Category Archives: Theology in Practice
Devotional Thought of the Day
12 When he was in distress, he sought the favor of the LORD his God and earnestly humbled himselfe before the God of his ancestors. 13 He prayed to him, and the LORD was receptive to his prayer. He granted his requestf and brought him back to Jerusalem, to his kingdom. So Manasseh came to know that the LORD is God. 2 Chronicles 33:12-13 CSB
26 Say this to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the LORD: ‘This is what the LORD God of Israel says: As for the words that you heard, 27 becausen your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before me, and you tore your clothes and wept before me, I myself have heard’—this is the LORD’s declaration. 28 ‘I will indeed gather you to your ancestors, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace 2 Chron 34:26-28 CSB
Someone wrote to the godly Macarius of Optino that his spiritual counsel had been helpful. “This cannot be,” Macarius wrote in reply. “Only the mistakes are mine. All good advice is the advice of the Spirit of God, His advice that I happened to have heard rightly and to have passed on without distorting it.”
Likewise, they teach that this faith is bound to yield good fruits and that it ought to do good works commanded by God on account of God’s will and not so that we may trust in these works to merit justification before God Article VI, Augsburg Confession
Naturalness and simplicity are two marvelous human virtues which enable men to take in the message of Christ. On the other hand, all that is tangled and complicated, the twisting and turning about one’s own problems—all this builds up a barrier which often prevents people from hearing our Lord’s voice.
Reading about the Kings of Judah can be depressing, it can even rob you of hope. For so many of them rejected the God we know, that their ancestor David knew so well. Mannasseh started out like so many of them, in fact, he may have been the one who strayed the furthest from God, leading people into all forms of idolatry.
Then God entered into the picture… and everything changed.
God brought him back to Jerusalem – completely reversing the captivity that has been prophesied to Hezekiah. His grandson would grasp on to that promise as well, and restore the Temple, the place where God would meet His people, care for them and cleanse them.
They both realized their need for God, and that humbled them. And God healed them, and healed the people,
That is the same kind of spirit that Macarius had, One that realized that anything good in him was because of God, and indeed tracable to Jesus. It is the same thing the Lutheran Confessions testify too – that the believer will do good and righteous thigns, as they dwell in Christ. That is the nature of the Bishop, who gave up the treasure of the church, his own treasures, because ValJean was one of God’s people. It would take a lifetime for ValJean to give up the game… but he did.
It is keeping it simple – because the more complicated we make it, the more plans and strategies we lay down, the more it is about our work, and the less it is about Jesus.
Which brings us to the idea of the church, the people the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and makes holy by the Blood of Jesus. That is who we are. a bunch of broken people desperately in need of God’s love, and His touch on our lives.
That is what being a normal Christian is about, our need for God, a God who is always there. A God who can redeem us, and what we’ve done, and even find a way to make that into a blessing. So we don’t have ot hide who we are, we dont’ have to make up stories, or play games that make us our to be more moral or virtuous than we are. We can stop wasting time on trying to convicne ourselves and others that we are worth some.
God alreayd provided for that, by letting us nail Jesus to the cross. Sending Him to be nailed there, so that we could be drawn into Him….die to self… and be resurrected to new life.
That is what it all boils down to…
We are in Jesus…..
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
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), 41.
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 And he said, “Yes, go, and say to this people, ‘Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing.’ 10 Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.” Isaiah 6:9-10 (NLT2)
I have often said that we must not allow these periods of conversation with Jesus, who sees us and hears us from the Tabernacle, to degenerate into an impersonal type of prayer. If we want our meditation to develop right away into a personal dialogue with our Lord (for which the sound of words is not necessary), we must shed the cloak of anonymity and put ourselves in his presence, just as we are. We must avoid hiding ourselves in the crowd that fills the church, or diluting our prayer into a meaningless patter that does not come from the heart and is little better than a reflex habit, empty of any real content.
P. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
P. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.
As I was doing my reading this morning, several spam calls happened. The calls come in on the church phone and on my cellphone. Recordings for free Marriot stays, google business listings. They were not even interesting, just the usual lifeless recordings that are frustrating because they mean absolutely nothing to me. They actually have a negative value as they waste my time and distract me from ministry.
As I looked at my readings this morning, I wonder if our prayers don’t take on the same tone at times.
