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What is Important – A Message Based on 1 Corinthians 3:1-9

What’s Important
1 Cor. 3:1-9

† I.H.S.†

May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus help you see God at work, causing you to depend on the fact God loves you!

 Teaching Little Ones ( or Big Ones!)

There are a lot of amazing things in life. The Grand Canyon, the dawn on the Atlantic Ocean’s beaches and the sunset’s you see sitting on the sands of the Pacific Ocean. Things people do also amaze me, whether it is skilled athlete, or our musicians.

Or our preschool teachers, especially Lisa and Lorena – who work with the tiniest of toddlers. Keeping them focused on a lesson, and sitting still in chapel, well, mostly still

Keeping big kids focused is hard enough, I can’t imagine the faith that results in patience that God gives our teachers!

That’s why Paul will compare the Corinthians (and us) to infants in Christ!  For while they should be focused on what is important, they are not. And so in frustration Paul tells them that he has to treat them like toddlers, or people that have absolutely no clue about the love and mercy of God.

Sounds kind of harsh, doesn’t it?

But all we have to do is look around, and we see the leaders who act as if they are playing out back in the playground.  Then we see similar things among our church leaders. I will freely admit to getting distracted from what is important, and acting more than a toddler at times!  I want what’s mine!  Give it back! That’s not fair!

In the background, Jesus waits, for the Holy Spirit is at work… and will use God’s word, including these words penned by Paul, to correct us, to help us to focus, to get us back into what comes close to a line!

Distracted by what is not important

In the readings from 1 Corinthians, we see what was the distraction of the day. It was who the people followed.  It must have been a significant problem, for Paul spends some time on it.

For some reason, they tried to establish a spiritual pedigree.  I have seen that – even among pastors!  They somewhat jokingly compare whether they were trained at our Ft. Wayne Seminary, or St. Louis Serminary!  How ludicrous, especially when they know that the best pastors come from Irvine!

Can you imagine if people here argued about whether the Lord’s supper was better from the hand of Pr. Mazemke, or Pr. Rossow, or Pr. Hsu, or Pr. CHen or from me?  The bread and the wine are what is important, not whose hand put it into your hand.

If that is true for the communion we serve, it should be true for the message we give.  As long as that message is about Jesus, about His love for you, about His forgiveness, that message that we sum up in a couple of statements…

The Lord is with YOU! ( and also with you)

Alleluia! His is risen! (He is risen indeed!) and therefore (we are risen indeed!)

Everything else, including which pastor brought you to know Jesus, or where you learned about His love, isn’t as important as the fact that God loves YOU!

What is important

You see, the intellect, the charisma of the pastor, that is not what caused you to believe.  It was not by your reason or strength nor mine. It is, and always will be the presence of the Holy Spirit that causes the growth.

All of us and everything we do is used by the Holy Spirit, whether it is the music team, or Lisa teaching the kids, or Sandi keeping the books, or Dane, Bob, and Tom as they bring other people the Lord’s Supper. Even our coming to the altar is about one thing – letting God do the work of making a masterpiece of our lives,

Hear the verse again,

What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.

To truly being to understand that verse, we need to replace the word seed with the word, us,

What’s important is that God makes me grow!

or

What’s important is that God makes us grow!

God causes the growth in each one of us, and in us as a while.
We must realize this my friends, this is what is important, the work God does in your life!  In our lives together. Seeing that He is working in our midst, through each other, all to the same purpose of helping everyone know God is actively part of their life. That is perfecting them, transforming them as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians,

17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. [1]

That is the purpose – that God is making us more and more like Jesus… that’s the goal and that is how God will continue to work in us, and through us.

That is what encourages pastors to do what we do, and empowers us to be there… -when we see people grow in their ability to depend on God, to trust in Him, to believe in Him. For the miracle we see occurring is that transformation that only the Holy Spirit can be credited for…

and so we shall…  (lead into doxology…)

Amen!

