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Why We (even Luther and a Catholic Saint) Need a “Safe Place”

my safe place… where bread and wine, Body and Blood of Jesus and His people Celebrate their intimate communion with Him!

Thoughts that help us to adore Jesus, and encourage our devotion to Him..

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. 5 You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials 7 so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. I Peter 1:2-9 CSB

When we really come to admire and love the most sacred humanity of Jesus, we will discover each of his wounds, one by one. When we undergo periods of passive purgation, which we find painful and hard to bear, periods when we shed sweet and bitter tears, which we do our best to hide, we will feel the need to enter into each one of his most holy wounds: to be purified and strengthened, rejoicing in his redeeming Blood. We will go there like the doves which, in the words of Scripture, find shelter from the storm in the crevices in the rocks. We hide in this refuge to find the intimacy of Christ. We find his conversation soothing and his countenance comely15 because “those who know that his voice is gentle and pleasing are those who have welcomed the grace of the gospel, which makes them say: ‘You have the words of eternal life.’”

Second, I give thanks to him for these precious gifts, that he has revealed his name to me and bestowed it upon me, that I can glory in his name and be called God’s servant and creature, etc., that his name is my refuge like a mighty fortress to which the righteous man can flee and find protection, as Solomon says [Prov. 18:10]

I’ve heard people mock the youth for needing safe places, a

I’ve heard people make fun of brave people who state that they need a safe place.

Part of me wants to ensure those who make fun of others realize that they need a safe place as well. The easy way to do that is to firmly correct their errors! First, the error of their failure to love their neighbor. Second, their belief that they are beyond the need for a refuge, a sanctuary, a safe place.

Luther needed such a place; he wrote sermons and more than one hymn about the ability to find safety in the Mighty Fortress that is God. The words he wrote were not as much a doctrinal manifesto as the cry of a heart that needed comfort, that needed peace. Look a the words of his cry in what was never meant to be the battle anthem it has become. Look at the description of the prayer. He knew God was his safe place…

St. Josemaria also found that refuge, that place to hide, as he meditated on the love which welcomed the wounds borne at the cross. This is where we find the greatest and truly only safe place, where even sin cannot do its damage. It is paid for; it is forgiven.

At this point, in such a sanctuary, the words of Peter become so much more than words!  Go up – and read them again!

There is an ability to deal with grief in various trials. It only comes in those intimate moments with God where we realize His ultimate plan. That amid the refining of our faith, as God removes all that is not of Him, that we find a joy that goes beyond anything we can explain. We may not even think of the eternity promised because we are now experiencing a foretaste of it as we rejoice in Christ!

This intimate grace, so full of compassion, so incredibly healing, as we find rest and peace, this is the glory of God, dwelling in us!

This is our safe place, amid the battles, the storms, the complications, the woundedness, and brokenness….

There are times I hate all of that… and yet… in an odd sense, I appreciate it all. For in it, when I don’t run, I realize I have a safe place….there… amid it all, in Jesus.

Lord, in the middle of life, when we are at our wit’s end… help us to remember that You are our safe place, our sanctuary, our Mighty Fortress.  AMEN!

Oh – and stop making fun of people who know they need safe places – and invite them into yours!

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

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 43 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 201.

When all else fails… there is peace with Jesus

May I focus on Jesus, that I may know the love revealed to me in all of life.

He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death. 17 He came and proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. Eph 2:16-17 CSB

“Fear not,” the Angel said to Mary in the announcement of the incarnation of the Word. “Do not be afraid,”
Jesus repeated so many times to the disciples. It is an invitation that opens a new, refreshing space in the soul,
giving security and engendering hope. (1)

During the last eight or nine years of her life, her temptations became still more violent. Mother de Chatel said that her saintly Mother de Chantal suffered a continual interior martyrdom night and day, at prayer, at work, and even during sleep; so that she felt the deepest compassion for her. The saint endured assaults against every virtue (except chastity), and had likewise to contend with doubts, darkness, and disgusts. Sometimes God would withdraw all lights from her, and seem indignant with her, and just on the point of expelling her from him; so that terror drove her to look in some other direction for relief: but failing to find any, she was obliged to return to look on God, and to abandon herself to his mercy. She seemed each moment ready to yield to the violence of her temptations. The divine assistance did not indeed forsake her; but it seemed to her to have done so, since, instead of finding satisfaction in anything, she found only weariness and anguish in prayer, in reading spiritual books, in Communion, and in all other exercises of piety. Her sole resource in this state of dereliction was to look upon God, and to let him do his will. (2)

