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Evangelism is More Than a 10 Minute Presentation

Thoughts that drive me to the cross:

22  Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them. So I become all things to all people, that I may save some of them by whatever means are possible. 1 Corinthians 9:22 (TEV)

28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29  To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:28-29 (TEV)

I think we cannot experience that which we have not believed. I still think we must instruct and urge men and women, toiling along in average and common Christian ways, to move forward and claim spiritual victory they have not yet known.

The joyful and the sad should be advised differently. Before the joyful are to be set the sad things that accompany [eternal] punishment, but before the sad the joyous promises of the kingdom should be set.

It was nearly 40 years ago that I was “trained” as an evangelist and trainer of evangelists. Somewhere I even have the certificate from Evangelism Explosion, and the neat talking cards they equipped me with, so that I could be an evangelist, and train others to do the same.

Forty years later, I feel less equipped, having seen that a practiced monologue doesn’t make someone an evangelist. I know now that the role of an evangelist, like that of a pastor, is something that can take years, that requires the patience of a shepherd, and the willingness to sacrifice time and energy helping people see the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Because we struggle in this world, because we struggle in our own worlds, we need to hear the gospel-the truth that God loves us-daily ourselves. We need to believe, as Tozer points out, what we are sharing. We need to have revealed the victory that God provides. Otherwise we cannot provide it for those who we love and care for, for we cannot give what we’ve not had given to us.

The other part of this is that we can’t give to someone else when we don’t know where they are at. We have to be like them, as Paul so eloquently points out. All of us are evangelists and therefore serve as a conduit of God’s grace. But conduits connect two points, in this case, God and one or ten or 100 of His people. Some of these know they are God’s people, some are beginning to discover it, and some are fighting it. So we come alongside them, and bear their weakness, we share in their trials, and we love them…

The work of an evangelist is never clean, it is never simple. I learned that when on one of my first EE calls, the door we knocked on to visit a couple was answered by the wife’s “friend”, and she would come to the door, well, not adequately dressed. They both, and the husband, needed God’s presence, in the days ahead, yet no card in my stack addressed their situation in a way that would draw them to Jesus. It would take them years to work through life’s issues, as the gospel and the church showed them God loved them. Not a ten-minute presentation followed by a prayer and baptism. More like a spiritual rollercoaster that seems out of control. But God knows the tracks… we just ride with our people.

This is ministry, an investment of time and love, to help the broken find healing they need for the wounds of life, as they get to know the Lord who loves them. This is whether you are a pastor, or a parent, a elder or just a friend. For we all can share the Lord’s love that we’ve come to know.

Let us depend on God’s love and presence, as we share that with those around us….

A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).

St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 93.

Why Do We Listen to Sermons/Bible Studies? Why Do We Preach them?

Thoughts that draw me to Jesus, and to His cross!

Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when he asks for bread? Or would you give him a snake when he asks for a fish? Bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
*“Do for others what you want them to do for you: this is the meaning of the Law of Moses and of the teachings of the prophets.  Matthew 7:9-12 GNT

Now if our doctrine is to be found in the Bible, we certainly should not seek it elsewhere; all Christians should make daily use of this book. No other bears the title here given by Paul—book of comfort—one that can support the soul in all tribulations, helping it not to despair, but to maintain hope.

Proclamation belongs to the primary discourse of the church. Systematic theology belongs to its secondary discourse. Primary discourse is the direct declaration of the Word of God, that is, the Word from God, and the believing response in confession, prayer, and praise. Secondary discourse, words about God, is reflection on the primary discourse.

A long time ago in my undergraduate work, I had 4 classes on preaching. The basic idea we were taught was that sermons explained and explore the Biblical passage under consideration. The recommended method was exegetical, dissecting every word (I still do that in preparation) and then explaining those points. Along with that was including the theological points those verses supported.

I enjoyed studying that way. I enjoyed writing sermons that way. Not so great at delivering them for one simple reason.

Ultimately, they were meaningless.

Meaningless because I had so focused on the words that I missed the Word. I got lost in the Greek and Hebrew to the point where Jesus was not the focus, and people didn’t hear of their need for Him, how much He longed to meet that need as He drew them to Him, and onto the cross with Him. Luther’s words about Romans 15:4. ( For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Romans 15:4 (NKJV)) He puts it there well, that these words of scripture are there to support the soul, to protect it from despair, and to give and maintain hope. The hope that is found in the cross and resurrection.

