Category Archives: Book of Concord

Time To Stop Carrying ALL that Weight; The Power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Thoughts which drive me to Jesus–Christ crucified for us.

Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 2 Corinthians 5:20 (TEV)

You should get into the habit of admitting your sins to each other, and praying for each other, so that if sickness comes to you, you may be healed. James 5 (Phillips NT)

Concerning confession it is taught that private absolution should be retained and not abolished.[1]

“The genuine sacraments, therefore, are Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and absolution (which is the sacrament of penitence), for these rites have the commandment of God and the promise of grace”

The Christian story of Christ’s merciful love for sinners teaches us to trust in God. This allows us to have the courage to acknowledge and confess our sins. Confession takes courage. When we go to the priest in the Sacrament of Confession, we are exhibiting courage, a courage based on the merciful love of God. Too often men fail to face their sins and faults out of fear—fear of who they are and what they have done. But this need not be, as Jesus Christ has come to free us from the bondage of our shame and sin and remake us through His grace and the life of virtue.[1]

It happens maybe once or twice a year. One of our preschoolers will come up to me with a big smile on their face and point (or rub) my stomach and ask, “Pastor, why are you so fat?” The parents, usually shocked by their kids sincere curiosity, tell their children, “Don’t say that–Pastor is not fat!”

I look at them in a moment of sheer shock. Not because of what their children observed, but by their denial of the obvious truth. I carry well over 100 pounds of weight I don’t need to carry. I know it, it can’t be hidden, it is what it is–and I and my doctors really want me to shed it.

Spiritually, we do the same thing, far too often. We either are carrying to many burdens, are weighed down by guilt and shame, or we are telling people (and ourselves) that the weight we carry means nothing, it’s not really there–it is not crushing our relationships with people, and destroying our lives.

And the solution God has given us is so simple. The church and its shepherds (whether pastor or priest) are agents of reconciliation. Luther adored–I can find no other word to express his feeling towards it–the results of being absolved of sin.

Over and over in scripture, the promise of forgiveness is made, and then delivered at the cross, in baptism, in the Lord’s Supper, and as we confess  our sins, and hear a dear brother, speaking for God, tell us we are free. As a pastor, I have to tell you the weight I’ve seen lifted off of people is.. beyond words. And I’ve felt that weight lifted off myself.

Some may say they simply confess to Jesus, and He takes care of it. That is fine and good, and that kind of confession and absolution, or that in a church service works for many people.  But there are sins we commit, that haunt us, that stop us from interacting with a person, or group of people. That stop us from praying, or spending time with God. Those are the sins we need to hear are forgiven–audibly, looking in the eye someone who says, “God put me here to tell you this one thing. Your sin is forgiven! In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit! Go in peace!”

And so you shall!

I urge you , Let God change you, from being His enemy, to being His friend. AMEN!

 

 

 

“Augsburg Confession: Article 11 Confession” 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), 44.

“The Apology of the Augsburg Confession” 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),

[1] Tim Gray and Curtis Martin, Boys to Men: The Transforming Power of Virtue (Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2001), 54–55.

Hope for the Apathetic Congregation or Denomination

Thoughts that drive me to the cross, and the mercy of Christ.

32  Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. 33  Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. 34  You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. Hebrews 10:32-34 (NLT2)

The amount of loafing practiced by the average Christian in spiritual things would ruin a concert pianist if he allowed himself to do the same thing in the field of music. The idle puttering around that we see in church circles would end the career of a big league pitcher in one week. No scientist could solve his exacting problem if he took as little interest in it as the rank and file of Christians take in the art of being holy. The nation whose soldiers were as soft and undisciplined as the soldiers of the churches would be conquered by the first enemy that attacked it. Triumphs are not won by men in easy chairs. Success is costly

We also believe, teach, and confess that in a time when confession is necessary, as when the enemies of God’s Word want to suppress the pure teaching of the holy gospel, the entire community of God, indeed, every Christian, especially servants of the Word as the leaders of the community of God, are obligated according to God’s Word to confess true teaching and everything that pertains to the whole of religion freely and publicly. They are to do so not only with words but also in actions and deeds.

As the words of Tozer came on my screen this morning, I grieved. They seem as accurate now as they did in the 80s, when they were published. The church, at least in the United States, is stagnant. Churches are closing, or trying to survive, the present declines. Pastors are leaving the ministry in record numbers, many to start para-church ministries or become consultants. Others are retiring from ministry, or looking to find an easy place to serve out–until they can retire. Denominational leaders are telling even viable churches that there is no long-term hope.

We aren’t just apathetic…it seems we are aggressively choosing to abandon ship, and to encourage others to do so.

And then, as I continued in my devotional readings, I come across the words of a church in the midst of spiritual warfare in the days after Luther. The encouragement then was to confess Christ with words AND actions AND deeds publicly.  To not compromise the gospel (and if it isn’t about Christ – who cares). This wasn’t the matter of giving up a few hours on Saturday. or subsidising a ministry or mission. This was life at stake. But they sacrificed, they served and taught and loved and shared Christ.

