Category Archives: Martin Luther

“Lord, I can’t do this anymore” and other prayers the prevent burnout

Devotional Thought of the Day:

14  May the day I was born be cursed. May the day my mother bore me never be blessed. 15  May the man be cursed who brought the news to my father, saying, “A male child is born to you,” bringing him great joy. 16  Let that man be like the cities the Lord demolished without compassion. Let him hear an outcry in the morning and a war cry at noontime 17  because he didn’t kill me in the womb so that my mother might have been my grave, her womb eternally pregnant. 18  Why did I come out of the womb to see only struggle and sorrow, to end my life in shame? Jeremiah 20:14-18 (CSBBible)

It can’t be otherwise. It’s annoying when one has the best of intentions but things don’t turn out well. Surely this is murmuring. I do the same, and I can’t banish the thought from my mind when I wish that I had never started [this business].88 So likewise when I wish I were dead rather than witness such contempt [for the Word of God and his faithful servants].89 Accordingly it is only speculative theologians who condemn such impatience and recommend patience. If they get down to the realm of practice, they will be aware of this. Cases of this kind are exceedingly important. One should not dispute about them in a speculative way.

14         “It’s very difficult”, you exclaim, disheartened. Listen, if you make an effort, with the grace of God that is enough. Put your own interests to one side, you will serve others for God, and you will come to the aid of the Church in the field where the battles are being fought today: in the street, in the factory, in the workshop, in the university, in the office, in your own surroundings, amongst your family and friends.

I resonate with Luther’s words in purple far more than I want to admit. When he questions his very life because of what he observed, his writings hit hard to things I dare not admit. (for friends readings this – not today)

He’s not the only one – Jeremiah 20:7 is a favorite passage, and has been for over 30 years. Yet, only over the last decade have I learned to give voice to that without feeling guilty and ashamed.

It is good to know at least Jeremiah and Martin Luther understand this – and were able to give voice to it… and still trust in God.

You see, it takes more faith to pray in this way, to be this honest, this transparent. To depend on God to be with us in the places where we are exhausted, the places we don’t have the answers, or the answers are not pleasant to consider. The points where God calls us to action in the ways we can’t imagine.

Once we give voice to it, once you’ve come to trust God in that moment, then the wisdom of Escriva’s comments make sense. Depending on that grace, we find the abiltity to set aside our own pain, and minister to those around us.

This isnt to deny it, but to trust God with it. Embrancing and moving past it, we find those scars a critical element in our ability to serve, in our ability to praise God.

Jeremiah would do that – continuing his prophetic ministry through the rest of this book and Lamentations as well. Luther would move forward in minsitry, even more resolved to help people understand the grace of God. He would come to the point of taking action, finding it was the time for impatience, not patience. It was time to act, knowing the presence of God meant He would be sustained.

That’s the key in these things – find your refuge in Jesus…find your rest in Him and you will find yourself ministering to others.

That is the miracle and the paradox….

That is walking with Jesus.

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), 30–31.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 294-298). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why We Need to See Jesus in the Manger

Devotional Thought of the Day:

And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you except to fear the LORD your God by walking in all his ways, to love him, and to worship the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul?b13 Keep the LORD’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good. 14 The heavens, indeed the highest heavens, belong to the LORD your God, as does the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the LORD had his heart set on your ancestors and loved them. He chose their descendants after them—he chose you out of all the peoples, as it is today. Deuteronomy 10:12=15 CSB

Ah, my Jesus, my love, my infinite good, my all, be ever welcome in the poor dwelling of my soul! Ah, my Lord, where art thou! to what a place art Thou come! Thou hast entered my heart, which is far worse than the stable in which Thou wast born; it is full of earthly affections, of self-love, and of inordinate desires. And how couldst Thou come to dwell there? I would address Thee with St. Peter: Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.1 Yes, depart from me, O Lord, for I am indeed unworthy to receive a God of infinite goodness; go and find repose in those pure souls who serve Thee with so much love. But no, my Redeemer; what do I say? Leave me not; for if Thou departest, I am lost. I embrace Thee, my life; I cling to Thee. Mad indeed have I been in having separated myself from Thee for the love of creatures; and in my ingratitude I drove Thee from me. But now I will never more separate myself from Thee, my treasure; I desire to live and die ever united to Thee.

