Thoughts that draw me to Jesus and toi the cross
2 When the LORD first spoke to Israel through Hosea, he said to Hosea, “Go and get married; your wife will be unfaithful, and your children will be just like her. In the same way, my people have left me and become unfaithful.” Hosea 1:2 GNT
Jewish thought continually returned to that mysterious moment when Isaac lay bound on the altar. Often enough, Israel was obliged to recognize its own situation in that of Isaac, bound and ready for the fatal knife, and was thus heartened to try to understand its own destiny. In Isaac, Israel had as it were meditated upon the truth of the word, “God will provide”. Jewish tradition tells that, at the moment when Isaac uttered a cry of terror, the heavens opened and the boy saw the invisible mysteries of creation and the angelic choirs. This is connected with another tradition according to which it was Isaac who created Israel’s rite of worship; thus the Temple was built, not on Sinai, but on Moriah.2 It is as though all worship originates in this glimpse on the part of Isaac—in what he then saw and afterward communicated.
Two years ago today, I found our George had passed away.
He greeted me a few times as I stopped in his store to buy a bottle of sparkling water, or some quick snack. But few people in my life have I been as close too as we became that night
On October 15, 2021, he was bunch in the face by a young man, just one punch, and George fell back, and proceeded to bleed from his nose, ears, mouth and his skull where in cracked open. For twenty minutes I held this man, a man I learned later was a man whose trust was unshakably in Chirst Jesus.
I just held him, and prayed.
The Sherriff’s department showed up- they said the Fire Department was on the way – best if we don’t move till they got there. I was on the ground for nearly 20 minutes, it seemed like so much longer, til the only thing I could do was to cry, “Lord, have mercy…”
And yet those words took on a deeper meaning that evening… as I went from despair to grieving to oddly, being at peace.
It was a Friday night, and worship on Sunday was never sweeter, as my people reminded me that the Lord was also with me.
I wasn’t Issac, I wasn’t the one being sacrificed. Nor did a ram appear in the bushes outside the 7-11. I didn’t hear the Lord’s voice, though I got to speak about him to the deputies on scene. I still would prefer, like Hosea, that the event wouldn’t have happened. Too many nightmares, to many tears driving by the 7-11 come, even to this day. Yet, there are moments where insights into the presence of God gained in those moments amaze me.
When I went to his service, as I greeted and told his son I was praying for them, I said I was there… He and his mom broke into tears as they realized the person that held him was a pastor. They started praising God…in the midst of their grief, their loss.
Life is short…God is there!
Life is painful…God is there!
Life doesn;t have to be alone…for the message of Hosea is not only that we’ve walked a way and betrayed God… but that we are welcomed back, cleansed, and dressed for a party!
And then, life is eternal, and filled with joy and peace!
Somehow, this truth is more relevant in the presence of death, and even in the presence of suffering and horrid sin.
Hosea learned that, and the man Joseph Ratzinger did as well.
Joseph Ratzinger, Behold The Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 115.
I envy those who are dead and gone; they are better off than those who are still alive. Ecclesiastes 4:2 GNT
19 If our hope in Christ is good for this life only and no more, then we deserve more pity than anyone else in all the world. 1 Corinthians 15:19 GNT
753 When you pray, but see nothing, and feel flustered and dry, then the way is this: don’t think of yourself. Instead, turn your eyes to the Passion of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Be convinced that he is asking each one of us, as he asked those three more intimate Apostles of his in the Garden of Olives, to “Watch and pray”.
To this you have been invited, now is the time to come, now the supper is ready. Your Lord Jesus Christ is already born, has died and risen again, therefore do not remain away any longer, accept your promised treasure with joy, come to the table, eat and be happy.
I think we need to go through days as Solomon did, at least the kind of days that cause writing so full of darkness and despair.
I hate those days, as I can easily echo Solomon’s jealousy of those who have gotten to pass through this life and are now awaiting Judgment Day in the presence of God. MY mind comes back to the promise of what is waiting for us there – that the glory of God is more than we’ve ever seen, heard, or can imagine. (1 Cor. 2:9) So I long for that day, even as I grieve fro the broken world that surrounds me, and ingrained in me.
St. Josemaria must have had those days as well, for he could not describe the flustered, dry feeling that can occur when praying. WHen words are beyond you, because you don’t know how to pray, and you even wonder whether God is listening! (Or even worse, if he is playing a Jeremiah 20:7/Job idea on us!)
