Devotional Thought of the Day
16 You do not want sacrifices, or I would offer them; you are not pleased with burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice is a humble spirit, O God; you will not reject a humble and repentant heart. Psalm 51:16-17 (TEV)
Legalism claims that overt actions in conforming to rules for explicit behavior make us right and pleasing to God. It’s as if we believe that power resides in the words or in the rituals themselves. Jesus called legalism the “righteousness . . . of the scribes and Pharisees” (Matthew 5:20 NRSV).
Legalism and superstition are closely joined by their emphasis on controlling people and events through little rules, bypassing the realities of the heart and soul from which life really flows. That is why Jesus tells us we must go beyond the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees to heart-and-soul transformation if we are truly to enter into life.
Disclaimer – if you aren’t a Lutheran, some of this may not make sense. But other groups have modifiers as well, Examples of this are “Evangelcial” Christian, or “Conservative” Baptist, or “Orthodox” Presbyterian, or “King James Only” Believers, or Traditional Catholics. Consider what words modify or assist to “truly” define your trust in God.
There are a lot of denominations out there, and some have taken their denomination name out of the name of their church. You don’t know what they believe, or what their history is, because they have hidden it from plain sight.
I am a Lutheran, the theology and practice that has been passed down I find consistent with scripture and the early church. The somewhat simple way Luther and his peers dealt with being severed from the Roman Catholic Church was not perfect, and yet, what they laid out in documents like the Augsburg Confession clearly reveal the love of God, poured out on us through the word and sacraments by the Holy Spirit.
So, here I stand, and until proven otherwise I don’t have much of an option!
Yet in my brotherhood/denomination which we call a Synod (which means, ironically – to walk together) there are those who would modify the term Lutheran with different words. Confessional is one of those terms, one that is used as a badge of honor, and which draws a vague line in the sand. There are others, that take a further stand, and I would list them as well, and those inside my little section of the family of God know them well enough.
The problems with these labels, no matter where they are on the spectrum is that they divide us based on legalistic standards, rather than on how Christ defines us, they separate us from those that cling to the Lord just as we do. They attempt to clone the people of God, rather than realize the diversity that comes within a family or within a body.
The idea is the line in the sand becomes a sense of pride, a sense where I can say, “my sacrifice is more appropriate than yours, and therefore I am more blessed, more holy,”
And that is where I struggle, with this idea that any label (including our denomination labels) make us “more holy” or that our worship of God is more acceptable (more Orthodox) is about as close to heresy as you can get. I am not saying we shouldn’t seek to refine our beliefs and practicesi to make them more consistent with scripture, but to claim our position is more holy, our worship more acceptable is wrong, dead wrong.
We need to approach God in a way that is both humble, recognzing our brokenness and yet bold, depending on His invitation and HIs making us acceptable and welcome. We need to recognize our brokeness, and rely on His transformation of our heart and soul and mind, rather than parade around, touting that we are the best of His chosen people.
So I am Lutheran – using that title to describe the beliefs I have, that I hold to, that I teach…. that I depend on only because they reveal to me and help me explore the breadth and width, the height and depth of God’s love, and through God’s word, and the sacraments, I experience that love, which is too great to understand.
You have a different label? Let’s sit down and talk, praying and relying on the guidance of God, who loves us, to make His will known, and His love revealed. But let us depend on Him for that journey, and never boast of our own reason or strength.
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Devotional Thought of the day:
19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said.
John 20:19 (NLT2)
7 Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Philippians 4:7 (MSG)
Whatever be the facts about this method of deterrence, men should be convinced that the arms race in which an already considerable number of countries are engaged is not a safe way to preserve a steady peace, nor is the so-called balance resulting from this race a sure and authentic peace. Rather than being eliminated thereby, the causes of war are in danger of being gradually aggravated. While extravagant sums are being spent for the furnishing of ever new weapons, an adequate remedy cannot be provided for the multiple miseries afflicting the whole modern world. Disagreements between nations are not really and radically healed; on the contrary, they spread the infection to other parts of the earth. New approaches based on reformed attitudes must be taken to remove this trap and to emancipate the world from its crushing anxiety through the restoration of genuine peace.
