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Biblical Evangelism is not what you think it is…

Thoughts that encourage us to adore our God,

3  With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation! 4  In that wonderful day you will sing: “Thank the LORD! Praise his name! Tell the nations what he has done. Let them know how mighty he is! 5  Sing to the LORD, for he has done wonderful things. Make known his praise around the world. Isaiah 12:3-5 (NLT2)

Our Lord commands us to pray the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into His harvest field. What we are overlooking is that no one can be a worker who is not first a worshiper. Labor that does not spring out of worship is futile.… (1)

I think the post enlightenment church has evangelism all wrong. Especially as it tries to address the post modern age, and the world which gave birth to post modernism.

Evangelism is ultimately nothing more than worship. That is all it is, where the joy of seeing God at work in our lives is so celebrated that we share that joy (and the comfort) with those around us.

This is far different than evangelisms programs today, which train people to prove Chirstianity, to argue about its logic compared to the other religious systems, or against the logic of prominent atheists. It takes the form of combat, or at least a competitive debate. We talk of proofs and confrontations, and it seems some are as happy when some walk away in frustration as when someone gets baptized.

That is not why the world will know about God according to scripture. It is not about the victory of logic, but the transformation the Spirit causes as Jesus is preached. That is where God’s might is focused, on our redemption, on making us who were sinners into the people He has set apart to dwell with Him.

Evangelism is simply what happens when we realize that God removes all of our that causes the shame and guilt which burdens us, and promises He will care for us forever. We just have to tell somebody!

Which means that just as Evangelism is simply praising God for what He has done… worship is simply a reaction to His love and mercy that is at work transforming us.

It is that simple – so if you want to see the world saved…(and you should!) praise God for what He has done….


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

Time to stop running…

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Thoughts to deepen our devotion to Jesus 

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Get up! Go to the great cityc of Nineveh and preach against ite because their evilf has come up before me.” 3 Jonah got up to flee to Tarshishh from the LORD’s presence. John 1:1-3 CSB

“Erasmus, Oecolampadius, Zwingli, and Karlstadt want to measure everything by their wisdom and so they become confused. I thank God that I know and believe that God knows more than I do. He can do what is above my ability to comprehend. From invisible things he can make visible, for everything that is now happening through the light of the gospel is making visible things out of invisible.

Oh, how many spiritual persons there are who do not become saints, because they will not do themselves the violence to break away from certain little attachments!
All the evil arises from the little love they have for Jesus Christ.

Anyone can do the possible; add a bit of courage and zeal and some may do the phenomenal; only Christians are obliged to do the impossible.

I never like reading Jonah.

We always talk about his running from preaching to “those” people, but the message wasn’t easy to preach either.

Luther talked about preaching the real law- preaching where the people you are talking to fail, where they sin, where their pride leads them to fall. In the passage above, Luther nails four contemporaries – guys that were all polar opposites from each other – but who all thought they knew more than the next guy, indeed, more than God. He went after them, and the people sitting before him, for their sin.

DeLigouri notes a similar thing – that there are people so addicted to certain sins that they won’t break away from them, because they love their sins more than they love God.

Neither the monk-turned-reformer or the priest held back much! They went after people – not to condemn them – but to save them!

I am going to be honest, the reason most of us don’t go after the specks in other’s eyes is that we know there is a log in our own. Or perhaps a redwood forest. To deal with others sin means we have to let Jesus deal with ours.

It is a hard thing to try and rescue people form sin, in fact it is impossible. We can’t do it, but Tozer says we need to, we are obliged to do the impossible. THe reason is simple – it is what Jesus did – for us. Whatever it took – calling us on our sin – and providing a way for it to be covered.

Whatever it takes to save them from sin, means that we have to be willing to identiy the sin – ours and theirs, and bring it to God so that, as promised, they can be cleansed of it. And in the process of their being cleansed, we find our sin dealt with as well, just as Jonah had his sin and rebellion dealt with, as God drew Jonah closer.

You and I, as believers, need that ministry that occurs while we minister to others.

So stop running, stop being afraid of God deling with the log… and as He does,,, look on with wonder as God heals those who you were sent among.

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), 147.

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), 333.

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

Held Responsible…

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

Devotional Thought of the days:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All we have to do is share the news…

God loves them

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

even as He has done this for us.

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

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

The Paradox of Sharing God’s love with others.

