Category Archives: Martin Luther

He is Here…but i struggle to focus on Him

Thoughts that draw me closer to Jesus

Even now my witness is in heaven. My advocate is there on high.
I need someone to mediate between God and me, as a person mediates between friends. Job 16:19,21 (NLT2)

This does not mean that we do not have unwanted thoughts during prayer, but that we return again and again to the basic consent of self-surrender and trust. We say “yes” to that presence, and every now and again enter into union with it as we identify the divine presence in Christ’s humanity with the divine presence within us. When we say, “Come, Lord Jesus,” we should remember that Christ is already here and that his coming means that he becomes more and more present to our consciousness.

Somebody asked, “Doctor [Luther], if a parish minister absolves a woman who has killed her infant child and afterward the matter becomes public through others, should the parish minister, when asked, offer testimony in this case before a judge?”
“By no means,” said the doctor [Martin Luther], “for the forum of conscience is to be distinguished from the forum of the civil government. The woman didn’t confess anything to me; she confessed to Christ. But if Christ keeps it hidden, I should conceal it and simply deny that I heard anything.

When Fr. Keating mentions prayer being interrupted by unwarranted thoughts, I breathed a sigh of relief. I struggle with that often, for even while I am praying for someone or about some situation, my mind wanders far off. Then, rather than refocus on the cross, my soul struggles with my spiritual lack of focus, I wallow in guilt and shame.

I need to run back to the cross, I need to find my comfort and strength and direction there. I need to find Him in my consciousness. And like Job, i know my advocate is in heaven, but I need to know He is here on earth, with me as well. A mediator who is more than that, a mediator who is a friend. 

There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus is here. But to convince my hear and soul of that, and that Jesus is a friend…sent by God the Father, is a little more of a challenge. Especially when my mind struggles to focus on our relationship.

As I was reading my devotional readings this morning, I kept coming back to Luther’s words about a pastor. I know I speak for Christ, and as I hear other pastors, and they speak the words that declare us righteous, holy, for our sin has been removed. I treasure those words, and what they mean to me and to other believers. What hit me from Luther’s answer was that not only is the pastor put there to say those words, but He is there to hear the sins, the failures, the words loaded with grief and shame as well.

Hearing that opens a door, it helps me see another side of Christ – that He is will to hear those words, despite how they confess my betrayal of Him. He desires to take that burden away, ridding me of the weight of it. And then to bring me into the presence of God the Father, saying “Abba, look who I’ve brought home…this is my friend..”

Thinking about those moments, and other sacramental moments, helps calm me enough to see His presence. To just realize the presence of God, is one thing – to realize the purpose of His presence, to spend time with us, with me, is another. He is there as Job requested, to intercede with the Father, to comfort with His presence, to share in a love that goes beyond our words.

Knowing this helps the focus, and when it loses its sharpness, causes me to remember, and look again to see my Friend, who is already here with me, and there with you.

Heavenly Father, help us realize the presence of Christ in our lives, and that He has drawn us into His death so that we could rise with Him! Help us, when our concentration fades, to still see His face, and be drawn back once again into His love. Thank you for not giving up on us, but caring for us and teaching us to be compassionate. We ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN!

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), 183.

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), 395.

How to be Holy…How to See Revival Begin

Thoughts which draw us to Jesus!

Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed* and he himself* will be saved on the day the Lord* returns.
6 Your boasting about this is terrible. Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.* 8 So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old bread* of wickedness and evil, but with the new bread* of sincerity and truth.  1 Cor 5:5-8 NLT

11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. 12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.  Psalm 103:11-12 NLT

I would like to see a church become so godly, so Spirit-filled that it would have a spiritual influence on all of the churches in the entire area. Paul told some of his people, “ye were ensamples to all that believe” and “in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad” (1 Thessalonians 1:7–8).

“This ought especially to be taught, that confession’s not made to man but to Christ. Likewise it isn’t man who absolves but Christ. But few understand this. Today I replied to the Bohemians,134 who insist that God alone remits sins and are offended by my little book on the keys. Wherefore one should teach that men make confession to Christ, and Christ absolves through the mouth of the minister, for the minister’s mouth is the mouth of Christ and the minister’s ear is the ear of Christ. It’s to the Word and the command that one should pay attention, not to the person. Christ sits there, Christ listens, Christ answers, not a man.”

