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What Now? Hope…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

4 On the third dayq Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac.r In his hand he took the fire and the knife,s and the two of them walked on together.
7 Then Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father.”
And he replied, “Here I am, my son.”
Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provideG,t the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Then the two of them walked on together.
Genesis 22:4-8 CSB

Love also implies hope. The Christian’s vision of our surroundings has to be optimistic. Not the naïve optimism of someone oblivious to the undeniable presence of evil, but that supernatural joy that is founded on a trusting abandonment to the plans of God’s loving Providence and on the free collaboration of people of good will with those plans.

To their mortal eyes He appeared as fire, and may we not safely conclude that those Scripture-taught believers knew at once what it meant? The God who had appeared to them as fire throughout all their long history was now dwelling in them as fire. He had moved from without to the interior of their lives. The Shekinah that had once blazed over the mercy seat now blazed on their foreheads as an external emblem of the fire that had invaded their natures.
This was Deity giving Himself to ransomed men. The flame was the seal of a new union. They were now men and women of the Fire.

I have seen a lot of despair in the last week. Politically among both those expeccted to win, and thosse expeccted to lose. I have seen it as well asthoseewh look at their churches and wonder how the churh will continue to be the church. They look for aswers, they dreamm dreamss, they read book about journeying into the unknown, looking for anything that wilgive them hope to continue their ministry, no matter how different it will look. Some of us, are in despair, because a good friend is ill, another is dealing with the loss of memory, and th ability to express their wisdom. More despair is being adresed by those who have someone dear to thm dying, and even harder, when onperson is being sucked into a ife of sn.

In the midst of this, I have hearpeople cry out, “now what?”

And I cry with them. I have to ask that question, for if I do not, I will not see the answer.

What now?

Hope!

(remember, it is a verb!) Hope, looking forward to the things God has promised.

So, what now? HOPE

You see that hope in Abraham, knowing he was going to sacrifice his son, and yet he says, that they will return together. You see it as he is tying up his son, and utters that God will provide.

No knowledge of how, but clinging to the idea that God cannot go back on his promise!

Hope is not naive! Hope is not to be confused with blind optimism. Hope is not blind to either evil, or the consequences of sin that is so visible in our broken world. It recognizes that, and something more….

It is abandoning our worries, our anxieities, our fears and pains simply because the Holy Spirit has invaded our lives. His presence, an unquenchable fire, causes us to endure…. even as it purifies us. This is where hope comes from, as the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of God’s love for us.

To realize the promises of God, such as this one, 5  Then I, myself, will be a protective wall of fire around Jerusalem, says the LORD. And I will be the glory inside the city!’” Zechariah 2:5 (NLT2)

This is the role of the Spirit in our lives… it is the Spirit who gives us real life… who gives us hope.

So what now? Hope! for the Lord is with you!!

Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (p. 68). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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

Have You Tried Talking WITH Him?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD. Gen. 4:26b

Once the Holy Spirit’s work in our heart begins, grace, forgiveness, cleansing take on a form of almost bodily clearness.
Prayer loses its unmeaning quality and becomes a sweet conversation with Someone actually there. Love for God and for the children of God takes possession of the soul. We feel ourselves near to heaven and it is now the earth and the world that begin to seem unreal.…

Doing some reading for a class I am taking, there was a comment that the number one of the thing pastors can do to sustain good ministry is to engage in regular spiritual discipline. (the Lilly Foundation was credited)

It should be common sense, if our goal is to connect people to God, to help them encounter and experience His love, we need to engaged in that dialogue with Him. That is the sweet conversation Tozer describes, what gives meaning to actual prayer. Without the confidence that God is listening, prayer is simply the recitation of words, a philosophical incantation done ot offer a placebo.

But because the Holy Spirit is there, teaching us to call on God… everything changes.

To deny this, or to neglect it, is tragic, for how can we neglect hat God has created, the ability to talk with Him, as was given in the earliest days, as God gave to men and women the ability to talk with HIm directly.

Luther would note this too, as he explains in the large catechism about prayer. It is part of our lives, not just and after thought. ( I highly suggest reading this!)

The other point Tozer made is based on the reality that is expressed in Colossians 3, “For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3 (NLT2) Prayer helps us realize that Gid is present, and our relationshp with Him is the basis of reality. Who we are, what we are, we are defined by that relationship with Him, and nothing else is as real as that. Nothing else transforms us that way.

