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live, and therefore learn, praying together

Thoughts that drive me to Jesus, and to His cross

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”……Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story. Luke 1,5 GNT

And I tell you more: whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”  Matthew 18:19-20 GNT

But Christ approached, raised him up, and placed him on a higher plane of faith. “Go thy way; thy son liveth.” Thus the man advanced from his first faith, when he believed that Christ could heal if he were present, to a higher stage of faith, by reason of which he now believed the mere Word of Christ. For if he had not believed the Word, he would not have ceased until the Lord had accompanied him to his house; but he accepted the Word, believed Christ and clung to his Word.

Does that mean we learn how to pray in community, that what we do in solitude is something we take from the community’s worship?
That’s what I mean. If somebody comes to me and says, “Teach me how to pray,” I say, “Be at this church at nine o’clock on Sunday morning.” That’s where you learn how to pray. Of course, prayer is continued and has alternate forms when you’re by yourself. But the American experience has the order reversed. In the long history of Christian spirituality, community prayer is most important, then individual prayer.

I had to look it up, but Petersen is right, our being taught to pray starts in groups. Bible studies, small groups, but especially in the church. In the book he will spend more time on the issue, but I needed to think through just this first part.

It was even this way in  scripture, as Jesus taught, bet before, as Moses at Sinai and Solomon at the dedication of the Temple, as Nehemiah and Ezra and Daniel all learned to pray, it was as the family of God.

We need to learn more than by reading a book, for there we can only learn a form. We need to see others struggling with God, blessing God, realizing how complete His mercy is, how beyond reason God’s love is. I think that is what lifts us up, as we see Jesus lift up others. It is in these groups of believers that prayer becomes more than a spiritual exercise routine. It becomes a conversation based on our trust in God, our dependence on Him. We learn that from observation, from sharing in the tears, and in the  joy, from sharing as our anxieties are calmed, our spirits are comforted, and as we realize that God is in our midst.

Does this mean we do not pray on our own? Of course not! But there is something about knowing others are praying for you, with you, as we storm heaven to ask God to be there. There is something about seeing others – locked in prayer, and being comforted by the Holy Spirit. The numbers aren’t the issue, the communion, the fellowship, the bonding is.

For as we realize we are praying in one voice, we realize that voice is in respons eot the Voice-the Voice who taught us to pray, together….

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 393.

Eugene H. Peterson, Introduction, ed. Rodney Clapp, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 15–16.

Missional/Evangelism Training is far more than Apologetics…

Thoughts that draw me to Jesus, and to the cross…

This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  1 Corinthians 11:26 GNT

I will give you many descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will bless you and make your name famous, so that you will be a blessing. Genesis 12:2 GNT

With the Lord’s Supper God has bound up his own honor, for in Christ alone he desires to be acknowledged and worshiped as our God. So far as the Holy Supper is a confession before men, the communicant proclaims Christ and teaches faith in him. He helps to spread and preserve the kingdom of Christ, strengthens the influence of gospel and sacrament, aids in the conversion of sinners and in storming the devil’s kingdom.

Meaning is then not something we discover in ourselves, or in our lives. The meanings we are capable of discovering are never sufficient. The true meaning has to be revealed. It has to be “given.” And the fact that it is given is, indeed, the greater part of its significance: for life itself is, in the end, only significant in so far as it is given.

More seriously, the question is not only whether the discipline is doing good but whether it might actually be doing some harm. Could it be that systematic theology as usually practiced actually frustrates the proclamation of the gospel?

I have been in many missional seminars, and read many books about making the church more evangelistic. Read a ton of books about apologetics, and church growth, and personal, lifestyle evangelism; while beneficial to my faith, they haven’t really been as effective as I would have hoped in helping me share Jesus with others.

No where near as effective as experiencing Christ in the Lord’s Supper.

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians notes the missional value (the benefit to sharing our faith) found in the Lord’s Supper. When we are partaking, when we are in communion with God, we are naturally proclaiming His death. Specifically, that His death was “for us”.

I always thought we were preaching to the choir, to the other men and women that are with us there at the altar. But Luther noted that proclamation is more than that. When we realize this is God is in this moment, giving Himself under the bread and wine, the moment can and should become life transforming. We come to the altar tired, broken, plagued by the things of the world, tormented by guilt and we leave, our spirits lifted, our hearts set free, and our outlook on life changed.

This is the gospel that systematic theology should drive pastors and professors to talk about in Bible studies, sermons, books. This is the outside factor that Merton talked about, the revelation giving definition to our lives. it is what Abraham learned from God, that he was blessed, and part of that blessing, a major part is that God’s work through him to bless us, and all who depended on God throughout history.