But we have to go through those “dark nights of the soul”, as one writer called them.
St. Josemaria’s advice is clear – look to Jesus, and see His dark night – that He chose to embrace for us. He knows the emptiness, the vanity of it all, for He experienced it – and was able to focus on the joy of rescuing and redeeming you and me! This is what Solomon would eventually remember – this relationship with God, but he had to process the vanity, the hopelessness of life without God, even as we have to remember that emptiness.
TH\hat is why the Apostle Paul reminds us of eternity and that our hope goes far beyond this life, far beyond this life’s dark times. If that was all there was, so go eat and drink into oblivion. And piuty those who use religion as a outlet for despair. Jesus died and rose so we don’t have to live without hope, but we can have hope ever while we are despairing of life.
This is why Luther, who knew some dark nights and a lot of futility, became so excited when considering the Lord’s Supper, and the feast that it anticipated. To be invited as a guest of honro, to share in Christ Jesus, to know His presence, love, mercy as we take and eat His body, as we drink His blood–knowing it is the price of our relationship being renewed. This is a moment of incredible, overwhelming joy.
Even in the midst of this life… and its brokenness, we enter into that time where all is set aside, but Jesus.
God is inviting you.. so come to church tomorrow, and know the joy of knowing God is with you now… but has something awaiting you that the Apostle Paul describes this way, “9 “What God has planned for people who love him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard. It has never even entered our minds!”” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (CEV)
Come, celebrate with us, or if too far away, find a church that will provide for you the feast of Jesus…
Escrivá, Josemaría. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 252.
† Jesus! Son and Savior! †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ embrace you!
- Can you imagine?
I want you to picture yourself, sitting in a limousine. You have been invited to spend some time with one of the most famous people in the world.
On your way the excitement grows, as you consider what was said in the invitation.
“I would like to get to know you, for I think you are a person I want to count as one of my closest friends.”
And as you drive to where they are… you even get nervous, this could be an incredible day.
As you arrive, you notice what you think is pretty heavy security, as you get closer to his home, you realize they aren’t his security. They are a SWAT team, and there are police officers all over his property. The limo stops, and a police captain walks up to the window and says that your friend is about to be arrested and taken away—if he’s lucky he will only get life in prison, but if not, the death penalty awaits.
THe paperwork is on the way, and your new “friend “ has promised to surrender when it gets here. But there is an hour or two before that will happen, and the Captain asks, “do you want to spend that time with your “friend” in his garden?
What do you do?
- Here is why we need it…(saved from condemnation)
We need that “friend” who was arrested by a police many times the size that was needed. He would have surrendered anyway, for he knew we needed him to be punished for our sins.
Hear again the apostle Paul,
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
I really don’t like people knowing how helpless I am, physically or spiritually. I suppose some suspect it, but I still don’t like it. Yet, amid the brokenness, Christ came to being healing, to restore what sin had damaged.
We needed, no, we desperately needed Jesus to come and deliver us….
And the only way to do that—was to die on the cross.
And so we need to be befriended by this Jesus, this one who would die as a criminal.
- Here is why You want it…
But here is far more to the cross than the forgiveness of sins.
When I started my illustration, I mentioned the invitation to meet was based on the celebrity saying He thought he wanted you as a close friend.
Going back to our reading that started the service….
10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
Therefore, we don’t care about the shame of the cross, or associating with someone the world has written off as worthless, c as wrong. But He invites you to spend time with Him, both now and for all eternity.
This is what the cross is about—our invitation to join Christ in His death, that with all sin and injustice cut away, we can live as His friends… now and forever.
And as His friends, we dwell in His unimaginable, unexplainable peace. For God has placed us there—in the death of Christ, so that we share in His resurrection and eternal life. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.
Romans 8:23 (NLT2)
The question keeps coming up in John’s Gospel: Where does this man Jesus come from? Does He come from God or only from man? The question is the most basic one that can be asked about us and our love. Are we and our love born again from above, from God? Or are we and it only the product of human nature? The answer to this question makes an infinite difference, the difference between Heaven and Hell in the next life.
This work, which begins in the new birth, is carried on in two ways—mortification, whereby the lusts of the flesh are subdued and kept under; and vivification, by which the life which God has put within us is made to be a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.
Thirty years ago, I was defibrillated 5 times. Just like you see on every medical show when they should “clear” and electricity is passed through the body, with the intent of rebooting the electrical and chemical nature of our body, so our heart will restart and run normally.
