Devotional Thought for the Day:
Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. 3 Try your best to let God’s Spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by living at peace. 4 All of you are part of the same body. There is only one Spirit of God, just as you were given one hope when you were chosen to be God’s people. 5 We have only one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. 6 There is one God who is the Father of all people. Not only is God above all others, but he works by using all of us, and he lives in all of us. Eph. 4:2-6 CEV
It becomes genuinely possible for people to share in a common expression once this interiorization has taken place under the guidance of the common prayers of the Church and the experience of the Body of Christ which they contain. Then people are no longer merely juxtaposed in role-playing but actually touch one another at the level of being. Only in this way can “community” come about.
He means that in human relations it is not peevish, harsh, or implacable; that it covers up some of the mistakes of its friends; and that it puts the best construction even on the more offensive actions of others, as the common proverb says, “Know, but do not hate, the manners of a friend.”
We call God “our Father” because we believe in His fatherly love and care.
We want His name hallowed and loved and praised, because we love Him and want others to do the same.
We want His kingdom to come because His kingdom is the kingdom of love.
We want His will to be done, even in preference to our own—we will the abolition of our own will when it is out of alignment with His—because we know His will is pure love. Ours is not.
This morning, I led the invocation and benediction at our city’s Martin Luther King. Jr. Day remembrance in our community. As I listened to the young people sing, read, and recite, and my friend Bill preach, my heart wanted to see the dream come true.
A day when the color of their skin and my son’s skin didn’t matter at all. A day when Dr. King saw coming to fruition as we found our way onto a mountain top. As we obeyed God more than we obeyed our hearts.
As I left, I wonder how many left determined to do what would make that dream happen?
It will, of course, when we reach that mountain top that Dr. King spoke of, when we enter into the presence of God, when those who see Him face to face understand true peace that comes from a love we can not wrap our heads around…yet.
It is not a coincidence that my readings today approach this subject of unity.
Nor is it a coincidence that the quotes above, from those readings, all focus on God as the hope for such a life. It is, after all, how He designed for us to live! It is God’s dream, even more than Pastor King’s.
It is why the Father sent the Son to reconcile us to Himself, and therefore to each other as well. For the sin that so marrs our unity, the self-centeredness that stops us from loving our neighbor can only be dealt with in Christ. That is where God’s will becomes a reality, as we are joined to Christ’s selfless act of sacrifice, as He, in His mercy pays for our sin. It is there, united in His heart, that our hearts find each other, and learn to value and love each other. There we find the power and desire to forgive, to cover our neighbor’s, and our enemies’ faults and brokenness.
It is there, with our souls resonating in a way stronger than this broken life can manage, that unity occurs.
Unity in Christ then becomes something to cherish, to rejoice in, to work to maintain, looking again to Jesus, who is the author and perfector of our faith. Reconciled to Him, we find our lives reconciled to each other.
Therefore patience and love, mercy and understanding become something that is our norm, and not just the virtues of saints.
You want to see these kids’ dreams, based on a speech decades ago come true?
Realize the love of God, realize His mercy and sacrifice, His patience,
And then, in Him, you can share it with your community, and the world.
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 70.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 141.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 46.
Useless! It’s All Useless! ??
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ assure you that your life and your ministry is not worthless!
The Feeling of Uselessness
There are times in life when you will put all your effort into your work, or into the work you do here at church.
But when you sit back at the end of a day or a week, you look and wonder why you worked so hard. You wonder why you tried so hard,
And yet, you seem to have accomplished so little.
There are still bills to be paid, dishes to be done, there is still a pile of tasks at work, and the church doesn’t seem to grow the way you would like.
It is not a good feeling, and it can tempt you to despair.
to wonder why things aren’t getting better
to wonder if they ever will.
My friends, we aren’t the first to ever wonder that!
In fact, that is part of our reading from the book of Isaiah. Part of our reading this morning was this,
He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, and you will bring me glory.” 4 I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Is. 49:3-4
I’ve had days like that, where I know that my actions and thoughts should be bringing God glory, that they should have some tangible results, and yet…
So how do we deal with this feeling?
Why does it exist?
First, we have to identify where it comes from.
The first is simple and often overlooked.