Do we just mouth the words without hearing ourselves, never mind actually crying out to God to hear our prayer? Do we even bother to listen to His reply? Or do we just want our Father in heaven to press 1 to confirm the prayer is answered the way we want, 2 if it is denied, and 3 if the Holy Spirit is busy right now and will get back to us later? Is our prayer that impersonal? Has it degenerated, as Josemaria asks? Are our hearts as hard as phone solicitors, who hang up on us when we ask them if they know Jesus?
It doesn’t matter if our prayer comes spontaneously (from the heart?), or we read it out of a prayer book or hymnal. Either way can be impersonal, self-centered, even hypocritical. And as beneficial to us as a spam call. God very well might answer it, but we may never be aware of it, for we weren’t looking to Him.
So how do we fix this? How do we speak to God? How can our prayer life become more intimate and complete? How do we stop spam calling God? How do we delevlop so intimate a relationship… that we communicate with Him?
The most important thing is to know there is a real person who cares about you on the other side of the “call.” To know God personally, not just as some inanimate force, but as Jesus, who comes into your world to hear you…and to heal you. To depend on Him like you do, your best friend, to know He is there, just as He promised. That was proven at the cross, when you were drawn into Him, and died with Him that you would rise to a new life with Him.
And then you pray, cry out to Him… let Him have it all…He is with you… and wants to be there for each one of us.
It comes down to this – the Lord is with you!
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 81.
We could not…so He Did!
Guard this Treasure!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and peace of God our Father help you to recognize the treasure given to you in your relationship with Jesus Christ!
The Dark Night of the Soul
As we walk with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we have the opportunity to witness the darkest night that has ever occurred spiritually. The night when evil was more powerfully present than ever when that evil created despair so powerfully it assaulted Jesus. It created a dark night, the darkest night, even for Jesus.
He would cry out to His Father, our Creator, in the depth of His despair, he would be so physically overwhelmed by anxiety and the darkness that He would sweat blood. The emotional and spiritual trauma was greater than anything ever experienced by mankind.
The Darkest Night of the Soul…
And perhaps a night of unshakable beauty…a night to not only remember… but to be in awe of the beauty of the darkness.
You see, we need to look at Jesus, the one Isaiah identified as the man of sorrows, and be in awe of the beauty. We need to treasure these moments.
Can We Keep the Watch? Can we stay aware of what Jesus went through?
Or will we be like the apostles… and fall asleep on our watch?
It had been an emotional week, with many ups and downs. Preparing for the feast was an enormous task for this traveling band of homeless missionaries.
The feast itself was a challenge, with two of the brothers fighting, with Peter nearly ready to walk away rather than let Jesus wash his feet. Then the comment by Jesus, about someone ready to betray him… a question that caused them all to question themselves, none of them confident in that moment…
The fiery scene with Judas, the long walk to the garden in the dark… and Jesus so serious, so perplexed.
It was draining.
We need to experience Jesus there; we need to pay careful attention to what He went through that evening. Our point of focus during these weeks of lent is a few hours described in just a few sentences… What will get in the way?
Will it be sleep? Will it be our own weariness? Will it be our own dark nights of the soul?
Will we be able to stay awake, to keep watch, to guard the truth of this night in our hearts, meditating on Jesus, being with Him there…
I am going to be bluntly honest. You will fail during this time… You will have the same level of t
You will sin…you might experience despair, and you might forget about the hope you have.
You will know the feeling that the 12 apostles had, as Jesus woke them up for the third time. There will be times where you will feel as guilty and ashamed as they did. As they witnessed His arrest, to follow Him at a distance as he was tried and beaten and crucified.
There have been times and will be times where you could not keep watch…where you did not treasure this suffering of Jesus.
We could not… so He Did…
I never want to tell you that it is okay to fall asleep on God, to fail to treasure what God is giving you in Christ Jesus.
But where we can’t keep our focus on Him, when we can’t guard the treasure of what He’s given us because of His passionate embrace of suffering, we find out He did.
He treasured that night, He suffered through it, He didn’t fall asleep.
And while He was disappointed that they could not treasure it, while Jesus is disappointed in our failures, He continues to come to us, to wake us up.
We have to realize the love that drives Him to do this is beyond our ability to understand. He doesn’t just love us if we fall asleep 7 times, or 70 times,
He loves us.
So He kept the watch that night. He treasured the relationship He has with you and me.
He kept watch over them, treasuring them, and not one of the apostles would die with Jesus because Jesus was faithful.
This is what we need to know in our dark nights, in our moments where anxiety and doubt take their toll when evil seems to have Jesus and obliterated God.
