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Where is the Church, When it Matters?

The Church, stands as darkness is shattered

Devotional Thought of the Day:
18  “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19  The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20  The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21  But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22  The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23  The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Matthew 13:18-23 (NLT2)

Ambrose: “There is the church of God in which God reveals Himself and speaks with His servants”

We place a piece of iron in a fire and blow up the coals. At first we have two distinct substances, iron and fire. When we insert the iron in the fire we achieve the penetration of the iron and we have not only the iron in the fire but the fire in the iron as well.… Two distinct substances … have co-mingled and interpenetrated to a point where the two have become one.
In some such manner does the Holy Spirit penetrate our spirits. In the whole experience we remain our very selves. There is no destruction of substance. Each remains a separate being as before; the difference is that now the Spirit penetrates and fills our personalities and we are experientially one with God.

This is precisely what Jesus does when he comes to a soul in the Holy Communion. He sees that she is a wall too weak to be able to resist the assaults of hell; therefore, by the virtue of the sacrament, he fortifies her with bulwarks of silver, that is, with his divine light. He sees that she is a door inclined easily to be corrupted, and he renews it, adjusting her with planks of strength and perseverance, as is signified by cedar, which is a strong and incorruptible wood; that is, with the gifts of holy fear, with detachment from creatures, with the love of prayer, with supplications, with holy desires, and still more with the gift of divine love, which are the support of holy perseverance: Bread strengthens man’s heart

As I’ve looked at the events of not just the last few days, but the last year, I keep on struggling with a question. “Where is the church in all of this?”

I know God’s there; if I didn’t, the little hope that remains would be gone, and life would be without any meaning.

But where is the church? Where are the people that are focused on God?  Where are the people to whom He reveals Himself? Where are the ones who hear His voice and are in dialogue with Him?

I hear many monologues from pastors and other Christians.  They speak from both sides of the political spectrum, eager to cast judgment on those whose sins are simply more visible than their own. Some of them have even “switched sides,” echoing the word they challenged 6 months ago and cast judgment on their former ways. The amount of angst they are dealing with leads them to speak out of that pain, that emptiness, and I do not fault them for it.

The answer will come in the way Tozer pictures when we are iron glow as the fire of the Holy Spirit penetrates our spirit. When the Holy Spirit tempers and forges, purifies, and marks us.

de Ligouri uses the illustrations of the wall and the door. We are too weak to resist the assaults of hell; we are even challenged by the assaults of our times. This is where we are at, this brokenness that only God can address.

We need to become like the ground prepared for the seed, that has seen enough fertilizer that has been tilled and turned over, that the word of God can dwell in us richly. That will allow us to detach from that which offers no support and cling to Christ and the hope offered by Him. That seeks Him out, finding how He reveals Himself through His word and through the Sacraments. This is how He has always revealed Himself to His people. God always speaks to them. He always infuses them and prepared them, even as He has prepared us and walks in us through these days.

And at this time, we need to encourage that to happen. We need to pray for each other, as Paul did…

19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:19 (NLT2)

Here is the answer to where the church is, where it must be in these times. The church, you and I, must be in the presence of God, in awe of His love and mercy, for then it will bear fruit from its broken, tilled and fertilized ground.

Lord, in this time, before we speak our peace, before we react, help us return to You, and find refuge and sanctuary there. Help us see You revealed, and give us the patience ot hear Your voice. Even as we do Lord, be at work in us, healing those who are likewise broken, and drawing them to dwell with us, in Your glory. AMEN!

C. F. W. Walther, Church and Ministry: Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry, electronic ed. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1987), 75.

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), 96–97.

How Should the Church Position Itself in These Days?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

And today the LORD has affirmed that you are his own possession as he promised you, that you are to keep all his commands, 19 that he will elevate you to praise, fame, and glory above all the nations he has made, and that you will be a holy people to the LORD your God as he promised.” Deuteronomy 26:18-19 CSB

27 The God of old is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27 (CSB)

We will never be where we ought to be until we go back to those old paths and learn to find God. [Then] we will cease to be bored with God.…[W]e will center our affections upon God and Christ … and become specialists and experts in the realm of the spiritual life.
It is amazing how little outside stimulus we need if we have that inward stimulus. It is amazing how much God will meet our needs. It will not be God and something else. It will be God everything.

