Category Archives: Book of Concord
Devotional Thought for the Day:
53 Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth: if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in yourselves. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them to life on the last day. 55 For my flesh is the real food; my blood is the real drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them. John 6:53-56 (TEV)
The sermon is part of the “Eucharistic transaction.” As Williams (Rowan Williams – Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury) says, “We are there at the Eucharist so that we may be changed into [the likeness of Jesus Christ], from glory to glory. We are not there to change certain things in the world, which we then adore from a distance. We are there so that the transubstantiation may occur in us.” Preaching itself has a sacramental quality in radical orthodoxy because its subject matter is transformation. The very act of talking about such transformation is itself a part of the transformational event.
Let us ask our Lord that we may be souls who are ready to work with a heroism that proves fruitful. For there is no lack of people here on earth who, on being approached, turn out to be nothing but large, shiny, glossy leaves. Foliage, just foliage and nothing more. Meanwhile, many souls are looking to us, hoping to satisfy their hunger, which is a hunger for God. We must not forget that we have all the means we need. We have sufficient doctrine and the grace of God, in spite of our wretchedness.
Likewise, they teach that one holy church will remain forever. The church is the assembly of saints in which the gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly.
There is a lot of talk, during COVID, that the church will never be the same after it is over. That at least one-third to one-half of the people who have not been to church durign this time will not come back again. They will simply sit at home, in their pajamas, drinking their coffee and watch church on YouTube.
I understand the concern, and the anxiety in this time. How do you keep a church going if the people don’t gather together? Some may think I am talking about the organization, So they plan how people can be the church without the organization.
I am not talking about the organization, and that is why I think the anxiety is pessimistic, and more than that, I believe it is wrong. If forgets what the church is.
You see, it is never, nor has it ever been about the structured organization. It is about the gathering, about being in the presence of God, together. About the communication and communion with God. What Williams talks about as the Eucharistic moment, the time for the transformation of sinners into saints, about what they are calling the moment of transubstantiation in us, those who believe and depend and cry out to the God who has come into our lives.
That is why a church broadcast can, for a time, temporarily fill the gap. But long range, people need the altar to come to and commune. That is why the Lutheran confessions talk about the church being where the gospel is proclaimed and where the sacraments are distributed. Communication and Communion, the presence of Christ with us all.
This is the church… and as those who preach and lead realize that people will return, hungry for the Word and the Sacrament, and sharing in it. And from here, we will go out into the world, to gather others to Jesus, to share in that sweet Communion.
Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 63.
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 43.
Devotional Thought of the New Year
5 Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to GOD.” Suddenly the pressure was gone— my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. Psalm 32:5 (MSG)
Brother Lawrence expressed the highest moral wisdom when he testified that if he stumbled and fell he turned at once to God and said, “O Lord, this is what You may expect of me if You leave me to myself.” He then accepted forgiveness, thanked God and gave himself no further concern about the matter.
“Tell the backslider,” says the Lord, “I am married unto him.” Was there ever a tenderer message?
My beloved Jesus, I am not yet perfect; but Thou canst make me perfect. I am not dear to Thee, and it is my own fault, because I have been ungrateful and unfaithful; but Thou canst make me become so, by inebriating me this morning with Thy love.
Gracious and Exalted Savior, we are not worthy to receive the mercy and goodness which Thou dost give us, and on account of our sins are far too unclean and weak rightly to receive this salutary gift. Sanctify us therefore in body and soul by Thy Holy Spirit; prepare us and adorn us with grace to draw near Thy holy Table.
What a way to start a year… with such refreshing prayers of de Ligouri and Loehe, a Catholic Mystic and a Lutheran Pastor. Add in Tozer quoting Brother Lawrence, a protestant quoting Roman Catholic lay monk, and the message is reinforced again. And yet, that is the only way to beging a year….
To realize our imperfection, and our hope!
Such is the way of Christ, who knew our sin, and still died for it. He knew our struggling with it, and sends the Holy Spirit.
It is no wonder deLigouri talks about God causing us to be inebriated to be drunk on the love He pours into us. To be dressed in the very grace of God, to be clothed with jesus.
This has been the way… it has been planned since the beginning, and sinners have become holy by experiencing the giddiness, the feeing lightheaded, that happens as the burdens of guilt, shame and resentment are lifted off of you.
