Category Archives: Theology in Practice

The Peace that We Need…

Where we find true peace

Thoughts to encourage our clinging to Jesus…

Then Moses called for Mishael and Elzaphan, Aaron’s cousins, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel. He said to them, “Come forward and carry away the bodies of your relatives from in front of the sanctuary to a place outside the camp.” 5 So they came forward and picked them up by their garments and carried them out of the camp, just as Moses had commanded.
6 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not show grief by leaving your hair uncombed* or by tearing your clothes. If you do, you will die, and the LORD’s anger will strike the whole community of Israel. However, the rest of the Israelites, your relatives, may mourn because of the LORD’s fiery destruction of Nadab and Abihu
.
Leviticus 10:4-6 NLT

He is gnawing at his own heart,” said Luther. “I, too, often suffer from severe trials and sorrows. At such times I seek the fellowship of men, for the humblest maid has often comforted me. A man doesn’t have control of himself when he is downcast and alone, even if he is well equipped with a knowledge of the Scriptures. It is not for nothing that Christ gathers his church around the Word and the sacraments=- and is unwilling to let these be hidden in a corner. (1)

Of course, if you’re not careful you can burn yourself out in pastoral work. Sadly, thousands of pastors end up spiraling into emotional and spiritual collapse every year.
But when you take care to receive Christ’s own love and strength by means of his Spirit through his word, you have something to give to others without yourself being depleted and emptied.
(2)

Any appeal to the public in the name of Christ that rises no higher than an invitation to tranquillity must be recognized as mere humanism with a few words of Jesus thrown in to make it appear Christian.…
Christ calls men to carry a cross; we call them to have fun in His name. He calls them to forsake the world; we assure them that if they but accept Jesus the world is their oyster. (3)

I have to admit, I don’t like the words Moses spoke to Aaron and his boys. Why aren’t they allowed to grieve alongside their family? Paul talks of us weeping with those who weep (and laughing with them as they laugh as wll.) So this stupid act of their cousins should bring a time of grieving and being there for the family.

Shouldn’t it?

In this case, by no means in every case, they could not be there. We have to be careful of making this scenario a case study and establishing ground rules for pastoral care. I have heard that pastors must keep their distance and be above and remote from the scenario to pastor people. Based on the Romans 12 description of weeping and laughing, I have heard the opposite.

The question is, how do we become wise enough to know the difference? And how do we deal with our own pain? How do we find our peace when we encounter such trauma as pastors or people? Where do we find the wisdom to enter into the family’s pain, or not?

Senkbeil and Luther both note the high cost of enduring such trials. Trials that lead to the “gnawing at your own heart,” not being able to “have control of himself,” and “emotional and spiritual collapse” that most pastors deal with regularly. They will both find the same solution, which I will get to in a moment after I deal with Tozer – his words help clarify the discernment needed.  

The idea that our message is only an invitation to peace and tranquility is the danger of trying to multi-task as a mourner and spiritual care provider. I am not saying God cannot work in these situations, but it taxes us too significantly and will lead to a message that doesn’t tie our peace to the cross. Establish enough of these trials, one after another, and the pain will break anyone. And when we fail, our words become something less, a placebo, no longer connected to the peace that is genuinely needed in a time like these.

Tozer calls the believer to carry the cross first…to forsake the world because focused on Christ whom we meet at the cross, we can be relieved of burdens and find the peace we need. This is why Senkbeil talks of letting the Spirit work through Word and Sacrament to receive Christ’s love and strength within us.  It is why Luther talks of the fellowship
and the humblest maid comforting him, even as Jesus gathers His church around the Word and Sacraments. It is only connected to God’s grace that our words can do more than be a placebo. Only then is there something to give something beyond all understanding… the peace of Jesus!

Aaron and his boys were responsible for the Old Covenant sacrifices, those activities that pointed to God’s promise of peace. They weren’t forbidden to weep because God was uncaring. Rather, I think they needed to have the strength
of the promise that would enable the community to find grace and peace at the moment. They needed to remind people that God was still with them and that God was sustaining them, and even as God was ministering to them through the community, Their comfort and peace came from God, and they needed to lead people there. For us that means embracing the cross, accepting its suffering, realizing that there we meet Jesus. That is where we find life and hope, and rest. THat is why baptism, absolution and the Lord’s Supper take us there.. to Jesus… at the cross. 

