Category Archives: Book of Concord

A Plea Against Christian Isolationism

Thoughts that cause me to draw near to Christ, today.

15  I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16  They do not belong to this world any more than I do. John 17:15-16 (NLT2)

Without worship we go about miserable; that’s why we have all the troubles we have. You wonder why young people act like such idiots. Some young people have a lot of energy and don’t know what to do with it, so they go out and act like idiots; and that’s why gangsters and communists and sinners of all kinds do what they do. They are endowed by God Almighty with brilliant intelligence and an amazing store of energy, and because they don’t know what to do with it they do the wrong thing. That’s why I’m not angry with people when I see them go off the deep end, because I know that they have fallen from their first estate along with Adam’s brood and all of us together. They haven’t been redeemed and so they have energy they don’t know what to do with; they have capacity they don’t know how to use. They have skills and don’t know where to put them, and so they go wild and police have to arrest sixteen-year-olds and put them in jail. If they had been taught that they came into the world in the first place to worship God and to enjoy Him forever and that when they fell Jesus Christ came to redeem them, to make worshipers out of them, they could by the Holy Ghost and the washing of the blood be made into worshiping saints and things would be so different

He always wants to remind us to recall the First Commandment, that he is our God; that is, that he wishes to help, comfort, and protect us, so that he may restrain our desire for revenge.
[196] If we could thoroughly impress this on people’s minds, we would have our hands full of good works to do. [197] But this would not be a preaching for the monks. It would too greatly undermine the “spiritual walk of life” and infringe upon the holiness of the Carthusians. It would be practically the same as forbidding their good works and emptying the monasteries. For in such a teaching the ordinary Christian life would be worth just as much, indeed much more.

They saw that the work of the cure of souls (Seelsorge) brought joy (Freudigkeit) despite the burdens of office. When God’s love is in motion, there is joy even in the midst of sorrow. And never forget it: Your ministry is God’s love in motion.

We live in an age of monasticism. Perhaps not in dark, gloomy, castle-like buildings centered around, and protecting the sanctuary, but the church has grown more and more isolated in the decades I have been alive. Some form this isolation by trying to protect the church they treasure, the beliefs and practices that have given them great peace at one time, which they remember, if not experience daily. Others see themseles as missional crusaders, those that venture forth from the walls of the church, in order to draw people into their lifestyle. Truly this group has grown as isolated as those who try and protect their traditions, as they rely on their visions and mission principles and para-church agencies. We even invest in politics, aligning ourselves with those we feel are the most willing to protect our way of life. 

It is as if they both believe that because we are not of this world, we have to create a lifestyle that is apart from the world. And so churches add to their facility their own restaurants and coffee shops. Our own bookstores, our own universities that are becoming less and less open to the spiritually unwashed masses.

And then we complain about the world that we send to hell in a nice wrapped up gift basket.

Tozer’s wrote the words in purple at a point when I was young—maybe even before I was born. He wants to complain about the idiotic things people do, but he realizes they do those things, using the gifts God’s given them, because they don’t know God. That means if there is someone to be “mad” at, it is the Christians in their lives who have remained silent about the love of God.

That’s right, if anyone can be blamed for the state of America today, (and most of Europe) it is the church who has retreated into its sanctuaries and tried to defend them from evil!  Do we not get the truth of the first commandment? That God, Who has already delivered and saved us, who is protecting us, has sent us into the broken world, just as He sent Jesus into the world to save it?  Just as God the Father and God the Son sent the Holy Spirit into our lives, that we might help save others?

We are to live right in the middle of the world, that souls may be cured of the illness of sin, and the ignorance of God. I love the last sentence in the quotes, our “ministry is God’s love in motion. 

Stop avoiding the broken, stop complaining about them and condemning them, go walk besides them, helping where you can. Stop being a modern monastic, and instead find the joy of seeing God heal others….and then you will experience peace and joy in ways beyond anything you could think or imagine.

 

Lord, help us to live as we do in church, in our lives with others. AMEN!

 

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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), 413.

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 279–280

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.

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.

