Category Archives: Tozer

How to be Holy…How to See Revival Begin

Thoughts which draw us to Jesus!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 394.

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 182.

The Cure for “Boring” Spirituality/Christianity

Thoughts that give me confidence because Jesus is drawing us closer to Him!

I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The LORD gave me what I had,
and the LORD has taken it away.
Praise the name of the LORD!”
Job 1:21

Since all standard hymns have been edited to delete inferior stanzas and since any stanza of the average hymn can be sung in less than one minute … and since many of our best hymns have already been shortened as much as good taste will allow, we are forced to conclude that the habit of omitting the third stanza reveals religious boredom, pure and simple, and it would do our souls good if we would admit it.

As we begin to trust God more, we enjoy a certain freedom from our vices and may often experience great satisfaction in our spiritual endeavors. When God decides we are ready, he invites us to a new level of self-knowledge. God withdraws the initial consolations of conversion, and we are plunged in darkness, spiritual dryness, and confusion. We think that God has abandoned us.… Then comes a period of peace, enjoyment of a new inner freedom, the wonder of new insights. That takes time. Rarely is there a sudden movement to a new level of awareness that is permanent. What happens when we get to the bottom of the pile of our emotional debris? We are in divine union. There is no other obstacle.

The second and third readings are cause and effect.

When our worship becomes dry, when our spiritual lives exist in a state of boredom, we need God to take action.

But I will warn you, it isn’t pretty. It may not be as dramatic as Job encounters, but it will feel like it at times. (It does for me today) The classic devotional text The Dark Night of the Soul, also documents this, and how God allows Satan to strike us, for our good.

Like Job, the journey isn’t easy, like Job the challenges overwhelm us, and we find ourselves at the point of despair, and we will accuse God of abandoning us. That accusation may come with surprising force, because it comes from the darkest regions of our heart and soul.

God hears the accusation as a prayer. A cry for help that will be answered in a way that Keaton recognizes is full of peace. We abandon ourselves into the hands of a loving, merciful God, and are willing to see what He will do, for there is nothing else. Everything, including our hearts and minds are emptied out, and He is there… and that is what we need.

For we realize it is a blessed thing for God to take away what divides us from Him.  That is part of His healing ministry.

Oddly enough, this healing work, stripping us of all that isn’t of God–that is the content of many of those “third verses” that Tozer laments the loss of. Consider this one

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought (a thought)
My sin, not in part, but the whole (every bit, every bit, all of it)
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more (yes)
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul
(from It is Well with My Soul!)

God is with us…Blessed Be His Name!

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

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 179.

 

A Plea Against Christian Isolationism

Thoughts that cause me to draw near to Christ, today.

15  I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16  They do not belong to this world any more than I do. John 17:15-16 (NLT2)

Without worship we go about miserable; that’s why we have all the troubles we have. You wonder why young people act like such idiots. Some young people have a lot of energy and don’t know what to do with it, so they go out and act like idiots; and that’s why gangsters and communists and sinners of all kinds do what they do. They are endowed by God Almighty with brilliant intelligence and an amazing store of energy, and because they don’t know what to do with it they do the wrong thing. That’s why I’m not angry with people when I see them go off the deep end, because I know that they have fallen from their first estate along with Adam’s brood and all of us together. They haven’t been redeemed and so they have energy they don’t know what to do with; they have capacity they don’t know how to use. They have skills and don’t know where to put them, and so they go wild and police have to arrest sixteen-year-olds and put them in jail. If they had been taught that they came into the world in the first place to worship God and to enjoy Him forever and that when they fell Jesus Christ came to redeem them, to make worshipers out of them, they could by the Holy Ghost and the washing of the blood be made into worshiping saints and things would be so different

He always wants to remind us to recall the First Commandment, that he is our God; that is, that he wishes to help, comfort, and protect us, so that he may restrain our desire for revenge.
[196] If we could thoroughly impress this on people’s minds, we would have our hands full of good works to do. [197] But this would not be a preaching for the monks. It would too greatly undermine the “spiritual walk of life” and infringe upon the holiness of the Carthusians. It would be practically the same as forbidding their good works and emptying the monasteries. For in such a teaching the ordinary Christian life would be worth just as much, indeed much more.