He is still there; Jesus treasures us. Because of that fact, we know a peace that passes all understanding, as He guards our hearts and minds.. in Him. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day!
18 So the LORD must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help. Isaiah 30:18 (NLT2)
31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)
31 But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 (NLT2)
There is an inactivity that, paradoxically, is the highest possible activity. There can be a suspension of the activity of the body, as when our Lord told His disciples to “tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). They waited. And the Holy Spirit came on them in power.
In the Old Testament, to wait on God meant coming before His presence with expectation and waiting there with physical and mental inactivity.
Do we expect prayer to work like a drive-thru? We wait in line, somewhat impatient as our body cries our for coffee. We place our order, drive up, sacrifice something and get what we dearly wanted ( or in my friend Mike’s cases – desperately needed!)
Is that how we picture prayer?
Do we reduce God to a barista? Do we expect Almighty God to be there for our present need, then once that is quenched we don’t have to see him until the need strikes aagain?
Tozer’s words got me thinking about our expectations of God when it comes to prayer. Do we wait on Him only until we get what we want? Or can find peace in His presence in the midst of the need, in the midst of the emergency?
I do find it interesting that the NKJV uses the classic “they that wait on the Lord,” whereas my preferred NLT translated the passage, “those who trust in the Lord.” There is a difference. For trust speaks of a deeper relationship, a sense of dependence. Wait sounds like there are only 18 cars in front of us in the drive thru! We aren’t good at waiting, and the idea of being dependent on God frustrates those who were raised to be self-sufficient.
This kind of waiting God gets to the heart of the matter, far beyond the humility it takes. For while we are waiting, while we are trusting the all-powerful, all-wise, all-loving God to act, we are doing the greatest thing that we can do, hanging out with our Creator. This isn’t time in a drive thru line, or in a waiting room. Prayer and waiting on God is done while we are in His presence, looking at Him, talking with Him, listening to Him. When we are here, it is not a matter of just getting what we want… it is about life. It is about being at peace, it is about knowing we are loved.
You see prayer isn’t being in line in a drive thru. It is about coming home…waiting for the barbecue feast and enjoying the company of our Father, as He creates the masterpiece!
May we come to realize this… and so desire to spend more time aware of His presence in our lives! Amen!
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Devotional Thought of the Weekend
39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us. Hebrews 11:39-40 (NLT2)
The Christian Church came into existence immediately after the Fall, when God, having applied the Law to fallen men orally (Gen. 3:8–14), gave mankind the oral promise of the Woman’s Seed, who was to destroy the works of the devil, that is, free men from the guilt of sin and all its consequences (Gen. 3:15), and Adam and Eve believed the “first Gospel.” Through the oral Word, proclaimed in various ways, God continued to build His Church until the days of Moses.
And (we believe) in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Life-giver, who proceeds from the Father and the Son,who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. In one holy, catholic, and apostolic church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come. Amen.
The quote from Pieper (in purple above) is one I had to think about for a while. I included it in a paper that I recently submitted, and the reaction was what I worked through, that the church started at Pentecost.
You are part of something that has been around signficantly longer than 2000 years. It goes back to the beginning of time, the cadre of people that know God as their God, and have been brought to realize that they are His holy, precious, chosen people.
The promise of God calling them His people does go back to the Garden, when Adam and Eve ate the of the fruit that gave them the knowledge of evil (they already knew only good) and opened the door to sin.
It was then, with the sacrifice of an animal, that the sacrifice of Christ was pictured, and the redemption and reconciliation of man to God was made known.
This is the church that awaits us, that surrounds us, cheering us on as they wait for the perfection that comes when Christ returns for us all, His bride.
You are part of it, and integral, necessary, planned, valuable part of this body.
It is a church that from that point forward had the law and the gospel, had the promises, had the plan of Gods work revealed, perhaps not completely, but it was there. We can look back and see it! We can see these lives that depend on God, the God who reveals Himself in the universe He created, in the Scriptures, and most clearing, in the visible image of God, Jesus Christ. Revelaed to Adam and Even, to Moses, to Elijah, to Abraham, Issac and Jacob, to all of those who are
For He is with us, that is what makse the church, God gathering His people together, bringing them back, reconciling them to Himself. Providing the sacrifice necessary to accomplish this desire of His.
This is who we are … even some who don’t know it… yet.
We get to bring them the good news that they are. We get to see them drawn into His presence. Just liek the great cloud of witnesses waits to praise our God together… with us.