When I was a hospice chaplain, I watched nurses put aside their grief to care for the patients who passed away. We would weep together later – apart from those we had gone to care for, the patient and their family. Like Aaron and his
boys, we were the hands and voice of God for those hurting and grieving. I think that is what Moses was working from with these words. He directed them to not show grief at that moment because if they lost their way in despair, not
only would they drown, so would the community. As they focused on God… and His mercy…then they would be comforted and be able to offer the same.

This isn’t easy; this idea of keeping our eyes on Jesus in the middle of the pain. To be bluntly honest, I needed to be reminded of it presently… but it is there, at the altar with others.. that God’s peace is found, where the burdens
are lifted.

After the years of 2020 and 2021… that is where we need to be found… and when we are… we can minister to so many who need to know the peace of Jesus.

 

 

(1) 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), 268.

(2) Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 7.

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

The Ministry of Theology

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Thoughts that I pray cause you to adore Jesus, your Savior…

Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.”* She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” 14 So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered. Genesis 16:13-14 NLT

Rector Bernard von Dölen,142 minister in Herzberg, complained bitterly about his arrogant auditors who despised the reading of the catechism. Dr. Martin [Luther] was greatly disturbed and fell silent. Then he said, “Cursed be every preacher who aims at lofty topics in the church, looking for his own glory and selfishly desiring to please one individual or another. When I preach here143 I adapt myself to the circumstances of the common people. I don’t look at the doctors and masters, of whom scarcely forty are present, but at the hundred or the thousand young people and children. It’s to them that I preach, to them that I devote myself, for they, too, need to understand. If the others don’t want to listen they can leave. Therefore, my dear Bernard, take pains to be simple and direct; don’t consider those who claim to be learned but be a preacher to unschooled youth and sucklings. (1)

Nonetheless, for Luther theology was not a detached academic pursuit circumscribed by the walls, procedures, customs, and language of the university, but a matter of life and death. He took God seriously. Nothing is more important in man’s life than his relationship to God. The chief function of theology (and of the theologian), then, is not to speculate about God or even to systematize man’s knowledge of God. Rather its function is to lead men to and strengthen them in faith. For Luther faith meant specifically trust in God through Jesus Christ. Inevitably Luther’s classroom extended far beyond the university and the circle of educated students to whom he lectured there. (2)

The pastoral care that is provided to Hagar never ceases to amaze me. She is not the one through whom the promise is given; that is Sarai, her mistress, the one who has the power of life or death over her. And yet, God takes the time to
visit with her. He cares for her, ministers to her, and cares for her son (who will be a challenge.) Finally, God restores her to her former place.

It works with the two readings I had this morning, which talk about the ministry of theology. Usually, seminaries and universities studies in scripture and ministry describe that the other way, with courses on the Theology of Ministry. Rarely do you hear people talk about the ministry of theology. People will talk about types of theology, Systematic, Exegetical, HIstorical, and Pragmatic, but rarely will there be a focus on how theology is supposed to be used to
minister to the church.

Those readings talk about it in Luther’s usual blunt style. Theology is not primarily an academic topic to be studied and dissected, according to Luther. Theology has a particular role, to be used to help man deepen their dependence
on God, to encourage spending time meditating on the move and mercy of God, to experience His love and presence, in a way that the Apostle Paul said was beyond words. (see Ephesians 3:17-19) This is the chief function of theology,
which seems all but lost these days.

Consider the advice to Bernard, who talked with the arrogant visitors he had, nitpicking on everything. Luther’s direction is to ignore them and preach the gospel to the hundred or thousand people who need to know the gospel and understand why hope is found in Christ. (this is Peter’s idea of apologetics, when he writes, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16  But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT2)

This is what we are here to do, to use the knowledge and understanding that studying the word of God gives, as the Holy Spirit draws them to Jesus and brings light into their lives. This is not only the role of theology but also liturgical worship, pastoral care, and counseling. This is the focus that all those who lead in the church are called to do, to work with all we are, and to present everyone perfect in Christ. ( Colossians 1:28-29) For us Lutherans,  this is what the 6th article of the Augsburg Confession is about, as our good works are the fruit of our faith.

