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!
The Relationships of Christmas Present
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in your life, so that broken relationships you deal with today are healed.
A quick review of the past
Last week, we looked at relationships of Christmas past, and we walked in the footsteps of Judah and his brothers. We saw the desire, and the inability to make up for the sins we’ve committed against others.
We had to see the only hope to deal with the guilt, the shame, the separation was to put it into God’s hands.
So now we come to the Relationships of Christmas Present…
In this moment!
Instead of walking in Judah’s footsteps, we have to exchange them for Joseph’s and deal with the pain of relationships in the present, those relationships that will not be celebrated at Christmas, because sin has again divided us.
Not our sin this time… “theirs!”
You know who I am talking about, every one of us has someone who, if they walked in the room right now, we would not want to interact with them. We may not be angry at them, we may not be burying our resentment, or at least we tell ourselves this. But the pain is there. The heartache, and the discomfort when they walk in the room.
If only we could see them, as Joseph saw his brothers, if only we could weep at the division between us, if only we could ask them to “please come closer,” and urge them as he did, “don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for hurting me this way,”
If only our grief caused by their sin was able to be dealt with in that way!
If only… we could love more than we hurt…
if only… the relationship meant more to us… than our pain.
My God, there are days where I wish I had the strength of Joseph’s faith…
But I do not…and if I read scripture right, neither do any of you.
The Key To Healing Relationships of Christmas Present
There is only one way to be able to generate that much strength, that much desire to see things “made right” in the relationship with us, that someone shattered. It is walking in Joseph’s steps and seeing what God has done, not in their life, but in ours.
That is where Joseph looks and sees God at work in His life. He sees God at work, as He promised to be, making everything work for good for those who love Him, those He’s called to be His own people.
It isn’t so much that we make the decision to love them, that we will ourselves to give up the pain and the hurt, that we willingly just give Jesus the resentment and pain.
It fades away, in the light of His glory, it fades away as we see the manger, and realize He is with us, it fades away.. as we see the cross, and realize He lived and died and rose again… because He loves us.
and there, in that moment, we find ourselves, empowered and driven by the Holy Spirit, going to those who’ve sinned against us, with tears in our eyes, saying,
It is I, your brother, don’t be afraid, don’t be upset with yourselves, God is at work here…
And then be amazed, for the peace of God which passes all understanding envelops you all, and guards your heart and soul and mind. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the day
22 His answer surprised them so much that they walked away..…33 The crowds were surprised to hear what Jesus was teaching. Matt 22:22, 33 CEV
This development reflected the new liturgical awareness which had been growing in these years. At that time, young people were interested not so much in the inherited dogmatic problems of eucharistic doctrine as in the liturgical celebration as a living form [Gestalt]. They found that this form, or structure, was a theological and spiritual entity with an integrity of its own. What previously had been the rubricist’s sphere of operations, mere ceremonial, having no apparent connection with dogma, now seemed to be an integral part of the action. It was its actual manifestation, apart from which the reality itself would remain invisible. Some years later Joseph Pascher put it like this: as far as the structure is concerned, up to now people had only paid attention to the rubrics, to what was printed in red; now it was time to give equal attention to the red and the black print. “There is far more in the form and structure of the texts and the whole celebration than in the rubrics.”
Throughout scripture, I find God surprising people.
Sometimes it is with what they are taught, as in my readings from Matthew this morning. Sometimes it is with the call, the role He gives them in life, as they minister and try to lead the people who need to find themselves, by discovering their relationship with God.
So why does He keep surprising us? Or perhaps the question is “how” He keeps doing so.
The latter question is seen in the words from Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) We get so caught up in “how” we worship God, how we serve Him, that we don’t hear the words we read, that we sing, that we preach or hear in the sermon. We get so caught up in the forms and directions for doing them right, (the rubrics – which were printed in red by the printers of worship hymnals, missals, and the agendas – the books that guide pastors/priests) Pascher talks about giving equal weight to form and matter, even realizing there is what is said.
We do that today as well, getting more focused on how we worship and how we live than in the glory of God that surrounds us, for we are His people. That is why some police morality and thoughts more than seek God’s face. Why some think revival comes from people being corrected in thought, word and deed, rather than realizing that their errors in thought word and deed are forgiven, and the damage done by sin God will heal. (That is what forgiveness really is, by the way, not just the removal of the punishment, but the healing of the damage done!)
