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A Forgotten Prayer? A forgotten desire?


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:
10  Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. 11  Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me. 12  Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
Psalm 51:10-12 (TEV)

326      Invoke the Holy Spirit in your examination of conscience so that you may get to know God better, and yourself also. In this way, you will be converted each day.

71 The old man therefore follows unchecked the inclinations of his nature if he is not restrained and suppressed by the power of Baptism. On the other hand, when we become Christians, the old man daily decreases until he is finally destroyed. This is what it means to plunge into Baptism and daily come forth again.

The words sound familiar, they have been part of the liturgy for centuries,  They were sung over and over in the 80’s and 90’s, as they were one of the beloved praise songs.

Yet I wonder if we’ve forgotten the words, forgotten the consuming desire to be holy. We’ve forgotten the fear and the wonder which comes from finding ourselves on Holy Ground.  

We need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, not just so we can see miracles and manifestations that are supernatural, but because we need the Holy Spirit to make us Holy, to cut away the shame, the grief, the hatred, the anger to remove from our hearts the sin that so easily oppresses us and robs us of life.

This isn’t something that happens in the theological classroom, it happens in the midst of brokenness, as we realize that without the Holy Spirit’s intervention we are hopeless.  It is the cry of a heart weary from injustice, from the weakness of our heart in regards to temptation.  

It is both a cry of despair and a cry of that keenest faith.  Despair because we realize what we’ve let fade away, and faith, because we know, to see our hope and joy restored.

The church needs this, each one of us who calls themselves a Christian, a follower of Christ needs this,  More than just a quick prayer at the beginning of our services, or after a sermon that tugs on our heart strings.  Escriva and Luther tie this into the work of the Holy Spirit, the promise of our Baptism (also see Titus 3:2-8), a work that goes on every day of our lives.

That is critical to know and understand – this work of transformation isn’t a simple snap of a finger, although the promises are ours.  This is why Paul tells us to strive, to work out our salvation, why Peter warns us to be on guard because the Devil is wandering about trying to find someone to devour.

Even as I write this blog, names and faces come to mind, people who need to see the Spirit working in their life, bringing them to the point where they are cleansed, where they are healed of their brokenness, where they are comforted because the Holy Spirit is at work, overcoming their sin.

SO let us pray, asking God to renew our hearts, asking Him to cleanse us, asking Him to remind us of His presence.

And let us rejoice in our salvation!


Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1296-1297). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.  LARGE CATECHISM 

Respect and the Mission of God


Devotional/Discussion Thought of the day:

13  No one can hurt you if you are determined to do only what is right; 14  and blessed are you if you have to suffer for being upright. Have no dread of them; have no fear15  Simply proclaim the Lord Christ holy in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have. 16  But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience, so that those who slander your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their accusations. 17  And if it is the will of God that you should suffer, it is better to suffer for doing right than for doing wrong. 1 Peter 3:13-17 (NJB)

The next question is obvious: Is the dispute with other religions not basically just as much an instance of Christian self-righteousness as the dispute among the denominations was an instance of denominational self-righteousness? In consequence, it is no longer Christianity that is at issue, but religion as such, which makes its presence felt among mankind under a variety of forms in which it is not basically a question of changing content, but of the inner nature of religion itself, which can be expressed in many contents, even entirely without the word of God. Catechesis is thus reduced to mere information on the one side, to instruction regarding religious attitudes (but with no prescribed content) on the other side, and faith silently quits the field.  (1)

“65 As we explained before, we could never come to recognize the Father’s favor and grace were it not for the Lord Christ, who is a mirror of the Father’s heart. Apart from him we see nothing but an angry and terrible Judge. But neither could we know anything of Christ, had it not been revealed by the Holy Spirit.

66 These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and distinguish us Christians from all other people on earth. All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. They cannot be confident of his love and blessing. Therefore they remain in eternal wrath and damnation, for they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, they are not illuminated and blessed by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.[i]”  (2)

Pope Benedict XVI’s quote this morning struck a nerve in me.  It causes me to look within, to try and understand exactly what my motivation is, as I minister.  Is it a matter of personal pride in my intellect?  Is it, as Benedict asks, a matter of self-righteousness, or worse, a sense of gnostic condescension?  That I have the secret knowledge to a good life, even an eternal life, and those of other religions do not, is that my motivation? Or worst of all, have I set my faith to the side?