The way [faith] works in experience is something like this: The believing man is overwhelmed suddenly by a powerful feeling that only God matters; soon this works itself out into his mental life and conditions all his judgments and all his values. (3)

Return, o wander, return and seek an injured Father’s face; those warm desires that in thee burn were kindled by redeclaiming grace! (4)

As I read the section in green this morning, it resonated with me. That dread feeling that God has abandoned me, that even in prayer or devotion or at the altar there is an emptinesss. It seems a burden, and de Ligouri’s use of the word anguish is not… unknown

It takes some time usually, before I realize the joy that seems gone is not. The burdens and pains are, oddly enough, gifts from God given to re-focus me from the means by whcih God comforts me, to God himself.

The nun looks upon God finally, Tozer says we get overwhelmed with the idea that only God matters, we hear God’s call on our lives to not be afraid, to not be anxious…

And we find deeper hope, we find security, we find again the the peace which we proclaim.

We find ourselves in the presence of God, who has never really left us, we’ve not been forsaken, or abandoned.

We just needed to realize that we are not alone.

It is then, just in the presence of God, just as the Holy Spirit defibillates our faith, which was wavering… it is then that all our disciplinesbecome desirable again. It is then we see the blessing of the struggle, that God is using it for good, as He has promised to us. The pain and tears are blessings, the dryness is a sign of God’s care… to get us to see HIm… and Him alone.

Everything we do, will at some point fail. But He never will, and as we realize it is all about Him… everything else will come alive as well.

Relax, know that God is with you – and let His peace wash over you!

He loves you… He is with you!

(1) 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), 324.

(2) 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), 467.

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

(4) Collyer, Evangelical Lutheran Hymn Book, #54 (Concordia Publishing House 1927)

The Need to Correct Others

Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. Romans 12:21 CSB

Let us come now to the means which we have to employ in order to vanquish temptations. Spiritual masters prescribe a variety of means; but the most necessary, and the safest (of which only I will here speak), is to have immediate recourse to God with all humility and confidence, saying: Incline unto my aid, O God; O Lord, make haste to help me.3 This short prayer will enable us to overcome the assaults of all the devils of hell; for God is infinitely more powerful than all of them. (1)

It is quite natural, and even spiritual, to feel sorrow and heaviness when we see the professed followers of Christ walking in the ways of the world. And our first impulse may easily be to go straight to them and upbraid them indignantly.
But such methods are seldom successful. The heat in our spirit may not be from the Holy Spirit, and if it is not then it can very well do more harm than good.…
In this as in everything else Christ is our perfect example. A prayerful, face-down meditation on the life of Christ will show us how to oppose with kindness and reprove with charity. And the power of the Holy Spirit within us will enable us to follow His blessed example.

It seems that there are two ways to deal with error, especially in the church.

The first is to ignore it, well, at least ignore it while the person is in view Sometimes this can result in the frustrations being shared with those around us, initially as, “how can we help them.” But often, that turns into a form of gossip. Both refusing to deal with it, and the gossip caused by still being frustrated, is sin.

The second way is to treat them like the enemy, to attack them with the sincere intent of eradicating the false belief. The problem here is that the person’s soul or their family’s souls suffer significant collateral damage.  While our desire are sincere, our methodology, to be blunt, is sinful.

Tozer is more polite when he simply says the methods are seldom successful. But he is right; such efforts can cause far more harm than good. And we fall into this temptation, especially as we engage in social media, and we are trying to
fix those with whom we don’t have a relationship.

Before we get to correct someone, we must deal with our “need” to correct others! I think De Ligouri has the way to work through the temptation, as he advises us to call out in prayer to God. After all, if we are to be those who work for reconciliation, we need to be in contact with both parties to be reconciled. We need to remember His desire to bring them into a transformation of their mind. Which means we have to remember ours does as well.  