Devotional Thought for the Day:

1  Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. 2  I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. Romans 10:1-2 (NLT2)

49  “For everyone will be tested with fire. 50  Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.” Mark 9:49-50 (NLT2)

In apostolate, respect for the inner sanctum of personal conscience is essential: “It is necessary to banish any form of intolerance, coercion and violence in the dealings of some men with others. In apostolic action, rather, especially in apostolic action, we want no slightest trace of coercion. God wants to be served in freedom; therefore, any apostolate that failed to respect the freedom of consciences would not be honest.”

It should be simple, but it is a strange paradox.

The greatest gift we can give to a person, to reveal to them the love of God, we can’t force them to accept. We can’t try to overwhelm them with the logic, we can’t force them to believe.

I have struggled with this most of my ministry, as a lay person and as a pastor. I have struggled with so desiring family and friends to know God’s love. Even to the point of ringing their stubborn necks as they reject God. The opposite approach doesn’t work either – to leave them in peace, hoping and praying tht they might come to their senses.

Mark’s gospel seems contradictory – for salt attcks, it stings, even while it preserves and brings healing. How can we sting and bring peace? How can we long, with God, that all come to repentence, and put our heart into the ministry of reconciliation. How do we correct those who have misdirected zeal, who long for justice without righteousness, who long for love without morals, who long for heaven on earth, without a relationship with the Lord of life?

Is there no easy way to do this? Is there no short and simple approach to saving the world? Can’t we find some Machivellian ruse that brings them into God’s kingdom, and creates enough fear that they live a life free of sin and doubt?

The simple answer is to have faith in God. To simply share with people why they need God, because of sin and death. And then share that God si there. merciful and loving. Then the hardest part – to trust the Holy Spirit to work in them. Just like we have to trust the Holy Spirit to work in us.

To realize the heart of God, and simple live in that heart. To allow God’s message to course through you, and be communicated in love, and know that God will cut open the stong heart, and bring healing. For the will fall in love with God without our coercion, as the Holy Spirit brings them into His presence.

Know the God you have faith in.. and trust in… His desire will make His word, spoken through you, not return void.

Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (p. 91). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

A Chance to Relive OUR Deliverance! A sermon on Luke 8:36-39

A Chance to Relive our Deliverance
Luke 8:36-39

† I.H.S. †

May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you to go all through your community and tell them everything God has done for you!

A Map of our Journey

Today’s message is a little different than most of those I deliver.  I am going to take you on your life’s journey, seen through the eyes of the man who had been possessed not by just a demon, but whose life had been a plaything for thousands of them.

For most of us, such a journey is difficult, because, well I could joke and say it is because we are at Concordia, but because, as one philosopher once said, “life is suffering”  Or so it can seem!  Especially when Jesus seems like he’s moved on from us.

So let the journey begin.

The journey begins… alone and in darkness

Before we knew Christ, and even some days now, our lives seem like that of the man who found Jesus on the side of the lake.  We may not live among the gravestones, or actually be the property of a horde of demons, but our lives may have been as dark.

Sin can dominate and rule us as certainly as demons, and they aren’t afraid to haunt us with temptations that seek to ensnare us 

Like the man, in those dark days, we barely know anything except the emptiness.  We may feel quite distant from people, and though we love them, there is a grave disconnect, as if we aren’t sure they understand us, or “get” us. 

We might even hear their words of love and care as them trying to control us, to force us to change from who we are, for the brokenness we experience seems to be who we are.

When we are in bondage to sin, like when the man was haunted and owned by  demons, there is this sense of walking around in the fog, disconnected from the world.

Even God seems a bit hard to communicate with.

Did you ever notice Jesus doesn’t talk directly to him at first?  He addresses that which haunts him?

Joined on the Journey

On this broken journey, that is what happens next, we all of a sudden find ourselves standing in brilliant daylight, freed from what has hounded us, what has caused us to be disconnected, 

We are no longer alone, as the light sines from our partner in our journey, the one that makes it come alive. The brokenness seems, for the moment to be mending, and people notice as well, something is different in your life. 

Some may even be overwhelmed by the change, like the community where the man who the demons were forced to free were overwhelmed.  They didn’t know what to make of it, and were so afraid, they couldn’t adjust to the glory of God that was transforming this broken man’s life and making him whole and healthy.

No wonder all the man wanted to do was to sit at Jesus feet, to hear Him speak of the Father’s love, to dwell in the sweetness of the moment, to just enjoy the peace and freedom that is here.

I think that is why little kids love to come to this rail and just sit here… I know that is why here, at the altar, or even over on the side, hiding behind the pulpit is the place where I feel the most at home in the entire world.

