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The Early Morning of the Cross: A sermon on Mathew 26:36-47

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

We could not.. so He did!
So Go Ahead and Rest?
Matthew 26:36-47

Jesus! Son! Savior!

May you find in the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ God’s grace and experience true peaceful rest!

  • What was Jesus’ Body Language

I wish I was there in the garden.

I wish I could see and hear Jesus as he came back for the third time, and found the disciples asleep, and said,

“Go ahead and sleep! Have your rest! But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

Was Jesus angry, resigned, disappointed?

Did his voice betray His emotions? Was He so tired and anxious he couldn’t control his feelings?

As importantly, how did the apostles hear this?

How much did they realize that a few days later, they would be guaranteed a rest…

  • They Could Not, Neither Can We!

If there ever was a night for Jesus to be frustrated with the apostles, it was this night.

It starts off with two apostles fighting like 4-year-olds about who gets the best seat, the one next to Jesus. DaVinci thought John won the argument – for he is pictured next to Jesus in his painting of the Last Supper. They argue, and Jesus teaches them a lesson by bending down and washing their feet.

The evening gets worse as Peter once again says that his will and intellect are better than Jesus’. Nope, I am not going to let you care for me, Jesus. Nope, no way in…what was that?  Err… Uhm.. let me re-think that….will you, please, and wash not my feet but everything while you are at!

Then that thing with Jesus, but if you heard the first gospel tonight, which apostle thought he was capable of betraying Jesus? That hit me this week in preparing; each of the disciples thought they could possibly be the one who would betray Jesus…

Sounds like guilty consciousness!

Hmm… I wonder how many of us would have asked?  If you think you would not have, a straightforward question.

Have you betrayed him today? Have you chosen to sin or simply overlooked that what you are doing is sin?

Then you should have said, “is it me, Lord?”

As if that wasn’t enough, they kept falling asleep when the Lord Jesus needed their encouragement.

Finally, after He tells them it is okay to rest… they will run away, deny him and stay their distance.

I am not trying to make you feel guilty, but I want you to understand this… you are not any better than James or John, Peter or Matthew.

We could not avoid sin… and knowing that means we need to rely on the message that has been shared all Lent long.

We could not…so He did…

  • Go Ahead and Rest

With all that, hear Jesus’s words again,

“Go ahead and sleep! Have your rest! But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

I choose to hear this given the theme. Jesus looks on us weary, broken, crushed by sin, and unable to save ourselves and says that we can rest because He was treated as a sinner by sinners.

What we cannot do, He did, staying awake through the anxiety, through the pain, enduring the wrath of God, and enabling us to dwell in peace.

How stunning it is to hear Him tell us to rest in that case! How grateful we can be for what He has done!  How grateful for what He was doing this night and into the darkness of the morning!

This is the love that makes a difference in our lives! The love that would intentionally do what we cannot because of our sin.

But because He did, we can experience peace, the purest peace, and the love that goes past all understanding.

We need to know this… especially when we are weak, when we are so weary, we can barely focus.

He has not abandoned you or me.

He chose to love us… and do what we could not.

….

SO let’s find that rest, as we let Him once again cleanse us from sin and all unrighteousness, and celebrate as He gives His Body and Blood to sustain us.

Thoughts on the day before the cross: You don’t have to settle for a “victorious Christian Life!” There is something far better!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

7  I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8  I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. 9  No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety. 10  For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. 11  You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. Psalm 16:7-11 (NLT2)

The deeper life has … been called the “victorious life,” but I do not like that term. It appears to me that it focuses attention exclusively upon one feature of the Christian life, that of personal victory over sin, when actually this is just one aspect of the deeper life—an important one, to be sure, but only one.
That life in the Spirit that is denoted by the term “deeper life” is far wider and richer than mere victory over sin, however vital that victory may be. It also includes the thought of the indwelling of Christ, acute God-consciousness, rapturous worship, separation from the world, the joyous surrender of everything to God, internal union with the Trinity, the practice of the presence of God, the communion of saints and prayer without ceasing.

I have known a few dark times in my life… to be honest, more than a few. I’ve done enough battling wondering why crap happens to me and those I care about. The Psalms explain many of those dark days. matter of fact your can’t praise God, if He wasn’t the one who delivered you from dark days. Such is Psalm 16, as you can’t help noticing the depth of the writer’s pain.

