Blog Archives

We Search for Happiness and Peace in All the Wrong Places

Thoughts to draw us to Jesus and find healing there.

“I will abandon my people until they have suffered enough for their sins and come looking for me. Perhaps in their suffering they will try to find me.Hosea 5:15 (TEV)

This is the human condition—to be without the true source of happiness, which is the experience of the presence of God, and to have lost the key to happiness, which is the contemplative dimension of life.… What we experience is our desperate search for happiness where it cannot possibly be found.

In the sacraments your God, Christ himself, deals, speaks, and works with you through the priest. His are not the works and words of man. In the sacraments God himself grants you all the blessings we just mentioned in connection with Christ. God wants the sacraments to be a sign and testimony that Christ’s life has taken your death, his obedience your sin, his love your hell, upon themselves and overcome them. Moreover, through the same sacraments you are included and made one with all the saints.

Hosea’s message is brutal, or at least it seems that way.

How could a good God consign people to suffering, to the pain that is endured because of their sins. Not just the individual sins, but the sins of the community and the sins of the world. (There is another post there, that sins, and their consequences are not individual issues – but every sin is allowed, and affects the community) Back to the thought, how could a loving, compassionate God be this petty?

What God is allowing is not the suffering. Scripture tells us over and over He would prevent that suffering. He would protect us from suffering, and He will heal us from the wounds that we and society embrace.

The problem is our search for happiness, and our hunger for pleasure that we mistake for happiness. Keating is correct, we become so desperate in our search for happiness, because we look for it in places that it cannot be found! Instead, those illusions of happiness only drive us harder to find it, even as we look for it in the places that have already left us dry, wounded, broken.

Money can’t buy us the happiness we thought it could. The perfect house/home, once found and purchased, becomes empty. The perfect job doesn’t fulfill the way we thought it would. Relationships require far more work to be completely fulfilling and sex only leaves us wanting more of the moments of pleasure, or leaves us disappointed as those moments aren’t achieved. Every form of pleasure, though echoing pleasure for a moment, ends and leaves us wanting more. When they don’t provide what we want, we turn to things to distract us from the lack of happiness. Or to anesthetize the emptiness.

In 57 years of life, I have found happiness in the sacramental life. Not just at the communion rail, or in a shut-ins home sharing in prayer and the Lord’s supper. More there than anywhere else, of course, but the promise of such moments sustains me in the most brutal of weeks…. I know the moment of seeing God, of receiving all the blessings of which Luther spoke, is coming. Like heaven itself, these moments, whether forgiving or being forgiven, communing, or seeing new life begin in baptism, show the deep intimate relationship the people of God have been given.

These are the moments of revival of life, and of joy, and of peace. The hope they reveal of a day without pain and heartache brings its own happiness, and empowers us to live, until we are welcomed home by the Father.

And so God allows us to look in places where happiness isn’t, guiding us back to where it is promised. In His presence, in knowing He is here, with us.

And so letting us wander, letting us search, is allowed by God in order that we are drawn home. The power that Christ from the dead is at work, drawing us home, and cleansing us, so that we may be presented without sin, unbroken, completely healed. This is what the sacraments promise, and what they see accomplished, for God has promised this!

Lord Jesus, draw us home from our wanderings, help us hunger for what does fulfill our deepest needs, needs fulfilled by the Holy Spirit. Amen!

 

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 154

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), 108..

There is only one place to go, to find hope

Devotional Thoughts Reminding Us of our Hope in Chirst… while dwelling ina  seemingly broken world.

“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the LORD sees every heart and knows every plan and thought.   1 Chronicles 28:9 NLT

So, too, those who boast of great learning, wisdom, power, prestige, family, and honor and who trust in them have a god also, but not the one, true God. Notice again, how presumptuous, secure, and proud people are when they have such possessions, and how despondent they are when they lack them or when they are taken away. Therefore, I repeat, the correct interpretation of this commandment is that to have a god is to have something in which the heart trusts completely.

