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).

My (very odd) 2nd Favorite Christmas Memory..

Still trying to do it!

Thoughts to enourage our trust and dependence on Jesus…

The LORD called to Moses from the Tabernacle* and said to him, 2 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. Leviticus 1:1-2 NLT

Following Mary’s example, the fundamental practice for healing the wounds of the false-self system is to fulfill the duties of our job in life. This includes helping people who are counting on us. (1)

My real apprenticeship in the ministry was served right there on that modest farm at my father’s side. There was always work to be done and lots of it. Though my dad was rather laid back as farmers go, he was a hard worker. There were cows to be fed, hogs to be slopped, eggs to gather, manure to be shoveled, hay to be cut, baled, and stacked, corn first to be planted, then cultivated, later picked, then finally shelled, grain to be drilled and harvested. I learned from dad the invaluable lesson that the best work of all is work done for its own sake. (2)

Accidents may indeed appear to befall him and misfortune stalk his way; but these evils will be so in appearance only and will seem evil only because we cannot read the secret script of God’s hidden providence and so cannot discover the ends at which He aims.… The man of true faith may live in the absolute assurance that his steps are ordered by the Lord. For him, misfortune is outside the bounds of possibility (3)

My favorite Christmas memory will always be playing a LORD piano in my grandfather’s basement, while he (a former professional singer), my Uncle Bill, my Uncle Butch and my Dad sang together in harmony. All my cousins would be lined up on the stairs, and it was great. I remember doing it from the time I was 11 till I was 15, and I still miss the peace and harmony of those days.

But this post is about my second favorite Christmas memory, and that occurred for a few years at the corner of Lincoln and Tustin, in the city of Orange. I worked graveyard shift at a Denny’s there, and the place was always packed – waiting list for 23 of 24 hours we were open one year.

As I was reading my devotional readings this morning, the quotes above all reminded me of that precious time in my life, of working my tail off waiting tables, and the generosity of those people I served.
Like Senkbeil, this was my best training for ministry, learning how to really listen to people, not just for their order, but to make them feel at home. And yes, the best work is simply done – as it lays before us.

In the midst of that hard work, I often forget the dreams that were shattered In the brutal years of 1986 and 1987. I just soaked myself up in my work, and somewhere I still have the comment cards from that day… which showed that I could care and help people. So Keating’s work reminded me of that unique blessing of simple hard work- fulfilling the duties of life, just as the Virgin Mary did. It is hard to say to God that we want to let Him bring about what He desires… knowing that may not dovetail in with our plans.

Which brings us to Tozer, and the idea that there is misfortune, that what is going on in our lives has a direct purpose. He has promised such in places like Romans 8:28-38 – where all things work for good – because they cannot separate us from God. When I struggle with misfortune, or what I perceive to be misfortune (like my connective tissue disorder which can cause pain, and literal heartache) or anything else, I need to know God is in charge. I can then throw myself back into my work, knowing God is taking care of the rest.

I wish I would have learned this back in the day… but I can see it… in the satisfaction that ended those Christmas Days and the double shifts I worked. (11pm to 7 am, then back at 4-midnight) Oddly I miss them now, the energy, the people who had no where else to go.. and the satisfaction that at the end of the day.

God was with me… and still is… and with you!

(1) 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), 355.

(2) Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 1–2.

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

Is it time to clean up the Church?

THoughts to help us depend on Jesus.

When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table* with the Twelve. 21 While they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”
22 Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?”
23 He replied, “One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me. 24 For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”
Matthew 26:20-24 NLT

Jerome Schurff and the philosophers are offended by the form of the church, which is subject to scandals and sects, because they think of the church as pure, holy, unspotted, and the dove of God. It’s true that the church has this appearance in God’s sight, but in the eyes of the world the church is like its bridegroom Christ: hacked to pieces, marked with scratches, despised, crucified, mocked [Isa. 53:2, 3].

Perhaps it was John’s preconceived ideas about asceticism that God wanted to demolish in order to free him in the last days of his life to accept God’s coming in any way at all, including through the eating and drinking and compassion of the actual Messiah.