My soul, why art thou so timid and fearful at the sight of the goodness and infinite love of thy Lord? why such distrust? Now that thou art made worthy to receive within thee Jesus Christ, let thy sentiments correspond to this grace, by confiding in that goodness of God, who gives thee all himself. Truly his judgments are terrible, but they are terrible only to the proud and to the obstinate; but to the humble and penitent, who desire to love and please him, his judgments are all mercy and love, emanating from a heart full of compassion and kindness.

Tozer’s words struck me this morning.

There is a lot of talk about how the church needs to position itself, what it needs to do to survive and grow in these days of crisis.

I think Tozer is on to something in these words. What are the old paths where God was found? He wrote this not long after the time some think was the “golden age” of the church in America – the 1950’s, so he didn’t mean then.

There have been similar calls throughout history: Barton Stone, John Smith, and Alexander and Thomas Campbell in the 1800s. The work of the Wesley’s before that. Luther and some in the Counter-Reformation. Francis, Augustine, and Anthony, and Athanasius. All sought God and turned ot the times when people did walk with Him.

The time of the gospels, the time of Acts. The good times in Jewish history. The places where they found “the God of Old.” The God who didn’t have to be searched for long, for He made himself apparent to His people.

The times where He comforted them. The times where He rescued them from enemies, or the times He rescued them from idolatry. The times the Lord confronted their sin and healed them of it.

We need to come across, in our own words, the feelings de Ligouri speaks of, where we see God’s compassion and kindness.

This is a time where humility is the only option. We don’t know which doctors to believe; we don’t know which politicians or news media to believe. The pressures caused by trauma are becoming more and more intense.

There is one place the church needs to position itself in this time. In the arms of God, in His presence, for He is our Fortress, our refuge, our strength. We need to find those altars where He has placed His name, where He feeds His people His Body and Blood. The altars from which the declaration that our sin is forgiven comes.

That is what makes us the church… let’s get back to it.

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), 85–86.

About that $20 you found on the ground…Love Your Neighbor

stack of american paper money on black background
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day

If you see your brother Israelite’s ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it; make sure you return it to your brother. 2 If your brother does not live near you or you don’t know him, you are to bring the animal to your home to remain with you until your brother comes looking for it; then you can return it to him. 3 Do the same for his donkey, his garment, or anything your brother has lost and you have found. You must not ignore it.a 4 If you see your brother’s donkey or ox fallen down on the road, do not ignore it; help him lift it up. Deuteronomy 22:1-4 CSB

Along with mortification of our character, this “laying down one’s life for others,” this imitation of the Lord, and transformation of all our relationships with others into opportunities to live charity, implies a spirit of service. Turn your gaze constantly to Jesus who, without ceasing to be God, humbled himself and took the nature of a slave, in order to serve us. Only by following in his direction will we find ideals that are worthwhile. Love seeks union, identification with the beloved. United to Christ, we will be drawn to imitate his life of dedication, his unlimited love, and his sacrifice unto death. Christ brings us face to face with the ultimate choice: either we spend our lives in selfish isolation, or we devote ourselves and all our energies to the service of others.

You probably won’t see your neighbor’s ox or sheep walk into your yard this afternoon (unless you are my friend Tara), but you might see a $20 bill on the ground.

What do you do? Does it depend on whether anyone is there? Do you try and justify keeping it, saying you need it just as much as anyone else?

Do you turn it in, hoping that no one claims it in 10 days?

What if it’s $100, or a wallet with $5000?

Does it make a difference?

Deuteronomy would have you look for your brother/neighbor or wait for them to return. Some might say that seems unreasonable for $20, but it might not for a more considerable amount.

Dare we ask what Jesus would do in this situation? Or what someone like St. Josemaria would do? Would we want to face the question of what would be the “loving” thing to do? What would be that which sets aside our own self-serving nature? What looks to the best of our neighbor, to the best for others?

We have to learn to consider ourselves again as part of a community, part of a family, and a group that cares for each other. It is not a closed group either, but a group that brings us all together; a group, a community that is willing to do what it takes, embrace the hardship, embrace the challenges, sacrifice saying what we want to say what they need.