This is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. God’s people.
 Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, electronic ed., vol. 1 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953), 193.
“The Nicene Creed” 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), 23.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” 28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. 29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” John 20:26-29 (NLT2)
Some people wish they could have lived in Jesus’ day so they could have heard His voice and His teaching. They forget there were thousands who heard Jesus but who had no idea what He was talking about. They forget that His own disciples had to wait for the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to know what He had been telling them.
“If only I had heard Jesus,” you may have said. No, you are better off now. You have the Light that lights every person. You have the voice of the inner conscience.
“Blessed are those who believe without seeing me….”
Think about those words. Probably you have yet to see Jesus face to face. But think about the fact Jesus declares you more blessed than Thomas. You are more blessed than the disciple who, burnout, weary, and grieving sees his dead Rabbi/Savior/Friend before him,
He was talking about you and me there… when He spoke ot the emotion wreck that was Thomas.
Now, let’s apply that to your present situation.
How often do we grieve our present circumstance by saying, “if only?”
If only there wasn’t COVID? If only the political parties could truly get along and work for what is best? If only I had a better job, better car, better spouse, better behaved kids, if only I had better…
Like one here right now to tend to my every desire. a god who would let me do things perfectly?
We may even spiritualize it, as Tozer suggested people do. If only I was one of the people who worked beside Paul, and got to hear His teachings. Or maybe his teaching was hard, if only I walked with Peter. If only I was one of the 12? I would sin less, I would understand more, I would… I would…
No, you wouldn’t.
They were sinners there, just like now. They struggled to learn, just like now. They didn’t get it at times…just like now.
All the “if only’s” are is a veiled sense of sin. Either the sin of coveting what you perceive is an advantage someone else has, or covering up your own shortfalling and sin. I know it all to well… I do it myself.
And we need to stop…
For we have something that the “if only’s” could never provide. We dwell in the presence of God. The Holy SPirit has revealed God to us..and guarantees God will be there, always. We don’t have to wait for nail scars or epiphanies. He is here.
We need to just trust Jesus, the One we don’t see in the flesh, yet we consume in communion. The Jesus who sent His Spirit to abide in us. That Jesus…
Believe in Him, and you are blessed. Not you will be blessed, you are blessed. Depend on Him, and You will know a peace, a serentiy, a contentment that is beyond anything you can imagine. Because everything else that can cause anxiety, anguish, greed or shame is eliminated.
You will realize you don’t need the “if only”‘s anymore…
For you dwell in the presence of God, now and for all eternity.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
32 How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. Hebrews 11:32-34a (NLT2)
The catechist then takes up a part of the catechism, and begins to catechise not only the children and those to be confirmed, but also the older and matured members of the congregation. Adults shall not be forbidden to ask questions, state doubts or whatever may trouble them, so that the minister may encourage or warn them as need may require.
In this relationship with Jesus Christ through the new birth, something takes place by the ministry of the Spirit of God which psychology cannot explain. This is why I must contend that faith is the highest kind of reason after all, for faith goes straight into the presence of God
O foolish ones of the world, says St. Augustine, miserable creatures, where are you going to satisfy your hearts? Come to Jesus; for by him alone can that pleasure which you seek be bestowed. “Unhappy creatures, whither are you going? The good you seek for comes from him.”1 My soul, be not of the number of these foolish ones; seek God alone: “seek for that one good in which are all good things.”
Loehe, a German Lutheran pastor from the 19th century, prepares young people to be part of God’s family in a unique way. Look at this demonstrated in the purple quote this morning. He lets the Adults (apparently they sat in on the youth’s classes) state their doubts and what troubles them! These “older and more matured church members are allowed, no encouraged, to speak of their doubts and their troubles in front of the impressionable young minds? The young people witness the pastor working with these older people, encouraging and warning them!
This isn’t how catechesis works today. Now it is all about “teaching the faith,” or to use a less politically correct term, indoctrination. Here is the material, here is data. Digest it, spit it back, and we will make a church service all about you, praising you for passing our class.
Instead of “teaching the faith,” I think we need to teach faith. We need to arrange our instruction so that those we are responsible for experience the love of God! It is a love with vast dimensions, far more than we can explore, a love that is experienced, for words cannot describe it. (see Ephesians 3:18-19) Tozer talks of this in noting that being born again is beyond Psychology’s science. It is beyond human reason, yet not beyond us.