The fundamental theological principle of the spiritual journey is the Divine Indwelling. The Trinity is present within us as the source of our being on every level.

Too many “experts” have given up on the church.

Some find the answer for Chirstianity in starting new groups of believers, some suggest having present small churches die, so that their legacy is not one of faith handed down, but property and financial treasures.  Doing such is meaningless at best. For the new ministries planted because there are money start off on, they soon to will age, and not having the example of fortitude that leads us to survive during the lean times.

The key to a nation finding itself in revival is not the redistribution of funds. The key to revival is the spread of revival from a city to the country. The key to a city is found in a church experiencing revival.

And a church experiences revival when its people know God has forgiven them, and dwells in their midst.

When a person knows the purest joy as God lifts their sins away, and they no longer have anything to fear, nothing to feel guilt or shame over, no resentment hidden deep within scars caused by others.

There, revival is found. and the church grows without thinking about it, for the presence of the Lord is undeniable. No one needs to say “share” this.. or “invite a neighbor,” The joy they know, forgiven and free, the presence of God that comforts, empowers and compels them to live in the truth that is thiers, is tangible.

That is why private and public confession is so important. People need to hear they are forgiven.

We have to know this – both in general, and in specific to the sins which have haunted us for years, and decades.

Knowing we are forgiven, knowing the presence of God in our lives also develops the eternal perspective we need, developing in us a desire to see God come.

When this happens, the church explodes… then the community, then the nation….

Sp of you are dealing with resentment, with guilt or shame, go talk to your pastor or priest… and find out God has forgiven you!

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), 394.

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), 182.

Feeling Nostaligic? Missing the past? Find what you are looking for…today…right now!

Thoughts to remind us of our Lord’s devotion… to us

13  O LORD, come back to us! How long will you delay? Take pity on your servants! 14  Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. 15  Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. 16  Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory. 17  And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful! Psalm 90:13-17 (NLT2)

We all long for something simpler and more predictable; surroundings less threatening and tumultuous, more comfortable and secure. But such is not our lot. We are not nostalgia freaks, trying to retreat to a more comfortable past. We move confidently into an uncertain future emboldened by our Lord who gives us his word of hope and life to preach to a world lost in despair and death.

He is so completely devoted to the dearest will of his Father that he forgets about his own death, his sin, and his hell imposed on him, and he intercedes for his enemies, for their sin, death, and hell [Luke 23:34]. We must, similarly, let these images slip away from us to wherever they wish or care to go, and remember only that we cling to God’s will, which is that we hold to Christ and firmly believe our sin, death, and hell are overcome in him and no longer able to harm us. Only Christ’s image must abide in us. l.

It would seem that the stresses of this time have no comparison to the past

Yet there have always been wars and rumours of wars. There has always been violence in the streets. There have always been broken relationships between parents and children, husbands and wives, co-workers, and even among churches. Anxiety has aways been there, though known by different names.

Such worldly oppression, on top of the weight of our own sin leads us to want to “return”. Return to a simpler time, or a more peaceful place. (My choice is Ossipee, N.H. or kneeling and praying in St Francis Church in Lawrence, Mass –  circa 1978) as if those times and places were closer to heaven. Others think their peace depends on a form of worship, or a translation of the Bible.

As long as we are looking nostalgically, whether the time we want is 1963, 1973, or 2018,the hope and peace we are delusional. Given time to think, we could find the stressors and oppression in those times.

Luther comes up with the solution, as does David. What we long for in our memories is the peace that comes in the future, that comes in the time of rest where we know God is, and who He is. We need to see HIs glory and majesty, and we need to see His intimacy.  We need those moments to come, just not be in the past. Only when we are focused on Jesus will sin, guilt, shame, resentment, and all that comes with them. Those things are nothing compared to knowing Jesus…

What we are looking for in the past actually awaits us, and can be experienced today. It is Jesus. This is why the psalmist prays we see His glory, why Luther, who lived in a dark time, wrote as he did.

Lord Jesus, we need to see the Father’s glory as much as those in King David’s time, as much as in Martin Luther’s time. Break open the heavens, and show us, that we and our children, and our communities may find Your satisfying peace! Amen!

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 272.

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), 108.

We Search for Happiness and Peace in All the Wrong Places

Thoughts to draw us to Jesus and find healing there.