So pray, just start, ask the Spirit to guide you… and rejoice.. for God is listening…

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

At the End of our Story, We Find He Protected us.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

16  All those who truly respected the LORD and honored his name started discussing these things, and when God saw what was happening, he had their names written as a reminder in his book. 17  Then the LORD All-Powerful said: You people are precious to me, and when I come to bring justice, I will protect you, just as parents protect an obedient child. 18  Then everyone will once again see the difference between those who obey me by doing right and those who reject me by doing wrong. Malachi 3:16-18 (CEV)

No man can be renewed without as real and true a manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s energy as he felt at first, because the work is as great, and flesh and blood are as much in the way now as ever they were. Let thy personal weakness, O Christian, be an argument to make thee pray earnestly to thy God for help.

Deliver us, Lord, we beseech you, from every evil and grant us peace in our day, so that aided by your mercy we might be ever free from sin and protected from all anxiety, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Do you want to accompany Jesus closely, very closely? . . . Open the Holy Gospel and read the Passion of our Lord. But don’t just read it: live it. There is a big difference. To read is to recall something that happened in the past; to live is to find oneself present at an event that is happening here and now, to be someone taking part in those scenes. Then, allow your heart to open wide; let it place itself next to our Lord. And when you notice it trying to slip away—when you see that you are a coward, like the others—ask forgiveness for your cowardice and mine.

There are calendar year ends, fiscal year ends, liturgical year ends, and for me, the end of a year of devotional readings. That is why the reading from Malachi heads this list, the promise of God writing our names in the book, and offering His care, His protection to us. While we do not always realize this, this is our story, this God who loves and protects and comforts us!

The other readings touch on the same theme, the work of God in our lives, protecting us from the work of Satan, from the struggle with dying, even from our own broken nature.

Spurgeon makes it clear, we need the Holy Spirit working to bring us to His gift of repentance, As he notes, our flesh and blood just loves to ge tin the way! And so we struggle with God breathing life into our exhausted souls..

We Lutherans, as well as the Protestants need to pray the prayer above from the Catholic mass, remembering that what we are praying was granted to us as we were united to Christ,, united to Him in His death, and HIs resurrection. ANd as we realize this, we find that we are protected, not just from evil, but from the anxiety that obscures the hope from knowing Jesus will return for us. As I read this prayer this morning, the words poured out, they are what God is doing in our lives! By praying it, we realize twhat God is doing in our lives

And finally, in Mr. Fazio’s recounting of the life of St. Josemaria, in this encouragement not just to read the gospel, but live it, we live in the time of deliverance, where Jesus saves us. you and me.

And yes, Satan will try to cause it to slowly slip away… and then our answer must be to cry out to God, to depend on His presence, and the blessings He pours out on us, when we are delivered….

We need to pray for each other in those moments, that we do not slink away like a coward, but instead our encouragement stimulates us to run toward Him… knowing and counting on His love.


C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 687.

Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (p. 35). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

More Intimate than the Incarnation

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here!

Devotional Thought of the Day:
16  Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you. 17  The Spirit will show you what is true. The people of this world cannot accept the Spirit, because they don’t see or know him. But you know the Spirit, who is with you and will keep on living in you. 18  I won’t leave you like orphans. I will come back to you. John 14:16-18 (CEV)

The Incarnation was already a stupendous feat of intimacy. God did not just love us as an other but became one of us. Yet even this was not enough for Him, not enough intimacy. Jesus told His disciples that it would be better for them if He went away so that He could send His Spirit (Jn 16:7). Why is that better? Wouldn’t we all prefer to have Jesus still with us physically? Wouldn’t He draw a crowd of millions if it could be advertised that Jesus would appear in the flesh?

He had become incarnate. Jesus was born of Mary. John 1 tells us that He came and made life among us, and those who saw him beheld the very glory of God.

There are days I am jealous of Peter, and Matthew, and even James the lesser. They lived with Jesus, they camped out under the stars that were made through Him. What a relationship with God they must have had! How easy must have it been to just talk to God, and morning devotions must have been just… awesome!

3 years of walking with Jesus, of experiencing life in the presence of God! What a blessing, what an incredible blessing!

We are equally blessed, but we don’t often take the time to appreciate that our relationship with God is even more intense, even more intimate. For God did not just come and dwell among us, the Holy Spirit dwells in us.

God is us!