The blessings come, as Abraham learned, because God is present with us. He is not just the topic of conversation as we ponder the mysteries of our faith. He is present, joining in the conversation, present in the bread and the wine, present as we realize we share in His death and resurrection.

And then we leave church, and see people experiencing the brokenness, and realizing how He is healing ours, and we share with them that His death was for them as well.

Missional thought, being evangelistic comes from hearts and souls touched by God and responding to it.

Consider what God is giving you in the Lord’s supper… and then.. in awe, ask Him to show you others that need it.

Godspeed!

 

 

 

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 392–393.

Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 6–7.

Gerhard O. Forde, Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), viii.

The Myth of Self-Control (and the life hack we need!)

Thoughts that draw me closer to Jesus:

Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people; come near and rescue me.
5 Let me share in the prosperity of your chosen ones. Let me rejoice in the joy of your people;
let me praise you with those who are your heritage. Psalm 106:4-5 NLT

The ninth Fruit of the Spirit is Self-control. Self-control as a fruit of the Spirit is not the domination of our will over our emotions. It is rather our awareness of God’s abiding presence and is the result of the infusion of God’s steadfast love. Hence our former compulsive reaching out for security, affection and esteem, power and status symbols ceases.

The others, however, who are not so callous and dissolute but would like to be good, should not absent themselves (from the Eucharist), even though in other respects they are weak and frail. As St. Hilary has also said, “Unless a person has committed such a sin that he has to be expelled from the congregation and has forfeited the name of Christian, he should not exclude himself from the sacrament,” lest he deprive himself of life.

Keating’s words are powerful, for they recognize the truth.

If self control is a matter of will-power, I might as well give up now.  There are too many points where self control is overwhelmed. The desires we have will eventually break us down and overwhelm us. Hunger and Lust are two examples – if we feed them to often, or not enough, they will dominate us, wanting to be fed, or fed more. Other desires include a need for recognition, a need to be valued. That is where security comes from – the position of having meaning, knowing we are needed in a place, by those around us.

Simply put, if we are needed, our place in life is secure.

The problem is when we feel we aren’t needed, then all our desires run rampant, and we become open to addictions of every sort.

Keating makes self-control focus not on man’s will-power, but the infusion and enlightment that comes as the Spirit inswells in us. No longer do we need to be needed, for we know God has a place for us. We no longer need to be valued by the world, because again – He shows us our value as He sends Jesus to the cross, and to the altar. THe more aware of HIs presence in our lives, the less we are needy for others to recognize us.

Hence the Psalm’s cry, for God to come nearer, for God to include us. It is a cry for that security, that recognition, for the need to be valued.

Luther nails it as well, in describing who should come to the Lord’s Supper. It is the life-hack for those who are empty, broken, feeling worthless, and therefore are out of control. There reconciliation and rehabilitation happen, as God lovingly pours peace into our lives. That is why Luther welcomes believers who are struggling. In fact, he encourages them, reminding them they are the reason the feast exists.  He quotes Hilary saying this is where we find life!  Even as our life began anew when we were baptized, so we find renewal as the Father gives us Christ’s body and blood.

This is who we are, this is our security, that God Himself has paid the highest cost to make us HIs own people, and brings this reminder to us as often as we are drawn to HIs altar. This is where healing happens, and reconciliation, and where peace is poured out – because we are valued by God. It is where we know best the presence of God, the presence that floods through us and helps us realize – nothing comes close to feeding us like this.

Lord, help us to find our life in You, as we receive Your body and Blood frequently. And may our desire for these moments grow, and overwhelm all other desires as You provide for all our needs. 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), 195.

Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism: The Sacrament of the Altar”, 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), 473.

The Cure for Spiritual Tantrums…

Why not run here….

Thoughts to encourage running to Jesus!

But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the LORD his God and heal me! 12 Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.
13 But his officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir,* if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it?
2 Kings 5:11-13 NLT

Liberal Protestant theology understood this in a fundamental way when it expressed Jesus of Nazareth as the pure face of the eternal Father’s love beyond the Old Testament’s teaching of the Father who shows two faces, the face of wrath and the face of love.

Step by step, materially then spiritually, as you see from the text, especially as we read on, he is left with only one thread of consolation: the fact that God is God, the Creator who can do whatever he likes; and nobody can say to him, “You can’t do that to me.

….nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing, and therefore they remain in eternal wrath and condemnation. For they do not have the LORD Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Why We Throw Spiritual Tantrums….

