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Why Do We Listen to Sermons/Bible Studies? Why Do We Preach them?

Thoughts that draw me to Jesus, and to His cross!

Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when he asks for bread? Or would you give him a snake when he asks for a fish? Bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
*“Do for others what you want them to do for you: this is the meaning of the Law of Moses and of the teachings of the prophets.  Matthew 7:9-12 GNT

Now if our doctrine is to be found in the Bible, we certainly should not seek it elsewhere; all Christians should make daily use of this book. No other bears the title here given by Paul—book of comfort—one that can support the soul in all tribulations, helping it not to despair, but to maintain hope.

Proclamation belongs to the primary discourse of the church. Systematic theology belongs to its secondary discourse. Primary discourse is the direct declaration of the Word of God, that is, the Word from God, and the believing response in confession, prayer, and praise. Secondary discourse, words about God, is reflection on the primary discourse.

A long time ago in my undergraduate work, I had 4 classes on preaching. The basic idea we were taught was that sermons explained and explore the Biblical passage under consideration. The recommended method was exegetical, dissecting every word (I still do that in preparation) and then explaining those points. Along with that was including the theological points those verses supported.

I enjoyed studying that way. I enjoyed writing sermons that way. Not so great at delivering them for one simple reason.

Ultimately, they were meaningless.

Meaningless because I had so focused on the words that I missed the Word. I got lost in the Greek and Hebrew to the point where Jesus was not the focus, and people didn’t hear of their need for Him, how much He longed to meet that need as He drew them to Him, and onto the cross with Him. Luther’s words about Romans 15:4. ( For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Romans 15:4 (NKJV)) He puts it there well, that these words of scripture are there to support the soul, to protect it from despair, and to give and maintain hope. The hope that is found in the cross and resurrection.

A solid knowledge about theology, whether Exegetical, Systematic or Historical, is not the end purpose of our message. If that is all that it is, then we should turn our churches into lecture halls, our Bible Studies into micro-universities. There must be more than that, if we are to offer people something that makes a difference in their lives, that gives them hope, as scripture was written to give them hope.  Something that gives them the expectation of forgiveness as they confess their sins, something solid to base their confession of faith upon, the hope that Someone is listening and responding to the prayers that we share, and a God who is worthy to be praised.

This is what our sermons and Bible studies need to do—to address people where they are in life, and draw them to Jesus, as we lift Him up for them to see.

This is what we do… we listen to hear of our Lord and His love.. and that is what is communicated in our sermons and studies. So that our people can know

Alleluia! He is risen!

And therefore, we have risen indeed!

Amen!

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 395.

Gerhard O. Forde, Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 2.

In the Same Way… An All Saints Day Sermon on Matthew 5:1-12

In the Same Way…
Matthew 5:1-12

† In Jesus’ Name †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to be incredibly happy—no matter what you are enduring for His sake.

The Pursuit of Happiness!

How many of you like or liked surprise tests in school?

I guess I should have asked how many of you remember school before I asked that!

Well you have a pop quiz this morning.

You need to tell me which of the documents the quote that follows comes from.

  1. The Constitution of the United States
  2. The Bill of Rights
  3. The Magna Carta

So here is the quote:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

So which is it?

What—weren’t all your pop quizzes filled with trick questions? 😊

So do you agree with the Declaration of Independence? Do you think that we have the right to pursue happiness?

Be careful—this might be a trick question as well!

So if you want to be happy, scripture this morning had a surefire way to be happy.

11  “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12  Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.

There you go, to be happy just follow Jesus! Then people will persecute you and say all sorts of evil things about you!

But you will be happy!

  • The Standard

SO the next question—what does it look like to follow Jesus in such a way that people will persecute us and say nasty things about us?

Seriously, most of us know how to get persecuted. There is always that one person who we can irritate, even without planning it. We might even enjoy it! But then they try to get us back!

But to get persecuted for Jesus, because we are like Him, is a different story.

The Beatitudes show how Jesus lived, how we can live, when we are focused on Him. It all starts with our need for God! It all starts there, when we realize that we are poor in spirit. You usually don’t think of Jesus as poor in spirit, but hear how Paul describes Jesus.