This sermon is written…for the same reason as the Scriptures: A sermon on John 20:30-31

May be a cartoon of text that says 'REGDIT IT ALL CA NESES Beginner Books Green Eggs and Ham By Dr.Seuss'

a sermon by Deacon Robert Foutz, delievered at Concordia Lutheran Church 4/24/2022

This sermon is written…for the same reason as the Scriptures
John 20:30-31

Every night I would read my daughters a bedtime story.  First I read them a Bible story and then a regular story.  One of their favorites was Dr Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham.  It’s a very simple story with only two characters; the first is a guy named Sam and his friend, Sam’s friend has no name, I will just call him Sam’s Friend.

Sam only has one goal in the story that is to get his friend to eat green eggs and ham.  He says, “taste my green eggs and ham . . . just try them and you’ll see they taste good.”

But his friend does not want to try green eggs and ham.

And on and on it goes, until Sam I am says, “You do not like them, so you say. Try them! Try them! And you may. Try them and we will see.”

Spoiler Alert! Sam’s friend does finally try them and does like them!  And he likes them!

Say! I like green eggs and ham! I do! I like them, Sam!

Thank you, Sam.

As a parent, I’ve read that story to my daughters hundreds of times. They never seemed to grow tired of it.

Over and over, night after night I read Sam’s request as he repetitively asked his friend to try his green eggs and ham. You get the idea.

Sam I Am has one simple message. “Try my greens eggs and ham. They are good.”

So what does Sam’s green eggs and ham have to do with the passage in John, and what I am doing here today?

John has only has one simple message try my Jesus! You will like him, just try and see.  And Pastor Parker needs a day off so it’s my turn to be like Sam tell you about Jesus.

So why am I up here?

What is Pastor Parker’s goal for me being up here? What is Pastors goal when he sends me off to other churches?  What am I supposed to do – just tell jokes and tell you about some interesting facts about a book that was written 2000 years ago to people who don’t speak our language?

Or is my purpose to preach what Pastor taught me in my deacon class on Worship?

That the chief purpose of all worship services is to give you what you need to know about Jesus? 

There was only one question on the final exam: What is the chief purpose of all worship services?

Answer: To tell the people what they need to know about Jesus.

Kind of like how Sam had only one message, one goal:  To get his friend to try green egg and ham.  I have one message, one goal:  To tell you about Jesus.

That’s pretty close to what the Apostle John says here – in verse 30 The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 

John 21:25 — Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.

I would like to know all about these miracles but then the Bible would probably be about a foot thick.  Think about it for a minute, Jesus’ ministry lasted about 3 years and if Jesus performed one miracle a day, the disciples saw 1,095 miracles. Writing all that down would take all the paper in Jerusalem. 

It also tells me the disciples only recorded the miracles they thought were the most important miracles, the most amazing miracles, the miracles that proved Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.

So my job is to help you experience Jesus, depend on Jesus, to know without a doubt that Jesus is your Savior and then help you see the life you have as you grow to trust Him.

And not be like doubting Thomas.

Verse 26 says “Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

Thomas the Apostle—often referred to as “Doubting Thomas”—was one of the twelve main disciples of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of John, Thomas famously doubted Jesus’ resurrection, telling the other disciples, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”  

All Christians suffer doubt at one time or another, why does God let us suffer? And a hundred other questions I have for him.

But that doubt does not mean disbelief, they are not the same thing, I have questioned God, I have doubted why God did things many times but never, never ever lost my faith in God. Big difference!

The example of doubting Thomas provides both a teachable moment and encouraging one. After His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus appeared alive and glorified to His disciples to comfort them and proclaim to them the good news of His victory over death.

I doubt (it wasn’t only Thomas), but all of us from time to time doubt.  It was 33 days after Thomas’s proclamation, that according to Matthew 28:16, some of the disciples still doubted – they still didn’t get it all.  

Last week Pastor told us about the men on the road to Emmaus, how an unrecognized Jesus explained the entire Old Testament to them.  

Now let’s look at verse 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.

We can depend on Jesus, he is the one Anointed by the Father.  All the miracles, all the scriptures point to this simple fact: Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus is the Son of God.

And when we depend on Jesus, we have life, life here on earth and life in heaven.  How does this happen?  It is simply because Jesus has claimed us as His own.

He bought and paid for us, sins and all, on the cross. 

Two of my favorite phrases are “pay to the order of”

and “paid in full.” 

To me nothing feels better feeling than getting a paycheck and then sitting down and paying all your bills.  But sadly, next month all the same bills show up again. 

