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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.

 

Temptations and Trials are…. Beneficial?

Thoughts which drive me to the cross….

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 24  Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (NLT2)

The comfort extended by Luther is rooted in the fact that the person assailed by temptation is a member of the communion of saints and is armed with God’s Word. The tempted person, however, should realize that there is always a benefit that accrues to him from such assaults, although he dare not attempt to divine it. Finally, he invites the tempted person to a fuller faith in Christ, but Luther warns that before the trials subside, they will first flare to greater intensity.

751      Faced with the marvels of God, and with all our human failures, we have to make this admission: “You are everything to me. Use me as you wish!” Then there will be no more loneliness for you—for us.

I came across Luther’s words first this morning and thought that the words for those enduring temptations apply to those facing trials. A long theological discussion could be had on linking the two, but they both are thought to challenge our ability to remain closely intimate with Christ Jesus.

The irony is that the benefit is exactly the opposite of the goal of Satan. Rather than break us away from Christ where we can be devoured, the trials and temptations of life should drive us ever more to the cross where we were crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20).

The challenge, whether trial or temptation, is the realization that God is at work in our lives, that we benefit from these assaults when we realize God uses them (not causes the) to draw us back into His care. That is why the Psalms are filled with words like refuge and fortress and sanctuary, for that is who God is! He is our fortress, our refuge and sanctuary.

This is a mystery, how things Satan and his minions use to set in our path God will turn into blessing beyond compare, as we find ourselves hidden in Christ Jesus (Col. 3:1-3). While we can’t explain the mystery, we live and experience it, some of us over and over.

This then leads to some of the most powerful ministry in our lives, for while suffering is beneficial, the lack of it may not be. That is why Paul talks about freedom in view of its benefits. His bottom line is sacrifice for others is beneficial, and focusing on what we think is good for us. This is the same thing St. Josemaria speaks of when he suggests we pray “use me as you wish!” No matter the cost, for as we grow in Christ we are sure His benefit outweighs what we must endure.

God is with us. We come to know that more, when He opens our eyes in the darkness, and shatters it.

Undergoing trial and temptation? Run to God, and give thanks when you find yourself in His care. AMEN!

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), 182.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Is, not Be: The Necessity of realizing God is with you!

Thoughts driving me to the refuge found in the cross of Christ.

Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.
4 But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love,  TItus 3:3-4 NLT

In what I have to say I may not be joined by any ground swell of public opinion, but I have a charge to make against the church. We are not consciously aware of God in our midst. We do not seem to sense the tragedy of having almost completely lost the awareness of His presence.…
Revival and blessing come to the church when we stop looking at a picture of God and look at God Himself. Revival comes when, no longer satisfied just to know about a God in history, we meet the conditions of finding Him in living, personal experience.…

No one knows the Father like the Son because He emerged from the bosom of this Trinitarian Mystery that John says is love. Notice John doesn’t just say God shows love. God is love. This is a huge distinction. The love of God is God. That means it’s not sentimental. It’s incredibly powerful. It’s ruthlessly determined. It’s determined to give itself away at any cost. And one problem we will have with the God who really is, is that he’ll invite us to do the same.

As I write this, I feel rushed, I feel anxious, there are so many things to do to prepare for the weeks to come, there are people I need to see now, there are things I need to figure out how to defuse, and move past.

I didn’t want to do my readings and prayer this morning, or maybe it was I was tempted not to. (Last night Bible Study was on the Lord’s prayer and “lead us not to temptation!”) Satan would love me not to break and spend time…and my own flesh is weary.. and the pressures of the world… well lets not go there.

In the worship service, what some call the mass, there is a phrase often repeated that we need to correct. It sounds like a blessing in modern English, yet it was a statement of fact in the old days.

“The Lord BE with you!” Is how it sounds in most Lutheran and Anglican Hymnals, and in the missals our our brother and sister Roman Catholics.