So when I see posts about being victorious, or claiming that life is “better’ with Christ, that everyone in Christ is an overcomer, I take a step back, and want to hear how they are saying this, and how they define victorious, or what it means to overcome.

I resonate deeply then with Tozer’s words, there is something far deeper in life than simply winning a victory or a battle. There is something far deeper, and far more meaningful.

Realizing the presence of God, whether life is victorious or not! Knowing His promise that even if we die, we shall live..

That is more than enough…

Whether life is great or life sucks, the presence of God is going to be there for you. Not to change the situations, but to change us… much as the psalmist described… chaging our focus, remidning us of the promises.

That presence means everything… and I have known it, even the midst of suffering.. (though somedays – need reminding)

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

Which Message Needs to be Preached?

Is there joy or suffering in this nativity scene?

Devotional Thought for this day:

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. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. 26 Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. John 12:23-26

If you want to be faithful and fruitful, our homilies should always disseminate and harvest hope.

Later they will know that they are to be educated to be pastors. Afterward they will offer their services when some position is unoccupied. That is to say, they will not force their way in but will indicate that they are prepared, in case anybody should ask for them; thus they will know whether they should go. It is like a girl who is trained for marriage; if anybody asks her, she gets married. To force one’s way in is to push somebody else out. But to offer one’s service is to say, ‘I’ll be glad to accept if you can use me in this place.’ If he is wanted, it is a true call. So Isaiah said, ‘Here I am. Send me’ [Isa. 6:8]. He went when he heard that a preacher was needed. This ought to be done.

There is a lot to being a pastor, to preaching the word, to ensuring people receive the sacraments. It is a calling from God and recognized by the church. You go when you are needed, as Luther discusses. And yet, there is a question of recognizing the need, and responding to it.

The passage in red, from the gospel is one message that needs to be proclaimed. It seems to ask for a lot, for the believer to follow Jesus and sacrifice himself for the needs of others. It seems different than Pope Francis’s words about providing and havesting hope.

Do I preach about self-sacrifice and Christlikeness? Or

Do I give a message of hope?

Or is there a third option, to so clearly preach about being in Christ that one realize the hope found in self-sacrifice. That is the challenge when presented with the dilemna of preaching this or that. It is not one or the other, it is where they intersect, and that intersection always is found where we meet Jesus. For our greatest hope is found when and where we are closest to Christ, when the Holy Spirit is transforming us into His image. There, no matter the sacrifice, the work of God is seen, a work that is joyful beyond anything else we can experience.

It’s not preach self-sacrifice or preach hope. It is both/and… in Christ Jesus

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), 110.

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), 80.

We don’t need to play the game…

“God has raised you out of darkness, I have saved your soul for God!”

Devotional Thought of the Day

12 When he was in distress, he sought the favor of the LORD his God and earnestly humbled himselfe before the God of his ancestors. 13 He prayed to him, and the LORD was receptive to his prayer. He granted his requestf and brought him back to Jerusalem, to his kingdom. So Manasseh came to know that the LORD is God. 2 Chronicles 33:12-13 CSB

26 Say this to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the LORD: ‘This is what the LORD God of Israel says: As for the words that you heard, 27 becausen your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before me, and you tore your clothes and wept before me, I myself have heard’—this is the LORD’s declaration. 28 ‘I will indeed gather you to your ancestors, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace 2 Chron 34:26-28 CSB

Someone wrote to the godly Macarius of Optino that his spiritual counsel had been helpful. “This cannot be,” Macarius wrote in reply. “Only the mistakes are mine. All good advice is the advice of the Spirit of God, His advice that I happened to have heard rightly and to have passed on without distorting it.”

Likewise, they teach that this faith is bound to yield good fruits and that it ought to do good works commanded by God on account of God’s will and not so that we may trust in these works to merit justification before God Article VI, Augsburg Confession

Naturalness and simplicity are two marvelous human virtues which enable men to take in the message of Christ. On the other hand, all that is tangled and complicated, the twisting and turning about one’s own problems—all this builds up a barrier which often prevents people from hearing our Lord’s voice.