Satan would try to cause us to believe there is nothing to our relationship with God.
He would love to paralyze us, blinding us to the work God is actually doing in our lives,
and through our lives.
You heard that! God does the work through us!
The second cause is our own sin,
When we want to play God and determine the impact and effect of what we do.
You see, we aren’t the ones who determine the results of the actions that God calls us to do, and the Holy Spirit guides us and empowers us to do.
When we demand to know the results, we usually have demanded to determine the actions as well.
What we’ve forgotten is what Paul taught the Corinthians,
5 After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 1 Corinthians 3:5-7 (NLT2)
That is what is comes down to sometimes, we want to determine the growth. We want to be in charge, rather than letting God be in charge.
We try to get the results we want, and ignore living and ministering to others in the way He has directed us to live.
Loving Him with all our heart, soul and mind.
Loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. (depending on God’s love to make this happen)
When we demand the results, per our standards, per our expectations, we need to go back and double-check our actions, our plans, and see whether they are in line with His commands.
And if not, repent, and seek the forgiveness that God graciously plans for us.
The Real Answer
The person Isaiah writes about found the same answer, and the way to measure the results.
“Yet I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.” Isaiah 49:4b (NLT2)
That’s a challenge, to simply place all that we do in the Lord’s hands, to let Him determine how He will use what He directs and empowers us to do.
He is God remember? He is with us! His Holy Spirit dwells in us, gives us the gifts that we have to use in loving Him and loving each other!
Our reward ultimately is when He tells us, “well done, MY good and faithful servant!” Matthew 25:21NLT2
That reward is what is guaranteed when we leave it in His hands!
Remember He makes what is righteous, righteous, and in cleansing us from all sin and unrighteousness, even that is judged righteous!
Without having to worry about how we will be judged, we can simply look at what we want to do, measure it by how it loves God and our neighbor, and if it does, go with it.
That’s why I tell people in the English service, whatever idea you have for this church to minister to others, let’s pray about, make sure it loves God and our neighbor, and ask God to bless it, and do it!
Leaving the results in the hands of our loving, heavenly Father.
Remember, He cares for you… and for the people around you.
He sent Jesus to correct all the times we try to be in charge, when we try to manipulate the results, and when we despair when we don’t get what we want.
That’s why the cross, and that is the final proof of this passage.
You see, the passage isn’t just about us. At the cross, one could easily wonder if the work of Jesus was useless! He had spent his life investing in the people of Israel, and in 12 guys, all of whom betrayed Him.
Sounds useless to me!
What value was it? He didn’t cause great revival during His life, he couldn’t even get 12 guys to get it right.
Yet, His reward is that every knee will bow, and every tongue confess He is Lord.
No, His reward is greater than that. His reward is our homecoming, our relationship with the Father, that He invested His life, and death to re-create
If Jesus didn’t love the Father and love us, the cross makes no sense. But because of that love, it makes sense, and it is rewarded!
Loving the Father who loves us, loving our neighbor, even if they would crucify us… or just make our life inconvenient, and less about…. Us. That is how we live in Christ, that is what makes our life incredible.
We can do that because of His forgiveness, because He heals our souls, because the Spirit, given to us in baptism, empowers that and makes it happen. Look to Him, fall madly in love with God, pray, and let us serve Him together!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
I tell you that this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 44 Everyone else gave what they didn’t need. But she is very poor and gave everything she had. Now she doesn’t have a cent to live on. Mark 12:43-44 CEV
By the words “to save” we understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire onward to complete sanctification. The words are multum in parro: indeed, here is all mercy in one word. Christ is not only “mighty to save” those who repent, but he is able to make men repent. He will carry those to heaven who believe; but he is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, and to constrain the despiser of his name to bend the knee before him. Nay, this is not all the meaning, for the divine power is equally seen in the after-work. The life of a believer is a series of miracles wrought by “the Mighty God.”