I need to confess:

Like most pastors and priests who wrk with a denomination or brotherhood, I get a little frustrated by where I see men leading the Church. The agendas, the hatred spewed out against those whose agendas don’t match, the money and mechamisms put in place in denominations and congregations, rather that seeking consensus among the people of God drives me deep into depression. Part of me just wants to hide out with my own people, and forget the church at large. THe other part of me wants to run in, get involved, take control and clean up the mess.

And make no mistake – the church at large, and most denominations are incredibly messed up right now.

Part of the problem is that we are asking who is to blame, and if we can’t find anyone to blame, we start looking at our lives. As we do, we ask the same thing the apostles did, “Am I the one?” Is it my actions, my work, my weakness that is breaking down the church, dividing it? Am I the one who betrays Jesus?

I think we need to ask that question, and if there are things we are doing, repent.

As I read Luther’s words the other morning, it hit home hard, my vision of the church and the reality – that while I am most often seeing the side that Schurff sees, the church that is brutally hacked to pieces, marked with self inflicted pain (like the Gadarene man posessed by demons) and needing to be crucified.

I forget that God sees us differently, as being pure, holy, unspotted and the bearers of peace. And even when I meditate on the that idea, my own view sees something else, and I am challenged to set that aside and trust God in what He sees. I want to take the entire church into the wildernness, so that maybe forty years of wandering around with nothing but God’s providence to sustain them, they might get the point.

In doing so, I am in the same place as John the Baptist, thinking that asceticism, that casting aside everything, is the only way to seek the peace of God that comes when nothing is left.

Keating makes a point about this, that shocks me. To think like John is to dismiss God working in other ways. John isolated and preached hard against the evils of his day. That’s why John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask if Jesus was the one… it was so radically different than how he imagined the Messiah’s coming. But Goid knows what the people of God – those already present and those to come need….

He is God, we aren’t… and His bride is His responsibility…and all we are called to point people to Him, and help remove the things that cause theme to stumble….

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), 262.

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), 347.

The Lord IS with you! (so what?)

How I long to see Jesus laugh!

Thoughts to help us, as we learn to love God

11 And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence! Exodus 24:11 NLT

23  I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. 24  Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! John 17:23-24 (NLT2)

The coming of Christ into our conscious lives is the ripe fruit of the Christmas-Epiphany Mystery. It presupposes a presence of Christ that is already within us waiting to be awakened. This might be called the fourth coming of Christ, except that it is not a coming in the strict sense since it is already here. The Christmas-Epiphany Mystery invites us to take possession of what is already ours. As Thomas Merton put it, we are “to become what we already are.” The Christmas-Epiphany Mystery, as the coming of Christ into our lives, makes us aware of the fact that he is already here as our true self—the deepest reality in us and in everyone else. Once God takes upon himself the human condition, everyone is potentially divine. Through the Incarnation of his Son, God floods the whole human family—past, present and to come—with his majesty, dignity and grace. Christ dwells in us in a mysterious but real way.

A recent book I read tried to put theological thoughts and processes against those that are spiritual. As if pastors, teachers, professors have to choose between being adept at theology, or practice spirituality.

I believe that division is utter nonsense… or for those who know a little Greek – taurus skubala.

A perfect case lies in the three readings form my devotions this morning. The goal of celebrating communion with my people is seen in them. I want my people to realize they are eating with Jesus, eating and drinking in His presence. (and that statement needs to be pondered…. for it works on multiple levels! It hit me, reading it this time, that this (in English) reads as if they are soaking in the reality of being in the presence of God…. it is less about a location reference as to what is happening.

“we are here, we aren’t dying… God is partying with us!”

THis is the communion that begins the community, the community that is that perfecct unity, where all are overwhelmed by God’s mercy and love – for this is what St. John is pointing to in his gospel. What an amazing theological truth! What an amazing thing to meditate upon for hours….

This is the incarnation happeining again! Or more precisely, it being revealed again. It is the children of God realizing in His presence, that they are his kids! His presence is our deepest reality, for Christ dwells in us – and that is who we are – compeltely defined by the fact that we are in Jesus.

The challenge we have is revealing that to people, and helping them “get it.”