But there is a true feeling of freedom on peace when you make the last payment on something like your last car payment.  Mark it paid in full! Done! I never have to pay that bill again!

That what Jesus did on the cross my sins are paid in full! Done! I never have to pay that bill again!

That is what John is telling in this passage of scriptures to depend on Jesus because of everything He has promised us. Everything he has paid for us!

And when we experience Christ and know what he’s done, then when God tells us His peace is ours, we get it, because we know Him and His promises.

I remember the day after my father died, a friend came over and told about when his mother died.  He told me “it well get easier.” He said “the pain will never go away but it will get easier.  I promise.”  I thought he was nuts, this hurt, this loss, this emptiness will never end.

Well, he was right.  Over the years it has gotten easier.  Like all of us, we miss our loved ones at big events, family gatherings, Christmas, birthdays, am I right? 

But you know when I really miss my dad, the day that make me cry every year?  Easter.  The promise of the resurrection! 

Some versions of the Bible use the word “Hope.” They use phrases like the hope of Christ, the hope of the resurrection. 

NO No no!

I hope the Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl. I hope I catch a lot of fish next weekend. 

I don’t hope that my dad is in heaven, I have a promise from Jesus

You see my dad, stood on the promise of Jesus Christ the Son of the most, high God. And Jesus promised to take him home to be with him.

I am up here this morning to remind you of my nine favorite words.

The Lord is with you . . . and also with you.

Followed by my favorite 13 words.

He is risen, he is risen indeed.

And therefore, we are risen indeed.

Amen

The Paradox of Knowing What to Do, and Doing it.

Thoughts encouraging us to be devoted to God.

The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. 33 And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”
34 Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Mark 12:32-34 NLT

43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. 44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.” Mark 12:43-44 NLT

God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed.

Furthermore, we have frequently shown what we mean by faith. We are not talking about an idle knowledge, such as is also to be found in the devils, but about a faith that resists the terrors of conscience and which uplifts and consoles terrified hearts.

There is nothing more affirming, in fact, than the experience of God’s presence. That revelation says as nothing else can, “You are a good person. I created you and I love you.” Divine love brings us into being in the fullest sense of the word. It heals the negative feelings we have about ourselves.

I think the teacher of religious law knew he was right, but he didn’t understand why he was right.

The old lady knew why she did what she did but didn’t know she was right. She just did it.

My quest as a pastor is to help you, my friend, know both sides of the coin. To help you discover what to do in life and why to do it. I want you to love God with everything you are and to do so realizing His presence and love for you.

The quote from the Book of Concord shows why we should depend on God. In those times where problems and anxieties overwhelm us, our dependence on God reminds us He is our Comforter. In those times, we find peace in His presence as we take a breath, and in that still moment, remember the cross and His love.

The old woman knew that – and she responded with everything she had. She knew God loved her; she knew something special about being in God’s presence – so she gave. The idea of affirmation was not on her mind, but it was what was happening…

More often than not, I dwell in Tozer’s spot – I know I should be there; I know I should desire His presence and be more aware of it than I am. I struggle like the teacher of the law- knowing what should be but forgetting why I need to love God with everything. I need, like Tozer, like the teacher of the law – to hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness, to desire God’s presence more than a bride can not wait to see her husband-to-be on her wedding day.

It may sound self-serving, but there is nothing in our lives that compares to being in God’s presence – it is where we find peace, it is where we find love, and therefore meaning to our lives.

A meaning that goes beyond this life into the next, which is God’s desire in the first place…

To have us with Him – because He wants us there…

This is why we love Him… this is why we can give up everything… even our 2 cents.

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

Kolb, Robert, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand. 2000. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress 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.

What do you need? How will it happen? The purpose of self-examination!

Thoughts to enocurage you to adore Jesus, and to celebrate His role in your life!