“It’s very difficult for a man to believe that God is gracious to him. The human heart can’t grasp this. What happened in my case? I was once terrified by the sacrament which Dr. Staupitz carried in a procession in Eisleben on the feast of Corpus Christi.47 I went along in the procession and wore the dress of a priest. Afterward I made confession to Dr. Staupitz, and he said to me, ‘Your thought is not of Christ.’ With this word he comforted me well.
This is the way we are. Christ offers himself to us together with the forgiveness of sins, and yet we flee from his face.

Ours is a joy not born from having many possessions, but from having encountered in our midst a Person: Jesus who never leaves us alone in difficult moments, and is all the more present when problems seem unbearable and obstacles insurmountable.

It is Christmas Eve.

It is 2020, and we are amid a pandemic that has caused further division. In the days after a political free- for all that has divided us further.

This world is so broken! Even Christianity has become more about a “personal” belief than a communal relationship with God.

It is Christmas Eve.

I look at the world and then look in the mirror and wonder why God would bother with us, why He would bother with me. Luther was correct; it is hard for man to believe that God is truly gracious, that God desires to cleanse us, heal us, help us in the midst of all the crap in which we live. Ligouri echoes the same sentiment when realizing God is here, that God is invading our lives. Ligouri’s reaction is to drive our Lord away…. as if the pollution in our lives could poison God.

I know that struggle; I wonder how God could even dare to descend into my world… I want Him here; I know I need Him here.

This is Christmas Eve.

This is Christmas Eve…

And in a few hours, the babe will go in the manger in nativity sets around the world.

I need to see Jesus there, in all His innocence, in all the simplicity, in that place were holiness and the crap of this world. I need to see, as the filthy shepherds did, God incarnate, the one the angels sang about, reveling in His glory.

I need to see Him there… We need to see Him there.

For there, we can approach Him and realize the incredible love and devotion of God. To realize His faithfulness, to realize His desire to dwell with us…not just in Israel 2000 years ago… but today in Cerritos, or wherever you are….. and then, maybe, we can see His desire for eternity with us…

But it starts there… where He can be approached…reverently for sure, but without the terror that comes as we realize His holiness and purity and realize the difference between man and God.

Seeing Him there, may we never desire to flee from Him again… but stay by Him… until eternity draws nigh…

It is Christmas Eve…

It is Christmas Eve!

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 77–78.

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), 19–20.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 406.

The Challenge of Finding Joy…on Mondays, During Covid.

The Patriots Play football,
I do this…
I got the better gig!

Devotional Thought for this Day:
9  Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the LORD your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10  And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” 11  And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” 12  So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them. Nehemiah 8:9-12 (NLT2)

“Unless those who are in the office of preacher find joy in him who sent them, they will have much trouble. Our Lord God had to ask Moses as many as six times.24 He also led me into the office in the same way. Had I known had to take more pains to get me in. Be that as it may, now that I have begun, I intend to perform the duties of the office with his help. On account of the exceedingly great and heavy cares and worries connected with it, I would not take the whole world to enter upon this work now. On the other hand, when I regard him who called me, I would not take the whole world not to have begun it.

Reflect that God is our sovereign benefactor, who has bestowed upon us innumerable benefits, both general and particular. He has drawn us out of nothing, and formed us to his own image and likeness, without having any need at all of us: we are continually dependent upon him for our preservation.

Yesterday, preachers around the world preached on the topic of Joy.

It is not easy an easy task when over one-half of your church regulars are not there, needing to stay safe at home.

It is not easy when your people are in the midst of the holidays, many of them celebrating for the first time, alone.

It is not easy when others are caught up in sin, some whose hearts are crushed because someone sinned against them, others crushed by the weight of their own sin.

Preach on Joy! That was our call…

Every pastor knows the heartache that Luther addresses. OUr tasks are hard, they can suck the life right out of you. If only we knew what God called us to, we would willingly join Jonah in the belly of the big fish, or the boys sent into the furnace, or Elijah in his cave. NO one could talk us into this…ministry.

That isn’t just true for pastors. Parents know it s well, as do small business owner, teachers, nurses and doctors. Anyone who has to minister to care for someone else. Physically, mentally, spiritually. Those who care for others wear down, burn out, and experience despair.

The only answer I have found over the years is worship, to find yourself contemplating the love and mercy of God so intimately that your heart just wants to sing, it just wants to praise Him. Worship that isn’t forced or planned, worship that isn’t done out of a sense of duty.

Worship that comes from thinking about what God is doing in our lives. Experiencng the love, witnessing the removal of the burdens that plague us, and the millions of blessings that grace our daily lives, His presence in our lives, not just the pastors, but in the lives of the people entrusted into the pastor’s care.