When I think of the angels who veil their faces before the God who cannot lie, I wonder why every preacher in North America does not begin preaching about God—and nothing else. What would happen if every preacher just preached about the person and character of God for an entire year—who He is, His attributes, His perfection, His being, the kind of a God He is and why we love Him and why we should trust Him? I tell you, God would soon fill the whole horizon, the entire world.

A third fruit of the night of spirit is the purification of our idea of God, the God of our childhood or the God worshipped by the particular group to which we belong.…

The number of people in the last 24 hours who have mentioned the need for Jesus to come back right now is staggering. Person after person, so disturbed by the grief, by the anxiety, by the brokenness, mention the prayer, “Maranatha,” which simply means, “come Lord Jesus.”

We recognize that His return, and the promise of eternity, seems to be the only hope we have. Perhaps we’ve given up on the idea of creating heaven on earth. The naivete of creating a perfect world—shattered by the events on the daily news.

Life has crushed our dreams and our idols. Luther and Keating sadly point to the necessity of this. Our false gods, our ideas of god that we blindly accept, must die. Otherwise, there is no way for us to gain that most precious commodity: hope.

David, at the end of his life, calls for Solomon to go through such a process. To intimately know God means to know WHO He really is, who He reveals Himself to be. That means Solomon had to have his illusions shattered. He needs to know God, not just have theories and handed down knowledge about God. He needed to know the God David loved and trusted. Solomon needs to go from trusting the God of his father and his ancestors to simply trusting God.

It isn’t easy…. it is necessary….

For only knowing God’s heart and mind toward His people can we find that we actually don’t have to go anywhere for hope.

It is here, for He is here. You dwell in His presence, as do I.

Amid the tears, He holds and comforts us.

Amid the smiles and laughter, He is there as well.

Tozer desired that we get to know Him, and that pastors would help their people get to preach in a way people get to know the God that loves them enough to die on the cross. That we could live… now and eternally.

He’s there, and if you don’t believe it, let’s talk. Let me help you get to know Him..and encourage me to know Him more, while we see Him revealed to us. For then we will know His peace which is beyond reason.

Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism” 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), 387.

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

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 145.

We need (to be) Committed, Exapendable Believers

Some thoughts for the day

11  There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12  You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13  For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14  Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. Hebrews 5:11-14 (NLT2)

The contemporary moral climate does not favor a faith as tough and fibrous as that taught by our Lord and His apostles. The delicate, brittle saints being produced in our religious hothouses today are hardly to be compared with the committed, expendable believers who once gave their witness among men. And the fault lies with our leaders. They are too timid to tell the people all the truth. They are now asking men to give to God that which costs them nothing.
Our churches these days are filled (or one-quarter filled) with a soft breed of Christian that must be fed on a diet of harmless fun to keep them interested. About theology they know little. Scarcely any of them have read even one of the great Christian classics, but most of them are familiar with religious fiction and spine-tingling films. No wonder their moral and spiritual constitution is so frail. Such can only be called weak adherents of a faith they never really understood.

But this I say for myself: I am also a doctor and a preacher, just as learned and experienced as all of them who are so high and mighty. Nevertheless, each morning, and whenever else I have time, I do as a child who is being taught the catechism and I read and recite word for word the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Psalms, etc. [8] I must still read and study the catechism daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the catechism—and I also do so gladly  Luther’s introduction to the Large Cathechism

Essentially, there are two components in the care of your own soul: God’s word and prayer. The first is the means of the Holy Spirit to sanctify your soul and body. The second is your response; the result of your sanctification, you could say

It took constant effort to keep ourselves in some semblance of peace when we were seeking fantastic goals that were constantly frustrated, setting off the afflictive emotions of anger, grief, fear, pride, lust, greed, jealousy, and the other capital sins. As the false self diminishes and trust in God increases in the night of sense, our energies can be put to better purposes

There was a lot of richness in my readings this morning.