The same occurred in the times addressed in the Book of Hebrews. Again, the history is taught to us, but the last verse is the most important.

For it gives us the reason and is what should empower us to go against the flow of the church in decline. Read it again,

34  You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. Hebrews 10:34 (NLT2)

They didn’t need a pastor to berate them from the pulpit about their apathy. They didn’t need to be shamed into giving more time and money. No one was told they weren’t a good Christian unless they did this or that… (though some will be confronted from time to time) They didn’t need the stick, they needed to be reminded of the carrot.

The better thing.

The best thing.

To be in the presence of God without all the crap we deal with in this life. To know the joy of being loved beyond imagination, to share in the peace that goes beyond everything else. This is what we have to preach, what people should experience in worship and bible study and in thier own devotions, as Paul’s prayer comes true:

19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:19 (NLT2)

If a church, or a denomination were to realize this, no church would close, or downsize or find themselves with a unfilled list of duties and positions. It just won’t happen.

To know we are loved and God is with and guiding us now until we are before His throne…. that is what the church needs to help people experience.  For then our hope will be contagious, not harnessable by any program.

So let us share what we know from the time at the altar, and from the dark nights when we pray until God grants us sleep. For out of such struggles comes the assurance of His presence and love as we are given hope for eternity. AMEN.

 

 

 

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

“Smalcald Articles: Article X”, 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), 637.

The Power of the Lord’s Supper – pure Word and Sacrament

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

23  At that time I will plant a crop of Israelites (trans. “those who wrestle with God and win – see Gen 32))  and raise them for myself. I will show love to those I called ‘Not loved.’ And to those I called ‘Not my people,’ I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’ And they will reply, ‘You are our God!’” Hosea 2:23 (NLT2)

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit,* 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.  Jude 20-21 NLT

If you do not want to come to the sacrament until you are perfectly clean and whole, it would be better for you to remain away entirely. The sacrament is to purify you and help you.

Any serious-minded Christian may at some time find himself wondering whether the service he is giving to God is the best it could be. He may even have times of doubting, and fear that his toil is fruitless and his life empty.…

A moment of confession here…

As I read Tozer’s words in teal – the resonated deeply with me. There are days I wonder if what I am doing is the best I can do. The ministry seems overwhelming more often than not, and while I will never doubt God’s ability to use my weakest and most minimal offerings, I truly don’t see it.

Until I see people to the altar, or I hear the shut-ins voice that says – “Pastor can your bring me communion.” (to be honest, I am usually packing up and getting ready to go by the word ‘bring’!) I will gladly leave all the paperwork and other stuff behind for those moments of pure bliss, as people are being helped and purified, not by me, but by the God in whose presence we are gathered.

That is where God confirms the promise Hosea saw in the future, where the love of God is revealed in Christ’s Body and Blood. It is where we are still – and we experientially know that He is our God, and we are His people. It is the mercy we are waiting for, in these simple moments, where the people of God share in the gifts of God. It is there, in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, where we find ourselves safe in God’s love.

You don’t have to be perfect – if you were, you wouldn’t need it. So know it is the answer to the brokenness, to the wounded heart and soul, to the stress…

He loves you! He is with you! Here in the sacrament, so you can realize He is always there..

 

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), 175–176.

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

The Church Needs Revival, not Church Growth!

Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and the cross, for there is my hope!
I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word. My eyes are straining to see your promises come true. When will you comfort me
?  Psalm 119:81-82 NLT

So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, 2 Tim 1:8-9 NLT

To carry on these activities [evangelism, missions] scripturally the church should be walking in fullness of power, separated, purified and ready at any moment to give up everything, even life itself, for the greater glory of Christ.

“My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your Word.” Here the first part contains contrition, while the second clearly describes how we are revived amid contrition, namely, by the Word of God that offers grace. [50] This Word sustains and gives life to the heart. 1 Samuel 2[:6*]: “The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.”

For 39 years I’ve heard about the need for Church Growth. It was a major part of my undergraduate curriculum–my major would have been, a Bachelor or Arts in Bible, Church Growth and Preaching. I’ve been blessed to work with some mega-church pastors over the years, mentored by two, and read a lot of the books, including Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?, which predates all the stuff from Fuller, Willow Creek and Saddleback. And even recent works lauded by people, like Canoing the Mountains

There are surely techniques we can apply from these books. But I think the issues is that focusing on Church Growth has us confused, and to be honest, most of the theory is misapplied–simply because they forget to apply it within context! We are hyper-fixated on church growth, or so suspicious of church growth that we analyze the components to death, looking for a reason to dismiss it.

Because our focus is off, the Psalmist’s words ring so true. We are tired, our eyes, hearts and souls are strained, because we trust in God’s promises, but we aren’t seeing them come true in our era. (It doesn’t help that we reduce era to a brief moment!) We know God hasn’t abandoned its church, but because we are fixated on growth, we don’t see what God is doing. Because we don’t see what God’s doing, we burn out, and only half-heartedly commit to the next theory, the next outreach program, the next book which promises that God will provide the increase, if we do our part.