It is then, and only then, that we can conquer evil with good. That we can proceed, guided by the Holy Spirit, to work within our relationships, and approach those in error with love, a love that they will recognize.

God’s peace to all, as we care enough to take our time and remember the presence of God, as we care for those He loves.

(1) 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), 450.

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

Why Church Traditions Should Matter…

How many thousands found God’s peace in this place…

Devotional Thought of the Day:
“Is not Israel still my son, my darling child?” says the LORD. “I often have to punish him, but I still love him. That’s why I long for him and surely will have mercy on him. 21  Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Mark well the path by which you came. Come back again, my virgin Israel; return to your towns here. 22  How long will you wander, my wayward daughter? For the LORD will cause something new to happen— Israel will embrace her God.Jeremiah 31:20-22 (NLT2)

These wretched men think that building up the church consists of the introduction of some sort of new ceremonies. They don’t realize that building up the church means to lead consciences from doubt and murmuring to faith, to knowledge, and to certainty.”

Imagine the story of the prodigal son, who goes his way, spends his inheritance, starts feeding the pigs and loathes what his life has beocme. He comes to the realization that he would be better off as the lowest servant, even a slave in his father’s fields. He heads home, and instead of the Bible’s version where the Father runs and greets him,….

He finds a foresale sign, and his family has moved on….

Home is now a myth, hope is all but lost, and there is nothing there for him anymore.

I get that feeling, as I’ve gone “back home” and the church I grew up – the external structure is there, but they built a 4 story school inside. The Denniy’s I worked in at 15 was raised to the ground, and there is an emptiness…there is little of my home to go back to, save a ancient cemetary where i used to go read books in its quiet shade.

I think that is why Luther clarifies what reformation, and the revival of the church is about. It is not about changing things for the sake of being new, nor should things remain the same for those inside the church. There needs to be consistency for the prodigal son’s’ sake, and for the wayward daughter’s return. So people can be led from doubt and murmering into the experience of depending on God,

Where Luther was encouraged to start from scratch he couldn’t -because he saw a need for the prodigal, and the wayward. Perhaps more than any other time in my life, that is needed in these days. Peopel need the place where sin is absolved, where God is revelaed to them through the word, where they can once again receive the Sacraments. A place to come home!

That is the irony, for the mature Christian – the old signs and symbols exist, not for their comfort and preference, but for the sake of those who need to be drawn back to church and the relationship with God nurtured there. It is for those who need to have their life with God restored and revived. I’ve done enough funerals of unbelievers and those who left the church to see this in effect, as the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 are spoken in older ways, and their grief and pain is relieved for a moment, and hope flashes before them as the signposts point again to when peace was known. In those moments, as their hearts recognize the signposts, the Spirit speaks to them again.

Does this mean we can’t change anything? Of course not! New music is written – that is good. New translations come and go, written for the context of people. Yet, there needs to be that which helps a person know they are home, where they belong, where God dwells among His people. It is a balance, but that starts with considering who we are keeping or changing things for, and the effect change has.

Even so, I pray your faith is strengthened by those places in life where signposts and altars are erected.





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), 195–196.

Take My Life! What Does that Mean? A sermon on 1 Kings 19:1-8

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! 

Time to Get Out of the God “Business”

Thoughts to help us learn to love God today…

Matthew 24:29–31 (CSB)
29 “Immediately after the distress of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the peoples of the earth will mourn; and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

Mankind has succeeded quite well in reducing God to a pitiful nothing! The God of the modern context is no God at all. He is simply a glorified chairman of the board, a kind of big businessman dealing in souls. The God portrayed in much of our church life today commands very little respect.
We must get back to the Bible and to the ministration of God’s Spirit to regain a high and holy concept of God. Oh, this awesome, terrible God!…
To know the Creator and the God of all the universe is to revere Him. It is to bow down before Him in wonder and awesome fear.
God wants to be an experience to us. We need to sense the possibility of being caught between the upper and lower millstones, knowing we can be ground to powder before Him. We need to know what it is to rise in humility out of our grief and nothingness, to know God in Jesus Christ forever and ever, to glorify Him and enjoy Him while the ages roll on
.