A solid knowledge about theology, whether Exegetical, Systematic or Historical, is not the end purpose of our message. If that is all that it is, then we should turn our churches into lecture halls, our Bible Studies into micro-universities. There must be more than that, if we are to offer people something that makes a difference in their lives, that gives them hope, as scripture was written to give them hope.  Something that gives them the expectation of forgiveness as they confess their sins, something solid to base their confession of faith upon, the hope that Someone is listening and responding to the prayers that we share, and a God who is worthy to be praised.

This is what our sermons and Bible studies need to do—to address people where they are in life, and draw them to Jesus, as we lift Him up for them to see.

This is what we do… we listen to hear of our Lord and His love.. and that is what is communicated in our sermons and studies. So that our people can know

Alleluia! He is risen!

And therefore, we have risen indeed!

Amen!

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 395.

Gerhard O. Forde, Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 2.

Being Tired and Discouraged IS NOT the Problem in Life, or in the Church.

Thoughts that drive me to Jesus, and to His cross…

*He made you go hungry, and then he gave you manna to eat, food that you and your ancestors had never eaten before. He did this to teach you that human beings must not depend on bread alone to sustain them, but on everything that the LORD says.”  Deut 8:3 GNT

As Christian believers, we stand together in the evangelical faith—the historical faith of our fathers. Yet, we must confess that many congregations seem bogged down with moral boredom and life-weariness.
The church is tired, discouraged and unastonished—Christ seems to belong to yesterday.
The prophetic teachers have projected everything into the dim future where it is beyond our reach—unavailable! They have dispensationalized us into a state of spiritual poverty—and they have left us there!
But regardless of such teachers, the course of spiritual victory is clear; let us trust what the Word of God continues to say to us!

The assumption of spirituality is that always God is doing something before I know it. So the task is not to get God to do something I think needs to be done, but to become aware of what God is doing so that I can respond to it and participate and take delight in it.

Divine service must be rendered with “one mind” and with “one mouth.” One needs Christ as much as another. We render divine service when we are harmonious, and when we recognize our common equality and our common blessings in Christ; when none exalts himself above another, nor assumes special advantages. We all receive the same baptism and sacrament, the same faith, the same Christ and Spirit, the same gospel—in a word, the same God.

Tozer saw a tired and discouraged church, not much different from the experts see in the church today. I know – I hear them in meetings, and read the books they recommend. Often the strategies they offer are taken from well meaning, but worldly business principles. Or they take what other churches, successful because of moves a decade ago are doing, and emulate the practices they observe, without looking closely at what lies underneath, what caused the actions.

And so we get to the other thing Tozer saw in the church: a lack of astonishment.

From what i’ve seen in the last 30 years, this is the most critical of the observations.

The lack of astonishment happens when we forget we dwell in the presence of God, when we forget the gifts given us through the conduits of word and Sacrament. When we forget God is at work, as Tozer says, way before we plead in prayer. Astonishment disappears when we fail to see that we have received the same baptism, the same sacrament, the same presence of God in our lives.

I get being weary and discouraged, been with many people who are, and for good reason. Yet, their hearts soar when receiving the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper. Their energy picks up as they remind me that God is also with me, or as we recount the blessing experienced after a tired, long day.

Finding yourself in the presence of God, watching and hearing as His love for you is revealed, experiencing the reconciliation- that brings the astonishment we desperately need to endure. To realize His body was broken, His blood was shed for us… for us! Astonishing!!!!!

And this will restore a tired and discouraged church… even as it heals from wound de

For the Almighty, Everlasting, Merciful and Loving God is here… to be with us…Perhaps God allowed us this season of weariness so we can remember He is here, and we can rely on Him. And as the church remembers that – everything opens up – and despite the weariness, despite the frustrations, the church comes alive… and is drawn to His side. There, joy is known.

So I am discouraged and tired… that’ ok – He is here! And knowing that, recognizing His presence and His work in our lives, we find we dwell in peace.

 

 

 

A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).

Eugene H. Peterson, Introduction, ed. Rodney Clapp, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 12.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 387.

 

Time To Stop Carrying ALL that Weight; The Power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Thoughts which drive me to Jesus–Christ crucified for us.

Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 2 Corinthians 5:20 (TEV)

You should get into the habit of admitting your sins to each other, and praying for each other, so that if sickness comes to you, you may be healed. James 5 (Phillips NT)

Concerning confession it is taught that private absolution should be retained and not abolished.[1]

“The genuine sacraments, therefore, are Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and absolution (which is the sacrament of penitence), for these rites have the commandment of God and the promise of grace”

The Christian story of Christ’s merciful love for sinners teaches us to trust in God. This allows us to have the courage to acknowledge and confess our sins. Confession takes courage. When we go to the priest in the Sacrament of Confession, we are exhibiting courage, a courage based on the merciful love of God. Too often men fail to face their sins and faults out of fear—fear of who they are and what they have done. But this need not be, as Jesus Christ has come to free us from the bondage of our shame and sin and remake us through His grace and the life of virtue.[1]

It happens maybe once or twice a year. One of our preschoolers will come up to me with a big smile on their face and point (or rub) my stomach and ask, “Pastor, why are you so fat?” The parents, usually shocked by their kids sincere curiosity, tell their children, “Don’t say that–Pastor is not fat!”

I look at them in a moment of sheer shock. Not because of what their children observed, but by their denial of the obvious truth. I carry well over 100 pounds of weight I don’t need to carry. I know it, it can’t be hidden, it is what it is–and I and my doctors really want me to shed it.

Spiritually, we do the same thing, far too often. We either are carrying to many burdens, are weighed down by guilt and shame, or we are telling people (and ourselves) that the weight we carry means nothing, it’s not really there–it is not crushing our relationships with people, and destroying our lives.

And the solution God has given us is so simple. The church and its shepherds (whether pastor or priest) are agents of reconciliation. Luther adored–I can find no other word to express his feeling towards it–the results of being absolved of sin.

Over and over in scripture, the promise of forgiveness is made, and then delivered at the cross, in baptism, in the Lord’s Supper, and as we confess  our sins, and hear a dear brother, speaking for God, tell us we are free. As a pastor, I have to tell you the weight I’ve seen lifted off of people is.. beyond words. And I’ve felt that weight lifted off myself.

Some may say they simply confess to Jesus, and He takes care of it. That is fine and good, and that kind of confession and absolution, or that in a church service works for many people.  But there are sins we commit, that haunt us, that stop us from interacting with a person, or group of people. That stop us from praying, or spending time with God. Those are the sins we need to hear are forgiven–audibly, looking in the eye someone who says, “God put me here to tell you this one thing. Your sin is forgiven! In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit! Go in peace!”

And so you shall!

I urge you , Let God change you, from being His enemy, to being His friend. AMEN!

 

 

 

“Augsburg Confession: Article 11 Confession” Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 44.

“The Apology of the Augsburg Confession” Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000),

[1] Tim Gray and Curtis Martin, Boys to Men: The Transforming Power of Virtue (Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2001), 54–55.

Temptations and Trials are…. Beneficial?

Thoughts which drive me to the cross….

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 24  Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (NLT2)

The comfort extended by Luther is rooted in the fact that the person assailed by temptation is a member of the communion of saints and is armed with God’s Word. The tempted person, however, should realize that there is always a benefit that accrues to him from such assaults, although he dare not attempt to divine it. Finally, he invites the tempted person to a fuller faith in Christ, but Luther warns that before the trials subside, they will first flare to greater intensity.

751      Faced with the marvels of God, and with all our human failures, we have to make this admission: “You are everything to me. Use me as you wish!” Then there will be no more loneliness for you—for us.

I came across Luther’s words first this morning and thought that the words for those enduring temptations apply to those facing trials. A long theological discussion could be had on linking the two, but they both are thought to challenge our ability to remain closely intimate with Christ Jesus.

The irony is that the benefit is exactly the opposite of the goal of Satan. Rather than break us away from Christ where we can be devoured, the trials and temptations of life should drive us ever more to the cross where we were crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20).

The challenge, whether trial or temptation, is the realization that God is at work in our lives, that we benefit from these assaults when we realize God uses them (not causes the) to draw us back into His care. That is why the Psalms are filled with words like refuge and fortress and sanctuary, for that is who God is! He is our fortress, our refuge and sanctuary.

This is a mystery, how things Satan and his minions use to set in our path God will turn into blessing beyond compare, as we find ourselves hidden in Christ Jesus (Col. 3:1-3). While we can’t explain the mystery, we live and experience it, some of us over and over.

This then leads to some of the most powerful ministry in our lives, for while suffering is beneficial, the lack of it may not be. That is why Paul talks about freedom in view of its benefits. His bottom line is sacrifice for others is beneficial, and focusing on what we think is good for us. This is the same thing St. Josemaria speaks of when he suggests we pray “use me as you wish!” No matter the cost, for as we grow in Christ we are sure His benefit outweighs what we must endure.