He was a grown man, a leader of leaders, appreciated and loved by his king.

Nevertheless, he stomped around and threw a tantrum that would make any 3-year-old proud! Arrogant, proud, and unwilling to admit his need, he was ready to give up his healing. Pride and arrogance are a deadly combination. If not for some of his men’s bravery, he would have spent his life cursed…

At least once a month – usually once a week, I find myself falling into the same trap. Be honest, you do as well. We want what we want when we want it, how we want it, acquired in the manner we planned!

Like Liberal Theology, we want to strip Jesus of his role as judge and only recognize him as the face of what we consider love to be. As He works to heal our brokenness, we tell Him to stop – and say the unthinkable, “you can’t do that to me!” We see it all around us; we’ve learned it well from society! We hear, “you can’t charge us that much for gasoline!”, “you can’t give me a bad grade,” “You can’t let my health fail,” and “you can’t tell me my coping mechanism is a sinful addiction,” “you can’t tell me this behavior, lifestyle, choice are wrong!” The list grows, and we throw more and more tantrums…

The officers that called Naaman to stop whining took a chance. They confronted him because the prophet was speaking for God, who didn’t have to heal him but provided a way he could be healed. They led him to take the step of acknowledging God didn’t have to heal him. He realized God could do it, and God was the one who set the terms.

In our case, the terms are particularly nasty.

“Take and eat; this is my body, broken for you!”

“Take and drink; this is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sin!”

Hearing those words, we know what Luther wanted us to know about Jesus. That is, His mindset toward us – which leaves us confident of His love and the blessing He poured out upon us! He united us with His death and His resurrection.

I know this, and I think you do too… yet we will throw a tantrum today, no later than tomorrow. I pray someone will be there to remind us of the heart of God, and His attitude toward us, which is necessary to facilitate our healing. Tomorrow, the same challenge appears, and the only way out of such sin… is through the cross.

It is difficult to go there, but it is more exhausting not to run there! We actually sometimes need those tantrums, to remember why God is in charge… to know we can hear and recognize His voice, His invitation, His desire to comfort us.

So come, and know you are welcome at the altar.

So stop the tantrum… and drag your Naaman with you…

Hans Urs von Balthasar, Love Alone Is Credible, trans. D. C. Schindler (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 148.

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), 117.

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), 440.

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.

What Did You Put In Your Mouth?


Devotional Thought of the Day:
53  So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54  But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56  Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57  I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. 58  I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.” John 6:53-58 (NLT2)

But when Christ says “My flesh,” I take notice of the identity of the speaker. I ask: To whom does the little word “My” pertain? Then these words will denote more than mere flesh; it will not be a flesh that has the strength of mere flesh and blood. By virtue of the word “My” it is invested with greater strength than plain flesh and blood. It is “My flesh.” You must take note of Him who speaks these words. Then it will not be the sort of flesh from which red sausages are made.

He could not satisfy his love by giving himself to the human race by his Incarnation and by his Passion, dying for all men upon the cross; but he desired to find out a way whereby he might give himself entirely to each one of us in particular; and for this end he instituted the Sacrament of the Altar, in order to unite himself wholly to each: He that cateth My flesh, he said, abideth in me and I in him. In Holy Communion Jesus unites himself to the soul, and the soul to Jesus; and this is not a union of mere affection, but it is a true and real union. Hence St. Francis de Sales says: “In no other action can the Saviour be considered more tender or more loving than in this, in which he annihilates himself, so to say, and reduces himself to food, in order to penetrate our souls, and to unite himself to the hearts of his faithful.”

Reading the title of this post, the question might sound like a mother talking to her toddler, or a man talking to his dog. But it is one of the most important questions that can be asked, and answered in the church today.

Not because of the theological doctrines that have been debated since Zwingli, (and to the gnostics whose thoughts convinced him that the sacred cannot inhabit the physical, that is the profane) THose arguements can go on in classrooms, coffee shops and bars from now until eternity. THis is more than theology.

It is about faith – about trusting Jesus at His word. To realize that He promises to come to us in the bread and wine, so that we might have Him, that we might have life! THat is why Luther points out the power of the word my, this little pronoun that changes everything.

This is His body, given for you. This is His blood, shed for the forgiveness of your sins. Not mere flesh and blood, Far ore than the greatest steak and noblest wine. De Ligouri points out what a tremendous communion this is, as Christ again unites us to Himself, and unites Himself to us. This is not just some simple rite that we do every week, this is God with us, that we can behold His glory.

He says, this is my body… this is my blood…

Rejoice in that moment, treasure that moment….. find your peace and sanctuary there…



Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 23: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 6-8, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 23 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 119.