It is so radically different from dwelling in darkness, hounded by sin and despair.

To just sit here and know, the Lord is with you, and that because Jesus has risen, so we are risen indeed!  ALLELUIA

He wants us to go where?  WHY?

It is then we hear the words of Jesus, as He leaves where He found us, and began our healing, and showed His love, and the life that His gives us, freed, forgiven, and healed/

We want to stay here, we never want to go without Him, and He says to us, as he did to the man, “No, go back to your family and tell them everything God has done for you!”

Uhm, Lord, if I walk away, what happens if the demons return?  What If I can’t handle it, and I fall into temptation and sin reaches out and gets me? 

I can imagine these things went through his mind.  Why?  Because they can go through my mind, when I forget the most important truth in my life, that the Lord Is with me.

Then there is the fear, if I was this man, I would phrase It this way.  “Lord, send me to anywhere, but please not back to the people that know me and my weakness so well. Not back to the people that rejected me, and who I have hurt.  I could come up with 1000 reasons, but the bottom line is that I would rather be here, in them moments to come.

I even wonder if Jesus wasn’t accepted by his family, why I would ever expect my family and my community to listen to me.

Even so, having delivered us from what oppressed us, and as He is healing us, He sends us out, to those who will recognize the change God has made in our lives, to those whom we know need what God has given us. And as we share what God has done in us, we realize the depth of His love even more, and we realize what it means that because He died on the cross, and rose from the dead, we have risen indeed, and were are given new life and the companionship of the Holy Spirit who resides in us.

The more we experience this love, the more we seek to share what God has done, and that is something we can share…. Reliving again and again what He has done, as we share these blessings… and are in awe of His love.

Let’s pray,

Heavenly Father, help us to realize the incredible done in our lives, help us to live our lives, among those whom You have sent us, sharing all the mind-blowing things You have done for us.  Help us to praise Your name while sharing it with those around us who need to escape their darkness.  We pray this in Jesus name.  AMEN!

Let them fall? A Trippy Theory of Evangelism…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

30 So we say that the Gentiles, who were not trying to put themselves right with God, were put right with him through faith; 31 while God’s people, who were seeking a law that would put them right with God, did not find it. 32 And why not? Because they did not depend on faith but on what they did. And so they stumbled over the “stumbling stone” 33† that the scripture speaks of:
“Look, I place in Zion a stone
that will make people stumble,
a rock that will make them fall.
But whoever believes in him will not be disappointed.”

Romans 8:30-33 GNT

25    Don’t argue. Arguments usually bring no light because the light is smothered by emotion.

I believe that I cannot come to my Lord Jesus Christ by my own intellegence or power. But the Holy Spirit call me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith

There is a tendency in American Christianity to try and logically argue people into Christianity. To set up clever quips, ostensibly to humble them and help them realize their need, their brokenness, and that their only hope is found in Jesus.

But if we are arguing based on logic, it is often not that logical. For emotions rule such arguments, and the LOGOS (Jesus) and the light and healing He would offer gets eclipsed by our egos, and by our pride. What comes across is our dependence on our knowledge, on our ability, on our own righteousness before God based on “obeying” a part of the law.

If we are to let the light shine in their lives, if Jesus is going to be revealed, in some ways we have to let them stumble and struggle with their own failures, and be there to show them that they can depend on Jesus.

We have to realize that what we do to put ourselves right with God is futile, we are too broken, sin has too great a hold on us. And to do that, far to often we needed to realize our brokenness, we needed to stumble…

and be caught.

It is then, when we realize it is not by our strength or reason that we are saved that we are ready for the Holy Sprit to work. When we realize we can’t meet the simple standard of Loving God and loving our neighbor that God can come to us in our brokenness and begin healing us, completing us, making us holy because he has made us righteous because of Christ’s death.

It takes a lot of that love to be there when they fall, It takes patience to help them realize that God is there, working in their lives. To watch them struggle, well that never gets easier, but the glorious moment when the Spirit brings them to life, is a miracle you won’t forget.

It is a miracle when someone comes to depend on Jesus, a miracle beyond anything else we will ever witness.

God with them, as He is with us.

Lord, give us the patience to walk alongside people, as You guide their journey to You. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 219-220). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

Worship is more than a service!

