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.
Three different times, I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Co 12:8–10. NLT
When the doctor’s (Luther) wife exclaimed, “How can people be so wicked and defile themselves with such sin!” the doctor said, “Ah, dear Katy, people don’t pray,” and then he added, “I think if God had commanded women to take on every man who happened along and in like manner commanded men to take every woman who came by—in short, if things were the opposite of what they are—people would earnestly have sighed for the institution of marriage.
Our lofty idealism would argue that all Christians should be perfect, but a blunt realism forces us to admit that perfection is rare even among the saints. The part of wisdom is to accept our Christian brothers and sisters for what they are rather than for what they should be.…
The Gift of Understanding reveals what is hidden in the major truths of Christian doctrine. The Gift of Understanding perfects, deepens, and illumines faith as to the meaning of revealed truth, adding new depths to the mystery to which we consent. For instance, it could be some aspect of the Holy Trinity or the greatness of God. It could be the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. It could be the infinite mercy of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In other words, it is not merely the affirmation of something we believe and assent to. A characteristic of the Gift of Understanding is that it provides a kind of living experience of the mystery.
Luther’s wife and Tozer would have gotten along well! Both of them could voice their frustration with people who don’t mature in Christ, who still struggle, and sometimes embrace the sin that defiles them. Tozer had to remind himself and the church that Christians aren’t perfect, not even the holiest of us.
This doesn’t mean that we use some trite phrase to excuse the sin and unrighteousness that we should have set aside! “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven,” is one of them, which seems to allow for Christians to have the freedom to go and sin some more!
Nor do I think we should use what Luther jokes about, a kind of reverse psychology/spirituality that encourages people to feast on their sins till they make them sick to their souls. That didn’t work when my dad tried to teach me the evils of drinking, it won’t work with sin either. Luther’s point is that it wasn’t the sin, it was that whatever is labelled good – whatever is encouraged, our sinful nature will rebel against it!
For me, the frustration of this is one of my weakest points. I am not the most patient person, and I hate seeing myself or others endure the consequences of our own sin and sin nature. TO watch this over and over, to watch people make bad choices for themselves over and over, leaves me dry, worn out, burnet out.
Oddly enough, that is when God works the best.
That is when those blessed sacramental, incarnational moments occur.
It is when people begin to live in the mysteries, especially the sacramental ones, where they experience the love and acceptance of God so profoundly that they (and their pastor/friend) are in awe, and lose the ability to talk.
Those are the moments when we realize how sufficient, how effective, how precious the grace of God is.
I only wish I could say with Paul that I always treasure my weakness, that when I experience them I know something astonishing is about to take place. I wish I could say that, and it is a lesson that is being taught to me, over and over and over…
And Jesus never fails to amaze me, as those moments that impact others come out of moments of my most profound ineptness, weakness, and sense of failure. In those moments, when God’s grace is so manifest – the spiritual growth is amazing as its lack was disturbing.
He is here! He is God! He is guiding and caring for us!
and in that, I can rejoice, and find rest, and praise Him.
I pray the same for you! And then I will rejoice in what God is doing in our lives. That is our moments of weakness, and in our moments of frustration with other’s weakness, we can remember God is at work… and He is creating masterpieces of our lives.
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), 415.
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), 209.
I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The LORD gave me what I had,
and the LORD has taken it away.
Praise the name of the LORD!”
Since all standard hymns have been edited to delete inferior stanzas and since any stanza of the average hymn can be sung in less than one minute … and since many of our best hymns have already been shortened as much as good taste will allow, we are forced to conclude that the habit of omitting the third stanza reveals religious boredom, pure and simple, and it would do our souls good if we would admit it.
As we begin to trust God more, we enjoy a certain freedom from our vices and may often experience great satisfaction in our spiritual endeavors. When God decides we are ready, he invites us to a new level of self-knowledge. God withdraws the initial consolations of conversion, and we are plunged in darkness, spiritual dryness, and confusion. We think that God has abandoned us.… Then comes a period of peace, enjoyment of a new inner freedom, the wonder of new insights. That takes time. Rarely is there a sudden movement to a new level of awareness that is permanent. What happens when we get to the bottom of the pile of our emotional debris? We are in divine union. There is no other obstacle.
The second and third readings are cause and effect.
When our worship becomes dry, when our spiritual lives exist in a state of boredom, we need God to take action.
But I will warn you, it isn’t pretty. It may not be as dramatic as Job encounters, but it will feel like it at times. (It does for me today) The classic devotional text The Dark Night of the Soul, also documents this, and how God allows Satan to strike us, for our good.
