I said, “I have sinned against you, LORD; be merciful to me and heal me.” Psalm 41:4 (TEV)
The error of universalism is that it simply cuts off the move to proclamation. As a result, the God who supposedly loves and elects everyone never gets around to saying it to anyone.
But what do those do who are filled with fear and do not desire to have him come, when they pray, “Thy kingdom come,” “Thy will be done”? Do they not stand in the presence of God and lie to their own hurt?
Every once in a while, i have someone try to convince me that it doesn’t matter which god you worship, or if you even worship a god. All you have to do is be good to people. And then life will be good, and everything will be all right.
I have a significant problem with that.
A god without definition cannot meet my needs. I can’t be assured this universal and therefore unknown God is listening.
That’s a problem. I need a God who listens,
I need a God who hears my cries, whether they are for mercy because my life is challenging, or because I am struggling with guilt and shame. My cries for mercy, for healing—I need to know these cries, these prayers are heard. I need to know God loves me enough to hear and respond.
And a generic god who is an amalgamation of all religious systems, that god cannot tell me he/she/it hears, nor can I have any confidence that they can hear me.
That’s the difference about God who reveals Himself throughout the Old and New Testaments. The God who reveals Himself as a baby in a manger, as the suffering servant on the cross. The God who talks to us, whether as Jesus talks to the apostles and people, or as the Holy Spirit talks to us, as He dwells in the new heart given us in our baptism (Ezekiel 36:25ff)
He’s here, He listens, He speaks, and He heals.
His message–throughout scripture–I will be your God, and you WILL BE my people.
So whether oppressed by sin, or struggling with health, life, finances, relationships, know He will hear you.. and answer.
Gerhard O. Forde, “The Preached God,” in Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 34.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 431.
God Didn’t Fight Fair! (and still lost!)
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus increase our desire to cling to Jesus and never let go! (Even as we know He won’t let go either!)
- Did God Cheat?
I titled this sermon God didn’t fight fair and still lost, but I was tempted to title it, “God cheated”. Here is why I wanted to say that:
“When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
We know from later in the passage and from other places in the scripture that the “man” was God. So look at the passage again….
God saw he wasn’t going to win… so he dislocates Jacob’s hip. Hmmm, I wonder if that’s a legitimate technique for the next family fun night?
But there are two huge issues here…
The first – God can chea…err not play fair?
The second—God can lose?
Those things may not make sense…
Until you realize that God’s goal was for Jacob to not only get the blessing, God wanted him to treasure what he gained.
A little background, in case you are not familiar with this man who wrestled with God. From his very birth, he was a didn’t play fair! He took advantage of his brother’s hunger and gained his inheritance. He would later take advantage of his brother’s absence and steal his father’s blessing for the firstborn, effectively taking over the family.
If there was an easy way to get something—he did it. If there was a scam, or a way to deceive someone, he was there.
Another way to say it, Satan knew how to tempt him, and he fell into sin every chance he got.
Most of us don’t have Jacob’s moral fiber, or lack of it. But we cannot say that Satan has no clue about how and when to tempt us. Maybe it is gossip, some nice juicy truth and rumor that makes someone look bad. Maybe it’s not spending time with God, finding your sabbath. Maybe the temptation is revenge and wanting something bad to happen to someone who did you wrong. Or maybe it is lust…
Everybody has their sin, and needs to be confronted with it by God, so that God can bless them, healing them by removing the curses they had earned. For every sin, whether thought, word or deed, earns a curse, a punishment.
Only God can bless us by removing the curse.
And as Jacob finally went home, as he would meet his brother the next day… he needed to be free of his past, the guilt and shame. He needed to find his blessing, and this stranger, he was certain, was the one to give him that blessing.
That’s what happens when we encounter God, we know it, even if we can’t put words to it, or explain the blessing that is to be ours.
- What was different – The Blessing ( why he wanted to know the name
The question that needs to be asked is what changed in Jacob, that would make him so tenacious. Why did he have to receive the blessing?
It had to be the blessing that he expected.
He wanted to know the man’s name to confirm, but God simply blessed him. That blessing confirmed it, for Jacob, now renamed Israel, confessed who the man was…
Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.”
What he expected, he could testify to, a place he encountered God. He experienced being in the presence of God and even could demand a blessing—and received it.
That is what you and I need, to realize the blessing that is ours as we interact with God.
