Thoughts that draw me closer to Jesus, and His cross.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. Your name will now be Israel, because you have wrestled with God and with people, and you have won.”29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But the man said, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed Jacob there.
30 So Jacob named that place Peniel, saying, “I have seen God face to face, but my life was saved.”…
3 Jacob himself went out in front of them and bowed down flat on the ground seven times as he was walking toward his brother.
4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and put his arms around him and hugged him. Then Esau kissed him, and they both cried. 5 When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he asked, “Who are these people with you?” Genesis 32:28-30, 33:3-5, NCV
For the minds of these people have become stubborn. They do not hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might really understand what they see with their eyes and hear with their ears. They might really understand in their minds and come back to me and be healed.’ Matt 13:15, quoting Is. 6:9-10 NCV (emphasis mine)
The culture of individualism, consumerism, and quick fixes continues to creep into the work of the counselor whenever performance and quick results are the primary motivations. Often we get so extremely busy and preoccupied by our compulsion to quickly remedy “problems” that in reality require an unhurried transformation not only of the head but of the heart, that we grasp for the next best treatment available or hold onto tried and tested modes of intervention. Yet at the end of our therapeutic work we somehow get the sense that something is amiss and unfinished, that somehow all these theories and techniques have fallen short of responding to the soul ache that comes from a deeper, more primal place.
It is taught among us that the sacraments were instituted not only to be signs by which people might be identified outwardly as Christians, but that they are signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us for the purpose of awakening and strengthening our faith.
2 For this reason they require faith, and they are rightly used when they are received in faith and for the purpose of strengthening faith.
I do a bit of counseling now and then, sometimes in groups, and sometimes with individuals. Almost always, it is because of conflicts and strife, even if that is because of an internal conflict.
Having that occur more often as the holidays come near – I saw something in this morning’s devotion that I’ve overlooked before. Jacob/Israel’s dramatic change in dealing with his older brother Esau. Jacob left his homeland, fearing for his life, as he scammed his borther out of everything – his birthright, his blessing as older (and therefore chief of the tribe) son. His fear was obvious, as he sought to buy forgiveness, sending gifts on a head.
But his encounter with Jesus changed all that…he was drawn back to God, even fighting him–as stubborn as ever–refusing to submit. But that fight and blessing changed him, even as he “triumphed,” and was saved. For it was only by engaging God that this could happen, it was only then that reconciliation, true reconciliation was possible for Jacob/Israel.
That is what Jesus points to, in quoting Isaiah’s ordination warning. Only by engaging God can sin be dealt with, and the person healed. Just as the Lutheran Confessions talk of the sacraments being the place where we are healed as our trust/dependence on God is strengthened and made our foundation of life.
That is the primal place where Nolasco notes the soul’s ache originates. The healing necessary to pursue healing with others can only be seen when God’s peace is known, when He is depended upon for a deeper healing. It is there the transformation takes place – even if the transformation takes 20 years. (some of us wrestle with God longer than others!) That of course means that pastoral counselors and shepherds, and regular counselors as well as we need to be patient, and let God draw us to himself. It means trusting in the promisess given to us through His word, and through the sacraments He instituted and blesses us through.
It is not a quick fix, even though the road starts with a dramatic change of heart. That change was being caused by God for a lot longer period of time than we can see, for it was planned for from before the cross, from even before time.
But God will make it happen – He will complete the work He began in us, showing us miracles of reconciliation, miracles of healing, even as we wrestle with Him through it.
So hang on, and let the Spirit cut open your heart (see Ezekiel 36:25 and Acts 2:36-37) and bring healing…and then, rejoice for you well in a peace beyond comprehension… even though you may not always see/feel/know it.
Rolf Nolasco Jr., The Contemplative Counselor: A Way of Being (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2011), 7.
Augsburg Confession – XIII The USE of the Sacraments; (emphasis mine) Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 35.
He’s Gonna Tear Us to Pieces!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ encourage you to accept the work of the Holy Spirit, who purifies you and makes you holy!
This News is Awesome!
In the middle of the lesson from Hosea this morning, there is some of the greatest news I can share with you!
God is going to meet a critical need this morning…if He hasn’t already!
As surely as the sun came up, He has either done this, or He is about to do it.