This post isn’t about global politics, nor is it about gun control, or any other political issue.
It’s about you and me.
It’s about how we deal with each other, and those around us.
It is about finding peace and rest in a world that doesn’t know peace, and to be honest, doesn’t know conflict. In a world where the absence of major conflict is “assured” by the doctrines like “mutually assured destruction”, we still find smaller conflicts, fueled by the same people that won’t fight each other, because our weapons stores say we are at peace. And as the above, 50-year-old section points out, the disagreements are really and radically healed and the crushing anxiety still exists.
This same picture takes place in our own lives, as we become more an more insular, trying ot achieve peace. We avoid confrontations, we flee from disagreements, lest they become fights, we see people not getting married because splitting up is somehow less damaging than getting a legal divorce. We even see this in the church, as churches shrink without any consideration, or as denominations fight over property in court, rather than working with each other, confessing our own sins and unfaithfulness. (and both sides are always sinners in such)
The problem is that we are looking for the illusion of peace, more than peace itself. We don’t see mercy, that incredible act and attitude of love, as essential to real peace.
We don’t see a need for Jesus, and the peace He gives, as He loved us enough to die for us, to remove that sin which ensnares and divides us. He can really and radically heal the divisions among mankind. The peace He brings removes the crushing anxiety that we dwell oppressed by.
It settles us down, knowing that God would love us so much, that He would be so merciful, that He not only died for us, but that He rose, and came back to us, and will come back for us.
It is only understanding this, that we are loved, that we are cleansed of sin and injustice (same word as unrighteousness)
Jesus is our peace, He is our rest, He is the cure for our brokenness. Simply because His love creates the healing in us, that frees us, and enables us and creates the desire in us to love others more than we care for our own selves.
So we pray, Lord, open us to Your love, help us to see the changes your mercy creates in us, and help us not to avoid or flee those you send s too, no matter how uncomfortable, Lord help us to love them as You do. AMEN!
Catholic Church. (2011). Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Devotional Thoughts of the day:
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31 HCSB
317 What zeal men put into their earthly affairs! Dreaming of honors, striving for riches, bent on sensuality! Men and women, rich and poor, old and middle-aged and young and even children: all of them alike. When you and I put the same zeal into the affairs of our souls, then we’ll have a living and working faith. And there will be no obstacle that we cannot overcome in our apostolic works.
It’s Monday morning, and another work week stands before us.
What are you going to do with it? Where are you going to spend the assets you have? What can you do, that will give the greatest return on investment?
I dare say St. John had a similar question in mind when he penned the words about Christ that we have come to know as his gospel. And in the quote above we see his priority, that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.
That was John’s bottom line (and the Holy Spirit’s bottom line as well) That we would know Jesus, trust and depend upon Him, and thereby receive the life He desires us to have. A life lived with Him, a life lived in His presence.
This is Jesus greatest investment, as He invests in us…
And while it is the time I invest in this, what I really invest is my brokenness. The struggle I have with sin, (especially when I don’t struggle with it) the guilt and shame, the hurts and pains, the resentment, the fear, and anxiety.
Those are my investments, the things I have to learn to zealously invest them into my relationship with Jesus, the return on investment is rest from them, a rest in the glory of God, a rest that comes from knowing I am loved.
He heals us, in ways beyond our hearts’ imagination, because the brokenness He will heal goes deeper into our soul than we are willing to explore. But that is what St. Josemaria is talking about when he tells us to have zeal for the affairs of our soul, for our internal lives. Letting God sink deeper into our lives that butter sinks into a hot waffle. It is scary and wonderful, What we need to invest… is the stuff that kills off our life. It is the stuff we need to be removed from our lives, and Jesus will…. with great joy and care… cut it away. ( See Colossians 2:11)
That is when our faith is living and working, when we allow God to deal with our brokenness, all of it, as He forgives our sins and cleanses us of all unrighteousness, and we can live….
And be sent out, for we are broken people who are finding hope and healing in Jesus, and helping others heal….
Lord have mercy on us, and help us invest our brokenness in your mercy and love… and heal us, dear Lord!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 820-824). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for your new year!