If we only had a place where we could wrestle with God. Where we could question Him, struggle with Him. Where we could recognize His presence and never want to leave it, but stay there until we were sure we were blessed by Him.
Where could there be a place like that? Where is our place where we can wrestle with God, demand a blessing, (hopefully not get a dislocated hip)
Here at the altar rail is a place to do so. A place where His love is, as we take His body, broken so we could be healed, and His blood shed so we could be forgiven.
Where God would remove the burdens we have, the weaknesses, the curses. Even if we can’t explain it, we would know that He is with us. Where we could bring others who need healing as well.
Here is the place that changes life, as God comes to us, and we hold on for the blessing. This is where we know we are loved… and cared for, it is where we find peace. This is where we see God, and live. AMEN
Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 I will establish my people in the land and make them prosper. I will show love to those who were called “Unloved,” and to those who were called “Not-My-People” I will say, “You are my people,” and they will answer, “You are our God.” Hosea 2:23 (TEV)
1030 My God, when will I love you for yourself? Although when we think about it, Lord, to desire an everlasting reward is to desire you, for you give yourself as our reward.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the church, and its message recently.
Part of that is do to people challenging the church, saying that its message, or the way it shares that message has become irrelevant. That we have progressed even deeper into the irrelevancy, and if the church doesn’t change, it will die.
I think the church needs to be careful as it hears these voices. It must continue to answer the questions of life and death, good and evil (and its partners guilt and shame). And it must answer them with God, with Jesus, hung on the cross to introduce us to the Father who loves us, and would heal the brokenness caused by our sin, and the sin of the world.
The challenge there is that we hold out heaven and rewards for living a good life, and when we do not, turning to God for forgiveness, so the hope of heaven is restored. As if the place with St. Peter’s gate and clouds and angels playing keyboards, and the streets of gold is our reward.
Your reward is the presence of God. To see Him face to face, to hear Him welcome you, His child, into His presence, into His peace. That is why St. Josemaria talks of our loving God for Himself. To desire to spend time with Him.
That is why prayer and meditating on scripture, and spending time receiving Christ’s Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper are critical in our lives. They are how God keeps us realizing His promised presence in our lives. These times should not be entered because we have to, because we want some reward from Daddy.
It is about being there, with God, in His presence, with your Creator, who loves you enough to set up all of creation to then show you off, His greatest treasure…
If we realize this, if we realize the love of God. How could we not want to spend any time we could, in any way we could….
He is your reward, He is your God…
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Ezekiel, the people of Israel are like dead bones. They complain that they are dried up and that they have no hope for the future. 12 So tell them, “I, the LORD God, promise to open your graves and set you free. I will bring you back to Israel, 13 and when that happens, you will realize that I am the LORD. 14 My Spirit will give you breath, and you will live again. I will bring you home, and you will know that I have kept my promise. I, the LORD, have spoken.” Ezekiel 37:11-14 CEV
Abraham certainly had sufficient ground for a disputation when he heard God’s words about offering up his son, because these words were patently contrary not only to reason and to divine and natural law but also to the eminent article of faith concerning the promised seed, Christ, who was to be born of Isaac. He could have asked if this command was to be understood literally or if it was to receive a tolerable and loose interpretation. But as on the previous occasion when Abraham received the promise of the blessed seed of Isaac, although this seemed impossible to his reason, he gave God the honor of truthfulness and concluded and believed most certainly in his heart that what God promised he was also able to do. So Abraham understood and believed the words and command of God plainly and simply, as the words read, and committed the entire matter to God’s omnipotence and wisdom, knowing that God had many more ways and means of fulfilling the promises concerning the seed of Isaac than he could comprehend with his blind reason.
But even if we had not fallen, even apart from sin and its consequences, a second reason for the imperfection of our knowledge of God is that we are finite. Only a finite image of the infinite God can appear in a finite mirror. The only mirror that reflects all of God is God. The only one who knows the Father perfectly is the Son.
A character named Harry Callahan once noted, “A man has to know His limitations!” It is a brilliant piece of advice, possibly based in Socrates admonition to “Know thyself” But that is not all we need to know, it is nt all we need to experience.
We need to know God’s limitations as well. We may not be able to understand them, but we can know them.
Abraham had an idea of them, so he determined that God could be trusted, even if God did something that seemed inconsistent. And so he took his son up the mountain in order to sacrifice him. God wants him to do that, well God gave him the son, though his wife was 40-50 years beyond childbearing age! And so he knew God’s limitations, simply the promises God has made, and the love which causes those promises to be fulfilled.
The problem is with our finite knowledge, how we picture God is so limited, and because of our experience, so flawed. We only know imperfect love, and mercy that always has a cost. We know how fragile our on motives are, how even when we do good, we may not be doing it for the right reasons.
This is why we need to go back to the promises God has always made people. We need the Spirit to breathe into us life, we need to be set free of what oppresses us. To get to the place where we can take a deep breath, and realize He is God.
And that He has brought us into His presence…. and with Him we are home.
Lord, work in our lives, and through us in our communities. Help us, even with our limitations, to experience Your presence, and Your love. AMEN!
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 577–578.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 141.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
25 So, Ezekiel, tell them I am saying: How can you think the land is still yours? You eat meat with blood in it and worship idols. You commit murder 26 and spread violence throughout the land. Everything you do is wicked; you are even unfaithful in marriage. And you claim the land is yours! Ezekiel 33:25–26 (CEV)
2571 Because Abraham believed in God and walked in his presence and in covenant with him,10 the patriarch is ready to welcome a mysterious Guest into his tent. Abraham’s remarkable hospitality at Mamre foreshadows the annunciation of the true Son of the promise.11 After that, once God had confided his plan, Abraham’s heart is attuned to his Lord’s compassion for men and he dares to intercede for them with bold confidence.12
And what decides it is your love. “In the twilight of our lives, we will be judged on how we have loved”, says John of the Cross, one of the great Christian mystics and lovers. From the beginning to the end, love is the guiding thread that leads us through all the labyrinths of time and life and history.
I have to admit that Ezekiel’s words scare me.
I look around us these days, and we are not so far from the disobedience and idolatry that was prevalent then. The use of “we” there is intentional, these is as much idolatry and character assassination in church as is there is in the world. There is as much wickedness and narcissism found in the church as outside of it. We try to claim that we do the right thing, that we make all the right moves, but how can we know that, without the dependence on God, the willingness that dependence brings to let Him correct us?
We need to have a relationship with God, we need to welcome into our lives as Abraham welcomed him at Mamre. We need to know His love to the point where we trust Him to guide us through the labyrinths. St John of the cross is correct, our judgment will be based on how we have loved. Not because of our works, but because that love testifies to whether or not we’ve experienced His love for us, whether God is at work in us, transforming us. You see this in Abraham, as he welcome God to his habitation, and his annoyance at his nephew turns to concern, to trying to save his nephew’s city. This change in attitude can only occur when we realize God’s role in our life. It is not an act of our will but the transformation that happens when we know we are loved.
That has to be the solution for this time of racial unrest, for this time of bitter politics, for this time when everyone is on edge. That love of God will not only forgive that brokenness and sin, it will bring reconciliation and healing to us, and through us, to our time.
It is that simple… if you want to make a difference, spend time with the one who will make a difference for you.
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 617.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 135.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 “So now, with God as our witness, and in the sight of all Israel—the LORD’s assembly—I give you this charge. Be careful to obey all the commands of the LORD your God, so that you may continue to possess this good land and leave it to your children as a permanent inheritance. 9 “And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the LORD sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. 10 So take this seriously. The LORD has chosen you to build a Temple as his sanctuary. Be strong, and do the work.” 1 Chronicles 28:8-10 (NLT2)
865 He came on earth because omnes homines vult salvos fieri, he wants to redeem the whole world. While you are at your work, shoulder to shoulder with so many others, never forget that there is no soul that does not matter to Christ!
David’s words to Solomon are worth looking deeply into, they are the words he gives, as he hands over the Kingdom. Of great importance to David is the building of the Temple, the building of the place were God would put His name, that people may know they are forgiven, where they may find they are still His people. Not just the people of Israel, but people who are foreigners, who are strangers, who are…different.
When David talks of God’s commands, he is not talking merely about the “do” and “do nots” found in Scripture. He is talking about all that God established, all the God called into existence. He is not just talking about the covenant terms, but the promises. He’s not just talking about the curses, but about the blessings, especially the blessing of God making us His people.
That is why David talks about us knowing God intimately, for only in that relationship can we understand that God is about far more than obedience to the laws, that He is about knowing us, and us knowing Him. It is then that the laws slide away, that our brokenness is laid into His hands. THat every soul matters to Jesus, that He would, through His church, draw all people to the Father.
Walk with Him, let Him draw out of you everything that has poisoned your life, that has turned you away from Him. As He draws you to Him, seek Him, knowing His love will see you through, even as it cleans and heals you.
This is why David so badly wanted to build the temple, why it was his son’s greatest duty and work. Not for the edifice, but that people could know God the Father, drawn to Him by Jesus. May we see the same done today!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
10 For the life of every living thing is in his hand, and the breath of every human being. Job 12:10 (NLT2)
First, God loves everything. Second, everything loves God. The second is as true as the first. Acorns grow into oak trees because they are in love with God. That is, they seek (unconsciously) their own perfection, which is a participation in some of God’s perfection. An oak tree is more perfect, more Godlike, than an acorn. An acorn is not satisfied to be an acorn, because it wants (unconsciously, of course) to be more like God. God is the magnet that draws all the iron filings that are creatures closer to Himself. That is why everything moves. It is seeking its own perfection, which is a reflection of God’s perfection. Everything moves out of love of God.
There are people who will not acknowledge God, yet they are drawn to Him. The aspire to be like Him, much as young children might want to be like their parents. There is a part of us that longs to excel, to be good at something, anything. To be the best, to be the expert, to know more, do more, be responsible for more.
It is actually a drive to be like God. To be perfect. Using the old Army slogan, to “be all that you can be.”
Kreeft indicates that this is actually a love of God. It may be a little warped, it may lead us into sin as it did Adam and Eve. It may surface as false pride and even self-idolatry. Often it reveals itself as a desire to supplant God, even as a young man may try to be the alpha dog in his family.
Sin often masquerades as light, which means it must have a kernel of truth in it. We want to be like God, whether we acknowledge His existence or not, because we are made in His image. And that drive, corrupted by sin, leads us to rebel against what He has planned for us.
The drive is not sinful, the pursuit of perfection is not wrong. It just needs calibration, and focus as we imitate Christ, even as Paul and the apostles were transformed into doing.
Redeemed, reconciled, adopted, revived and renewed, that drive is to see God at work within us, leaving Him in control, leaving His wisdom as our guide, and our norm. This is how we are to live , in Him, perfected.
In communion with Him, this hunt for perfection leads us to fall to our knees, to allow Him to remove our imperfections, to cover our failures, to even erase our sins.
This is revival, when our desire for perfection finds its fulfillment in a relationship with the Lord who created us, and in the death and resurrection of Jesus, recreates and perfects us.
Come Holy Spirit, make Your presence known as You fill our hearts, renewing our lives. AMEN!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 102–103.
0This God Whom You Worship!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you worship the God you know…
I Don’t think that word means….
In one of the most quoted moves of all times, a Sicilian mercenary captain keeps on using the word “inconceivable.” Over and over, you head the word come from this short, balding guy, inconceivable, inconceivable, inconceivable!
Finally, his swordmaster utters this favorite quote, ““You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” ( Inigo Montoya, Princess Bride)
Now, what was funny was all the inconceivable things, well, they were actually conceivable, and doable.
This sort of reminds me of the people of Athens in this week’s reading from Acts. They had all these statues and temples dedicated to “gods.” The Greek gods, the gods of the countries they conquered, any god which they could find someone worshipping, hear of someone worshipping, they even had the one shrine dedicated to a god they prayed to when all else failed.
The “unknown” God.
They had to have a shrine with that name, for they really didn’t understand what a god was, never mind who God is, and how He would relate to all of His creation.
This word god that they used, they simply did not mean what they thought it meant… and for some, that would change, this day.
So my question for you today, when you use the word “God,” do you know what the word means? If not, I pray you to do by the end of the day!
Who is this God?
Man creates and searches for gods for a reason. They know they need someone else to connect to, they know there is a presence that is missing.
So they create a god for this, a god for that, and attach to these gods a dream. For example, a lot of people are looking to authorities to save us from COVID, or the economic downturn that it has caused. We blame those we think are interfering with that recovery, even calling them evil or demons.
We put all our hope and the joy that accompanies hope.
And then that god fails, or that dream turns out to be false, and the contentment we thought it promised turns out to be more heartache and more pain.
We need a God that takes care of more than one problem, who is not created, who is more than someone who provides us what we want, or what we think we need for life to be right. We need the God Paul described.
This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about. 24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26 From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. 27 “His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. 28 For in him, we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.
This is what a God is, this is Who we need to find peace, to find fulfillment, to have a real hope at life – for as Paul said, in Jesus, in Him we live and move and exist.