This is not because we have to go to heaven. It is something far more of an intimate need than that. This is who we were created to be, men and women made in the image of Jesus. This is when we find the true self, this is where we become genuinely self-actualized, as Maslow described it. This is where life begins, as our identity is so clearly reflective of our Lord.

What do you do with the twenty doesn’t matter as much as how you process being responsible for it.

God’s peace in the process…

dt



Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (pp. 144-145). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why We Need to See Jesus in the Manger

Devotional Thought of the Day:

And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you except to fear the LORD your God by walking in all his ways, to love him, and to worship the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul?b13 Keep the LORD’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good. 14 The heavens, indeed the highest heavens, belong to the LORD your God, as does the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the LORD had his heart set on your ancestors and loved them. He chose their descendants after them—he chose you out of all the peoples, as it is today. Deuteronomy 10:12=15 CSB

Ah, my Jesus, my love, my infinite good, my all, be ever welcome in the poor dwelling of my soul! Ah, my Lord, where art thou! to what a place art Thou come! Thou hast entered my heart, which is far worse than the stable in which Thou wast born; it is full of earthly affections, of self-love, and of inordinate desires. And how couldst Thou come to dwell there? I would address Thee with St. Peter: Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.1 Yes, depart from me, O Lord, for I am indeed unworthy to receive a God of infinite goodness; go and find repose in those pure souls who serve Thee with so much love. But no, my Redeemer; what do I say? Leave me not; for if Thou departest, I am lost. I embrace Thee, my life; I cling to Thee. Mad indeed have I been in having separated myself from Thee for the love of creatures; and in my ingratitude I drove Thee from me. But now I will never more separate myself from Thee, my treasure; I desire to live and die ever united to Thee.

“It’s very difficult for a man to believe that God is gracious to him. The human heart can’t grasp this. What happened in my case? I was once terrified by the sacrament which Dr. Staupitz carried in a procession in Eisleben on the feast of Corpus Christi.47 I went along in the procession and wore the dress of a priest. Afterward I made confession to Dr. Staupitz, and he said to me, ‘Your thought is not of Christ.’ With this word he comforted me well.
This is the way we are. Christ offers himself to us together with the forgiveness of sins, and yet we flee from his face.

Ours is a joy not born from having many possessions, but from having encountered in our midst a Person: Jesus who never leaves us alone in difficult moments, and is all the more present when problems seem unbearable and obstacles insurmountable.

It is Christmas Eve.

It is 2020, and we are amid a pandemic that has caused further division. In the days after a political free- for all that has divided us further.

This world is so broken! Even Christianity has become more about a “personal” belief than a communal relationship with God.

It is Christmas Eve.

I look at the world and then look in the mirror and wonder why God would bother with us, why He would bother with me. Luther was correct; it is hard for man to believe that God is truly gracious, that God desires to cleanse us, heal us, help us in the midst of all the crap in which we live. Ligouri echoes the same sentiment when realizing God is here, that God is invading our lives. Ligouri’s reaction is to drive our Lord away…. as if the pollution in our lives could poison God.

I know that struggle; I wonder how God could even dare to descend into my world… I want Him here; I know I need Him here.

This is Christmas Eve.

This is Christmas Eve…

And in a few hours, the babe will go in the manger in nativity sets around the world.

I need to see Jesus there, in all His innocence, in all the simplicity, in that place were holiness and the crap of this world. I need to see, as the filthy shepherds did, God incarnate, the one the angels sang about, reveling in His glory.

I need to see Him there… We need to see Him there.

For there, we can approach Him and realize the incredible love and devotion of God. To realize His faithfulness, to realize His desire to dwell with us…not just in Israel 2000 years ago… but today in Cerritos, or wherever you are….. and then, maybe, we can see His desire for eternity with us…

But it starts there… where He can be approached…reverently for sure, but without the terror that comes as we realize His holiness and purity and realize the difference between man and God.

Seeing Him there, may we never desire to flee from Him again… but stay by Him… until eternity draws nigh…

It is Christmas Eve…

It is Christmas Eve!

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), 77–78.