Word, bread, wine, CHRIST IS WITH US!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

40 But God raised him from death three days later and caused him to appear, 41 not to everyone, but only to the witnesses that God had already chosen, that is, to us who ate and drank with him after he rose from death. 42 And he commanded us to preach the gospel to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God has appointed judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets spoke about him, saying that all who believe in him will have their sins forgiven through the power of his name.” Acts 10:40-43 GNT

Worship is not only submission, but also translates into the mystery of ‘communion’ and ‘union’.

A conversation I had this week touched on the idea of liturgical worship and its connection to evangelism. I thought it interesting that it wasn’t considered as a natural progression.

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be, given all the years of worship wars that have dominated churches, especially those who have a formal liturgy. Who defines worship and liturgy as what happens in a formal, even antiseptic manner as God blesses His people in a gathering and they respond back with canned prayers and hymns barely sung.

That isn’t worship – although it should be, too often we go about it so mechanically that it isn’t worship. It is simply a machine, a time where we keep everything highly organized and controlled. ( I am not sure if this is to stop our freedom, or to place God in a box!)

In the passage from Acts above, we see Peter describing a complete form of worship, the time where Jesus gathers His people around them and blessed them, and shares a meal with them. Here is our model for the mass, for the gathering on Sunday morning where we come to be taught and fed by God.

Worship includes that time of letting God provide for us, care for us. IN order to do that, we get at the heart of what submission is – not to bow in fear of getting beaten up or abused if we do not but submitting and letting someone else care for us. Think of Peter at the last supper, struggling to submit to Jesus washing his feet. Worship is realizing that we need God’s word, we need to hear of His promises and love, worship is letting Him feed us at the altar. This is the beginning of worship and it includes the prayers where we lay our entire lives before God, trusting Him to cleanse us, to heal our hearts, our minds and souls of the brokenness that is caused by our sin, and to allow Him to do whatever He finds pleasing with our lives.

It is that last part that is also communion, that is also the sweetest of unions. And yet it continues past the benediction, past the exit from the church, past the coffee and doughnuts.

That communion, that sweetest of unions occurs even as we reveal that Jesus is the Messiah, the one who judges His people as being righteous, as being Holy, as being worthy of being the children of God.

For that is what we learn, and re-learn in our church services, it is why our confession says “the chief purpose of all ceremonies is to give people what they need to know about Jesus Christ.”

And that is what our world needs to know… all about Jesus.

That is what our families, our friends, co-workers, and neighborhood needs to know… they need to know the love of Jesus…

The Jesus who died for us, and with whom we are risen to a new life, a life lived in communion. A life lived, being fed and feeding others.

Lord Jesus, help us to grow in our dependence on You, submitting ourselves to Your love and care. Thank You for inviting us to commune with You, to be united to You, and the Father and the Holy Spirit. AMEN!

Aguirre, J. I. M. D. (2012). Eucharistic Adoration and Sacred Scripture. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 101). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Have you said, “I am not an evangelist?” Me too, and we are wrong!

Image may contain: text that says 'Evangelization is not just the proclamation of Christ but also a process ofincorporation into the Church. From this comes the sacramental link between Evangelization and the Eucharist. FROM EUCHARISTIC ADORATION TO EVANGELISM'

Devotional Thought of the Week

I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will always be with you; I will never abandon you. 6† Be determined and confident, for you will be the leader of these people as they occupy this land which I promised their ancestors. 7 Just be determined, be confident; and make sure that you obey the whole Law that my servant Moses gave you. Do not neglect any part of it and you will succeed wherever you go. 8 Be sure that the book of the Law is always read in your worship. Study it day and night, and make sure that you obey everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Remember that I have commanded you to be determined and confident! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I, the LORD your God, am with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:5-9 GNT

When they bring you to be tried in the synagogues or before governors or rulers, do not be worried about how you will defend yourself or what you will say. 12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” Luke 12:11-12 GNT

Evangelization is not just the proclamation of Christ but also a process of incorporation into the Church. From this comes the sacramental link between Evangelization and the Eucharist. The community constitutes itself, in its sacramentality, through the Eucharist and Eucharistic Adoration. As Blessed John Paul II teaches:
Incorporation into Christ, which is brought about by Baptism, is constantly renewed and consolidated by sharing in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, especially by that full sharing which takes place in sacramental communion. We can say not only that each of us receives Christ, but also that Christ receives each of us. He enters into friendship with us: ‘You are my friends’ (Jn 15:14). Indeed, it is because of Him that we have life: ‘He who eats me will live because of me’ (Jn 6:57). Eucharistic communion brings about in a sublime way the mutual ‘abiding’ of Christ and each of His followers: ‘Abide in me, and I in you’ (Jn 15:4). (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 22)

I came across a VHS tape last night, a video that was taken of a sermon I gave at a very prestigious preaching course. (a miracle of how I was there is another story. I didn’t have the academic qualifications or any other for that matter)

Since finding it, I have been thinking about how I have changed in how I preach and teach in the nearly 20 years (this November) since I started that program. There is no doubt I am more capable, from no longer preaching in a monotone, to being able to understand the passage and my people.