May Theology be restored to this glorious ministry, of causing others to grow deeper in their dependence/faith/trust in God. And may the church ever see it as a tool dedicated to that purpose.

(1) 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), 235–236.

(2) 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), x.

Why Did I Fall…again?

What was the difference between Javert and ValJean? The priest who cut straight to the heart

But the LORD came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. 6 “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! 7 Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”
8 In that way, the LORD scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why the city was called Babel,* because that is where the LORD confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world.
Genesis 11:5-9 NLT

Satan knows that the downfall of a prophet of God is a strategic victory for him, so he rests not day or night devising hidden snares and deadfalls for the ministry. Perhaps a better figure would be the poison dart that only paralyzes its victim, for I think that Satan has little interest in killing the preacher outright. An ineffective, half-alive minister is a better advertisement for hell than a good man dead. So the preacher’s dangers are likely to be spiritual rather than physical, though sometimes the enemy works through bodily weaknesses to get to the preacher’s soul. (1)

33    You never want “to get to the bottom of things.” At times, because of politeness. Other times—most times—because you fear hurting yourself. Sometimes again, because you fear hurting others. But always because of fear! With that fear of digging for the truth you’ll never be a man of good judgment. (2)

As I get older, and as I watch people around me age, I have learned that when people fall, it is not enough to pick them up and send them on their way. You need to determine why they’ve fallen, what let to it, and therefore, will it happen again? For example, is the fall because they are a klutz like me?  Or is it that the place they fell has to many hazards? Or is it something different, a problem with their heart or mind, muscles or spine?

Each of the possible causes can be dealt with, (even my being a klutz!) but you cannot apply a solution or treatment unless you know the nature of the cause. What one might do for the klutz will not help the person whose mind is challenged. Moving the fall hazards out of the way might help one person but another might need a walker, and another person might do better off with heart medications.

This is true spiritually as well. Why did that person fall, why is this leader struggling, what is going on, and how does the leadership crash and burn? Not all fall the same way, or for the same purpose.

The people at Babel fell and were scattered because of their pride, and their inability to see their need for God. Their fall would be reversed at Pentecost, and the divisions between people groups would begin to heal.

The attempts of Satan to paralyze those in ministry is another cause of a fall. Those pressures, whether of temptation or oppression, whether physical or spiritual, wear out the man, his preaching and administration of the sacraments lacks the conviction it once had, and the entire church – and their community is affected.

When people are falling, or have fallen, when they have become ineffective and paralyzed, there must be more than just lifting them up. (If in fact, anyone bothers to do so!) It is not often simple, nor is it easy. St. Josemaria identifies the reasons why we hesitate – we don’t want to embarrass the person who is fallen. Or we are afraid to look for the reasons, the matters of the heart and soul, or the tripping hazards that Satan has entangled them, lest we get caught up in their pain.

Even more challenging is when we are falling when we are struggling. For a pastor to admit this is rate – we are just too afraid in the implications.

We must trust in God in these moments, more than any other time in our lives. We have to know the promises He has made to us, the power that is behind the promises, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. This will enable us to dig to the bottom of the issue, finding the hope that is in Christ Jesus. In Jesus, there is hope for those who have fallen, and for those who are struggling. That is what the cross is about, and why we preach Christ crucified…for us.

For in Him, we find peace, and that He is at work, guarding our hearts and minds. AMEN!

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

(2) Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

When all else fails… there is peace with Jesus

May I focus on Jesus, that I may know the love revealed to me in all of life.