That question is hard, very hard.  It is one that I am afraid to ask.

It is the same conversation that Peter is having with the early church, as he talks to them.  Give the reason you have hope, do it with respect.  Do it with the love that cares more about them knowing Jesus than you do about winning the argument.

That is what Luther is getting at, in talking about the work of the Holy Spirit.  As the Spirit reveals that we live in the presence of God, as He gives us the ability, the comfort, the assurance that God wants to reconcile us all to Himself.  Some have only seen God in nature.  Others

Christianity isn’t a privilege.  Christianity isn’t a combat sport.  Christianity means sacrifice, just as Christ suffered for us.  Peter talks about this as following in the footsteps of Jesus, Paul encourages the church to imitate him, as he imitates Jesus.   They call us to sacrifice and serve, that people would be able to presented perfect to Jesus.

This is far more than finding ourselves more righteous.  This is eternity, this is living free of the guilt and shame caused by our sin, by the relationships in our lives that were broken.  A relationship with the God who created as to be His “beloved”.

TO engage in that kind of work takes sacrifice, it means putting aside our own pride, our own desires, our very lives.  And that requires to take up the faith that we’ve laid aside.  It requires that we realize salvation transforms more than our future.  It transforms our lives, from our baptism through the day God completes us.

This isn’t pietism, it is the reaction of gratitude to a God who revealed Himself to us, who made known His attitude toward us, who invited us to be part of His work, part of His ministry.  It is the Holy Spirit.  This is what communing with God does for us. As we kneel at an altar, as we see revealed to us the love of God for the world, as we are given hope, we explain that reason to others.

This is the life of a believer, this is the life of the children of God.

Lord, Have mercy on us, and help us to realize you live in our very lives.

(1)    Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 32). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

(2)  [i] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 419). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Who Do You Call First?


Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

10  We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God’s friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ’s life! 11  But that is not all; we rejoice because of what God has done through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has now made us God’s friends. Romans 5:10-11 (TEV)

A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.
If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God. (1)

1009      Whenever the worrying thought enters your head that you lack rectitude of intention—sometimes it may come like a flash of lightning, at other times like a filthy pestering fly which you brush off but which keeps coming back—always make acts of the opposite virtue straight away… and carry on working calmly for Him and with Him. At the same time, even though you might feel you are only pronouncing the words mechanically, say slowly: Lord, I want nothing for myself. May everything be for your glory and for your Love. (2)

My son and I, a couple of weeks ago, went to my college alma mater to watch a basketball game.

As we were about to leave, we passed a table offering raffle tickets to raise money for the girl’s team.  All four top prizes were computer tablets, so we bought a few tickets and walked away.

Yesterday, as I was working in my office, I got a phone call.  We won!  (this is the second tablet I’ve won… 🙂 ) Before I was off the phone, I was already walking to where my son was, eager to share with my techie son that we had another “screen” in the family. I had to let him know.  My wife found out later, and silly me, I forgot to

As I was reading the Large Catechism (the blue quote) this morning, I thought of that – who do we go to first?  When life just sucks, or the opposite when something extraordinary happens, when we are suffering or simply trying to endure.  Who do we call?  Who do we go to find sustenance?  Who do we praise and glorify?  ( I include both good and bad things on purpose)

Is it a person, a spouse or a parent?  Is it some item, such as a bottle or chocolate, or some drug?  Or do we choose to suffer alone?  Or do we tell the world by FB, Twitter, and text?  Do we ever bring it to God?  Have we set up an idol, even many idols?

Who do we cling to?  Who do we count on?

Do we ever think about our relationship with God in that way?  As the closest of friends?  Can we even conceive of a God, who is that interested in us, that desires to be given all we can’t handle, and yes, to be thanked when something special happens?

Do we realize that is what it means to pray without ceasing, to give God the good, the bad, the challenged?

As we walk through this Lent. As we walk with Christ to the cross, may we share it all with Him! May we depend upon Him so much, may we adore Him so much, that it is His name we call first, in prayer and praise!

May we call Him first, and always!
AMEN

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 365). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3558-3562). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How and Why do we confront sin?


Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day: 

It is widely reported that there is sexual immorality among you, immorality of a kind that is not found even among gentiles: that one of you is living with his stepmother.  2  And you so filled with your own self-importance! It would have been better if you had been grieving bitterly, so that the man who has done this thing were turned out of the community. 3  For my part, however distant I am physically, I am present in spirit and have already condemned the man 4  who behaved in this way, just as though I were present in person.  When you have gathered together in the name of our Lord Jesus, with the presence of my spirit, and in the power of our Lord Jesus, 5  hand such a man over to Satan, to be destroyed as far as natural life is concerned, so that on the Day of the Lord his spirit may be saved. 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (NJB) 

 5  If anyone did cause distress, he caused it not to me, but—not to exaggerate—in some degree to all of you. 6  The punishment already imposed by the majority was quite enough for such a person; 7  and now by contrast you should forgive and encourage him all the more, or he may be overwhelmed by the extent of his distress. 8  That is why I urge you to give your love towards him definite expression. 9  This was in fact my reason for writing, to test your quality and whether you are completely obedient. 10  But if you forgive anybody, then I too forgive that person; and whatever I have forgiven, if there is anything I have forgiven, I have done it for your sake in Christ’s presence, 11  to avoid being outwitted by Satan, whose scheming we know only too well.  2 Corinthians 2:5-11 (NJB)

This morning as I looked at facebook, I was a bit in shock at the response of some people to the election of the new leader of another denomination that shares the name Lutheran with my own.  We are, in many ways radically different, but the mocking and deriding of their decision was sickening and to be blunt, sinful.   Confronting sin, whether just perceived or actual, never justifies sinning in the confrontation of it.   What is worse, Luther’s rants were used to justify their own mocking and ranting.  Luther’s large catechism was also quoted, talking about the confrontation of sin.   Here is the passage used to justify mocking and berating others:

All this has been said regarding secret sins. But where the sin is quite public so that the judge and everybody know it you can without any sin avoid him and let him go, because he has brought himself into disgrace, and you may also publicly testify concerning him. For when a matter is public in the light of day, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying; as, when we now reprove the Pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. For where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public, that every one may learn to guard against it.-  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

But this brings to mind – what is the reason we confront and challenge sin, or in this case – practices or others who are in Christ that we know/feel/believe are not in line with scripture?  We may truly believe they are in sin, and we may be right.  If so, the reading from 1st Corinthians above tells us actions we can and should take- but it also informs us of the reason – to save their soul.  If we understand Luther’s Large Catechism, that is the sense there as well, and warning others of the danger they face in following that direction.  But the purpose is never to mock sinners, the purpose is never to taunt or increase the division that may exist.   It should never be done with joy, but rather with sorrow and with great pain.   Love will never rejoice over sin – either in approving it, or in calling for repentance.  Instead it desires to see the damage of sin broken, the bonds that it has shattered.  It always looks for ways to embrace the cross – for the joy that is awaited when reconciliation occurs.  That has to be our goal.  Anything else… well it is our own sin which should drive us to that very same altar of grace.

The reason to confront sin determines how it is to be done, whether in accord for Matthew 18 privately, or in the case of “Public sin”  The law must be applied with the intent that when repentance is granted – the love and comfort of grace is poured out without hesitation, without thought.  Every sinner, including those who have the task of confronting sin themselves, need to be at the altar, at the foot of the cross.  That is where it is supposed to occur. (Paul isn’t kidding about that in First Corinthians, its not just a expression)  The same goes when we challenge each others practices, as we discuss.  DIvision caused by sin is a grievous thing – not something that should gain us kudos and “likes” as we mock them publicly, as if we were perfect in our thoughts words and practices.

The goal is unity in Christ, unity found in His mercy, in His grace, in His forgiveness and love.  It is to call all sinners to receive repentance and faith and to find joy in our relationship with God.

We cry, Lord have mercy… but we

Dr. Martin Luther's Church Door - Wittenburg, ...

Dr. Martin Luther’s Church Door – Wittenburg, Germany ’93 (Photo credit: Mikey G Ottawa)

need to remember we all need it!