This is how we need to start the new year. This is what you need to experience throughout 2021… It is what I need more than anything as well….forgiveness, pressures and burdens lifted….
God with us…
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 89.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 31–32.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Be careful to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 You are to labor six days and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. Do not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey, any of your livestock, or the resident alien who lives within your city gates, so that your male and female slaves may rest as you do. Deuteronomy 5:12-14 CSB
For this reason, holy souls endeavor to remain as long as possible in prayer after Communion. The Venerable Father Avila, even when he was given his missions, used to remain for at least two hours in prayer. Father Balthasar Alvarez used to say, that we should set great value on the time after Communion, imagining that we hear from the lips of Jesus Christ himself the words that he addressed to his disciples: But Me you have not always with you.
It is not advisable, as many do, to begin to read immediately after Communion: it is then better to spend at least a short time in producing holy affections, and in conversing with Jesus, who is then within us, and in repeating many times words of tenderness, or some feeling prayer.
We are living out the joy of walking with Jesus, of being with Him, of carrying his cross with love, with a spirit that is always young!
For a few months now, we have worshipped as a church outside. At first, the hot summer temperatures were a challenge. Those have been replaced by the challenges posed by the cool Southern California winter. There have been challenges with smoke from fires, and a couple of rainstorms.
But what I think is the greatest challenge is the missing altar rail.
Outside, there is a parade by the pastor, the deacon who serve the people of God the body and blood of Christ. A spiriutal conveyor belt without time to pause, to contempalte, to let the presence of Christ’s body and blood be appreciated, reveled in, amazed at.
We go through the line, return to our seats and wait for the service to continue….
Especially during advent, where we left the altar open for peopel to stay as long as they needed. To find in that pause of time, the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the amazing mercy of Christ. The chance to pour out our broken lives, to be made complete as God comes to us, and dwells in us.
Not that having a rail to kneel at does all this. BUt it provides the opportunity for the pause that we need, the de Ligouri talks about so enthusiastically. The rest that we need, that was created for us by God, that was part of the Ten Commandments. Something so important that we are commanded to share it with those who work for us, who work with us, even providing it to those among us who are alien and foreigners. This is what people need!
This is a time we need to provide – but how… and how long….and how do we help people spend that time in awe of what has been given them in the sacrament. All questions – but none that prceclude giving people a few moments to ponder, to be in awe, to feel the relief that flows through us, as we experience the love of God.
God is with us… He gives Himself for us…
God read that last sentence again, and again…
We need to take time to process this, not just continue on with the service…
Something to ponder… so that others can ponder this gift of God’s love…. and then celebrate it…
btw – if you like this topic – consider this song by Bob Bennet,
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 75–76.
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 406.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
26 Judah said to his brothers: “What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood? 27 Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites, instead of doing away with him ourselves. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” His brothers agreed. 28 They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. Some Midianite traders passed by, and they pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and took him to Egypt. 29 When Reuben went back to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not in it, he tore his clothes, 30 and returning to his brothers, he exclaimed: “The boy is gone! And I–where can I turn?” 31 They took Joseph’s tunic, and after slaughtering a goat, dipped the tunic in its blood. 32 Then they sent someone to bring the long tunic to their father, with the message: “We found this. See whether it is your son’s tunic or not.” Genesis 37:26-32 (NAB)
As I was working through my devotional reading this morning, I was thinking of Luther’s claim that Jesus, and the Gospel is on every page of scripture. You see above part of my reading for this morning, and I tried to see if I could see Him there…
And I did, and obscure vision of Him for sure, the kind that lends itself to Luther’s explanation that people worship God, but fail in that they do not know God’s attitude toward them.
The brothers sinned against Joseph. No doubt about that, and if their father found out, they would lose everything. Perhaps they sold him because they thought their father would love them more if he was not around. Maybe they were just tired of his getting the best of everything. Maybe his visions, shared in a condescending way, were just to much. So they stole his life from him, or at least they tried.
In trying to deal with the consequences of their sin, they chose to cover it up, to conceal it, to hide it from their Father. So they killed an animal, and its blood was what concealed their sin. It meant the Father would never, ever find out what they did, and they could find a way to live with the other guilt, if they felt any at all.
Of course it didn’t work! They would eventually be found out, they would eventually bow to their brother, and dad would find out what they did….