He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death. 17 He came and proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. Eph 2:16-17 CSB

“Fear not,” the Angel said to Mary in the announcement of the incarnation of the Word. “Do not be afraid,”
Jesus repeated so many times to the disciples. It is an invitation that opens a new, refreshing space in the soul,
giving security and engendering hope. (1)

During the last eight or nine years of her life, her temptations became still more violent. Mother de Chatel said that her saintly Mother de Chantal suffered a continual interior martyrdom night and day, at prayer, at work, and even during sleep; so that she felt the deepest compassion for her. The saint endured assaults against every virtue (except chastity), and had likewise to contend with doubts, darkness, and disgusts. Sometimes God would withdraw all lights from her, and seem indignant with her, and just on the point of expelling her from him; so that terror drove her to look in some other direction for relief: but failing to find any, she was obliged to return to look on God, and to abandon herself to his mercy. She seemed each moment ready to yield to the violence of her temptations. The divine assistance did not indeed forsake her; but it seemed to her to have done so, since, instead of finding satisfaction in anything, she found only weariness and anguish in prayer, in reading spiritual books, in Communion, and in all other exercises of piety. Her sole resource in this state of dereliction was to look upon God, and to let him do his will. (2)

The way [faith] works in experience is something like this: The believing man is overwhelmed suddenly by a powerful feeling that only God matters; soon this works itself out into his mental life and conditions all his judgments and all his values. (3)

Return, o wander, return and seek an injured Father’s face; those warm desires that in thee burn were kindled by redeclaiming grace! (4)

As I read the section in green this morning, it resonated with me. That dread feeling that God has abandoned me, that even in prayer or devotion or at the altar there is an emptinesss. It seems a burden, and de Ligouri’s use of the word anguish is not… unknown

It takes some time usually, before I realize the joy that seems gone is not. The burdens and pains are, oddly enough, gifts from God given to re-focus me from the means by whcih God comforts me, to God himself.

The nun looks upon God finally, Tozer says we get overwhelmed with the idea that only God matters, we hear God’s call on our lives to not be afraid, to not be anxious…

And we find deeper hope, we find security, we find again the the peace which we proclaim.

We find ourselves in the presence of God, who has never really left us, we’ve not been forsaken, or abandoned.

We just needed to realize that we are not alone.

It is then, just in the presence of God, just as the Holy Spirit defibillates our faith, which was wavering… it is then that all our disciplinesbecome desirable again. It is then we see the blessing of the struggle, that God is using it for good, as He has promised to us. The pain and tears are blessings, the dryness is a sign of God’s care… to get us to see HIm… and Him alone.

Everything we do, will at some point fail. But He never will, and as we realize it is all about Him… everything else will come alive as well.

Relax, know that God is with you – and let His peace wash over you!

He loves you… He is with you!

(1) 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), 324.

(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), 467.

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

(4) Collyer, Evangelical Lutheran Hymn Book, #54 (Concordia Publishing House 1927)

The Apostle Paul: A narrow-minded, fixated man… who found his safe place.

If only this was how we saw life…

j

Thoughts to encourage us to love and adore Jesus!

21 For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of what is preached. 22 For the Jews ask for signsa and the Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified,ai a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. 24 Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:21-24 CSB

I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Cor. 2:2 CSB

11 For no one can lay any foundation other than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. 1 COr. 3:11 CSB

To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart. (1)

St. Francis de Sales says, that no sooner do children espy a wolf than they instantly seek refuge in the arms of their father and mother; and there they remain out of all danger. Our conduct must be the same: we must flee without delay for succor to Jesus…. (2)

I have heard people say that Paul was a bit narrow-minded, a bit fixated. I think they mean it quite derogatorily, but as I just read through Romans, and now enter 1 Corinthians, I see that fixation, I seen the narrow focus of his work, and…..

I am incredibly grateful for it!

You see what i see him fixated upon is Jesus.

We are to talk to people about Him, helping them to see Him, despite their stumbling, despite their first reaction that it is foolishness. As they are guided past that, they begin to realize what it means for Jesus to be the fullness of God’s power (and ability) and His wisdom. There is nothing else for paul to hold onto in his very complicated, difficult life, and yet his knowledge of Chirst is what sustains the apostle.

As it will sustain us.

Tozer knew this, and talks of pursuing the God, it was enough for him to have saved Him, he has to follow Jesus, to pursure the one who declared him righteous. De Ligouri also sees Jesus as the safe place, just as a child threatened by hostile threats.

No wonder they all still sought the One who created them, found and healed them of their brokenness.!

This is why Paul would have us build our entire lives on him, nothig else.

He is our only true hope, our true comfort, our shelter in the storm, the list goes on and on throughout scripture. Each pointing out that Jesus is our life.