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), 279–280.

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.

The Journey to Holiness: Will You Go on THIS pilgrimage?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

4 He did what was right in the LORD’s sight just as his father Amaziah had done. 5 He sought God throughout the lifetime of Zechariah, the teacher of the fear of God. During the time that he sought the LORD, God gave him success. Chron. 26:4-5 CSB

18 A large number of the people—many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun—were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passoverb contrary to what was written.c But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good LORD provide atonement on behalf of 19 whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God,d the LORD, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” 20 So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people 2 Chron 30:18-20 CSB

Many Christians submit to great fatigue, and expose themselves to many dangers, to visit the places in the Holy Land where our most loving Saviour was born, suffered, and died. We need not undertake so long a journey, or expose ourselves to so many dangers; the same Lord is near us, and dwells in the church, only a few steps distant from our houses. If pilgrims, says St. Paulinus, consider it a great thing to bring back a little dust from the crib, or from the holy sepulchre in which Jesus was buried, with what ardor should not we visit the Most Blessed Sacrament, where the same Jesus is in person, and where we can go without encountering so much fatigue and so many dangers!

God does His work by the operation of the Spirit, while Christian leaders attempt to do theirs by the power of trained and devoted intellect. Bright personality has taken the place of the divine afflatus.

I have been blessed to visit Rome, and pray in many of the churches there. Some I found irresistable, such as the church in the Villa Tevere, and the church that was made our of the home of St. Francis of Assissi. I have preached in China as well, and found in a little church along a small canal the same sense of being in a refuge, being in a sanctuary. There was something special about those places.

De Ligouri’s words therefore resonate with me, although his visit to the Most Blessed Sacrament and mine differ – for his is the Eucharist in a monstrance, to contemplate upon in prayer. Mine preference is to find that same thing as the people of God receive the Body and Blood of Christ, in and under the bread and wine.

In either situation, seeking the Lord is not about encountering physical torment. That may be needed, and it may not be. The challenge is what Is mentioned in Chronicles, being taught the fear/awe of the Lord. Be able to know that we should be terrified, as we are sinners gathering in the presnce of the Holy. At the same time, realizing in awe that God still accepts us anyway. He will deal with our sin… and still welcome us.

And welcoming that teaching is part of our journey. To allow God to inspect our lives, the deepest parts, to let Him find what lurks within, and carefully cut it away. To admit, as Hezekiah and His crew did, that we aren’t ready to enter into the feast, and to cling to a God who is merciful.

That is our journey… that is our hope.

This God of ours… and make no mistake, He is ours, for the Holy Spirit walks with us on this journey. Note the healing that was done to Hezekiah’s crew? That is being done in our lives today… making us right and whole, so that we would be welcomed in the presence of God.

It is a hard journey to make, for we don’t know what lurks within us. We just recognize the Spirit’s work, especially as we bow and kneel with others at the rail… and receive Christ again,

It doesn’t matter where… the Holy Land, Rome, Jiangmen, Macao, Cerritos or Lawrence, Mass.

He is our God, and we find refuge, sanctuary, and serenity as we feast with Him, and His people.

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), 181.

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

What Draws Me To Jesus…

The Intimate Feast

Devotional Thought of the Day:

29 The king said to him, “Why keep on speaking about these matters of yours? I hereby declare: you and Ziba are to divide the land.”s
30 Mephibosheth said to the king, “Instead, since my lord the king has come to his palace safely, let Ziba take it all!”
2 Samuel 19:29-30 CSB

Nor ought any one to say that the frequent celebration serves to bring the Sacrament into contempt, for those who are rightly prepared will always hunger for this Bread and thirst for this Drink; and the more frequently that they commune, the firmer becomes the persuasion that all of the earthly life is only a preparation for the celebration of the great Supper on high. “Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, they shall still be praising Thee, Sela.” God be merciful to you, and supplant your lukewarmness with heavenly earnestness. Amen.

Come then, O Lord! come and take possession of my heart; close its doors forever, that henceforward no creature may enter there, to divide the love which is due to Thee, and which it is my ardent desire to bestow all on Thee. Do Thou alone, my dear Redeemer, rule me; do Thou alone possess my whole being; and if ever I do not obey Thee perfectly, chastise me with rigor, that thenceforward I may be more watchful to please Thee as Thou willest. Grant that I may no longer seek for any other pleasure than that of giving Thee pleasure; that all my pleasure may be to visit Thee often on Thy altar; to entertain myself with Thee, and to receive Thee in Holy Communion.