Why I don’t hate “religion”, because it is His One, holy, catholic/christian and apostolic church


English: Baptism of Christ

English: Baptism of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But this is the meaning and substance of this addition: I believe that there is upon earth a little holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one head, even Christ, called together by the Holy Ghost in one faith, one mind, and understanding, with manifold gifts, yet agreeing in love, without sects or schisms. I am also a part and member of the same a sharer and joint owner of all the goods it possesses, brought to it and incorporated into it by the Holy Ghost by having heard and continuing to hear the Word of God, which is the beginning of entering it. (1)
The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

385    Our Lord says: “A new commandment I give you: that you love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples.” And Saint Paul: “Bear each other’s burdens, and thus you shall fulfill the law of Christ.” I have nothing to add. (2)

I was reading the other day about someone who was making a case for a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ.  A little later a friend sent me a question about the protestant church, and their view of faith being individual, compared to the “one holy catholic and apostolic church”.  I thought it through and sent him some thoughts about it, tracing it back past the Enlightenment to Zwingli and his attitudes towards the Lord’s Supper and the miraculous.  Putting the two together this morning, plus preparing to head to St Louis for my denominations convention, has me thinking about our faith a lot, and how scriptures expresses it – corporately.

You can’t really come up with a “personal faith” in Christ, nor for that matter a personal relationship with Him.  The easiest way to see this is to start with the Trinity.  To have a relationship with Jesus, means we have a relationship with the Father, whom Christ brings us to, and with the Holy Spirit, who is sent to us, by the Father and the Son.  The Spirit brings us deeper into that relationship with the Father and Son, testifying of Them, showing you Their glory, reminding us of the presence of God in our life, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  That’s why we baptize in Their Name.

If we can accept the relationship with the Trinity, then we have to realize that as They work in our lives as individuals, they are drawing us into a relationship with each other.  It is inevitable, it is our very hope, to share in their glory, to know Christ is in us, but that means us.  That means we are all enveloped in Him, we are united to Him, and therefore each other.   This is why Escriva says he doesn’t have to add anything to what Jesus commissions us to be, what Paul describes and encourages us to be.  Religion is nothing more than a way to classify this relationship, to describe the actions that take place because of it, for to be united to Christ results in our fulfilling the law of Chirst.

Which is why, united to Christ from our very baptism, from the very work of the Holy Spirit calling us to faith and repentance, we learn to love each other!  It is part of being drawn into the love of Christ for us, for the Father.  It isn’t our decision or desire to love, it is part of the very nature of God – the Triune God, who is working in our life.  It is part of our spiritual DNA – our heritage as those called into a relationship with God.   He makes us One!  He causes us to love, to serve, to think of others before we think of ourselves.  For that is who He is, and as He unites us to Him, as we look to Him, the Spirit is drawing us to this, forgiving, reconciling, redeeming and causing us to share in this life of Christ.

So go in peace, to love God, and therefore each other.

(1)  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 973-975). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind! In Sight? Christ!


Out of Sight, Out of Mind!  In Sight?  Christ

Phil 3:4-14

 

IHS

 

May you see the incredible love and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so clearly, that it robs you of any desire to focus your life on anything else!

 

Out of Sight, Out of Mind
The thing parents miss the most…

It is the one tactic that works in raising children for a while, that works so spectacularly that when it no longer works, parents and preschool teachers cry.

Described by six little words, oh the problems solved by it.

If I give you the first three words, I bet you will get it.  Heck, I bet some of you will get it with only one word.

Out ….. of ….. sight

Yeah – that great opportunity to simply remove something from the picture, and in a moment, most young children forget it was ever there.  You are driving past a golden arches, and they so want to go there… until of course you are 30 seconds past it…. Then it is forgotten.  

It is true for adults as well, especially spiritually.  Not so much for things like coffee and doughnuts and… bacon.

But spiritually, we are very much children – we have to deal with those things that are in front of us, and the challenge is.. what is in front of us!

What should Be out of Sight and out of Mind

In the epistle reading today, we see a great example of this very thing.  Paul talks of those things that we in front of him spiritually, consciously.  The things that gave him the confidence he needed when he was a young up and coming rabbi.  He had all the right boxes checked off, all the advantages that anyone could want.