The pagan knew the fact that our hearts are restless, but he did not know the reason. Christianity supplies the reason, the key to the lock, the answer to the puzzle pondered by the great philosophers Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, even by Qoheleth in the book of Ecclesiastes. All these thinkers believed in a God, but they were not happy because they did not know God was love. Socrates worshipped the unknown God whom he would not name and knew he did not know. Plato’s God was impersonal truth and goodness. Aristotle’s God was a cosmic first mover who could be known and loved but who did not know or love us. Cicero’s God was only a vague object of “piety”. And the God of Ecclesiastes sat unmoving and unknown in Heaven while man’s life on earth remained “vanity of vanities, all is vanity”
172 Augustine says very clearly, “All the commandments of God are kept when what is not kept is forgiven.”1 Therefore even in good works he requires our faith that for Christ’s sake we please God and that the works in themselves do not have the value to please God.
173 Against the Pelagians, Jerome writes, “We are righteous, therefore, when we confess that we are sinners; and our righteousness does not consist in our own merit, but in God’s mercy.”
The novel Christian reality is this: Christ’s Resurrection enables man genuinely to rejoice. All history until Christ has been a fruitless search for this joy. That is why the Christian liturgy—Eucharist—is, of its essence, the Feast of the Resurrection, Mysterium Paschae. As such it bears within it the mystery of the Cross, which is the inner presupposition of the Resurrection.
This morning I came across some very powerful quotes in my reading. I love them, whether it is from a soon to be pope (Ratzinger), an incredible philosopher (Kreeft), a group of rebels (the early Lutherans), or a British pastor who was perhaps, the first mega-church pastor.
They all point to one thing, the fact that Christianity is different. Philosophers tried to point to him, but they couldn’t understand God. That the Eucharist does, more clearly perhaps than anything else, for we encounter and experience Jesus there. In the mercy of God which makes our broken lives perfect as God grants to us repentance and sanctification – as He completely saves us.
What an incredible concept, this salvation.
But do we really comprehend this blessing, this gift?
I do not think we do, at least not always.
How about this explanation. We (the church) are like children at Christmas, more interested in playing with the box our present came in than actually enjoying the present.
Salvation, the complete work of God is so large a gift, we cannot understand it. But we can experience it, and it does more than change us. Jesus does more than give us life, He is that life. That is what makes Christianity different, it is the religion that is more than a relationship, for a relationship cannot begin to express what living in Christ is like.
The old lady with the two pennies experienced it. She wasn’t impressed with the box, she simply enjoyed walking with God, and gave what she had that others would as well.
We don’t even know her name, and she could care less.
She was with God, and among His people, as broken, as misdirected, as….unfocused on what she knew and responded to…
May we be more like her….. and enjoy living in Christ, as the children the Father loves.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 39–40.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 130–131.
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 65.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Jesus heard them and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.” Mark 2:17
You may say, “Well, did God not endow us with a free will?”19 I reply: To be sure, he gave you a free will. But why do you want to make it your own will? Why not let it remain free? If you do with it whatever you will, it is not a free will, but your own will. God did not give you or anyone else a will of your own. Your own will comes from the devil and from Adam, who transformed the free will received from God into his own. A free will does not want its own way but looks only to God’s will for direction. By so doing it then also remains free, untrammeled and unshackled.
The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in him. From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ: “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”11 And they invite people of every era to enter into the joy of their communion with Christ:
I had perceived—via God’s grace, not my own wit, surely—that since God is love, we must therefore love God and love whatever God loves; that if we turn to the divine Conductor and follow the wise and loving baton that is His will, His Word, then the music of our life will be a symphony.
Over the years, I have heard people argue over the concept of free will. Some would say we have it, others would simply say we don’t, that God is not only responsible for all of our actions, but He chooses what we will do, in every moment. I’ve heard it blamed for our sinful choices, and for the temptations that we tried to avoid, but gave into and sinned. Somehow people think because God gave us the ability to decide to wreck out lives, He is responsible for their breaking.
Until reading Luther this morning, I never conceived of the idea that free will could mean that it is not “our will”; not “my will” or “your will”, but the ability to simply have a will that is free, and therefore can be influenced by God, A will that Kreeft describes himself realizing that God is love, and therefore we should resonate with His love, and love what He loves. The power of free will then, is not aligning it to our own desires, but letting it be guided, let it resonate with the will of God.
After all, isn’t that the invitation Jesus came to deliver? That those of us who are sinners, will be freed from sin, able to walk with Him?