Here is what Hosea credits with God with doing,
“He has torn us to pieces…
He has injured us…”.
Like I said, if God hasn’t done this to you, He will… and that is good is a good thing.
And if you need God to tear you to pieces, I hope this sermon will make you look forward to it!
- A Need to Be Met!
- Self-inflicted, here and Ezekiel 6:9
Let’s go back to the first verse of the reading, the last verse of chapter 4, “Then I will return to my place until they admit their guilt and turn to me. For as soon as trouble comes, they will earnestly search for me.”
God tells the prophet Hosea that he’s going to let Israel realize their need for Him. He’s just going to wait for them until they realize they need it!
I think that is what they call “tough love.” Letting someone walk away as a prodigal, knowing the pain and suffering they would endure.
It is an amazing thing to see God be that patient with us, I mean how patient are we with everyone around us? God has the advantage of being God, and knowing that as Father, Son and Spirit, they had planned to redeem us all, but still, we, every human from every language, culture, age group, have walked away… and chosen sin at times.
But the response is more challenging, ““Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds
It takes a lot to say this! Not only to realize that God will heal us and bandage our wounds, but that He was the One who disciplined us, and did so in a way we might consider harsh.
Though what it often is, is not God’s intent, but what He warned us about. HE won’t always withhold the punishment that we earn with every sin, He will let us experience the consequences.
That is something each of us has to face, to come to the realzieation of the prodigal – that I had it better back home.
What God promised in regard to sin is true, but so is what He promises in regard to grace.
One leads to pain, punishment
- The Doctor is In!
- Heal, Bandage, Restore
But when we come to our senses, God is right there.
That same verse says he will heal us, that He will bandage our wounds providing long term healing and growth to health and He will restore us to the image of Christ that He created us to shine into this dark world.
This all became true for people starting at Pentecost – and it comes true for us this day as well.
If we are running from God, its time to come home.
It’s time to stop being torn to pieces, its time to stop getting injured by the consequence of sin, it’s time to stop, and let God finally restore us to His image.
- Best News
- He wants this as much as we do!
The good news in this was that the Lord loves us enough to tear us to pieces, to allow ourselves to be wounded by the sins we so easily choose over him.
The better news – that God will welcome us back, heal us, bandage us,
But here is the best news, a response to the prophet’s plea to his people,
3 Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”
That is a critical example of faith, this ability to cry out to know God better, this encouragement to get to know Him, and the confidence that we shall – because we know He shall respond to us, even as we come back to Him.
And here is His response,
4 “O Israel and Judah, what should I do with you?” asks the LORD. “For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight. 5 I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces— to slaughter you with my words, with judgments as inescapable as light. 6 I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.
That God responds to us, knowing what we’ve done, knowing how much we struggle and how our love can be there one moment and not the next, is incredible.
Yeah – He did hit people hard judging them, but doing so with the purpose of reconciling us to Himself – of drawing us back to the only place, to the only One who loves us enough to heal and restore us…
Because He wants us to know Him, more than anything else.
He wants us to know Him,
Knowledge not is academics, knowledge as in experience, as in understanding how much love there is, of knowing how much He cares, and thinks of us, and wants the best for us, and designed and formed us specifically (mentally, physically, socially, intellectually) to interact with Him.
This is our God, let us return to Him, and dwell in His peace. AMEN!
Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and to the Cross
16 Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. Hebrews 4:16 (TEV)
16 Be joyful always, 17 pray at all times, 18 be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus. 19 Do not restrain the Holy Spirit; 20 do not despise inspired messages. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-20 (TEV)
The New Testament language is as plain as can be—in Christ through His death and resurrection, every legal hindrance has been met and satisfied: taken away! There is nothing that can keep us from assurance except our own selves.
Let us quit trying to think our way in, to reason our way in. The only way to get in is to believe Him with our hearts forevermore!
Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.
Imagine having tickets to some major amusement park, going in, and standing in line for 3 hours to ride the newest, greatest ride in America. As you get there, as it is time to take your place, you decide, its not worth it, and you walk away, apathy. All of that time and money invested, is now wasted, never to be used for something else. Or imagine someone giving you the best seats to the Superbowl, or to a favorite concert–plus the airfare and limo rides and access to all the good stuff, and just as you get there, you decide, “Nah, this isn’t worth it,” as you walk away.