Like Job, the journey isn’t easy, like Job the challenges overwhelm us, and we find ourselves at the point of despair, and we will accuse God of abandoning us. That accusation may come with surprising force, because it comes from the darkest regions of our heart and soul.
God hears the accusation as a prayer. A cry for help that will be answered in a way that Keaton recognizes is full of peace. We abandon ourselves into the hands of a loving, merciful God, and are willing to see what He will do, for there is nothing else. Everything, including our hearts and minds are emptied out, and He is there… and that is what we need.
For we realize it is a blessed thing for God to take away what divides us from Him. That is part of His healing ministry.
Oddly enough, this healing work, stripping us of all that isn’t of God–that is the content of many of those “third verses” that Tozer laments the loss of. Consider this one
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought (a thought)
My sin, not in part, but the whole (every bit, every bit, all of it)
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more (yes)
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul
(from It is Well with My Soul!)
God is with us…Blessed Be His Name!
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), 179.
Thoughts to encourage us to cling to Jesus
From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.* 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God,* is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. John 1:16-18 NLT
The law of the leader tells us who are preachers that it is better to cultivate our souls than our voices.… We cannot take our people beyond where we ourselves have been, and it thus becomes vitally important that we be men of God in the last and highest sense of that term.
So the struggle ensues: Every baptized believer lives each day on a battlefield in this fallen world, contending not just against the devil but also wrestling with the compulsions and obsessions of his own sinful flesh. These forces conspire to defile and desecrate the holiness that belongs to every baptized believer. That means that the Christian life in this world calls for constant vigilance; the Christian is always under siege and at war with the devil, this sinful world, and his own sinful flesh.
I am not sure what I believe regarding trickle down economics – and this post is not a challenge to convince me one way or another. But I am going to apply the theory to discipleship. That discipleship is something that trickles down – or perhaps trickles up – since pastors and other ministers are servants, not masters. But if the pastor/minister is to be a shepherd, they need to be disciples – and they need their time sitting with the Master, being taught and healed and cleansed by Him.
Senkbeil explains why – the struggle. Every pastor, every priest, every director of Christian Ed or elder or member of the altar guild is involved in a struggle. No, not a struggle, the struggle. And that requires constant vigilance – not to fight the war by one’s own strength – but to be vigilant by keeping one’s eyes on Christ! There is our only answer, our only hope, our only refuge – just in Jesus.
For as the gospel points out, He reveals to us the Father, and the Father’s love for us. And so we have to listen and think, and be “illuninated” by the Holy Spirit. (This is Luther’s phrase from the catechism – it means the Spirit has to turn the lights on in us… so we stop stumbling in the dark!) Without that ongoing ministry of sanctification, we don’t know the glory and joy of being freed – and we can’t lead others through it.
Tozer says we can’t lead where we haven’t been. You can’t take someone thorugh the ominous oppressive darkness, unless you are going thorugh it, guided by Jesus. We can’t help them deal with that which defieles and desecrates them, unless we’ve come to that place where healing begins as Jesus deals with that which still tries to defile an desecrate us.d
This isn’t about us just leading people in spiritual disciplines as if we were a PE coach or drill instructor ordering people around. We have to be there, familiar with the muck and mire, familiar with the despair, haunted by the grief and shame – but familiar as well with the joy of having the weight lifted from us by Jesus. We have to depend on Him, we have ot see how much He loves us, how faithful He is to us.
and living in Christ – well that does trickle down – or up…
Tozer, A. W. 2015. Tozer for the Christian Leader. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Senkbeil, Harold L. 2019. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Thoughts encouraging our devotion to Jesus… as we are reminded He is devoted to us!
And if the LORD is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. 9 Do not rebel against the LORD, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the LORD is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!” Numbers 14:8-9 NLT
Nor can godly minds be fortified against despair unless they think that through mercy on account of Christ and not on account of the law they with certainty have both righteousness and eternal life. This conviction consoles, uplifts, and saves godly minds.
It seems to me that having watched the Egyptian army drown in the Red Sea, the descendants of Abraham should have been ready to see God defeat the giants. That they would be prepared to follow him, abiding in His presence.
My view is unrealistic, those people struggled just like we do today, and while they had the pillar of fire and the cloud with them, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
It is when we forget He has declared us righteous and given us the promise of everlasting life that our eyes look to what they see below.
Too often, we forget Jesus and His promise to never abandon us. That is when our anxiety runs rampant, when our fears overwhelm us when we fall, as Israel did.