Some of it seems caustic, and the context of Tozer and Luther’s quotes were far more so that what I cut and pasted here. words 50 and 500 years ago still sting, because the church still faces the same challenges it did then, and even back when the church was young, and the Book of Hebrews chided believers for not maturing in their relationship ith God.

Part of me, reading this, wants to figure out to save the church, to find a way to preach so powerfully that the church just finally wakes up and grows up! (It doesn’t help that I’ve been listening to Keith Green music for the last week!) Gosh, if only there was some way to get us all fired up for Jesus!

Luther’s got the idea, echoed by Senkbeil and Keating. Before I see God transform my people and my community, I have to see Him, and allo him to circumcise my heart, to cut away those emotions Keating identifies, as well as the sin. Only the Holy Spirit can remove sin, and its minions—guilt and shame. That is why Luther would go back to basics, to the Prayer, to the word of God, to the Creed, to be reminded of these things that God is doing. That is why Tozer would point people to the heavier classic works of Christianity – not for theological training, but to ask the hard questions. The questions that help us take up and bear our crosses–the truth that we desperately need Jesus.

Not just to remove the stain of sin….

But to walk with us, to be with us,

For then life is sanctified, and our energies are put to a better purpose… for God has removed what isn’t us.

That is the way we become more dedicated, and yet expendable. For what happens to us is not as important. We are expendable because we realize our walk with God is greater than our self-preservation. The more God cuts away that which is not us, the more He recreates us, the more we long for eternal life, and yet the message we communicate becomes a message that convinces people that we walk with God.

Not because of the eloquence of the words, but because we depend God in this life, we know how He provides, and that means more than anything. That is why, despite struggles with sin and doubt, we keep coming back to Him, we keep wanting to hear His voice, and we realize that anyone who knows this can replace us, for the remarkable thing is not that we are witnesses of His glorious love, but the love that we have witnessed. A love that goes beyond anything we’ve known…

A love that changes everything, and mostly changes us.

Expendable simply means that love means more to us than life, because that love is eternal… and it is life.

 

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

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), 380.

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 243.

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 140.

The Pastoral Need for the Lord’s Supper

Thoughts to draw you closer to Jesus…

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 56 And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”  Acts 7:55-56 NLT

Acedia means a lack or absence of care. And that’s deadly. Whenever we grow numb to Christ’s saving work and the Father’s gracious gifts by which he makes us and preserves us, spiritual boredom takes hold, followed by apathy and subsequent despair. Where acedia takes root in the soul of a pastor, the flock suffers greatly.

There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives.

The gift of contemplative prayer is a practical and essential tool for confronting the heart of the Christian ascesis—namely, the struggle with our unconscious motivation—while at the same time establishing the climate and necessary dispositions for a deepening relationship with God and leading, if we persevere, to divine union.

As I look at the deacon, Stephen, I see a man who is living in the moment. He is not bound to anxiety or fear. He is not burnt out, and He cares about the people with whom he is interacting. The power of the resurrection is something he wants them to know; he wants them to know Jesus.

As I look at the church today, there are many pastors and church leaders that are suffering and struggling, not only in their lives, but in their spiritual lives as well. The are well able to teach the doctrines they believe in, if they still do. But they don’t care, or they are tired of caring. There is something lacking behind the doctrine, a “so what” to the “what” that is so well known and taught. Acedia or Ascesis is so evident in the lives of many I talk to in the church, and the constant work wears the men and women in ministry down.

The hard question is, if this is happening to our leaders, then what is happening to the flocks with which they have been called to shepherd?

Keating talks of the answer to this being contemplative prayer. A time to stop and listen, to contemplate what it means to dwell in the presence of God. To take the time to listen, to invest in the relationship by letting God “hear” us — so that we know He has.

Perhaps this is why the Lutheran Confessions call prayer a sacrament, a sacred time where God’s grace communicates deeply, intimately with the hearts of His people.