Reading about the Kings of Judah can be depressing, it can even rob you of hope. For so many of them rejected the God we know, that their ancestor David knew so well. Mannasseh started out like so many of them, in fact, he may have been the one who strayed the furthest from God, leading people into all forms of idolatry.

Then God entered into the picture… and everything changed.

God brought him back to Jerusalem – completely reversing the captivity that has been prophesied to Hezekiah. His grandson would grasp on to that promise as well, and restore the Temple, the place where God would meet His people, care for them and cleanse them.

They both realized their need for God, and that humbled them. And God healed them, and healed the people,

That is the same kind of spirit that Macarius had, One that realized that anything good in him was because of God, and indeed tracable to Jesus. It is the same thing the Lutheran Confessions testify too – that the believer will do good and righteous thigns, as they dwell in Christ. That is the nature of the Bishop, who gave up the treasure of the church, his own treasures, because ValJean was one of God’s people. It would take a lifetime for ValJean to give up the game… but he did.

It is keeping it simple – because the more complicated we make it, the more plans and strategies we lay down, the more it is about our work, and the less it is about Jesus.

Which brings us to the idea of the church, the people the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and makes holy by the Blood of Jesus. That is who we are. a bunch of broken people desperately in need of God’s love, and His touch on our lives.

That is what being a normal Christian is about, our need for God, a God who is always there. A God who can redeem us, and what we’ve done, and even find a way to make that into a blessing. So we don’t have ot hide who we are, we dont’ have to make up stories, or play games that make us our to be more moral or virtuous than we are. We can stop wasting time on trying to convicne ourselves and others that we are worth some.

God alreayd provided for that, by letting us nail Jesus to the cross. Sending Him to be nailed there, so that we could be drawn into Him….die to self… and be resurrected to new life.

That is what it all boils down to…

We are in Jesus…..

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

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), 41.

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Journey to Holiness: Will You Go on THIS pilgrimage?

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).

Tell God to Deal With It! To Deal with What Lurks Within… A Sermon 19:12-14

actually – he does’t… but God does!

Tell God to Deal With It…
To Deal with What Lurks within….
Psalm 19:12-14

In Jesus Name

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus so fill your life that all is made new!

1.  Does Only the Shadow know?

Most of us wouldn’t know the name of Frank Readick and may only have a vague recollection of the words he said in the past.

But I thought of them while reading verse 12 of today’s Psalm. It says there,

How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?”

Here is the line from Readick,

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Only the Shadow knows!”

Anyone remember those words? They are old, from the 1930s. More than that, they are incredibly inaccurate. God knows, and unlike the Shadow – God can do something about it and will!

The only question is, will we tell Him to deal with it, or will we keep what lurks within, deep within, burying it deeper and deeper.

Before we get there… we need to understand why evil lurks there….

2.  Getting anxious

When I read the beginning of the Psalm, I get more than a little anxious because I become aware that stuff does lurk deep within our hearts.

I become more aware of it as I hear about the glory of God. As I consider the works, as I consider the praises.  I am in awe, but like Moses and Isaiah, there is some fear there, too, because sin lurks there.

And the dissonance between the all powerlful, all-knowing, glorious God and my darkness is just overwhelming. The more I read how radiant that glory is, how the sky proclaims it, how and nothing can hide from it, I am at once warmed and yet frightened by it.

For the light of Jesus, the glory of God is so bright that there are no shadows allowed, for He is our light.

And that means my darkness will be revealed.

Sin can lurk deep within us, as the pain it causes dominates our hearts and minds. We know it’s there, but we try to bottle it in to stop it from being revealed. That pressure builds, as that sin that lurks breeds its guilt and shame. It may even be telling you that you don’t belong here in church, that you really don’t belong here at the altar.

The Shadow would convince you of that, for his closing line was, “”As you sow evil, so shall you reap evil! Crime does not pay…The Shadow knows!”

If the Shadow was correct and only he knew, you would be in trouble…for indeed, all you could gain would be evil in return.

3.  The Answered prayer

But He isn’t the only one who knows. God knows. We have to learn that this is a great blessing. For when we cry out for Him to “just deal with it!” He is ready.

Hear King David’s prayer again,

12  How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. 13  Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.

That is where we need to be in life. We need to come to this point where our frustration with our lives, both individually and corporately, causes us to cry out to God.