THat is the moment that you understand what Luther said as well – that once in the ministry, there is nothing that the world could give you that would cause you to willingly give it up…

My prayer for you, as you are burdened, as you are distressed, is the same as Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus, for this will lead you (and me) into that joy,

16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20  Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21  Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen! Ephesians 3:16-21 (NLT2)

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), 12–13.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 64.

How Do I Communicate THIS?

such wonder!

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22  After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:21-23 (CSBBible)

Jesus, breathe Thy spirit on me,
Teach me how to breathe Thee in,
Help me pour into Thy bosom
All my life of self and sin.[1]

Pious Exercise to acquire the Proper Disposition for making a good Confession
Preparation
To prepare ourselves well for confession, we should retire from every external source of distraction, go either to a church or an oratory, place ourselves in the presence of God, and make the following act:
Act of Adoration
Supreme and adorable Majesty, God of heaven and earth, I firmly believe that Thou art present, and that Thou seest me and knowest the dispositions of my heart. I adore Thee and render Thee my humble homage, acknowledging Thee for my God, my Creator, and my Sovereign Redeemer. In testimony of this my faith, I prostrate my soul and body before the throne of Thy Infinite Majesty, and offer Thee the adoration which is due to Thee alone.
[2]

For Tillich, the realities to which the biblical and traditional symbols pointed are still present today. Over time, however, the biblical and historic language of the Christian community has lost much of its power to evoke the living experience that it had in earlier times.[3]

O EVERLASTING, Merciful God, Heavenly Father, I beseech Thee to grant Thy Holy Spirit unto all who are entrusted to my ministry. Give them grace to know Thee and Jesus Christ, Thy Son whom Thou hast sent; enable them to remain steadfast in the true faith, to grow in grace and love, and to serve Thee with humble and penitent lives. And grant unto me, O Lord, grace to teach them Thy Word in truth, and to set before them an example of godly living.[4]

Tillich was correct, the reality of Scripture is not lost in this time. Andyet, the arning about language is concerning. The Spirit is able to work, still cutting open people’s hearts, cleansing them out, dwelling within them, even as the Spirit did in the Apostles.

Do my words, or the way I speak them, get in the way? I pray it is not so, even as Loehe – a Lutheran pastor from the 1800’s did. There are times when I wonder if I miss this or that, and I fear that somehow I’ve missed that which revives their hearts and souls, breathing life into them.

How precious it is, to see the Holy Spirit, the Breathe of God swirl inside someone, cleansing them, as God has longed to do! To see someone’s faith come alive, to see their desire to know God, to have the same experience of God, that His word has always evoked.

That is why I love the way Ligouri teaches the Believer about returning to God, to examine one’s life, to confess sin and be forgiven. He urges us to start, not by confessing our sins, but by adoring God! Preparing to be cleansed by adoring the God who offers that, who desires to do that which we need, knowing how we will be, when healed of our sin! As Tozer says, once again pouring ourselves in Christ Jesus, assured of His love and mercy!

This is what Loehe meant about knowing God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, to grow in grace and love! To realize we are in Christ, that is the reality that we need, to understand it better than anything we can ever imagine! As Paul said, quoting Isaiah, it is more beautiful that anything we have ever seen, more wonderful than anything we can imagine, more than our hearts can ever dream up… ( 1 Cor. 2:9)

This is what our people need to see revealed to them, to be able to picture themselves so love by God, to see Him looking into their eyes iwth love that assured them all will be… so much more….

This is what I need to communicate – and I pray you hear…


[1] A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

[2] Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 61.

[3] Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 29.

[4] William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 12–13.

Theology is NOT an Academic Subject…it is far more than that.

The word of the day:
Theologian

Devotional Thoughts of the Day:

39  “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 40  Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life. John 5:39-40 (NLT2)

Yet experience alone makes the theologian.

For many liberals the scientific worldview functioned as a norm by which to measure the credibility of Christian claims. As I once heard someone say, “How can the church ask you to believe something that you otherwise think is not true?”

I have a Master’s Degree in Theology, and am working on my doctorate. An yet I know the title of this blog is accurate.

Theology is far more than an acdemic subject, or an academic/intellectual pursuit. I have seen children and those with barely high school degrees who are better theologians than those who teach in seminaries and BIble Colleges.

That is because education has nothing to do with whether someone is a thoelogian or not. Yes, there are some theologians who are academics, but it is not necessary. And whether conservative or liberal, advanced degrees don’t make you a theologian.