They saw that the work of the cure of souls (Seelsorge) brought joy (Freudigkeit) despite the burdens of office. When God’s love is in motion, there is joy even in the midst of sorrow. And never forget it: Your ministry is God’s love in motion.

We live in an age of monasticism. Perhaps not in dark, gloomy, castle-like buildings centered around, and protecting the sanctuary, but the church has grown more and more isolated in the decades I have been alive. Some form this isolation by trying to protect the church they treasure, the beliefs and practices that have given them great peace at one time, which they remember, if not experience daily. Others see themseles as missional crusaders, those that venture forth from the walls of the church, in order to draw people into their lifestyle. Truly this group has grown as isolated as those who try and protect their traditions, as they rely on their visions and mission principles and para-church agencies. We even invest in politics, aligning ourselves with those we feel are the most willing to protect our way of life. 

It is as if they both believe that because we are not of this world, we have to create a lifestyle that is apart from the world. And so churches add to their facility their own restaurants and coffee shops. Our own bookstores, our own universities that are becoming less and less open to the spiritually unwashed masses.

And then we complain about the world that we send to hell in a nice wrapped up gift basket.

Tozer’s wrote the words in purple at a point when I was young—maybe even before I was born. He wants to complain about the idiotic things people do, but he realizes they do those things, using the gifts God’s given them, because they don’t know God. That means if there is someone to be “mad” at, it is the Christians in their lives who have remained silent about the love of God.

That’s right, if anyone can be blamed for the state of America today, (and most of Europe) it is the church who has retreated into its sanctuaries and tried to defend them from evil!  Do we not get the truth of the first commandment? That God, Who has already delivered and saved us, who is protecting us, has sent us into the broken world, just as He sent Jesus into the world to save it?  Just as God the Father and God the Son sent the Holy Spirit into our lives, that we might help save others?

We are to live right in the middle of the world, that souls may be cured of the illness of sin, and the ignorance of God. I love the last sentence in the quotes, our “ministry is God’s love in motion. 

Stop avoiding the broken, stop complaining about them and condemning them, go walk besides them, helping where you can. Stop being a modern monastic, and instead find the joy of seeing God heal others….and then you will experience peace and joy in ways beyond anything you could think or imagine.

 

Lord, help us to live as we do in church, in our lives with others. AMEN!

 

.

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

Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 413.

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 279–280

There is only one place to go, to find hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It isn’t easy…. it is necessary….

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

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

Amid the tears, He holds and comforts us.

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

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

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

Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism” Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 387.

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

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 145.

We need (to be) Committed, Exapendable Believers

Some thoughts for the day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not just to remove the stain of sin….

But to walk with us, to be with us,

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

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

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

A love that changes everything, and mostly changes us.

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

 

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

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

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

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

The Pastoral Need for the Lord’s Supper

Thoughts to draw you closer to Jesus…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 123.

Why I MUST Stuggle with the Scripture and God

Thoughts I pray drive you to the cross…

When the LORD heard them, he was furious. The fire of his wrath burned against Jacob. Yes, his anger rose against Israel, 22  for they did not believe God or trust him to care for them. 23  But he commanded the skies to open; he opened the doors of heaven. 24  He rained down manna for them to eat; he gave them bread from heaven. 25  They ate the food of angels! God gave them all they could hold. Psalm 78:21-25 (NLT2)

“Consequently this is the best advice, that one should draw from the source and diligently read the Bible. For a man who knows the text is also an extraordinary theologian. One passage or one text from the Bible is worth more than the glosses of four writers who aren’t reliable and thorough. 