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), 19–20.

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), 406.

The Missing Part of Worship…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Be careful to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 You are to labor six days and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. Do not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey, any of your livestock, or the resident alien who lives within your city gates, so that your male and female slaves may rest as you do. Deuteronomy 5:12-14 CSB

For this reason, holy souls endeavor to remain as long as possible in prayer after Communion. The Venerable Father Avila, even when he was given his missions, used to remain for at least two hours in prayer. Father Balthasar Alvarez used to say, that we should set great value on the time after Communion, imagining that we hear from the lips of Jesus Christ himself the words that he addressed to his disciples: But Me you have not always with you.
It is not advisable, as many do, to begin to read immediately after Communion: it is then better to spend at least a short time in producing holy affections, and in conversing with Jesus, who is then within us, and in repeating many times words of tenderness, or some feeling prayer.

We are living out the joy of walking with Jesus, of being with Him, of carrying his cross with love, with a spirit that is always young!

For a few months now, we have worshipped as a church outside. At first, the hot summer temperatures were a challenge. Those have been replaced by the challenges posed by the cool Southern California winter. There have been challenges with smoke from fires, and a couple of rainstorms.

But what I think is the greatest challenge is the missing altar rail.

Outside, there is a parade by the pastor, the deacon who serve the people of God the body and blood of Christ. A spiriutal conveyor belt without time to pause, to contempalte, to let the presence of Christ’s body and blood be appreciated, reveled in, amazed at.

We go through the line, return to our seats and wait for the service to continue….

Especially during advent, where we left the altar open for peopel to stay as long as they needed. To find in that pause of time, the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the amazing mercy of Christ. The chance to pour out our broken lives, to be made complete as God comes to us, and dwells in us.

Not that having a rail to kneel at does all this. BUt it provides the opportunity for the pause that we need, the de Ligouri talks about so enthusiastically. The rest that we need, that was created for us by God, that was part of the Ten Commandments. Something so important that we are commanded to share it with those who work for us, who work with us, even providing it to those among us who are alien and foreigners. This is what people need!

This is a time we need to provide – but how… and how long….and how do we help people spend that time in awe of what has been given them in the sacrament. All questions – but none that prceclude giving people a few moments to ponder, to be in awe, to feel the relief that flows through us, as we experience the love of God.

God is with us… He gives Himself for us…

God read that last sentence again, and again…

We need to take time to process this, not just continue on with the service…

Something to ponder… so that others can ponder this gift of God’s love…. and then celebrate it…

btw – if you like this topic – consider this song by Bob Bennet,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtcCXq0lFMA

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), 75–76.

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), 406.

The False Dichotomy Paralyzing the Church

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:
In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s house will be the highest of all— the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. 2  People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. 3  The LORD will mediate between peoples and will settle disputes between strong nations far away. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore. Micah 4:1-3 (NLT2)

After getting the heart filled with the Holy Ghost, it is well to get the head filled with the very facts and truth that should be there. The Bible speaks of grace and knowledge. They go well together.

In particular I should like to concentrate on the phrase “he went on his travels.” I come immediately to the conclusion that we Christians must not abandon the vineyard where God has placed us. We must direct our energies to the work before us, within these walls, toiling in the winepress. And then taking our rest in the tower when our day’s work is over. If we were to give in to comfort, it would be like telling Jesus, “Look, my time is mine, not yours. I don’t want to tie myself down to looking after your vineyard.”

500 years ago, the Church was torn apart because it wouldn’t take the time
to discuss the relationship between faith and works. Each side demonized the other, and rather than working it out, they polarized, and the Church was torn in two, and then into a thousand pieces.

These days, I am not sure the Church is being torn asunder, as much as the
arguments are paralyzing it. False dichotomies appear or are accidentally
generated. The discussion over the dichotomy distracts the Church from being who She was created to be.

I experienced that this morning, as a friend put up a meme talking about
mission and method. One was to be loved more than another, or else the Church would die. I heard it as an exclusion, and I know there are those in our brotherhood who would say the inverse is true, that exclude the
“other” and mission is worthless – because the Church is already
dead.

And for 20 years as a Lutheran and 16 with another denomination ( technically a non=denominational movement), I have watched people make this argument.