But they had an idea, that the shedding of blood could cover their sins…
And in that we see Jesus in this passage. His blood, shed to cover sins, cleanses, not just covers. The writer of Hebrews explains,
“For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” Hebrews 9:13-14 (NAB)
If only they had understood God’s attitude toward them! If only they had known their heavenly Father would not only provide the forgiveness, but arrange for the resonciliation with Joseph, and with their dad, Israel. If only they had know how much God longed for them to not dwell in sin and its companions, guilt and shame. They almost had it… if only they had realized the blood that would do what they needed.
God would free them, just as He frees us…as He reveals His glory, that is His love and mercy, that are active in our lives, right now, today, even as you are reading this….
Heavenly Father, help us see and experience Your love for us, revealed in Christ Jesus. Help us to know we don’t need to cover up our sin, we don’t need a scapegoat, we don’t need to throw someone else under the bus… for You are with us. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 Our Lord, how long must I beg for your help before you listen? How long before you save us from all this violence? 3 Why do you make me watch such terrible injustice? Why do you allow violence, lawlessness, crime, and cruelty to spread everywhere? 4 Laws cannot be enforced; justice is always the loser; criminals crowd out honest people and twist the laws around. Habakkuk 1:2–4 (CEV)
12 God’s people must learn to endure. They must also obey his commands and have faith in Jesus. 13 Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Put this in writing. From now on, the Lord will bless everyone who has faith in him when they die.” The Spirit answered, “Yes, they will rest from their hard work, and they will be rewarded for what they have done.” Revelation 14:12-13 CEV
Again, Paul presents this in a most comforting manner when he points out that before the world began God ordained in his counsel through which specific cross and affliction he would conform each of his elect to “the image of his Son,” and that in each case the afflictions should and must “work together for good” since they are “called according to his purpose.” From this Paul draws the certain and indubitable conclusion that neither “tribulation nor anguish, neither death nor life, etc. can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:28, 29, 35, 38, 39).
The quote from the Prophet Habbabuk precedes prophecies that are extremely harsh toward sinners, toward those who do evil. But the prayer doesn’t recognize God’s work, it begs for His help because of violence being done, and a lack of any form of justice.
It would seem we are in those days again, where cruelty dominates more than mercy. Where neither side are innocent, but both are willing to sacrifice others. Where people are willing to be brutal, and narcissism is applauded and even envied.
I’ve heard to many people refer to this as the last days, that Biden or Trump is the anti-Christ, (and some think they work together!) I’ve heard people scared of the day, and spend their time warning people that they have to fear having their life and salvation stolen from them by some demonic deceit.
To believe that is to say that God has changed, that the God is less faithful to you and I than he was to the Old Testament prophets and those who depended on God. It also denies the prophecy of Revelation for the rest of those who trust in God, who live in Christ.
The early Lutherans understood this as well. That is why they were assured that God would use their suffering, even their deaths for good. They were facing death often, or imprisonment – and they were able to stay the course, because those who went before them God sustained – and they determined God would sustain them as well!
And that is why it doesn’t matter to a disciple if this is the last days. We look to Jesus, we see what He has promised for us, as He promised to every believer throughout time. He will keep those promises. And He guarantees nothing – no plan of Satan, no scam of mankind, nothing can separate us from God and his deliverance.
That isn’t my word, that is God’s promise. Whether these troubled times are the end of time, or whether we are just another group who struggle and are sustained by God, He is here, with you. And He has promised to guard your heart and mind, for you dwell in Christ Jesus. AMEN! (Phil. 4:7)
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 624.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
I know what you are doing. Everyone may think you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! You have only a little strength left, and it is almost gone. So try to become stronger. I have found that you are not completely obeying God. †3 Remember the teaching that you were given and that you heard. Hold firmly to it and turn from your sins. If you don’t wake up, I will come when you least expect it, just as a thief does. Rev. 3:1-3 CEV
Oh, what union is this! It is a depth which reason cannot fathom, that we thus feed upon Jesus. “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” It is also an invitation to enjoy fellowship with the saints. Christians may differ on a variety of points, but they have all one spiritual appetite; and if we cannot all feel alike, we can all feed alike on the bread of life sent down from heaven.