Genetically – he was perfect, family – perfect (those are the root words in Greek Genea and phylum) the right schooling – the roughest and most demanding program which he excelled at, He even proved how loyal he was to his nation, to his religion, by squishing like a cockroach those who opposed it.

Imagine being the next American hero – a cross between Tom Brady and Bill Gates  – and being the captain of Stanford’s football team and making a 4.0 in a dual major of computer science and a MBA and while there – you invent a computer that costs $5 dollars to make –can be sold for $500 and blows away everything else on the market?

These are the things that Paul counts on, they are on the forefront of his mind – so much so… that they become a detriment. They actually are so incredible – so depended upon, so much in sight, that what was not in sight, was was not forefront in his mind… was that which every Jewish person for hundreds of years said they were looking for, the Messiah.

The very things that should have helped him to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, got in the way, as Jesus was standing before him all the time.  It is

These things – to put it simply, like the things we depend upon for our being considered “right” need to be put aside – for they distract us from what truly makes us righteous.  It’s not that we’ve been coming to church all our lives, or that we’ve been Lutheran for 10 years, or that we are Irish, or that we’ve done this or that, or we’ve worked hard, or whatever it is… for if you don’t see Jesus, these things are nothing more than…distractions.  It isn’t even that we belong to the very special church family,

Or As Paul says,

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.

What should be in sight, and in Mind

Even before Paul leaving behind all his stuff, there were two sets of brothers, who left their dad, and their family business, to follow a young homeless teacher, who a preacher said was the Agnus Dei – the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Another man, a very tax collector, left his tables on April 15th, to walk with this teacher.  Paul leaves behind everything else – it cannot capture his mind, or his heart anymore. Indeed, he counts them as refuse – not just the trash but the stuff that fills sewers and raises a stink.  St Patrick will, because of this very thing – return to the land where he was a enslaved and escaped – knowing that he could face death…because of what he gained in leaving it all behind.   Everything they were, they left behind…

Why?

Because of the infinite value of knowing Jesus.  Please hear this – it is the most important thing I can tell you.  It isn’t that we know about Jesus,  As the Epistle of James tells us, even demons know about Jesus – they recognize Him faster than anyone else in scripture.  It is not knowing about Jesus, it is about knowing him.

Luther explained it this way.

For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation.  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

They can know of him – but unless they understand God’s mind and will – that His desire is that we all come to repentance – the transformation that occurs when He comes to our lives, unless we understand His love and blessing, the motions we go through are worthless…

It is as we gain Christ, and become one with Him – as we are pulled into that intimate relationship with a God who loves us beyond anything we can imagine. That is when we begin to grasp what Paul says when he says..

I become righteous through trusting in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on trust. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

The incredible blessing that comes from knowing what happened to us here – as we were baptized, isn’t easy to comprehend.  How do you explain the “coming to life” that happens when we realize that we’ve been cleansed from sin, when the cross becomes more than just a historical event, but the place where our life completely transforms because we are untied to Christ there, at the cross, in our baptism?  Where we are united with Christ, and His death and the hope of His resurrection? 

Where we are united to Him!

A few days ago, the new pope said it this way, in his first sermon

“This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who confessed Jesus Christ, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it.” He says, “I’ll follow you on other ways, that do not include the Cross.” When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord.

Without the cross – all we have is the garbage – the worthless stuff, the things this world might recognize as important – but have no meaning in the face of life or death, that isn’t what will sustain a marriage, or as Pope Francis said, will sustain a church.  He went on, to recognize, very much like St. Paul, what would.  He said,

I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward. “

Though the challenge would be worded slightly different for us – it is when we are joined to the cross of Christ, that everything is transformed. As we partake of the Body and Blood of Chris. That we begin to realize what Paul says… how this can occur.

How it can be…

I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.

You see – that is our key – to strive to “get” that we’ve already been gotten.  That in Christ, it is not the attaining of perfection or holiness that is what we are challenged with, it is not being good enough.

The battle, the fight is to realize that we are already there, that God is calling us to realize He is there… He is our vision – and then we don’t need to toss aside all these other things – all these other “good” things… for they will have fallen aside, and become out of mind…

For we will dwell in incredible peace – the peace that comes from living in the presence of God, protected there, our hearts and minds  kept there, for we are Christ’s possession. AMEN?

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