God is there, ready to cleanse you from hidden faults!

God is there, ready to guard you against the sins that are so tempting. He is there to stop them from controlling you!

We need to know this, not just as individuals but as a community.

We need to see this community be cleansed of all sin, of rebellion against God, of all the ways in which we all don’t love our neighbor.

We need to help people see that God will help them deal with those deliberate sins they struggle with and help them break free of sin’s control over them. And we do this together; the glory of God is revealed more and more!

For only He can deal with the sin and temptation that assaults us from what is within.

He is the one Who breaks us free from the Shadow.

He can break us all free from that Shadow as we enter His glorious light.

That is what Lent is, this glorious time like the moments just before the dawn. When you know it is coming, the shadows that seem to lengthen even as they fade. And then there is nothing but glorious light, and we can come to the final part of the prayer.

4. Final prayer

Knowing you are free from that which lurks within, that God is dealing with the deliberate sin and its control, we find ourselves “free of guilt and innocent of great sin.”

Hear that again, you are, “”free of guilt and innocent of great sin.”

Hmm  – maybe we need to say that together,,, 

We are “free of guilt and innocent of great sin.”

Knowing that, and knowing that God has cleansed what lurked deep within, we can, with confidence pray this.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

Those words and meditations will be pleasing, for He knows what lurks in your heart… and when He is working, the answer is nothing.  AMEN!

We Could Not…So He Did! Part 2 – Guard this Treasure

a lenten series from concordia

We could not…so He Did!
Guard this Treasure!

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace and peace of God our Father help you to recognize the treasure given to you in your relationship with Jesus Christ!

The Dark Night of the Soul

As we walk with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we have the opportunity to witness the darkest night that has ever occurred spiritually. The night when evil was more powerfully present than ever when that evil created despair so powerfully it assaulted Jesus. It created a dark night, the darkest night, even for Jesus.

He would cry out to His Father, our Creator, in the depth of His despair, he would be so physically overwhelmed by anxiety and the darkness that He would sweat blood. The emotional and spiritual trauma was greater than anything ever experienced by mankind.

The Darkest Night of the Soul…

And perhaps a night of unshakable beauty…a night to not only remember… but to be in awe of the beauty of the darkness.

You see, we need to look at Jesus, the one Isaiah identified as the man of sorrows, and be in awe of the beauty. We need to treasure these moments.

Can We Keep the Watch? Can we stay aware of what Jesus went through?

Or will we be like the apostles… and fall asleep on our watch?

Keeping Watch…

It had been an emotional week, with many ups and downs.  Preparing for the feast was an enormous task for this traveling band of homeless missionaries.

The feast itself was a challenge, with two of the brothers fighting, with Peter nearly ready to walk away rather than let Jesus wash his feet. Then the comment by Jesus, about someone ready to betray him… a question that caused them all to question themselves, none of them confident in that moment…

The fiery scene with Judas, the long walk to the garden in the dark… and Jesus so serious, so perplexed.

It was draining.

We need to experience Jesus there; we need to pay careful attention to what He went through that evening. Our point of focus during these weeks of lent is a few hours described in just a few sentences… What will get in the way?

Will it be sleep? Will it be our own weariness? Will it be our own dark nights of the soul?

Will we be able to stay awake, to keep watch, to guard the truth of this night in our hearts, meditating on Jesus, being with Him there…

I am going to be bluntly honest.  You will fail during this time… You will have the same level of t

You will sin…you might experience despair, and you might forget about the hope you have.

You will know the feeling that the 12 apostles had, as Jesus woke them up for the third time. There will be times where you will feel as guilty and ashamed as they did. As they witnessed His arrest, to follow Him at a distance as he was tried and beaten and crucified.

There have been times and will be times where you could not keep watch…where you did not treasure this suffering of Jesus.

We could not… so He Did…

I never want to tell you that it is okay to fall asleep on God, to fail to treasure what God is giving you in Christ Jesus.

But where we can’t keep our focus on Him, when we can’t guard the treasure of what He’s given us because of His passionate embrace of suffering, we find out He did.

He treasured that night, He suffered through it, He didn’t fall asleep.

