation 14:12-13 CEV
Again, Paul presents this in a most comforting manner when he points out that before the world began God ordained in his counsel through which specific cross and affliction he would conform each of his elect to “the image of his Son,” and that in each case the afflictions should and must “work together for good” since they are “called according to his purpose.” From this Paul draws the certain and indubitable conclusion that neither “tribulation nor anguish, neither death nor life, etc. can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:28, 29, 35, 38, 39).
The quote from the Prophet Habbabuk precedes prophecies that are extremely harsh toward sinners, toward those who do evil. But the prayer doesn’t recognize God’s work, it begs for His help because of violence being done, and a lack of any form of justice.
It would seem we are in those days again, where cruelty dominates more than mercy. Where neither side are innocent, but both are willing to sacrifice others. Where people are willing to be brutal, and narcissism is applauded and even envied.
I’ve heard to many people refer to this as the last days, that Biden or Trump is the anti-Christ, (and some think they work together!) I’ve heard people scared of the day, and spend their time warning people that they have to fear having their life and salvation stolen from them by some demonic deceit.
To believe that is to say that God has changed, that the God is less faithful to you and I than he was to the Old Testament prophets and those who depended on God. It also denies the prophecy of Revelation for the rest of those who trust in God, who live in Christ.
The early Lutherans understood this as well. That is why they were assured that God would use their suffering, even their deaths for good. They were facing death often, or imprisonment – and they were able to stay the course, because those who went before them God sustained – and they determined God would sustain them as well!
And that is why it doesn’t matter to a disciple if this is the last days. We look to Jesus, we see what He has promised for us, as He promised to every believer throughout time. He will keep those promises. And He guarantees nothing – no plan of Satan, no scam of mankind, nothing can separate us from God and his deliverance.
That isn’t my word, that is God’s promise. Whether these troubled times are the end of time, or whether we are just another group who struggle and are sustained by God, He is here, with you. And He has promised to guard your heart and mind, for you dwell in Christ Jesus. AMEN! (Phil. 4:7)
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 624.
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.