Blog Archives

His Church: Marketing or Talking with God?

Thoughts to encourage us to spend time with Jesus.

Please listen, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph’s descendants like a flock. O God, enthroned above the cherubim, display your radiant glory 2  to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh. Show us your mighty power. Come to rescue us! 3  Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved. Psalm 80:1-3 (NLT2)

He told me, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! 32 Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.”   Acts 10:31-33 NLT 

Listening to someone personally beats hearing about that person second hand. Yet strangely when it comes to the mission of the church we settle for the latter. Too much of what passes for gospel mission is second hand information; it may be factual and instructive, but it’s not personal. It resembles advertising more than anything else.

Then he [Martin Luther] was asked whether the sacraments have a spiritual power in themselves, so that baptism would be consecrated water which by its own strength could wipe out sins, even in case the water were drunk by an ass. He replied, “Because the spiritual power of God doesn’t comprise corporeal, inanimate matter, baptism doesn’t accomplish anything at all as water existing by itself. But as an action (which would be in its use) baptism has power, so that if anybody sprinkles an infant with water together with a recitation of those words of Christ by which he instituted baptism and promised the forgiveness of sins, that action, and not the water, has divine power.

The experts that study the church have told us for years a simple thing about why people come to church. It is because a friend, relative or co-worker invited them to come, and made sure they knew they would be welcome. Maybe it is because we are tired of trying to motivate our people, or we’ve seen too many “invite-a-friend” Sunday fail that we fall for the glamour and hype modern marketing and business planning offers us. Mission statements, goals and objectives, strategic implementation all geared to help us sell our faith…

BUt we aren’t in the business to sell our faith. We are ind the ministry to share why we have hope.

Sharing why we have hope, giving the reason for it means that we have discovered a reason to have hope—God revealed it to us, It is an overwhelming hope, as God guarantees us an eternity free of guilt, shame, resentment, pain, sorrow. It is a life where His presence brings us peace during the trials and traumas of life. This is hope at its best, and assurance of God’s love and presence in our lives–a presence that is available to everyone.

What if our efforts were teaching people to pray like those who wrote the Psalms did, expectantly begging God to make Himself known to all of us?

What if we realized He desired to turn us and draw us to His side, to smile at us, to save us all?

Senkbeil mentions the importance of hearing from someone directly, and he is talking about hearing from God. Both Cornelius and Peter did, and responded to what the message God had given them. Luther takes it another step–it is listening to God’s promises in the words of Christ that make a sacrament a sacrament.

If the people who are the church hear God, hearing His word will transform them. That transformation will cause their hearts to break as they see people suffer without Him, and they will want them to know His peace.

That causes revival, the knowledge of God’s love and His work rescuing us…

Or, as we say at my church – we are the broken people finding healing in Jesus, while helping others heal.

Lord Jesus, reveal to us today more of the work you are doing in our lives, turn us again and draw us closer to You. Then Lord, help us see others as You do, and use our lives to draw them through You to the Father. AMEN!

 

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 226.

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), 358.

Don’t Confuse Church with Heaven…

Thoughts to urge you closer to Jesus… and to adore Him!

6  I am quite confident that the One who began a good work in you will go on completing it until the Day of Jesus Christ comes. Philippians 1:6 (NJB)

They dream of a church as righteous as Adam was in paradise, though the wrath of God was revealed from heaven against him when God said, ‘Adam, you may eat of every fruit, but if you eat of this tree you shall die.’

The Eucharist received in Holy Communion awakens us to the permanent presence of Christ within us at the deepest level. The Eucharist, like the Word of God in Scripture, has as its primary purpose to bring us to the awareness of God’s abiding presence within us.…

There are times where being a part of a church is overwhelming.

It might be because of conflict.

It might be because people have expectations that they place on the church, but not on themselves as part of the church.

It might simply be because of too much truama.

Simply put, church is not heaven on earth. We might want it to be perfect, we may think it should be, we will get angry when it is not heaven on earth, when people in it disappoint us, and even hurt us.

People may think churches are built on holy ground – and I will argue they are! But that doesn’t mean everything that happens within it is holy and perfect. For sinners in need of grace find a place there, and God begins His work in someone’s life, as the church is gathered together, and shares in the words of God, and the sacraments through which He pours out His love.

Keating is right – church is where God reveals Himself to His people, especially through the Eucharist! He is here as God’s people are gathered – whether in stately cathedrals, simple wooden buildings, caves, or at the local starbucks.