This is what happened at the cross, when all that was not god that we invented, all our idols, and the sins they led us to commit, were stripped away.
We realized that we are the children of God, His beloved children!
Judgment is coming.
Which is a good thing, because Paul then moves his discourse into something that could be frightening.
30 “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice.
For those who don’t know God, who keep on going back to their idols, who keep on putting hope in some they think will solve all their problems, there is a day when God will ask why – why didn’t you trust in Me?
Why didn’t you consider my love, which I laid out before you?
Why did you create or find answers that won’t provide the hope and peace you need in the long run?
Why not just cry out to me?
Why not let me save you?
For the judgment day surely has two parts – the full justice of God.
The judgment of idolaters, the judgment of those who would reject God, and the part that truly gives us hope.
31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising Him from the dead.”
This is our hope… this is everything that God appointed on to judge us, would die to make things just and right. Jesus would not only strip away those things that draw us away from God but would heal us. That would heal the broken hearts, our broken souls, if we would but let Him.
It is time to call out to Him now, knowing this,
19 and how very great is his power at work in us who believe. This power working in us is the same as the mighty strength 20 which he used when he raised Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world. Ephesians 1:19-20 (TEV)
I pray that you know this God and know what it means that He is your God and that you learn to depend on Him… and trust in Him…matter of fact, let’s pray right now…
Heavenly Father, help us to stop chasing after other gods, help us stop finding hope in things other than you… deliver us this morning, and surround us with your glory, that we may dwell in Your peace. AMEN!
Devotional Thought for the Day:
23 But I see a different law at work in my body—a law that fights against the law which my mind approves of. It makes me a prisoner to the law of sin which is at work in my body. 24 What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ! Romans 7:23-25 GNT
We, on the other hand, teach and comfort an afflicted sinner this way, and we console the afflicted sinner: “Friend, it is impossible for you to become so righteous in this life that your body is as clear and spotless as the sun. You still have spots and wrinkles (Eph 5:27); nevertheless, you are holy.” You, however, say, “How can I be holy, when I have sin and I perceive it?” “It is good that you perceive and recognize sin. Give thanks to God, and do not despair. It is one step toward health when a sick person recognizes and admits the disease.” “But how will I be liberated from sin?” “Run to Christ, the Doctor, who heals the contrite of heart and saves sinners. Believe in him. If you believe, you are righteous, because you give glory to God that God is omnipotent, merciful, truthful, etc. You justify and praise God. In sum, you attribute divinity and all things to God. The sin that still remains in you is not imputed to you but pardoned for the sake of Christ, in whom you believe and who is perfectly righteous in a formal sense. His righteousness is yours; your sin is his.”
Faith is likewise a Yes to God in Jesus Christ, who looks upon me, makes me open, and enables me ultimately to entrust myself to him. Faith penetrates to what is most personal and most interior in me and, in doing so, responds to the Person of Jesus Christ, who calls me by name.
Sin is a serious issue.
The brokenness it causes is even far more serious. It shatters individuals, friendships, marriages, churches, communities.
It rages like a forest fire, and it often seems we are helpless ot do anything about it. We struggle to confront it in our own lives, and we are afraid to deal with it in others.
Rather than do so, we compromise, and settle for the brokenness, even embracing it, for the cost seems to high. Except the cost of NOT dealing with it is higher.
Paul demonstrates that in his plea to be rescued from death, a cry of hope that brings him to the only hope. We have to let Christ deal with it. We have to let the Holy Spirit cut us open, and the mercy of God penetrate to the most personal, intimate, secluded places where the brokenness has taken root.
As the Holy Spirit uproots the brokenness, He plants faith, the ability to entrust ourselves to Jesus, and to grow in our dependence on His work, trusting Him to pardon us, to declare that we are righteous and belong in the presence of God the Father.
Even though the struggle goes on, even if the struggle is magnified by our realizing how deep our sin and rebellion is buried, that very realization is proof of God’s work, unearthing it so He can heal us.
Healing is painful, coming face to face with the pain we thought we had buried, that we had gotten past, burying it deeply within. Yet that pain needs to be truly dealt with, by the only one who can. God.
And He has at the cross, and as you were baptised, and every day of your life, as the Holy Spirit cleanses us deeply, comforting us, healing us, making us the Holy people of God, the children He has call to dwell in His presence. AMEN!
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 168). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 214). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.