Spiritually, we need something like that. What Spurgeon called vivification, the idea of bringing us back to life, being born again, where God brings us to life. Kreeft indicated this was the one question that matters, the one most basic to our life, and the one that makes the greatest difference, period
The problem is when we want to be brought back to lift without dealing with what caused us to whither and die. If all the paramedics and ER doctors did was to shock me back to life, and never try to address the cause, it would have mattered not. The same is true spiritually, and while one day we will be free from all sin and suffering, God is freeing us from its effects, even now. This is the mortification that Spurgeon said was part of the same work – the process of eliminating the rot caused by sin, and sin itself.
Mortification isn’t easy, neither is vivification. Both require drastic changes, and discipline and some pain. And yet, the life that is provided, free from the rot, free from the pain, is beyond words.
God is with us, He’s the great physician, the one that does both pieces of work… that makes it not just a possibility – but a promise.
So let Him get to work on you…
Let Him draw you to the cross – where both things happen, as the sinful you dies, and you are raised with Christ Jesus. Amen!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 26.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 (NLT2)
6 “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant. 7 I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. Isaiah 56:6-7 (NLT2)
In times of extraordinary crisis ordinary measures will not suffice. The world lives in such a time of crisis. Christians alone are in a position to rescue the perishing. We dare not settle down to try to live as if things were “normal.” Nothing is normal while sin and lust and death roam the world, pouncing upon one and another till the whole population has been destroyed.
Paul says, “While we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:11). Thus, according to his view, the passion and resurrection of Christ are going on all the time. They are always present and not limited to an historical moment. It was rather an historical moment which introduced the eternal values of the cross and resurrection into the whole of time. We participate in Christ’s divine life through baptism and the other sacraments. As a consequence, we must learn how to express the risen life of Jesus rather than our false selves in our conduct and relationships.
We also believe, teach, and confess that no church should condemn another because the one has fewer or more external ceremonies not commanded by God than the other has, when otherwise there is unity with the other in teaching and all the articles of faith and in the proper use of the holy sacraments,
I’ve heard people talking about the “new normal” in relation to both COVID and the price of gas. Just get used to things being broken, and hardships, for life is different now. Get used to the new morality, or at least how it is being re-defined.
And the church hears these things and marshals its people to go to war at the ballot box, and on Social Media. I’ve even heard that such times will find us allied with folk we shouldn’t be allied with, for politics and apparently faith makes strange bedfellows.
And once again the Church has entered the wrong war, and is using the wrong weapons.
Because of that, it is losing the war for control over public opinion, and far, far more importantly, we aren’t even in the battle for people’s souls. We are letting them be destroyed, and dare I say, the church is even helping by destroying people’s faith.
Tozer is correct, and we must realize that we always exist in crisis. Add to that the idea of Keating, that our way of battle is not promoting ourselves, but dying to self, that Jesus may be seen, instead of us. That those who are baptized become the evidence of Christ’s death and resurrection. That must be our strategy, that must be our missional value.
How about this for a mission statement for a church?
Making manifest Jesus’ love, by dying to self!
This is how we see our real enemies, sin, self-centeredness, and Satan defeated.
Our weapons are simply, the early Lutherans identified them as all that is necessary for church unity.
Teaching people what they need to know about Jesus, and sharing Him through Baptism, Absolution and the Lord’s Supper.
Each of these sacraments helps us see how we died to self and have risen in Christ. Each shows us the love and mercy of God. They do so for they are commissioned by Jesus to deliver that promise.
You want the world to change? You want everyone to do what is right? You want to win the war we are in?
Know Jesus, experience His love poured out on you… share that victory with others, seeing them freed from what Christ has freed you- not from – but to… to share in the glorious love of God.
For that … should be what we consider normal.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
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), 223.
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), 516.
8 Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed—9 for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then they went home. John 20:8-10 NLT
This changes the conversation on problems in the ministry immensely. Yet most of us still don’t get it. We keep focusing on visible things and neglect the spiritual. Ironic, isn’t it? You and I both know that most of our work involves things that are invisible, yet very real. No one has ever seen God, after all, and yet you and I daily teach and preach about him to others. We console, comfort, rebuke, and exhort the faithful using the invisible power of the Holy Spirit mediated through the word and sacraments. Forgiveness, peace, holiness, joy, consolation—all these are intangible and beyond the range of the senses, and yet our work revolves almost totally around these invisible things. It’s strange, then, that when confronted with roadblocks and obstacles in ministry we address only things we can see, touch, and measure externally.