We need to hear that as “The Lord IS with you!” (and us who guide worship – desperately need to hear, “and also with you!”)

Tozer had it right – to often we enter worship and go all the way through it without giving a thought to the presence of God. That He IS with us, in that moment, a participant in worship–more active even than we are. (side note: as I write this, my grammar checker tells me that the words “the presence of” are not needed for clarity! I think the church has unknowingly done the same! ) We must recognize that we are standing on holy ground.

This is the God of whom Keating is speaking, The God who IS love. A love that is powerful, ruthlessly determined to make Himself known, and willing to give up everything for the benefit of those whom He loves.

I need to know that – as do you. And there are days we desperately need to know this!

We need to know what Paul told Titus about..

We need to see God reveal His kindness and love…and in order to do that, we have to be drawn into His presence. He needs to clean us, teach our hearts and souls and minds that He loves us. If we don’t get that point right, everything else we do as a church is worthless, hopeless, and pitiful.

We have to get HE IS HERE. HE IS with you and me. RIght now, at our desks, or in our work places. He is here to heal, forgive, comfort, lift up, and give us hope. Hope for this life… and for eternity.

He is with you my friends.
e
The Lord IS with you!

AMEN!

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), 251.

The Investment Needed for a Church to Grow…

Thoughts that draw (even drag ) me to Jesus and His cross!

For the LORD is our judge, our lawgiver, and our king.
He will care for us and save us. Isaiah 33:22 NLT

Lord, we’re too selfish, busy doing our own thing. Give us a spirit of love, of unselfishness, of willingness to pay any price for the sake of the gospel. Do it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Every Christian, by virtue of the grace of baptism, has the vocation to oneness with the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Everyone needs some kind of practice in order to accomplish this vocation. Obviously, a rule of life cannot be as detailed for those living in the world as it is for people in a monastery. But everyone has to build his or her own kind of enclosure as far as one’s duties allow, by setting aside a certain amount of time every day for prayer and spiritual reading

I wish we all were the evidence that God answered Tozer’s prayer, that every person in every church would pay any price for the sake of the gospel.

That happens when revival, true revival, occurs. There is no more manipulation or guilt or system that has tremendous results. There is simply not enough time during revival to study what happens and duplicate it!

But revival has a cost.

It costs to develop a heart that does things for Jesus’ sake, and not to “gain” something from Him.

When a person finds themselves made one with God in Christ, that price has been paid, the investment has been made as God marks them with His name – as He takes “possession” of us. He is our judge, lawgiver and king.

THe problem is when people hear those titles; they think of God’s condemnation, and the legalistic tendencies that some church members and pastors, and that God wants to ruin and rule each of our lives. They see that as the “cost” and an extremely high cost at that!

But that is a horrid understanding of what it means for God to be those things for us. We must understand those words, in view of His mission, expressed in the next line-He will care for us and save us!

That happens when we hear Keating’s encouragement to spend time with God. To take the time out to just sit and listen and hear the Spirit tell you of Christ’s love. It is not law to spend that time, we need it! It helps us become the people who love like Jesus, who show mercy like Jesus, 

We need time to be one with God, to dance with Him. To get to know this God who loves us, so that we can truly experience our vocation as being one with Him!

In doing so, we finally begin to understand who we are… the children of God.

…the children God cares for…

And then revival happens, and churches truly grow as people and granted repentance and are transformed in Baptism. (see Ez. 36:25ff)

Lord, help us to desire to spend the time with You we need! AMEN!

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), 215.