But Luther is also correct – in this midst of these groups, there is sin, and sin that God must purge or punish, cleanse or condemn. ANd sin means people get disappointed, hurt, betrayed. They fail and yes, they sin.

Here is why – the work of sanctification happens there – as God continues His work – and will continue it, until we are are completed when Jesus returns. That means there is always work going on, sins being confronted and cleansed, reconciliations occuring where there was only brokenness, life becoming real and glorious, even as evil is dealt with, and people who are muddied with sin being cleansed. If these things aren’t happening in a church, it isn’t the church.

Church isn’t heaven…. but it is the place where we see glimpses of it, as we see God at work. It’s full of broken people – and that can be frustrating – and even depressing – and it can even break you. But it is also where you heal, where you find God at work, where you find hope and rest..

So keep looking to what He is doing – and become part of it…. and be patient with His work, and not dismayed that it is needed. In fact, rejoice as you see it being accomplished – for it means God is at work…. around you and in you. And He will complete it!

AMEN!

Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 54. 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.

The Obstacle to Spiritual Growth

Thoughts to encourage you to adore Jesus…

29  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30  And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. Romans 8:29-30 (NLT2)

After a mother has smiled at her child for many days and weeks, she finally receives her child’s smile in response. She has awakened love in the heart of her child, and as the child awakens to love, it also awakens to knowledge: the initially empty-sense impressions gather meaningfully around the core of the Thou. Knowledge (with its whole complex of intuition and concept) comes into play, because the play of love has already begun beforehand, initiated by the mother, the transcendent. God interprets himself to man as love in the same way: he radiates love, which kindles the light of love in the heart of man, and it is precisely this light that allows man to perceive this, the absolute Love: “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

In the beginning, emotional hang-ups are the chief obstacle to the growth of our new self because they put our freedom into a straight jacket. Later, because of the subtle satisfaction that springs from self-control, spiritual pride becomes the chief obstacle. And finally, reflection of self becomes the chief obstacle because this hinders the innocence of divine union.… Human effort depends on grace even as it invites it. Whatever degree of divine union we may reach bears no proportion to our effort. It is the sheer gift of divine love.

In the 70s and 80s, the church talked about the need for discipleship.

Then in the 90s, authors encouraged our Spiritual Growth. After the turn of the century, Spiritual Formation became one option; having a life coach became another. Sadly, most people have left the seats of their churches, looking for something outside the church that the church was always meant to provide.

The Apostle Paul talks about it here as having “right standing with Him.” He speaks of His people having been given His glory. He doesn’t talk of them attaining it; God doesn’t talk of giving them 4 steps to spiritual fulfillment or 10 stages of a spiritual journey. God does the work, choosing, calling, justifying, sanctifying, and sharing His glory with them.

Please understand me; I love the work of spiritual formation, discipleship, and guiding people in their spiritual growth. But I think it starts and finds its power in the gathering God’s people, in revealing to them God’s love for us. That is the purpose of Absolution, of the public reading of the word of God, of that thing we call the sermon, the homily, or “the message.” And by all means, that is the reason for regularly celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

It works, not by stages or steps, but much as Balthasar notes occurs the same way a baby learns to respond to their momma. We experience God’s glorious love, we experience His presence and welcome, and we learn to love. We learn what we can’t understand and explain. The glory, the love, and peace of being accepted into God’s presence.

That is why I think Keating is correct in his analysis – that our constant reflection hinders our growth. Our desire for a diagnosis or a spiritual progress report hinders us because it takes us away from the innocence of looking to God and seeing Him at work in and around us. Of simply kneeling there at the altar and knowing He is there. By taking our eyes off of Him, we neglect the union with God that leads us to spiritual maturity spiritual completeness.

Am I saying the church service is enough? That all we have to do is sit there passively? Of course not – but it starts there and is nourished there, and what drives us in our daily lives centers there – for there we experience His love together….

Lord, help us to innocently receive Your role in our lives, as You cause us to dwell in You. Sharing in Your glory, in Your peace, and Your love. May those who lead and shepherd Your people see Your work in those You gather together…. AMEN!

