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Creeds, Declarations and Spiritual Warfare.

A Devotional Thought for our Days:

The truth is that, although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defence that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.  2 Corinthians 10: 4-5(Phillips NT)

824         Do you feel as if goodness and absolute truth have been deposited with you, and therefore that you have been invested with a personal title or right to uproot evil at all costs? You will never solve anything like that, but only through Love and with love, remembering that Love has forgiven you and still forgives you so much!

It seems in the last week another religious crusade has erupted.  On one side there are those who are signing a creed that defines proper marriage and marital relationships.  On the other side a creed that defends people who don’t seem to fit within those relationships. Both have proponents that say unless you support their new creed, you really aren’t a Christian.  And that is definitely true if you do support the opponents Creed.  

Thousands have proudly affixed their names to one or the other creeds.  They call them declarations, but when you define your understanding of the Christian faith by them when you say this is what you believe or what you condemn, they are creeds or confessions. ( Ironically, a lot of those signing these documents come from church brotherhoods or denominations that were against having formal creeds!) 

Which is why I will sign neither.

Simply put, I want a creed and confession that gives me hope.  I want one that promises reconciliation, one that isn’t condescending or treats those with other beliefs like their enemy.  I want one that talks of God’s work in our lives.

Paul says it clearly, our weapons are spiritual, they pull down Satan’s strongholds, revealing to people the true knowledge of God.  It doesn’t tear them down but rather reveals God in such a way that people’s thoughts are about Him. 

That’s what the historic creeds and confessions do, they bring people to Jesus, and leave them in awe, knowing they are loved, that their sin is forgiven, and that the Holy Spirit is renewing and reconciling them, transforming them into the image of God.

St. Josemaria states it so well if we think our job is defending God’s truth that has been deposited with us (as if He left the building ).  Apologists are to give the reason we have hope, not wield a rushing and condemning offense. Our job is to love, knowing the mercy of God, and treasuring is so much we want everyone to have it revealed to them. 

Yes, we need to show them the need for it, but we need to do so with love, not with anger, or with statements made without the chance for conversation and revealing God’s grace.   That is why there is a call to remember our own brokenness, and how Jesus addressed that with mercy, and do likewise.  From out of our brokenness, we approach others differently than if we were the self-appointed morality police. From out of our brokenness, we realize the blessed truth found in creeds and confessions that talk of God’s love and redemption, of His works through one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

Love them, pray for them, ask God to bless them, and do battle for them, with the intent of saving their souls.  This is spiritual warfare, this is the hope our creeds give us!

That the Lord is with us! AMEN!

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3390-3393). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

500 years since Luther, have we forgotten…

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
12  There has been enough time for you to be teachers—yet you still need someone to teach you the first lessons of God’s message. Instead of eating solid food, you still have to drink milk. 13  Anyone who has to drink milk is still a child, without any experience in the matter of right and wrong. 14  Solid food, on the other hand, is for adults, who through practice are able to distinguish between good and evil.
Hebrews 5:12-14 (TEV)

11  It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12  He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13  And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. 14  Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. 15  Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. 16  Under his control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love.
Ephesians 4:11-16 (TEV)

3 Although the people are supposed to be Christian, are baptized, and receive the holy sacrament, they do not know the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, or the Ten commandments, 3 they live as if they were pigs and irrational beasts, and now that the Gospel has been restored they have mastered the fine art of abusing liberty.
4 How will you bishops answer for it before Christ that you have so shamefully neglected the people and paid no attention at all to the duties of your office? May you escape punishment for this!
5 You withhold the cup in the Lord’s Supper and insist on the observance of human laws, yet you do not take the slightest interest in teaching the people the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, or a single part of the Word of God. Woe to you forever!

Next year is the 500th anniversary of the start fo the reformation, or at least one of the events that gave it some traction, the posting of an invitation to a discussion about practical theology.

What the host had thought to be a discourse that would make grace real, that would help people grow in faith; that would help them live in the peace which God had promised them.   What he hoped would unify the church, shattered it.

Luther’s words in blue, from the introduction f the small catechism, a book for dad’s to teach their family about God, show the damage to the church then.  Damage we see in the church at large now.