God is with us. We come to know that more, when He opens our eyes in the darkness, and shatters it.

Undergoing trial and temptation? Run to God, and give thanks when you find yourself in His care. 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), 182.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Dealing with Setbacks, and Failures

Thoughts driving me to Jesus, and His cross.

16  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18  But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up. Daniel 3:16-18 (NLT2)

We can afford to follow Him to failure. Faith dares to fail. The resurrection and the judgment will demonstrate before all worlds who won and who lost. We can wait.

732 O Jesus! I rest in you.
733 Trust always in your God. He does not lose battles.

I am struggling this morning. It is not failure persay, but to many things are failing.

Some of them are petty, minor computer problems, forgetting to do this or that, struggling through my devotional readings.

Other failings are significant. The health of a couple close friends, the state of few congregations and their pastors, other issues that I am not a liberty to discuss. It is tough not to dwell on these things, to feed into a loop of depression and despair. There are days, like this one, where I struggle to get moving, to get the tasks I need to get done. Especially my devotions, as I am not sure whether to be disappointed at God, mad at Him, or just ignore Him. (see Jeremiah 20:7, 9 which could be my life verse!)

I did anyway and came across Tozer’s words in blue. And I wondered, if we can afford to fail, can we be afford to be in situations that are failing? If we can take something on which most likely will fail and endure it, can we be in a situation where bodies and spirits are failing?

I believe so, and for the same reason. The Judgement awaits! God’s power, which Josemaria tells us to depend upon, will never lose the battle, never mind lost the war. That allows us to rest in Him… that allows us to endure failures and failings, for in Him, those things are promised to work for good, and nothing can ever separate us from Him!

This is the faith of the three men about to head into the furnace–they trusted God, whether they were going to be rescued or charbroiled. They knew the love of God and His promises, and they knew His presence. In that they found the peace that enabled them to know the hope of eternity. And so failure or success was little different in their eyes. They could wait, as Tozer noted, if their deliverance wasn’t in this minute, for it was sure.

As is ours…

So if you have to take a risk, that some might know God’s love, take it, and fear not failure.
And if things are failing, know He is there.. and you can depend on Him…

A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).

Escrivá, Josemaría. The Way (p. 129). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God cheated! (and still lost?): A sermon on Genesis 32:22-30

God Didn’t Fight Fair! (and still lost!)

Genesis 32:22-30

 

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus increase our desire to cling to Jesus and never let go! (Even as we know He won’t let go either!)

  • Did God Cheat?

I titled this sermon God didn’t fight fair and still lost, but I was tempted to title it, “God cheated”. Here is why I wanted to say that:

“When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”

We know from later in the passage and from other places in the scripture that the “man” was God. So look at the passage again….

God saw he wasn’t going to win… so he dislocates Jacob’s hip. Hmmm, I wonder if that’s a legitimate technique for the next family fun night?

But there are two huge issues here…

The first – God can chea…err not play fair?

The second—God can lose?

Those things may not make sense…

Until you realize that God’s goal was for Jacob to not only get the blessing, God wanted him to treasure what he gained.

Jacob—the trickster

A little background, in case you are not familiar with this man who wrestled with God. From his very birth, he was a didn’t play fair! He took advantage of his brother’s hunger and gained his inheritance. He would later take advantage of his brother’s absence and steal his father’s blessing for the firstborn, effectively taking over the family.

If there was an easy way to get something—he did it. If there was a scam, or a way to deceive someone, he was there.

Another way to say it, Satan knew how to tempt him, and he fell into sin every chance he got.

Most of us don’t have Jacob’s moral fiber, or lack of it. But we cannot say that Satan has no clue about how and when to tempt us. Maybe it is gossip, some nice juicy truth and rumor that makes someone look bad. Maybe it’s not spending time with God, finding your sabbath. Maybe the temptation is revenge and wanting something bad to happen to someone who did you wrong. Or maybe it is lust…

Everybody has their sin, and needs to be confronted with it by God, so that God can bless them, healing them by removing the curses they had earned. For every sin, whether thought, word or deed, earns a curse, a punishment.

Only God can bless us by removing the curse.

And as Jacob finally went home, as he would meet his brother the next day… he needed to be free of his past, the guilt and shame. He needed to find his blessing, and this stranger, he was certain, was the one to give him that blessing.