But if we view creation with the eyes of love, then we will understand it, despite all the evidence that seems to point to the absence of love in the world. We will understand the ultimate purpose of creation: not only the purpose of its essence, which we seem to make some sense of through the various intelligible relationships among individual natures, but the purpose of its existence in general, for which no philosophy can otherwise find a sufficient reason.
The disciples had a lot to learn, as does every Christian.
But it is not just something discovered in the classroom or found by reading blogs or listening to podcasts. Like the sermons preached every Sunday in a million churches, lectures, lessons, and the ubiquitous podcasts and blogs are heard by the intellect. The “aha” moment that struck up such a passionate response in praise on Sunday is gone by Tuesday, or perhaps Wednesday.
This was true of the disciples – they heard Jesus speak of his death and resurrection. They heard that the seed needs to fall to the ground and die, then life is given to a multitude. They heard all the parables. The Apostle John said that until the moment they entered the tomb… they still didn’t understand the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.
They had to encounter and experience the incredible love of God, at work at the cross, and then, only then, in the darkest spiritual despair, find the living Lord. The impossible had to happen – they would never understand it until it was experienced. The word of God simply points to that experience, where forgiveness, peace, holiness, joy, consolation – all these things Senkbeil points to and more, flood the life of one who knows Jesus died and rose… for them.
As we encounter Jesus, risen from the dead, life can make sense. Existence is no longer an ordeal to be navigated. It is about God’s love for us and the ability to love He enables in us. That is the ultimate purpose of Creation seen in the empty tomb… we need to know the power of His resurrection – for it is at work in us.
This was done…
The scriptures reveal this; this is what the sacraments help us experience.
We need to look in the tomb… we need to experience the death and resurrection of Jesus. We need to finally understand…He is Risen, and therefore we are risen indeed! All praise and glory to our Lord! Amen!
Senkbeil, Harold L. 2019. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Balthasar, Hans Urs von. 2004. Love Alone Is Credible. Translated by D. C. Schindler. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Take My Life! What Does that Mean?
1 Kings 19:1-8
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ enable you to joyously invite God to take your life and let it be dedicated to Him!
100 years…. A lesson
Church experts, both in Lutheran circles and in other denominations, talk about church life cycles. There is a bit of evidence for this, at least statistically.
Simple theory, the first ten years, the church grows and explodes. The second ten years, it keeps on the trajectory, growing developing programs. In the third ten years, it slows down and loses momentum, and in the last ten, it plummets towards death and closing.
One of the guys who came up with this theory noted that exceptional churches didn’t splash down….they didn’t die.
They simply see God at work still, the God who takes their life. They see God consecrating them as the Holy Spirit making them holy, setting them apart as they dwell with Christ.
That’s how the churches that last 100 years last! They are re-focused on the work of Christ in their midst! They rejoice in the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells in them, the Spirit whose indwelling is the promise of their baptism. The promise that is celebrated as they break the Bread and drink what Christ has provided!
And they live in that joy, loving God who loves them, and with Him, loving their communities, as they teach them all about Jesus.
In the words of the hymn, Jesus takes their life and consecrates it.
When do we pray for God to take our life?
In the reading this morning from 1 Kings, Elijah tries to give God his life.
Hear his words again,
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 1 Kings 19:4 (ESV)
There are two problems with this, and it is not that he journeyed to Palmdale. 😊
We face both problems, temptations that, if acted upon, result in sin.
The first is asking God to take his life, not from trusting God to do something with it, but from despair.
Basically, he thought it was time to end it all, and we get there at times. As individuals and as churches, we can get to the point where it seems the work is more than we can deal with, that the investment of our time, our hearts, and energy is not there.
And I bet over the last 100 years, there have been times when people in this church felt that way!
“Lord, we’ve been faithful, we’ve supported our school, we’ve bought the new hymnals, we’ve volunteered for the choir, or we’ve held board positions. The church isn’t what it was 30 years ago, or even before COVID struck.”
And so we doubt what God has in mind for this church – that He’s not revealed yet! Elijah was so focused on his energy into the ministry that he failed to see what God was doing through him.
He was relying all on his own power and reason….
And we’ve done the same thing on occasion.