Am I always able to keep my focus there? No i struggle as much as you – but we need to help each other, as Paul does, reminding us (along with the Corinthians) of the narrowed minded focus we need ot have….

Jesus..

Jesus…

(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), 453.

Why Church Traditions Should Matter…

How many thousands found God’s peace in this place…

Devotional Thought of the Day:
“Is not Israel still my son, my darling child?” says the LORD. “I often have to punish him, but I still love him. That’s why I long for him and surely will have mercy on him. 21  Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Mark well the path by which you came. Come back again, my virgin Israel; return to your towns here. 22  How long will you wander, my wayward daughter? For the LORD will cause something new to happen— Israel will embrace her God.Jeremiah 31:20-22 (NLT2)

These wretched men think that building up the church consists of the introduction of some sort of new ceremonies. They don’t realize that building up the church means to lead consciences from doubt and murmuring to faith, to knowledge, and to certainty.”

Imagine the story of the prodigal son, who goes his way, spends his inheritance, starts feeding the pigs and loathes what his life has beocme. He comes to the realization that he would be better off as the lowest servant, even a slave in his father’s fields. He heads home, and instead of the Bible’s version where the Father runs and greets him,….

He finds a foresale sign, and his family has moved on….

Home is now a myth, hope is all but lost, and there is nothing there for him anymore.

I get that feeling, as I’ve gone “back home” and the church I grew up – the external structure is there, but they built a 4 story school inside. The Denniy’s I worked in at 15 was raised to the ground, and there is an emptiness…there is little of my home to go back to, save a ancient cemetary where i used to go read books in its quiet shade.

I think that is why Luther clarifies what reformation, and the revival of the church is about. It is not about changing things for the sake of being new, nor should things remain the same for those inside the church. There needs to be consistency for the prodigal son’s’ sake, and for the wayward daughter’s return. So people can be led from doubt and murmering into the experience of depending on God,

Where Luther was encouraged to start from scratch he couldn’t -because he saw a need for the prodigal, and the wayward. Perhaps more than any other time in my life, that is needed in these days. Peopel need the place where sin is absolved, where God is revelaed to them through the word, where they can once again receive the Sacraments. A place to come home!

That is the irony, for the mature Christian – the old signs and symbols exist, not for their comfort and preference, but for the sake of those who need to be drawn back to church and the relationship with God nurtured there. It is for those who need to have their life with God restored and revived. I’ve done enough funerals of unbelievers and those who left the church to see this in effect, as the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 are spoken in older ways, and their grief and pain is relieved for a moment, and hope flashes before them as the signposts point again to when peace was known. In those moments, as their hearts recognize the signposts, the Spirit speaks to them again.

Does this mean we can’t change anything? Of course not! New music is written – that is good. New translations come and go, written for the context of people. Yet, there needs to be that which helps a person know they are home, where they belong, where God dwells among His people. It is a balance, but that starts with considering who we are keeping or changing things for, and the effect change has.

Even so, I pray your faith is strengthened by those places in life where signposts and altars are erected.





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), 195–196.

Effect without a Cause?

Thoughts to encourage our love for Jesus!

“You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Matthew 5:11 (CSBBible)

St. Teresa wrote this admirable maxim: “Whoever aspires to perfection must beware of ever saying: They had no reason to treat me so. If you will not bear any cross but one which is founded on reason, then perfection is not for you.”

If I work out at a gym, I expect the next day I will be sore. That’s just cause and effect. It is reasonable and logical.

If I treat someone badly, I ought to be treated badly in return. I am the cause and the effect is just and right. (Even though I do not like it – one bit!)

But it is when I am treated unjustly, when I want to say, “I don’t deserve this,” or “they have no reason” as St. Teresa noted, that I encounter trouble. When I am trying to help, and I get mauled by the person needing the help. That is when I tire, and I grow weary and I want to just hang it up.

It is illogical, in this world where sin and brokenness abounds, to think that everything will be justifiable, that everyone will simply love us, because we are trying to show them Christ’s love.

It is also illogical when we know that Jesus says “love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44, and Paul teaches us to “bless those who persecute you, bless them and do not curse them” (Roman 12:14) to expect that we won’t have enemies and persecutors. We should expect opposition, and that the opposition is not reasonable, logical, and often painful.

