Category Archives: Fellowship
21 “Not all those who say ‘You are our Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. The only people who will enter the kingdom of heaven are those who do what my Father in heaven wants. 22 On the last day many people will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, we spoke for you, and through you we forced out demons and did many miracles.’ 23 Then I will tell them clearly, ‘Get away from me, you who do evil. I never knew you.’ Matt 7:21-23 NCV
I pray Thee, O God, pour out upon me Thy Holy Spirit,—the Spirit of prayer,—that I may ever love and desire to pray; being daily free to approach Thee, with all confidence, in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ; to bow the knee before Thee in every time of need, as a child well beloved.
And so we go about our lives almost mechanically with little or no awareness of the seed of contemplation buried deep within. This is as true of many, if not most, Christian counselors as it is of their clients.
We live by default, doing what we have been programmed to do. We have been conditioned to believe that busyness and multi-tasking are a mark of effectiveness, that human efforts and plans speed up positive change, and that vitality is acquired by activity. The cultural focus on doing as opposed to being that society privileges tends to strengthen this conditioning.
For the past two months I have been thinking about the church, mine, those in my district, those in my denomination and those across the USA.
For a dozen years or more, people have been saying we are in the Post-Christian Age, though I think they mean the post church and post congregational age. Experts are telling us to redefine minsitry away from preaching the Gospel, and administrating the sacraments, and to do something, anything – to bring people into community. Old programs are being reinvented, redefined and placed out there as the hope for what they didn’t deliver in the first place. Others lament and want to go back to the systems and practices of the 1950’s or earlier, as if the church was perfect back then. We panic when this then doesn’t work, and hop into the next hope–often written by someone in the midst of their own efforts to overcome the slump their church is in….until the next book comes out, the next magazine or blog that promotes this or that…
I think we need to stop…seriously stop what we are doing.
I think if we don’t, the church is going to find itself as the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecty above – a church that spoke for Him, delivered people out of bondage, and even did miracles, but never knew Him, and were not known by Him.
I believe Nolasco describes this place we are at as well as any… we do things – even mechanically, but we aren’t away of what God has planted in His church. We don’t spend time contemplating it in prayer. We ,measure our effectiveness, and now be-moan it…without considering what we know – that the Holy Spirit is in charge of the harvest. Our books on leadership, even in the church, push this – and we buy into it. We miss the chapters on prayer and devotion written by those who planted and replanted churches before us, to get to what “we have to do!” But because we lack a seriously intimate relationship with Jesus, we don’t have the foundaiton of worship and prayer that all renewal and revival is based.
Let me take it a step further, the church no longer cares about preaching about the sin its own people need to be delivered from, because it doesn’t treasure the intimate relaitonship with Jesus found at the cross.
Lohe’s prayer, translated in 1914 can be prayed (maybe translated first!) today. That all the church, from its pastors to the newest visitor need to spend time in prayer and contemplation of the presence of God! We need to receive and treasure the comfort and mercy we have, the peace that comes upon us, the moments we know that He is here…for us.
It is only, by stopping, being silent, finding our place in His refuge and knowing what it means for Him to be our Lord and God, that we will ever realize the ministry we’ve been given… it is only because of experience the burdens of sin and all its corrolary effects that our freedom in Chirst ever becomes something of glory. It isonly then we can approach Him confidently, as children approaching the One they know loves them…
and then, aware of what He does nin our lives, we begin to see the needs of the world, for that sae revelation, for that same intimate relationship.
For that same joy…
William Lœhe, Seed-Grains of Prayer: A Manual for Evangelical Christians, trans. H. A. Weller (Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House, 1914), 7–8.
Rolf Nolasco Jr., The Contemplative Counselor: A Way of Being (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2011), 1–2.
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to the Cross
So then, my brothers and sisters, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:1-2 GNT
Those who have been cast down in terror should not despair, or flee before God, but rise again and be comforted in God. God wishes to have it preached and published that he never lays his hand upon us in order that we may perish and be damned. But he must pursue this course to lead us to repentance, else we would never inquire about his Word and will. If we seek his grace, he is ready to help us up again, to grant us forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit and eternal life.