“I will abandon my people until they have suffered enough for their sins and come looking for me. Perhaps in their suffering they will try to find me.Hosea 5:15 (TEV)

This is the human condition—to be without the true source of happiness, which is the experience of the presence of God, and to have lost the key to happiness, which is the contemplative dimension of life.… What we experience is our desperate search for happiness where it cannot possibly be found.

In the sacraments your God, Christ himself, deals, speaks, and works with you through the priest. His are not the works and words of man. In the sacraments God himself grants you all the blessings we just mentioned in connection with Christ. God wants the sacraments to be a sign and testimony that Christ’s life has taken your death, his obedience your sin, his love your hell, upon themselves and overcome them. Moreover, through the same sacraments you are included and made one with all the saints.

Hosea’s message is brutal, or at least it seems that way.

How could a good God consign people to suffering, to the pain that is endured because of their sins. Not just the individual sins, but the sins of the community and the sins of the world. (There is another post there, that sins, and their consequences are not individual issues – but every sin is allowed, and affects the community) Back to the thought, how could a loving, compassionate God be this petty?

What God is allowing is not the suffering. Scripture tells us over and over He would prevent that suffering. He would protect us from suffering, and He will heal us from the wounds that we and society embrace.

The problem is our search for happiness, and our hunger for pleasure that we mistake for happiness. Keating is correct, we become so desperate in our search for happiness, because we look for it in places that it cannot be found! Instead, those illusions of happiness only drive us harder to find it, even as we look for it in the places that have already left us dry, wounded, broken.

Money can’t buy us the happiness we thought it could. The perfect house/home, once found and purchased, becomes empty. The perfect job doesn’t fulfill the way we thought it would. Relationships require far more work to be completely fulfilling and sex only leaves us wanting more of the moments of pleasure, or leaves us disappointed as those moments aren’t achieved. Every form of pleasure, though echoing pleasure for a moment, ends and leaves us wanting more. When they don’t provide what we want, we turn to things to distract us from the lack of happiness. Or to anesthetize the emptiness.

In 57 years of life, I have found happiness in the sacramental life. Not just at the communion rail, or in a shut-ins home sharing in prayer and the Lord’s supper. More there than anywhere else, of course, but the promise of such moments sustains me in the most brutal of weeks…. I know the moment of seeing God, of receiving all the blessings of which Luther spoke, is coming. Like heaven itself, these moments, whether forgiving or being forgiven, communing, or seeing new life begin in baptism, show the deep intimate relationship the people of God have been given.

These are the moments of revival of life, and of joy, and of peace. The hope they reveal of a day without pain and heartache brings its own happiness, and empowers us to live, until we are welcomed home by the Father.

And so God allows us to look in places where happiness isn’t, guiding us back to where it is promised. In His presence, in knowing He is here, with us.

And so letting us wander, letting us search, is allowed by God in order that we are drawn home. The power that Christ from the dead is at work, drawing us home, and cleansing us, so that we may be presented without sin, unbroken, completely healed. This is what the sacraments promise, and what they see accomplished, for God has promised this!

Lord Jesus, draw us home from our wanderings, help us hunger for what does fulfill our deepest needs, needs fulfilled by the Holy Spirit. Amen!

 

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), 154

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), 108..

The Cost of Intimate Prayer: Don’t Say I didn’t warn you!

Devotional Thoughts for this day:

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

I will sing of the LORD’s unfailing love forever!
Young and old will hear of your faithfulness.
2 Your unfailing love will last forever.
Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens. Psalm 89:1-2 NLT

What Satan intends for evil, God uses for good. By these assaults we move from mere intellectual comprehension of his grace to very personal and experiential enjoyment of the multifaceted dimensions of God’s comforting mercy and love.
Prayer and meditation do not occur in blissful peace in some sweet never-never land or beautiful isle somewhere, but in the throes of real life. Prayer, meditation, and spiritual warfare are a package deal. The struggle goes with the territory in God’s economy. Pain, distress of body and soul, emotional struggle and spiritual assault come to all of God’s people. And you can be sure that they will come to you—if they haven’t already

Just as the First Commandment instructs the heart and teaches faith, so this commandment leads us outward and directs the lips and tongue into a right relationship with God. For the first things that burst forth and emerge from the heart are words.