 

My Search for Justice…

Devotional Thoughts of my Day:

My Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I am grateful that you hid all this from wise and educated people and showed it to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that is what pleased you.
22 My Father has given me everything, and he is the only one who knows the Son. The only one who really knows the Father is the Son. But the Son wants to tell others about the Father, so that they can know him too.  Luke 10:21-22 CEV

With all these things against us, now—in the very depths of our sorrow, wherever we may be—now, as much in the valley as on the mountain, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” “Ah, but,” you say, “see how I am arrayed! my graces are not bright; my righteousness does not shine with apparent glory.” But read the next: “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” The Holy Spirit shall purify our minds, and divine power shall refine our bodies, then shall we see him as he is.

I used to think, (and sometimes still do) that with enough learning, with enough time spent in meditation and prayer, that I would gain in my understanding of how God works in life.  Why does He allow this or that to happen, or that, how He makes everything run, heck, why he allows “those people” to have authority over a country, a city, a denomination, a church.

I thought I would understand what God’s idea of justice is, and be able to work towards it. Yet I resonate with a pastor who wrote these words over a century ago. I am not able to show grace to all people, and my ideas of righteousness/justice are not always glorious.  It is broken, and because I can’t figure out what God is doing, and when that happens I get frustrated, agitated, anxious.

Eventually, using after a period of depression, in the midst of the brokenness I realize that we don’t know everything, we aren’t God, but what we have been shown is more than enough.

We’ve been shown, given, united to Jesus. And in Him, the Holy Spirit is at work, preparing us for the day when we shall meet the Father face to face.

This doesn’t mean I don’t work for justice and righteousness in this world, that I give up and leave it all to fate. In fact, it means that I take my role as an evangelist, and ambassador of reconciliation more seriously. (You should as well!) For as we walk with Christ, as we feel His comfort and peace overwhelm our anxiety and frustration, we take what we know of Jesus, and share it with others.

Especially those struggling with the concept of justice, who struggle against unrighteousness.

We need to know Jesus is there.. we need to know His work, which results in our being revealed as the children of God, and that nothing can separate us from Him.  AMEN

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

Will You Catch Me, Lord?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of my day:

The LORD was like an eagle teaching its young to fly, always ready to swoop down and catch them on its back.  Deut. 32:11 CEV

The Christian far oftener disgraces his profession in prosperity than in adversity. It is a dangerous thing to be prosperous. The crucible of adversity is a less severe trial to the Christian than the refining pot of prosperity. Oh, what leanness of soul and neglect of spiritual things have been brought on through the very mercies and bounties of God

This treatise is another example of Luther’s remarkable ability to withdraw from the heat of controversy into the pastoral atmosphere of serene devotion. The entire writing echoes his experience as a pastor and confessor constantly in contact with men and women who were terrified by the maze of popular customs and practices observed by the church in connection with death.

In reading the forward to Luther’s sermon on dying, I was struck by how often it was reprinted. His theology was still in the early stages of reforming, His battles with leaders of the Roman Catholic Church were just beginning. And as noted, he set this aside to help a friend, one terrified by all the stuff that surrounded death. His friend and many others would listen, for they were in what Spurgeon calls the crucible of adversity.

That crucible doesn’t have to be related to physical death. The death of a dream, the death of a relationship, the termination from a job, or the fear of any of these things!

Spurgeon’s quote comes from a section about the challenges of dealing with abundance, the challenge s of dealing with prosperity, and yet he notes the blessings of adversity, of being oppressed, of being under pressure. I resonate with that, for I know the most challenging, the most severe temptations which I face, the places where sin appears to have it greatest grip on me, are the places where life is easier, where I am not running to God.

It is better for me to write from the point of my own despair, for there I find this passage from Deuteronomy to be true.  God will catch me, I know he will, even as I struggle with the fears and anxiety caused by the fall.

Most of the time I don’t realize this, I am not looking for it, I am too overwhelmed by the impending crash.  I forget how faithful His promise is because my eyes are on me and my situation.