It is one of the other sacraments that I run to, that I long for, when spiritual burnout, spiritual fatigue, and life just sucking. The Lord’s Supper is so precious, the peace that comes from being united to the death and resurrection of Jesus is beyond measure. Sharing it with my people, whether in the sanctuary, or in their homes, lifts me out of the spiritual funk (and often physical/psychological funks as well).

Here is the theology behind this – we know that when we take and eat the bread, we unite to Christ’s body (koinonia). The same when we drink from the cup, there is unity with the sacrifice of Christ. But anytime God unites us with the death of Christ Jesus, there is the absolute promise of the resurrection! Knowing this is our reality, and someday will be a visible reality, stirs the soul, and revives me. This is not just some activity or obligation without an impact in our lives. To realize we commune with God, in that instance, He draws into His glory, and gives us a tangible lesson in how deep His love is for us.

Every pastor gets tired, every pastor gets weary and suffers from burnout. The same for elders, deacons, ministers of every type. I do not know a pastor during COVID who didn’t think of hanging it up – and finding some other field of work. The answer is that divine unity that Keating points out, the “manifest presence” is how Tozer describes it. Stephen, even in the face of martyrdom, finds his hope there, as he gazes into heaven and sees the glory of God.

That is the experience of the altar, whether serving the people of God, or receiving it with them.

We need that… so let us not neglect it, but run to it. AMEN!

 

 

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 210.

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

Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 123.

Why I MUST Stuggle with the Scripture and God

Thoughts I pray drive you to the cross…

When the LORD heard them, he was furious. The fire of his wrath burned against Jacob. Yes, his anger rose against Israel, 22  for they did not believe God or trust him to care for them. 23  But he commanded the skies to open; he opened the doors of heaven. 24  He rained down manna for them to eat; he gave them bread from heaven. 25  They ate the food of angels! God gave them all they could hold. Psalm 78:21-25 (NLT2)

“Consequently this is the best advice, that one should draw from the source and diligently read the Bible. For a man who knows the text is also an extraordinary theologian. One passage or one text from the Bible is worth more than the glosses of four writers who aren’t reliable and thorough. 

Only one stipulation do I make: my teacher must know God, as Carlyle said, “otherwise than by hearsay,” and Christ must be all in all to him. If a man have only correct doctrine to offer me I am sure to slip out at the first intermission to seek the company of someone who has seen for himself how lovely is the face of Him who is the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley. Such a man can help me, and no one else can.

In my libraries I have closed to 10,000 books, both printed in paper and digitally on 3 different software programs.  S

Some are from favorite authors, like St. Josemaria, Michael Card, Martin Luther, Pope Benedict XVI, Peter Kreeft, Will Willimon, and Juan Carlos Ortiz. There are some newer writers that I am coming to appreciate more and more, like Tozer or Senkbeil. And there are other authors who are not as favored in my sight, yet all are men whose lives I thank God for, for they have affected me, or those whom I minister to at my church or in the community.

It would be really easy to just sit back in awe of their devotion, and spend time with their works. 

After all, I’ve read the Bible through more than once, in multiple translations. 

But it is there, in the pages of scripture, and in receiving and administering the sacraments, that I find God. It is where He hears me, and where I hear Him. There, on every page, there is Jesus. It is there where I find the words to think about, to ponder, even with which I question and argue. (It would be sad if I didn’t question and argue with them, for then I would be dishonest, or perhaps crazy… for God needs to transform me – which means I need to be honest where I am!) 