Only one stipulation do I make: my teacher must know God, as Carlyle said, “otherwise than by hearsay,” and Christ must be all in all to him. If a man have only correct doctrine to offer me I am sure to slip out at the first intermission to seek the company of someone who has seen for himself how lovely is the face of Him who is the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley. Such a man can help me, and no one else can.

In my libraries I have closed to 10,000 books, both printed in paper and digitally on 3 different software programs.  S

Some are from favorite authors, like St. Josemaria, Michael Card, Martin Luther, Pope Benedict XVI, Peter Kreeft, Will Willimon, and Juan Carlos Ortiz. There are some newer writers that I am coming to appreciate more and more, like Tozer or Senkbeil. And there are other authors who are not as favored in my sight, yet all are men whose lives I thank God for, for they have affected me, or those whom I minister to at my church or in the community.

It would be really easy to just sit back in awe of their devotion, and spend time with their works. 

After all, I’ve read the Bible through more than once, in multiple translations. 

But it is there, in the pages of scripture, and in receiving and administering the sacraments, that I find God. It is where He hears me, and where I hear Him. There, on every page, there is Jesus. It is there where I find the words to think about, to ponder, even with which I question and argue. (It would be sad if I didn’t question and argue with them, for then I would be dishonest, or perhaps crazy… for God needs to transform me – which means I need to be honest where I am!) 

I cannot simply accept what men, far more brilliant that I could ever be, claim about the Greek and the Hebrew. I cannot accept their systems of theology. Simply put, they are sinners as well. Luther and Tozer are right – find the people that know God and rejoice in the intimate relationship He is forging with them. Learn from them how they encounter and walk with God, let them disciple you as you walk with Him. But always let Jesus be your focus, let the scriptures be the resource you measure it all with…

Like the passage from the Psalms, get to know the God, who even when you are struggling with Him, opens the skies and provides for you the bread of heaven and more. For that is when faith is more than just a list of doctrines, it is a relationship where you can depend on God in whatever life throws at you. Get to know the God who didn’t give up on Israel – Issacs’ son, or Israel – the 12 tribes. Get to know Him… experience His love… and without thinking–rejoice!

God loves us.  

Not from a distance, but right here and now. 

 

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), 352–353.

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

 

The Church Desperately Needs Fools and Madmen – if we are to survive.

Thoughts to help us run to Jesus…

Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time,* said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about! 50 You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” John 11:49-50 NLT

They say, “God has abandoned him. Let’s go and get him, for no one will help him now.” 12  O God, don’t stay away. My God, please hurry to help me. Psalm 71:11-12 (NLT2)

Scripture’s commandment to turn the other cheek does not contain a primarily ethical meaning—to overcome oneself, or to give the other an example of one’s self-mastery or enlightenment—but the meaning of love, which “demands that one suffer humiliation with the humiliated Christ rather than receive honor, to be seen as a fool and madman for Christ’s sake, who himself was seen primarily as such, rather than to be esteemed as wise and clever in this world” (Ignatius of Loyola)

Now note that deliverance from evil is the very last thing that we do and ought to pray for. Under this heading we count strife, famine, war, pestilence, plagues, even hell and purgatory, in short, everything that is painful to body and soul. Though we ask for release from all of this, it should be done in a proper manner and at the very last.
Why? There are some, perhaps many, who honor and implore God and his saints solely for the sake of deliverance from evil. They have no other interest and do not ever think of the first petitions which stress God’s honor, his name, and his will. Instead, they seek their own will and completely reverse the order of this prayer. They begin at the end and never get to the first petitions. They are set on being rid of their evil, whether this redounds to God’s honor or not, whether it conforms to his will or not.

The Canaanite woman had the kind of faith which penetrates the clouds. She would not take any kind of refusal as a real refusal, as a real “no.” She kept on praying with faith. The more she was tried, the more she placed her trust in Jesus, until she finally achieved her goal and got all she wanted. This is the disposition God waits for in the crisis of faith: trust in his mercy no matter what kind of treatment he gives you. Only great faith can penetrate those apparent rebuffs, comprehend the love which inspires them, and totally surrender to it.