But in the midst of falling, He is always there…

And eventually, I hear the Spirit’s call and know the comfort of God’s presence, a presence that is there anyway. As I grow old, I realize that I eventually will, and that too calms the frayed nerves, lifts me out of my depression, and helps me see those around me, who need ot be lifted up by those same wings.

Thank you Lord Jesus, for being there in times of despair, the times when the brokenness is too great. Sustain us then, when we can’t seem to realize Your presence.  Sustain as well, when things are good, and we forget our need to depend on You,. AMEN!

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

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 98

Does Worship/Liturgy have to change? The Question Isn’t “if” but “why!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought for the Day:
27  Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. Mark 2:27 (NLT2)

6  Dear brothers and sisters, if I should come to you speaking in an unknown language, how would that help you? But if I bring you a revelation or some special knowledge or prophecy or teaching, that will be helpful. 7  Even lifeless instruments like the flute or the harp must play the notes clearly, or no one will recognize the melody. 8  And if the bugler doesn’t sound a clear call, how will the soldiers know they are being called to battle? 9  It’s the same for you. If you speak to people in words they don’t understand, how will they know what you are saying? You might as well be talking into empty space. 1 Corinthians 14:6-9 (NLT2)

For it is the existential presence of the celebrating, praying faithful which makes the liturgy into the worship of God; change is necessary so that their awareness of what is going on and of their part in it are not restricted by extraneous factors. Roman history reveals a most eloquent example of a form of worship which had become unintelligible. After three centuries no one any longer understood the ritual, the ceremonies or the meaning it was all meant to express, with the result that religion dried up and became an empty shell, although it was no less practiced than before. The lesson is that, if liturgy is to retain its vitality and have an influence on individuals and society, there must be a continual process of adaptation to the understanding of believers. For believers too, after all, are people of their time, people of their world.

Over the past 40 years, I have participated in just about every flavor of worship service and liturgy on could imagine. I have play pipe organs in my youth, and electric guitars and keyboards, done traditional non-denom worship, and straight out of the hymnal liturgy.

I have my preferences, and they would probably surprise most people who know me.

Preference laid aside, and it must be, there is only one reason to change the wording of the liturgy or the way a church worships.

Only one.

It is what Paul is the very pragmatic reason Paul is discussing, in relation to the very real gift of tongues, in 1 Corinthians 14. It echoes Jesus teaching about the Sabbath.

Does your liturgy,  your order of worship allow people to hear God, and does it allow them to respond to Him?

The Lutheran confessions talk of the mass’s chief purpose to give people what they need to know about Jesus. His love, His mercy, His presence in their life. What they need to know – not just with their mind, but with their heart, soul and strength.

Do the words said and sung communicate this in an understandable way?  If not, reset them.  Do the people have the opportunity to experience the awe of being in the presence of God and respond to Him with joy?  If not renew your service, focus it on the incarnate God who loves them.  Open up the lines of communication, ensure that they know God speaks to them in a way that anyone can understand.

Maintaining the liturgy that doesn’t communicate to people is a waste of time.  So is changing it for any other reason is just as much a waste of time.

Lord, help us to guide your people until with heart, soul, mind, and strength realize that You love them all.  And then, help us guide their discussion with you, their prayers and praises.  

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 79.

Do We Have the Courage to “shut up?” Some thoughts about worship…

ST MARY OF PEACE

Devotional Thought of the Day:
Stay quiet before Yahweh, wait longingly for him, do not get heated over someone who is making a fortune, succeeding by devious means. Psalm 37:7 (NJB)

The continual recitation of the canon aloud results in the demand for “variety”, but the demand is insatiable, however much these eucharistic prayers may proliferate. There is only one solution: we must address ourselves once again to the intrinsic tension of the reality itself. In the end even variety becomes boring. This is why, here especially, we are in such urgent need of an education toward inwardness. We need to be taught to enter into the heart of things. As far as liturgy is concerned, this is a matter of life or death. The only way we can be saved from succumbing to the inflation of words is if we have the courage to face silence and in it learn to listen afresh to the Word. Otherwise we shall be overwhelmed by “mere words” at the very point where we should be encountering the Word, the Logos, the Word of love, crucified and risen, who brings us life and joy.