That week in Garden Grove was challenging, and the words of my assigned mentor still ring in my ears. Rev. Juan Carlos Ortiz pointed out the illustration I used and said it was the sermon, and to preach as a storyteller. For it was there my sermon cut open his heart, and he forgot he was critiquing the sermon. The story helped him to understand God’s presence, and he urged me, “preach like this!” That made a huge change in how I preach, and even today I struggle to find the one illustration that ties the text to the heart of those who will hear or read it.

The other big change occurred when I became Lutheran and went from understanding the sacraments as my obedience, to what they really are, the means of Grace, the conduits of God’s mercy and love. It is from there, that like Moses and Joshua, the determination and confidence. It is there, receiving the grace of God, becoming part of the community, that I don’t worry about what I am going to say. It is there that I stop trying to convince people that they should listen to me, and simply share the news of God’s love.

Or as the quote in purple put into words far better than mine. Evangelization is not just telling someone God loves them or walking them through 4 spiritual laws, evangelism is assimilating them into the kingdom of God, helping them become part of the community of Christ as God pours out on us His mercy, and transforms us.

No wonder we adore Him! No wonder we are amazed as He gives us His body, broken for us, and asks us to drink of His blood, shed for the forgiveness of all our sin. This is where the evangelist brings people, it is where they become part of the body of Christ, it is where we find peace.. and hope… and healing.

So don’t be anxious, be determined, be confident, and share with people why you have hope. God is with you!


Rey, D. (2012). Adoration and the New Evangelization. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 15). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

The Missing Piece in Missional Thinking: D_____ !

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:
When John the Baptist heard in prison about the things that Christ was doing, he sent some of his disciples to him. 3 “Tell us,” they asked Jesus, “are you the one John said was going to come, or should we expect someone else?”   Matt 11:2-3  TEV

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a place of safety in times of trouble. 10 Those who know you, LORD, will trust you; you do not abandon anyone who comes to you.  Ps. 9:9-10 TEV

When darkness veils His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In ev’ry high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
from the hymn  THE SOLID ROCK by Mote and Bradbury (in public domain)

Mission springs from the certainty of faith that coexists with the thousand
questions of a pilgrim. Faith is not a matter of ideology, existential security, but of an irreplaceable encounter with a living person, Jesus of Nazareth.

Modern renditions of The Solid rock often change the verse above ever so slightly, changing “veils” to “hide”, and robbing the poet of the tie in the second occurrence of the veil.

I picture the sailing boat, anchored but with a thick fog, unable to see where its anchor rope even enters the water, unable to see what the anchor has grasped, but sure of its security, the people on the boat find rest, I also picture the rope, tied to the high priest, who moves from the Holy Place into the Holy of Holies, all hope of Israel tied to him, and the offering which will cover our sin.

And in my reading in the gospel today, we see the prophet John, weary and brutalized, sending word to his cousin, for his own strength no longer sustains him. He sends his men to ask for the words which will sustain him, the words which will assure him of the promise.

And so we can take refuge in the promises of God. We see hope revealed in His providing hold on us that will protect us in the storm, calming us amid the brokenness, even amidst the mess our sins have caused in our lives.

The Lord is with you… He is your God….He changes not, and so you know the love and mercy you experienced once is still there, even when you can’t see it.

Pope Francis, a man who has known a storm or two, takes this a step further. He notes that the pilgrim, the one who God has sent on a mission, can know a thousand questions, can be overwhelmed by them, and even struggle with doubt. Been there, done that, have the scars to prove it.  ANd those questions are a form of doubt, I don’t know the answers, os how can I cling to what is so…spiritual?

His answer is because faith is not just a list of doctrines or even our identity based on our beliefs.  It is more than that, it is a relationship, formed from encountering the living, resurrected, crucified Jesus.   It is that relationship that withstands the questions, the foggy times in life, the times we can’t see the God who holds, protects and preserved us.   But we can know He is there… and as we focus on His love, which word and sacraments refresh our experience of daily, we are free….