Luther was correct – theologians are made by experience. And Allen points out an essential necessity, you have to set aside your disbelief and depend on what scripture reveals about Jesus. The claims are credible, it is inability to see that, that is the problem.

Just as seas don’t split open, a man dead for 60 hours doesn’t start breathing and walking around – with his wounds gaping open for all to see. Man can’t take 5 loaves and 2 fishes and feed 12-15000 people, or take bread and wine and declare it to be His Body and Blood … and it is. We can’t prove it, our minds may scream these things are untrue… but they are true.

The challenge is seeing that every scripture is about Jesus. That every page of scripture declares His glory and His power and His love for us. A love that planned for our salvation before we were born, but not before He was.

And here is the experience you and I need, to become theologians, (and hear it, dear reader, as my prayer for you!

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



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), 7.

Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 24.

How Do I Know the Difference Between “Them”?

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional THought of the Day:

19  My brothers and sisters, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20  let that person know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 (CSBBible)

20  So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
2 Corinthians 5:20 (NLT2)

THESIS II
To the church in the proper sense of the term belongs no wicked person, no hypocrite, no unregenerate, no heretic.
Scripture Proof
Thus writes St. Paul (Rom. 8:9): “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” Whoever does not belong to Christ is not a member of the true church, which is His spiritual body.
So also writes John in 1 John 2:19 of the hypocrites who finally also left the fellowship of the church outwardly: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”
Again our Lord says (John 15:6): “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered.”


Walther groups together a bunch of passages, passages I have often heard used to ostracie people, to justy why the church gave up on “them.” Especially when “they” are on the other end of a spectrum in regard this this disagreement, or that one. They are the one’s that are not His, they are not with us, so we should cast them out…

And yet James calls us to retore our brothers and sisters who are straying, are these not the same people? Paul gives us the example of pleading with people to come back to God….

So how do I know who to write off, and who who to plead with? Who I should just shake the dust off my feet and walk away from, and who to invest time in prayer, and in working with them, so that they can see God’s mercy.

How do I know the difference? How do I make the choice?

How do I apply Walther’s Theological Treatise in a pastoral manner, and teach my people to do the same, as we together try to imitate Christ Jesus. How is my pastoral practice accurate theologically?

Or do I just make it simple and write everyone off, as is tempting some day!? (just kidding – what I meant was write everyone off but you, dear reader!)

I think that Walther’s point is not pragmatic for the moment. It is a general overarching comment that looks at things eternally, as God judges people on Judgement Day. Until that point, God is patient with them, not wanting even one of them to perish. We have to leave the doors open for them, we need to keep praying for God’s mercy for them, we need to be there, and to let them know we will be there, when they need, to point them back to Jesus.

It isn’t our call to determine who is part of the true church and who will never be. Our challenge is much simpler – to cry out to everyone, Be reconciled to God.

Remember you dwell in God’s peace as you are there for them… and they for you!


C. F. W. Walther, Church and Ministry: Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry, electronic ed. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1987), 34.

The Paradox of the Gospel. You are Valjean and you are the Bishop

Les Miserables Valjean's soliloquy lyrics (2012) - YouTube

Devotional Thoughts of the Day:

9  That was the true light which shines upon every man as he comes into the world. He came into the world – the world he had created – and the world failed to recognise him. He came into his own creation, and his own people would not accept him. Yet wherever men did accept him he gave them the power to become sons of God. These were the men who truly believed in him, and their birth depended not on the course of nature nor on any impulse or plan of man, but on God. John 1:9 (Phillips NT)

He told me that I have a soul
How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life?
Is there another way to go?
(Jean Valjean’s Soliloquy- Les Mis)

Go out into the streets to look, find, knock on doors,instruct and evangelize!
In a history marked by vulnerability our Lord Jesus Christ breaks in with an unstoppable strength and courage. That’s the Good News,the core of our preaching: the outright proclamation of this irruption of Jesus Christ incarnate, dead and risen, in our history.

The humblest Christian is called to live a miracle, a life that is a moral and spiritual life with such intensity and such purity that no human being can do it—only Jesus Christ can do it.

Yet this is no evangelicalistic theology, which is grounded in the same triumphalistic anthropology of the “I” (“I have decided to follow Jesus—no turning back, no turning back”). Instead—I believe that I cannot believe—the reversed Trinity of Luther’s catechism holds in tension the human inability in theology, faith, and life with the Holy Spirit’s work through Word and Sacrament. Thus, the third article is the actual turning point of the entire catechism, because everything that follows (prayer, sacraments, living in community) is precisely what happens to unbelievers when, the Holy Spirit acts on them, turning our “Woe is me!” into “Kyrie, eleison” (Lord, have mercy!). The theology of the reversed Trinity is literally “theo-logy” (God word), where God speaks to us and by speaking declares the old new, the sinner a saint, the unbeliever a believer—God’s service to us, not ours to God.