How to Endure Beyond the Ups and Downs of Life…

Thoughts which draw me closer to the cross of Christ…

Search for the LORD and for his strength; continually seek him. 5 Remember the wonders he has performed,  his miracles, and the rulings he has given,  Psalm 105:4-5

The third Fruit of the Spirit is Peace. Peace is the pervasive sense of contentment that comes from being rooted in God while being fully aware of one’s own nothingness. It is a state that endures beyond the ups and downs of life, beyond the emotions of joy and sorrow. At the deepest level one knows that all is well, that everything is just right despite all appearances to the contrary. At all times one can pray with Jesus, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46)

To this I reply that what they provide is not fellowship at all, and if that is the best thing the church has to offer to hold the people together it is not a Christian church in the New Testament meaning of that word. The center of attraction in a true church is the Lord Jesus Christ

There is a word that scares me. Perhaps haunts me is better.

Endure.

I have endured a bit in life. More than some, less than others. I have sat with those enduring far more, crying and laughing with them as I try to reveal to them the only thing that enables me to endure.

And even though I have endured what I endure, I hate the word with a passion. I wish what it describes would never have become issues in life. I hate the brokenness, physical, emotional, and spiritual that exists in life. I hate seeing families torn apart, workplaces divided and friends become enemies. Nature wreaks havoc, sin causes even more, and the fight or flee reactions from both causes more tragedy and trauma, which we have to endure.

And yet, I endure. Even more encouraging, I have helped people endure.

The only way is through the peace that is a comes as the Holy Spirit dwells in us, the peace that Tozer so precisely describes. One that doesn’t depend on what is going on in our lives – whether they are at the pinnacle of the mountain top or rushing towards rock bottom. (I think it is worse heading for rock bottom than being there!) A peace that is there despite all appearances to the contrary.  One that comes when we realize our prayer for God to handle all our lives, was answered before we even prayed it…

Indeed, it was how we are able to pray it.

We depend on Him.

That is why Tozer says that church isn’t just about the “fellowship” of people with the same thoughts and beliefs.

It is about Jesus, and centered on Him, drawn there by the Spirit. We know that peace, and we begin to even expect it to be there, when we don’t see or feel it. Enough so that we look for Him constantly, for He is our hope, our deliverance, our life.

Knowing that, that no matter how blind we are to His presence, He is working on revealing Himself.

And how we will praise Him, as we see this happen!

 

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), 189.

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

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.

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!!

Great Hope in Dark times found in… the tithe? (huh????)

A most interesting party

Thoughts to encourage us to cling to Jesus… and adore Him.

24 “Now when the LORD your God blesses you with a good harvest, the place of worship he chooses for his name to be honored might be too far for you to bring the tithe. 25 If so, you may sell the tithe portion of your crops and herds, put the money in a pouch, and go to the place the LORD your God has chosen. 26 When you arrive, you may use the money to buy any kind of food you want—cattle, sheep, goats, wine, or other alcoholic drink. Then feast there in the presence of the LORD your God and celebrate with your household. 27 And do not neglect the Levites in your town, for they will receive no allotment of land among you.
28 “At the end of every third year, bring the entire tithe of that year’s harvest and store it in the nearest town. 29 Give it to the Levites, who will receive no allotment of land among you, as well as to the foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, so they can eat and be satisfied. Then the LORD your God will bless you in all your work.
Deut. 14:24-29 NLT

What grief and despair did Lazarus feel in his last hours, knowing that Jesus could have come and did not come? This divine action challenges our idea of God, our idea of Jesus Christ, our idea of the spiritual life. Surrender to the unknown marks the great transitions of the spiritual journey. On the brink of each new breakthrough there is a crisis of trust and of love.

This mornings devotional readings seemed. all over the place. As is my preference, I try to put together what I read into one thought. into one concept, that I can apply to what I will encounter that day. Today,

This morning’s devotional readings seemed. all over the place. As is my preference, I try to put together what I read into one thought. into one concept, that I can apply to what I will encounter that day. Today, finding that message seemed challenging, none of the readings, from scripture, and from the sections of devotional reading came close.

My heart resonated with Keating’s words about suffering, about what went through the heart of Lazarus as he waited in vain for Jesus to come. We read it an know Lazarus will rise from the grave, but he did not, for neither did his sisters. How dark that road must have seemed! How lonely and forsaken. So our days, our roads seem at times, as we suffer, as our hearts cry out… and there is no answer.