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

Held Responsible…

It’s a small price to pay, to see someone healed of their brokenness

Devotional Thought of the days:

7 “As for you, son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel.a When you hear a word from my mouth, give them a warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, ‘Wicked one, you will surely die,’b but you do not speak out to warn him about his way, that wicked person will die for his iniquity, yet I will hold you responsible for his blood. 9 But if you warn a wicked person to turn from his way and he doesn’t turn from it, he will die for his iniquity, but you will have rescued yourself. Ezekiel 33:7-9 CSB

When the Church does not come out of herself to evangelize she becomes self-referential and then gets sick.
There are two images of the Church: the Church that evangelizes and comes out of herself, and the worldly Church that lives within herself, of herself, for herself, falling into a sterile, theological narcissistic limbo.
This should shed light on the possible changes and reforms which must be done for the salvation of souls.

The church talks about mission a lot. It writes books, it hires consultants, it attends conferences of defending the faith, and how to be a missionary for Jesus. Some of the Church revamps and changes what it does, while other parts of the Church spend time and resources doubling down on how it is faithful. (But faithful to what?)

So much time is spent on this that we never get out of the church. We don’t seek out the lost, we expect that we’ve built our ministries, hired our staff, developed our programs and therefore people will come.

and then we wonder why they aren’t coming……

The warning that God our Father gave Ezekiel needs to be heard again. It is the responsibility of the church to be out there, working with the broken, those who have been entrapped by evil. It is our responsibility to do so, not to earn our salvation, but because we have been saved. We have this relationship where we hear God speak a message of wanring, but a warning issued in love. After all, God will tell Ezekiel, “As I live—this is the declaration of the Lord GOD—I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live!” Ezekiel 33:11 CSB

It is a scary thought that we will be held responsible.

But that should not be as scary as to think people could live their lives with no hope for their brokenness, that they could die, enslaved to sin.

These are people we are called to love…. even though they may seen unlovable. Being unlovable is the damage that sin does, damage easily healed by the Spirit as they are drawn to Jesus.

It should be further noted, that we are responsible for them knowing the option to being broken and shattered by sin. Their conversion and transformation is up to the Holy Spirit.

All we have to do is share the news…

God loves them

God wants to care for them, cleansing them sin, healing them from unrighteousness,….

even as He has done this for us.

So let’s stop talking about it, stop studying it, stop preparing for it, and planning change…. and let’s get out and love people.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 197.

RIght Now, the Church Is Like An Anxious Bride…

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day

1  A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. 2  It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:1-2 (CSBBible)

We have been accustomed to hear of the Creation, Incarnation, Redemption, of Jesus born in a stable, of Jesus dead on the Cross. O my God, if we knew that another man had conferred on us any of these benefits, we could not help loving him. It seems that God alone has, so to say, this bad luck with men, that, though he has done his utmost to make them love him, yet he cannot attain this end, and, instead of being loved, he sees himself despised and neglected. All this arises from the forgetfulness of men of the love of God.

O Thou dealest so mercifully with us, and ascribest to us all Thy merit and righteousness; and in Thee the Father himself accounts us as righteous, even as though we were like Thee, Thou Mediator of the New Covenant; and through Thee the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and quickens us to newness of life.

The hands of God are blistered with love and accompany us on the path of life. Let us entrust ourselves to the hands of God, like a child entrusts himself to the hand of his father. This is a safe hand!

As we come out of COVID, the Church is like an anxious bride moments before
the wedding begins. Anxiety-driven by the moment, as concerns over everything
being perfect, everything fulfilling her dreams comes into play. Anxiety over
how the Church will be renewed, how we will get all our people back, and the
anxiety paralyzes us.

I asked a newlywed about her wedding last year, and she summed it up by
saying that she was walking down the aisle one moment the next moment she was
getting kissed. With that a common thought, why is so much time spent in
anxiety needed? If only I could rid them of the anxiety and allow them to savor
every word, every vow, every promise, every indication of the love that is
shared. Some women get caught up in the moment and are terrorized by it.

I see the same thing in de Ligouri’s quote in blue above. We know all about the
work of God; we can even enter into theological disputes about it. The
masterpiece of creation and every moment that God has formed is there to ponder!
To meditate on His love for us that is revealed. Yet instead of that, we worry
about life, we try to find the latest book to read and recommend to others,
that their lives and churches might be full. So we don’t look for His love; in
fact, we abandon Him in search of other, more immediate answers and fixes.

