Category Archives: Catholic Theology
Mary, the mother of God, Luther and an Overlooked Prophecy…
Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and to the cross:
34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” Luke 2:34-35 (NLT2)
The holy Virgin was a real martyr for three days, and these days were harder for her than was the external pain of martyrdom to other saints. She had had such anxiety on her Son’s account that she could not have suffered any more bitter pain. For that is the greatest torture and woe, when the heart is attacked and tortured. That is only half-suffering when the body alone is afflicted, but when the heart is compelled to endure suffering, only great and noble spirits, with special grace and strength, are able to endure it. But why does God permit these afflictions to come upon his loved ones?
…..Thirdly, God does this that he may teach his saints to prepare themselves to find Christ and keep him. Mary and Joseph sought the child Jesus for three days without finding him either in Jerusalem or among their friends and acquaintances, until they came to the temple where he sat among the teachers and where the Scriptures and God’s Word are studied.
I never made the connection between the three days that Mary and Joseph lost Jesus, finding Him in the Temple, and the 3 days His body was in the tomb. That is, until I read Luther’s thoughts this morning. Knowing what she knew from prophecy would only make the anxiety more unbearable – “how could I have lost the Messiah?”–“could this wreck the plans God had to save Israel?” Her mind (and stomach) must have done more flips and somersaults than a Olympic gymnastics competition.
She must have thought that this was the answer to Simeon’s prophecy, this was the time that the sword pierces her soul.
For how could she know this One, the baby she held, the rabbi that was her Son would be tortured and killed? To wonder if He was alive, or to know He was dead. To wonder about all she had seen and heard, from her cousin’s son proclaiming that Jesus was the Lamb of God, to the miracles and the teachings. That was agonizing, and yet, as she would find Him in the Temple, she would find that death could not contain Him.
We, too, occasionally leave Jesus in the Temple, we occasionally leave Him at the altar. We head back home, only to realize we’ve lost our peace, and wonder where He is at. Realizing that, our life crashes down again, and only “finding Him” can lift us back up. The third reason Luter points to (i deleted the first two) is so that we know this can happen, we can find Him again, and keep Him. Or rather, find out He’s been keeping us the entire time. We can find Him where word and sacrament are offered, where His love and His mercy become tangible. We find Him and what we desperately need to live life in peace.
I don’t think Mary had as much anxiety the second time she found Jesus after “losing” Him. For the resurrection changed everything in her life, and the lives of those around her. As it changes our lives, yours and mine today.
I just need to ask…
have we lost Him in the midst our pilgrimage….and are we ready to find Him where He dwells with His people?
Heavenly Father, reveal our hearts, and in doing so let us never be content with leaving Jesus behind. Rather, make us hunger and thirst for your presence, and rejoice in Your satisfying our desire to dwell in Your presence. AMEN!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 18–19.
What worship is… the place where souls are cured
8 Every Sabbath day this bread must be laid out before the LORD. The bread is to be received from the people of Israel as a requirement of the eternal covenant. 9 The loaves of bread will belong to Aaron and his descendants, who must eat them in a sacred place, for they are most holy. It is the permanent right of the priests to claim this portion of the special gifts presented to the LORD.” Leviticus 24:8-9 (NLT2)
The rites and liturgy of man acquire the power to evoke the divine mystery that eye has not seen, that ear has not heard and that it has not entered into the heart of man to conceive. Words, therefore, become seeds of prayer and of contemplation, instruments of man’s transfiguration into the likeness of the Holy God Whom no one can see without dying. Words and symbols lie in the depths of man’s inherited store of knowledge and memory and even in the souls of men who have completely forgotten God these archetypal seeds of divinity and mystery still lie hidden, waiting to germinate like the grains of wheat laid away thousands of years ago, with a Pharaoh under his pyramid
Running-the-church questions are: What do we do? How can we get things going again?
Cure-of-souls questions are: What has God been doing here? What traces of grace can I discern in this life? What history of love can I read in this group? What has God set in motion that I can get in on?
In order for the rites and liturgy of which Merton speaks do what he desires, we have to understand that the rites and liturgy of man means that he is an actor, a part of those rites and liturgies. He is not their controller, their guardian, their defender, or the one who manipulates them. They have to be Divine, the rites and liturgies that are soundly based in scripture and they must reveal Jesus to those who need healing.