The second error he made is found in these words,
“for I am no better than my fathers.”
While Elijah’s life led him to think he was done because he didn’t have anything left in the tank, the second, deeper sin crept in. He forgot the call on his life and the work that God made. By saying he was not better, he forgot what God was not doing through him but in him.
He was different from his father’s, at least the ones who died in rebellion and sin.
He walked with God, and God guided his way and empowered the victories he had experienced and would experience. His life had been taken and consecrated to God.
Just as God will do so here, in this place…
But we have to see how God ministered to Elijah.
We have to see how God would take his life and consecrate it to him.
How did God consecrate Elijah’s life
We need to see this work of God in Elijah’s life, and then we can see it in ours. For it is the sweet message of the gospel that helps us heal from our sins, the sins of not depending on God for strength, and that of doubting God’s work within us as if God could not consecrate and make us holy.
It happens as a messenger from God came to Elijah, hear again of the words of scripture,
And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 1 Kings 19:5 (ESV)
He looked – and there was the provision of God for him – enough to get him through the day…
Something to eat, something to drink – provided for him by God, and the messenger simply drew his attention to it. This is what scripture says happened next….
And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. 1 Kings 19:6-8 (ESV)
The journey was too incredible, the messenger said so – so he would eat and drink again. He would then travel to Horeb – to find God and speak with Him, before taking on more tasks.
But there is our lesson – to realize that there are times when we forget what God does through us because we forgot what God does in us.
He takes our lives and melds them to Jesus’s death and resurrection in baptism, recreating us and making us new by the power of His word, for He promised this.
And then He brings us back to remember that, every time we look and rise, take the Bread, and the wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus, given and broken for us.
This is where you will find God taking your lives, the lives of the school children here, and the lives of this community and consecrating them for another 100 years.
This is where you will see that consecration’s impact in this life, as God drives us to others who are broken, to invite them to share in this mystery God blesses us within Christ.
The Apostle Paul explained it this way,
27 To them, God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. Colossians 1:27-28 (ESV)
This is why the Grace Lutheran Church of Lancaster has endured 100 years of heat, good times, and trying times… and what it will do if it endures another 200…
To declare to the people who are in this sanctuary, to the children who sit in those classrooms, to work with the other churches to make it known in this valley, the glory of this mystery;
Christ, who was born of Mary, suffered under Pontus Pilate, was crucified, died, was buried and rose again, and did so to bring you to God the father.
The Spirit united you to Him in Baptism. We celebrate this together, as we arise and eat and drink.. looking forward to the day we will eat at the Wedding feast of the lamb.
This is most certainly true.
So my new friends, in a moment, we will share and celebrate this mystery, as the Lord takes your life and again consecrates it, for we know the Lord is with you! And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the LORD has done. Psalm 118:17 (NLT2)
We rejoice and are glad in Thee who hast had compassion upon us, and hast delivered our souls. And we beseech Thee, enlighten our hearts, so that Thy birth may minister to us grace against sin, death, Hell and the power of the Devil; and by Thy Holy Spirit comfort and sustain us in the perils and pains of the last hour. All of which we ask, O precious Jesus, who art blessed and exalted forever, for the sake of Thy miraculous incarnation. Amen.
Those who share in the cross do not need to verify their activity with triumphalism because they know that the cross itself is already a triumphant victory.
On August 3, 30 years ago, everything in my life changed.
I died. After a signifcant bout with Arythimic Tachycardia, paramedics and doctorshad to defibrillate me 5 times. I woke up days later, when my heart was medically able to keep a normal rhythm. Since then I’ve had implanted defibrillaors put in, replaced, and replaced again. I have had two heart valves replaced with mechanical valves. Cardiomyoapthy is an issue, because of the meds, diabetes would as well.
Life changed that day. So much of it changed.., and so many things I enjoyed, I miss.
Boogy-boarding, martial arts, basketball, volleyball, running, other activities. My life for 30 years has been more sedate, less dynamic, and there are times where life simply is not good. It is not enjoyable. I’ll be honest, there are times it is seriously depressing, when things ae dark. And Satan knows how to get the most out of such times.
It is one of the reasons I like reading Luther and Pope Francis, and now Loehe.