I cannot simply accept what men, far more brilliant that I could ever be, claim about the Greek and the Hebrew. I cannot accept their systems of theology. Simply put, they are sinners as well. Luther and Tozer are right – find the people that know God and rejoice in the intimate relationship He is forging with them. Learn from them how they encounter and walk with God, let them disciple you as you walk with Him. But always let Jesus be your focus, let the scriptures be the resource you measure it all with…

Like the passage from the Psalms, get to know the God, who even when you are struggling with Him, opens the skies and provides for you the bread of heaven and more. For that is when faith is more than just a list of doctrines, it is a relationship where you can depend on God in whatever life throws at you. Get to know the God who didn’t give up on Israel – Issacs’ son, or Israel – the 12 tribes. Get to know Him… experience His love… and without thinking–rejoice!

God loves us.  

Not from a distance, but right here and now. 

 

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), 352–353.

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

 

God is Making You… His People. A sermon for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper

God is Making you… His People
Jeremiah 31:31-33

† In Jesus’ Name †

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you that you are the people of God!

  • Missing at the Feast…

It was a card table, probably purchased back in the 1950s. It came out for every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, with 4 folding chairs that were far sturdier than they looked.

At 18 to 19, just starting to date Kay, I understood that I would be sitting there with her 5 and 7-year-old nephews, Kay’s 14-year-old niece, and Kay.

It was the kiddie table, and we were the younger folk there.

I did think that there would be a time when I could move to the adult table; I just didn’t think it would take until I was in my fifties.

As we share in the Lord’s Supper, we are in the present moment, and yet we are also part of that great feast when Jesus returns. It is what we are looking towards, yet we are a part of it as well, as with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven, we praise God, our heavenly Father.

There is no kiddie table at that feast, for we all have matured and become complete in Christ.

And we see that promise in the passage read earlier from Jeremiah. 

  • The Difference Between the Covenants

Jeremiah describes how people related to God in the reading. “I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them…

It sounds more like Israel acted like a toddler rather than a partner of God’s. I picture Israel as a toddler having to be brought to the table, seated, then getting up to see what’s happening everywhere else. What’s on their plate? Is their chair better than mine? And, of course, causing all sorts of spills and breakage, left behind as something else catches their eye.

The world is not different today, and neither are many of us in the church. We want what we want when we want it! We often “unintentionally” redesign Christianity to be more consistent with what we wish… rather than allowing God to conform us to the image of Jesus.

It’s easy to throw a tantrum against God, demand what we want…that we cry and howl and tell Him to get lost. Heck, even at the last supper, the disciples fought over who was better…

And Jesus bows down… and takes a towel and washes their feet….

  • Preparing them for the new covenant…

And in doing so, shows them a new way…

We often talk about foot-washing as an example – this is how we should serve others. But Peter had to learn something first – to let Jesus wash his feet, for boy, they needed to be cleaned….

We need to be drawn into this relationship, this covenant with God. We need God to do what He’s promised to do, the promises we’ve been looking at – God’s work.

And that is seen easily this night. Everything about the Passover points to his sacrifice in the morning – a sacrifice he looked forward to – because of the joy of Jeremiahs’s promise being fulfilled.

  • How God puts His instructions inside us…

Here it again…

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

That is why Jesus says this is His blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. The Body and Blood shed for you that all your sins, including those tantrums, are forgiven.

This is why we are here… this is what it is all about… God with us.

A new relationship that goes beyond anything we can think or imagine.

A relationship where God comes to us feeds us, and makes us know we are home… for we are His people. 

So let’s celebrate – with the feast that is the foretaste of the feast to come…

Visionary Servant Leadership

Thoughts helping us focus on Jesus…

Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. John 13:3-5 NLT

Leadership requires vision, and whence will vision come except from hours spent in the presence of God in humble and fervent prayer?

God remains the center, and man is drawn beyond himself toward the absolute as it manifests itself. He “possesses” love only insofar as love possesses him, which means that he never possesses love in such a way that he could describe it as one of his powers, which lies at his own disposal. To be sure, this does not mean that love remains external to him, but if it does not, it is only because love itself takes possession of him in his innermost heart—interius intimo meo.

Nevertheless, as a spiritual physician I’m treating the whole person, not just their emotions. When the soul is at rest in God, emotions will stabilize.