I think then of the tithe, something we don’t understand all that well. At least the tithe Moses describes. Imagine working hard, separating out the tithes, and then realizing you must leave everything behind, and journey over steep mountains to get to a place – to present the tithe. It takes faith to leave home and flocks and fields behind. It takes trusting God to make the rugged journey as well.

But then, the reason for this tithe (there were several) was to throw a party, to celebrate in the presence of the Lord! To use all that was to be sacrificed, but the sacrifice was to celebrate what God had provided (and was taking care of in your absence!)  Is this a forerunner of the feast in Heaven?  Perhaps… no probably.

Amid feelings to the contrary, in the midst of pain, grief, sorrow, and even depression, the idea of that tithe is powerful. That God wants this celebration – all the best food, the best drink, reminds us that the journey is not the destination. That the suffering and darkness will give way to light, and a life of great joy. That even the power of sin will be silenced, and the guilt, shame and resentment it causes is erased. For we will be in the presence of God…. God who loves us.

The answer to our darkness and despair always comes as we find ourselves being moved to the celebration, to the feast, to the moment where everything else is left behind to know He is God.

Soon my friends, the party will begin, and from the blessings God has poured out on us, we will bring to celebrate with Him. Invite the stranger, the alien, the pastor to, for together, we share in the love and glory of God. Till then, one step in front of the other, and think of the promised feast at the end of the journey.

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.

How Do I get… like That? A sermon on Psalm 71:15-24

How do I Get Like That??
Psalm 71:15-24

I.H.S.

May the Grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so transform us, that our lives are lived in praise of God!

  • Intro – I so wanna be this excited about my faith!

When I read the Psalm preparing for this week, I immediately wished I could always be this excited about my relationship with God.

The second was to blast the translators for missing out on their punctuation. I mean, this is how they wrote it…. (read flatly)
 
15  I will tell everyone about your righteousness. All day long I will proclaim your saving power, though I am not skilled with words.”

Compare that to this (pumped up!)

15  I will tell everyone about your righteousness! Though I am not skilled with words, all day long, I will proclaim your saving power!

How I wish I could, every waking moment of the day, find the energy to be like that. Even more, I want my sermons to reveal the amazing love that God has for you, that that was your attitude and behavior.

  • Young and Old

One of the lines I really want to look at in this passage is verses 17-18. Hear those again,

17  O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do. 18  Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.

Again, I love the energy of the Psalmist and the idea that God has been teaching us from our youngest moments. For it is often in our youth, or our earliest days walking with God, that telling others about the “wonderful things God is doing” occurs. That is an amazing time in our faith, as our dependence on God just soars.

  • Present things – aren’t the future –

But there is the second half of it there – which is all too real. As we go through life, there are times when we might wonder if God has abandoned us. Times where our understanding of God wavers and where we don’t see His power and mighty miracles so easily. 

Where did God go? 

Why don’t we see Him at work in this?

And while we respond “and also with you,” we aren’t so sure He is with us. The Psalmist was there – and prayed accordingly.

That is why He could also rejoice – for he knew, 20  You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth!21  You will restore me to even greater honor and comfort me once again!

That is the kind of trust, the kind of faith that we should have! Not the type that denies the downtimes exists but embraces them – knowing the promises of God for the future and for our eternity.

That is trusting God. That is finding joy knowing His promises overwhelm the present challenges that we face. God will restore us, even as He restored Job. And He will comfort us, His presence there, always.

That is what I desire each of you have, even more than I want it for myself. The confidence that allows you to look past these days of COVID, these days of uncertainty, knowing the love of God will sustain you.