That is why we train people in the faith; why we make disciples, not converts; why we catechize, answering the real questions of faith, rather than indoctrinate.
It’s not to force one’s will to be Christ’s, it is to help people see that their will, their Spirit, once clean of all sin of all injustice, resonates with Jesus. For we were made in God’s image, and the Spirit causes us to realize this, as we realize the love of God.
This resonance is why salvation, realizing God has removed dampen and distort our lives, is so joyous. A guitar or violin string doesn’t have to be forced to sound, a similar string resonating brings its movement and sound. Just as the word of God resonates with a truly “free will” creating joy where it resounds.
Heavenly Father, please, once again, send the Holy Spirit to remove all that would distort and dampen the will the Holy Spirit has restored. In Jesus’ name! 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), 48
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 107..
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 16.
Devotional Thought fo the Day
18 Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his special people? You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love. 19 Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!20 You will show us your faithfulness and unfailing love as you promised to our ancestors Abraham and Jacob long ago. Micah 7:18-20 (NLT2)
The text (Joel 2:13) commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally hard as marble: how, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: a dying Saviour’s voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men rend their vestures in the day of lamentation.
I hate watching hospital shows, whether it is E.R. in the old days, or Gray’s Anatomy or any of the clones today. I actually thought I found one I liked, the ads said the guy did medicine the right way, and I have to admit, it was interesting the first couple of shows. I thought it might be a nicer version of “House.”
But as with all of them, they eventually get to the episode featuring the patient with Marphans, and it gets too personal.
Back in the ’90s, I had a cardiac arrest and had to have CPR performed n me for 15 minutes, then resuscitated 5 times with a defibrillator. And though I have no memory of when they said clear and shocked me, my body still feels it when I hear those words on a television show.
It is painful to face my own mortality again.
And yet, that same pain renders me thankful for the lady who performed CPR, and for the paramedics and doctors who shocked me back to life.
As I’ve talked to others like me, there is often a different outlook on life. Because we’ve experienced death because we know how fragile life is, life is different.
Spurgeon understands this spiritually, in order for us to grieve over sin, we need to take it ot the cross, to look on the body that was beaten, pierced, and hung on a cross. We need to understand of all those executed in history, Jesus could have stopped the entire charade and made it right. We need to hear the words of Jesus on the cross and realize His entire life was aimed at this very moment.
He chose not to.
He chose to die that you and I could know the wonder that amazes Hosea. The amazement that God overlooks our sins, the compassion that causes Him to be faithful to promises made centuries ago, but to keep those promises for you and me.
I wonder if we can ever appreciate that sacrifice unless we see it in face of our grievous sins. Can we truly appreciate that love, unless we come face to face with our jealousy, our gossip, our desire for the things of others, or our lust, or desire for revenge? Or simply our desire to play God, and create idols of our own choosing?
You see that in Acts 2, when the people who thought they were good, who thought they were God’s people (and were) realized that they had killed the Messiah. You see it in Paul’s encounter on the road, in the myriad of stories where people encounter Jesus or the apostles, and realize how far they have fallen, and then are picked up, dusted off, and the prodigal is no longer the prodigal, they are a son of God.
You need to realize what you were, not grieve over it, but to rejoice in what God is doing to us, and to look forward to the day when that work is complete.
Rejoice, your sins, which were as dark as night, causing you to decay like a corpse, those sins are forgiven because of the death of Christ. And because He is risen, so have you.
Rejoice my friends, rejoice.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Streaming to a Joyous Place!
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to sing!
I had a great conversation (well, we sent messages across the internet) with a promising young theologian this week. He went to the youth group here back in the day, and he asked me some questions about advent.
As we were talking about the idea that Advent is just as much about the Second Coming as Christmas, you could see his mind spinning and a grin break out as he wrote:
“The hope is that the whole of creation can finally Shabbat (that is rest)!
:” and you can wrap in that from the winter (sin) comes the new spring and the new life”
“I like it. I mostly remember the songs and candles of Advent. But it’s awesome to really dig into what the message is all about”
“That is the Christian life, isn’t it? We look to a future hope of a restored creation. The whole of scripture points to it, starting in Genesis 3!”