27  So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28  That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. 1 Corinthians 11:27-28 (NLT2)

23  Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT2)

How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? 3  Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. 4  Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall. 5  But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. 6  I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me. Psalm 13:2-6 (NLT2)

The philosopher Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” If a common philosopher could think that, how much more we Christians ought to listen to the Holy Spirit when He says, “Examine yourself.” An unexamined Christian lies like an unattended garden. Let your garden go unattended for a few months, and you will not have roses and tomatoes but weeds. (1)

Master Gabriel,164 pastor in Torgau, asked Dr. Martin Luther about that passage of Paul to Timothy [I Tim. 4:5], “For it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”
Dr. Martin Luther replied, “Godly men acknowledge that all things are of God and consecrate them through the Word of God when they pray. To them all things are pure when they are used according to God’s will.
(2
)

When Tozer quote Socrates, it sounds familiar, and even Biblical.

After all, Paul warns the church that each person should examine themslves prior to receving the Lord’s Supper. The wanring about being jduged for sinning against the Body and Blood of Christ is serious.

I think that Tozer and Socrates have something different in mind than the Apostle Paul. It is not a bad thing, but Paul is talking about something more significant, I would say something more critical. Someting that requires more than anyone is capable of addressing on their own.

That is where Luther comes point out what is necessary, the prayer that God consecrates, man doesn’t.

Our examination simply to recognize the necessity of Christ’s Body to be broken, His blood to be shed. The sacrifice of Christ, and the covenant it creates, is the only answer to what we see when we examine our lives. For what we see are the wounds caused by sin, the brokenness caused by our self-idolatry, the times where we think our desires outweigh the wisdom of God.

The prayer of Psalm 13 anticipates this work of God that occurs as we are consecrated as the consecrated bread and wine, the very Body and Blood of Christ are taken and we commune with God. There we celebrate that God has removed all that offends Him, and where He renews our spirit. All the promises given to us in our baptism – when we were united with Jesus in HIs death and resurrection – all this is renewed as we commune with Him….

And then, renewed, revived, free of the burdens of guilt, shame, resentment, we begin to see this God we worship more clearly…. and praise goes into another level.

So examine yourself… realize how great your need is… and realize it is answered…

God loves you… that much!

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

(2) 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), 244.

The Ministry of Theology

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Thoughts that I pray cause you to adore Jesus, your Savior…

Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.”* She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” 14 So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered. Genesis 16:13-14 NLT

Rector Bernard von Dölen,142 minister in Herzberg, complained bitterly about his arrogant auditors who despised the reading of the catechism. Dr. Martin [Luther] was greatly disturbed and fell silent. Then he said, “Cursed be every preacher who aims at lofty topics in the church, looking for his own glory and selfishly desiring to please one individual or another. When I preach here143 I adapt myself to the circumstances of the common people. I don’t look at the doctors and masters, of whom scarcely forty are present, but at the hundred or the thousand young people and children. It’s to them that I preach, to them that I devote myself, for they, too, need to understand. If the others don’t want to listen they can leave. Therefore, my dear Bernard, take pains to be simple and direct; don’t consider those who claim to be learned but be a preacher to unschooled youth and sucklings. (1)

Nonetheless, for Luther theology was not a detached academic pursuit circumscribed by the walls, procedures, customs, and language of the university, but a matter of life and death. He took God seriously. Nothing is more important in man’s life than his relationship to God. The chief function of theology (and of the theologian), then, is not to speculate about God or even to systematize man’s knowledge of God. Rather its function is to lead men to and strengthen them in faith. For Luther faith meant specifically trust in God through Jesus Christ. Inevitably Luther’s classroom extended far beyond the university and the circle of educated students to whom he lectured there. (2)

The pastoral care that is provided to Hagar never ceases to amaze me. She is not the one through whom the promise is given; that is Sarai, her mistress, the one who has the power of life or death over her. And yet, God takes the time to
visit with her. He cares for her, ministers to her, and cares for her son (who will be a challenge.) Finally, God restores her to her former place.

It works with the two readings I had this morning, which talk about the ministry of theology. Usually, seminaries and universities studies in scripture and ministry describe that the other way, with courses on the Theology of Ministry. Rarely do you hear people talk about the ministry of theology. People will talk about types of theology, Systematic, Exegetical, HIstorical, and Pragmatic, but rarely will there be a focus on how theology is supposed to be used to
minister to the church.

Those readings talk about it in Luther’s usual blunt style. Theology is not primarily an academic topic to be studied and dissected, according to Luther. Theology has a particular role, to be used to help man deepen their dependence
on God, to encourage spending time meditating on the move and mercy of God, to experience His love and presence, in a way that the Apostle Paul said was beyond words. (see Ephesians 3:17-19) This is the chief function of theology,
which seems all but lost these days.