This mornigns devotional readings were accompanied by Les Mis, and the words of Jean Valjean kept echoing in my ears, as he considers the humble bishop who paid for his salvaiton…and yet Jean’s attitude was not to face who he was, but to create a new life, ignoring who he was. (In the book, this is a constant theme, for him and Javert.)

Their journey is the vulnerability that Pope Francis notes, a vulnerability we need, a lack of resistance to the incarnation, for Jesus must become incarnate in each of our lives.

It is the only way to change our cry of despair, as Wengert notes, from dismay and despair to the expecation of God hearing and acting on our cry for mercy. That is the only way we can live in the life of Christ that Tozer explains, a life that is obviously not ours, for it is not within our ability.

How does the bishop know Jean ValJean has a soul? Because the bishop has one, and has seen Christ invade it. It is why the silver is worth far less than Jean’s soul. It is why the investment is worth it, though it will take decades, with only a glimpse of the return here and there. Not until his death…is it revealed. ( I believe Colossians 3:1-4 explains this quite well)

You have a soul, and I have one as well. It is where the Holy Spirit dwells, bringing us peace, even as we struggle within this life.It is were our faith, our dependence on God is formed. It is where joy resonates from, when anxiety and trauma threaten to overwhem us. It is where peace exists, far beyond our comprehension, it is where we know His love more intimately than we can express.

Yet, we can share it with others… for that to is a miracle. You are ValJean and you are the Bishop.



Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 366.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Timothy J. Wengert, Martin Luther’s Catechisms: Forming the Faith (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2009), 46.

Does the Church Still Think This Way? Should it?

If it be Thy Will…..

Devotional Thought of the Day:
For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22  Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and I don’t know which one I should choose. 23  I am torn between the two. I long to depart and be with Christ — which is far better — 24  but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25  Since I am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26  so that, because of my coming to you again, your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound. Philippians 1:21-26 (CSBBible)

Self-denial consists in the voluntary renunciation of every thing which is inconsistent with the glory of God and highest good of our fellow men.

Thus Luther writes: “Christians are a special, called people and are denominated not merely ecclesia, church or assembly, but sancta, catholica, Christiana, that is, a Christian holy people that believes in Christ, for which reason it is named a Christian people and has the Holy Spirit who sanctifies it daily, not only through the forgiveness of sins (as the Antinomians2 foolishly assert), but also through the putting away, purging, and destroying of sins, wherefore it is called a holy people.

The mission necessarily puts us in contact with the cross of Christ. This is the sign that the mission is in accordance with the Spirit of God. It is only by “dying” to everything else that we understand what we are asked to do and thus discover the right ways to do it. “I can assure you that if the grain of wheat that falls to the ground does not die, it remains alone; but if it dies it gives much fruit” (Jn 12:24).

As a Lutheran pastor, I often talk about the people of God, being drawn to the cross. We are cruficied there with Christ, as we are united to His death and resurreciton.

But there is something there that happens, a transformation that I am not sure we talk about enough. For if we did, and if we depended on the work of the Holy Spirit, how different would the world look?

What if we were only concerned about this life, because it was necessary for the sake of others? What impact would we have if we were far more invested and desiring eternitym than being concerned about out rights, and our happiness. We are called to imitate Jesus, but somehow He’s been replaced by Narcisus. And we are enslaved by temptations that cater to our pleasure, to our preferences, to our theories of how life should be.

Our only hope is found in the work of the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit circucises our hearts, purging from us that which is not of God. This is done as we are drawn to the cross, and crucified with Christ. That is why St. Paul writes, 13  For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.” Romans 8:13 (NLT2)

This is what the church needs today, people compelled by the Holy Spirit to choose to live, not for its own sake, but for others, all the while looking forward to the day when we see our Lord face to face. We need to be freed from Narcissis, and be found in Christ. Thank God, that move is not up to our will andability, but is found simply depending on Jesus.

This is where we need to be…crucified with Christ.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

C. F. W. Walther, Church and Ministry: Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry, electronic ed. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1987), 30.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 366.

Where is Jesus in THIS Scripture?