Recently I thought about the lyrics from two songs from church – “O come, o come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel!” and “Lord I need you, oh, I need you! Every hour I need you!” They beg for the same thing – the cry for God’s presence and help is the same….and it is based in only a brief glimpse of what is promised,

It is what our communities need, it is what our people need….

To see revealed the presence of Jesus, whom we need, desperately need to be in our lives…

to know… The Lord is With You!

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), 344.

The Problem of Church and Politics

Thoughts to help one realize the presence of Christ in their lives

4  Now restore us again, O God of our salvation. Put aside your anger against us once more. 5  Will you be angry with us always? Will you prolong your wrath to all generations? 6  Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you? 7  Show us your unfailing love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation. Psalm 85:4-7 (NLT2)

Many and various things have been written in former times concerning the power of bishops. Some have improperly mixed the power of bishops with the secular sword, [2] and such careless mixture has caused many extensive wars, uprisings, and rebellions. For the bishops, under the guise of power given to them by Christ, have not only introduced new forms of worship and burdened consciences with reserved cases and with forcible use of the ban, but they also took it upon themselves to set up and depose emperors and kings according to their pleasure.

The early church reformers saw a problem, not in politics, but in the way the church brought political structures into the church, and then used them to impose on society the rules of the church.

We are in the same boat today. Far too many churches see themselves as the judges of society, the ones who call for justice to be done to those outside the church. And then, as the church accepts that role in the world, it applies it to those inside the church. The church has made itself into some kind of authority on morals, even though many within it have struggle with their own immorality.

The role of the church is reflected in the Psalmist’s plea for God. Yes the Pslamist wants God to act, but to set aside the anger and cause a revival to begin, to cause the people of our communities to rejoice in the presence of God. He wants them to see His unfailing love, and His salvation.

THat is where the church’s responsibility lies, only preaching against sin as it hinders people from seeing God. The preaching the law part of preaching law and gospel is not about condemining people, but helping them realize there is an option to condemnation – letting God care for them. The purpose of preaching the law – the responsibility we have to do it, is to provide the opportunity to preach the gospel, and to adminsiter the sacraments to those shattered by sin….bring them healing, encouraging them to trust in God to have mercy, to forgive and cleanse, to love and welcome them into His presence.

We preach Christ crucified, the hope for sinners… yes, we recognize the sin, and the more we learn about its effects, the more it should sicken us… but our calling as the church is to bring them hope and healing..

We aren’t the moral authority…we have the hope for those who struggle with their own immorality.

We have to get back to this!

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), 90.

Help in these dark days….


Thoughts to help you realize Christ’s devotion to you!

And Moses told them, “It is the food the LORD has given you to eat. 16 These are the LORD’s instructions: Each household should gather as much as it needs. Pick up two quarts* for each person in your tent.”
17 So the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some only a little. 18 But when they measured it out,* everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed.
19 Then Moses told them, “Do not keep any of it until morning.” 20 But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell. Moses was very angry with them
.
Exodus 16:15-20 new living translation

The entire scope of the mystery of Christ is experienced at ever-deepening levels of assimilation as we celebrate the liturgical seasons.… We are invited … to relate to Christ on every level of his being as well as our own. This developing relationship with Christ is the main thrust of the liturgical seasons.… The transmission of this personal relationship with Christ—and through him with the Father—is what Paul calls the Mysterion, the Greek word for mystery or sacrament, an external sign that contains and communicates sacred Reality. The liturgy teaches and empowers us, as we celebrate the mysteries of Christ, to perceive them not only as historical events, but as manifestations of Christ here and now. Through this living contact with Christ, we become icons of Christ, that is, manifestations of the Gospel in … daily life.

I look at the manna provided, day by day, to the people of Israel and I see a test I would fail, and fail at miserably.

Starving, and food appears, and my instinct would be to gather as much as I could – enough for the weeks and even a month ahead…. because what happens if it stops appearing? What happens when God doesn’t provide as he did on Sunday… what happens when the well is dried up… and not only the people I am responsible for, but me, face the test of trusting God for tomorrow?

Having been put in that place many times, and even in some recent situations, I know I will fail to trust God for tomorrow. Heck, I am having a struggle trusting Him today…

In this the season where darkness lasts longer each day, and where that darkness seems darker and colder, trusting God for eternal life is hard, because trusting Him for tomorrow seems impossible. So we sin by trying to grab upp more than He has promised to provide.