So intimate that our deepest, darkest thoughts are exposed, and as we pray, they are prayed for with groans that go beyond our hearing. (see Romans 8) Healing us, transforming us into the likeness of Christ, enabling us not only to do God’s will, but to desire to do it, because we know we are loved.

We need to think on this, so spend time getting to know that One who lifts us up, and carry’s us. We need to listen to the Spirit’s call and directions, even when we don’t like it. We need to even allow the Spirit to change our calendars, for there will be times the Spirit will minister to others beyond our imagination! Or times where we need to slow down, and let the Spirit minister to us.

This is the deepest for of intimacy we will know, until we have arrived before the throne of God.

I pray that we realize the presence, the intimate, transforming, comforting presence of the Holy Spirit more and more each day.





Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 132.

Upon Them All – A Pentecost Sermon from Numbers 11:24-30

Upon Them All!
Numbers 11:24- 30

May the grace of God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ reveal to us the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives daily!

 An Incredible Desire Comes True

When most believers think of Pentecost, their minds sweep to Peter, the other apostles, and the one hundred and twenty or so believers and the incredible display of tongues of fire, and the sound of the Holy Spirit testifying to the glory of God, through the believers.

Others will think about the Old Testament feast, the feast fifty days after Passover, when people were to bring evidence to God the Father of His blessing them. They were to bring the first part of the harvest and celebrate it together.

After Jesus’ ascension, Pentecost takes on a similar proof of God’s work. Jesus prophesied about it this way…

23  Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. 24  I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. John 12:23-24 (NLT2)

Pentecost is the proof that God’s love makes a difference in lives. It is when we realize the word God does and celebrate the new lives he has created.

Pentecost is the fulfillment of prophetic dreams!  The dream God gave Abraham, that through his seed, through one of his descendants, the world would be blessed, the dream that Jesus referenced in that passage.

Many other prophecies in the Old Testament that promised salvation, that promised restoration, that promised God hadn’t abandoned His plan, a plan for His people.

Like the desire of Moses, we heard this morning,

Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them all!

Angst over what we don’t understand

It used to bother me that this young and Joshua were upset that two other elders, not with the 70 at the tabernacle, were prophesying. After all, what right did they have to judge the two leaders?

Why would Joshua beg Moses to make them stop?

Couldn’t he recognize the work of the Holy Spirit?  The very same Holy Spirit that he had watched work through Moses?

I want to get mad at them for their immaturity, at their jealousy, at their inability to recognize God at work. I want to call it what it is, I want to judge them.

At which point, would I be any better than they are?

The two young guys judged the two old guys for speaking for God. That caused more trouble, and unless Moses had spoken up, who knows what would have happened!

We need more people like that, more people to speak up, not based on their understanding, but on God’s understanding. People who will speak as God would speak, who prophesy against sin, not to condemn, but to remind people that God will show them mercy. This is what speaking for God; it is what prophecy is all about.

That is why Moses was all for every person being able to prophesy, This is Moses wanted “that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them all!”

We can see what Moses Long to see!

This is what Pentecost is all about, the struggle to see what God is doing, the life that has come to be, because of the planting of Jesus, the seed of Abraham in the ground.

It is about us coming to God and saying, “God, you are amazing, look at what you are doing here!  Look at what your love planted, and your mercy nourished, what the Holy Spirit is creating right here in our lives.

For when our eyes are open to the work of the Holy Spirit, when we are seeing what God is doing, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, when we know that because He rose from the dead, we have arisen as well; that is when all things become new.

That my friends have been possible for every single believer for some 1990 years since the very first Pentecost – when God poured out His Holy Spirit on all believers. It happens anew every time someone is baptized, as Paul wrote to Titus,

3  Once, we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy. We hated each other. 4  But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5  he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6  He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ, our Savior. 7  Because of his grace, he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”
Titus 3:3-7 (NLT2) You have been baptized, if you haven’t – we can take care of that as soon as you get here!

So start looking for His work around you, it won’t take long.

For He has risen!

And therefore

You are risen!

And that means the Lord is with You!  AMEN!

 

Does God Still Love Me?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

25 He doesn’t need help from anyone. He gives life, breath, and everything else to all people. 26 From one person God made all nations who live on earth, and he decided when and where every nation would be. Acts 17:25-26 CEV

We must accept that there will be defeats in this interior fight, and we may be threatened with the danger of discouragement. That is why the Founder of Opus Dei contantly instilled in souls that cry of Possumus!—”We can!”—of the sons of Zebedee.6 It is not a cry that arise from the presumption but from a humble trust in God’s Omnipotence.