Every person and every church has access to God the Father, because someone else paid the admission price, and waited for us to enter the presence of God the father with great confidence, but what do we do with this access? Tozer is right, to often we are the ones who dismiss the access…
Despite the encouragement to pray and be thankful, despite the commands and promises attach to it, the church has been not one that prays all that much. Not just today, even back in Luther’s day. even back in the 1st century.
We need to pray; we need to pour our hearts out to God, assured that He will provide what we need. His love, His mercy, the faith we need, even persecution and trauma that draws us closer to Him. We need to talk to Him enough that we can thank Him for the good things – and the challenging things in life as well.
The joy doesn’t come from the problems, but the awareness of God’s presence, His protection, His care, from the healing He causes. That hope comes, not from academic knowledge, but from experience. That is why the early Lutherans still considered prayer a sacrament, as sacred action that we need to keep at all the time. Not because doing that shows off our holiness, but because we need to be lifted up by God, we need to hear Him speak of His mercy and love..
So pray… and pray for me..
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 213.
8 Every Sabbath day this bread must be laid out before the LORD. The bread is to be received from the people of Israel as a requirement of the eternal covenant. 9 The loaves of bread will belong to Aaron and his descendants, who must eat them in a sacred place, for they are most holy. It is the permanent right of the priests to claim this portion of the special gifts presented to the LORD.” Leviticus 24:8-9 (NLT2)
The rites and liturgy of man acquire the power to evoke the divine mystery that eye has not seen, that ear has not heard and that it has not entered into the heart of man to conceive. Words, therefore, become seeds of prayer and of contemplation, instruments of man’s transfiguration into the likeness of the Holy God Whom no one can see without dying. Words and symbols lie in the depths of man’s inherited store of knowledge and memory and even in the souls of men who have completely forgotten God these archetypal seeds of divinity and mystery still lie hidden, waiting to germinate like the grains of wheat laid away thousands of years ago, with a Pharaoh under his pyramid
Running-the-church questions are: What do we do? How can we get things going again?
Cure-of-souls questions are: What has God been doing here? What traces of grace can I discern in this life? What history of love can I read in this group? What has God set in motion that I can get in on?
In order for the rites and liturgy of which Merton speaks do what he desires, we have to understand that the rites and liturgy of man means that he is an actor, a part of those rites and liturgies. He is not their controller, their guardian, their defender, or the one who manipulates them. They have to be Divine, the rites and liturgies that are soundly based in scripture and they must reveal Jesus to those who need healing.
Any other goal for worship, which deviates the attention of God and His people dwelling together as God heals hearts and souls, and bodies, that’s not liturgical worship. It doesn’t plant the word of God deeply in them, it doesn’t result in a spiritual connection. It blocks us from seeing what God is doing, replacing His actions with the actions man has done, or that the pastor/leaders want the congregation to do.
They may be highly motivated, they may be doctrinally astute, but that is not the purpose of worship. Worship is to give people what they need to know about Jesus, it is to comfort terrified and anxious souls (see the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV) The service provides the healing of souls, what has been called the cure of souls. It is what God is providing for His people, this miraculous work of His in our lives.
This is what Peterson is getting at – the difference between “running a church” and being a place where the “cure of souls” occurs. That cure results in a worship that is beyond just singing a couple of cool songs, it results in a transformation that is beyond words, and a peace that is beyond expression. Both a result of a love that is beyond logic.
And realizing that love, that mercy, that peace, is what we are to be doing…. and then responding with God’s people.
That’s what the scripture passage is really about – the fact that the offerings God’s people give are used to provide for …God’s priests. And since all believer’s now belong to the priesthood… God uses our offerings, our sacrifices – to care for us. (He certainly doesn’t need the $$) Again – a response to the cure of souls…
This is why God gathers us together, to care for us, to cure us, to make us whole, and wholly His.
Lord, help us to see Your work as we are gathered by the Holy Spirit, in Your Name! AMEN!
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 60–61.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 70.