The songs of prayer
The songs of prayer lodge in our mouths.

Let us sing through the snow.
At the dinner table.
On the rooftop where we dance.
May these sounds heal our ears
and those distant ears that hear.

This morning I want to start with Luther’s words in dark blue above. They sound so nice and innocent at first, for if we recognize God is God, and specifically the God who loves us, then words of praise will just force themselves from our heart, through our vocal cords and we will use God’s name to praise Him. An awesome picture!

Just like the Psalmist who sings of God’s unfailing love forever! If only our lives were that simple! If only we were aware of His grace every moment of every day! Then we would spend more time talking to God, thanking Him and giving our problems and anxieties to Him, trusting Him to deal with them

Except that the easier life is, the more like I am to forget God exists. I won’t remember how faithful He is, unless I have a need, and then see His faithfulness as He comforts and cares for me.

It is the relieved heart that overwhelms the voice and causes it to sing praises. It is the broken heart that is rescued and healed that tells others, even distant others, of God’s healing!

And as odd as it sounds, Senkbeil is right. The more Satan attacks a mature Christian, the more we do not fight, but run inot the arms of our Lord, knowing His death rebukes Satan and  totally defeats him. The more we spend time in God’s presence, the more we release our hearts’ burdens. It is a blessed circle of freedom, one that affects not only us, but others, as they hear our sincere praises, and see lives at peace amid chaos. Satan and his minions will do everything they can to stop this. But all that should do is drive us back to the hope of the cross and empty grave. This sounds like a high cost, spending time in prayer and becoming susceptible to attack, but it is more dangerous for Satan, as others see his attempts backfire

Trials will come for a season, yet they will cause a closer, more intimate relationship with God. This I’ve found true in my life, over and over. God is there, and the more trauma I see, the more oppression, the more things don’t make sense, the more it is time to stop everything, pray and count the blessings we have, because we are His children.

Heavenly Father, help us hear your offers of comfort in times of trauma, or when Satan is prowling about. My our hearts praise You, even as we recognize Your salvation, and the peace found as we find refuge in You. Amen!

 

 

 

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 256.

Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism”, 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), 392.

Hawksley Workman from  https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/   for 5/27/2022

There is only one place to go, to find hope

Devotional Thoughts Reminding Us of our Hope in Chirst… while dwelling ina  seemingly broken world.

“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the LORD sees every heart and knows every plan and thought.   1 Chronicles 28:9 NLT

So, too, those who boast of great learning, wisdom, power, prestige, family, and honor and who trust in them have a god also, but not the one, true God. Notice again, how presumptuous, secure, and proud people are when they have such possessions, and how despondent they are when they lack them or when they are taken away. Therefore, I repeat, the correct interpretation of this commandment is that to have a god is to have something in which the heart trusts completely.

When I think of the angels who veil their faces before the God who cannot lie, I wonder why every preacher in North America does not begin preaching about God—and nothing else. What would happen if every preacher just preached about the person and character of God for an entire year—who He is, His attributes, His perfection, His being, the kind of a God He is and why we love Him and why we should trust Him? I tell you, God would soon fill the whole horizon, the entire world.

A third fruit of the night of spirit is the purification of our idea of God, the God of our childhood or the God worshipped by the particular group to which we belong.…

The number of people in the last 24 hours who have mentioned the need for Jesus to come back right now is staggering. Person after person, so disturbed by the grief, by the anxiety, by the brokenness, mention the prayer, “Maranatha,” which simply means, “come Lord Jesus.”

We recognize that His return, and the promise of eternity, seems to be the only hope we have. Perhaps we’ve given up on the idea of creating heaven on earth. The naivete of creating a perfect world—shattered by the events on the daily news.

Life has crushed our dreams and our idols. Luther and Keating sadly point to the necessity of this. Our false gods, our ideas of god that we blindly accept, must die. Otherwise, there is no way for us to gain that most precious commodity: hope.

David, at the end of his life, calls for Solomon to go through such a process. To intimately know God means to know WHO He really is, who He reveals Himself to be. That means Solomon had to have his illusions shattered. He needs to know God, not just have theories and handed down knowledge about God. He needed to know the God David loved and trusted. Solomon needs to go from trusting the God of his father and his ancestors to simply trusting God.

It isn’t easy…. it is necessary….