Augustine, perhaps the greatest and simplest of theologians, speaks to this as well. He just wants people to come to Jesus, to be drawn to Him. There the contentment, the joy they chase is experienced. There is the highest good, the sunnom bonnum of which poets and songwriters attempt to describe. It is no wonder the Old Testament includes a book, solely describes the intimacy Christians have with God, using romance and sex to describe it. Not that our relationship with God is sexual; instead, like sex, it goes beyond explanation and yet envelopes us entirely in the dance.
Teaching this is more than teaching someone to memorize the Decalogue or the Lord’s Prayer. It is teaching them to find peace in the silence of a sanctuary as they contemplate the truth of the phrase, “The LORD is with you!” The moments between the notes of a hymn, where the words take root in the heart. It is in the tears of the one worn out by guilt and shame, as the tears flow even more as the guilt and shame are lifted by the sin being forgiven.
Teach people to depend on God, trust Him, and entrust Himself to His care. This is what catechesis should be.
Then, as they begin to sing…stand back, and look in awe at what God has created…in us.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 68.
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), 149.
Devotional Thought for our Days
6 What should I bring before the Lord when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? 7 Would the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the offspring of my body for my own sin? 8 Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:6-8 (CSBBible)
“I didn’t learn my theology all at once. I had to ponder over it ever more deeply, and my spiritual trials were of help to me in this, for one does not learn anything without practice.”
I am not an anti-academic, I wouldn’t have a master’s degree and be on the final lap of a doctorate if I were.
But having those degrees did not prepare me to a pastor. They gve me tools that assist me in some parts of my ministry. Even preaching dosen’t come primarily from the studyof Greek and Hebrew, or the communication skills honed of twenty-three years of pastorl ministry, and another 6 as a chaplain.
The biggset lessons have come serving the drunk at 3 am before they head home to a wife they no longer loved, (or so they thought) They came at 2 am standing beside a nurse who cared for the hospice patient as they breathed their last. As I prayed for them, and prayed with the family, the nurse would wash the body once more, while waiting for the mortuary.
Ministey occurs there, in the brokenness of strangers, and in the times where I myself struggled. I am not alone, of course, nor have my battles been as severe as Job’s, Jeremiah’s, Peter’s or Paul’s battles.
Ministry is shaped when we have to depend on God’s promsied righteousness, when we realize we can depend on Him, for that is what it means to adore faithfulness, for He embodies what we are unable to accomplish. To simply walk with Him, letting Him shape our work, just as He shapes our eternal destiny. It is learned as we have to find the stillness to meditation in the middle of the tenseness and brokenness and anxiety of God.
Those battles we endure, they drive us to our Lord, teaching us how faithful He is to us. They drive us to the communion rail, and again we encounter Him. Not in a mechanical way, in a forced compliance. But in despair, looking for some hope, some comfort.
Academia provides the tools, But they cannot provide the suffering (though some students think they do!) that drives us to the Lord, the Lord in whom love us, the Lord who shows us mercy.
The Lord whom we praise, as those praises are generated from our hearts and souls, from the depths of our beings.
For He is there, the Lord is with you!
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), 50.
Devotional Though of the Day:
14 Each morning fill us with your faithful love, we shall sing and be happy all our days; 15 let our joy be as long as the time that you afflicted us, the years when we experienced disaster. 16 Show your servants the deeds you do, let their children enjoy your splendour! 17 May the sweetness of the Lord be upon us, to confirm the work we have done! Psalm 90:14-17 (NJB)
Evangelical Christianity is gasping for breath. We happen to have entered a period when it is popular to sing about tears and prayers and believing. You can get a religious phrase kicked around almost anywhere—even right in the middle of a worldly program dedicated to the flesh and the devil.
Old Mammon, with two silver dollars for eyes, sits at the top of it, lying about the quality of the products.… In the middle of it, someone trained in a studio to sound religious will say with an unctuous voice, “Now, our hymn for the week!” So they break in, and the band goes twinkle, twankle, twinkle, twankle, and they sing something that the devil must blush to hear.
They call that religion, and I will concede that religion it is. It is not Christianity, and it is not the Holy Spirit. It is not New Testament and it is not redemption. It is simply making capital out of religion.
Christianity, at least in the West, is still gasping for breath. From my perspective, it needs to catch its breath, to find its “second wind.” Some might think the church is beyond help. Others think spiritual intubation or the shock of a defibrillator might restore life to these wearied saints and the emptying churches.