Consider the advice to Bernard, who talked with the arrogant visitors he had, nitpicking on everything. Luther’s direction is to ignore them and preach the gospel to the hundred or thousand people who need to know the gospel and understand why hope is found in Christ. (this is Peter’s idea of apologetics, when he writes, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16  But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT2)

This is what we are here to do, to use the knowledge and understanding that studying the word of God gives, as the Holy Spirit draws them to Jesus and brings light into their lives. This is not only the role of theology but also liturgical worship, pastoral care, and counseling. This is the focus that all those who lead in the church are called to do, to work with all we are, and to present everyone perfect in Christ. ( Colossians 1:28-29) For us Lutherans,  this is what the 6th article of the Augsburg Confession is about, as our good works are the fruit of our faith.

May Theology be restored to this glorious ministry, of causing others to grow deeper in their dependence/faith/trust in God. And may the church ever see it as a tool dedicated to that purpose.

(1) 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), 235–236.

(2) 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), x.

What Does It Mean to Know Jesus.

Thoughts encouraging our adoration of God!

24 Now to him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen. Jude 24-25 CSB

Everywhere … we find persons who are Bible-taught but not Spirit-taught. They conceive truth to be something which they can grasp with the mind.
If a man holds to the fundamentals of the Christian faith he is thought to possess divine truth. But it does not follow. There is no truth apart from the Spirit.
The most brilliant intellect may be imbecilic when confronted with the mysteries of God. For a man to understand revealed truth requires an act of God equal to the original act which inspired the text.
(1)

But how is such sanctifying done? Answer: Just as the Son obtains dominion, whereby He wins us, through His birth, death, resurrection, etc., so also the Holy Ghost effects our sanctification by the following parts, namely, by the communion of saints or the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting; that is, He first leads us into His holy congregation, and places us in the bosom of the Church, whereby He preaches to us and brings us to Christ.
For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel.

I’ve occasionally heard the comment, “to know in the Biblical sense.” It refers to the use of the word “to know” as a polite way of saying that this man and this woman had sexual intercourse. They interacted in an intimate way, and often without much thought… and the experience was hopefully enjoyable for both!

That this same word for “knowing” is used to describe a relationship with God is troubling for some. Mainly because our society, inspired by Plato’s nonsense about the physical realm being evil, thinks of physical intimacy as dirty, perhaps because of the desire that often accompanies it. Therefore, using similar terms like intimacy or knowing them
becomes troublesome. Knowledge is then reduced to the realm of the mind, the academic, the collection of data about God.

This is why when evangelists and apologetics appeal to the mind, convinced that knowledge is the key, and they miss the mark. These are those whom Tozer acknowledges are Bible-taught but not Spirit-taught. They are the reason Luther states that we can know nothing of God unless the Holy Spirit offers that revelation and imbeds it, not just in
our minds, by driving it deep into our hearts.

This Spirit does this, of course, through the ministry of preaching and the sacraments that preaching drives us toward as we commune with Jesus. This is experiential knowledge, something that teachings our heart and soul as well as
our mind. It is what drove Pascal, one of the greatest thinkers, as he wrote how the gospel burned inside him. It is what comforted Luther as he embraced trauma from within and without. Tozer knew that comfort, too, it would seem, as
he actively tried to help his people experience it.

That comfort, also described as peace and rest in scripture, is the essence of knowing God. It is the work of God we experience as the Holy Spirit leads us into the presence of God. It is when we joyfully realize that we are blameless
– that all is well and right and just because of Jesus on the cross.

This is where worship comes from, this joy of being the presence of God. It is to praise and honor and be amazed at the Lord, who is our refuge and strength. Knowing God results in a desire to thank Him, to praise Him, to adore
Him for what He has done…. just as the psalmist does, even if it is as repetitive and joyously simple as Psalm 150.

Just praise Him!

for He is our God… and He has made us His people! AMEN!

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

(2) Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, trans. F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau (n.p.: WORDsearch, 2003).

The Inconvient, Challenging Truth of Following Jesus.

where I belong… at the foot of the cross

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.

 I
mitate 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.

us

all.

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).

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