4 “Israel, remember this! The LORD—and the LORD alone—is our God. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (TEV)
14 Their minds, indeed, were closed; and to this very day their minds are covered with the same veil as they read the books of the old covenant. The veil is removed only when a person is joined to Christ. 15 Even today, whenever they read the Law of Moses, the veil still covers their minds. 16 But it can be removed, as the scripture says about Moses: “His veil was removed when he turned to the Lord.” 17 Now, “the Lord” in this passage is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. 18 All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:14-18 (TEV)
503 Love Our Lord passionately. Love him madly! Because if there is love— when there is love—I would dare to say that resolutions are not needed. My parents—think of yours—did not need to make any resolutions to love me: and what an effusion of tenderness they showed me, in little details every day! With that same human heart we can and should love God.
In Lutheran thought, most commands are what are known as “Law.” Law has three purposes, The first is to keep civil peace. The second use of the law is to show us that we are guilty of sin and deserving eternal punishment. Knowing that we can be drawn to Christ to receive grace, the merciful forgiveness that restores us, and welcomes us into the presence of God. The third use of the law is simply to show us how to live, now that we are bound to Him, for Christ’s life is the picture of a life lived in full harmony with the law.
But the command following the words of the Lord being our Lord, the phrase known as the Shema, is not Law in the Lutheran sense.
Yes, we may struggle ot love God with everything we are, and if we think about it, this could make us wallow in guilt and shame. Most of us can keep our resolution longer than we can maintain a love for God that includes every part of our life! But if we feel guilty, or if we just ignore our shortcomings, we are missing the incredible, glorious, life-changing words that come before it.
The Lord, and the Lord alone, IS OUR GOD!
This line is why this isn’t Law, it I the purest of Gospel, for it describes what it means for us to have God (using His name YHWH) as our God. Loaded into that phrase is the idea that God takes responsibility for us, provides what we need, loves us. It means His nature of loving mercy (cHesed/Agape) is at work in us, bringing to completion the work began in us.
And as we consider this, as we think it through, there is no need for a resolution, no need for goals to change us. As we think and meditate on God loving us, we love Him, we adore Him, we become more and more hungry to hear of His love, and to share it with others.
So maybe you made a resolution or four to change in this new year. To lose weight, to be more patient with people, to be more determined in your spiritual disciplines. Maybe you already broke one or two.
Real change in our lives starts with something else.
Being still, and knowing He is our God.
Knowing His passion and love for you…
Just sit there for a moment, and let His love sink in…
and find yourself changed.
Godspeed my friends!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1920-1925). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. 20 Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:19-20 (MSG)
“We are children of God, bearers of the only flame that can light up the paths of the earth for souls, of the only brightness which can be never be darkened, dimmed or overshadowed” (1). Responding to our divine vocation demands a constant warfare. Our fight is not a noisy one as it takes place on the battlefield of our ordinary life, for to be “a saint (…) doesn’t mean doing strange things. It means a daily struggle in the interior life and heroically fulfilling your duty right through to the end” (60). We must accept that there will be defeats in this interior fight, and we may be threatened with the danger of discouragement. That is why the Founder of Opus Dei constantly instilled in souls that cry of Possumus!—”We can!”—of the sons of Zebedee.6 It is not a cry that arise from the presumption but from a humble trust in God’s Omnipotence.
There seems to be today a resurgence in the concept of the superhero. People who take on great odds, and despite fighting in themselves a war, work for righteousness There’s the movies, of Captain America, Iron man, Thor and their crew. There is always the Star Wars and Batman and Superman. There are now television shows that link the Flash and what has become a favorite, the Arrow.
It thinks they are becoming popular for the same reason their comic books became popular after World War II. In times of great stress, if we can’t be the heroes, we need someone to inspire us, to assure us, to help us know the heroic is possible. In a recent episode I watch, the hero was away, and it was left to the non-super heroes to save the day. But there were interesting discussions about how to survive when the hero wasn’t there to inspire.
As believers, we want to be heroic. Most of us probably not the martyr for the faith type heroism, but the kind that lives the kind of life that a Christian should live. We want to be good people, those who are respected for their moral character, and their love for their family and maybe even community. We might not desire true holiness, but we want to be better than the evil world out there.
In the process we don’t like the struggle, we don’t like what St Josemaria calls being “threatened with discouragement.” It means accepting their will be defeated, but never using that as an excuse. Defeats where sin and temptation get the best of us, where anxiety overwhelms us. We don’t want others to know of these struggles, because if they did, our illusion of righteousness might fail us.
Paul knew this failure well; I love the simplistic nature of Peterson’s The Message as it translates here the struggle.I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work.
That would be most of us, and often as we get more tired, beyond just normal weary, the harder it is not to fall into that trap. The harder it is not to presumptuous about succeeding on our own strength. Our ego calls us to “get er done”, and we push a little more, go out on the edge a little more,
We don’t even have the wisdom, reason or strength to know when we approach the point of burn out; so how can we avoid it? We can’t – and Paul’s epistle explains it. We don’t have to prove Christ lives in us, we just have to trust Him, We have to identify with Him, really to recognize that He identified us as His. He provides the strength, the ability, the power to serve, and His presence, so clear that we trust Him. It knows His presence, His omnipotent presence that allows us to have the humility we need. It is crying out, Lord, help, have mercy, save me, that sees Him answer.
That is where the secret of holiness lies, not in the outward acts that reveal it, but in the discouragement and weariness, where the only option left is to rely on Jesus. Can we bear our cross and walk with Jesus?
Yes, because we are walking with Jesus.
Whether you are weary or energetic, may you have the humility to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the love and peace in which you life, for you life in Christ.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 154-162). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
We Have Hope!
† In Jesus’ Name †
In this new year, may the hope of God’s rewards for you, the rewards of being His children become more and more real, as we see the hope for our future in Christ Jesus!
You have to wonder….
One of the guys I want to meet in heaven is the guys who chose and approved the readings for the three-year church cycle, and how we choose which readings to use. I mean you look at the readings for today, they don’t seem like the kind of readings you want to start the year with, they don’t seem exactly what you might call promising!
They are the readings that call us to remember some of the youngest martyrs in the church. An event that Matthew’s gospel compared to the time the young people of Israel were led off into captivity, a fate that was the result not of their unfaithfulness, but the unfaithfulness of the generation that preceded them.
That is the weeping that Jeremiah’s passage originally referred to, yet Matthew says it is equally applicable to the time of Jesus birth. For then, the male infants and toddlers were sacrificed because of a man’s paranoia…
Again, the readings don’t seem to be the kind you want to start the year with!
Well, not at first…
The sobering reality…
The sobering reality is that babies are still killed because of the sins of the generation that would have given them birth. You look to places where children are taken from their homes and conscripted into armies. Others are simply killed because they won’t convert to another religion. Estimates online say between 10,000, and 100,000 ( http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24864587) Christian martyrs in the world last year. Worldwide the estimate is another 43 million children were killed before their birth in 2015. Even as I wrote this sermon yesterday, the amount for 2016 was already over 171,000 (http://www.worldometers.info/abortions/)
It is enough to make you weep.
This is just one form of the trauma that exists, one that makes no sense, like those observed by Jeremiah and by those who watched Herod massacre young children.
But the Law isn’t that
But it is not the acts of death that I see confronting us today. We need to find ways to help those being persecuted, and those who are told that life is disposable if it threatens our lives.
But I want to look at the Rachel’s, those of us who weep for this reason or maybe others. Some of us have hit that point, and others of us have friends who are experiencing that level of grief, that level of despair or depression. This is the law that confronts us this morning when the struggle to trust in God is too great, and we refuse to be comforted.
How do you help the person whose cry is described as, “deep anguish and bitter weeping.” How do we help the person, “refusing to be comforted.”
How do we help a person when faith doesn’t seem to be enough?
For that is the mission of the church, especially this church. Remember how we are described,
Concordia is the place where broken people find healing in Christ while helping others heal.
So how do we, as the people of God, bring healing and hope to people who have none? And how is that the gospel message for this day, and for this year?