Any other goal for worship, which deviates the attention of God and His people dwelling together as God heals hearts and souls, and bodies, that’s not liturgical worship. It doesn’t plant the word of God deeply in them, it doesn’t result in a spiritual connection. It blocks us from seeing what God is doing, replacing His actions with the actions man has done, or that the pastor/leaders want the congregation to do.
They may be highly motivated, they may be doctrinally astute, but that is not the purpose of worship. Worship is to give people what they need to know about Jesus, it is to comfort terrified and anxious souls (see the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV) The service provides the healing of souls, what has been called the cure of souls. It is what God is providing for His people, this miraculous work of His in our lives.
This is what Peterson is getting at – the difference between “running a church” and being a place where the “cure of souls” occurs. That cure results in a worship that is beyond just singing a couple of cool songs, it results in a transformation that is beyond words, and a peace that is beyond expression. Both a result of a love that is beyond logic.
And realizing that love, that mercy, that peace, is what we are to be doing…. and then responding with God’s people.
That’s what the scripture passage is really about – the fact that the offerings God’s people give are used to provide for …God’s priests. And since all believer’s now belong to the priesthood… God uses our offerings, our sacrifices – to care for us. (He certainly doesn’t need the $$) Again – a response to the cure of souls…
This is why God gathers us together, to care for us, to cure us, to make us whole, and wholly His.
Lord, help us to see Your work as we are gathered by the Holy Spirit, in Your Name! AMEN!
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 60–61.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 70.
“Take Only Two?” Learning to Accept God’s Work
Thoughts that draw me to Jesus, and to His cross
Moses said, “The LORD has commanded us to save some manna, to be kept for our descendants, so that they can see the food which he gave us to eat in the desert when he brought us out of Egypt.” 33*Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, put two litres of manna in it, and place it in the LORD’s presence to be kept for our descendants.” Exodus 16:32-33 GNT
The union of the Christian with God is the exact opposite of a Promethean exploit, because the Christian is not trying to steal something from God that God does not want him to have. On the contrary, he is striving with his whole heart to fulfil the will of God and lay hands upon that which God created him to receive. And what is that? It is nothing else but a participation in the life, and wisdom, and joy and peace of God Himself. This is greater than any other gift, higher than any other power.
In my reading this morning, I was struck by the detail given in the directions to Aaeon. Only put 2 litres (an omer) of Manna in the jar. It was something I had to go back and think about. Why 2 litres/quarts, Why that sampling amount?
The only thing I could find was that was the amount each person was supposed to collect off the ground each day, for that day’s need. 2 quarts and that was it – collect more and it spoiled quickly. Now think of the Lord’s prayer, where we are asking God not for a month’s supply, not a weeks, but the bread we need for this day. That is what we are to depend on Him for, one days need at a time.
I think this is to form us, to keep our conversation with God going. Not that God won’t provide it all, but asking daily helps us stay in communication with Him, and to realize He is keeping His promises. This is what Merton is getting at as well, our regular communication—and more. The more being a partnership – a fellowship, a sharing in the wisdom, joy and peace of God Himself. It is about walking with God,a nd realizing that is what He’s always done for His people.
The Manna was to help Israel remember God providing for them, caring for them – food, drink, protection, healing, forgiveness. He would provide for each, every day, that is the reminder of the 2 litres. He came to them and made sure they all knew His presence and that they could depend on His care! They could know He would provide, even though they struggled to talk with Him, preferring to use Moses as a buffer zone. They didn’t need this buffer zone, God didn’t want it, but He is patience with us. Even when we don’t understand how He works, even when we get anxious for next Tues, or next year.
The manna reminds us – give us this day…
Still He was there, a pillar of fire at night, the cloud of smoke by day.
He was there, as He is with us…and He gives us reminders of His presence and provision. May we appreciate these things that point us to Him, even as we worship and praise Him, right here where we live.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 34.
Some Changes… yet the same message!
Then God commanded, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate day from night and to show the time when days, years, and religious festivals Gen 1:14.GNT
Now all this happened in order to make what the Lord had said through the prophet come true, 23*“A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel” (which means, “God is with us”). Matt 1:22-23
How foolish it is therefore for the inexperienced to assume pastoral authority when the care of souls is the art of arts.1 For who does not realize that the afflictions of the mind are more hidden than the internal wounds of the body
This true bride-love God presents to us in Christ, in that he allowed him to become man for us and be united with our human nature that we might thus perceive and appreciate his good will toward us. As the bride loves her betrothed, so also does Christ love us; and we on our part will love him, if we believe and are the true bride. Although he gave us the wisdom of all the prophets, the glory of all the saints and angels, and even heaven, yet would we not esteem them unless he gave us himself. The bride can be satisfied with nothing; the only one thing she wants is the bridegroom himself. “My beloved is mine and I am his.”