That’s what happens when we encounter God, we know it, even if we can’t put words to it, or explain the blessing that is to be ours.

  • What was different – The Blessing ( why he wanted to know the name

The question that needs to be asked is what changed in Jacob, that would make him so tenacious. Why did he have to receive the blessing?

It had to be the blessing that he expected.

He wanted to know the man’s name to confirm, but God simply blessed him. That blessing confirmed it, for Jacob, now renamed Israel, confessed who the man was…

Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.”

What he expected, he could testify to, a place he encountered God. He experienced being in the presence of God and even could demand a blessing—and received it.

That is what you and I need, to realize the blessing that is ours as we interact with God.

If we only had a place where we could wrestle with God. Where we could question Him, struggle with Him.  Where we could recognize His presence and never want to leave it, but stay there until we were sure we were blessed by Him.

Where could there be a place like that? Where is our place where we can wrestle with God, demand a blessing, (hopefully not get a dislocated hip)

Here at the altar rail is a place to do so. A place where His love is, as we take His body, broken so we could be healed, and His blood shed so we could be forgiven.

Where God would remove the burdens we have, the weaknesses, the curses. Even if we can’t explain it, we would know that He is with us. Where we could bring others who need healing as well.

Here is the place that changes life, as God comes to us, and we hold on for the blessing. This is where we know we are loved… and cared for, it is where we find peace. This is where we see God, and live.  AMEN

The Cure for the Confusion You Experience

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 Power of the Lord’s Supper – pure Word and Sacrament

Thoughts which cause me to draw closer to Jesus… and the cross.

23  At that time I will plant a crop of Israelites (trans. “those who wrestle with God and win – see Gen 32))  and raise them for myself. I will show love to those I called ‘Not loved.’ And to those I called ‘Not my people,’ I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’ And they will reply, ‘You are our God!’” Hosea 2:23 (NLT2)

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit,* 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.  Jude 20-21 NLT

If you do not want to come to the sacrament until you are perfectly clean and whole, it would be better for you to remain away entirely. The sacrament is to purify you and help you.

Any serious-minded Christian may at some time find himself wondering whether the service he is giving to God is the best it could be. He may even have times of doubting, and fear that his toil is fruitless and his life empty.…

A moment of confession here…

As I read Tozer’s words in teal – the resonated deeply with me. There are days I wonder if what I am doing is the best I can do. The ministry seems overwhelming more often than not, and while I will never doubt God’s ability to use my weakest and most minimal offerings, I truly don’t see it.

Until I see people to the altar, or I hear the shut-ins voice that says – “Pastor can your bring me communion.” (to be honest, I am usually packing up and getting ready to go by the word ‘bring’!) I will gladly leave all the paperwork and other stuff behind for those moments of pure bliss, as people are being helped and purified, not by me, but by the God in whose presence we are gathered.

That is where God confirms the promise Hosea saw in the future, where the love of God is revealed in Christ’s Body and Blood. It is where we are still – and we experientially know that He is our God, and we are His people. It is the mercy we are waiting for, in these simple moments, where the people of God share in the gifts of God. It is there, in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, where we find ourselves safe in God’s love.

You don’t have to be perfect – if you were, you wouldn’t need it. So know it is the answer to the brokenness, to the wounded heart and soul, to the stress…

He loves you! He is with you! Here in the sacrament, so you can realize He is always there..

 

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), 175–176.

A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).

SoulCare for YOUR church

SoulCare for the Church
1 Peter 5:10b

† Iesou, Huios, Soter †

Deacon Charles Zetzman from the Concordia was laid to rest on September 17. Despite battling type 1 Diabetes for over 70 years and dementia for at least 15,  he went through the deacon program in order to help his crazy pastor. This was while he was fighting health problems and dementia. Miraculously, he could handle the courses… struggled with them, but he handled them

He became a spectacular practical theologian; he boiled down everything to two simple thoughts. He thought if we “got these things” we would find that God has and is restoring, supporting, and strengthening you, as our key verse said He would.

Sing Chuck’s first profound theological statement with me.

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so…”

Hey, wait, you guys kept going—and those words weren’t on the slide! Sigh… just like Monday night—where you all were on autopilot during confession and absolution! I did that, by the way—so you would think through the rest of the service before assuming what would be said!

Chuck’s second theological statement, which would change the world, is on the next slide.