There are a lot of books out there that one could read to learn about Visionary Leadership. That includes those written by pastors, former pastors, corporate CEOs, former military leaders, and sports figures like John Wooden.

Rarely do I find that there is a spiritual component in these books or the seminars they spawn. If so, spirituality made be motioned as an afterthought. Even though we have generations of servant leaders, and the example of the prophets and Jesus of such incredible leadership.

We think such leadership is a gifted ability, something innate in that person but missing in this person. In thinking so, we make a mistake. Authentic leadership is not a gift as much as it is a side effect. (Note – leadership in Romans 12:8 is closer to administration than leading and guiding people. )

A side effect of time with God.

That time with God results in a deeper dependence, a deeper trust. Theologians call this faith, but that overused word rarely is thought of as the desperation that results in our clinging to God, knowing there is no other answer.

And the side effect of that dependence is the leadership Jesus shows as he washes the disciples’ feet and dies for them and the world the next day. Tozer talks of leadership coming from hours spent in the presence of God. Balthasar speaks of being drawn to God and possessed by God’s love – even to the most interior, intimate part of being. God is there; that is what conversion is, as our hearts and minds- cold, dead, broken by sin are replaced by the Spirit with Christ’s heart and mind. It all comes down to dwelling in HIs presence, and being sure of the promises, as Chirst was, as he washed the feet of the apostles… even of Judas…

Ultimately, this kind of leadership is focused on drawing people into the heart of God. That is where we must lead them, for that is where we find out who we are. We have to be confident of God’s presence and His work – then leadership is simply part of the response. This is the work Senkbeil speaks of – the healing that takes place as we wash feet, go and pray, or take the time to explain what the scripture means.

That is visionary servant leadership… which is the kind that makes an actual difference in the lives of people… both not and eternally. AMEN!

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

Balthasar, Hans Urs von. 2004. Love Alone Is Credible. Translated by D. C. Schindler. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Senkbeil, Harold L. 2019. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.d

The Church Desperately Needs Fools and Madmen – if we are to survive.

Thoughts to help us run to Jesus…

Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time,* said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about! 50 You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” John 11:49-50 NLT

They say, “God has abandoned him. Let’s go and get him, for no one will help him now.” 12  O God, don’t stay away. My God, please hurry to help me. Psalm 71:11-12 (NLT2)

Scripture’s commandment to turn the other cheek does not contain a primarily ethical meaning—to overcome oneself, or to give the other an example of one’s self-mastery or enlightenment—but the meaning of love, which “demands that one suffer humiliation with the humiliated Christ rather than receive honor, to be seen as a fool and madman for Christ’s sake, who himself was seen primarily as such, rather than to be esteemed as wise and clever in this world” (Ignatius of Loyola)

Now note that deliverance from evil is the very last thing that we do and ought to pray for. Under this heading we count strife, famine, war, pestilence, plagues, even hell and purgatory, in short, everything that is painful to body and soul. Though we ask for release from all of this, it should be done in a proper manner and at the very last.
Why? There are some, perhaps many, who honor and implore God and his saints solely for the sake of deliverance from evil. They have no other interest and do not ever think of the first petitions which stress God’s honor, his name, and his will. Instead, they seek their own will and completely reverse the order of this prayer. They begin at the end and never get to the first petitions. They are set on being rid of their evil, whether this redounds to God’s honor or not, whether it conforms to his will or not.

The Canaanite woman had the kind of faith which penetrates the clouds. She would not take any kind of refusal as a real refusal, as a real “no.” She kept on praying with faith. The more she was tried, the more she placed her trust in Jesus, until she finally achieved her goal and got all she wanted. This is the disposition God waits for in the crisis of faith: trust in his mercy no matter what kind of treatment he gives you. Only great faith can penetrate those apparent rebuffs, comprehend the love which inspires them, and totally surrender to it.