It happens every so often, when a worship leader or the rubrics (the small italic letters in our hymnals or bulletins) call for silence, that a musician determines that he must fill the silence with a solo.  Sure, it is well-meant, and not ostentatious. just a little light playing.

But there is a reason for silence, a reason for the awkward feeling of emptiness. the time when we are left alone with our thoughts when we need to realize they aren’t on God.

It is awkward, it even may produce a moment or two of guilt and regret.

That doesn’t mean we should ditch those moments.

In fact, we need them!  Desperately need them.

We need to enter the heart of worship, as the old worship song describes, the moment of awe in the presence of God, a presence so powerful we cannot speak.  It is not that we dare not, rather, we need to wait for God to speak.

We need to be comforted by Him, we need to enter into His presence to hear that He is taken care of our sin, and we belong with Him.

We can’t do that if we are trying to fill each and every moment with sound, with novelty, with trying to make things fresh and new.  Eventually, you can only overload people with so much, before the stimulation overload numbs them, and their participation is minimized.  ( Try playing five songs without a break, each one with the congregation clapping – how many are left at the 13-minute mark? )

I am not saying we do the stuff dry and without meaning either.  And i don’t think Ratzinger/Pope Benedict was saying that either.  Rather I think his point is making sure people realize that they are in the presence of God…..

and are loved by Him…

and have the time of silence ot know this… to realize it, not just as an academic point, but in the depth of their souls, the place that needs the most healing.  Time to descend to that place, and there, even as we cry out because of the pain, we find God at work, cleansing the wounds, healing them, comforting us…

We need this.

For it is the heart of our worship…

Lord, help us to shut up… and hear You, see You at work comforting us, and healing us.  AMEN!)

 

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 73.

The Thing I Need You to Know About My Religion…

Do your job pastorDevotional Thought of the Day:

My dear friends, as a follower of our Lord Jesus Christ, I beg you to get along with each other. Don’t take sides. Always try to agree in what you think 1 Cor. 1:10 CEV

18 The message about the cross doesn’t make any sense to lost people. But for those of us who are being saved, it is God’s power at work.  1 Cor. 1:18 CEV

Finally, we praise His kingdom, His power, and His glory because they are nothing but the reign of love. “Why do you speak of nothing else?” “Because there is nothing else.” John the Beloved Disciple knew the point of it all.

I have heard from people that don’t yet trust God that the church tries to control people’s beliefs. That we try to indoctrinate people on everything from pseudo-science ot politics and ethics. Although I haven’t heard this in years, last week I heard it twice.  One person at the table we were sharing at a music trade show was talking on this concept, looked up and saw my color.  We both were a little embarrassed!

If only changing people’s minds about Jesus and the church was that easy!

Actually, I am glad it isn’t.

It causes me to focus on what is the most important thing, in fact, the one thing I need you to know. It is also the secret of getting a church, full of people with different thoughts, beliefs, agendas to get along with each other, and agree.

For if they understand this message of the cross, then everything else falls into place.

But to many people, it does seem foolish, unbelievable, moronic even.

Here it is, the one thing I need you to know about my religion, about my faith.

God loves you!

That is the message of the cross. The creator of the universe loves you, and the cross is His demonstration of how much He loves you!

You may question why it is true!  I question why He loves me, it doesn’t make sense.
You may question what this means, or how it happens, been there as well.
You may even question that He exists, or whether He knows you exist.  I have had, and occasionally still have those days as well.

But at the end of the day, you can depend on this, He loves You.

Enough to heal your brokenness, enough to show you mercy, enough to comfort your tears and dance for joy when you spend time with Him.

God loves you…

That’s what I need you to know…for everything in Christianity finds its origin in that love.

Can’t force you to know it, can only invite you to experience it…

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 47.