Barely a day goes by without ads or advice about how to save the church. Here is how to make your preaching more relevant, how to do outreach online, and how to grow this ministry, that ministry. If only you had a program like Alpha or Rooted or follow Purpose Driven Church theory or…

For someone who doesn’t even know what a box is, never mind think out of it, my answer for what the church needs to do is described well in the devotional readings I encountered this morning.

The answer to survival is that we again need the church to be considered fools and madmen/women.

The phrase comes from the reading of Balthasar – and refers to people who are willing to be humiliated for no other reason than we do so with Jesus. The world would say we are nuts; we are fools. We embrace the suffering we encounter, whatever God allows, to seek Him and find Him and be with Him.

That is what Luther was getting at as well, as he explored the phrase, “deliver us from evil.” It is not the first plea in the Lord’s prayer but the last. It is not the most important thing – in fact, the most important thing is that we use God’s name to address Him. We need to set it apart for those deeply intimate conversations. We ask to ask for a lot, but only last do we ask for delivery from evil. If we believe all else is answered and delivered, where is the power of evil? It has already been broken and shattered.

Take a moment and think about it – what has Satan left if we are sure God’s Kingdom has come, and God’s will has been done?

This is what servant-leadership truly is in the church, being willing to embrace the suffering and remind people of God’s presence in the most broken parts of their lives. It requires tenacity, not to endure, but to pursue God like the Samaritan woman Keating praises! Jesus praised her, for she trusted that Jesus loved her and her daughter. We need to seek that experience of His love and His mercy, counting on Him to reveal Himself there.

That is why we endure… to depend on Christ – to dwell in Him… and as we do, we serve amid brokenness. We embrace it, knowing that God rules, and therefore it works. and if the world things we are fools and madman… that’s okay.

Balthasar, Hans Urs von. 2004. Love Alone Is Credible. Translated by D. C. Schindler. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 42. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

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

Lord, turn me over and inside out…please!

green and yellow tractor on dirt
Photo by Mark Stebnicki on Pexels.com

Thoughts to encourage us to run to Jesus

“Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19  The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20  The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21  But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22  The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23  The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Matthew 13:18-23 (NLT2)

Today the Christian emphasis falls heavily on the “active” life.… The favorite brand of Christianity is that sparked by the man in a hurry, hard hitting, aggressive and ready with the neat quip. We are neglecting the top side of our souls. The light in the tower burns dimly while we hurry about the grounds below, making a great racket and giving the impression of wonderful devotion to our task.

But why does God let man be thus assailed by sin? Answer: So that man may learn to know himself and God; to know himself is to learn that all he is capable of is sinning and doing evil; to know God is to learn that God’s grace is stronger than all creatures. Thus he learns to despise himself and to laud and praise God’s mercy.

I am not a farmer, and I am not good with plants.

But as I read the Parable of the Sower/Soil, I wonder why something wasn’t done about the soil before tossing the seed out onto the ground in such a random manner. Even I know you must break up the ground and turn it over. That is one of the primary uses of a farm tractor or a team of oxen pulling a huge plow back in the day.

Christ’s intended parallel to our lives is accurate today and when those words were spoken. Satan still tromps all over us, hardening the soil or lives. There are still rocks in our soil that need to be broken up or removed, the rocks that prevent God’s word from taking deep roots that sustain life. There are still thorns that cause so much anxiety that the message of God gets choked out. So pressures from outside us (the thorns), deep inside us (the rocks), and our hardness at the surface work against us hearing and God’s word impacting us.

Tozer echoes this with words from 60 years ago. (he died in 1963) talking about a shallow but active Christian life. It is too easy to remember a few catchphrases… and not see how they impact you personally. Christ must dig deep within us to reach what we are trying to protect and get that we don’t even know how to talk about.