The Lord is with you!

Just curious. Did anyone notice the difference between my version?

Instead of the Lord BE with you, I have there the LORD Is with you and periods are replaced with proper exclamation points! Think on that later.

For Chuck, Jesus is the answer. Simple

Jesus loved Chuck and spent a lot of time with Chuck.

He got that—through all the darkness of dementia, through all the challenges… and he wanted to help me tell others about it.
——–

I want you to this to these words from Tozer,

In what I have to say I may not be joined by any ground swell of public opinion, but I have a charge to make against the church. We are not consciously aware of God in our midst. We do not seem to sense the tragedy of having almost completely lost the awareness of His presence.…

Those words come from 1986, but are still relevant today.

Sorry guys, our worship isn’t doing what its supposed to do…

WORSHIP MUST REVEAL CHRIST’S PRESENCE!

And if we are going to care for the souls of our church, then we must change how we do what we do–we have to help our people to realize that they live in the presence of God.

Helping them experience the loving presence of God begins on Sunday morning, or Saturday night when your people gather to hear you…and maybe sing some songs or listen to them, and maybe suffer through the liturgy.

You want to make their lives easier, reveal Jesus to them in those 75 minutes. You have a portion of their attention, and realize everything you do in that service reveals Jesus in an incarnation way in your life first, and then you can help them see Him in theirs

Worship needs to reveal this – every part of it.

I don’t care if you wear robes and do DS4 from LSB or page 15 from TLH ( I might have a problem if you do page 5 – your people need the Lord’s Supper!)  I don’t care if you do contemporary music wrapped around baptism, absolution, the reading of the Word and the Lord’s Supper.

What I care about is this – did you realize that every part of worship is a revelation of the presence of Jesus. Everything!

Those words you say… you need to know they reveal Christ, His presence and His love.

——–

In the stead and by the command – you are forgiven!

The Lord is with you!

Some of you may notice I replaced the Period there with an exclamation point, If you read that… blah… proclaim it!

Your reading of the gospel

The Lord is with you!

The peace of the Lord is with you!

What have you said to them?

That’s why I moved the Lord’s prayer in our service – to end the general prayer with it. With words like these:

And for all the things we don’t know how to pray for, for those things that burden us, stress us out, and keep us awake all night; for the prayers where we don’t even have the words to say, hear those prayers as we pray as the Lord Jesus taught us…

How does that change how we say/sing the Lord’s prayer?

What about the things you do?

For example–what is in your hand on Sunday mornings?

Is it just water, or bread and wine? Or “just” the theological body and blood.

Or is it really Christ, broken and given for them?

It all reveals Jesus, and therefore, it needs to be savored and said with the weight and joy of what you are giving them! Believe those words you are saying, be confident in what you are doing and the sacraments you administer!

If the church is to revive—it must be because we realize our lives are lived on ground as holy as that Moses stood upon.

By the way, this has always been the purpose of every part of the Liturgy – going back to the patristic age, through Luther’s reformation, an Walther’s time. The purpose after all – of all worship is to teach people what they need to know about Jesus Christ.

Every era of the church saw worship as this, if you don’t believe me – there is a dissertation about Liturgical Worship and Soul Care presently be written with 180 quotes out of those time periods to this very concept of worship being the foundation of soul care.

Quotes like this:

“The people are also reminded about the dignity and use of the sacrament—how it offers great consolation to anxious consciences—so that they may learn to believe in God and expect and ask for all that is good from God.” (article XXIV, Augsburg Confession

Change consolation to comfort.

But we’ve forgotten it – and we’ve forgotten the tie between what we do on Sunday morning, and what happens at the dying person’s bedside, or with the couple working toward divorce, or the youth struggling with the gender issues, or the person wanting to grow in their faith – and they are looking for somewhere to “start?”

Dr. Meier started this week by stating that he had some dissonance with the Easter Acclimation  You know it well

Alleluia! He is Risen!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Let me share what the real Concordia adds to this liturgical gem.

Alleluia! He is Risen!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

And Therefore

WE are risen indeed! Alleluia!

The Lord, who reigns over the world and the church, has drawn us into His death, and we have been raised with Him.

That fact is where all healing of the soul begins, it nurtured as we pour water over heads, as we proclaim forgiveness

Since we are talking about Petrine literature – I would say this – The reason, the apologia that you have hope, the reason you are supposed to be always ready to share is this…

The Lord is with you!

Let’s pray!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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