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matt 11:28-30 NLT
Man’s moral fall has clouded his vision, confused his thinking and rendered him subject to delusion. One evidence of this is his all but incurable proneness to confuse values and put size before quality in his appraisal of things. The Christian faith reverses this order, but even Christians tend to judge things by the old Adamic rule. How big? How much? and How many? are the questions oftenest asked by religious persons when trying to evaluate Christian things.…
The Church is dedicated to things that matter. Quality matters. Let’s not be led astray by the size of things.
The only question is whether you thoroughly recognize and feel your labor and your burden and that you yourself fervently desire to be relieved of these. Then you are indeed worthy of the sacrament. If you believe, the sacrament gives you everything you need. At present, however, most people come to the sacrament without this understanding of it. They come with a hungry stomach and a full soul; they pray much beforehand and yet do not believe. They receive the sacrament and yet do not really avail themselves of it. They have no other reason for receiving the sacrament than a fearful and unwilling obedience to the church’s precept, thus becoming utterly unfit for it.
Come to the table and see in His eyes
The love that the Father has spoken
And know you are welcome, whatever your crime
For every commandment you’ve broken
For He’s come to love you and not to condemn
And He offers a pardon of peace
If you’ll come to the table, you’ll feel in your heart
The greatest forgiveness, the greatest release (Come to the Table: Michael Card)
There is too much going on in our days. We deal with one crisis, only to find two more coming. Many of those lead to compromise, to a moral faiure which leaves us even more confused as lines of morality blur into oblivion. And lacking the knowledge of what quality is, the church resorts to systems that have failed for two or three generations–dressing the solution up with new names, and a re-cast vision for the same target.
And the burdened soul finds more burden, the weight of despair grows more desperate.
I’ve been watching these cycles in churches, and in the church for 4 generations in the United States.
We don’t spend time, as Michael Card urges, spending time at the Table of the Lord. We don’t take the time to look in His eyes, to be pardoned, to find the release that comes from the burdens we bear. We may be so confused we don’t even know why we feel mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. If we don’t realize the burden is what it is, then how could we know the solution is to be still, and experience the love of God. ( This is what it means to know He is God) Our hunger is not fulfilled by what we think it should be fulfilled by–the offerings of the world.
We need to help others hear Jesus invite to be with Him, to let Him relieve our burdens, to let him bear the weight of all that is crushing us. To take all that and give us in replacement His Body and Blood as we take and eat, and take and drink. Look into His eyes, and see the love the Father has for you. And as you do, you won’t worry about dropping the burdens, they will simply fall away…
So come to the table this weekend.. come share in God’s passion and His glory…and find everything has changed.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 177.
The Ark of the LORD remained in Philistine territory seven months in all. 2 Then the Philistines called in their priests and diviners and asked them, “What should we do about the Ark of the LORD? Tell us how to return it to its own country.”
3 “Send the Ark of the God of Israel back with a gift,” they were told. “Send a guilt offering so the plague will stop. Then, if you are healed, you will know it was his hand that caused the plague.” 1 Sam. 6:1-3 NLT
The great deficiency to which I refer is the lack of spiritual discernment, especially among our leaders. How there can be so much Bible knowledge and so little insight, so little moral penetration, is one of the enigmas of the religious world today.…
If not the greatest need, then surely one of the greatest is for the appearance of Christian leaders with prophetic vision. We desperately need seers who can see through the mist. Unless they come soon, it will be too late for this generation. And if they do come, we will no doubt crucify a few of them in the name of our worldly orthodoxy. But the cross is always the harbinger of the resurrection.
The great folly of the pope’s church is that it’s based only on the external rule of reason, without the Word of God, and our salvation is supposed to be bound up with outward child’s play. If this had only had to do with moral and legal matters!”
This post may seem a bit harsh, but I believe it is needed these days.
The folly that Luther once charged “the pope’s church” with is no longer only their problem. It never was only theirs, nor does it affect all of those who preach in Roman Catholic Churches. It is the same issue that Tozer recognized in the 1970s-1980s, and unquestionably my generation has come to know the vanity he foresaw in his time.
The church has become like the Philistines, who could not figure out how to deal with dwelling in their presence. They recognized that something Divine was in their midst, and they saw the effects of the discipline God was pouring out on them. (Note I said discipline, not condemnation.) We’ve lost the ability to discern the presence of God and are even more unable to discern what that presence means. As Tozer said, we have some much Biblical (Theological?) knowledge, but so little of it penetrates past our mine to impact our hearts, our souls.
That is where the folly, even the silliness of preaching is seen.
We study more of the form of the message – than the message itself. We want to know what commentators perceive, rather than spend time quietly meditating on the text itself. We don’t want to invest the time, perhaps because we don’t value how God is working and can work in us. This is seen on Saturdays, as websites hosting sermons receive many hits (my blog is no exception – 6% of all my hits are on Saturday night before midnight!) We are not preaching out of the depths of our heartache and healing.
We simply take others’ works and present them, expecting that their results will become ours.
What is not then communicated is that incredible fact that in the blood, sweat, and tears needed to prepare a message for the people of God, the message is prepared. As we encounter Him working in our lives, as shown on every page of scripture. That is why meditating on scripture is so praised in scripture. That is why allowing God to apply His truth in you – before you hear what others say
is crucial. We need to have more of an answer than the Philistinean priests… we need to be able to help people see God, and respond to Him.
As pastors, priests, and preachers, we need to talk with our Lord more.. listen more. Then, the grace which reveals to us His presence and peace…we can show to our people.
The Lord is with you!
Lord, help us not be satisfied with passing on what others think about You and Your word. Instead, help us to experience the love beyond dimensions and the peace beyond understanding, as You restore us… and then help us to guide others into that same place. AMEN!
Tozer, A. W. 2015. Tozer for the Christian Leader. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 54. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Devotions for our day:
1 Hallelujah! How good it is to sing to our God, for praise is pleasant and lovely. 2 The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem; he gathers Israel’s exiled people. 3 He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. Psalm 147:1-3 (CSBBible)
“God makes fools of both theologians and princes, for he commits to us an impossible task which nobody would undertake if he knew about it beforehand but which he is not allowed to relinquish once it has been committed and undertaken. So it is with the rest of our work. We demand many things, but they aren’t done except to a limited degree. We teach many things, but they are learned only to a modest extent. ‘Nothing is successful,’ as the preacher of Solomon says [Eccles. 1:1, 2].
“Why does God act so? Because he alone is wise and powerful. Because if our suggestions and ideas were carried out we would become presumptuous and would claim wisdom and power for ourselves. Because we surround the glory of wisdom and power with the defects which belong to our nature. We want to set things straight and make everything right. To this God says, ‘Well, then, go ahead! Be clever and do a good job! Be a preacher and make the people godly! Be a lord and mend the people’s ways! Get to it at once!’
“What a retrogression would occur! And the conclusion would be: ‘Vanity of vanities’ and ‘Let wisdom be attributed to God alone’ [Eccles: 1:2; 2:26]. We are fools and wretched bunglers in all we do and attempt.”
As I began to read Luther’s thoughts this morning, I wondered if he had been projecting himself 500 years forward, and was observing me. You see, I resonate to the frustration of things not getting done, and often wonder whether I am helping anyone learn anything, especialy when I wonder if they are learning to depend on Jesus more.
The battle seems to never end, and so I question the efficiency of my work. The experts all talk about being more effective in ministry, how to get better results. ( Note: It is always good to look at their track record and see how they did! If they were truly successul, why did they leave?) But the weight is burdensome, it can even seem to crush you.
But I ask this question – the one that Luther alludes to, why are you expecting you are the one to get it done?
Why do we expect our work to be as successul as the One who was crucified? Why do we spend more time planning and trying to find the ways we need to manipulate life?
I am not saying do not put effort into what we do, but what we do has to originate in what God is doing. The ancients in the church talked about our reaction of praising God for HIs work and promises being what forms our beliefs (our doctrine – what we teach). Those beliefs in turn should cause our actions.
It starts with God, and what He is doing, as we see God renuild His community, as we see God gather and heal His people. It relies on Him for our efficacy, for it is His work, and we follow. WIth HIm we find that we are loving the unlovable, brining healing to the broken, sharing His mercy with those around us that neither deserve the mercy, nor know it exists.
I need to remember this, I need God to remind me of it often, so that life isn’t managed by the fool and bungler that I am, but the God that works within you and I.
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), 98.
Devotional Thoughts for these days
49 When the other disciples saw what was about to happen, they exclaimed, “Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!” 50 And one of them struck at the high priest’s slave, slashing off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Luke 22:49-51 (NLT2)
How then shall we deal with our problems? First, expect them so you will not be taken off guard. Second, realize that every live body of Christians has its troubles, from Christ and His apostles to the present day, so yours are not unique. Third, pour in copious amounts of love, the best lubricant in the world. Love will reduce friction to a minimum and keep the whole body working smoothly and without injury to its parts.
Where does this love come from? The love of God bursts forth from the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
Malchus was his name. A slave of the high priest, one of those brought along
for his muscle. We know this from John’s gospel. John informs us that it was
Peter who took a swing at him and hit him in the ear. (Peter was not a skilled
Someone ready to do violence to Jesus and His followers.nd Jesus walked up to him and healed him.
Let that sink in; think about it.
Jesus healed Malchus. The man whom the church (as Peter represents) attacked
and brutalized, Jesus healed.
Yes! Peter was afraid! Yes, the man was out to do Jesus and the disciples
harm. Yes, Peter thought he was defending Jesus,
Peter attacked, Peter caused damage to the man. Jesus healed him.
The church today acts more like Peter than we think. We are so afraid of
tribulation, persecution, the world on the attack trying to kill us or
So we launch pre-emptive attacks. We shouldn’t, our fear should be overwhelmed
by our faith, but we do.
The question is, can we see Jesus heal the damage we have done? Can we see
and rejoice in His bringing healing to where we, his followers have spiritually
and mentally mutilated people?
We need to be… we need to grow in faith, and be like the deacon who didn’t
hold Saul or his minions responsilbe for his death. We need to reach out to
those in Nineveh, or like the Naaman the general. We need to love them, and the
only way to do that, is to see Jesus’ love for us. For then we can plea, with a
heart they can see, that they be reconciled to God. That they can see Him heal
them of all unrighteousness.
The gospel is glorious, because Jesus heals Malchus, and restores Peter. For
God so love the world…
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 He did what was right in the LORD’s sight just as his father Amaziah had done. 5 He sought God throughout the lifetime of Zechariah, the teacher of the fear of God. During the time that he sought the LORD, God gave him success. Chron. 26:4-5 CSB
18 A large number of the people—many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun—were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passoverb contrary to what was written.c But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good LORD provide atonement on behalf of 19 whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God,d the LORD, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” 20 So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people 2 Chron 30:18-20 CSB
Many Christians submit to great fatigue, and expose themselves to many dangers, to visit the places in the Holy Land where our most loving Saviour was born, suffered, and died. We need not undertake so long a journey, or expose ourselves to so many dangers; the same Lord is near us, and dwells in the church, only a few steps distant from our houses. If pilgrims, says St. Paulinus, consider it a great thing to bring back a little dust from the crib, or from the holy sepulchre in which Jesus was buried, with what ardor should not we visit the Most Blessed Sacrament, where the same Jesus is in person, and where we can go without encountering so much fatigue and so many dangers!
God does His work by the operation of the Spirit, while Christian leaders attempt to do theirs by the power of trained and devoted intellect. Bright personality has taken the place of the divine afflatus.
I have been blessed to visit Rome, and pray in many of the churches there. Some I found irresistable, such as the church in the Villa Tevere, and the church that was made our of the home of St. Francis of Assissi. I have preached in China as well, and found in a little church along a small canal the same sense of being in a refuge, being in a sanctuary. There was something special about those places.
De Ligouri’s words therefore resonate with me, although his visit to the Most Blessed Sacrament and mine differ – for his is the Eucharist in a monstrance, to contemplate upon in prayer. Mine preference is to find that same thing as the people of God receive the Body and Blood of Christ, in and under the bread and wine.
In either situation, seeking the Lord is not about encountering physical torment. That may be needed, and it may not be. The challenge is what Is mentioned in Chronicles, being taught the fear/awe of the Lord. Be able to know that we should be terrified, as we are sinners gathering in the presnce of the Holy. At the same time, realizing in awe that God still accepts us anyway. He will deal with our sin… and still welcome us.