7  But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being  ( Philippians 2:7 (NJB)

That emptiness is what being poor in spirit is about. Whether we are wounded by someone else’s sin, or broken by our own, or simply choose to live humbly, dependent on God the Father for everything.

That is what makes believers different, what has made those people we look up to spiritually, so amazing. They could depend on God during challenges, during good times, too. We have seen that in so many of those who have gone before us here. They knew God was with them. Whether it was Pastor and Mrs. Meier, or Clyde or Armando, or Barbara, Tony and Wanda or Bonnie, or this year Kurt, Joan, Ben, Valter, Diana and Chuck over the last year.

The rest of the Beatitudes make sense after you realize you are completely reliant on God.

Because you realize your need for God, if you are mourning, He comforts you.

Because you realize your need for God, if you are humble (and rely on Him), then He gives you everything.

Because you realize your need for God,  if you want real justice, God provides that on judgement day.

Because you realize your need for God, you see the mercy that you wanted others to know, shown to you.

Because you realize your need for God, the Holy Spirit changes your heart of stone for a heart of flesh.

Because you realize your need for God, because you are His children you work for peace, where peace seems impossible,

Because you realize your need for God, you do what is just and righteous in God’s eyes, even if there is a cost to you. And there are times where the cost will be high, because others don’t like being just, when you decide to help others rather them. Or when you show mercy to those who don’t deserve it.

(of course—why would you need to show mercy to someone who doesn’t need it.)

Because you realize your need for God, and He meets that need, you realize you found happiness!

True opposition

When peace, justice and mercy are seen as a major thing in your life, no matter the cost, you are showing the work of the Holy Spirit as He guides you into becoming more and more visibly like Jesus.

But that will irritate people who don’t understand God.

That is where the persecution comes from!

Not from being considered holier than thou, or from being judgmental. When we deal with people in bondage to sin, our demeanor should be like Jesus’ demeanor

That is why all these characteristics show God has blessed us, that He is with us, that the Holy Spirit is active in our lives. It shows us we aren’t alone.

God is with us.

As He has been with His people since Adam and Even and Cain sinned.

Because God is with us, in the same way, He was with the prophets and martyrs and all our examples who have depended on God.

This is where happiness comes from, God who loves us, who has promised us a great reward in heaven, who walks with us know, blessing us in our need. AMEN!

What it means to love your enemy… to share your greatest treasure with him/her

thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and to His Cross…

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil.  Matt 5:43-45 GNT

The sum of the matter is this, that those persons are saved who place their trust solely in God, not in their works, nor in any creature. Consequently man should learn to have greater confidence in God’s mercy than in the zeal with which he makes confession. One cannot be too active, determined and guarded against the accursed evil of confiding in one’s own works. Therefore we should accustom our consciences to trust in God, and let it be done with the understanding that to believe and trust in God is pleasing to him, and that unreserved trust in God is his highest glory.

The question may be asked: “How does the living Christ feel today about the sinful men and women who walk our streets?”
There is only one answer: He loves them!
We may be righteously indignant about the things they do. We may be disgusted with their actions and their ways. We are often ready to condemn and turn away from them.
But Jesus keeps on loving them! It is His unchanging nature to love and seek the lost. He said many times when He was on earth, “I have come to help the needy. The well do not need a doctor—but the sick need attention and love.”

There is no doubt in my mind that sin is prevalent today. And just noting that, may be a sin. It is when I look at the sins of others as if I was the judge, When I catch myself at doing such, I cringe, and wonder if I am ever going to learn…

More precisely, am I ever going to learn to walk with Jesus

My indignation, my disgust, my willingness (even eagerness) to walk away is as sinful as whatever sin they committed.

I need to see His desire to them back, to draw them into His presence–so they can heal. For that reinforces that I am healed as well.

This is what it means to love your enemies more than anything else you can do. To help them see the grace of God is directed to them, and it heals what divides us.

We cannot hold back the grace of God that we’ve come to know. The church does not have that authority–we only have the responsibility to make it known to everyone, just as it was made known to us. For then, as we encourage others to share in the mercy of God, have become like Jesus, and like our Father.

This is the Church, investing what it treasures, the relationship where the Father in Heaven treasures is, and wants us all to be His people….

 

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 390.

A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).

Being Tired and Discouraged IS NOT the Problem in Life, or in the Church.

Thoughts that drive me to Jesus, and to His cross…

*He made you go hungry, and then he gave you manna to eat, food that you and your ancestors had never eaten before. He did this to teach you that human beings must not depend on bread alone to sustain them, but on everything that the LORD says.”  Deut 8:3 GNT

As Christian believers, we stand together in the evangelical faith—the historical faith of our fathers. Yet, we must confess that many congregations seem bogged down with moral boredom and life-weariness.
The church is tired, discouraged and unastonished—Christ seems to belong to yesterday.
The prophetic teachers have projected everything into the dim future where it is beyond our reach—unavailable! They have dispensationalized us into a state of spiritual poverty—and they have left us there!
But regardless of such teachers, the course of spiritual victory is clear; let us trust what the Word of God continues to say to us!

The assumption of spirituality is that always God is doing something before I know it. So the task is not to get God to do something I think needs to be done, but to become aware of what God is doing so that I can respond to it and participate and take delight in it.

Divine service must be rendered with “one mind” and with “one mouth.” One needs Christ as much as another. We render divine service when we are harmonious, and when we recognize our common equality and our common blessings in Christ; when none exalts himself above another, nor assumes special advantages. We all receive the same baptism and sacrament, the same faith, the same Christ and Spirit, the same gospel—in a word, the same God.

Tozer saw a tired and discouraged church, not much different from the experts see in the church today. I know – I hear them in meetings, and read the books they recommend. Often the strategies they offer are taken from well meaning, but worldly business principles. Or they take what other churches, successful because of moves a decade ago are doing, and emulate the practices they observe, without looking closely at what lies underneath, what caused the actions.

And so we get to the other thing Tozer saw in the church: a lack of astonishment.

From what i’ve seen in the last 30 years, this is the most critical of the observations.

The lack of astonishment happens when we forget we dwell in the presence of God, when we forget the gifts given us through the conduits of word and Sacrament. When we forget God is at work, as Tozer says, way before we plead in prayer. Astonishment disappears when we fail to see that we have received the same baptism, the same sacrament, the same presence of God in our lives.

I get being weary and discouraged, been with many people who are, and for good reason. Yet, their hearts soar when receiving the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper. Their energy picks up as they remind me that God is also with me, or as we recount the blessing experienced after a tired, long day.

Finding yourself in the presence of God, watching and hearing as His love for you is revealed, experiencing the reconciliation- that brings the astonishment we desperately need to endure. To realize His body was broken, His blood was shed for us… for us! Astonishing!!!!!

And this will restore a tired and discouraged church… even as it heals from wound de

For the Almighty, Everlasting, Merciful and Loving God is here… to be with us…Perhaps God allowed us this season of weariness so we can remember He is here, and we can rely on Him. And as the church remembers that – everything opens up – and despite the weariness, despite the frustrations, the church comes alive… and is drawn to His side. There, joy is known.

So I am discouraged and tired… that’ ok – He is here! And knowing that, recognizing His presence and His work in our lives, we find we dwell in peace.

 

 

 

A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).

Eugene H. Peterson, Introduction, ed. Rodney Clapp, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 12.

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 387.

 

We Need to Be Shocked Back to Life! (Spiritually )

Devotional Thought of the Day:
23  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.
Romans 8:23 (NLT2)

The question keeps coming up in John’s Gospel: Where does this man Jesus come from? Does He come from God or only from man? The question is the most basic one that can be asked about us and our love. Are we and our love born again from above, from God? Or are we and it only the product of human nature? The answer to this question makes an infinite difference, the difference between Heaven and Hell in the next life.

This work, which begins in the new birth, is carried on in two ways—mortification, whereby the lusts of the flesh are subdued and kept under; and vivification, by which the life which God has put within us is made to be a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.

Thirty years ago, I was defibrillated 5 times. Just like you see on every medical show when they should “clear” and electricity is passed through the body, with the intent of rebooting the electrical and chemical nature of our body, so our heart will restart and run normally.

Spiritually, we need something like that. What Spurgeon called vivification, the idea of bringing us back to life, being born again, where God brings us to life. Kreeft indicated this was the one question that matters, the one most basic to our life, and the one that makes the greatest difference, period

The problem is when we want to be brought back to lift without dealing with what caused us to whither and die. If all the paramedics and ER doctors did was to shock me back to life, and never try to address the cause, it would have mattered not. The same is true spiritually, and while one day we will be free from all sin and suffering, God is freeing us from its effects, even now. This is the mortification that Spurgeon said was part of the same work – the process of eliminating the rot caused by sin, and sin itself.

Mortification isn’t easy, neither is vivification. Both require drastic changes, and discipline and some pain. And yet, the life that is provided, free from the rot, free from the pain, is beyond words.

God is with us, He’s the great physician, the one that does both pieces of work… that makes it not just a possibility – but a promise.

So let Him get to work on you…

Let Him draw you to the cross – where both things happen, as the sinful you dies, and you are raised with Christ Jesus. Amen!

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 26.

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

The “Secret” to Real, Life-changing Worship

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.   Col 2:13–14.  NLT2

25  Please, LORD, please save us. Please, LORD, please give us success. 26  Bless the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27  The LORD is God, shining upon us. Take the sacrifice and bind it with cords on the altar. 28  You are my God, and I will praise you! You are my God, and I will exalt you! Psalm 118:25-28 (NLT2)

What should happen in genuine conversion? What should a man or woman feel in the transaction of the new birth?
There ought to be that real and genuine cry of pain. That is why I do not like the kind of evangelism that tries to invite people into the fellowship of God by signing a card.
There should be a birth from above and within. There should be the terror of seeing ourselves in violent contrast to the holy, holy, holy God. Unless we come into this place of conviction and pain, I am not sure how deep and real our repentance will ever be.

First of all, it is true that not only should Christians regard and recognize as sin the actual violation of God’s commandments in their deeds, but they should also perceive and recognize that the horrible, dreadful, inherited disease corrupting their entire nature is above all actual sin and indeed is the “chief sin.” [6] It is the root and fountainhead of all actual sins.

Paul exhorts us to take for granted that we have already received as a pure gift in baptism all that we need in order to attain salvation by virtue of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. We have only to enter by faith into the kingdom that has already been established in the depth of our spirit and take possession of it. Thus, if we truly give ourselves to God in faith and open our minds and hearts to him, we may begin to find him in the silence of the prayer of faith very quickly

I just received several ads for several events on worship. Some of these were invites from friends, somewhere corporate ads for conferences, with nationally renowned speakers. Each was interesting, and if it wasn’t for working on my dissertation, I would probably attend one or two of these events, probably the ones that are more small group dialogue based, and see worship as more than singing.

As I was reading my devotional readings this morning, I was struck by an old thought.

The power of worship is not based on the music, or how a liturgy is delivered.

The power of worship is a reaction to the power of God, which delivers us from the bondage of sin!

The more we feel the pain caused by our sin, and the “violent contrast to the holy, holy, holy God, the more His merciful healing touch means to us. The more that means to us, the more worship is generated in our soul. This is the point of Tozer, but it is also seen in the quote from the Lutheran Confessions, seen in blue. There we see the incredible debilitating power of original sin, for in that would all other sins are created.

Sin is brutal, and though we know in our minds the cause and the cure, to deal with it is hard. It is painful, and to be honest, we would rather treat the guilt and shame as if it were grief. We will deny we sinned, or that it is as brutally painful as it is. We will try to negotiate or bargain away the pain it causes. We will get angry, at God, at others, and finally, honestly, at ourselves. Our inability to do anything about it can cause severe depression, and ultimately, we have to options to accept.

That we are sinners, so we might as well enjoy it.

Or that God loves us so passionately, so completely, so intimately that He took on that sin, removed it, and brings us into His Kingdom.

All that weight of guilt and shame is gone. The wounds of our sin and the world’s unrighteousness – healed completely! What was broken in our lives is restored completely! Better than the original! What was corruptible is incorruptible, what was mortal, now is immortal!

This is the masterpiece God has made of our lives,

An amazing masterpiece.

Looking in the mirror, seeing our lives as Jesus does, for this is the joy He looked forward to as He died for you an me… is amazing.

It is worthy of all our thanks, and all our praise.

So the secret to powerful, pure worship… is found when we see ourselves as wretches, but realize God saves wretches like us….and so we cry out to Him.

No other sophisticated, choreographed, orchestration compares to knowing the God who loves us is here.

Lord, help us cry out to You, for only you can heal our sin caused wounds. Only You can restore our brokenness. Only Your mercy and love can change us. Help us see Your hand at work… and then, Father, receive our praise and thanks! AMEN!

 

 

 

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

“Article 1: Concerning Original Sin. The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, 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), 533.

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), 231.

May We Never Think This Life Is Normal!

Thoughts that drag me to the cross of His mercy

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 (NLT2)

6  “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant. 7  I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. Isaiah 56:6-7 (NLT2)

In times of extraordinary crisis ordinary measures will not suffice. The world lives in such a time of crisis. Christians alone are in a position to rescue the perishing. We dare not settle down to try to live as if things were “normal.” Nothing is normal while sin and lust and death roam the world, pouncing upon one and another till the whole population has been destroyed.

Paul says, “While we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:11). Thus, according to his view, the passion and resurrection of Christ are going on all the time. They are always present and not limited to an historical moment. It was rather an historical moment which introduced the eternal values of the cross and resurrection into the whole of time. We participate in Christ’s divine life through baptism and the other sacraments. As a consequence, we must learn how to express the risen life of Jesus rather than our false selves in our conduct and relationships.

We also believe, teach, and confess that no church should condemn another because the one has fewer or more external ceremonies not commanded by God than the other has, when otherwise there is unity with the other in teaching and all the articles of faith and in the proper use of the holy sacraments,

I’ve heard people talking about the “new normal” in relation to both COVID and the price of gas. Just get used to things being broken, and hardships, for life is different now. Get used to the new morality, or at least how it is being re-defined.

And the church hears these things and marshals its people to go to war at the ballot box, and on Social Media. I’ve even heard that such times will find us allied with folk we shouldn’t be allied with, for politics and apparently faith makes strange bedfellows.

And once again the Church has entered the wrong war, and is using the wrong weapons.

Because of that, it is losing the war for control over public opinion, and far, far more importantly, we aren’t even in the battle for people’s souls. We are letting them be destroyed, and dare I say, the church is even helping by destroying people’s faith.

Tozer is correct, and we must realize that we always exist in crisis. Add to that the idea of Keating, that our way of battle is not promoting ourselves, but dying to self, that Jesus may be seen, instead of us. That those who are baptized become the evidence of Christ’s death and resurrection. That must be our strategy, that must be our missional value.

How about this for a mission statement for a church?

Making manifest Jesus’ love, by dying to self! 

This is how we see our real enemies, sin, self-centeredness, and Satan defeated.

Our weapons are simply, the early Lutherans identified them as all that is necessary for church unity.

Teaching people what they need to know about Jesus, and sharing Him through Baptism, Absolution and the Lord’s Supper.

Each of these sacraments helps us see how we died to self and have risen in Christ. Each shows us the love and mercy of God. They do so for they are commissioned by Jesus to deliver that promise.

You want the world to change? You want everyone to do what is right? You want to win the war we are in?

Know Jesus, experience His love poured out on you… share that victory with others, seeing them freed from what Christ has freed you- not from – but to… to share in the glorious love of God.

For that … should be what we consider normal.

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), 223.

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), 516.

Pay Attention! You (and yours) ARE NOT FORGOTTEN!

Thoughts that drag me backt to Jesus and the cross…

“Pay attention, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I, the LORD, made you, and I will not forget you. 22  I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.” Isaiah 44:21-22 (NLT2)

For if Christ by the touch of his most innocent flesh has hallowed all waters, yes, even all creation, through baptism, how much more has he by the same touch of his most innocent flesh and blood sanctified every form of death, all suffering and loss, every curse and shame for the baptism of the Spirit, or the baptism of blood!

Perhaps we can understand Jesus’ identity as the Son of God more clearly by thinking of him in terms of the revelation of the Trinity. That revelation affirms what the mystics of all religions have intuited: that the ultimate nature of infinite being is love. God, the ultimate reality, the absolute, in a way beyond our comprehension, is a community of persons. As the Father has life in himself and pours it into his Son, and they rejoice in it together in the procession of the Holy Spirit, so the Son who has life in himself, shares the divine life with the whole human family through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and invites everyone to the banquet of eternal life.

There are days I need to go back, and think through who God is. If I don’t understand that, there is no way I get through life.

Buddha supposedly said, “Life is suffering.” In the 1980s, someone revised it a little, saying, “Life’s a *itch, and then you die.” Without knowing God, without knowing HIs heart, these fatalistic statements are all there is….

But if I can process who Jesus is, how the God-man dynamic works, I can’t say I understand, but I begin to know… God wants me to know He loves you… and even me. As I realize that God, that Jesus came to us… with one purpose, to gather us to the Father. That here, HIs cross provides that point were everything heals, become holy, becomes healthy.

Theology doesn’t unlock every deep thought, every mystery of the faith. But it gives me enough understanding where I can see the importance of what is experienced. Luther’s comment about baptism not just make us holy, but making holy even every minute of suffering and death is like that. Christ’s death changes it all…

And allowed us to be returned to God…

He never forgot about us. He could not!

ANd on a Monday, this is the message I need to experience…. even if I can’t understand how or why…

Jesus is God, He’s come… and therefore, you are never forgotten!

 

 

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), 142.

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), 220.

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.

His Church: Marketing or Talking with God?

Thoughts to encourage us to spend time with Jesus.

Please listen, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph’s descendants like a flock. O God, enthroned above the cherubim, display your radiant glory 2  to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh. Show us your mighty power. Come to rescue us! 3  Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved. Psalm 80:1-3 (NLT2)

He told me, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! 32 Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.”   Acts 10:31-33 NLT 

Listening to someone personally beats hearing about that person second hand. Yet strangely when it comes to the mission of the church we settle for the latter. Too much of what passes for gospel mission is second hand information; it may be factual and instructive, but it’s not personal. It resembles advertising more than anything else.

Then he [Martin Luther] was asked whether the sacraments have a spiritual power in themselves, so that baptism would be consecrated water which by its own strength could wipe out sins, even in case the water were drunk by an ass. He replied, “Because the spiritual power of God doesn’t comprise corporeal, inanimate matter, baptism doesn’t accomplish anything at all as water existing by itself. But as an action (which would be in its use) baptism has power, so that if anybody sprinkles an infant with water together with a recitation of those words of Christ by which he instituted baptism and promised the forgiveness of sins, that action, and not the water, has divine power.

The experts that study the church have told us for years a simple thing about why people come to church. It is because a friend, relative or co-worker invited them to come, and made sure they knew they would be welcome. Maybe it is because we are tired of trying to motivate our people, or we’ve seen too many “invite-a-friend” Sunday fail that we fall for the glamour and hype modern marketing and business planning offers us. Mission statements, goals and objectives, strategic implementation all geared to help us sell our faith…

BUt we aren’t in the business to sell our faith. We are ind the ministry to share why we have hope.

Sharing why we have hope, giving the reason for it means that we have discovered a reason to have hope—God revealed it to us, It is an overwhelming hope, as God guarantees us an eternity free of guilt, shame, resentment, pain, sorrow. It is a life where His presence brings us peace during the trials and traumas of life. This is hope at its best, and assurance of God’s love and presence in our lives–a presence that is available to everyone.

What if our efforts were teaching people to pray like those who wrote the Psalms did, expectantly begging God to make Himself known to all of us?

What if we realized He desired to turn us and draw us to His side, to smile at us, to save us all?

Senkbeil mentions the importance of hearing from someone directly, and he is talking about hearing from God. Both Cornelius and Peter did, and responded to what the message God had given them. Luther takes it another step–it is listening to God’s promises in the words of Christ that make a sacrament a sacrament.

If the people who are the church hear God, hearing His word will transform them. That transformation will cause their hearts to break as they see people suffer without Him, and they will want them to know His peace.

That causes revival, the knowledge of God’s love and His work rescuing us…

Or, as we say at my church – we are the broken people finding healing in Jesus, while helping others heal.

Lord Jesus, reveal to us today more of the work you are doing in our lives, turn us again and draw us closer to You. Then Lord, help us see others as You do, and use our lives to draw them through You to the Father. AMEN!

 

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 226.

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), 358.

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