How can I know God loves me? I believe it, or I want to believe it. But how can I know it for sure? How can I get assurance of the most important thing in the world?
The question is an excellent one. It demands something more than the mere mental acceptance of the three-word proposition “God loves me.” It demands three greater forms of intimacy or closeness.
First, I want to know that God loves me, not just everyone. Me, with all my very specific and very real sins and uglinesses and unlovablenesses. Does God really love me just as I am? Am I really completely forgiven? All my sufferings and failures seem to me to be a just punishment that proves that God does not and should not love me completely because I do not deserve it. I need to know instead that my very sufferings and failures are the caress of his personal, individual love-plan for me, not the inevitable result of His impersonal justice.

The title of my blog post this morning is not a rhetorical question.

It is a question I struggle with, and have struggled with often in my life. Apparently I am not the only one, as the notes in the introduction to the Forge indicate.

We are going to have days when we struggle, when we face discouragement because our spiritual life, our “interior life” seems poor, lifeless, oppressed. We bay seem beaten and rundown. In the midst of physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion, I don’t have to wonder what I’ve done wrong. Satan is there to remind me of my sins, and of my failures. He will throw it all at me, for that is what Devil means in the original language.

And my cry out to Jesus, do you still love me, do you still care is actually a cry of the soul engaged in spiritual warfare. It is not just a cry of despair, for this cry will be answered. It is the cry, as Peter Kreeft notes, that betrays an intimacy with God that requires trust.

Trust that He will answer. Trust to even dare ask, trust to realize He is listening and will answer.

He always does.

Look at the cross, there is your answer. Let the Holy Spirit comfort you, and be the assurance, the guarantee that Paul described.

21  It is God himself who makes us, together with you, sure of our life in union with Christ; it is God himself who has set us apart, 22  who has placed his mark of ownership upon us, and who has given us the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the guarantee of all that he has in store for us. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (TEV)

God guarantees that He loves us, for we are His, and we need to hear this often, especially in this midst of despair, or depression, or whatever struggle we are facing.

Remind each of this, often!

The Lord is with you!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 194.

Helping others Deal with Brokenness, Stress, Anxiety, ( like teaching them to drive a stick)

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The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. 3 Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!  Psalm 46:1-3 CEV

The best of God’s saints must drink the wormwood; the dearest of his children must bear the cross. No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God’s full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.

COMFORT WHEN FACING GRAVE TEMPTATIONS
First, such a person1 must by no means rely on himself, nor must he be guided by his own feelings. Rather, he must lay hold of the words offered to him in God’s name, cling to them, place his trust in them, and direct all the thoughts and feelings of his heart to them.
Second, he must not imagine that he is the only one assailed about his salvation, but he must be aware (as St. Peter declares) that there are many more people in the world passing through the same trials [1 Pet. 5:9]. How often does David lament and cry out in the Psalms, “O God, I am driven far from thy sight” [31:22], and, “I became like those who go into hell” [28:1]. These trials are not rare among the godly. They hurt, to be sure, but that is also in order, etc.

As I was trying to care for someone yesterday, who was worried and anxious, part of my prayer was a reaction similar to the title of this blog.

Actually, it was said to him with a bit more colorful language, and with, I must admit some anger.

Over my lifetime, I have needed to vent in more than once… and I know God can handle me, much as He did the Prophet, Jeremiah. (See Jeremiah 20:7)  Yet, knowing I can vent it, knowing I can get past it, it is not easy to teach this.

Teaching others this, and helping them be patient with themselves as they wait on God’s action, is like teaching someone to drive a manual transmission. YOu have to let them do it, you have to let them drop the clutch at the wrong times, you have ot encourage, and help them make the tiniest of corrections until they feel the shift until it becomes intuitive until it becomes natural.

When we learn to drive a stick until we realize the moments of high anxiety and stress will resolve, as God does what God does, and as we learn to trust Him, life s like those early times of driving a stick. We get jerked all over the place, stall a lot (and still do on occasion), and make very little progress. But then it all comes together, and we can begin to move, as we sop thinking of on it, and simply focus on where we are going.

Spurgeon and Luther help us realize this,  as help us realize that struggles don’t necessarily diminish as we mature, as we grow more dependent on our Lord, and on the presence of the Holy Spirit. How I wish it was the case that life gets easier!