And welcoming that teaching is part of our journey. To allow God to inspect our lives, the deepest parts, to let Him find what lurks within, and carefully cut it away. To admit, as Hezekiah and His crew did, that we aren’t ready to enter into the feast, and to cling to a God who is merciful.
That is our journey… that is our hope.
This God of ours… and make no mistake, He is ours, for the Holy Spirit walks with us on this journey. Note the healing that was done to Hezekiah’s crew? That is being done in our lives today… making us right and whole, so that we would be welcomed in the presence of God.
It is a hard journey to make, for we don’t know what lurks within us. We just recognize the Spirit’s work, especially as we bow and kneel with others at the rail… and receive Christ again,
It doesn’t matter where… the Holy Land, Rome, Jiangmen, Macao, Cerritos or Lawrence, Mass.
He is our God, and we find refuge, sanctuary, and serenity as we feast with Him, and His people.
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), 181.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
(if you would like to hear the message and the service, please go to bit.ly/concordiacerritos )
Your Encounter with Jesus
Revealed to All!
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that because Jesus has risen, you have risen indeed!
Getting called to the front of the class
There are two types of people in the world.
The first type is the kind that is scared to get called up to the front of the class because it means they are in trouble again. Or called on in the midst of the sermon… which I can’t do today.
The second type is the kind that is scared of being called up in front of the class period. They don’t like to be in the spotlight, and they are usually more upset when you call on them to praise them, than if they are in trouble.
Either way – most people don’t like being the center of attention. And yet in today’s epistle lesson, every believer is going to find themselves in the center of attention. You will be in the spotlight!
Isn’t this about Jesus?
You may be saying, wait – this Is Easter, it is supposed to be about Jesus being the center of attention! It is about the fact that Alleluia! He is Risen! (He Is Risen Indeed – and therefore We are risen Indeed!)
Did you hear that last part?
Now hear how Paul describes this,
4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory!
This idea that because Jesus has risen, so have we leads to that thought. We won’t be sitting in the nosebleed section of heaven, nor will we be in the kitchen, or outback mowing the lawn.
We will be there, sharing In His glory. The term in Greek means to be in the focus of the lights. Yes this is all about Him, and yet the reason it is, is because He is bringing us home!
The Struggle with not seeing ourselves the way God does!
Whether we are type 1 or type 2, the idea of being in the spotlight with Jesus might seem more than a little crazy, it might seem downright insane.
For the first type, the type always getting themselves in trouble, there is a more than a little fear that maybe God will figure out the mistake that was made, that let us into heaven in the first place. Peter didn’t have a bookkeeper like Sandie, so there was an error that wasn’t caught, and that’s why we are there!
We know we are sinners, it is just a matter of time before we are caught. We think right now that we don’t belong, we are not good enough.
And the type two person may not see themselves as evil and rotten, but they don’t see themselves as anything spectacular, noting essential.
Sin robs us of the truth.
Even the sin we know has been forgiven, seems to leave a shadow hanging over us, convincing us that we might get into heaven, only because of technicality – Jesus had to forgive us, so we get the seats furthest out…
I wonder if that is why Lutherans like the seats in the back of the room?
You will share in His glory!
Seriously, we have to get used to this idea – that God did save us, that Christ didn’t die so that we could be stashed in some back corner of heaven.
He saved us to spend eternity with us.
(And that is a lot longer than a pandemic’s stay at home order)
God’s desire is not that we become some kind of audience in heaven, nor His fanbase.
We died with Jesus in Baptism so that we could rise to live with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, forever.
That is what faith is, waiting to see Him, to see our real life revealed in Christ Jesus in heaven.
Jesus didn’t die just to save us from our sins, he died for this life to be created, for us to live with Him. I love how Psalm 68 describes it
18 You have climbed the heights of heavens, having taken captivity captive, you have taken men as tribute, even rebels that Yahweh God might have a dwelling-place with them. Psalm 68:18
Jesus, having died, burst through the gates of hell, and taken His ransom.
A ransom of people to call His own.
He broke down the walls of hell to rescue you and me,,, to bring us to the Father. That is why Hebrews say this,
19 So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body. 20 21 22 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. 23 Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word.
Hebrews 10:19-23 (MSG)
A promise that you will share in His glory, for He is risen Indeed Alleluia… and therefore… you are risen indeed ALLELUIA!