The young, crippled man, Mephibosheth, who was King Saul’s son, meets King David after he was restored to his throne. Even though David would restore to him all that he had, the young man would have none of it. So glad was he that David was restored to the throne.

Grace didn’t matter; restoration of things of the world didn’t matter.

Being in the presence of his lord, the one who saved him from death, did.

This is a lesson for us! We should be like the young man, desiring just to be in the presence of Jesus.

William Loehe, a trainer and sender of Lutheran pastors and missionaries in the 19th century, saw this need and its answer in the Lord’s Supper. He implored a frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The words in purple show why – “it prepares us for the celebration of the great Supper on high!” It helps us see that the only meaningful thing in our life is the presence of Jesus. The Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, is the most significant way to celebrate and meditate on that presence!

Likewise, 100 years before Loehe, a Catholic Bishop, wrote the words in blue. The words come from his treatise on the Lord’s Supper. And they describe something I have found more trustworthy and more comforting in these challenging days than ever. The presence of the Lord that we encounter in the Lord’s supper, as we receive Christ, helps us find the rest that restores us from the brokenness we encounter, from the brokenness we know in our own lives.

Like Mephibosheth, we find that all that matters is the presence of our Lord. The Lord who is pictured in the parts of David’s life, where he became known as a man after God’s own heart. When we know His presence, our riches fade in importance. Our troubles lose their ability to overwhelm us. In the same moment, we want to collapse in awe and yet be hugged, embraced by the Lord, who makes our crippled souls whole, as we are invited, as special guests, to His feast.

This is the glory of God; this is why He deserves our praise. He comes to us, and He cares for us… This is the place where Paul prayed for the people of Ephesus to be when he wrote,

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:16-19 NLT

I pray that for us all, this experience of the love of Jesus Christ. I prayer that we encounter it frequently, as we take and eat the Body of Christ, and we take and drink His precious Blood… and we look to the day when with all the saints from all times, all places, all nations, and all languages, we celebrate the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. AMEN!

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 55–56.

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 128.


Why The Church WILL Gather Again…

Devotional Thought for the Day:

53  Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth: if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in yourselves. 54  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them to life on the last day. 55  For my flesh is the real food; my blood is the real drink. 56  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them. John 6:53-56 (TEV)

The sermon is part of the “Eucharistic transaction.” As Williams (Rowan Williams – Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury) says, “We are there at the Eucharist so that we may be changed into [the likeness of Jesus Christ], from glory to glory. We are not there to change certain things in the world, which we then adore from a distance. We are there so that the transubstantiation may occur in us.” Preaching itself has a sacramental quality in radical orthodoxy because its subject matter is transformation. The very act of talking about such transformation is itself a part of the transformational event.

Let us ask our Lord that we may be souls who are ready to work with a heroism that proves fruitful. For there is no lack of people here on earth who, on being approached, turn out to be nothing but large, shiny, glossy leaves. Foliage, just foliage and nothing more. Meanwhile, many souls are looking to us, hoping to satisfy their hunger, which is a hunger for God. We must not forget that we have all the means we need. We have sufficient doctrine and the grace of God, in spite of our wretchedness.

Likewise, they teach that one holy church will remain forever. The church is the assembly of saints in which the gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly.

There is a lot of talk, during COVID, that the church will never be the same after it is over. That at least one-third to one-half of the people who have not been to church durign this time will not come back again. They will simply sit at home, in their pajamas, drinking their coffee and watch church on YouTube.

I understand the concern, and the anxiety in this time. How do you keep a church going if the people don’t gather together? Some may think I am talking about the organization, So they plan how people can be the church without the organization.

I am not talking about the organization, and that is why I think the anxiety is pessimistic, and more than that, I believe it is wrong. If forgets what the church is. 

You see, it is never, nor has it ever been about the structured organization. It is about the gathering, about being in the presence of God, together. About the communication and communion with God. What Williams talks about as the Eucharistic moment, the time for the transformation of sinners into saints, about what they are calling the moment of transubstantiation in us, those who believe and depend and cry out to the God who has come into our lives.

That is why a church broadcast can, for a time, temporarily fill the gap. But long range, people need the altar to come to and commune. That is why the Lutheran confessions talk about the church being where the gospel is proclaimed and where the sacraments are distributed. Communication and Communion, the presence of Christ with us all.

This is the church… and as those who preach and lead realize that people will return, hungry for the Word and the Sacrament, and sharing in it. And from here, we will go out into the world, to gather others to Jesus, to share in that sweet Communion.

 

Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 63.

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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), 43.

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