Do we realize God’s attitude toward us?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

26  Judah said to his brothers: “What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood? 27  Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites, instead of doing away with him ourselves. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” His brothers agreed. 28   They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. Some Midianite traders passed by, and they pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and took him to Egypt. 29  When Reuben went back to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not in it, he tore his clothes, 30  and returning to his brothers, he exclaimed: “The boy is gone! And I–where can I turn?” 31  They took Joseph’s tunic, and after slaughtering a goat, dipped the tunic in its blood. 32  Then they sent someone to bring the long tunic to their father, with the message: “We found this. See whether it is your son’s tunic or not.” Genesis 37:26-32 (NAB)

As I was working through my devotional reading this morning, I was thinking of Luther’s claim that Jesus, and the Gospel is on every page of scripture. You see above part of my reading for this morning, and I tried to see if I could see Him there…

And I did, and obscure vision of Him for sure, the kind that lends itself to Luther’s explanation that people worship God, but fail in that they do not know God’s attitude toward them.

The brothers sinned against Joseph. No doubt about that, and if their father found out, they would lose everything. Perhaps they sold him because they thought their father would love them more if he was not around. Maybe they were just tired of his getting the best of everything. Maybe his visions, shared in a condescending way, were just to much. So they stole his life from him, or at least they tried.

In trying to deal with the consequences of their sin, they chose to cover it up, to conceal it, to hide it from their Father. So they killed an animal, and its blood was what concealed their sin. It meant the Father would never, ever find out what they did, and they could find a way to live with the other guilt, if they felt any at all.

Of course it didn’t work! They would eventually be found out, they would eventually bow to their brother, and dad would find out what they did….

But they had an idea, that the shedding of blood could cover their sins…

And in that we see Jesus in this passage. His blood, shed to cover sins, cleanses, not just covers. The writer of Hebrews explains,

“For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, 14  how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” Hebrews 9:13-14 (NAB)

If only they had understood God’s attitude toward them! If only they had known their heavenly Father would not only provide the forgiveness, but arrange for the resonciliation with Joseph, and with their dad, Israel. If only they had know how much God longed for them to not dwell in sin and its companions, guilt and shame. They almost had it… if only they had realized the blood that would do what they needed.

God would free them, just as He frees us…as He reveals His glory, that is His love and mercy, that are active in our lives, right now, today, even as you are reading this….

Heavenly Father, help us see and experience Your love for us, revealed in Christ Jesus. Help us to know we don’t need to cover up our sin, we don’t need a scapegoat, we don’t need to throw someone else under the bus… for You are with us. AMEN!

Pursuit of Happiness? Don’t try, for it is futile…

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought for this Day:

13  “You have said terrible things about me,” says the LORD. “But you say, ‘What do you mean? What have we said against you?’ 14  “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the LORD of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins? 15  From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.’” 16  Then those who feared the LORD spoke with each other, and the LORD listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name. 17  “They will be my people,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “On the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. Malachi 3:13-17 (NLT2)

The true Christian ideal is not to be happy but to be holy. The holy heart alone can be the habitation of the Holy Ghost.

59 All this, then, is the office and work of the Holy Spirit, to begin and daily to increase holiness on earth through these two means, the Christian church and the forgiveness of sins. Then, when we pass from this life, he will instantly perfect our holiness and will eternally preserve us in it by means of the last two parts of this article.

I know it is part of the Declaration of Independence, but I’ve see too many people try to pursue happiness, and get lost in the frustration, and come to the conclusion that being happy is simply an excecise in futility.

That futility leads to the kinds of sin that the reading from Malachi above talks about. If we are pusuing happiness or pleasure for its own sake, we will never find it. Then we will start to question God, as if somehow He was responsible to make us happy, or at least remove the barriers to happiness.

There is a problem in this that the founding father’s of the United States didn’t see two hundred and fifty years ago. Simply put, happiness should not be the goal, it is not the destination or our reason for living.

Happiness is caused by life being lived in the maner it should be… not by something we do, or something we chase. It happens when we find contentment and peace, a side effect of those two things that cannot be pursued as well.

Luther understood this, as he saw the need to reveal the work of the Holy Spirit. That work, strengthening our ability to trust, to depend on Jesus. It is there, dwelling in the presence of God, the Holy Spirit dwelling in ours. that our lives set apart to walk with Him, that we find everything we need, including joy. The joy that comes when we realize our lives, as broken sa they appear, are treasured by God. A joy that goes far beyond mere happiness, that sustains us in the midst of every thing… even the hardest trauma.

A joy that passes all understanding, for our hearts and minds are maintained in Jesus, secure and safe.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 418.

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