For only knowing God’s heart and mind toward His people can we find that we actually don’t have to go anywhere for hope.

It is here, for He is here. You dwell in His presence, as do I.

Amid the tears, He holds and comforts us.

Amid the smiles and laughter, He is there as well.

Tozer desired that we get to know Him, and that pastors would help their people get to preach in a way people get to know the God that loves them enough to die on the cross. That we could live… now and eternally.

He’s there, and if you don’t believe it, let’s talk. Let me help you get to know Him..and encourage me to know Him more, while we see Him revealed to us. For then we will know His peace which is beyond reason.

Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism” 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), 387.

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), 145.

The Purpose…

Thoughts to encourage us, as we are drawn to Jesus..

Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you. 12  With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever, 13  for your love for me is very great. You have rescued me from the depths of death. Psalm 86:11-13 (NLT2)

I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17  asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. Ephesians 1:16-17 (NLT2)

2  God is my Father! If you meditate on it, you will never let go of this consoling consideration. Jesus is my intimate Friend (another rediscovery) who loves me with all the divine madness of his Heart. The Holy Spirit is my Consoler, who guides my every step along the road. Consider this often: you are God’s… and God is yours.

I show them (the sacraments) due honor when I believe that I truly receive what the sacraments signify and all that God declares and indicates in them, so that I can say with Mary in firm faith, “Let it be to me according to your words and signs” [Luke 1:38].

King David, the writer of the Psalm above, found his identity so enveloped in his intimate friendship with God. So much so that he was called a man whose heart resonated with God’s, for that was his goal. As the church fades in American, we struggle to find to resonate with things. The next book that is right on, the next new believer’s course, the next mission statement, the next strategy of consolidation or repurposing.

Without resonating with the heart of God, none of those options are worth the outcome of a bowel movement.

From his intimate conversations with God, David learns so much of God’s love that he automatically responds with praise. He realizes what God has done, far more than you learn from a theology text, or the latest book written to motivate us to keep trying to do things that are beyond our comfort zones. We see the same heart in Luther’s thoughts on the sacraments. Meditating on them leads Luther to accept, as Mary did, what God has planned and promised. St. Josemaria encourages such meditation as well, as he concludes that when you realize the divine madness that is the love of God, you will never let go of the hope it gives.

You don’t find such love by reading—you have to experience it. That is the idea of knowledge (epiginosko in Greek) . Study alone does not impart such knowledge—it comes by experiencing God’s presence as God reveals and enlightens our hearts. The Apostle Paul, another brilliant man, desires this for his people, and that is what he asks God for, for them.

The purpose of this all – to intimately know God. We all need to experience His presence and love in a way beyond description, but in a way that teaches us.

It is what I desire for myself, as David did.. and what we need to learn to desire, not just for our friends at church, but for all people.

Lord, teach us Who You are… and who we are in Your sight. 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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), 101.

We need (to be) Committed, Exapendable Believers

Some thoughts for the day

11  There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12  You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13  For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14  Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. Hebrews 5:11-14 (NLT2)

The contemporary moral climate does not favor a faith as tough and fibrous as that taught by our Lord and His apostles. The delicate, brittle saints being produced in our religious hothouses today are hardly to be compared with the committed, expendable believers who once gave their witness among men. And the fault lies with our leaders. They are too timid to tell the people all the truth. They are now asking men to give to God that which costs them nothing.
Our churches these days are filled (or one-quarter filled) with a soft breed of Christian that must be fed on a diet of harmless fun to keep them interested. About theology they know little. Scarcely any of them have read even one of the great Christian classics, but most of them are familiar with religious fiction and spine-tingling films. No wonder their moral and spiritual constitution is so frail. Such can only be called weak adherents of a faith they never really understood.

But this I say for myself: I am also a doctor and a preacher, just as learned and experienced as all of them who are so high and mighty. Nevertheless, each morning, and whenever else I have time, I do as a child who is being taught the catechism and I read and recite word for word the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Psalms, etc. [8] I must still read and study the catechism daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the catechism—and I also do so gladly  Luther’s introduction to the Large Cathechism

Essentially, there are two components in the care of your own soul: God’s word and prayer. The first is the means of the Holy Spirit to sanctify your soul and body. The second is your response; the result of your sanctification, you could say

It took constant effort to keep ourselves in some semblance of peace when we were seeking fantastic goals that were constantly frustrated, setting off the afflictive emotions of anger, grief, fear, pride, lust, greed, jealousy, and the other capital sins. As the false self diminishes and trust in God increases in the night of sense, our energies can be put to better purposes

There was a lot of richness in my readings this morning.