A seller of purple, Lydia traveled to the market of her day, and undoubtedly she had found freedom and satisfaction in that era when women were not counted at all.
But Lydia heard the Apostle Paul tell of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the Lord opened her heart. In Christ she found an eternal answer, which career and position had never been able to give.
Religions do not, in fact, simply supply answers to questions. Or at least they do not confine themselves to this until they become degenerate. Salvation is more than the answer to a question.
Every November 1, I change up my devotional reading list. It is like saying goodbye to old friends, and trying to get used to new friends.
Except this year.
This year, the new selections are like meeting an old friend who has had massive changes in their appearance, yet re the same person inside. At least that is my impression after the first day. The readings, from a early Roman Catholic Pope, a different selection from Luther, Tozer and Merton all bring home what I’ve dedicated my ministry to, as well as my academic career.
We need Jesus…. and we need to guide people into the presence of Christ, despite what they think they know of Him. This sounds simple, but only after 25 years of ministry and three degrees do I feel like I’ve only begun to understand how to bring people into the presence of Christ in such a way they find healing and peace. Pope Gregory is right, this is an art form, not an academic exercise. But there is nothing–absolutely nothing–more important. Getting people to open up and share their woundedness is rarely possible in an hour. Sometimes it takes a decade. But when it happens, and they learn to walk with Jesus a step or two… oh how wonderful it is!
This is what Luther is trying to help us understand, as he urges us to understand God’s love, and His good will (care) for us, in the intimately deep way that a husband should care for his wife, knowing her needs, caring for her when life is challenging. Knowing that Christ cares for us this deeply, this completely, allows us to toss aside that which burdens us, just to spend time with Him–being His. We need this time, more than anything, for from it comes the ability to care for others, even as we’ve been cared for by Jesus.
Again–the idea of SoulCare is right there, in front of everything.
That is what Lydie found, as Tozer commented. Ahead of her culture by two millennia, this woman ran a very incredible, high profit business. And found something all the success in the world could not provide. A soul at peace! A soul that was content in waiting for what God has planned for those who love Him because she heard Paul’s voice, and the Holy Spirit showed her the love and care of Christ…for her.
Which brings us to Thomas Merton, the wild card in my reading this year. And yet he nails it, this idea that our religion isn’t just an answer to a question. Christianity is more than dealing with the questions of sin, guilt, shame, death, even more than questions about heaven and hell. It is about the relationship with Jesus, who is God-with-us—even now! Right where you are reading this. He is Immanuel, God with us! Knowing this changes everything about life. As Luther noted – everything else falls aside, and we concentrate on the One who loves us.
Which brings us to the last quote, the odd translation of the Good News Translation in Genesis 1 – where God established the night and the day to determine the timing of religious festivals. The Hebrew there means “appointed times”, which makes me think there is a point here, since the order seems a little odd. Days, years and holidays (holy days) seems more logical than days, years and seasons. These appointed times/religious festivals where special times of rest, where God gathered His people to allow them a chance to rest, and to heal. A time to be cared for, cleansed, assured that God loves, even adores His people. This is what heals the soul, this incredible blessing of knowing God’s attitude toward us!
The Lord is with you! And there is a reason for Him to be here. To show you that you are loved.
This is what this religion is about – not just the answer to a question, but a relationship deeper and more precious than anything we can experience… and we are only just beginning it.
May we know this – more and more thoughout this next year!
St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 29.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 384–385.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 1–2.
The Road to Holiness Starts With Significant Failure…
Thoughts that drive me to Jesus Christ, and His cross:
The king’s demand is impossible. No one except the gods can tell you your dream, and they do not live here among people.” Daniel 2:11 NLT
605 “Father, how can you stand such filth?” you asked me after a contrite confession. I said nothing, thinking that if your humility makes you feel like that—like filth, a heap of filth!—then we may yet turn all your weakness into something really great.