And while He was disappointed that they could not treasure it, while Jesus is disappointed in our failures, He continues to come to us, to wake us up.

We have to realize the love that drives Him to do this is beyond our ability to understand. He doesn’t just love us if we fall asleep 7 times, or 70 times,

He loves us.

So He kept the watch that night. He treasured the relationship He has with you and me. 

He kept watch over them, treasuring them, and not one of the apostles would die with Jesus because Jesus was faithful.

This is what we need to know in our dark nights, in our moments where anxiety and doubt take their toll when evil seems to have Jesus and obliterated God.

He is still there; Jesus treasures us. Because of that fact, we know a peace that passes all understanding, as He guards our hearts and minds.. in Him.  AMEN!

Stop Teaching the Faith… teach faith!

The word? FAITH

Devotional Thoughts of the Day:

32  How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33  By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34  quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. Hebrews 11:32-34a (NLT2)

The catechist then takes up a part of the catechism, and begins to catechise not only the children and those to be confirmed, but also the older and matured members of the congregation. Adults shall not be forbidden to ask questions, state doubts or whatever may trouble them, so that the minister may encourage or warn them as need may require.

In this relationship with Jesus Christ through the new birth, something takes place by the ministry of the Spirit of God which psychology cannot explain. This is why I must contend that faith is the highest kind of reason after all, for faith goes straight into the presence of God

O foolish ones of the world, says St. Augustine, miserable creatures, where are you going to satisfy your hearts? Come to Jesus; for by him alone can that pleasure which you seek be bestowed. “Unhappy creatures, whither are you going? The good you seek for comes from him.”1 My soul, be not of the number of these foolish ones; seek God alone: “seek for that one good in which are all good things.”

Loehe, a German Lutheran pastor from the 19th century, prepares young people to be part of God’s family in a unique way.  Look at this demonstrated in the purple quote this morning. He lets the Adults (apparently they sat in on the youth’s classes) state their doubts and what troubles them! These “older and more matured church members are allowed, no encouraged, to speak of their doubts and their troubles in front of the impressionable young minds? The young people witness the pastor working with these older people, encouraging and warning them!

This isn’t how catechesis works today. Now it is all about “teaching the faith,” or to use a less politically correct term, indoctrination. Here is the material, here is data. Digest it, spit it back, and we will make a church service all about you, praising you for passing our class.

Instead of “teaching the faith,” I think we need to teach faith. We need to arrange our instruction so that those we are responsible for experience the love of God!  It is a love with vast dimensions, far more than we can explore, a love that is experienced, for words cannot describe it. (see Ephesians 3:18-19) Tozer talks of this in noting that being born again is beyond Psychology’s science. It is beyond human reason, yet not beyond us.

Augustine, perhaps the greatest and simplest of theologians, speaks to this as well. He just wants people to come to Jesus, to be drawn to Him. There the contentment, the joy they chase is experienced. There is the highest good, the sunnom bonnum of which poets and songwriters attempt to describe. It is no wonder the Old Testament includes a book, solely describes the intimacy Christians have with God, using romance and sex to describe it. Not that our relationship with God is sexual; instead, like sex, it goes beyond explanation and yet envelopes us entirely in the dance.

Teaching this is more than teaching someone to memorize the Decalogue or the Lord’s Prayer. It is teaching them to find peace in the silence of a sanctuary as they contemplate the truth of the phrase, “The LORD is with you!” The moments between the notes of a hymn, where the words take root in the heart. It is in the tears of the one worn out by guilt and shame, as the tears flow even more as the guilt and shame are lifted by the sin being forgiven.

Teach people to depend on God, trust Him, and entrust Himself to His care. This is what catechesis should be.

Then, as they begin to sing…stand back, and look in awe at what God has created…in us.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 68.

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

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), 149.

Dare I Demand What Is Mine by Right?

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Devtional Thought of the Day:

17 If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. 18 What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News. 1 Corinthians 9:17-18

Grant, my Lord, that before I die I may do something for Thee!

The apostle does not belong to himself/herself, but is buried with Christ
(Col 2:12).
Any other way is to be ashamed of Christ and, therefore, to face
the eschatological consequences: “If anyone is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, also the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with his holy angels” (Mk 8:38).