The saying of St. Francis of Assisi is most true: “What I am before God, that I am.” Of what use is it to pass for great in the eyes of the world, if before God we be vile and worthless? And on the contrary, what matters it to be despised by the world, provided we be dear and acceptable in the eyes of God?

Tozer’s words in purple are at least a generation old. perhaps 2. Ye they speak to this generation of church as clearly as any I have come across this year. And because the church is not doing what is “projected” and what is a good business model, those responsible for her are panicking.

“Let’s change this!” “Try this book!” “Let’s focus on parachurch ministries!” “Your model isn’t effective!” as if the church was a Fortune 500 company, and we need to change our identity, our modes of communicating our message, and while we won’t say it, the messsage itself.

Tozer’s encouragement is spot on – we need to know God, to experience Him. We don’t need to have God leading us as a chairman of the board, but guiding us like the fireman we wrap our arm over as he guides and carries us out of the flaming building.

We need to enounter the God who will come back for His people, in all of His glory, to gather us. We need to be terrified of His presence, so that our sin-filled hearts and minds can be crushed, and replaced with His heart, with eyes that focus on Him.

We need to realize, as deLigouri said, that our identiy has nothing to do with the world, but only how Jesus see us, who we are in His presence.

Until we see our churches as the people He’s returning for, our churches will appear to be less than they are. Failures that should be closed, or sold, or changed into coffee shops or schools without the influence of the Body of Chirst.

The Church is His Bride. You are His bride. So we need to adore Him.

Nothing else matters until we understand this.

So get out of the God business – and realize you live in His presence… with the rest of His people….

Look for His return – with fear.. but anticipating the joy that comes…. and know the Lord is with you!

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

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 368.

The Impossibly, Possible Prayer…

Thoughts for this Day, to draw us closer to Jesus… and cause us to adore Him!

Please do me a favor, and read each of the following quotes carefully, and the one in blue twice… prior to reading my words
19 A scribe approached him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 21 “Lord,” another of his disciples said, “first let me go bury my father.” 22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:19–22 (CSB)

28 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28–30 (CSB)

Now I am no longer my own, I am Thine; O God of my heart, dispose of me as Thou pleasest. In order to please Thee, I accept of all the tribulations Thou mayest choose to send me—sickness, sorrow, troubles, ignominies, poverty, persecution, desolation—I accept all to please Thee: in like manner I accept of the death Thou hast decreed for me, with all the anguish and crosses which may accompany it: it is enough if Thou grantest me the grace to love Thee exceedingly.

To be filled with the Spirit of God is to have come through feelings, disturbance, anxiety, disappointment and emptiness. When you reach that place of despair, when you have gone to the last person and you have written the last editor, when you have followed the last evangelist around and hunted up the last fellow to counsel with you—when no man can help you anymore and you are in a state of inward despair—that is when you will recognize that you are near the place where God can finally do what He wants to do for you. When there comes that despair with self, that emptying out of you and that inner loneliness, you are getting close.
It is part of my belief that God wants to get us to a place where we would still be happy if we had only Him! We don’t need God and something else. God does give us Himself and lets us have other things, too, but there is that inner loneliness until we reach the place where it is only God that we desire.

“There is only one article and one rule of theology, and this is true faith or trust in Christ. Whoever doesn’t hold this article and this rule is no theologian. All other articles flow into and out of this one; without it the others are meaningless. The devil has tried from the very beginning to deride this article and to put his own wisdom in its place. However, this article has a good savor for all who are afflicted, downcast, troubled, and tempted, and these are the ones who understand the gospel.”

I asked you to read the words in blue twice, but I want to start with those in purple…

I passionately love and hate those words de Ligouri wrote.

I want to be able to pray them, I desperately want to say, “these are my words! Hear them Lord!” I’ve been through enough in life to know the truth in them – this is where I should be, so desirous of God’s love, so adoring Him that I do not recognize the hardships that exist, and so eager to be with Him that I can cast temptation, and the sins of this day aside.