The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.…
When the wisemen around the King heard his demand, they heard only a death sentence, for they knew all their intellect and wisdom was not up to the king’s demand. And unknowingly scripture records a prophetic statement – that only a God that would live among men could possibly save them.
There was no other way. The task was too great.
Daniel will step in, and walking with God will have the impossible made possible, the unknowable revealed, and will become the savior of the wisemen. All of them, even those who served other gods and demons.
His words to the king reinforced this: it isn’t about our strength or power.
And it is not because I am wiser than anyone else that I know the secret of your dream, but because God wants you to understand what was in your heart. Daniel 2:30 NLT
That’s why St Josemaria finds hope for the man confessing the filthiest of sins. For he has realized the need for assistance that only God can provide. Not only can He help and heal us, He will. He promised that help, that comfort.
Similarly, Tozer finds that the man so convinced that he cannot purify himself has finally reached the point where holiness is assured – because his only option is to look to Jesus!
Therefore, while receiving the sacraments is important, it is critical to meditate on what God is doing, as He sprinkled water on us, as He feeds us His body and Blood, as we realize what it means for Him to say, “My Child, you are forgiven all your sin, all injustice has been cleaned from our lives. We need to think that through, not just 2 minutes before church. These sacraments were not established, so God could look down on us as well behaving muppets. He established them so that we could be ministered to, so that we would have something tangible to remember, to think through, to have our souls captivated by. As He captures out hearts and minds, we reflect His glory into the dark world in which we live. That is what holiness is, to be so caught up in the relationship that we unconsciously take on the image of Jesus.
Our God is here. He is with us… and He makes us holy, as we find peace in His presence.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Does God Really Know Everything? You might be surprised the answer is NO!
Thoughts that draw us close to Jesus Christ and His Cross:
25 “I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.Isaiah 43:25 (NLT2)
I, the LORD, made you, and I will not forget you.22 I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.”23 Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! .Isaiah 44:21b-23 (NLT2)
Now, on the basis of grace as taught in the Word of God, when God forgives a man, He trusts him as though he had never sinned. God did not have mental reservations about any of us when we became His children by faith. When God forgives a man, He doesn’t think, I will have to watch this fellow because he has a bad record. No, He starts with him again as though he had just been created and as if there had been no past at all! That is the basis of our Christian assurance—and God wants us to be happy in it.
The great privilege of contemplatives is that we are invited to share first in our own redemption by accepting our personal alienation from God and its consequences throughout our lives, and then to identify with the divine compassion in healing the world through the groanings of the Spirit within us.
One of the standard theological characteristics of God is that He is a know it all.
The technical term is omniscience, and it is a logical progression. He is all powerful, created and sustains everything, therefore He knows everything–right?
Not so fast, for scripture says something contrary. For those that are in a relationship with God, there is one thing He chooses not to know.
If only it was so easy for us to not know them!
SO many of us live in the dark shadows caused by our guilt and shame for those sins once committed, yet which we still can’t dismiss from our hearts and our souls.
We need to learn to! While we have to recognize our sin, it is equally important to realize God is healing us. We can’t do the second without the first, and more than you can add gas to an empty fule take without realizing your need for it. Without God’s grace, we are dead.
But with grace, those sins become non-existent. He knows them no longer, and since He is still omniscient, they are not history..
That is why Jesus talks of being born again, and Paul talks about the renewing of our mind, and Ezekiel talks about a heart transplant, so the Holy Spirit begins to reside there.
God doesn’t know those sins, so let them slide away, even as they were once removed and live life free of them! You find that other sins and temptations will lose their grip on you as well..
God is with you, and He sees you as innocent.
Just think on that for a moment – and then love the Lord and this life He is sharing with you!
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), 278.
Is, not Be: The Necessity of realizing God is with you!
Thoughts driving me to the refuge found in the cross of Christ.
Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.
4 But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, TItus 3:3-4 NLT
In what I have to say I may not be joined by any ground swell of public opinion, but I have a charge to make against the church. We are not consciously aware of God in our midst. We do not seem to sense the tragedy of having almost completely lost the awareness of His presence.…
Revival and blessing come to the church when we stop looking at a picture of God and look at God Himself. Revival comes when, no longer satisfied just to know about a God in history, we meet the conditions of finding Him in living, personal experience.…
No one knows the Father like the Son because He emerged from the bosom of this Trinitarian Mystery that John says is love. Notice John doesn’t just say God shows love. God is love. This is a huge distinction. The love of God is God. That means it’s not sentimental. It’s incredibly powerful. It’s ruthlessly determined. It’s determined to give itself away at any cost. And one problem we will have with the God who really is, is that he’ll invite us to do the same.