Can his “Dream” become reality?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought for the Day:

Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. 3 Try your best to let God’s Spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by living at peace. 4 All of you are part of the same body. There is only one Spirit of God, just as you were given one hope when you were chosen to be God’s people. 5 We have only one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. 6 There is one God who is the Father of all people. Not only is God above all others, but he works by using all of us, and he lives in all of us.  Eph. 4:2-6 CEV

It becomes genuinely possible for people to share in a common expression once this interiorization has taken place under the guidance of the common prayers of the Church and the experience of the Body of Christ which they contain. Then people are no longer merely juxtaposed in role-playing but actually touch one another at the level of being. Only in this way can “community” come about.

He means that in human relations it is not peevish, harsh, or implacable; that it covers up some of the mistakes of its friends; and that it puts the best construction even on the more offensive actions of others, as the common proverb says, “Know, but do not hate, the manners of a friend.”

We call God “our Father” because we believe in His fatherly love and care.
We want His name hallowed and loved and praised, because we love Him and want others to do the same.
We want His kingdom to come because His kingdom is the kingdom of love.
We want His will to be done, even in preference to our own—we will the abolition of our own will when it is out of alignment with His—because we know His will is pure love. Ours is not.

This morning, I led the invocation and benediction at our city’s Martin Luther King. Jr. Day remembrance in our community. As I listened to the young people sing, read, and recite, and my friend Bill preach, my heart wanted to see the dream come true.

A day when the color of their skin and my son’s skin didn’t matter at all. A day when Dr. King saw coming to fruition as we found our way onto a mountain top. As we obeyed God more than we obeyed our hearts.

As I left, I wonder how many left determined to do what would make that dream happen?

It will, of course, when we reach that mountain top that Dr. King spoke of, when we enter into the presence of God, when those who see Him face to face understand true peace that comes from a love we can not wrap our heads around…yet.

It is not a coincidence that my readings today approach this subject of unity.

Nor is it a coincidence that the quotes above, from those readings, all focus on God as the hope for such a life.  It is, after all, how He designed for us to live!  It is God’s dream, even more than Pastor King’s.

It is why the Father sent the Son to reconcile us to Himself, and therefore to each other as well.  For the sin that so marrs our unity, the self-centeredness that stops us from loving our neighbor can only be dealt with in Christ. That is where God’s will becomes a reality, as we are joined to Christ’s selfless act of sacrifice, as He, in His mercy pays for our sin.  It is there, united in His heart, that our hearts find each other, and learn to value and love each other. There we find the power and desire to forgive, to cover our neighbor’s, and our enemies’ faults and brokenness.

It is there, with our souls resonating in a way stronger than this broken life can manage, that unity occurs.

Unity in Christ then becomes something to cherish, to rejoice in, to work to maintain, looking again to Jesus, who is the author and perfector of our faith. Reconciled to Him, we find our lives reconciled to each other.

Therefore patience and love, mercy and understanding become something that is our norm, and not just the virtues of saints.

You want to see these kids’ dreams, based on a speech decades ago come true?

Realize the love of God, realize His mercy and sacrifice, His patience,

with you.

And then, in Him, you can share it with your community, and the world.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 70.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 141.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 46.

Finding Strength for Tired Believers

church at communion 2Devotional Thought of the Day:
16  We never give up. Our bodies are gradually dying, but we ourselves are being made stronger each day. 17  These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing. 18  Things that are seen don’t last forever, but things that are not seen are eternal. That’s why we keep our minds on the things that cannot be seen.   2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (CEV)

Anxious to serve his Master, he finds his strength unequal to his zeal: his constant cry is, “Help me to serve thee, O my God.” If he be thoroughly active, he will have much labour; not too much for his will, but more than enough for his power, so that he will cry out, “I am not wearied of the labour, but I am wearied in it.”

There are days when every pastor, every worship leader, every elder and layperson that serves and attends church are tired.  Sometimes we let that tiredness turn to exhaustion and without a sabbath, we will burn out, and crash and burn.

Our friends and family may witness it… they may be victims of it!