That is why it is surprising when miracles happen, or when prodigals we gave up on come home. It is why we hide our sin and brokenness, rather than talking about it freely, we struggle to believe God will forgive what we cannot believe can be forgiven. It is why we have developed a culture that still is based on shame and guilt, rather than in the hope of restoration and the love that brings it about.
These things are taught in our liturgies, whether complex or simple. It should be heard in our sermons and our prayers celebrated and rejoice over in our songs sung in church and throughout the week.
And when we are surprised by what Jesus reveals to us in His word, then again give thanks, for the Holy Spirit is keeping us focused on Jesus… and the form will naturally follow. As the ancients taught, as we worship, so we believe … and so we practice.
Lord Jesus, we ask that you keep surprising us, that you keep revealing to us the promises, and even more your presence and love which makes us sure of them. Lord, help us never grow stale or dull in our dependence on You but keep us marveling at how You sustain and heal us. AMEN!
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 33–34.
Devotional Thought for our Day
My friends, be careful that none of you have a heart so evil and unbelieving that you will turn away from the living God. 13 Instead, in order that none of you be deceived by sin and become stubborn, you must help one another every day, as long as the word “Today” in the scripture applies to us. 14 For we are all partners with Christ if we hold firmly to the end the confidence we had at the beginning. Hebrews 3:12-14 GNT
Never will we be able to show a student the horizon of greatness if we use our leadership as a stepping-stone for our personal ambitions or for our petty interests. If we let our kids see in us this counter-witness, we make them afraid to dream and grow.
But the real heart of Christianity is, and will always be, love of neighbor. For, in very fact, each individual is infinitely loved by God and is of infinite value. Christ says to each of us the words so feelingly formulated by Pascal: “In my mortal agony, I thought of you. I shed these drops of blood for you.” If we are able by our love to give meaning to another person, to just one other person, our life will have been infinitely worthwhile. And it will always be so: that men live by their encounter with the love that gives meaning to their lives—it is true of every relationship; no reform, no revolution, can make this gift superfluous. It is likewise true that in all relationships it would be redemptive if, in a world marred by hostility and alienation, one individual would leave the collective and be a brother. These redemptive encounters, which are recorded in no history book, form the true inner history of the Church, which today, more than ever before, we forget in our concern about the history of institutions.
I am not the handyman my dad was. Simply put, I might be able to hammer a nail in, or, on a good day put together something from IKEA. But I can’t use a jigsaw, or tables saw with any skill, and repairing thgs? Well, lucky for me I have a church with guys who have that talent.
I learned early on to rely on others, including my dad or my Father-in-law. It wasn’t the easiest of lessons, but common sense soon overcame a very humbled sense of pride, and I can now allow those with the gift to get involved before I attempt to screw things up beyond repair.
It is a lesson we need to learn spiritually as well.
We need to be involved with others, and as Hebrews says, it can stop us from making a mess out of our lives. THe more we are engaged with others, helping them, crying with them, laughing with them, the less impact sin and evil have in our life. True fellowship has that effect on us, as we are gathered together by God in His name. (remember Jesus said “wherever 2 or 3…)
This is what Pope Francis was talking about in regards to leadership. We need to reflect on how leadership can corrupt us, as we consider more how our decisions impact us, rather than how they impact those around us, and those who will follow us. Our encounters with God change us, and our encounters with those for whom Christ shed his blood are part of those encounters.
Imagine if we saw every encounter as a redemptive encounter? If we knew God would bring healing to our brokenness, if He would pour out mercy on us both? How we would look forward to such times!. How we would greet each other with more eagerness! How being in groups would be less anxiety producing! How great these times would be, and how willing we would be to help, to accept assistance, to laugh and cry together.
to share our brokenness, our struggles with sin and temptation…
and how our lives, our homes, our churches would experience this new life. A life God gives us as He draws us into Himself.
Here is our hope and healing, here is our help.
Lord, help us to look at every encounter, every meeting we have as an encounter with You. Lord help us then see these same encounters as times of redemption and healing, as You bring us together. In Jesus name we pray! AMEN!