As God stands there with blistered hands and a pierced side so our anxiety
would be replaced with peace! So that our sin would be replaced with His
righteousness! so that the Holy Spirit would quicken us to new life! He would
care for us with such mercy, like the groom who tenderly holds his wife’s hands!
He is caught up in the moment as well –  but caught up in the moment because he is with
her. (By the time the sermon is over, even the most anxious bride is caught up
with her groom, in the moment)

That is where we need to be, fully aware of God’s love, fully aware of His
presence. This is where Solomon’s wisdom comes into play and why he says mourning
is better than feasting. It focuses on the transition rather than ignore it. As
we realize the shortness of this life and what comes after, we should long for
that day and the incredible life that follows! We need to hear Jesus, we need
to hear the vows He made to us, we need to see our hands held in His, and
forward to our eternal life spent with Him.

As we do, the anxiety will fade, and the miraculous happens as the Holy
Spirit breathes life into us. We begin to have hope again as we realize the
love of the God who is here… with us.

As we come out of COVID, together, we need to focus on Jesus, on His love that has sustained and comforted us, and the promise of life with Him.  As that is our focus, then church will not just come back to normal, it will revive!

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 252.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 133.

Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 147.

The Church and the Irony of its Worship!

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Save me, God, for the water has risen to my neck. 2  I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing; I have come into deep water, and a flood sweeps over me. 3  I am weary from my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Psalm 69:1-3 (CSBBible)

Worship is the missing jewel in modern evangelicalism. We’re organized; we work; we have our agendas. We have almost everything, but there’s one thing that the churches, even the gospel churches, do not have: that is the ability to worship. We are not cultivating the art of worship. It’s the one shining gem that is lost to the modern church, and I believe that we ought to search for this until we find it.

Therefore St. Bonaventure says that sinners must not keep away from Communion because they have been sinners; on the contrary, for this very reason they ought to receive it more frequently; because “the more infirm a person feels himself, the more he is in want of a physician……
The second thing that is necessary in order to reap great fruit from Communion is, the desire to receive Jesus Christ with the view of loving him more. Gerson says that at this banquet none are satiated but those who feel great hunger.

WE thank Thee, Lord Jesus, that Thou hast remembered Thy congregation, and has set for us, who are upon the earth, a holy table, and instituted this blessed Sacrament. We thank Thee, Thou only Sacrifice for our sin, that Thou Thyself art our Paschal Lamb, and that Thou givest us Thy body to eat and Thy blood to drink, by means of which Thou sealest unto us the riches of Thy grace. Yea, Lord, the bread which we break is the communion of Thy body, and the cup which we bless is the communion of Thy blood. What shall we render Thee for this Thy goodness, in which Thou drawest so near to us, and by which Thou establishest such a divine and heavenly fellowship, in which we are united with Thee and the blessed Trinity?

I do not think the church has grown significantly in the area of worship since Tozer wrote the words in purple. I think worship has become even less efficacious, less potent. The church is less aware of the presence of God, and therefore worship takes on a whole different flavor.

I am part of a church fellowship that is liturgical. I am doing my doctoral studies at a university that is not, that follows what is called “free worship”, not bound to a hymnal, yet still bound to its own traditions, forms and what it includes or does not. What is ironic is that the liturgical church body keeps experimenting with worship that is more like the “free worship” of the Baptists, while the Baptists are looking at regaining the liturgy of ages past.

As I watch these struggles, I am caught between laughing at the irony, being horrified by the lack of opportunity to experience the love of God, and having my heart ripped out by the world that doesn’t know to cry with the psalmist.

My only answer for the dilemna is simple – to allow the people of God to feast!

We need to get back to God feeding them, nourishing them with His word, and with the sacraments that are His “visbile word”. The bread and wine that He has promised are given and shed for us, the feast the de Ligouri (a Roman Catholic Priest) and Loehe (a Lutheran Pastor and Professor) speak of so eloquently.

It is the feast for beggars, it is the meal given to those who are desperately hungry for a justice that isn’t blind, but is merciful. A blessing that leaves those crying out to God, in awe at His work in our lives.

It is from receiving such a gift that worship resounds. Done frequently, the expectation causes voices to sing and pray with conviction. After the reception, like Simeon, the people of God, having experienced the love of God which saves us, cry out with the sweetest joy.

Worship needs to be revived, but as Christ’s presence is preached from the scriptures, and the Sacraments are lovingly administrated, worship is generated without thought.

God is with us!

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

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 225- 226.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 132–133.