2735 In the first place, we ought to be astonished by this fact: when we praise God or give him thanks for his benefits in general, we are not particularly concerned whether or not our prayer is acceptable to him. On the other hand, we demand to see the results of our petitions. What is the image of God that motivates our prayer: an instrument to be used? or the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? (2779)
Since the Holy Scriptures call Christ a mystery over which all heretics break their heads, we admonish all Christians not to pry presumptuously into this mystery with their reason, but with the holy apostles simply to believe, close the eyes of reason, take their intellect captive to obey Christ, comfort themselves therewith, and rejoice constantly that our flesh and blood have in Christ been made to sit so high at the right hand of the majesty and almighty power of God!
When I was in doing my undergraduate work in preaching, the British pastor Spurgeon was held up to be a paragon of reason. A great man who explained the scriptures in a way that amazed people. We were urged to imitate him.
Yet I don’t remember the passion in his quote above (in purple) nor his appeal for the Lord’s Supper and to realize it is unexplainable, unfathomable, by our greatest minds. Read it again, see the incredible appetite that he notes all believers should develop, an appetite that displays our unity in Christ!
Likewise, the quote from the Formula of Concord, admonishing those who would pry presumptuously into this mystery with their reason, tells of something wonderful, and amazing. It encourages us to let Chirst take our intellect captive… to turn it over to God, and rejoice!
The Catholic Catechism’s rough question, about how we perceive the God we pray to nails our intellect once more. Give up trying to reason God into what you want, stop trying to find the way to manipulate Him, and realize this is the Father who sent Jesus to suffer on a Cross for you…
This is how the situation the church is facing in Sardis is avoided. People who were considered mature in their faith, but lived an empty life. That forgot the wonder of the teaching that Christ had made them His own, a gift for the Father. A teaching that left them in awe, that made them realize the moments in prayer, and in sharing the feast together in the presence of God were beyond any treasure they would ever know. That nothing could explain it.
Some may thing this means following Christ is not for the intellectual, the people who are brilliant, who are able to capture the knowledge that is beyond so many of us. That simply isn’t true, for these blessings are beyond their ability to explain as well…and the smartest people know their limitations as the ancient philosopher Socrates did, as well as the Solomon. (That time wandering with God will make the earthly knowledge more practical in its application to the benefit of man!)
The more I age, the more I seen the wisdom of this passage from Paul, “
1 Friends, when I came and told you the mystery that God had shared with us, I didn’t use big words or try to sound wise. 2 In fact, while I was with you, I made up my mind to speak only about Jesus Christ, who had been nailed to a cross. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (CEV)
This matters… and makes all else relevant, for if we don’t know Jesus, we simply chase after the wind…
He loves you! He died for you, so that you would rise with Him! And the Spirit dwells with you, until Jesus returns.
Rejoice.. and desire to experience His love more and more….e
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 656.
The Formula of Concord: Solid Declaration: The Person of Christ. from Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 609–610.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 My friends, while you are waiting, you should make certain that the Lord finds you pure, spotless, and living at peace. 15 Don’t forget that the Lord is patient because he wants people to be saved. 2 Peter 3:14-15 CEV
Prayer cannot be reduced to the spontaneous outpouring of interior impulse: in order to pray, one must have the will to pray. Nor is it enough to know what the Scriptures reveal about prayer: one must also learn how to pray.
But we still cannot change God, can we? No, we cannot. But is that why we pray? To change omniscient Love? Isn’t it rather to learn what it is and to fulfill it? Not to change it by our acts, but to change our acts by it.
To be sure, God’s name is holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may also be holy for us.
Time for some honesty.
I am struggling through my devotional time this morning. Too many distractions, phone calls, texts, emails. Add to that the weariness of 202 days of COVID. Back pain worse than usual adds to the total, not to mention grief and stressors that are there. I feel like I am in a deep fog…spiritually.
This is where I need to be, oddly enough, still trying to pray, and meditate, searching for my Lord’s voice, eventually, this is where my heart will find its rest.
Part of my mind hears other, save yourself for work, you have tasks to do. I’ve been mocked by others, who say they don’t need such a time, they pray throughout the day, holding conversations on the fly. I’ve got others who see no pragmatic reason for prayer, since God is all knowing, all powerful and what He does is for our best anyway. (Assuming of course that we love Him and are called according to His purposes. ) So if we can’t change what God’s going to do… why bother?