Barely a day goes by without ads or advice about how to save the church. Here is how to make your preaching more relevant, how to do outreach online, and how to grow this ministry, that ministry. If only you had a program like Alpha or Rooted or follow Purpose Driven Church theory or…

For someone who doesn’t even know what a box is, never mind think out of it, my answer for what the church needs to do is described well in the devotional readings I encountered this morning.

The answer to survival is that we again need the church to be considered fools and madmen/women.

The phrase comes from the reading of Balthasar – and refers to people who are willing to be humiliated for no other reason than we do so with Jesus. The world would say we are nuts; we are fools. We embrace the suffering we encounter, whatever God allows, to seek Him and find Him and be with Him.

That is what Luther was getting at as well, as he explored the phrase, “deliver us from evil.” It is not the first plea in the Lord’s prayer but the last. It is not the most important thing – in fact, the most important thing is that we use God’s name to address Him. We need to set it apart for those deeply intimate conversations. We ask to ask for a lot, but only last do we ask for delivery from evil. If we believe all else is answered and delivered, where is the power of evil? It has already been broken and shattered.

Take a moment and think about it – what has Satan left if we are sure God’s Kingdom has come, and God’s will has been done?

This is what servant-leadership truly is in the church, being willing to embrace the suffering and remind people of God’s presence in the most broken parts of their lives. It requires tenacity, not to endure, but to pursue God like the Samaritan woman Keating praises! Jesus praised her, for she trusted that Jesus loved her and her daughter. We need to seek that experience of His love and His mercy, counting on Him to reveal Himself there.

That is why we endure… to depend on Christ – to dwell in Him… and as we do, we serve amid brokenness. We embrace it, knowing that God rules, and therefore it works. and if the world things we are fools and madman… that’s okay.

Balthasar, Hans Urs von. 2004. Love Alone Is Credible. Translated by D. C. Schindler. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 42. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.

The Ministry Isn’t Rocket Science…but

each trial was a step in maturity… yet… so hard

Thoughts to drive us to Jesus side…..

Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. 2  Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. 3  I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me. Psalm 69:1-3 (NLT2)

Almost anything associated with the ministry may be learned with an average amount of intelligent application. It is not hard to preach or manage church affairs or pay a social call; weddings and funerals may be conducted smoothly with a little help from Emily Post and the Minister’s Manual. Sermon making can be learned as easily as shoemaking—introduction, conclusion and all. And so with the whole work of the ministry as it is carried on in the average church today.
But prayer—that is another matter. There Mrs. Post is helpless and the Minister’s Manual can offer no assistance. There the lonely man of God must wrestle it out alone, sometimes in fastings and tears and weariness untold. There every man must be an original, for true prayer cannot be imitated nor can it be learned from someone else.

There is an analogy between growing up spiritually and the growing up that takes place in the normal course of human life. In approaching adolescence and adulthood, everyone seems to have to pass through a crisis.… God has great sympathy for those who are going through this crisis in their spiritual life. They do not know what is happening to them and tend to concentrate on the disintegration of what they love, rather than on the real spiritual growth of which they are becoming capable.… If we look on the bright side and are firmly convinced that it is normal to have to forge new relationships, our crisis of faith will appear as a great invitation to go deeper into the heart of Christ. The very transition makes it impossible for the former people we counted on to help us. Part of growing up is to become independent—not of everybody, but of those on whom we are too dependent—so that we may depend completely on the Holy Spirit. That is what spiritual maturity is.

Tozer is correct…. the actual day-to-day tasks of being a pastor or one of those who help him are not that difficult. They don’t take the mind of a rocket scientist or incredible skills in management and business. That’s why people are getting “self-ordained” or getting one-day licenses to do weddings or just doing memorials on their own.

But a real pastor, a real elder, a real Sunday School teacher, or worship leader is not just a combination o talent and academic preparation. They have to be someone who wrestles with themselves and God – much as Jacob did. As each man’s gifts are different, so are the battles. The temptations, the anxieties, and the circumstances that they dwell in are different, making each battle unique – and therefore, the healing from battle damage is never the same.