That is where the liturgy, and the church seasons have lent their support in the past, and still do, even in the darkness of today.

Because the liturgy is drawn from scripture, because it works through the life of Christ, from being an anticipated promise, to being born and dwelling among us, to dieing and rising, ascending and reigning, the movements mirror our own lives- including this darkness of the fall, and the depth of the winter’s depression. THe church year in its readings reinfroces this movement, and recognizes in Advent the darkness before the arrival of Christ.

A darkness where hope needs to be realized, a darkness needed to be shattered, andour being sustained by God’s providence until it is shattered. ANd the liturgy and the church year provide a reminder that it has been shattered… and that God is with us, in Advent and Easter, in the darkness and the new life. And as we walk with Him, as we realize His presence, we become icons, reflecting His glory.

In the midst of the heartache and pain, the loneliness and isolation, the season of Advent gives us a chance to breathe…. to look around… to hear God saying, I am here today…. walk with me now… and don’t worry about tomorrow…

and someday. we will be in the land of promise… Home with Him…

Lord, help us in the dark times of life to shed our anxiety, our heartache, and simply rely on what you provide in this moment, and in the word and sacrament that pours out Your grace. Help our faith, our dependence on You, grow in these times… that we may know You are here… AMEN!

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 341.

Why did you think this would be easy?

Thoughts I pray help you depend on Jesus..

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28 NLT

But I will make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn so I can multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. 4 Even then Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you. So I will bring down my fist on Egypt. Then I will rescue my forces—my people, the Israelites—from the land of Egypt with great acts of judgment. 5 When I raise my powerful hand and bring out the Israelites, the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” Exodus 7:3-5 NLT

Some of you know something of that which has been called “the dark night of the soul.” Some of you have spiritual desire and deep longing for victory but it seems to you that your efforts to go on with God have only brought you more bumps and more testings and more discouragement. You are tempted to ask, “How long can this go on?”…
Yes, there is a dark night of the soul. There are few Christians willing to go into this dark night and that is why there are so few who enter into the light. It is impossible for them ever to know the morning because they will not endure the night.

For every nail that pierces Christ, more than one hundred thousand should in justice pierce you, yes, they should prick you forever and ever more painfully! When Christ is tortured by nails penetrating his hands and feet, you should eternally suffer the pain they inflict and the pain of even more cruel nails, which will in truth be the lot of those who do not avail themselves of Christ’s passion.

One of my mentors, Dr. Rodney Vliet, once told a bunch of us that it was not reasonable to think our families wouldn’t suffer because of the ministry we all hoped to enter. He was quite blunt, and said that there would be times where our families’ wants and desires would be sacrficed because someone in the church was in trauma. There would be times where even their needs would be laid down as a sacrficie.

Some are told today that not only does family come first, but family’s comfort should come first.

I struggle with this… a lot. For I’ve found out that Dr. Vliet was right. Not just the vocation of the pastor or worship leader, but the vocation of every volunteer in the church – wheter and elder, a sunday school teacher, or the person who gets up early…

Being a Chirstian includes being part of both the Church, and a church. And that means being a servant to others. Putting them first, even above other commitments.

Even when the ministry is tough, and you want to run. Moses wasn’t promised an easy kingdom too lead – first he had to deal with Pharoah, then, once free of that – he would have to deal with Israel! Ministry wasn’t easy then, nor would it be for the judges, the prophets or the apostles.

Nor should we expect it to be easy, simple, and able to be blocked out on a standard schedule.

Tozer talks about the dark times, the times where it is so dark we want to quit, where we think we’ve reached our max burnout level, where we can’t see how God is going to work.

And then, looking to Him on the cross, we see our suffering is not what we deserve. Jesus saved us from that. I love that point of Luther’s that we deserve so much for our sin, that any sacrifice we make because we are forgiven, to help others know, is worth it. …

Sacrifice is not as great a sacrficie as we think, compared to Jesus. Even martyrdom is not, for we die to bear witness to a death that bore all of our sin, Leave your burdens behind, tkae up your cross and walk with Jesus, knowing that His work thorugh you will save others from Hell. It doesn’t matter if you are a preacher, a missionary, a preschool or junior high Sunday School teacher, or someone who visits shutins…

what ever the sacrifice, it is worth it… for people will experience God’s love… for you do not make the sacrifice alone…

He is with you…. just cling to Him…

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

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), 9.