Thoughts 3 Days before the Cross

Devotional Thoughts for these days

49  When the other disciples saw what was about to happen, they exclaimed, “Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!” 50  And one of them struck at the high priest’s slave, slashing off his right ear. 51  But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Luke 22:49-51 (NLT2)

How then shall we deal with our problems? First, expect them so you will not be taken off guard. Second, realize that every live body of Christians has its troubles, from Christ and His apostles to the present day, so yours are not unique. Third, pour in copious amounts of love, the best lubricant in the world. Love will reduce friction to a minimum and keep the whole body working smoothly and without injury to its parts.
Where does this love come from? The love of God bursts forth from the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

Malchus was his name. A slave of the high priest, one of those brought along
for his muscle. We know this from John’s gospel. John informs us that it was
Peter who took a swing at him and hit him in the ear. (Peter was not a skilled
swordsman!)

An enemy.

Someone ready to do violence to Jesus and His followers.nd Jesus walked up to him and healed him.
Let that sink in; think about it.

Jesus healed Malchus. The man whom the church (as Peter represents) attacked
and brutalized, Jesus healed.

Yes! Peter was afraid! Yes, the man was out to do Jesus and the disciples
harm. Yes, Peter thought he was defending Jesus,

Peter attacked, Peter caused damage to the man. Jesus healed him.

The church today acts more like Peter than we think. We are so afraid of
tribulation, persecution, the world on the attack trying to kill us or
disempower us.

So we launch pre-emptive attacks. We shouldn’t, our fear should be overwhelmed
by our faith, but we do.

The question is, can we see Jesus heal the damage we have done? Can we see
and rejoice in His bringing healing to where we, his followers have spiritually
and mentally mutilated people?

We need to be… we need to grow in faith, and be like the deacon who didn’t
hold Saul or his minions responsilbe for his death. We need to reach out to
those in Nineveh, or like the Naaman the general. We need to love them, and the
only way to do that, is to see Jesus’ love for us. For then we can plea, with a
heart they can see, that they be reconciled to God. That they can see Him heal
them of all unrighteousness.

The gospel is glorious, because Jesus heals Malchus, and restores Peter. For
God so love the world…


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


It’s Coming!

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought for the Day!

31  “The day is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32  This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD. 33  “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34  And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NLT2)

Expectation has always been present in the Church in the times of her greatest power. When she believed, she expected, and her Lord never disappointed her.…
Every great movement of God in history, every unusual advance in the Church, every revival, has been preceded by a sense of keen anticipation. Expectation accompanied the operations of the Spirit always. His bestowals hardly surprised His people because they were gazing expectantly toward the risen Lord and looking confidently for His word to be fulfilled. His blessings accorded with their expectations.…
We need today a fresh spirit of anticipation that springs out of the promises of God. We must declare war on the mood of nonexpectation and come together with childlike faith. Only then can we know again the beauty and wonder of the Lord’s presence among us

As we come out of the COVID lockdown, I am starting to see life in the church more clearly that I have in a long time. If you study history, you know Europe and the U.S.A..Canada are at the bottom, with people doing what is right in their own eyes, which means revival is near. It is already occuring in places on the Eastern side of Africa, and in parts of South East Asia.

But will it happen here?

If Tozer is correct, one of the signs of a revival is the church having the attitude of expectation, the attitude of anticipation. Both are a signs of trust and dependence on God – God who is acitive in our lives, God who wants to redeem everyone. Looking for God to do that, our expectations change, and church changes from being a refuge fro the faithful into a refuge and sanctuary for everyone.

Its time to stop trying to manufacture church growth, it’s time to stop trying ot manufacture a pure and perfect church. It is time for revival, to rejoice in what God is doing…

God has promised this covenant… it is time for the church to believe it is here… for this is the covenant of life!

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

A Person Every Church Needs…. and Needs More of.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you,a but if you abandon him, he will abandon you. 3 For many years Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without instruction, 4 but when they turned to the LORD God of Israel in their distress and sought him, he was found by them. 5 In those times there was no peace for those who went about their daily activities because the residents of the lands had many conflicts. 6 Nation was crushed by nation and city by city, for God troubled them with every possible distress. 7 But as for you, be strong; don’t give up, for your work has a reward.” 2 Chr. 15:2-7 CSB

Every pastor knows … the plain people who have nothing to recommend them but their deep devotion to their Lord and the fruit of the Spirit which they all unconsciously display. Without these the churches … could not carry on.
These are the first to come forward when there is work to be done and the last to go home when there is prayer to be made. They are not known beyond the borders of their own parish because there is nothing dramatic in faithfulness or newsworthy in goodness, but their presence is a benediction wherever they go.
They have no greatness to draw to them the admiring eyes of carnal men but are content to be good men and full of the Holy Spirit.…

If eagles, says St. Jerome, on scenting a dead body go from afar to seek it, how much more should we run and fly to Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, as to the most delicious food of our hearts! Hence saints in this valley of tears have always as parched harts run to this fountain of paradise.