Some of it seems caustic, and the context of Tozer and Luther’s quotes were far more so that what I cut and pasted here. words 50 and 500 years ago still sting, because the church still faces the same challenges it did then, and even back when the church was young, and the Book of Hebrews chided believers for not maturing in their relationship ith God.

Part of me, reading this, wants to figure out to save the church, to find a way to preach so powerfully that the church just finally wakes up and grows up! (It doesn’t help that I’ve been listening to Keith Green music for the last week!) Gosh, if only there was some way to get us all fired up for Jesus!

Luther’s got the idea, echoed by Senkbeil and Keating. Before I see God transform my people and my community, I have to see Him, and allo him to circumcise my heart, to cut away those emotions Keating identifies, as well as the sin. Only the Holy Spirit can remove sin, and its minions—guilt and shame. That is why Luther would go back to basics, to the Prayer, to the word of God, to the Creed, to be reminded of these things that God is doing. That is why Tozer would point people to the heavier classic works of Christianity – not for theological training, but to ask the hard questions. The questions that help us take up and bear our crosses–the truth that we desperately need Jesus.

Not just to remove the stain of sin….

But to walk with us, to be with us,

For then life is sanctified, and our energies are put to a better purpose… for God has removed what isn’t us.

That is the way we become more dedicated, and yet expendable. For what happens to us is not as important. We are expendable because we realize our walk with God is greater than our self-preservation. The more God cuts away that which is not us, the more He recreates us, the more we long for eternal life, and yet the message we communicate becomes a message that convinces people that we walk with God.

Not because of the eloquence of the words, but because we depend God in this life, we know how He provides, and that means more than anything. That is why, despite struggles with sin and doubt, we keep coming back to Him, we keep wanting to hear His voice, and we realize that anyone who knows this can replace us, for the remarkable thing is not that we are witnesses of His glorious love, but the love that we have witnessed. A love that goes beyond anything we’ve known…

A love that changes everything, and mostly changes us.

Expendable simply means that love means more to us than life, because that love is eternal… and it is life.

 

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

Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 380.

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 243.

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 140.

His Church: Marketing or Talking with God?

Thoughts to encourage us to spend time with Jesus.

Please listen, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph’s descendants like a flock. O God, enthroned above the cherubim, display your radiant glory 2  to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh. Show us your mighty power. Come to rescue us! 3  Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved. Psalm 80:1-3 (NLT2)

He told me, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! 32 Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.”   Acts 10:31-33 NLT 

Listening to someone personally beats hearing about that person second hand. Yet strangely when it comes to the mission of the church we settle for the latter. Too much of what passes for gospel mission is second hand information; it may be factual and instructive, but it’s not personal. It resembles advertising more than anything else.

Then he [Martin Luther] was asked whether the sacraments have a spiritual power in themselves, so that baptism would be consecrated water which by its own strength could wipe out sins, even in case the water were drunk by an ass. He replied, “Because the spiritual power of God doesn’t comprise corporeal, inanimate matter, baptism doesn’t accomplish anything at all as water existing by itself. But as an action (which would be in its use) baptism has power, so that if anybody sprinkles an infant with water together with a recitation of those words of Christ by which he instituted baptism and promised the forgiveness of sins, that action, and not the water, has divine power.

The experts that study the church have told us for years a simple thing about why people come to church. It is because a friend, relative or co-worker invited them to come, and made sure they knew they would be welcome. Maybe it is because we are tired of trying to motivate our people, or we’ve seen too many “invite-a-friend” Sunday fail that we fall for the glamour and hype modern marketing and business planning offers us. Mission statements, goals and objectives, strategic implementation all geared to help us sell our faith…

BUt we aren’t in the business to sell our faith. We are ind the ministry to share why we have hope.

Sharing why we have hope, giving the reason for it means that we have discovered a reason to have hope—God revealed it to us, It is an overwhelming hope, as God guarantees us an eternity free of guilt, shame, resentment, pain, sorrow. It is a life where His presence brings us peace during the trials and traumas of life. This is hope at its best, and assurance of God’s love and presence in our lives–a presence that is available to everyone.