Mission versus method. We gotta being doing stuff, or the Church dies. If we do stuff the wrong way, the Church is dead. We have to be preaching the gospel, not doctrine. If we don’t teach our people, our gospel may be false.

All the time, we are discussing this, writing books about this, fighting for
power in our denomination so we can make sure everyone else gets it right… we are not being the Church.

And we end up without a mission or a method.

Look at the passage of Micah – it ignores the dichotomy. People will be drawn to God (mission) and walk in HIS paths (method). The Lord settles their disputes. The blogs, youtube videos, and other weapons become tools to use in the harvest, for the Lord has ended the disputes.

It is not one or the other; it is them working together in Christ. Mission and
Method, Grace, and Knowledge.

Our role, our vocation is not to be found in arguing this, but in working the
vineyard, in sharing the reason we have hope.

Immanuel – Christ with us. The Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Guiding us in
righteousness.

both. and…

Because of His promise, hell cannot withstand the onslaught of a church guided by the Spirit has His mission and His method.

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

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


The Challenge of Finding Joy…on Mondays, During Covid.

The Patriots Play football,
I do this…
I got the better gig!

Devotional Thought for this Day:
9  Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the LORD your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10  And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” 11  And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” 12  So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them. Nehemiah 8:9-12 (NLT2)

“Unless those who are in the office of preacher find joy in him who sent them, they will have much trouble. Our Lord God had to ask Moses as many as six times.24 He also led me into the office in the same way. Had I known had to take more pains to get me in. Be that as it may, now that I have begun, I intend to perform the duties of the office with his help. On account of the exceedingly great and heavy cares and worries connected with it, I would not take the whole world to enter upon this work now. On the other hand, when I regard him who called me, I would not take the whole world not to have begun it.

Reflect that God is our sovereign benefactor, who has bestowed upon us innumerable benefits, both general and particular. He has drawn us out of nothing, and formed us to his own image and likeness, without having any need at all of us: we are continually dependent upon him for our preservation.

Yesterday, preachers around the world preached on the topic of Joy.

It is not easy an easy task when over one-half of your church regulars are not there, needing to stay safe at home.

It is not easy when your people are in the midst of the holidays, many of them celebrating for the first time, alone.

It is not easy when others are caught up in sin, some whose hearts are crushed because someone sinned against them, others crushed by the weight of their own sin.

Preach on Joy! That was our call…

Every pastor knows the heartache that Luther addresses. OUr tasks are hard, they can suck the life right out of you. If only we knew what God called us to, we would willingly join Jonah in the belly of the big fish, or the boys sent into the furnace, or Elijah in his cave. NO one could talk us into this…ministry.

That isn’t just true for pastors. Parents know it s well, as do small business owner, teachers, nurses and doctors. Anyone who has to minister to care for someone else. Physically, mentally, spiritually. Those who care for others wear down, burn out, and experience despair.

The only answer I have found over the years is worship, to find yourself contemplating the love and mercy of God so intimately that your heart just wants to sing, it just wants to praise Him. Worship that isn’t forced or planned, worship that isn’t done out of a sense of duty.

Worship that comes from thinking about what God is doing in our lives. Experiencng the love, witnessing the removal of the burdens that plague us, and the millions of blessings that grace our daily lives, His presence in our lives, not just the pastors, but in the lives of the people entrusted into the pastor’s care.

THat is the moment that you understand what Luther said as well – that once in the ministry, there is nothing that the world could give you that would cause you to willingly give it up…

My prayer for you, as you are burdened, as you are distressed, is the same as Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus, for this will lead you (and me) into that joy,

16  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20  Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21  Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen! Ephesians 3:16-21 (NLT2)

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), 12–13.

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), 64.

Does the Church Still Think This Way? Should it?

If it be Thy Will…..

Devotional Thought of the Day:
For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22  Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and I don’t know which one I should choose. 23  I am torn between the two. I long to depart and be with Christ — which is far better — 24  but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25  Since I am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26  so that, because of my coming to you again, your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound. Philippians 1:21-26 (CSBBible)

Self-denial consists in the voluntary renunciation of every thing which is inconsistent with the glory of God and highest good of our fellow men.