It’s time to breathe. to slowly and simply pray, to e quiet, and realize where I stand is holy ground – as is the place where you are standing. We aren’t professional prayers, there will be days of struggle. God knows that too, that is why there is the Holy Spirit there to comfort us, to empower us, to help us find the will and desire to keep seeking, to keep struggling to hear His voice.
in that process, God will strip away everything that divides us from Him. The anxiety, the grief, the pain will help sharpen the focus, and the sin will drift away. Been through this cycle enough to know this, even as I am stuck in it once again.
God is here, He sees us, and is working even now… and knowing His patience and desire guarantees that I am not alone in this struggle. that I am not alone in working on this moment.
He is here, so I can pick up the tablet again, and read His word, and see the stories of those who struggle as well. Struggle though I may, I know He struggles with me.
Lord, please don’t only have mercy on us, reveal that mercy clearly! AMEN!
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 637. (#2650)
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 147.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 346.
Devotional Thought for the Day
5 Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.
2 Corinthians 13:5 (MSG)
This passage reminds us that during the offering the Eucharistic liturgy all of us are to taste, to experience fully—not something less—of this paschal mystery. Indeed, this renewal of the Lord’s covenant in Mass draws the faithful into a compelling love “and sets them afire”. This burning love reminds us of Psalm 34:8 where we read of tasting and drinking deeply of the goodness of the Lord. When a person reaches this depth he is close to the pinnacle of holiness.
True and worthy communicants, on the other hand, are those timid, perturbed Christians, weak in faith, who are heartily terrified because of their many and great sins, who consider themselves unworthy of this noble treasure and the benefits of Christ because of their great impurity, and who perceive their weakness in faith, deplore it, and heartily wish that they might serve God with a stronger and more cheerful faith and a purer obedience.
70 This most venerable sacrament was instituted and ordained primarily for communicants like this, as Christ says, “Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Likewise, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
The “pinnacle of Holiness!’ I love the images that come to mind from such an idea. A tangible sense of the sacred, of standing on holy ground, of being so aware of the presence of God that you collapse on your knees and cry out of the purest joy.
How I wish everyone could simply ascend to that pinnacle. To know that you are that blessed. To be able to resonate with Mary as she is told she will be the mother of God incarnate, to know that undeniable experience that we are God’s, that He has brought us into His presence.
Such is what Dubray is describing, the at the moment experience of communing with God, of encountering Jesus in the sacrament. But he also indicates it is a moment of renewal, or restoring the promises of the covenant. The quote from the Lutheran Confessions, (Specifically the Formula of Concord) gives us the context, and why that renewal is necessary.
The Lord’s supper isn’t the kind of feast that is given to the victorious. It is the feast given to the broken, to the homeless, to those who are hungry for something that they cannot satisfy. That is when it makes the difference, that is when this meal brings the most joy. It takes self examination to realize we are at that point, where without God breaking into our world, we are doomed.
And there He is, renewing us. Healing us, comforting us, empowering us.
There, in an under the bread and the wine..
A foretaste of the feast….
and yes, a holy moment beyond compare, until we stand before the throne.
Lord, as we approach Your Altar, to share in Your feast, help us to understand that we so need it, help to experience our unity in You, that was delivered in our baptism, and is renewed as we share in Your Body and Blood. AMEN!
Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 44.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 582.
Ezekiel, the people of Israel are like dead bones. They complain that they are dried up and that they have no hope for the future. 12 So tell them, “I, the LORD God, promise to open your graves and set you free. I will bring you back to Israel, 13 and when that happens, you will realize that I am the LORD. 14 My Spirit will give you breath, and you will live again. I will bring you home, and you will know that I have kept my promise. I, the LORD, have spoken.” Ezekiel 37:11-14 CEV
Abraham certainly had sufficient ground for a disputation when he heard God’s words about offering up his son, because these words were patently contrary not only to reason and to divine and natural law but also to the eminent article of faith concerning the promised seed, Christ, who was to be born of Isaac. He could have asked if this command was to be understood literally or if it was to receive a tolerable and loose interpretation. But as on the previous occasion when Abraham received the promise of the blessed seed of Isaac, although this seemed impossible to his reason, he gave God the honor of truthfulness and concluded and believed most certainly in his heart that what God promised he was also able to do. So Abraham understood and believed the words and command of God plainly and simply, as the words read, and committed the entire matter to God’s omnipotence and wisdom, knowing that God had many more ways and means of fulfilling the promises concerning the seed of Isaac than he could comprehend with his blind reason.