Growing a church is indeed a blessing, but it skews the work (and the glory received from it) making us believe it is our work, our creativity, our passion and strategic-purpose driven life that causes this to happen. And because of that, the church growth movement, and its counterbalance, the confessional/traditional/fundamentalist movements, are doomed to fail.

We need to pray for and seek Revival, not church growth. We need to hear the word and receive the sacraments, realizing what God is giving us in those moments of intimate interaction with a Divine God. We need to see the Holy Spirit killing off the sinner and bringing the saints to life—for that is revival. That is when Tozer’s goal is realized and the church, focused on Christ as a bride focuses on her groom, lives in the moment of salvation. This is true revival, when people are rejoicing beause God has been revealed to be loving, merciful and present in their lives.

As the Church experiences Revival, it doesn’t have the time to be concerned with Church Growth. It is busy helping people live in the moment, so wanting to share the blessing of Christ that they give up their lives. I have seen such people – they are amazing! They simply know Christ’s love, and they will do anything to make it know. The church grows, but that is never its desire. It is focused on Christ, and helping people to know Him, to learn to abandon their wants, desires and even needs. And their they learn, that without what they once considered precious – they are free to live.

This is what we need to pray for- that people come alive in Christ, that they are spiritually defibrillated, and realize they can live in Christ. Then listen, and see those ready to receive God’s word, and His sacraments, as He quickens their hearts and souls…

May we understand that the Lord is with you!  And may that revelation result in many coming to know the same thing!

AMEN!

 

 

 

 

 

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

“Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Artticle XII Repentance”, 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), 195.

The “Secret” to Real, Life-changing Worship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the masterpiece God has made of our lives,

An amazing masterpiece.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

“Article 1: Concerning Original Sin. The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 533.

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 231.

I would rather not…yet I must

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 525.

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

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 426–427.

May We Never Think This Life Is Normal!

Thoughts that drag me to the cross of His mercy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about this for a mission statement for a church?

Making manifest Jesus’ love, by dying to self! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

For that … should be what we consider normal.

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

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 223.

Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 516.

Do We Dare Ask This Question?

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

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

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

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

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

Tozer’s question (in green) annoys me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 218.

Why is Spiritual Growth such a Long Ordeal?

Thoughts that drag me close to Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oddly enough, that is when God works the best.

That is when those blessed sacramental, incarnational moments occur.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 415.

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

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 209.

Not WWJD?, rather WDJD!?!!!

Thoughts that draw me closer to Jesus:

15  As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness. Psalm 17:15 (NKJV)

18  All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (TEV)

Against both of these errors we believe, teach, and confess unanimously that Christ is our righteousness neither according to his divine nature alone nor according to his human nature alone. On the contrary, the whole Christ, according to both natures, is our righteousness, solely in his obedience that he rendered his Father as both God and a human being, an obedience unto death.

Then there are the men who are good but not great, and we may thank God that there are so many of them, being grateful not that they failed to achieve greatness but that by the grace of God they managed to acquire plain goodness.…
Every pastor knows this kind—the plain people who have nothing to recommend them but their deep devotion to their Lord and the fruit of the Spirit which they all unconsciously display. Without these the churches as we know them in city, town and country could not carry on. These are the first to come forward when there is work to be done and the last to go home when there is prayer to be made. They are not known beyond the borders of their own parish because there is nothing dramatic in faithfulness or newsworthy in goodness, but their presence is a benediction wherever they go.

Yesterday was one of those days I am glad I am a pastor. Not because of anything I did, but simply because I saw everyday people ministering to others as Jesus would have done. 5 different situations, 4 of them in my church, and one of them in a church I am trying to help, showed me the kind of people that Tozer’s quote describes.

People in ordinary walks of life, who blessed others, and thought nothing of it. Their deep trust in God resulted in a “unconscious display” of the Holy Spirit’s work! THere wasn’t 1000 conversions, or a hospital filled with people who were healed. A young couple were helped with some challenges, a handicapped lady found peace during a medical procedure, a young man was encouraged in his preparation for seminary, an church elder asked for help in caring for their pastor, I see it in a daughter, who honors her mom by caring for her in ways beyond description, and a grandmother, energized and active in her two grandchildren’s lives. There are more stories, none of them “heroic” yet all of them living a life that is being transformed by the Holy Spirit as they look to Christ, as they depend on His work in declaring them righteous and holy. They are my version of Hebrews 11, the group we can talk about by saying, “by faith they….”

This is what it means for Jesus to be fully God and fully man, He has the ability to connect the sacred and the secular, the holy and profane, so that there can be this kind of change. He makes us righteous, He makes us Holy, He works through us!

These people are the church, they don’t ask “What Would Jesus Do?” but are evidence of “What did Jesus do!” His ministry thorough them is obvious, because of what God is doing in them.

It is a wonder to behold, and therefore, I rejoice.

I need more days like yesterday… or maybe, I just need to open my eyes more

God is work in wondrously common ways, through people who simply trust in Him. I pray I see His work in and through you, as you see His work all around you!

Article 3: The Epitome of the Formula of Concord; Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 495.

A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015). 7/27/2022

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