For our people are more focused on things of human invention than in the peace that comes from understanding the way of God, a way detailed in the Ten “Commandments” (the way we are described when we live in fellowship with the God who saved us) , the Creed, (the way God revealed Himself to us, that we may trust and depend upon Him) and the Lord’s prayer (the way we communicate and what we desire to know God is doing, that He promised).

Some of our people may know these from repetition, but how many know them.  How many rejoice in this, and it drives them to know more?  How many know these things so well that they are internalized, and affect their very lives?

We see the damage in the ways that people are blown about by every change of doctrine; we see it in the fact that they cannot teach why they trust in God to a neighbor over coffee. This problem isn’t new – the apostles dealt with it, (obviously) and so did Luther.  They saw the imbalance between what was verbalized and what was confessed.  What people said out of habit (or listened to) and what they knew.

In this day where the church, whether contemporary or traditional, missional or confession (terms  used to distinguish the extremes in my movement) or however else the church can be divided is battered and broken, we need to return to the joy of our first love, to plunge into exploring the dimensions of God’s love, of how He reveals it, of how we live in it.   For that changes everything, including how we look at one another.  Including how we find ourselves reconciling rather than being divisive forces.

So let us pause, and think about how great this salvation is, how great it is that Jesus delivers us into the presence of the Father, who fills us with the spirit, and makes us His own.  And let us rejoice in how he does that, even as it confronts us in our sin,  brings us to faith, and to know He is with us.

AMEN!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 338). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

The Gates of Hell Cannot Withstand….those standing firm in Christ!

“The Gates of Hell Cannot Withstand Us”

Ephesians 6:10-20

 

†  In Jesus Name †

As we are engaged in spiritual battle, may we find the strength, and His might, which enables us to focus, not on the Evil, but on His Love and Mercy!  AMEN!

 

St. Peter’s Confession!

         

In one of his better moments, right after putting one foot in his mouth and perhaps seconds before placing the other one there, St Peter proclaims to Jesus (and to the others) “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Matthew 16:16 (NLT)

Jesus response there in Matthew’s gospel affirms Peter’s words.

16:17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter which means ‘rock’, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not stand against it. Matthew 16:17-19  (adapted from NLT/ESV)
We shared this same hope we in the words of the Nicene Creed, They remind us that we are in a spiritual war, that we were once hostages that were rescued by Jesus, that there are still many that need to be rescued, and the gates of hell are powerless against the cry of faith in God.

It is a spiritual war, and spiritual warfare, though simple in words never seems to be so easy.

Most people, facing spiritual warfare and our epistle today take one of two actions.  One they see themselves as a spiritual super-hero, Captain America or Superman – ready to take on the world if need be!  Or having common sense, they run faster than the Enterprise going into warp

Often, we come often back from such spiritual warfare bruised and battered, as I have to admit, I did this week. The challenge is to realize that taking such a beating…isn’t always a bad thing.  For it drives us to Jesus…

A Confession of Failure

As Vicar Mark and I went to St. Louis this week, we had some incredible moments.  Some of the lessons were great, as we heard that the seminary process is as much about forming Mark as a pastor, not just a theologian.  They left him a bit in awe, and somewhat in fear of the next four year’s work they demand.  They did the same for us “mentors”. They told us of the burden we will bear – opening our lives us to share and model and help mold th making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

em as men of God, as leaders of their church.

I failed the very first test as Mark’s mentor, as we struggled through the week, and as frustration eventually got the best of me.  I didn’t model very well being strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might, and in remembering that flesh and blood are not our enemies – but forces of much more conniving and forceful and yes diabolical nature.

It started with a rental car which our 5’7 inch 150 pound friend found quite snug with the seat all the way back! (So you can imagine Mark and I trying to wear it!) Then there was the perfect weather – well the numbers matched perfectly – 95 degrees and 95 percent humidity.  Add in every class we moved from was on the 2nd or third floor with the stairwells without any airflow.  Toss in a number of irritating moments, like losing paperwork and forms multiple times. And cap it off with a mind-number eleven hour journey home including a challenge with TSA, weather delays, missed connections, and airport staff who seemed to delight in causing us problems!  One of us, on a conveyer belt bringing us from one terminal to another mentioned the passage in James… “count it all joy when you endure..” except we couldn’t even find that quote funny.  We were done, we were beat, and we lost sight of God’s incredible blessings of the week, or the people He brought us into contact with…including the divorced doctor going to see his son, and the foreign student who Mark and I had the opportunity to share God’s love with, on the first leg of our journey.