Yet I hate them because I cannot do that easily. The weights, the pains, the heartaches, the temptations, and yes – the sins all overwhelm me and convict me that such a prayer would simply be hypocritical, that it would be a lie. So that prayer angers me because I feel I cannot pray it. I understand the scribes shock and reluctance to leave it all behind to follow Jesus.

Luther’s words add to the dissonance, the relationship with Jesus, where I believe and trust and depend on Him is so critical, that nothing else matters. Again, I know this, but I struggle to live in this truth, and the brokenness it
causes I can’t explain without tears, without heartache.

If you are a Christian, and have been for any time, this tension should sound familiar. (See Romans 7 to now we aren’t alone!)

But the brokenness is a blessing, for it drives us to the point where we understand the gospel! We are those Luther identifies as being able to savor our dependence on Christ. We are the afflicted, downcast, troubled and tempted.
And therefore, there is nothing, nothing but Jesus left. 

This is where Tozer’s words in blue, the one’s I asked you to read twice, come into play. With nothing else left, in the midst of our lonely brokenness, we find the Spirit of God filling our lives, comforting us. There are times when God uses someone to remind us of God’s presence, but in that despair, God helps us realize that our only need… is Him.

And that is where the prayer becomes possible. When we realize that God is everything for us, and that deep, intimate relationship becomes everything, and anything we endure is nothing.

For there, is Jesus.

The Friend who takes all our burdens, all our brokenness, all our cares, all the things we think separate us from Him… and He takes that load, and blesses our souls with peace and rest.

Heavenly Father, help us to learn to pray that Your Kingdom come, and Your Will be done…and mean it. Help us to see Your love, revealed in Christ’s love for us, and help us set all else aside…and rejoice as we adore You!  Amen!

 

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), 357.

A. W. Tozer, The Counselor: Straight Talk about the Holy Spirit from a 20th Century Prophet (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 1993), 77–78.

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), 157.

When Trusting God is Challenging…

Devotional thought for this day:

31 For the Lord will not reject us forever. 32  Even if he causes suffering, he will show compassion according to the abundance of his faithful love. 33  For he does not enjoy bringing affliction or suffering on mankind. Lamentations 3:31-33 (CSBBible)

O most lovely and most loving Heart of Jesus, miserable is the heart which does not love Thee! O God, for the love of men Thou didst die on the cross, helpless and forsaken, and how then can men live so forgetful of Thee?

This is not the only time where the Scriptures declare God can cause suffering.

Jeremiah is clear, God doesn;t like afflicting or causing us to suffering, Yet trusting Him when it happens is certainly a challenge. Especially when the lesson is not for those who are suffering, but for those who are simply witnessing the suffering.

It is one thing if we deserve the suffering, or the person suffering does. We deserve enough of it, we need to be disciplined, in a way that only God can. That is, God disciplines us with great love, and with the specific aim of causing growth and restoration, to draw us back into the realization that He is present in our lives.

But what about when the lesson is for someone else, when our suffering serves as an example for those who are not suffering? The story of Job, the suffering of Paul, the embracing suffering of Eric Liddell and so many martyrs, people whose lives were cut short or damaged. How do we justify their suffering?

Or how are we able to trust in God, when it is our turn to suffer?

The only way I know, it to look to the heart of Jesus. We must allow the Holy Spirit to drive our intimacy with God so deep that we are sure of His love and care! We need to know this even as Jesus knew that the feeling of the Father’s abandonment would lead to the greatest of praise! (Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22) Intinacy with God causes us not to trust Him in the moment of suffering, but to rejoice in it!

This is why I love the altar, the place where peace is so clear, as the Lord’s Supper is being given, a momnet in time where we realize that Christ suffered for us, and that sharing in His sufferings is sharing with Him.

This doesn’t make the suffering easier…the pains still are there, the exhaustion, the mental anguish, and yet in its midst, there is peace.

For He is there… and seeing Him with us, we find ourselves in peace…..

And I will take that peace, that peace beyond all understanding, over things going “perfectly”.

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), 301.

Do we take this faith seriously?