  • Look to His wonders – to His faithfulness – to His righteousness

For it is by knowing His promises that we can join in worship with the Psalmist,

22  Then I will praise you with music on the harp, because you are faithful to your promises! O my God. I will sing praises to you with a lyre, O Holy One of Israel! 23  I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have ransomed me! 24  I will tell you about your righteous deeds all day long!

In the adult Bible Study, we will also talk about this as we end chapter 8. Promises that God will use everything to bless us, and nothing can separate us from God. But that is the same focus David has here…

That God will be dependable, that what He has promised – He will do!

And that realization should get us excited…  We can sing and shout for God has made us His own!

He has done what is right, and He has made us His own children. As we are invited and drawn into His presence, we know that that is the purpose of this sermon, this service.

To help you know this. God loves you, has saved you, and you are welcome in His presence, both now and for eternity.

And knowing this, may you realize that you dwell in peace, even though you can’t explain how wonderful it is. And until we are before His throne, that peace of heart and mind is guaranteed to us in Jesus. Amen!

What Does It Mean to Know Jesus.

Thoughts encouraging our adoration of God!

24 Now to him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen. Jude 24-25 CSB

Everywhere … we find persons who are Bible-taught but not Spirit-taught. They conceive truth to be something which they can grasp with the mind.
If a man holds to the fundamentals of the Christian faith he is thought to possess divine truth. But it does not follow. There is no truth apart from the Spirit.
The most brilliant intellect may be imbecilic when confronted with the mysteries of God. For a man to understand revealed truth requires an act of God equal to the original act which inspired the text.
(1)

But how is such sanctifying done? Answer: Just as the Son obtains dominion, whereby He wins us, through His birth, death, resurrection, etc., so also the Holy Ghost effects our sanctification by the following parts, namely, by the communion of saints or the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting; that is, He first leads us into His holy congregation, and places us in the bosom of the Church, whereby He preaches to us and brings us to Christ.
For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel.

I’ve occasionally heard the comment, “to know in the Biblical sense.” It refers to the use of the word “to know” as a polite way of saying that this man and this woman had sexual intercourse. They interacted in an intimate way, and often without much thought… and the experience was hopefully enjoyable for both!

That this same word for “knowing” is used to describe a relationship with God is troubling for some. Mainly because our society, inspired by Plato’s nonsense about the physical realm being evil, thinks of physical intimacy as dirty, perhaps because of the desire that often accompanies it. Therefore, using similar terms like intimacy or knowing them
becomes troublesome. Knowledge is then reduced to the realm of the mind, the academic, the collection of data about God.

This is why when evangelists and apologetics appeal to the mind, convinced that knowledge is the key, and they miss the mark. These are those whom Tozer acknowledges are Bible-taught but not Spirit-taught. They are the reason Luther states that we can know nothing of God unless the Holy Spirit offers that revelation and imbeds it, not just in
our minds, by driving it deep into our hearts.

This Spirit does this, of course, through the ministry of preaching and the sacraments that preaching drives us toward as we commune with Jesus. This is experiential knowledge, something that teachings our heart and soul as well as
our mind. It is what drove Pascal, one of the greatest thinkers, as he wrote how the gospel burned inside him. It is what comforted Luther as he embraced trauma from within and without. Tozer knew that comfort, too, it would seem, as
he actively tried to help his people experience it.

That comfort, also described as peace and rest in scripture, is the essence of knowing God. It is the work of God we experience as the Holy Spirit leads us into the presence of God. It is when we joyfully realize that we are blameless
– that all is well and right and just because of Jesus on the cross.

This is where worship comes from, this joy of being the presence of God. It is to praise and honor and be amazed at the Lord, who is our refuge and strength. Knowing God results in a desire to thank Him, to praise Him, to adore
Him for what He has done…. just as the psalmist does, even if it is as repetitive and joyously simple as Psalm 150.

Just praise Him!

for He is our God… and He has made us His people! AMEN!

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

(2) Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, trans. F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau (n.p.: WORDsearch, 2003).

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