I have to confess that I struggled not to see the ticket agent as my enemy.  Knowing I was preaching on this very passage, I gave up the opportunity to be a blessing to her, and to be an example on dealing with frustrations for Mark.

I had lost the war… or so I believed, as I shared with Vicar Mark that we needed to remember the incredible blessings, even as Satan and His demons, NOT DELTA, was trying to distract us from the grace we know so well!  The goal isn’t to beat us up, but to do whatever is necessary to pull us away from Jesus, and then into the bondage of sin!

So where is our armor?

         

I am convinced that a great deal of spiritual warfare begins and ends with simply distracting us from Jesus.  Whether it is causing us frustration or anxiety, getting us to be burdened by guilt or shame, causing us to repress our feelings, or giving into sin, the goal is the same – the people of God will struggle if we are weakened by forgetting the presence of God in which we dwell!  That’s why one of the first tactics is to indicate that we don’t need to be gathered together around God’s mercy and love, poured out on us through His word and Sacrament.

Look at the weapons we are to take up – they lead us – each and every one of the weapons, to Jesus – and His work in our lives.

We start the belt of Truth! Back then a belt girds and strengthens us for the run, think of the kind of belt a weight lifter or stockroom worker uses..   John 14:6 tells us Jesus is the Truth – and so our first weapon, strengthening our endurance is given to us, as we dwell in Christ!

The Breastplate of Righteousness –  as we read Romans 3-5, and we find that which protects our heart is Jesus. The second tool of the battle is the righteousness, for in Him and through Him we are found righteous, and free from the sin which so easily subverts us!

The shoes, the incredible shoes that were put on, ready to go out and share the gospel of peace!  Again, the focus is on being in Christ, for in Him, there is the peace that passes all understanding!

The helmet that keeps our mind safe and secure, just as the breastplate kept our heart safe- our salvation – which is found again, as we live in Jesus Christ, it is His work in our lives!  Does it sound familiar that our heart is guarded and our head is guarded as we journey in peace?  This is a common theme for Paul, the blessing of our being united in Christ Jesus!

Lastly the sword, the Word of God, the words which cut open our sin-plagued heart and exorcises the sin – not just a weapon to attack and stab with, but a tool to use for healing as well!  What an incredible thing Jesus does in our lives!

Used in

          Prayer –

 

It is amazing, that as Paul focuses us on these weapons, the tools of our faith, the emphasis isn’t really on the war, but on realizing that we dwell in Christ!  That is why he naturally moves from realizing what God has done, to communicating with God in prayer and supplication!

You see, that’s where we find our strength – not in our own maturity, but rather in communion with the Creator of all!  That means, trusting in Him, we do lay every burden down, we bring Him into every situation! We trust Him not only with our life, but with the people we pray for! We trust Him with the lives of those for whom we “intercede” as we bring before the God that loves us.  We know that as He takes them from our hands into His heart, the care will be there… that all things will work for good for them, for those who are loved and called into the very relationship we have with God!

A war against principalities and the cosmic powers of the present darkness means we realize that so many are still held in bondage – bondage to that which causes fear and guilt and share and anxiety!

Our war isn’t with them, it is to free them, as it was Paul’s vocation and prayer as well.

Think about these last verses,

“making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel!

As we consider where we are in Christ, we realize they mystery is revealed completely!  What we’ve been saved to, the peace, of heart and mind! The peace of knowing real truth that God has cleansed us and freed us of that which poisons our lives! We realize our battle is to free those who were bound as we have been, whose life is missing that peace.

The funny thing, I said above that I was shocked at what a poor example I was, but perhaps the example that was needed is not that I reacted badly to the stress of the day and the burdens of the week – but instead that having sinned, I found the strength that cleanses our sins, and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus….

For that is our combat lesson.  AMEN?

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