Yet because it doesn’t, we can sit beside those trying to deal with the clutch, trying to learn, or absorb the challenges, and still keep their eyes focused on God.  We can encourage them, and comfort them, and smile as they start to move smoothly again, as they resonate with the love of Christ.

This is our mission… this is who we are..

 

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

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), 183.

Come Back to Me and Live- A Midweek Lenten Sermon based on Ezekiel 37

Come Back to Me
And Live

Ezekiel 37:1-14

† I.H.S. †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ assure you that the Holy Spirit has been breathed into Your Life and that you Live.

Valley of the Empty Sanctuary
         Will these seats be filled?

As I look out over this nearly empty sanctuary, I think I understand how Ezekiel felt looking out over the valley filled with dry bones.

I will be honest, it is hard to do this, looking out over empty seats where there should be life.  Where a sermon should bring smiles, and deeper thoughts when a call for repentance might bring some tears when the announcement of forgiveness brings from those seats a full, powerful and joy-filled amen!

And I almost hear the Lord asking me, as He once asked Ezekiel, a question. “Can these seats be filled”  When will Concordia’s sanctuary be filled again with life?

And all I can answer is the same answer, O Sovereign Lord, you alone know the answer to that!

He does…  but I wish I could do what Ezekiel did next… and speak and see a miracle take place.

Are we dry bones?
         Is our Hope gone?
         Are We finished?

As I talk to many of our people, and others who are reaching out, the words of the dry bones resonate with what I am hearing.  There in verse 11, are the words of complaint.

Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ Ezekiel 37:11 (NLT2)

Though many people have a good attitude about this, many talk of the weariness, even the times of tears that cannot be stopped…

We grow weary, and hope isn’t gone, but it does seem a long way off in the distance. We miss each other, the handshakes, the hugs, the elbows we usually pass off to each other.  Obviously, the “the Lord is with you and also with you’s” and the hands that reach out an receive the body and blood of Christ.

We are weary, we feel isolated, we feel like the people who Ezekiel wrote too – who were scattered and distant, and not “at home”, even as we are stuck in our homes. They weren’t literally the bones in the valley, but they certainly felt that way.

Which I think we understand, at least in the present moment

Again we don’t know our hope is gone, but it feels like it. We don’t know the effect on our people, but it doesn’t seem good.

So we cry out to God, together… and ask that the Holy Spirit breaths new life into us…

And God has promised that Spirit, the one Jesus calls the Comforter, will do just that.

Come Holy Spirit – Come comforter –
         He will bring us back!
         He will return us Home, He will gather us

There is our hope, as the Holy Spirit has already, because of the blood of Christ, defeated death.  That’s symbolized by the cartilage, muscles, and skin coming back on the skeletons.

But then there is a pause, and life is breathed back in – the Spirit of God, which breathed life into us… once again comes and breathes life into us, and the process of bringing us into the presence of God.

Making us know God is at home with us, wherever we are.

Helping us know that He will restore us to each other…

He is bringing He people back to life – His great army as Ezekiel describes.

And it won’t take as long as it took for Ezekiel’s vision to come to pass.

For God has already guaranteed this promise of the Holy Spirit’s presence with us, first at the cross and resurrection, and then in our Baptism.  The Spirit has come to us, we are its temple – and God will never ever leave or forsake us.

This is our greatest asset in times like this, the work of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life as we say in the creed, the description of why we have hope, the description of what makes life, life.

This is our hope in this, the word of the Holy Spirit.

There is an old prayer I would like to end with…
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them, the fire of your love!”

Come, fill the place, and every place where people are watching..  AMEN!

The Problem of “Free Will” is we don’t want it freed….

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Devotional Thought of the Day:

Jesus heard them and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.”  Mark 2:17

You may say, “Well, did God not endow us with a free will?”19 I reply: To be sure, he gave you a free will. But why do you want to make it your own will? Why not let it remain free? If you do with it whatever you will, it is not a free will, but your own will. God did not give you or anyone else a will of your own. Your own will comes from the devil and from Adam, who transformed the free will received from God into his own. A free will does not want its own way but looks only to God’s will for direction. By so doing it then also remains free, untrammeled and unshackled.

The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in him. From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ: “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”11 And they invite people of every era to enter into the joy of their communion with Christ:

I had perceived—via God’s grace, not my own wit, surely—that since God is love, we must therefore love God and love whatever God loves; that if we turn to the divine Conductor and follow the wise and loving baton that is His will, His Word, then the music of our life will be a symphony.