What do you need? How will it happen? The purpose of self-examination!

Thoughts to enocurage you to adore Jesus, and to celebrate His role in your life!

27  So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28  That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. 1 Corinthians 11:27-28 (NLT2)

23  Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT2)

How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? 3  Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. 4  Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall. 5  But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. 6  I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me. Psalm 13:2-6 (NLT2)

The philosopher Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” If a common philosopher could think that, how much more we Christians ought to listen to the Holy Spirit when He says, “Examine yourself.” An unexamined Christian lies like an unattended garden. Let your garden go unattended for a few months, and you will not have roses and tomatoes but weeds. (1)

Master Gabriel,164 pastor in Torgau, asked Dr. Martin Luther about that passage of Paul to Timothy [I Tim. 4:5], “For it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”
Dr. Martin Luther replied, “Godly men acknowledge that all things are of God and consecrate them through the Word of God when they pray. To them all things are pure when they are used according to God’s will.
(2
)

When Tozer quote Socrates, it sounds familiar, and even Biblical.

After all, Paul warns the church that each person should examine themslves prior to receving the Lord’s Supper. The wanring about being jduged for sinning against the Body and Blood of Christ is serious.

I think that Tozer and Socrates have something different in mind than the Apostle Paul. It is not a bad thing, but Paul is talking about something more significant, I would say something more critical. Someting that requires more than anyone is capable of addressing on their own.

That is where Luther comes point out what is necessary, the prayer that God consecrates, man doesn’t.

Our examination simply to recognize the necessity of Christ’s Body to be broken, His blood to be shed. The sacrifice of Christ, and the covenant it creates, is the only answer to what we see when we examine our lives. For what we see are the wounds caused by sin, the brokenness caused by our self-idolatry, the times where we think our desires outweigh the wisdom of God.

The prayer of Psalm 13 anticipates this work of God that occurs as we are consecrated as the consecrated bread and wine, the very Body and Blood of Christ are taken and we commune with God. There we celebrate that God has removed all that offends Him, and where He renews our spirit. All the promises given to us in our baptism – when we were united with Jesus in HIs death and resurrection – all this is renewed as we commune with Him….

And then, renewed, revived, free of the burdens of guilt, shame, resentment, we begin to see this God we worship more clearly…. and praise goes into another level.

So examine yourself… realize how great your need is… and realize it is answered…

God loves you… that much!

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

(2) 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), 244.

When the truth hurts…and is necessary

Thoughts to help you depend on Jesus more than yourself!
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. Matthew 13:20-21 (NLT2)

Few sights are more depressing than that of a professed Christian defending his supposed rights and bitterly resisting any attempt to violate them. Such a Christian has never accepted the way of the cross. The sweet graces of meekness and humility are unknown to him. He grows every day harder and more acrimonious as he defends his reputation, his rights, his ministry, against his imagined foes.
The only cure for this sort of thing is to die to self and rise with Christ into newness of life.
(1)

When I read Tozer’s words, I immediately got defensive.

After all, there are rights, and then, there are our rights.

I can easily apply this to ideas that don’t seem a big deal to me, like masks and shots. People will tell me this ia slippery slope., and I will shrug it off. There are other rights, that I don’t see as such, but are demanded in these days. THen there are rights that we find here in the U.S.A. that are not rights in other places and in other times..

THere is one thing for sure, we demand our rights, and we fear them being taken away. We will do anything to demand them and defend them.

Then Tozer comes in and brings up the cross, where every right was abandoned…. voluntarily abandoned…

Do we have to imitate Jesus in this?

Can’t we just enjoy the ones we have, and when the time comes when they are taken… turn to God for help (read revenge)

We know the answer…

This is the nature of being with Jesus..

Lord, help our attitude when we go about , claiming our rightes were violateeeeed, to see that the only thing we need in life is You. AMEN!

(1) 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.

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