Tozer applauds those people that are necessary to the church.

They will rarely be found in leadership (though you can occasionally help them find their role in it!) They are more comfortable being behind the scenes. They are more likely to read a blog than write one. A church can survive without a dynamic pastor; it can grow and thrive if these people are allowed and freed to serve.

And they are too often forgotten in the day-to-day grind of trying to get a church to grow. Sometimes, the church may think they are insignificant or dysfunctional, hindering the church’s growth. Yet, these people are the core.

Yet they are the ones that treasure the church…

De Ligouri describes them well when he describes them as eagles, who intuitively hone in on that which nourishes and sustains them. Take that away, without showing them how what replaces it, and you will know it. They find that nourishment at the altar, and in Sunday School, in workdays and potlucks. They recognize the presence of Christ but may not realize that until you point it out to them, and you should, quite often. But like the eagle, this is more intuitive to most and not as easily explained by them. 

They are at their best… when they see the Jesus that they treasure, active in their lives. All of the squabbles, all of the dysfunction caused by not pointing them to Jesus, will fade away when they realize they are in His presence when they are taught why their church’s facility is so special.

And energized by the presence of God, they are that blessing wherever they go. Help them find Him, help them realize what it is that they treasure…

They are more important than all the preachers, all the leaders, all the visionaries…they are the children of the Most High God…..we (leaders) are but their servants.

Treasure them! Show them Jesus and how they already treasure Him in their church lives. And then let them bless others as they are a blessing!

 

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

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 176.

You Are Part of THIS! A Church that isn’t ~2000 years old!

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Weekend

39  All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40  For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us. Hebrews 11:39-40 (NLT2)

The Christian Church came into existence immediately after the Fall, when God, having applied the Law to fallen men orally (Gen. 3:8–14), gave mankind the oral promise of the Woman’s Seed, who was to destroy the works of the devil, that is, free men from the guilt of sin and all its consequences (Gen. 3:15), and Adam and Eve believed the “first Gospel.” Through the oral Word, proclaimed in various ways, God continued to build His Church until the days of Moses.[1]

And (we believe) in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Life-giver, who proceeds from the Father and the Son,who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. In one holy, catholic, and apostolic church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come. Amen.

The quote from Pieper (in purple above) is one I had to think about for a while. I included it in a paper that I recently submitted, and the reaction was what I worked through, that the church started at Pentecost.

It wasn’t.

You are part of something that has been around signficantly longer than 2000 years. It goes back to the beginning of time, the cadre of people that know God as their God, and have been brought to realize that they are His holy, precious, chosen people.

The promise of God calling them His people does go back to the Garden, when Adam and Eve ate the of the fruit that gave them the knowledge of evil (they already knew only good) and opened the door to sin.

It was then, with the sacrifice of an animal, that the sacrifice of Christ was pictured, and the redemption and reconciliation of man to God was made known.

This is the church that awaits us, that surrounds us, cheering us on as they wait for the perfection that comes when Christ returns for us all, His bride.

You are part of it, and integral, necessary, planned, valuable part of this body.

It is a church that from that point forward had the law and the gospel, had the promises, had the plan of Gods work revealed, perhaps not completely, but it was there. We can look back and see it! We can see these lives that depend on God, the God who reveals Himself in the universe He created, in the Scriptures, and most clearing, in the visible image of God, Jesus Christ. Revelaed to Adam and Even, to Moses, to Elijah, to Abraham, Issac and Jacob, to all of those who are

For He is with us, that is what makse the church, God gathering His people together, bringing them back, reconciling them to Himself. Providing the sacrifice necessary to accomplish this desire of His.

This is who we are … even some who don’t know it… yet.

We get to bring them the good news that they are. We get to see them drawn into His presence. Just liek the great cloud of witnesses waits to praise our God together… with us.

This is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. God’s people.


[1] Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, electronic ed., vol. 1 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953), 193.

“The Nicene Creed” Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 23.

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