Over the years, I have heard people argue over the concept of free will.  Some would say we have it, others would simply say we don’t, that God is not only responsible for all of our actions, but He chooses what we will do, in every moment.  I’ve heard it blamed for our sinful choices, and for the temptations that we tried to avoid, but gave into and sinned.  Somehow people think because God gave us the ability to decide to wreck out lives, He is responsible for their breaking.

Until reading Luther this morning, I never conceived of the idea that free will could mean that it is not “our will”; not “my will” or “your will”, but the ability to simply have a will that is free, and therefore can be influenced by God,  A will that Kreeft describes himself realizing that God is love, and therefore we should resonate with His love, and love what He loves.  The power of free will then, is not aligning it to our own desires, but letting it be guided, let it resonate with the will of God.

After all, isn’t that the invitation Jesus came to deliver?  That those of us who are sinners, will be freed from sin, able to walk with Him?

That is why we train people in the faith; why we make disciples, not converts; why we catechize, answering the real questions of faith, rather than indoctrinate.

It’s not to force one’s will to be Christ’s, it is to help people see that their will, their Spirit, once clean of all sin of all injustice, resonates with Jesus.  For we were made in God’s image, and the Spirit causes us to realize this, as we realize the love of God.

This resonance is why salvation, realizing God has removed dampen and distort our lives, is so joyous. A guitar or violin string doesn’t have to be forced to sound, a similar string resonating brings its movement and sound.  Just as the word of God resonates with a truly “free will” creating joy where it resounds.

Heavenly Father, please, once again, send the Holy Spirit to remove all that would distort and dampen the will the Holy Spirit has restored.  In Jesus’ name!  Amen!

 

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), 48

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 107..

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 16.

Great Expectations for the Church in America

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9 As Jesus was leaving, he saw a tax collectorq named Matthew sitting at the place for paying taxes. Jesus said to him, “Come with me.” Matthew got up and went with him.
†10 Later, Jesus and his disciples were having dinner at Matthew’s house.r Many tax collectors and other sinners were also there. 11 Some Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and other sinners?”
12 Jesus heard them and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. †13 Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.’ I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.”
Matt. 9:9-13 CEV

Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators. When a calm reigns on the sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship moves not to its harbour; for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too.

In the readings for the course I am in, I am finding great hope for the church, even the church in the United States and Europe. The times are similar to the times when great revivals broke out in our past, when people began to worship God, abandoning all else.

The statisticians and consultants will tell you different, but their projections of based on recent trends, and on philosophies that place the future of the church in the hands of the pastors, and those who train and equip them. If it is up to us, this indeed may be the post Christian and post church era. THinking about it more, no not maybe – it is.

But what is our downfall, can be turned into the very thing that will bring revival to our land. For when we fail, maybe some will call us back to what brings revival.

Faith.

This is the time when our faith, that wonderful gift of depending on God for everything in life becomes reality. When in the despair of the storm, we reach out to the Lord who is with us, and He leaves us in awe, as the storm obeys His commands.

It is when we realize that Matthew, that we can join Jesus on His mission to heal the hearts and minds and souls of people, (and when we realize that includes our hearts and minds and souls) that movement in the church happens. When we grieve over our sins, and are comforted by the power of the Holy Spirit, who draws us into God’s presence.

This is what Matthew’s gospel is talking about, when it says that Christ came to invite sinners to be His followers. As the Holy Spirit draws them to Jesus, the church will stop its slumbering, it will stop its decline.

Not because of great preaching, but simply revealing Christ. Not because of powerful praise bands or stunning choirs, but because we simply begin to experience the grace of God, poured out on us, and knowing the relief, the joy, the power of God’s work, we invite other sinners to join Him, depending on Him, and letting all else, including sin, drop to the side.

We are at a point in the church’s life in America where we will realize that our perfect liturgies, our dynamic programs, our logic and theology, our programs won’t grow the church, nor stop it from dying.. The only thing that can is the Holy Spirit, healing sinners by drawing them to Christ Jesus. And those sinners depending on Him. ANd that includes you and I.

Heavenly Father, stir us sinners by the power of the Holy Spirit, to respond to Your invitation follow Jesus, to walk with Him. Help us to welcome the Spirit’s healing our hearts, souls and minds, and not just ours, but those in our community. We pray this in Jesus name! AMEN!

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).



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