What if our efforts were teaching people to pray like those who wrote the Psalms did, expectantly begging God to make Himself known to all of us?

What if we realized He desired to turn us and draw us to His side, to smile at us, to save us all?

Senkbeil mentions the importance of hearing from someone directly, and he is talking about hearing from God. Both Cornelius and Peter did, and responded to what the message God had given them. Luther takes it another step–it is listening to God’s promises in the words of Christ that make a sacrament a sacrament.

If the people who are the church hear God, hearing His word will transform them. That transformation will cause their hearts to break as they see people suffer without Him, and they will want them to know His peace.

That causes revival, the knowledge of God’s love and His work rescuing us…

Or, as we say at my church – we are the broken people finding healing in Jesus, while helping others heal.

Lord Jesus, reveal to us today more of the work you are doing in our lives, turn us again and draw us closer to You. Then Lord, help us see others as You do, and use our lives to draw them through You to the Father. AMEN!

 

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 226.

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), 358.

The Pastoral Need for the Lord’s Supper

Thoughts to draw you closer to Jesus…

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 56 And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”  Acts 7:55-56 NLT

Acedia means a lack or absence of care. And that’s deadly. Whenever we grow numb to Christ’s saving work and the Father’s gracious gifts by which he makes us and preserves us, spiritual boredom takes hold, followed by apathy and subsequent despair. Where acedia takes root in the soul of a pastor, the flock suffers greatly.

There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives.

The gift of contemplative prayer is a practical and essential tool for confronting the heart of the Christian ascesis—namely, the struggle with our unconscious motivation—while at the same time establishing the climate and necessary dispositions for a deepening relationship with God and leading, if we persevere, to divine union.

As I look at the deacon, Stephen, I see a man who is living in the moment. He is not bound to anxiety or fear. He is not burnt out, and He cares about the people with whom he is interacting. The power of the resurrection is something he wants them to know; he wants them to know Jesus.

As I look at the church today, there are many pastors and church leaders that are suffering and struggling, not only in their lives, but in their spiritual lives as well. The are well able to teach the doctrines they believe in, if they still do. But they don’t care, or they are tired of caring. There is something lacking behind the doctrine, a “so what” to the “what” that is so well known and taught. Acedia or Ascesis is so evident in the lives of many I talk to in the church, and the constant work wears the men and women in ministry down.

The hard question is, if this is happening to our leaders, then what is happening to the flocks with which they have been called to shepherd?

Keating talks of the answer to this being contemplative prayer. A time to stop and listen, to contemplate what it means to dwell in the presence of God. To take the time to listen, to invest in the relationship by letting God “hear” us — so that we know He has.

Perhaps this is why the Lutheran Confessions call prayer a sacrament, a sacred time where God’s grace communicates deeply, intimately with the hearts of His people.

It is one of the other sacraments that I run to, that I long for, when spiritual burnout, spiritual fatigue, and life just sucking. The Lord’s Supper is so precious, the peace that comes from being united to the death and resurrection of Jesus is beyond measure. Sharing it with my people, whether in the sanctuary, or in their homes, lifts me out of the spiritual funk (and often physical/psychological funks as well).

Here is the theology behind this – we know that when we take and eat the bread, we unite to Christ’s body (koinonia). The same when we drink from the cup, there is unity with the sacrifice of Christ. But anytime God unites us with the death of Christ Jesus, there is the absolute promise of the resurrection! Knowing this is our reality, and someday will be a visible reality, stirs the soul, and revives me. This is not just some activity or obligation without an impact in our lives. To realize we commune with God, in that instance, He draws into His glory, and gives us a tangible lesson in how deep His love is for us.

Every pastor gets tired, every pastor gets weary and suffers from burnout. The same for elders, deacons, ministers of every type. I do not know a pastor during COVID who didn’t think of hanging it up – and finding some other field of work. The answer is that divine unity that Keating points out, the “manifest presence” is how Tozer describes it. Stephen, even in the face of martyrdom, finds his hope there, as he gazes into heaven and sees the glory of God.

That is the experience of the altar, whether serving the people of God, or receiving it with them.

We need that… so let us not neglect it, but run to it. AMEN!

 

 

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 210.

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), 123.

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