Oh, if we would only stop trying to make the Holy Spirit our servant and begin to live in His life as the fish lives in the sea, we would enter into the riches of glory about which we know nothing now. Too many of us want the Holy Spirit in order to have some gift—healing or tongues or preaching or prophecy.
Yes, these have their place in that total pattern of the New Testament, but let us never pray that we may be filled with the Spirit for a secondary purpose!
Remember, God wants to fill you with His Spirit as an end in your moral life. God’s purpose is that we should know Him first of all, and be lost in Him; and that we should enter into the fullness of the Spirit that the eternal Son, Jesus Christ, may be glorified in us!
In WEB Griffin’s masterpiece about the US Army, and officer responds to a question about a combat decision with, “I regret it was necessary”. The phrase always stuck in my mind. I can’t even remember when Captain Parker (that name stuck in my mind) said it, or in which book it was said.
It came to mind while reading Luther’s quote this morning, as I think God thinks something like that every time He has to discipline us, whether individually, as a community, as the world. Does God enjoy it? Never! Even for the wicked who die in bondage to their sin God weeps over. Its not His plan, and He works through His people, through the word and sacraments they share, to constantly to lift up those who realize how broken they are.
This is what St. Paul is describing to the church in Rome, encouraging people to stop fighting God, to simply let Him transform them into the image of Christ – as He planned. This will be uncomfortable at times, it will be disappointing at other times, but you cannot reshape and repurpose something without some changes being made. Embrace those changes!
The changes are necessary, completely necessary–even if we regret that they are needed.
That is where Tozer’s quote comes in, as too often people come to God with their own agendas. In this case it is referring to charismatics, but it is applicable to all who claim to follow God. It isn’t about the gifts, the theology, the worship style, about our pleasure (because we are living sacrifices) it is completely about being lost in Christ, having the Holy Spirit envelop us, knowing God in all His glory.
That is what this religion called Christianity is all about – nothing less than this…
The Lord is with you!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL:
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008). Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 229–230.
Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”……Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story. Luke 1,5 GNT
And I tell you more: whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.” Matthew 18:19-20 GNT
But Christ approached, raised him up, and placed him on a higher plane of faith. “Go thy way; thy son liveth.” Thus the man advanced from his first faith, when he believed that Christ could heal if he were present, to a higher stage of faith, by reason of which he now believed the mere Word of Christ. For if he had not believed the Word, he would not have ceased until the Lord had accompanied him to his house; but he accepted the Word, believed Christ and clung to his Word.
Does that mean we learn how to pray in community, that what we do in solitude is something we take from the community’s worship?
That’s what I mean. If somebody comes to me and says, “Teach me how to pray,” I say, “Be at this church at nine o’clock on Sunday morning.” That’s where you learn how to pray. Of course, prayer is continued and has alternate forms when you’re by yourself. But the American experience has the order reversed. In the long history of Christian spirituality, community prayer is most important, then individual prayer.
I had to look it up, but Petersen is right, our being taught to pray starts in groups. Bible studies, small groups, but especially in the church. In the book he will spend more time on the issue, but I needed to think through just this first part.
It was even this way in scripture, as Jesus taught, bet before, as Moses at Sinai and Solomon at the dedication of the Temple, as Nehemiah and Ezra and Daniel all learned to pray, it was as the family of God.
We need to learn more than by reading a book, for there we can only learn a form. We need to see others struggling with God, blessing God, realizing how complete His mercy is, how beyond reason God’s love is. I think that is what lifts us up, as we see Jesus lift up others. It is in these groups of believers that prayer becomes more than a spiritual exercise routine. It becomes a conversation based on our trust in God, our dependence on Him. We learn that from observation, from sharing in the tears, and in the joy, from sharing as our anxieties are calmed, our spirits are comforted, and as we realize that God is in our midst.
Does this mean we do not pray on our own? Of course not! But there is something about knowing others are praying for you, with you, as we storm heaven to ask God to be there. There is something about seeing others – locked in prayer, and being comforted by the Holy Spirit. The numbers aren’t the issue, the communion, the fellowship, the bonding is.
For as we realize we are praying in one voice, we realize that voice is in respons eot the Voice-the Voice who taught us to pray, together….
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 393.
Eugene H. Peterson, Introduction, ed. Rodney Clapp, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 15–16.