Thus Luther writes: “Christians are a special, called people and are denominated not merely ecclesia, church or assembly, but sancta, catholica, Christiana, that is, a Christian holy people that believes in Christ, for which reason it is named a Christian people and has the Holy Spirit who sanctifies it daily, not only through the forgiveness of sins (as the Antinomians2 foolishly assert), but also through the putting away, purging, and destroying of sins, wherefore it is called a holy people.

The mission necessarily puts us in contact with the cross of Christ. This is the sign that the mission is in accordance with the Spirit of God. It is only by “dying” to everything else that we understand what we are asked to do and thus discover the right ways to do it. “I can assure you that if the grain of wheat that falls to the ground does not die, it remains alone; but if it dies it gives much fruit” (Jn 12:24).

As a Lutheran pastor, I often talk about the people of God, being drawn to the cross. We are cruficied there with Christ, as we are united to His death and resurreciton.

But there is something there that happens, a transformation that I am not sure we talk about enough. For if we did, and if we depended on the work of the Holy Spirit, how different would the world look?

What if we were only concerned about this life, because it was necessary for the sake of others? What impact would we have if we were far more invested and desiring eternitym than being concerned about out rights, and our happiness. We are called to imitate Jesus, but somehow He’s been replaced by Narcisus. And we are enslaved by temptations that cater to our pleasure, to our preferences, to our theories of how life should be.

Our only hope is found in the work of the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit circucises our hearts, purging from us that which is not of God. This is done as we are drawn to the cross, and crucified with Christ. That is why St. Paul writes, 13  For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.” Romans 8:13 (NLT2)

This is what the church needs today, people compelled by the Holy Spirit to choose to live, not for its own sake, but for others, all the while looking forward to the day when we see our Lord face to face. We need to be freed from Narcissis, and be found in Christ. Thank God, that move is not up to our will andability, but is found simply depending on Jesus.

This is where we need to be…crucified with Christ.

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

C. F. W. Walther, Church and Ministry: Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry, electronic ed. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1987), 30.

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), 366.

This is the Way… what that truly means!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said to one another, “If Joseph is holding a grudge against us, he will certainly repay us for all the suffering we caused him.”
16 So they sent this message to Joseph, “Before he died your father gave a command: 17 ‘Say this to Joseph: Please forgive your brothers’ transgression and their sin—the suffering they caused you.’ Therefore, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when their message came to him.
Genesis 50:15-17 CSB

The Holy Spirit, when He effects His gracious invasion of the believing heart, must win that heart to glad and voluntary obedience to the whole will of God. The cure must be wrought from within; no outward conformity will do.

I still marvel at the hardeness of the hearts of Joseph’s brothers. Years after they joined their brother in Egypt, they are still dealing with guilt and shame. He provided for them richly, and yet they still live in fear, as if the sins he already forgave them for, still divide them from him. They fear his wrath, not understanding the mercy he has shown them.

I wonder if we are any different, wondering if somehow Jesus will pour out God’s wrath on us for the sins we have committed, We hear pastors and priests announce that we are forgiven, we take communion, knowing the blood of Christ was given to provide for the forgiveness of sin. Yet we still live in the anxious moments here we fear His wrath, and try to deny or hide our sin.

But we cannot hide them, and to be honest, we cannot deny them. They stil haunt us.

The key is found in the words the brothers used… “please forgive the transgression of the serviants of the God of your father.” There is a distance there, they don’t understand the God of their dad, who so very often forgave their dad! Joseph knew God, as well as he knew His father. That is what makes the difference, that knowing of our Lord. To understand HIs desire to be part of our lives, to work in and through us, bringing healing, and the hope of eternity.

We need to understand Him, and not just doctrinally. We have to realize His presence in our lives, and rejoice in it. We can run to Him, and not just when life fails, or is hard. We need to play and weep, to struggle and rest, to love because we are loved. This happens as the Holy Spirit invades our hearts, cuts away the brokenness and death that sin has caused, and is the breath of life that restores us. That enables us to trust Him with the greatest pains, the gravest sins, the greatest challenges in our lives.

This is the Way… for He is our Way!

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

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).

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