Those battles are irreplaceable in one’s growth as a believer. Keating’s comparison to the challenges of the transition from childhood to adulthood is perfect. During that time, physically, mentally, spiritually, everything is challenged. Some demean it, having forgotten those long nights and empty feelings. As we enter Christ, everything changes, as idols and those who could become idols are removed. And while we have their words and often their examples, we are bereft of the comfort and the fact that someone is listening.

And that makes the brokenness echo throughout our hearts and minds, and yes, our souls. As we come on the other side of it, what disintegrated is replaced (much as Job’s family and fortune were!) Life becomes different, and we look at it with eyes that have grown weary as spiritual maturity is forced upon us. Every thing is stripped away, and we find everything is found as the Holy Spirit grants us the faith we need.

The place where the Psalmist was, is more important for a pastor or any other servant leader or believer in the church to experience. It is out of such times we God’s hand clearly, and the brokenness gives way to grace.

Ministry isn’t rocket science – it is more complicated. Still, as we see the breakthroughs and see the miracles, it is more rewarding…for it is walking with God… each step.

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

Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.

A Glorious Land! A Lenten Mid-week Sermon from Psalm 85:9

A Glorious Land!
Psalm 85:9

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you look forward to the glorious day of Christ’s return!

  • What No Eye has seen… but is revealed!

I can read our theme verse for lent a thousand times more, and it will still leave me in awe of what God has promised us.

Hopefully, you will always rejoice when the expectation is laid out before you. You think about what God has waiting for you – because you love Him – because He loves you.

More incredible than the most awe-inspiring, beautiful thing you have ever seen. More amazing than anything you’ve ever heard, more mindblowing than anything you’ve ever imagined…

That’s what is waiting for us… when God brings all His people together on the day of Jesus Christ.

That is what Lent and repentance prepare us for as well. We realize what we need to leave behind… because of what is waiting.

  • The picture of that day

Listen again to the description

Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, so our land will be filled with his glory. 10  Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed! 11  Truth springs up from the earth, and righteousness smiles down from heaven. 12  Yes, the LORD pours down his blessings. Our land will yield its bountiful harvest. Psalm 85:9-12 (NLT2)

Once or twice I have mentioned that what God saves us for is more important than what he saves us from. The psalmist starts to help us picture it…

God’s love and truth meet…. This means hatred and falsehood no longer exist…

Righteousness and peace kiss – meaning injustice and every kind of fighting – from family disputes to workplace arguments to gang battles and war – will be long forgotten…

Oh! How I long for that day!!!

These interactions are incredible, as we see God pouring down His blessings – and a harvest is huge – not of plants but of souls!

What an incredible picture of God creating something for those He calls His people!

It will be a glorious day when God’s love overwhelms everything – and we see reality the way God does!

  • It isn’t heaven on earth

The challenge here, of course, is that while this promise is ours, the cross of Christ making it guaranteed for those who trust and depend on God, we really don’t see it yet. We see the brokenness that leads the psalmist to cry out,

4  Now restore us again, O God of our salvation. Put aside your anger against us once more. 5  Will you be angry with us always? Will you prolong your wrath to all generations? 6  Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you? 7  Show us your unfailing love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation. Psalm 85:4-7 (NLT2)

Can you hear the despair in that cry? Can you hear a heart – much like our own – that is tired of the world, that is tired of the brokenness caused by sin… that needs healing, that needs to be revived?

That needs the hope that is only found in the cross of Christ – where injustice and conflict are dealt with, as God pours out His wrath on Jesus… so that we can live for eternity with Him.

I’ve said before that repentance is a change of mind – that God works in us. We know about where we are – and where we’ve been… tonight I Hope you see where we are heading… to a glorious land where God has prepared a place for you and me…

AMEN!!

%d bloggers like this: