Thoughts to encourage our clinging to Jesus…
Then Moses called for Mishael and Elzaphan, Aaron’s cousins, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel. He said to them, “Come forward and carry away the bodies of your relatives from in front of the sanctuary to a place outside the camp.” 5 So they came forward and picked them up by their garments and carried them out of the camp, just as Moses had commanded.
6 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not show grief by leaving your hair uncombed* or by tearing your clothes. If you do, you will die, and the LORD’s anger will strike the whole community of Israel. However, the rest of the Israelites, your relatives, may mourn because of the LORD’s fiery destruction of Nadab and Abihu. Leviticus 10:4-6 NLT
He is gnawing at his own heart,” said Luther. “I, too, often suffer from severe trials and sorrows. At such times I seek the fellowship of men, for the humblest maid has often comforted me. A man doesn’t have control of himself when he is downcast and alone, even if he is well equipped with a knowledge of the Scriptures. It is not for nothing that Christ gathers his church around the Word and the sacraments=- and is unwilling to let these be hidden in a corner. (1)
Of course, if you’re not careful you can burn yourself out in pastoral work. Sadly, thousands of pastors end up spiraling into emotional and spiritual collapse every year.
But when you take care to receive Christ’s own love and strength by means of his Spirit through his word, you have something to give to others without yourself being depleted and emptied. (2)
Any appeal to the public in the name of Christ that rises no higher than an invitation to tranquillity must be recognized as mere humanism with a few words of Jesus thrown in to make it appear Christian.…
Christ calls men to carry a cross; we call them to have fun in His name. He calls them to forsake the world; we assure them that if they but accept Jesus the world is their oyster. (3)
I have to admit, I don’t like the words Moses spoke to Aaron and his boys. Why aren’t they allowed to grieve alongside their family? Paul talks of us weeping with those who weep (and laughing with them as they laugh as wll.) So this stupid act of their cousins should bring a time of grieving and being there for the family.
In this case, by no means in every case, they could not be there. We have to be careful of making this scenario a case study and establishing ground rules for pastoral care. I have heard that pastors must keep their distance and be above and remote from the scenario to pastor people. Based on the Romans 12 description of weeping and laughing, I have heard the opposite.
The question is, how do we become wise enough to know the difference? And how do we deal with our own pain? How do we find our peace when we encounter such trauma as pastors or people? Where do we find the wisdom to enter into the family’s pain, or not?
Senkbeil and Luther both note the high cost of enduring such trials. Trials that lead to the “gnawing at your own heart,” not being able to “have control of himself,” and “emotional and spiritual collapse” that most pastors deal with regularly. They will both find the same solution, which I will get to in a moment after I deal with Tozer – his words help clarify the discernment needed.
The idea that our message is only an invitation to peace and tranquility is the danger of trying to multi-task as a mourner and spiritual care provider. I am not saying God cannot work in these situations, but it taxes us too significantly and will lead to a message that doesn’t tie our peace to the cross. Establish enough of these trials, one after another, and the pain will break anyone. And when we fail, our words become something less, a placebo, no longer connected to the peace that is genuinely needed in a time like these.
Tozer calls the believer to carry the cross first…to forsake the world because focused on Christ whom we meet at the cross, we can be relieved of burdens and find the peace we need. This is why Senkbeil talks of letting the Spirit work through Word and Sacrament to receive Christ’s love and strength within us. It is why Luther talks of the fellowship
and the humblest maid comforting him, even as Jesus gathers His church around the Word and Sacraments. It is only connected to God’s grace that our words can do more than be a placebo. Only then is there something to give something beyond all understanding… the peace of Jesus!
Aaron and his boys were responsible for the Old Covenant sacrifices, those activities that pointed to God’s promise of peace. They weren’t forbidden to weep because God was uncaring. Rather, I think they needed to have the strength
of the promise that would enable the community to find grace and peace at the moment. They needed to remind people that God was still with them and that God was sustaining them, and even as God was ministering to them through the community, Their comfort and peace came from God, and they needed to lead people there. For us that means embracing the cross, accepting its suffering, realizing that there we meet Jesus. That is where we find life and hope, and rest. THat is why baptism, absolution and the Lord’s Supper take us there.. to Jesus… at the cross.
When I was a hospice chaplain, I watched nurses put aside their grief to care for the patients who passed away. We would weep together later – apart from those we had gone to care for, the patient and their family. Like Aaron and his
boys, we were the hands and voice of God for those hurting and grieving. I think that is what Moses was working from with these words. He directed them to not show grief at that moment because if they lost their way in despair, not
only would they drown, so would the community. As they focused on God… and His mercy…then they would be comforted and be able to offer the same.
This isn’t easy; this idea of keeping our eyes on Jesus in the middle of the pain. To be bluntly honest, I needed to be reminded of it presently… but it is there, at the altar with others.. that God’s peace is found, where the burdens
After the years of 2020 and 2021… that is where we need to be found… and when we are… we can minister to so many who need to know the peace of Jesus.
(1) 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), 268.
(2) Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 7.
(3) A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Thoughts to help you realize Christ’s devotion to you!
And Moses told them, “It is the food the LORD has given you to eat. 16 These are the LORD’s instructions: Each household should gather as much as it needs. Pick up two quarts* for each person in your tent.”
17 So the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some only a little. 18 But when they measured it out,* everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed.
19 Then Moses told them, “Do not keep any of it until morning.” 20 But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell. Moses was very angry with them. Exodus 16:15-20 new living translation
The entire scope of the mystery of Christ is experienced at ever-deepening levels of assimilation as we celebrate the liturgical seasons.… We are invited … to relate to Christ on every level of his being as well as our own. This developing relationship with Christ is the main thrust of the liturgical seasons.… The transmission of this personal relationship with Christ—and through him with the Father—is what Paul calls the Mysterion, the Greek word for mystery or sacrament, an external sign that contains and communicates sacred Reality. The liturgy teaches and empowers us, as we celebrate the mysteries of Christ, to perceive them not only as historical events, but as manifestations of Christ here and now. Through this living contact with Christ, we become icons of Christ, that is, manifestations of the Gospel in … daily life.
I look at the manna provided, day by day, to the people of Israel and I see a test I would fail, and fail at miserably.
Starving, and food appears, and my instinct would be to gather as much as I could – enough for the weeks and even a month ahead…. because what happens if it stops appearing? What happens when God doesn’t provide as he did on Sunday… what happens when the well is dried up… and not only the people I am responsible for, but me, face the test of trusting God for tomorrow?
Having been put in that place many times, and even in some recent situations, I know I will fail to trust God for tomorrow. Heck, I am having a struggle trusting Him today…
In this the season where darkness lasts longer each day, and where that darkness seems darker and colder, trusting God for eternal life is hard, because trusting Him for tomorrow seems impossible. So we sin by trying to grab upp more than He has promised to provide.
That is where the liturgy, and the church seasons have lent their support in the past, and still do, even in the darkness of today.
Because the liturgy is drawn from scripture, because it works through the life of Christ, from being an anticipated promise, to being born and dwelling among us, to dieing and rising, ascending and reigning, the movements mirror our own lives- including this darkness of the fall, and the depth of the winter’s depression. THe church year in its readings reinfroces this movement, and recognizes in Advent the darkness before the arrival of Christ.
A darkness where hope needs to be realized, a darkness needed to be shattered, andour being sustained by God’s providence until it is shattered. ANd the liturgy and the church year provide a reminder that it has been shattered… and that God is with us, in Advent and Easter, in the darkness and the new life. And as we walk with Him, as we realize His presence, we become icons, reflecting His glory.
In the midst of the heartache and pain, the loneliness and isolation, the season of Advent gives us a chance to breathe…. to look around… to hear God saying, I am here today…. walk with me now… and don’t worry about tomorrow…
and someday. we will be in the land of promise… Home with Him…
Lord, help us in the dark times of life to shed our anxiety, our heartache, and simply rely on what you provide in this moment, and in the word and sacrament that pours out Your grace. Help our faith, our dependence on You, grow in these times… that we may know You are here… 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), 341.
Thoughts I pray help you depend on Jesus..
But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28 NLT
But I will make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn so I can multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. 4 Even then Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you. So I will bring down my fist on Egypt. Then I will rescue my forces—my people, the Israelites—from the land of Egypt with great acts of judgment. 5 When I raise my powerful hand and bring out the Israelites, the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” Exodus 7:3-5 NLT
Some of you know something of that which has been called “the dark night of the soul.” Some of you have spiritual desire and deep longing for victory but it seems to you that your efforts to go on with God have only brought you more bumps and more testings and more discouragement. You are tempted to ask, “How long can this go on?”…
Yes, there is a dark night of the soul. There are few Christians willing to go into this dark night and that is why there are so few who enter into the light. It is impossible for them ever to know the morning because they will not endure the night.
For every nail that pierces Christ, more than one hundred thousand should in justice pierce you, yes, they should prick you forever and ever more painfully! When Christ is tortured by nails penetrating his hands and feet, you should eternally suffer the pain they inflict and the pain of even more cruel nails, which will in truth be the lot of those who do not avail themselves of Christ’s passion.
One of my mentors, Dr. Rodney Vliet, once told a bunch of us that it was not reasonable to think our families wouldn’t suffer because of the ministry we all hoped to enter. He was quite blunt, and said that there would be times where our families’ wants and desires would be sacrficed because someone in the church was in trauma. There would be times where even their needs would be laid down as a sacrficie.
Some are told today that not only does family come first, but family’s comfort should come first.
I struggle with this… a lot. For I’ve found out that Dr. Vliet was right. Not just the vocation of the pastor or worship leader, but the vocation of every volunteer in the church – wheter and elder, a sunday school teacher, or the person who gets up early…
Being a Chirstian includes being part of both the Church, and a church. And that means being a servant to others. Putting them first, even above other commitments.
Even when the ministry is tough, and you want to run. Moses wasn’t promised an easy kingdom too lead – first he had to deal with Pharoah, then, once free of that – he would have to deal with Israel! Ministry wasn’t easy then, nor would it be for the judges, the prophets or the apostles.
Nor should we expect it to be easy, simple, and able to be blocked out on a standard schedule.
Tozer talks about the dark times, the times where it is so dark we want to quit, where we think we’ve reached our max burnout level, where we can’t see how God is going to work.
And then, looking to Him on the cross, we see our suffering is not what we deserve. Jesus saved us from that. I love that point of Luther’s that we deserve so much for our sin, that any sacrifice we make because we are forgiven, to help others know, is worth it. …
Sacrifice is not as great a sacrficie as we think, compared to Jesus. Even martyrdom is not, for we die to bear witness to a death that bore all of our sin, Leave your burdens behind, tkae up your cross and walk with Jesus, knowing that His work thorugh you will save others from Hell. It doesn’t matter if you are a preacher, a missionary, a preschool or junior high Sunday School teacher, or someone who visits shutins…
what ever the sacrifice, it is worth it… for people will experience God’s love… for you do not make the sacrifice alone…
He is with you…. just cling to Him…
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 9.
Thoughts that I pray cause you to adore Jesus, your Savior…
Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.”* She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” 14 So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered. Genesis 16:13-14 NLT
Rector Bernard von Dölen,142 minister in Herzberg, complained bitterly about his arrogant auditors who despised the reading of the catechism. Dr. Martin [Luther] was greatly disturbed and fell silent. Then he said, “Cursed be every preacher who aims at lofty topics in the church, looking for his own glory and selfishly desiring to please one individual or another. When I preach here143 I adapt myself to the circumstances of the common people. I don’t look at the doctors and masters, of whom scarcely forty are present, but at the hundred or the thousand young people and children. It’s to them that I preach, to them that I devote myself, for they, too, need to understand. If the others don’t want to listen they can leave. Therefore, my dear Bernard, take pains to be simple and direct; don’t consider those who claim to be learned but be a preacher to unschooled youth and sucklings. (1)
Nonetheless, for Luther theology was not a detached academic pursuit circumscribed by the walls, procedures, customs, and language of the university, but a matter of life and death. He took God seriously. Nothing is more important in man’s life than his relationship to God. The chief function of theology (and of the theologian), then, is not to speculate about God or even to systematize man’s knowledge of God. Rather its function is to lead men to and strengthen them in faith. For Luther faith meant specifically trust in God through Jesus Christ. Inevitably Luther’s classroom extended far beyond the university and the circle of educated students to whom he lectured there. (2)
The pastoral care that is provided to Hagar never ceases to amaze me. She is not the one through whom the promise is given; that is Sarai, her mistress, the one who has the power of life or death over her. And yet, God takes the time to
visit with her. He cares for her, ministers to her, and cares for her son (who will be a challenge.) Finally, God restores her to her former place.
It works with the two readings I had this morning, which talk about the ministry of theology. Usually, seminaries and universities studies in scripture and ministry describe that the other way, with courses on the Theology of Ministry. Rarely do you hear people talk about the ministry of theology. People will talk about types of theology, Systematic, Exegetical, HIstorical, and Pragmatic, but rarely will there be a focus on how theology is supposed to be used to
minister to the church.
Those readings talk about it in Luther’s usual blunt style. Theology is not primarily an academic topic to be studied and dissected, according to Luther. Theology has a particular role, to be used to help man deepen their dependence
on God, to encourage spending time meditating on the move and mercy of God, to experience His love and presence, in a way that the Apostle Paul said was beyond words. (see Ephesians 3:17-19) This is the chief function of theology,
which seems all but lost these days.
Consider the advice to Bernard, who talked with the arrogant visitors he had, nitpicking on everything. Luther’s direction is to ignore them and preach the gospel to the hundred or thousand people who need to know the gospel and understand why hope is found in Christ. (this is Peter’s idea of apologetics, when he writes, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.“ 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT2)
This is what we are here to do, to use the knowledge and understanding that studying the word of God gives, as the Holy Spirit draws them to Jesus and brings light into their lives. This is not only the role of theology but also liturgical worship, pastoral care, and counseling. This is the focus that all those who lead in the church are called to do, to work with all we are, and to present everyone perfect in Christ. ( Colossians 1:28-29) For us Lutherans, this is what the 6th article of the Augsburg Confession is about, as our good works are the fruit of our faith.
May Theology be restored to this glorious ministry, of causing others to grow deeper in their dependence/faith/trust in God. And may the church ever see it as a tool dedicated to that purpose.
(1) 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), 235–236.
(2) 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), x.
Thoughts to encourage you to adore and cling to Jesus…
5 The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. 6 So the LORD was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. Genesis 6:5-6 NLT
Through all the changes scenes of life, in trouble and in joy, the praises of my God shall still my heart and tongue employ!
Of His deliverance I will board, till all that are distrest, from my example comfort take and charm their griefs to rest. (Evangelcial Lutheran Hymnal of 1927 – Hymn 75 by Tate and Brady)
There are days I wake up, and I wish God hadn’t promised to flood the earth again. I look out and see the devastation of sins. Sins of Omission, Sins of Comission, deliberate ones, and ones that were not intended, but happened anyway. Let me be honest, my sins and the sins of others take a horrible toll on me, and I can understand how it breaks God’s heart… for even as guilty of sin as I am, it breaks mine. I am reminded again of Luther, in his monk’s room, melting down and screaming in the middle of the night at Satan, and despairing of his own life. Been there…
Would He come down and just end it all – a flood, a fire, the second coming!
So how do I find it possible, in these troubled scenes of life, to find the joy and peace needed to praise Him?
There is only one way, to look to the cross and see how God’s promise comes to fruition there. How he carefully circumcises our heart, cutting away the sin and damage its caused. Scripture also uses the term from which we get cauterizes for describing the healing that can take place, as God seals off the wounds, and uses the Body of Christ to bring healing to the wounds.
It is defintely hard to see, in the midst of the troublemd waters, in the midst of the pain, and the way our minds spiral because of the pain.
Yet, He is there…. having died for all the sin, wanting to transform us, and redeem the time. Let us encourage each other to look to Him.
For there is our hope… found in the love that drove Him to the cross, and raised Him from the dead.
Thoughts to encourage your love of Jesus…
1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. Ephesians 4:1-6 (NLT2)
In order to bring peace, genuine peace, to souls; in order to transform the earth and to seek God our Lord in the world and through the things of the world, personal sanctity is indispensable. In my conversations with people from so many countries and from all kinds of social backgrounds, I am often asked: “What do you say to us married folk? To those of us who work on the land? To widows? To young people?” I reply systematically that I have only “one stewing pot.” I usually go on to point out that our Lord Jesus Christ preached the good news to all, without distinction. One stewing pot and only one kind of food: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.” (1)
There is no doubt the Church is diverse.
Likewise, there is equally no doubt that it is called to be united. After all we confess that the Church Christ established is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.” Catholic there not referring denomination, but to the universal church, throughout time as well as throughout the world.
The question is how can we see the church, which will gather at the end of time with people from every language, every tribe, every ethnicity to praise the Lord of lords, and King of kings. How in the midst of an incredible diversity can we see unity?
I don’t think we can….
I don’t think we can if we are looking toward the diverse group. THere are too many issues, from language barriers, to cultural dissonance, to the smell of the food cooking in the church kitchen! (Not everyone likes as much garlic as i do!) People dream of this diverse unity, and attempt to force the church to create a fortaste of the diversity experienced on judgment day. We are encouraged to create strategies, layout plans, hire staff that will create the diverse look we claim is God’s will.
And what we’ve forgotten is the message of Ephesians.
We are united… when we are in Christ.
There is only one faith, that is we have only One to trust and depend on – Jesus.
The Spirit baptizes us, uniting us to Jesus’s death and resurrection, together.
And there is only one God and Father of all. In all through all, here is where unity exists! Here is where we are made one, not forced to try and be one. If we realize the blessing of God’s love, and share it with those around us.
That is why Josemaria Escriva talks of One Message. There is only one gospel, only one way to be saved. And in that salvation, we find our unity. In that sharing the reason we have hope with those around us, with our neighbors and co-workers, and those we encounter, diversity should occur. Fear of reaching out to the older lady from Japan living next door, or the Guyanese family down the street, or the German guy you work with disappears when the peace of God can be known in the midst of the trials and trauma of their lives.
The more we treasure the gift given to us… the more we want everyone to know it is for them.
This is our Lord. In Him, we are one… even as He and the Father are one…just make that known…
(1) Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A Hard Devotional Thought for these Days
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided his clothes and cast lots. Luke 23:34 CSB
It appears that too many Christians want to enjoy the thrill of feeling right but are not willing to endure the inconvenience of being right.
Therefore the entire sum of what it means not to kill is to be impressed most explicitly upon the simple-minded. In the first place that we harm no one, first, with our hand or by deed. Then, that we do not employ our tongue to instigate or counsel thereto. Further, that we neither use nor assent to any kind of means or methods whereby any one may be injured. And finally, that the heart be not ill disposed toward any one, nor from anger and hatred wish him ill, so that body and soul may be innocent in regard to every one, but especially those who wish you evil or inflict such upon you.
I knew what was coming today in my Bible reading.
It made me want to delay it as much as possible.
The words from the cross above frustrate me… significantly frustrate me. Especially if the Apostle Paul’s words are echoing through my mind at the same time.
Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 CSB
Yesteday, I was planning the service for the day after the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Flashing across my news feed and social media were call for revenge, including a horrific prayer for it to have quickly, to wipe out a people. It wanted revenge, not justice, and definitely not mercy.
And my first reaction was to agree, even as it soured my stomach… and I knew it was wrong.
Did I mention following Jesus was inconvenient?
Another line from the Scriptures, this time from Jesus,
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45a (NLT2)
This isn’t just inconvenient… I don’t even have the words.
It is more tha just difficult, it is impossible… at least for me.
Never mind those who have killed people in what they consider war… this is true for those in all sorts of positions. Some actively hate, some unintentionally hurt (how could they not see their own narcicism?)
But on this day, as I read of Jesus on the cross, I realize again how much I have to be united to that cross, to let my narcicistic self die there, and rise to life with Him. How that means I give up my desire for revenge (though I call it justice – let’s be honest here) I need His mercy, I need His love…
I need Him to heal me of my hurt.
This isn’t about being weak, about not standing up for what is right and wrong. Luther’s quote makes that clear – we can’t let our hearts be ill-disposed, but rather we need to lift these enemies to the Lord in prayer, and desire, as God does, that they come to repentance. That’s not being weak….
It is accepting the inconvenience of following Christ, and realizing that Him joy
As we do, it will take prayer, it will take a lot of thought about the cross, and the grave, and why Jesus, for the joy set before Him,… set aside revenge… and loved.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, trans. F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau (n.p.: WORDsearch, 2003).
Devotional Thought of the Day
2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 (NLT2)
Whoever, therefore, gives himself up to obedience, must needs detach himself totally from his own opinion. “What though each one,” says St. Francis de Sales, “has his own opinions, virtue is not thereby violated; but virtue is violated by the attachment which we have to our own opinions.”1 But alas! this attachment is the hardest thing to part with; and hence there are so few persons wholly given to God, because few render a thorough submission to obedience.
True faith requires that we believe everything God has said about Himself, but also that we believe everything He has said about us. Until we believe that we are as bad as God says we are, we can never believe that He will do for us what He says He will do.
It is one of our modern idols.
It’s not made of gold or wood, or bronze, but it is as surely an idol for modern times.
We believe we have the right to our opinions, we believe we have the right to think and say whatever comes to mind.
Not only do we believe we are entitled to our opinions, but the world is entitled to them as well. And we will freely tell in them on our Instagram page, our Twitter, our Facebook page, and our blogs.. (err…hmmmm)
De Ligouri had it write when talking about the need to slay these idols, and this attachment is the hardest thing to part with in our lives. It cannot save us, it cannot bring healing to our lives, it cannot be trusted, swayed by our emotion, and our fallen logic.
Our opinion can create a false sense of pride, or it can abuse us. THat is why Tozer reminds us to believe what God has said about us, both that we are bad, and that He can take care of that…. and has. Only dwelling in Christ, believing in God’s opinion do owe find what we truly need, and then with that, we find His comfort and His peace. When we lay aside our opinion, and seek Christ, we see things far differently, for His opinion matters, and ours is revealed for what it is… and falls aside.
Lord, this day, take into captivity any thoughts, any opinions which are not from You. Renew our hearts, souls and minds by the power of Your Spirit, and help us to enjoy the peace and comfort there is, as our minds reflect the mind of Jesus. Amen!
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. Gcill & Son, 1887), 410.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Thoughts to cause us to adore our Lord and God.
15 The Lord has removed your punishment; he has turned back your enemy. The King of Israel, the Lord, is among you; you need no longer fear harm. 16 On that day it will be said to Jerusalem: “Do not fear; Zion, do not let your hands grow weak. 17 The Lord your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in his love. He will delight in you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:15-17 (CSBBible)
We Christians must stop apologizing for our moral position and start making our voices heard, exposing sin for the enemy of the human race which it surely is, and setting forth righteousness and true holiness as the only worthy pursuits for moral beings.
We must overcome all, renounce all, in order to gain all. St. Teresa said: “Because we do not come to the conclusion of giving all our affection to God, so neither does he give all his love to us.”3 Oh, God, how little is all that is given to Jesus Christ, who has given his blood and his life for us!
Be this as it may, our life consists of the forgiveness of sins. Otherwise it’s no good.
Tozer begs the people of God to expose sin for what it is – the enemy of the human race. deLigouri tells us we have to renouce all, basically referring to what we desire, so that we gain all.
I think they understand the result, but they still are trusting in human willpower to choose what is right. That is where they make their mistake. For you and I aren’t capable of living a perfect, sinless life. If we were, why would we need Jesus? Why would we need the cross?
Yet we must come to the place they both desire. But we have to realize that perfection comes from without,
Well, sort of.
THat kind of holiness occurs only through the presence oof Jesus in our lives.
That is why Luther notes that our life is centered in the forgiveness of sins. That we have to live there, in the place where Jesus’ death pays the price, and endures the consequences. Aware of that, the power of sin to haunt us, disolves. We are forgiven, we are the people whom the prophet Zephaniah speaks,
Jesus has done this, it is why He died, so that you and I could be free form sin, how it haunts us, and how it would steal our present, our future, our eternity.
Sin isn’t about morality, it is about true freedom. When we reduce sin to a moral competition, we have lost. God doesn’t want us to be moral so He can declare us good! Rather, morality is what happens to us, when we are looking to Jesus. It is a passive transformaiton on our part, not an active choice. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, not the work of our heart and mind.
THerefore we cannot claim superior morals, as if it is our victory. It is Jesus’ victory, at the cross….
We just get to live in it..
Jesus gave His life, so that the Holy Spirit could work in ours, setting us apart, declaring us righteous and His people. Rejoice in that, and live in its truth.
Sin is our enemy… God’s taken care of sin, and Satan, and the threat of death… AMEN!
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), 341.
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), 150.
devotional thought of the day:
“ ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: I will respond to the house of Israel and do this for them: I will multiply them in number like a flock. 38 So the ruined cities will be filled with a flock of people, just as Jerusalem is filled with a flock of sheep for sacrifice during its appointed festivals. Then they will know that I am the LORD.’ Ezek 36:37-38 CSB
m 28 They will know that I am the LORD their God when I regather them to their own land after having exiled them among the nations. I will leave none of them behind. 29 I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel.” This is the declaration of the Lord GOD. Ezek 39:27-29 CSB
“Give me your heart, my son,”12 he seems to whisper in our ears. Stop building castles in the air. Make up your mind to open your soul to God, for only in our Lord will you find a real basis for your hope and for doing good to others.
As we come out of COVID, I find the church offered a myriad of solutions to address the fact that prior to COVID, the church in America was already shrinking. We want to blame people not coming back on COVID, but if we are honest, many had left before that, in fact they have been leaving for decades.
It is not because the church isn’t relevant enough, or faithful enough to traditions. It isn’t because we haven’t found the right book or the right coach/consultant/father-confessor/seminar or podcast.
It is much simpler than that.
We aren’t looking to God to full our ruined cities and churches. We aren’t looking for Him to fulfill His promises.
SImply put, we don’t know that He is the Lord, that He is our God!
And so we don’t look to Him to fill our churches, to bring healing and reconciliation to our communities,.
We build our castles, both physically and mentally, when we need to open our soul to God. St Josemaria is correct, it is there, open to God, led by the Spirit, that we not only find life, we find a reason for living. Walking with Him, we find the most incredible blessings. As the Spirit changes us, the masks are lifted, and we can see what God is doing.
And that is revive the church, by reviving the people who find themselves in His presence.
Abba Father, let Your Spirit fall on Your church! Draw our eyes to Your Son Jesus, that our hearts and souls are open to the Spirit’s presence, and help us to see Your work, reviving and restoring Your Church. Amen!
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.