Yet, it is wrong, it is sin, if we do not love, pray and bless them.

I don’t like that.

But that doesn’t give me the right to become as disobedient and unreasonable as my heart cries out to be.

And it doesn’t mean passively taking their abuse, for loving, praying and blessing them is as more active than hating, scheming against them, and cursing them. It requires to think about what is truly best for them, and to lovingly do those things, seeing them through.

It is not easy…to take up such a cross, such a burden. It requires realizing the love of Christ for us, even the love that drive Hi to the cross when our sin tortured Him (and the Father) and learning to find the rest and peace that comes from Christ dwelling in us. To understand that He is the answer to every injustice. This isn’t about living in the brokenness – it is about living in the love of God,

ANd for those that do not know such peace, may we pray they leave their dissonant, broken lives and are drawn into Christ as well.

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), 427.

The Paradox of Pain

“I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me,x but you will see me.y Because I live, you will livez too. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father,aa you are in me, and I am in you. John 14:18-20 CSB

It was a time of drought, and lifting up his eyes to heaven he [Martin Luther] said, “Lord God, thou hast said through the lips of thy servant David, ‘The Lord is near to all who call upon him in truth. He fulfils the desire of all who fear him, etc., and saves them’ [Ps. 145:18, 19]. How is it, then, that thou art unwilling to give us rain? If thou dost not give us rain, at least give us something better, like tranquillity, life, and peace.

Two of Spurgeon’s greatest sermons were “God in The Silence” and “God in The Storm.” The heart that knows God can find God anywhere. I surely join with Spurgeon in the truth that a person filled with the Spirit of God, a person who has met God in a living encounter can know the joy of worshiping Him, whether in the silences of life or in the storms of life. There really is no argument. We know what God wants us to be. He wants us to be worshipers!

This love of poverty should be especially practised by religious who have made the vow of poverty. “Many religious,” says the same St. Bernard, “wish to be poor; but on the condition of wanting for nothing.”2 “Thus,” says St. Francis de Sales, “they wish for the honor of poverty, but not the inconveniences of poverty.”

The last quote stings… it hurts…

I know the truth of it, that I am willing to embrace any suffering God would allow- if I don’t have know I am suffering.

I can endure all things – if I don’t have to really endure it – just sort of let the time pass me by.

That’s the kind of thing we all want, it is why we love to state that God won’t give us anything we can’t handle.

Even as I read that, and am crushed by it’s truth, I resonate with Luther’s take – that if God won’t give us the water, he will give us something better. Not something which hides or denies the pain, but in the midst of it, finds the presence of God and is comforted by the Holy Spirit. That encounter is so…. beyond words… that you begin to love the suffering, and you even find joy int it, (even as you despise it) because there you find the prsence of God.

As Spurgeon notes, there you find yourself worshipping the Lord in whose presence you are!

It may take me a while ot see the suffering I am observing in that way, and yet, by the enxt time I share in the Lord’s Supper, – there it is. Christ is in me, even as the Father was in Him! What an incredible truth this is, when the words sink ito our soul and we realize their truth.

In the midst of this poverty, whether financial, mental or spiritual, here is Jesus, with me… with me!

truly, the truth of that sinking down into my sould can cause me to love that whcih made me aware of His presnce, and His promises.

This is my reality in these days…not so much from my suffering, but that which I witness around me….and weeping (and sometimes laughing ) with them, we find His presence together.

This is a blessing impossible to understand, hard to endure, absolutely one I will not by-pass. Even when there are days I wish I could. So,

Lord Jesus, as we face trials, and spiritual poverty, may your Spirit gather us and make us aware of Your presence. Comfort us, sustain us, and Lord, as You promised, keep us safe in You! Amen.

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), 192.

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

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 424.

We’re in this boat together…but not for long…

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Some thoughts to help you see Jesus in your lives!

Listen to what I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, because they are ready for harvest. 36 The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life,d so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For in this case the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps. 38 I sent you to reap what you didn’t labor for; others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor John 4:35-38 CSB

Simon Peter told them, ‘I am going out fishing’; and they said, ‘We too will go with you.’ So they went out and embarked on the boat; and all that night they caught nothing. But when morning came, there was Jesus standing on the shore.”26 He passes by, close to his Apostles, close to those souls who have given themselves to him, and they don’t realize he is there. How often Christ is not only near us, but in us; yet we still live in such a human way! Christ is so close to us, and yet we can’t spare him an affectionate glance, a loving word, a good deed done by his children.