As I write this, I feel rushed, I feel anxious, there are so many things to do to prepare for the weeks to come, there are people I need to see now, there are things I need to figure out how to defuse, and move past.
I didn’t want to do my readings and prayer this morning, or maybe it was I was tempted not to. (Last night Bible Study was on the Lord’s prayer and “lead us not to temptation!”) Satan would love me not to break and spend time…and my own flesh is weary.. and the pressures of the world… well lets not go there.
In the worship service, what some call the mass, there is a phrase often repeated that we need to correct. It sounds like a blessing in modern English, yet it was a statement of fact in the old days.
“The Lord BE with you!” Is how it sounds in most Lutheran and Anglican Hymnals, and in the missals our our brother and sister Roman Catholics.
We need to hear that as “The Lord IS with you!” (and us who guide worship – desperately need to hear, “and also with you!”)
Tozer had it right – to often we enter worship and go all the way through it without giving a thought to the presence of God. That He IS with us, in that moment, a participant in worship–more active even than we are. (side note: as I write this, my grammar checker tells me that the words “the presence of” are not needed for clarity! I think the church has unknowingly done the same! ) We must recognize that we are standing on holy ground.
This is the God of whom Keating is speaking, The God who IS love. A love that is powerful, ruthlessly determined to make Himself known, and willing to give up everything for the benefit of those whom He loves.
I need to know that – as do you. And there are days we desperately need to know this!
We need to know what Paul told Titus about..
We need to see God reveal His kindness and love…and in order to do that, we have to be drawn into His presence. He needs to clean us, teach our hearts and souls and minds that He loves us. If we don’t get that point right, everything else we do as a church is worthless, hopeless, and pitiful.
We have to get HE IS HERE. HE IS with you and me. RIght now, at our desks, or in our work places. He is here to heal, forgive, comfort, lift up, and give us hope. Hope for this life… and for eternity.
He is with you my friends.
The Lord IS with you!
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), 251.
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.”  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.
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.
Pay Attention! You (and yours) ARE NOT FORGOTTEN!
Thoughts that drag me backt to Jesus and the cross…
“Pay attention, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I, the LORD, made you, and I will not forget you. 22 I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” Isaiah 44:21-22 (NLT2)
For if Christ by the touch of his most innocent flesh has hallowed all waters, yes, even all creation, through baptism, how much more has he by the same touch of his most innocent flesh and blood sanctified every form of death, all suffering and loss, every curse and shame for the baptism of the Spirit, or the baptism of blood!
Perhaps we can understand Jesus’ identity as the Son of God more clearly by thinking of him in terms of the revelation of the Trinity. That revelation affirms what the mystics of all religions have intuited: that the ultimate nature of infinite being is love. God, the ultimate reality, the absolute, in a way beyond our comprehension, is a community of persons. As the Father has life in himself and pours it into his Son, and they rejoice in it together in the procession of the Holy Spirit, so the Son who has life in himself, shares the divine life with the whole human family through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and invites everyone to the banquet of eternal life.
There are days I need to go back, and think through who God is. If I don’t understand that, there is no way I get through life.
Buddha supposedly said, “Life is suffering.” In the 1980s, someone revised it a little, saying, “Life’s a *itch, and then you die.” Without knowing God, without knowing HIs heart, these fatalistic statements are all there is….
But if I can process who Jesus is, how the God-man dynamic works, I can’t say I understand, but I begin to know… God wants me to know He loves you… and even me. As I realize that God, that Jesus came to us… with one purpose, to gather us to the Father. That here, HIs cross provides that point were everything heals, become holy, becomes healthy.
Theology doesn’t unlock every deep thought, every mystery of the faith. But it gives me enough understanding where I can see the importance of what is experienced. Luther’s comment about baptism not just make us holy, but making holy even every minute of suffering and death is like that. Christ’s death changes it all…
And allowed us to be returned to God…
He never forgot about us. He could not!
ANd on a Monday, this is the message I need to experience…. even if I can’t understand how or why…
Jesus is God, He’s come… and therefore, you are never forgotten!
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), 142.
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), 220.