We need to learn to be silent, let the truth of the gospel sink in, and take root. We need to let it calm us down to help us learn to live in peace. But that means we need to let God penetrate our lives. Which is what Luther was getting at. We need to realize that only God can transform us – that only He has the wisdom and the power to reach deep within us. This action means that He allows us to sin and fail so that He can restore us as we learn to depend on Him. So we have to slow down – and let the law convict and the gospel restore and give us the hope we need. He has to let us see the seed bouncing off the path, or getting choked out… or running up against a boulder… then He can show us how the cross removes the obstacles… while we sit in awe…meditating on His peace, His mercy, His love.

So we are back to the Sower, who breaks up the path at the cross and in the resurrection, removes the stones and the weeds and thistles. Let’s sit in His presence a while… and let His love and mercy do what the Father sent Jesus us to do…

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

Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 42. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

The Ministry Isn’t Rocket Science…but

each trial was a step in maturity… yet… so hard

Thoughts to drive us to Jesus side…..

Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. 2  Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. 3  I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me. Psalm 69:1-3 (NLT2)

Almost anything associated with the ministry may be learned with an average amount of intelligent application. It is not hard to preach or manage church affairs or pay a social call; weddings and funerals may be conducted smoothly with a little help from Emily Post and the Minister’s Manual. Sermon making can be learned as easily as shoemaking—introduction, conclusion and all. And so with the whole work of the ministry as it is carried on in the average church today.
But prayer—that is another matter. There Mrs. Post is helpless and the Minister’s Manual can offer no assistance. There the lonely man of God must wrestle it out alone, sometimes in fastings and tears and weariness untold. There every man must be an original, for true prayer cannot be imitated nor can it be learned from someone else.

There is an analogy between growing up spiritually and the growing up that takes place in the normal course of human life. In approaching adolescence and adulthood, everyone seems to have to pass through a crisis.… God has great sympathy for those who are going through this crisis in their spiritual life. They do not know what is happening to them and tend to concentrate on the disintegration of what they love, rather than on the real spiritual growth of which they are becoming capable.… If we look on the bright side and are firmly convinced that it is normal to have to forge new relationships, our crisis of faith will appear as a great invitation to go deeper into the heart of Christ. The very transition makes it impossible for the former people we counted on to help us. Part of growing up is to become independent—not of everybody, but of those on whom we are too dependent—so that we may depend completely on the Holy Spirit. That is what spiritual maturity is.

Tozer is correct…. the actual day-to-day tasks of being a pastor or one of those who help him are not that difficult. They don’t take the mind of a rocket scientist or incredible skills in management and business. That’s why people are getting “self-ordained” or getting one-day licenses to do weddings or just doing memorials on their own.

But a real pastor, a real elder, a real Sunday School teacher, or worship leader is not just a combination o talent and academic preparation. They have to be someone who wrestles with themselves and God – much as Jacob did. As each man’s gifts are different, so are the battles. The temptations, the anxieties, and the circumstances that they dwell in are different, making each battle unique – and therefore, the healing from battle damage is never the same.

Those battles are irreplaceable in one’s growth as a believer. Keating’s comparison to the challenges of the transition from childhood to adulthood is perfect. During that time, physically, mentally, spiritually, everything is challenged. Some demean it, having forgotten those long nights and empty feelings. As we enter Christ, everything changes, as idols and those who could become idols are removed. And while we have their words and often their examples, we are bereft of the comfort and the fact that someone is listening.

And that makes the brokenness echo throughout our hearts and minds, and yes, our souls. As we come on the other side of it, what disintegrated is replaced (much as Job’s family and fortune were!) Life becomes different, and we look at it with eyes that have grown weary as spiritual maturity is forced upon us. Every thing is stripped away, and we find everything is found as the Holy Spirit grants us the faith we need.

The place where the Psalmist was, is more important for a pastor or any other servant leader or believer in the church to experience. It is out of such times we God’s hand clearly, and the brokenness gives way to grace.

Ministry isn’t rocket science – it is more complicated. Still, as we see the breakthroughs and see the miracles, it is more rewarding…for it is walking with God… each step.

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

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

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