Free to reach out to those likewise broken, likewise struggling with sin, likewise wrestling with a thousand questions of doubt, and share with them, whether ancient believer, newly baptized, or those yet to encounter Him, that He is with you all.  Doubt drives us from our own self-sufficiency to realize we need something…not someone more.
And He is here… for all.

Being missional is not about being happy and positive about everything.  The missional Christian isn’t one who exudes confidence in himself or depends on her charisma.  The missional person is one whom simply knows that God is holding them, while they cling to Him, for in Him there is hope, in Him there is healing, and as we encounter Him, we experience life as the ones He loves.

So the next time you struggle, the next time the fog hides His face, hold on to His promises, hold on to those encounters, as you realize He holds onto you, the one He loves. And grab hold of the next person floating buy in the fog, for that is your mission.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

 

Dealing with the Prophecies of Condemnation: Finding Hope rather than despair

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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:

20 The rest of the people, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands to stop worshiping demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood, which are not able to see, hear, or walk. 21 And they did not repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality, or their thefts   Rev. 9:20-21 HCSB

10 I sent plagues like those of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I caused the stench of your camp to fill your nostrils, yet you did not return to Me. This is the LORD’s declaration. Amos 4:10) HCSB

212         Hominem non habeo— I have no one to help me. This—unfortunately!— could be said by many who are spiritually sick and paralytic, who could be useful— and should be useful. Lord: may I never remain indifferent to souls.

7 The source and cause of evil is not God’s foreknowledge (since God neither creates nor works evil, nor does he help it along and promote it), but rather the wicked and perverse will of the devil and of men, as it is written, “Israel, thou hast plunged thyself into misfortune, but in me alone is thy salvation” (Hos. 13:9). Likewise, “Thou art not a God who delights in wickedness” (Ps. 5:4).
8 God’s eternal election, however, not only foresees and foreknows the salvation of the elect, but by God’s gracious will and pleasure in Christ Jesus it is also a cause which creates, effects, helps, and furthers our salvation and whatever pertains to

Every year at this time I end up reading the minor prophets and the BOok of Revelation. It is not a pleasant time in my devotions, as I am forced to face passages like those above. 

Passages that deal with the stubbornness of man, and our ability to ignore God’s call to repentance, and to the healing repentance offers.  It is all too easy to see myself among the sinners, the idolators, to see friends, people I dearly love, condemned by such words.  

Our rebellion is clear, our inability to give up the sins that we fall into, time after time., to powerful. Reformed and Arminian Theologians will argue about predestination, in an attempt to hide from the sorrow that one observes in our lives. Even the Lutheran Theologians who come up with the answer that is described, their words about predestination and foreknowledge don’t help the one who is struggling, questioning their salvation in light of their sin.

For scripture declares that some will never repent of their idolatry and sin. 

And there are days when we wonder with the apostles, “Is it I, Lord?”

AM I the one who won’t beat sin and temptation?  Do I know people like these the prophets and Revelation describe?  And if I do, given that they won’t respond to the gospel ( or I won’t) what good is the ministry, what good is evangelism?

Why engage in a task that has no promise of being fulfilled, given the weight of our sin?

And what can I do, if, like Elijah, I see no hope for the brokenness of this day, and how those broken will have to stand before You, Lord?

I thank God for the words of St Josemaria this morning, the very first quote I came to among his writings, and the heartfelt prayer he wrote,

Lord: may I never remain indifferent to souls.

There are times when dealing with these quotes from the prophets and Revelation, I could give up, I could write it all off, and leave their salvation and mine in the hands of God.  It belongs there, right? 

But He calls each of us to take the news of His love and mercy, of the forgiveness of our sins, of our restoration and healing that He will provide into this world.  It is not all of us that Revelation describes, and the prophets always return to God saving Israel, to His saving a remnant, to the light of the world reaching out to every nation, every tribe, every language.

The answer to the prophetic trauma is to remember the end of the story, not just the cross and God’s wrath, but the Resurrection and God’s joy.  To know that God will save sinners like me, that I can trust and depend on Him for that, and to help me grow more aware of His holiness, His setting Himself apart for us – to be His children, His people, His beloved. 

If people will change, and many many will be changed, transformed by the Holy Spirit. We need to know His mercy and the promise.  We have ot let the Spirit internalize it, even as the Spirit transforms our minds, and replaces our hearts. For this scripture reveals as well, as His promise becomes reality.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 1095-1098). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 617). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Pres

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