The Apostle Paul writes something to contrary to our culture today.

He preached Christ crucified, and if that meant surrendering his rights, he did.

Even to the point where he would welcome chains, for then he could share the love of God with those guards to whom he was chained.

I wonder how many of us would be willing to do that today?

How many of us pray with de Ligouri that we could do something for God before we die? What suffering or sacrifice would we accept and embrace if that desire could be come true?

If you think I am trying to pour on the guilt to try and motivate you to serve God, to love your neighbor and your enemy, I am not. If you are feeling guilt over this, go back to the cross, go back and look at the love that Jesus has for you there, as He embraced the guilt as He removed your shame, as He embraced that cross for the joy that He would come to know, as you walk with Him in your life.

That is what it means that you aren’t your own, that you belong to Jesus. That you were untied to Him in His death, burial and resurrection, THat guarantees God is at work in and through you, the queston is do you see it?

THat is the job of pastors and priests, daecons and elders, Bible teachers, and 4 and 7 year olds who remind you that Jesus is with you…

at which point, thoughts about our “rightes” mean nothing, not compated to the love God has for us, as He trusts us to invite others into this divine fellowship.

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), 140.

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), 57.

Can You Hear Him NOW? Can I?

Devotional Thought for this day:

Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 (CSBBible)

When Luther’s puppy116 happened to be at the table, looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes, he [Martin Luther] said, “Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope.”

The workers in the marketplace had all day to spare. The one who buried his talent wanted to kill the passing hours. The one who should have been looking after the vineyard went off elsewhere. They all prove insensitive to the great task the Master has entrusted to each and every Christian, that of seeing ourselves as his instruments, and acting accordingly, so that we may co-redeem with him, and of offering up our entire lives in the joyful sacrifice of surrendering ourselves for the good of souls.

There was a commercial series that ran for a long time. It had a man walking around, in all sorts of places, asking someone on his cell phone, “can you hear me now?” In Deserts, forests, rain, sun, no matter where or how he was, he always made sure he was connected to someone. (we never did hear whether they could hear him)

As I read in 1 Samuel this morning, I realized that Saul’s issue was that kind of issue. He couldn’t hear God, and even when he could, too many things drowned out what he heard.

Saul was so unlike the dog who focused on the food forgetting everything else. He was more like the one who buried the treasure entrusted to him. Or the ones who abandoned the vineyard or the sheep because the wolves were near.

I am not any better, for just a moment ago, while writing this, an ad for a Can-Am Ryker caught my attention. I lost my focus on what God was trying to communicate to me. I lost track of this idea of focusing on Him so completely that His task becomes ours. So completely that we don’t think of the cost to us, but the blessing of others, as they come to know the God we say we love.

But how do we grow in our ability to pay attention to God? How do we mitigate the distractions? I do not believe it is something we force ourselves to do as if we simply whip our bodies into submission. It cannot be, for even the most disciplined people will eventually fail and give up.

I think Luther was on to something as he referenced the dog. The mongrel knows the meat’s taste, and it is beyond his power to not respond. He locks in on it, using every tool to make it his own; pleading eyes,  speed, power, all of the tools to try and gain that which their heart and stomach are focused.

The Psalms testify to this desire as well!

1  As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you, God. 2  I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God?
Psalm 42:1-2 (CSBBible)

Some things cause us to respond, we don’t have to even think, because we have learned to treasure them.  The smell of coffee does it for some, the smell of bacon for others. It might be playing that perfect instrument or driving a particular car, being on a golf course, finding the perfect shoe; these things are triggers for us. Once we sampled it, we have to return to it.

Following God is like that if our focus is on Him. The more we’ve experienced His love, the more we can’t live without it.  The more we see Him work through us. The more we realize our role in redeeming this world, the more we want to see more people freed from the power of sin, Satan’s influence, and the fear of death, the more we want to see it happen and again.

Ministering to others becomes our meat that draws our attention, for there we know we are in God’s presence, we know He is there, and the transformation He has done in our lives…. A transformation that means He can work through us… as He ministers to others.

Lord, help us hunger for You and then satisfy that hunger by working in and thru us. We pray this in the name of the Father, the Son†, and the Holy Spirit!  AMEN!



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), 37–38.

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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