This is nothing new; Solomon wrote, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed. Proverbs 29:18 (MSG)
There is the key to surviving when we know we are up to the challenge. It sounds so easy, so elementary, to simply know that God has promised our righteousness and our eternal welcome into His presence. A presence we boldly enter because of Jesus and the cross. If He has made that sure, then the rest of life’s challenges become acceptable, tolerable, endurable.
One last thing – even thought those people in Numbers did not enter the Holy Land in this life, they were still God’s people. Christ would die for their sins as well as ours. While they didn’t see the promises in this life, He never left them, never stopped providing manna for them, and walked with them through it all Even in ths midst of their wounds… He was there… and at the cross, they truly became righteous, and entered into His rest.
He is here, and will be during our journey, until we are home…with Him. He will walk with us, through our troubled times, and He will bring us home. For we are the people He has declared righteous….and He is faithful to that promise.
Apology of the Augsburg Confession: Article IV Justification, Kolb, Robert, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand. 2000. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress 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:
This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
1 Corinthians 12:24-26 (NLT2)
The Christian who is seeking better things and who has to his consternation found himself in a state of complete self-despair need not be discouraged.
Despair with self, where it is accompanied by faith, is a good friend, for it destroys one of the heart’s most potent enemies and prepares the soul for the ministration of the Comforter.…
…..His love will never fail even while taking us through this experience of self-crucifixion.
The same: (John Chrysotom) “When you flee to the church, do not flee to a place, but flee to it with your heart; for the essence of the church does not consist in wall and masonry but in faith and virtue …. It is called a mountain because of its firmness; a virgin because of its sanctity; a queen because of its glory; a king’s daughter because of its relation with God; a mother, having given birth, because of the great number of her children whom it conceived after it had been childless for a long time, not to speak of uncountable other names that Holy Scripture gives to it in addition”
The Lord does not come just to liberate the oppressed so they would feel good, but to send them to mission. He does not announce a year of grace to give us a “sabbatical” but to entrust us with the mission of living our lives by actively participating in everything that enhances our and other’s dignity as sons and daughters of the living God.
When I started my devotional time this morning, I really didn’t like that first reading, the one in purple aboce from Tozer. You and I don’t want to hear about despair, we deal with it enough in real life, especially in 2020. Too many people anxious, COVID, elections, changes, and too many people mourning. Despair is all aorund us, and it sucks us dry at times.
But as I read it, I have to admit, my mind started wandering to what was God preparing me for, by having me read this! Times of self-crucifixion are never easy, and we tend to do a good job of it…. adding extra spikes here and there as our minds spin out of control.
Walther’s quote of John Chrysotom’s started to counteract the building anxiety over what could be coming next. His description of the church is beautiful and distracting, but the line about running to the church means there is something to run from – and my mind went back to a slight form of spiritual paranoia. (okay – its 2020 – maybe not that slight!)
The church, the body of Christ, is not the refuge, but together finds refuge in Him. Where two or three are drawn together, there He is, our refuge, our sanctuary, our rest and our peace. I have found this so true, even more so in 2020 as the people of God, gathered together in person or on line, find the presence of God together. We truly suffer together, and rejoice together. We laugh and cry together, we find the freedom to do so. And then we find healing…. sometimes slower than we would like. Sometimes the progress isn’t as sequentials as we would like, but we find it, Together. In the presnce of God, we resonate, sharing the same note. If it be a sweet one, itis sweet, if it is in minor keey, then we resoinate with it as well, touched by the Holy Spirit, our harmony testifies to His presence.
At which point the words of Pope Francis come into play. Even as we are healing, Christ goes with us to bring that healing to others. He uses the word dignity there. and I had to think about it for a moment. Looking it up, among the definitions there is the idea of worth. Of helping people see their worth, not just in the eyes of others, but in their own, and in God’s eyes. As we heal, it happens as God provies how much He values us… and that is the greatest of game changers.
TO know that we are loved, that we are treasured, that God promises to make our lives, even our times of despair masterpieces… that is amazing.
Lord, help us realize the Spirit’s presence in our lives, and as we are comfoted, as we find healing, help us see those you send us to, to help them hlea as well.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
C. F. W. Walther, Church and Ministry: Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry, electronic ed. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1987), 33.
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), 366.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 On the third dayq Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac.r In his hand he took the fire and the knife,s and the two of them walked on together.
7 Then Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father.”
And he replied, “Here I am, my son.”
Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provideG,t the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Then the two of them walked on together. Genesis 22:4-8 CSB
Love also implies hope. The Christian’s vision of our surroundings has to be optimistic. Not the naïve optimism of someone oblivious to the undeniable presence of evil, but that supernatural joy that is founded on a trusting abandonment to the plans of God’s loving Providence and on the free collaboration of people of good will with those plans.