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), 292.
Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 290.
Devotional Thoughts for the Day:
Watch over this Temple day and night. You have promised that this is where you will be worshiped, so hear me when I face this Temple and pray. 21 Hear my prayers and the prayers of your people Israel when they face this place and pray. In your home in heaven hear us and forgive us. 2 Chronicles 6:20-21 GNT
because they have sinned against you and then when they turn to you and come to this Temple, humbly praying to you for forgiveness, 25 listen to them in heaven. Forgive the sins of your people 2 Chron 6:24-25 GNT
O LORD, listen to them in heaven and forgive the sins of your servants, the people of Israel, and teach them to do what is right. 2 Chron. 6:27 GNT
…listen to their prayers. If any of your people Israel, out of heartfelt sorrow, stretch out their hands in prayer toward this Temple, 30 hear their prayer. Listen to them in your home in heaven and forgive them. You alone know the thoughts of the human heart. Deal with each of us as we deserve, 31 so that your people may honor you and obey you, 2 Chron 6:29-31a
If there in that land they repent and pray to you, confessing how sinful and wicked they have been, hear their prayers, O LORD. 38 If in that land they truly and sincerely repent and pray to you as they face toward this land which you gave to our ancestors, this city which you have chosen, and this Temple which I have built for you, 39 then listen to their prayers. In your home in heaven hear them and be merciful to them and forgive all the sins of your people. 37b-39 GNT
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. 9 But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-9 GNT
So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a good person has a powerful effect James 5:16 GNT
Thus Luther never thought of abolishing private confession. He knew and used its benefits in his own spiritual struggles, and he could not conceive of a Christian who could get along without it. He never designed an order of public confession, but in the Small Catechism he offered two forms of private confession.
Nevertheless I will allow no man to take private confession away from me, and I would not give it up for all the treasures in the world, since I know what comfort and strength it has given me. No one knows what it can do for him except one who has struggled often and long with the devil. Yea, the devil would have slain me long ago, if the confession had not sustained me. For there are many doubtful matters which a man cannot resolve or find the answer to by himself, and so he takes his brother aside and tells him his trouble. What harm is there if he humbles himself a little before his neighbor, puts himself to shame, looks for a word of comfort from him, accepts it, and believes it, as if he were hearing it from God himself, as we read in Matt. 18 [:19], “If two of you agree about anything they ask, it will be done for them.”
A lot of reading accompany this morning’s thoughts. Most of them from one chapter of 2 Chronicles 6. I broke the reading into segments for a reason, to highlight a concept over and over, to help us understand what a priority it holds in scripture, at the very dedication of the Temple, and the place it should hold in our lives.
I have yet to see a Christian church, whether Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox or Lutheran that doesn’t talk about confession at some point in the life of its people. But far too often, once mentioned, it disappears, and with it, the incredible gift of forgiveness, of being forgiven.
At the dedicaiton of the temple, time after time this pattern is seen, we pray, God hears, and forgives.
Not just once at conversion, not just as a rote practice and prayer as part of a worship service. But to confess in a way where we don’t just hear we are forgiven, we depend on it and base our lives on it..
But what if we struggle to believe? What if we hear these words and just can’t get our minds to accept that God forgave this sin that haunts me, that I cannot escape the feelings of guilt and shame about? That no matter how many times I pray in a church service, or on my own, or at the altar, I wonder if I am forgiven of it?
That is where what is called “private confession” or in other churches , “the ministry of reconciliation” comes into play. Confessing those sins to another believer, a pastor or priest who has been tasked by GOd and the church with comforting you, with providing to you the words of forgiveness, on the behalf of God himself. This is what James 5 speaks of, and promises (you can also check out JOhn 20 and Matthew 16 for other places where the church is given authority to forgive sins on God’s behalf)
Over the years as people have spoken of their sin, the most remarkable catharis takes place, as they see God break the hold that sin has on them. As they hear and experience that God has forgivenes them of the darkest sins, as God heals them and makes them whole, as He reminds them that they are His holy people. James doesn’t used “healed” for lack of a better word, it is truly what happens.
It is an incredible blessing, it is a most amazing thing to observe, this transformation that occurs.