They treat life as it is, broken, and not the way it should be. They acknowledge the dark stuff, and the work of Satan in our lives. Consider these words of Luther’s,
I’ve heard no argument from men that persuaded me, but the bouts I’ve engaged in during the night330 have become much more bitter than those during the day. For my adversaries have only annoyed me, but the devil is able to confront me with arguments. Often he has offered an argument of such weight that I didn’t know whether God exists or not. I shall now confess this to you so that you won’t believe him. When I was without the Word of God and was thinking about the Turks, the pope, the princes, etc., he came and struck against me with weapons. But when I have taken hold of the Scriptures I have won.
I can’t pretend everything is good in the middle of the battle, in the throughs od despair. I used to try, and it would exhaust me. Jeremiah 20:7 became my go to cry, not just because of my pain, but because of the pain I watch others endure. That too is a challenge, as I’ve watched people deal with guilt and shame, as I’ve watch them overwhelmed by grief or anxiety, as I’ve watched them struggle, and those around them struggle.
The idea of the “triumphant, victorious Christian life” is not in my wheelhouse.
I deal with these dark times now differently that I did when I was younger. I accept that life isn’t a bowl of cherries, or that I don’t have the spiritual equivelant to Tom Brady’s football career. And words like Loehe’s are there to help me focus on what is good and right.
The love and compassion of Jesus.
For as I realize that, as it is revealed through the Word and the Sacraments, I don’t care about the stuff that I’ve lost. I care about what is coming, and I can look to Jesus. And that is everything.
To know He sustains me in those dark times, to know He takes care of everything Satan can throw at me, to know that life has more meaning than a perfect set in volleyball, or a spinning crescent kick connecting.
There is life made whole, even in the midst of the pain, and the loss, because there is Jesus.
SO I will live, and I will tell people what He’s done.
He’s made me, and you, His own.
and that means more than anything else, than everything else.
It even makes the darkness, gloriously a light in His glory.
May my words help you to see this, so that we can stop pretending that everything is good… and know that because He loves us… it is serenely beautiful.
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), 133.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 123–124.
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), 93.
We Could Not Die Eternally
So He died…
† In Jesus Name †
May the Death of Jesus prove to you the love of God!
- Do we “get it.”
You have come here or are watching online because it is Good Friday. Hopefully, that means you know a little about Jesus and why we have a wooden thing hanging over a thing that looks like a table.
Your knowledge has to go deeper than that… and it has to go deeper than he died to pay for your sins.
That is important, but it is the first step on a journey. Perhaps it is better to picture it as having the door opened and being invited into a home built just for you.
What the cross opens up for you is amazing.
A.W. Tozer explained it well,
That life in the Spirit that is denoted by the term “deeper life” is far wider and richer than mere victory over sin, however vital that victory may be. It also includes the thought of the indwelling of Christ, acute God-consciousness, rapturous worship, separation from the world, the joyous surrender of everything to God, internal union with the Trinity, the practice of the presence of God, the communion of saints and prayer without ceasing.
This is what the cross opens up to us, a life that is acutely aware of the presence of God, and that awareness leaves us in awe, but not in terror.
We know we are welcome.
- Sin Exists
This is not to say our sin is meaningless. It would take the death of Jesus to atone for it.
Our sin is severe; it is not just waived away as if it was meaningless. The hurt and pain it causes are real. Very real. We can’t just dismiss it, saying that it is dealt with.
We must realize what it could have cost us.
We could be heading to hell, the place we deserve, because we chose to separate ourselves from God. We may think it a little sin, or we may know it is a humongous sin.
It’s real, it is no joke, and it is what the death on the cross saves us from, as Jesus took on the burden of all our sin….
Jesus once told the apostles and Peter that the gates of hell could not prevail against the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. In saying that He was saying what comes at the cross, nothing can keep the sinner from being saved, from being rescued, for Christ has broken the power of sin and death.
But what happens next… what does this mean…
How do you make sense of His brutal death?
Especially when he could have stopped it, with the snap of a finger?
- This is love – we couldn’t
This is what it is all about! This ministry that we have here focuses on the cross, not as the most important thing, but as the entrance into that.
Just as baptism, absolution, and the Lord’s Supper are pipelines of grace, so is the cross a point of grace, the light that shines in the darkness – drawing us to Jesus.
This is the point of God’s love.
He couldn’t let us die eternally; that was not His plan.
We couldn’t die eternally…. So He died…
This is what grace is… this is what love is…
This is God’s desire to spend eternity with you.
Trust Him; he laid it all on the line… so you would know you are loved.
 A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).