And the gospel is this…
We do it the same Jeremiah did, and with the same message:
We spend time with them, there in the struggle. Praying for them, holding their hand, feeding them, caring for them, and sharing with them this message,
Do not weep any longer, for I will reward you,” says the LORD. “Your children will come back to you from the distant land of the enemy. 17 There is hope for your future,” says the LORD. “Your children will come again to their own land.
In the passage, God addressed the very issue that was causing the struggle, the pain over the children who were. No more. He didn’t forget them, nor the pain that the people of God knew, as the innocent suffered because of the evil of that day.
In this passage in Hebrew, five times, the phrase, “says the LORD” is used, though we see it only three times. The important thing is to realize this isn’t the title of God, the Lord Almighty, but the personal name we aren’t to use in vain, but to use in communicating to Him.
He keeps saying,
First he was the one who heard the cry of His people and recognized the depth of the pain. Even the fact that the people refused to be comforted. That is what God says…
And then He says the promise. Do not weep. There is hope for your future.
In this case, the children will come again into the land, they will return from the land of the enemy.
For the Jewish person, this is a promise of reconciliation, that God will restore not the property, but the position of being the covenant people, the people He has promised to care for, the people He loves.
That is what so many fail to see when they talk about being the chosen people. They look for the land, rather than the relationship.
But the hope, the hope which will dry up the tears is found in the relationship. The very thing that was forgotten, that was trampled upon, is restored to those it should have been passed onto.
When Matthew’s gospel quotes this passage, he recalls to people’s minds the promise. Not a promise to one mother, but to the nation of Israel – that God’s people will be God’s people. He will restore them. That He will keep His promises, including the one we don’t always see occurring, that all things work for good, for those who love God, and are called according to His purpose.
You see, we aren’t waiting for God to keep this promise somewhere in the future. The very thing that would call us “home” has occurred. We have this relationship with God; we are His people that have returned. We know that the promise is complete, even though we struggle to see its completeness…. Because we don’t see Him face to face…yet.
But we shall, and we have the promise of eternity with Him.
That is the promise, the ultimate promise, of that day when there will be no more injustice when there will be no more martyrdom or those who are sacrificed for the benefit of others.
For this is why He came….Jesus even said so, in his first recorded public sermon.
18 God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free, 19 to announce, “This is God’s year to act!” 20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. 21 Then he started in, “You’ve just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.” Luke 4:18-21 (MSG)
This is the message we have for those, who at first refuse the comfort we want to want dearly to give them. It is the message of the altar; the place were we find healing, and the peace that comes from knowing God will do what He promised.
For He always has. He always speaks to His people, bringing them comfort, and hope.
God still acts, and He will in our lives, and in the lives we bring to find His love, His mercy, and His peace.
Devotional Thought to Prepare us for Advent….
15 I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17 This, then, is what I command you: love one another. John 15:15-17 (TEV)
233 You spoke about the scenes in the life of Jesus which moved you most: when he met men suffering greatly… when he brought peace and health to those whose bodies and souls were racked with pain… You were inspired—you went on—seeing him cure leprosy, restore sight to the blind, heal the paralytic at the pool: the poor beggar forgotten by everybody. You are able to contemplate Him as He was, so profoundly human, so close at hand! Well… Jesus continues being the same as then. (2)
There is an attitude that negatively views contemporary worship (or that of 30-100 years ago) that treats Jesus to0 close, too intimate, too friendly. They would rather perceive God from the perspective of great distance, and perhaps great fear.
Which would make sense if we were approach Christ’s advent, His coming, with the anticipation of judgment without the cross’s benefit. To turn advent into a time of anticipating hell, fire, and brimstone, wrath and tribulation is wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, we need Jesus to come back, perhaps even desperately so. Life is too screwed up, we all need to be delivered from sin completely, we need to come home to God. But that turns advent from anxiety about Jesus coming, to realizing we and anxiety is more caused because of the wait we endure until He returns.
If we have friends we haven’t seen in ages coming to dinner during the holiday; we look forward to it. We anticipate it, we work hard, trying to get everything as perfect as possible. It is the same for Jesus second coming, we desire to grow in faith, we desire to see people come to know Him, to come to trust in Him, because He is our friend, because He loves us so completely.