But even if we had not fallen, even apart from sin and its consequences, a second reason for the imperfection of our knowledge of God is that we are finite. Only a finite image of the infinite God can appear in a finite mirror. The only mirror that reflects all of God is God. The only one who knows the Father perfectly is the Son.
A character named Harry Callahan once noted, “A man has to know His limitations!” It is a brilliant piece of advice, possibly based in Socrates admonition to “Know thyself” But that is not all we need to know, it is nt all we need to experience.
We need to know God’s limitations as well. We may not be able to understand them, but we can know them.
Abraham had an idea of them, so he determined that God could be trusted, even if God did something that seemed inconsistent. And so he took his son up the mountain in order to sacrifice him. God wants him to do that, well God gave him the son, though his wife was 40-50 years beyond childbearing age! And so he knew God’s limitations, simply the promises God has made, and the love which causes those promises to be fulfilled.
The problem is with our finite knowledge, how we picture God is so limited, and because of our experience, so flawed. We only know imperfect love, and mercy that always has a cost. We know how fragile our on motives are, how even when we do good, we may not be doing it for the right reasons.
This is why we need to go back to the promises God has always made people. We need the Spirit to breathe into us life, we need to be set free of what oppresses us. To get to the place where we can take a deep breath, and realize He is God.
And that He has brought us into His presence…. and with Him we are home.
Lord, work in our lives, and through us in our communities. Help us, even with our limitations, to experience Your presence, and Your love. AMEN!
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 577–578.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 141.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. 8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:7-9 (NLT2)
We do not read anywhere that God delighteth in the cloud-capped mountains, or the sparkling stars, but we do read that he delighteth in the habitable parts of the earth, and that his delights are with the sons of men. We do not find it written that even angels give his soul delight; nor doth he say, concerning cherubim and seraphim, “Thou shalt be called Hephzibah, for the Lord delighteth in thee”; but he does say all that to poor fallen creatures like ourselves, debased and depraved by sin, but saved, exalted, and glorified by his grace. In what strong language he expresses his delight in his people! Who could have conceived of the eternal One as bursting forth into a song? Yet it is written, “He will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.”
2531 Purity of heart will enable us to see God: it enables us even now to see things according to God.
Though their good works are still imperfect and impure, they are acceptable to God through Christ because according to their inmost self they do what is pleasing to God not by coercion of the law but willingly and spontaneously from the heart by the renewal of the Holy Spirit
I am presently taking a class in pastoral counseling. For most, it is their first course in the subject, as it can be taken, and therefore it is good to see the first 3 hours of the course dedicated to helping the students develop listening skills.
But as I read these passages in my devotions, I wondered how developed our listening skills are, when it comes to God? If we don’t listen, how can we ever begin to realize how He sees us, how can we understand the love, and the mercy.
For instance, I have heard part of the quote from Isaiah in more sermons and lectures I can account for. Usually it is something like this, “God is so higher than you, you can never understand His mysteries, you just need to shut up and obey!” But I rarely, if ever, heard it in the context of the generous forgiveness of our sins! That is its context, there is focus of those thoughts that are beyond us! His desire that we turn to Him.
I think that is because we can’t see what the Lutheran Confessions, the Catholic Catechism and Spurgeon all encourage us to see, the way God sees us. If we believe He sees us as pure, we begin to realize that as our reality. Our works then, done to brink Him joy rather than “prove” our righteousness take on a different nature. Most important we bein to realize God rejoices in our lives, and invests in us His love in a way that transforms everything.
Not because we deserve it, love doesn’t give a rip about what is deserved… it instead desires the best for who it loves, and it does everything to help the beloved achieve that!
This is who we are… the beloved of God, the ones whom He sees as His people, and because of the cross as His righteous people, the ones He loves. We may not understand it compeltely, we may struggle to see it His way. But we can experience it, and that experience is strengthened through the hearing and meditating (not studying- meditating) on His word, receiving the sacraments and in prayer.
We need these things, for in them is revealed His thoughts, His mercy and His love.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 605.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 568.