The angel told Mary Magdalene that Jesus would meet the disciples in Galilee – so we know Jesus knew they would go there, to return to their old ways, their old work. That without help they would go back to what they knew.

Even after knowing Jesus was risen from the grace – they still did this! They didn’t connect the Resurrection to the Mission of God, to draw all people tto Him.

But in their pain, in their anxiety, dealing with the change, they forgot this.

I think the church has done the same thing in the last 2 years. We have been struggling with COVID, many of us are helping people deal with grief, or struggling families, trying to hold up each other – all these things are good and right, and beneficial.

But we’ve forgotten who we’ve been sent to help, who we are called to serve, who we’ve been called to guide, as the Spirit calls them, into the realization that God truly loves them.

Even though they knew Jesus was there, that He had preceded Him there (Mark 16:7) they didn’t look for Him. And they didn’t look for the men they would catch. And so Jesus comes by – and reminds them the harvest is ready (Peter – feed my sheep!) He reminds them of His presence. amd the work they would share.

Perhaps they needed that moment set aside… perhaps not. It happened though, and Jesus refocused them on the ministry they had together. MWe aren’t any different. This time of COVID has been our time in the boat together. Now its time to throw our nets in on the other side, and see the catch God has for us to bring in – a great harvest of souls.

Let’s go fishing my friends… but not for fish – the Spirit says it time to gather all God would call!

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Inconvient, Challenging Truth of Following Jesus.

where I belong… at the foot of the cross

A Hard Devotional Thought for these Days

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided his clothes and cast lots. Luke 23:34 CSB

It appears that too many Christians want to enjoy the thrill of feeling right but are not willing to endure the inconvenience of being right.

Therefore the entire sum of what it means not to kill is to be impressed most explicitly upon the simple-minded. In the first place that we harm no one, first, with our hand or by deed. Then, that we do not employ our tongue to instigate or counsel thereto. Further, that we neither use nor assent to any kind of means or methods whereby any one may be injured. And finally, that the heart be not ill disposed toward any one, nor from anger and hatred wish him ill, so that body and soul may be innocent in regard to every one, but especially those who wish you evil or inflict such upon you.

I knew what was coming today in my Bible reading.

It made me want to delay it as much as possible.

The words from the cross above frustrate me… significantly frustrate me. Especially if the Apostle Paul’s words are echoing through my mind at the same time.

 I
mitate me, as I also imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 CSB

Yesteday, I was planning the service for the day after the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Flashing across my news feed and social media were call for revenge, including a horrific prayer for it to have quickly, to wipe out a people. It wanted revenge, not justice, and definitely not mercy.

And my first reaction was to agree, even as it soured my stomach… and I knew it was wrong.

Did I mention following Jesus was inconvenient?

Another line from the Scriptures, this time from Jesus,

43  “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44  But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45a (NLT2)

This isn’t just inconvenient… I don’t even have the words.

It is more tha just difficult, it is impossible… at least for me.

Never mind those who have killed people in what they consider war… this is true for those in all sorts of positions. Some actively hate, some unintentionally hurt (how could they not see their own narcicism?)

But on this day, as I read of Jesus on the cross, I realize again how much I have to be united to that cross, to let my narcicistic self die there, and rise to life with Him. How that means I give up my desire for revenge (though I call it justice – let’s be honest here) I need His mercy, I need His love…

I need Him to heal me of my hurt.

This isn’t about being weak, about not standing up for what is right and wrong. Luther’s quote makes that clear – we can’t let our hearts be ill-disposed, but rather we need to lift these enemies to the Lord in prayer, and desire, as God does, that they come to repentance. That’s not being weak….

It is accepting the inconvenience of following Christ, and realizing that Him joy

As we do, it will take prayer, it will take a lot of thought about the cross, and the grave, and why Jesus, for the joy set before Him,… set aside revenge… and loved.

us

all.

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

Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, trans. F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau (n.p.: WORDsearch, 2003).

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