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

15  For you said, “We have made a covenant with Death, and we have an agreement with Sheol; when the overwhelming catastrophe passes through, it will not touch us, because we have made falsehood our refuge and have hidden behind treachery.” 16  Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable. 17  And I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the mason’s level.” Hail will sweep away the false refuge, and water will flood your hiding place. Isaiah 28:15-17 (CSBBible)

In thy name do we receive remission of sin and walk in newness of life. In thy name will our bodies rise from the earth at the last day, and be clothed with immortality, incorruption and glory. And before this great and notable day, arouse those, O Lord, who are dead in trespasses and sin. Quicken them by the power of thy holy Word, that they may hear thy voice and by true faith arise from their sins. By the power of thy ressurrection comfort and relieve those who are in any sorrow, tribulation or temptation, that they may assuredly believe that thou art able to deliver them from all evil and bring them into thine everlasting Kingdom, where thou, in unity with the Father and Holy Ghost, wilt be worshiped and glorified. Amen.

We all choose our places to hide, our ways to escape from life. We think of them as safe places, places of refuge, a place to hide from the insanity and pain in this world.

I believe there is a time where rest is needed, a time for a sabbath, a time to be refreshed, a place to catch our breath.

Regrettably, we do not look for that though, we don’t often look for the presence of Christ to restore us as we find rest and remain in Him.

Anywhere else that we try to escape is making a covenant with death. That is a harsh comment, but one we need to hear. We cannot escape the world by running and hiding in a place in it. For catastrophes will happen, and the false sense of security will be stripped away from us.

God will strip those places away, He will shake and destroy them, not in anger though. He will do this because He loves us, He doesn’t want us caught in the illusion, and trying to find deeper and deeper ways to escape the threat of
death, or it as the norm.

There are days we see this, where we find our peace in Christ, where we are aware that we remain in Him. In those days, as we recognize the peace, as Loehe says we receive the remission of sins, It is then we can ask God to quicken, to bring to life those who are searching for refuge and safety in sin. Where Christ’s comfort ministers to them in the midst of their brokenness, where they find God delivering them into His Kingdom.

This is what faith is – depending on God to provide that safe place, that sanctuary in His presence. So that when the world is shaken, we are at peace. It is something we can share, and desire for others. Faith isn’t the doctrine – that simply helps us define the trust we have in God, based on what He says. Faith isn’t what we do – that is simply celebrating that God is faithful.

Faith is living in the moment – with God….

Let’s us do so, and intercede with others, that they might join us in God’s peace!

 

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 139–140.

It’s Coming!

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought for the Day!

31  “The day is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32  This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD. 33  “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34  And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NLT2)

Expectation has always been present in the Church in the times of her greatest power. When she believed, she expected, and her Lord never disappointed her.…
Every great movement of God in history, every unusual advance in the Church, every revival, has been preceded by a sense of keen anticipation. Expectation accompanied the operations of the Spirit always. His bestowals hardly surprised His people because they were gazing expectantly toward the risen Lord and looking confidently for His word to be fulfilled. His blessings accorded with their expectations.…
We need today a fresh spirit of anticipation that springs out of the promises of God. We must declare war on the mood of nonexpectation and come together with childlike faith. Only then can we know again the beauty and wonder of the Lord’s presence among us

As we come out of the COVID lockdown, I am starting to see life in the church more clearly that I have in a long time. If you study history, you know Europe and the U.S.A..Canada are at the bottom, with people doing what is right in their own eyes, which means revival is near. It is already occuring in places on the Eastern side of Africa, and in parts of South East Asia.

But will it happen here?

If Tozer is correct, one of the signs of a revival is the church having the attitude of expectation, the attitude of anticipation. Both are a signs of trust and dependence on God – God who is acitive in our lives, God who wants to redeem everyone. Looking for God to do that, our expectations change, and church changes from being a refuge fro the faithful into a refuge and sanctuary for everyone.

Its time to stop trying to manufacture church growth, it’s time to stop trying ot manufacture a pure and perfect church. It is time for revival, to rejoice in what God is doing…

God has promised this covenant… it is time for the church to believe it is here… for this is the covenant of life!

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

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