We want to do good, we have a burning need to serve the people of God, to make a difference in their life, by revealing the love of God. Work, that if we are tired, may seem futile, like we aren’t impacting people’s lives, that they are not growing in their dependence on Jesus.  When they walk away or need the same lesson for thirty-fifth time, or look to other sources,

The dissonance that Spurgeon mentions is an incredible reality.

The way he describes the cry of despair deeply resonates with me.

I am not weary of the work, I love it, I need it.  But doing it can devour our energy, our strength, our hope… and sometimes, we get confused by our exhaustion, and its cause.

To those of us in this situation, carefully reading Paul’s words to a tired church helps.

The strength he describes despite our tiredness.  In fact, it may require our being tired, lacking the energy of our own, and dependent on God to simply keep going. Paul directs us not to put one more step in front of the other, but rather to look to Jesus.  To look to the point He guarantees the rest that comes from when we enter the presence of the Father.

With eyes fixed on Christ, the burdens don’t disappear, the discomfort and weariness still are there, and yet, somehow, their impact on us lessens. and the blessings of seeing God at work is magnified. For those things we see Him doing become the blessing we so need.

It is then we find that kneeling at the altar, in prayer, and in receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus becomes so amazing, and those moments, the greatest moments of peace, of rest, or restoration.

So contrary to the normal thought, the idea of rest found away from the ministry.  Rather, rest is found in the ministry.  Not in the meetings, or the casting of vision.  Not in the administration of programs and in training, comforting and disciplining people.

But in the gathering of God’s people into His presence, to be assured of His love, and His presence. He heals and nurtures us, as He declares we are His, and then proceeds to prove that we are righteous, as the Holy Spirit cleanses and transforms us into the very image of Jesus. Showing us the love we cannot explain, can only experience as we plunge its immeasurable dimensions.

That’s where we find the tiredness of being on this mission field evaporate, leaving us with the mission we will never tire of.

Find rest my friends, at the altar, in the prayers, and in the Body and Blood broken and shed for you and I.  AMEN!

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

What Should Make Christianity…. different?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

I tell you that this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 44 Everyone else gave what they didn’t need. But she is very poor and gave everything she had. Now she doesn’t have a cent to live on.  Mark 12:43-44 CEV

By the words “to save” we understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire onward to complete sanctification. The words are multum in parro: indeed, here is all mercy in one word. Christ is not only “mighty to save” those who repent, but he is able to make men repent. He will carry those to heaven who believe; but he is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, and to constrain the despiser of his name to bend the knee before him. Nay, this is not all the meaning, for the divine power is equally seen in the after-work. The life of a believer is a series of miracles wrought by “the Mighty God.”

The pagan knew the fact that our hearts are restless, but he did not know the reason. Christianity supplies the reason, the key to the lock, the answer to the puzzle pondered by the great philosophers Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, even by Qoheleth in the book of Ecclesiastes. All these thinkers believed in a God, but they were not happy because they did not know God was love. Socrates worshipped the unknown God whom he would not name and knew he did not know. Plato’s God was impersonal truth and goodness. Aristotle’s God was a cosmic first mover who could be known and loved but who did not know or love us. Cicero’s God was only a vague object of “piety”. And the God of Ecclesiastes sat unmoving and unknown in Heaven while man’s life on earth remained “vanity of vanities, all is vanity”

172 Augustine says very clearly, “All the commandments of God are kept when what is not kept is forgiven.”1 Therefore even in good works he requires our faith that for Christ’s sake we please God and that the works in themselves do not have the value to please God.
173 Against the Pelagians, Jerome writes, “We are righteous, therefore, when we confess that we are sinners; and our righteousness does not consist in our own merit, but in God’s mercy.”

The novel Christian reality is this: Christ’s Resurrection enables man genuinely to rejoice. All history until Christ has been a fruitless search for this joy. That is why the Christian liturgy—Eucharist—is, of its essence, the Feast of the Resurrection, Mysterium Paschae. As such it bears within it the mystery of the Cross, which is the inner presupposition of the Resurrection.