Please my friends, don’t let the darkness of sin consume you, rather confess your sins, and find the Prodigal’s Father embracing you, and restoring your life with Him.
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 53: Liturgy and Hymns. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 53, p. 117). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 51: Sermons I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 51, p. 98). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 He made no difference between us and them; he forgave their sins because they believed. 10 So then, why do you now want to put God to the test by laying a load on the backs of the believers which neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry? 11 No! We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.” Acts 15:9-11 GNT
Great faith, like great strength in general, is revealed by how easily it works. Most of what we call a struggle of faith is really the struggle to act as if we had faith when in fact we do not.
Imagine a jacket lying on the ground. If someone picks up the garment holding it from the end of one of its sleeves, or from one of its pockets, the result would be a considerable mess. You have to take the jacket from the shoulders to hang it properly.
Something similar happens with worship: to adore is to take life by the shoulders and not by the sleeve. Anyone who puts God at the top of the values of their existence, notes that ‘everything else’ happens to occupy the place it should. By worshiping God one learns to relativize all things which, although important, should not be at the centre, that do not relate to it.
I recently was told I was “a man of great faith.” I am not sure what the person meant by that, but to be honest, in my understanding of it, I am not.
That is not saying I don’t aspire ot be a man of great faith, o how I wish I was. But I am like the father, who told Jesus, “I believe! Help me in my lack of belief.”
This morning, I came to the three readings I copied and pasted above, and it reinfoces the need to discuss what great faith is, or even having faith.
The middle one resonates as true – faith – a deep dependence of God, is so much of who we are that to operate depending on God is easy, it is natural. If I am questioning my faith, and asking if I have enough, then what I really need to be doing is asking God to strengthen my faith, to undergird it, to help me depend on the Holy Spirit more than I depend on my own reason, my own will, my own power.
Deep faith means we act in prayer, knowing that God has answered Paul’s prayer in 2 Thes 1:11 – giving us the desire and completing the the He causes us to do, by faith. It happens, and we even sometimes act without realizing it, as we minister to those people who are the least of these.
That kind of deep faith is taking the God at His word, at what He’s promised to do, and depending on it. That is what the final quote discusses, hanging up the jacket the right way. When we worship God because of what He’s revealed at the cross, at the altar, in the word, everything else takes its place relative to it. Life comes together, like a plan in the old ATeam series – though it often doesn’t come together in the manner we think it should. But as our faith deepens, as we come to depend on God more and more, the more that becomes a cause for joy.
You see this in the quote from Acts, the apostles and early church, struggling with what the Gentiles beocming part of the church meant, kept God’s work at their focus. They joy was not in the agreement they “brokered” but in the very knowledge that God had worked in others, bringing them to the greatest challenge of faith.
Depending that God has saved us, that He has forgiven us sll of our sins. There is faith at it hardest challenge, the most illogical thing, even the most foolish thing that we believe in as His people. (see Proverbs 17:18) Yet, that is where faith begins.
To know that God loves us enough to do something foolish – to be responsible for all of our debt, all of our sin. To depend on Him to restore us from the brokeness that sin creates in our lives.
This is where faith struggles the most, right at the beginning, To truly live life knowing and depending on our sin being forgiven, depending on the renewal and reconciliation that happens as God does this miracle, is life changing. To know that my sins, my thoughts, words and deeds of which I am ashamed (or should be ashamed) are taken care of by God.
It is at that moment, as we realize this, that our faith soars, that our praises rise, that we are in awe of God. It is there we find the Holy Spirit revealing to us through word and sacrament this wonderful, glorious, marvelous love of God.
And it is then that we can dive deeply into this relationship, not fully understanding why God would do this..
This is the deepest moment of dependence of God, and the moment when HIs love for us overwhelms us.
Lord God, even as we have to depend on You in the daily struggles of our lives, help us depend on the acts in which You draw us into Jesus Christ, cleanse us of sin, and restore and heal us. Help us know that love which does all this – and then walks us through each day. We pray this in Jesus Name! AMEN!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.
Aguirre, J. I. M. D. (2012). Eucharistic Adoration and Sacred Scripture. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 109). London; New York: Burns & Oates.