Those contemporary worship songs which treat Jesus as a friend, they aren’t as far off base. They bring home that which we need to know, the attitude that Luther noted, makes the difference between one who knows God, and one who only knows of Him,
“For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. For they have not the Lord Christ, and, besides, are not illumined and favored by any gifts of the Holy Ghost.” (2)
If we don’t understand God’s desire for an intimate, deep friendship with the people He calls and makes His own, we truly only know a God whose presence evokes fear and brings to the front of our heart the condemnation of guilt and shame. We have to realize the intent of Christ’s incarnation, to head resolutely to the cross, to show us the depth of His love, to bring us healing and forgiveness.
Yes, we should be in awe of God’s presence, we are overwhelmed by His glory, but a glory that pours out grace, that delights in showering us with His Mercy, embracing us in the love, even as the Holy Spirit sanctifies us. The awe of realizing God, in all His glory, desires to be our friend.
Which makes the wait of Advent tense, as if we hear every passing car as if it is our long awaited Friend…
For He is coming!
May your patience and desire to see God sustain you, even as you anxiously await His return. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1170-1174). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) The Large Catechism of Martin Luther. The Apostles Creed: Explanation of the Third Article.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 I keep your law in my heart, so that I will not sin against you. 12 I praise you, O LORD; teach me your ways. Psalm 119:11-12 (TEV)
Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration and their force, and it is from the scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for scripture to which the venerable tradition of both eastern and western rites gives testimony
Yet I was forced; and this was well done towards me, but I did not well; for, unless forced, I had not learnt. But no one doth well against his will, even though what he doth, be well.
Augustine’s comment from my devotions this morning is something I need to think about, as I prepare my sermon for tomorrow. How do I teach people to see the Bible? Do my sermons, and what and how I teach lead them to treasure this incredible gift of God? Or does what I teach and preach cause them to dismiss is, willingly twist it, and allow them to create a god that appeals to their desires, rather than meets the needs of their deepest brokenness?
The same for the scripture that resounds from within our worship – the liturgy which is so full of scripture. Do I facilitate their worship with a passion that honors God as He blesses us through the words He dictated, that He breathed through prophets and apostles, kings and leaders of worship?
If we preach about other than Jesus, if we teach Christianity as a simple set of rules to follow or something that changes from what was written, we dismiss the blessing of scripture. If we treasure theology over the word, we again dismiss the word of God, for the word of mankind. We dismiss the message of His loving-kindness, His mercy, His presence in our lives, which the scriptures reveal. The very treasure that reveals that we don’t need to be God, for He loves us. That real, lasting pleasure comes through His word. That peace is found in Him, and as we live in Him, we realize this incredible blessing, this incredible grace.
Scripture, the word of God, can make us uncomfortable. If afflicts us in the places we need to be corrected, the very place of our brokenness. It confronts our broken and twisted desire for pleasure, our love of self, our illusion that we are truly master’s of our fate. It is hard to learn to love that which hurts. Even so, when we realize the Holy Spirit applies it to our brokenness, even the discomfort is embraced, sure that God’s peace will comfort us, and bring us to wholeness. If we are to find hope for our brokenness, if we are going to offer and provide it to those people we are to care for, where the Spirit reveals it is in scripture. It is there the Lord who is our hope of glory, of life eternal, is found. There what He needs to heal us of is shown, as is the cure, His presence, His blessing of us through His word, joined to water as He baptizes us, as He nourishes us with His body and blood.
Back to the original thought, of teaching and preaching in such a way that the word of God is treasured. That our words portray His word, which He, the WORD, is revealed. That people know this isn’t just man’s words written on paper, proclaimed in our message. It is the word of God, the One who desires to love us, reveals to us that this love has no limits there on the pages of scripture.
If we show them we treasure it, they will begin to as well, and they will do well as they hear it, as they read it, as they treasure His word in their hearts.
As we do this, as we treasure the word that reveals to us the love of God, as we set an example for our people, we shall find that He has answered our plea. That our thoughts and words are acceptable to God, our Rock and Redeemer. AMEN!