This morning I came across some very powerful quotes in my reading.  I love them, whether it is from a soon to be pope (Ratzinger), an incredible philosopher (Kreeft), a group of rebels (the early Lutherans), or a British pastor who was perhaps, the first mega-church pastor.

They all point to one thing, the fact that Christianity is different. Philosophers tried to point to him, but they couldn’t understand God. That the Eucharist does, more clearly perhaps than anything else, for we encounter and experience Jesus there.  In the mercy of God which makes our broken lives perfect as God grants to us repentance and sanctification – as He completely saves us.

What an incredible concept, this salvation.

But do we really comprehend this blessing, this gift?

I do not think we do, at least not always.

How about this explanation.  We (the church) are like children at Christmas, more interested in playing with the box our present came in than actually enjoying the present.

Salvation, the complete work of God is so large a gift, we cannot understand it. But we can experience it, and it does more than change us. Jesus does more than give us life, He is that life. That is what makes Christianity different, it is the religion that is more than a relationship, for a relationship cannot begin to express what living in Christ is like.

The old lady with the two pennies experienced it. She wasn’t impressed with the box, she simply enjoyed walking with God, and gave what she had that others would as well.

We don’t even know her name, and she could care less.

She was with God, and among His people, as broken, as misdirected, as….unfocused on what she knew and responded to…

May we be more like her….. and enjoy living in Christ, as the children the Father loves.

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

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 39–40.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 130–131.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 65.

That’s an odd word….

clydes-cross-2

Devotional Thought of the Day:
17  My strength, I will make music for you, for my stronghold is God, the God who loves me faithfully.   Psalm 59:17 (NJB)

what more canst thou hope for than the fulfillment of this great promise, “I will be their God”? This is the masterpiece of all the promises; its enjoyment makes a heaven below, and will make a heaven above. Dwell in the light of thy Lord, and let thy soul be always ravished with his love.

It is Karl Barth’s answer to the questioner who asked him, “Professor Barth, you have written dozens of great books, and many of us think you are the greatest theologian in the world. Of all your many ideas, what is the most profound thought you have ever had?” Without a second’s hesitation, the great theologian replied, “Jesus loves me.”

It is refreshing to read words of pastors from other eras in the church.  Especially when those words haven’t been translated, and even cleansed in recent decades.  Even so, sometimes how things are said are shocking, they set us back, and cause us to process what we read.

Such an occurrence took place as I was reading from Spurgeon this morning.

Ravished?

That seems such an odd word to use regarding the love of God.  Whether it is used in the sense of carrying someone away (after pillaging their village) or causing an incredible level of intense delight (https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/ravish ), it just doesn’t seem right or maybe a better word, considering Spurgeon’s roots – proper.

But maybe that is precisely what is missing from Christianity today. We are missing a sense of the incredible idea of being raptured ( a synonym), not in the sense of eschatology. Instead, in the sense that as we realize we are loved by God, everything else is left behind, that the delight, the joy, the wonder of being loved transform where we are, and it is no longer the place we thought we were.

You see that kind of sentiment in the great preachers and saints throughout history.  John Chrysostom, Pascal, Saint Theresa, St Josemaria, Luther, all expressed that kind of experience, as they experienced the love of God. It is what mystics search after, these moments of transcendence, these moments of uncontrollable, heavenly bliss.

It is only from dwelling in that love that we can minister to others.  It is the only hope we have when we have been broken by the sin of the world and shattered by our own sin.  To let our soul be ravished by the love of God, as He takes us out of the brokenness, transforming us and giving us a new perspective on the world in which we dwell.

The world we dwell in, as we live in Him, and He in us. Completely loved and adored, beyond our imagination, beyond our understanding. Rather than trying to figure it out, perhaps it is better to acknowledge it, and the peace we gain from His presence. The Lord loves you! And even as you find delight in that, the realization should hit you, He delights in it as well!

 

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

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 34.

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