I think the issue is compounded by COVID and our inability to gather. Pastors are being reduced to online preachers. Their role as commune-icators seems to be reduced to providing monologues. Pastors are called on to produce talks that try to motivate and comfort. Yet they cannot see the sparkling eyes that tell you the gospel has been heard or the body betraying the anxiety of a soul tormented by guilt and shame.
There is no dialogue, no worship, no life together.
We struggle alone, pastors and people separated from each other and feeling separated from God. The expression of the vibrant Christian religion has been replaced by a religious expression that doesn’t see people celebrating in God’s presence.
Tozer saw this in his time; the Psalmist saw the answer to it in his time. We need to be reminded of the Psalmist’s prayer, prayed for “us” the people of God. The answer to vain religion is to see God filling “us.” We need to savor the sweetness of the Lord together, to see Him confirm the work we are doing as we walk together in His presence. That only comes as we see God at work in us, as we know His presence. His presence not just in individual lives, but as He draws all believers into His presence. Not just those who believe now, but those who will come to believe.
This is the hope for the church to be gathered again into His presence and rejoicing in that together. For together, we will savor the sweetness of the Lord.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
29 The king said to him, “Why keep on speaking about these matters of yours? I hereby declare: you and Ziba are to divide the land.”s
30 Mephibosheth said to the king, “Instead, since my lord the king has come to his palace safely, let Ziba take it all!” 2 Samuel 19:29-30 CSB
Nor ought any one to say that the frequent celebration serves to bring the Sacrament into contempt, for those who are rightly prepared will always hunger for this Bread and thirst for this Drink; and the more frequently that they commune, the firmer becomes the persuasion that all of the earthly life is only a preparation for the celebration of the great Supper on high. “Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, they shall still be praising Thee, Sela.” God be merciful to you, and supplant your lukewarmness with heavenly earnestness. Amen.
Come then, O Lord! come and take possession of my heart; close its doors forever, that henceforward no creature may enter there, to divide the love which is due to Thee, and which it is my ardent desire to bestow all on Thee. Do Thou alone, my dear Redeemer, rule me; do Thou alone possess my whole being; and if ever I do not obey Thee perfectly, chastise me with rigor, that thenceforward I may be more watchful to please Thee as Thou willest. Grant that I may no longer seek for any other pleasure than that of giving Thee pleasure; that all my pleasure may be to visit Thee often on Thy altar; to entertain myself with Thee, and to receive Thee in Holy Communion.
The young, crippled man, Mephibosheth, who was King Saul’s son, meets King David after he was restored to his throne. Even though David would restore to him all that he had, the young man would have none of it. So glad was he that David was restored to the throne.
Grace didn’t matter; restoration of things of the world didn’t matter.
Being in the presence of his lord, the one who saved him from death, did.
This is a lesson for us! We should be like the young man, desiring just to be in the presence of Jesus.
William Loehe, a trainer and sender of Lutheran pastors and missionaries in the 19th century, saw this need and its answer in the Lord’s Supper. He implored a frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The words in purple show why – “it prepares us for the celebration of the great Supper on high!” It helps us see that the only meaningful thing in our life is the presence of Jesus. The Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, is the most significant way to celebrate and meditate on that presence!
Likewise, 100 years before Loehe, a Catholic Bishop, wrote the words in blue. The words come from his treatise on the Lord’s Supper. And they describe something I have found more trustworthy and more comforting in these challenging days than ever. The presence of the Lord that we encounter in the Lord’s supper, as we receive Christ, helps us find the rest that restores us from the brokenness we encounter, from the brokenness we know in our own lives.
Like Mephibosheth, we find that all that matters is the presence of our Lord. The Lord who is pictured in the parts of David’s life, where he became known as a man after God’s own heart. When we know His presence, our riches fade in importance. Our troubles lose their ability to overwhelm us. In the same moment, we want to collapse in awe and yet be hugged, embraced by the Lord, who makes our crippled souls whole, as we are invited, as special guests, to His feast.
This is the glory of God; this is why He deserves our praise. He comes to us, and He cares for us… This is the place where Paul prayed for the people of Ephesus to be when he wrote,
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. Ephesians 3:16-19 NLT
I pray that for us all, this experience of the love of Jesus Christ. I prayer that we encounter it frequently, as we take and eat the Body of Christ, and we take and drink His precious Blood… and we look to the day when with all the saints from all times, all places, all nations, and all languages, we celebrate the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. AMEN!
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 55–56.
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), 128.