To their mortal eyes He appeared as fire, and may we not safely conclude that those Scripture-taught believers knew at once what it meant? The God who had appeared to them as fire throughout all their long history was now dwelling in them as fire. He had moved from without to the interior of their lives. The Shekinah that had once blazed over the mercy seat now blazed on their foreheads as an external emblem of the fire that had invaded their natures.
This was Deity giving Himself to ransomed men. The flame was the seal of a new union. They were now men and women of the Fire.
I have seen a lot of despair in the last week. Politically among both those expeccted to win, and thosse expeccted to lose. I have seen it as well asthoseewh look at their churches and wonder how the churh will continue to be the church. They look for aswers, they dreamm dreamss, they read book about journeying into the unknown, looking for anything that wilgive them hope to continue their ministry, no matter how different it will look. Some of us, are in despair, because a good friend is ill, another is dealing with the loss of memory, and th ability to express their wisdom. More despair is being adresed by those who have someone dear to thm dying, and even harder, when onperson is being sucked into a ife of sn.
In the midst of this, I have hearpeople cry out, “now what?”
And I cry with them. I have to ask that question, for if I do not, I will not see the answer.
(remember, it is a verb!) Hope, looking forward to the things God has promised.
So, what now? HOPE
You see that hope in Abraham, knowing he was going to sacrifice his son, and yet he says, that they will return together. You see it as he is tying up his son, and utters that God will provide.
No knowledge of how, but clinging to the idea that God cannot go back on his promise!
Hope is not naive! Hope is not to be confused with blind optimism. Hope is not blind to either evil, or the consequences of sin that is so visible in our broken world. It recognizes that, and something more….
It is abandoning our worries, our anxieities, our fears and pains simply because the Holy Spirit has invaded our lives. His presence, an unquenchable fire, causes us to endure…. even as it purifies us. This is where hope comes from, as the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of God’s love for us.
To realize the promises of God, such as this one, “5 Then I, myself, will be a protective wall of fire around Jerusalem, says the LORD. And I will be the glory inside the city!’” Zechariah 2:5 (NLT2)
This is the role of the Spirit in our lives… it is the Spirit who gives us real life… who gives us hope.
So what now? Hope! for the Lord is with you!!
Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (p. 68). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Devotional Thought for the Day:
No longer will the Philistines eat meat with blood in it or any unclean food. They will become part of the people of our God from the tribe of Judah. And God will accept the people of Ekron, as he did the Jebusites. Zechariah 9:7
To bless God for mercies received is also the way to benefit our fellow-men; “the humble shall hear thereof and be glad.” Others who have been in like circumstances shall take comfort if we can say, “Oh! magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together; this poor man cried, and the Lord heard him.” Weak hearts will be strengthened, and drooping saints will be revived as they listen to our “songs of deliverance.” Their doubts and fears will be rebuked, as we teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. They too shall “sing in the ways of the Lord,” when they hear us magnify his holy name.
I didn’t want to write today, matter of fact, I didn’t want to even do my devotional reading. I realized as I did that I missed yesterday, and that may be part of the problem.
Another part was the serious prayer requests I’ve recevied over the last few days, people I long to help, but cannot visit them, cannot commune them, only just talk over the phone and pray with them. It doesn’t seem “enough”.
There are many things wearing me down as well – for example – receiving a note that I shouldn’t vote on election day, in order to protect me and my loved ones. Looking at the vanity of agendas all around me.
And in the midst of this funk, I come across this quote from Spurgeon, and again my heart looks forward to Sunday. When weak hearts like mine will be strengthened, when drooping saints will experience God’s revival… even as we sing of God’s rescuing us, even as we praise Him together.
Amidst this funk, the words of a little read prophet remind me of God’s care for every one of us, even us “gentiles”. For God will accept us, He will cleanse us, He has made us part of His people. He did this at the cross, and in the resurrection, as we died with Christ, so that we can be raised with Him.
One thing I have learned over this life, such times of despair are relatively short lived – at most the times in between gathering with others, seeing and hearing of how God is at work in their lives.
Sunday, my congregation will sing the following words, of a new version of the Sanctus…. “For you are Holy Lord… so PLEASE, save us Lord.” The “please save us” is the cry normally said this way, Hosanna! When I hear those words, along with the praises of Holy, I shall be lifted up, my heart will be strengthen, and revival will be there….
even as it is now….
When you hit bottom emotionally, spiritually, even physically, it is such a cry, recognizing God’s holiness, and our need for being rescued, that helps us remember His promise… and then gives us the endurance we need in such times….as we wait on Him, and know that He is Lord.
For that is enough…for this day.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).