Catholic Church. (2011). Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
devotional thought of the day;
18 You have not come to a physical mountain,* to a place of flaming fire, darkness, gloom, and whirlwind, as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. 19 For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. 20 They staggered back under God’s command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”* 21 Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.”*
22 No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. 23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel. Heb 12:18–24 nlt
119 Those problems which used to overwhelm you—and seemed like enormous mountains—disappeared completely. They were solved in a divine way, as when Our Lord commanded the winds and the waters to be calm. And to think that you still doubted!
when i read the verses from Hebrews this morning, i knew i would be writing about them, though i didn’t know how until i read the passage from St. Josemaria.
for i think we would all say that we understand the scripture passage, that we all agree, we do not dwell in the presence of God in the way Moses perceived. we live in grace, we live in a God who reveals His presence as the comforter, the paraclete, the refuge, the One in Whom we can trust, and upon Whom we depend.
if that is so, shouldn’t that be evident in our life? we should live in a manner that reflects the joy of coming into the presence of God as one whose name is written in heaven. we should live without fear, for we depend upon the fact that Jesus mediated the new covenant, a covenant which cries out with mercy, that speaks of forgiveness.
we need to realize what this means for life now, here and now. those mountains of fear that assail us, that challenged our desire to serve God, cannot cause us to fail, for forgiveness and mercy follow us, as David wrote. we may need to find our rest, our sanctuary, and a place to heal now and then, but God will guide us past the mountains, and through the storms. we don’t have to walk around on eggshells, as if failing God, He’s already proven what He does with our sins, would He somehow less merciful because we tried to love, care, and bring the gospel to others?
this means we can dream big – not of our fame, but of God’s glory. we can try something that we might not have seen as possible, or possible for us. we can reach out in love, without fear of rejection. we can simply love, not to be loved in return, but because we know we already are.
walking into God’s presence is something that leaves us in awe. yet it transforms us as well, freeing us to hear His voice, to realize we walk with Him. as we heard yesterday in Mark 9, that means the impossible – of seeing God at work in our lives… is not just possible. it is probable.
live in Christ Jesus my friends, for that is why you were born again. AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 692-694). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
22 “And now I am bound by the Spirit* to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, 23 except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. 24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. 25 “And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again. 26 I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault,* 27 for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know. 28 “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood*—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. Acts 20:22–28 NLT
10 9. We must learn about Christ from the Holy Gospel alone, which clearly testifies that “God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:32), and that he does not want anyone to perish (Ezek. 33:11; 18:23), but that everyone should repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:6; 1 John 2:2).
As most pastors do, I regularly get letters and packets, the “best advice” that I will ever hear. Or invitations to pastors conferences guaranteed to change my ministry.I have to wonder if they share the standard of the apostle Paul, as he writes,
..my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.
I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault,
When churches are tasked with evaluating their ministries, there is some metric, some measuring standard that is to be used. The end result of that standard is a mission statement, and a core list of values, and a general direction for the ministries of a church. Consultants and coaches are often the givers of guidance, as our national and even international leaders.
But I wonder if these words from Paul, as he seems to realize his days of ministry are coming to a close part of the consideration of whether a pastor, a teacher, an elder, a parish or even an entire denomination can be content with their work?
Go back through the readings above, hear the Lord asking you if you measure up to these standards.
You may think I am going to give my super secret way of getting to that level of maturity, my 6 plans or some cute five letter acronym to remember to motivate you to do God’s work. I don’t.
Spend more time in God’s presence. Receive the Lord’s Supper more, contemplate the cross and your baptism more. Spend time being relieved of your sin, confessing and being absolved of it Find ways to know and revel in this simple truth.
The Lord is With You.
It is from there, from knowing God’s heart because His love has been shown to you – that is where the desire for ministry comes from, that is from where the dunamis power and ability comes. If you want you church to be able to follow Paul’s guidance, do the same. Feed them the word and sacraments that confirm the covenant, the declaration that they are His people.
Be sure that the Holy Spirit will work through you, and open your hearts and hands to do so.
And rejoice, for they will reach the measure of the fulness of Christ… for that is why you were called. And know this, He won’t abandon you forsake you – for that too is a promise.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 495). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.