He gets it, that advent is not about looking back to the past, because Christmas is beautiful and the kids in Sheep hats are cute, but advent is about looking forward to the second coming and getting excited about what it means.
The first time, Jesus came and dwelt in our presence. This time, He is coming to bring us back, so we can dwell in the Father’s presence.
You saw a description of that day when even the wilderness and desert will be glad!
Of all the cool things that will happen, I want to focus on two this morning,
Here is the first…
Those who can’t speak…
Hear the first part of verse 6 again.
“The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!”
Now, I look forward to the day when not one member of Concordia needs a cane or a walker, but they are lining up to go in the bounce house after
But what I am looking more towards is when those who cannot speak sing out for joy.
Interestingly, this is not just any song, it is the song of Jubilee in Hebrew, the rejoicing when every debt is cancelled, when everything is restored. It is the most joyous of sabbaths, the greatest rest in the presence of God that could be known in a lifetime.
That is what the people that can’t sing, learn to sing.
That is what being in the presence of God, and knowing how much he loves you does. It happens when we realize that He has taken care of all our sin, when everything we’ve ever done that has hurt someone, betrayed them, crushed their spirit is forgiven, all of it. I think it will be something like this,
Free at last! Free at last, praise God Almighty I am free of sin… at last!
Or maybe more like this…
Praise God from whom all blessing flow…praise Him all Creatures ..(and let them sing it out)
If you think that was something now, imagine what it will be like in a year, when there will be 60-100 more people here?
Or what it will be like with a couple billion here, around the throne of God. All excited because Christ has returned, the walkers and canes are tossed aside, and we are singing God’s praises. And all the other blessings are being realized.
When we see Jesus, who died that we might live eternally.
That bore the cost of sin so we didn’t have to,… not that’s not right.
He bore the cost of sin, so we could be with God the Father, forever.
That’s why verse 10 means so much, and so amazes me.
10 Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.
Imagine how great that procession is going to be, every person for who Jesus died for, every person healed of everything, from blindness and being unable to walk to cancer and heart diseases, and most of all, healing of the damage that sin has done to us.
Ransomed, all the debt paid off we will flood into heaven like a flash food.. the mega crowd of billions heading to see God, to worship Him, to praise Him, to hear Him welcome us all home.
This is what we wait for in advent, and get a little foretaste of, every time we hear we are forgiven, every time we hear He is with us, every time we remember what He promised here, and see it again as another person is cleansed in the waters of baptism… We experience His presence, as he takes our cares away as we realize our prayers are answered, in ways more precious than we can imagine.
It is just as Brandon noted..with one thing added in… the Trinity.
“That is the Christian life, isn’t it? We look to a future hope of a restored creation with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! The whole of scripture points to it, starting in Genesis 3!”
And every time Jesus meets us here, as we gather, and once again receive His Body and Blood…
This is advent, a time of now and not yet, a time where we glimpse a little of what it will be like when He returns because He has dwelt among us….and we beheld His glory, just as we will, even more clearly when He comes among us, and we dwell in the Father’s presence. Amen!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 I have chosen Bezalel from the Judah tribe to make the sacred tent and its furnishings. 7 Not only have I filled him with my Spirit, but I have given him wisdom and made him a skilled craftsman who can create objects of art with gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood. 6 I have appointed Oholiabh from the tribe of Dan to work with him, and I have also given skills to those who will help them make everything exactly as I have commanded.you: Ex 31:2-6 CEV
†3 Judas had betrayed Jesus, but when he learned that Jesus had been sentenced to death, he was sorry for what he had done. He returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and leaders 4 and said, “I have sinned by betraying a man who has never done anything wrong.”
“So what? That’s your problem,” they replied. 5 Judas threw the money into the temple and then went out and hanged himself.
6 The chief priests picked up the money and said, “This money was paid to have a man killed. We can’t put it in the temple treasury.” 7 Then they had a meeting... Matt. 27:3-7 CEV
612 Get rid of those proud thoughts! You are but the brush in the hand of the artist, and nothing more. Tell me, what is a brush good for if it doesn’t let the artist do his work?
Yesterday I wrote about the things that pastors should be doing, sharing the gospel with people everywhere, forgiving and retaining sins, and being that hands that administer the sacraments. The people of God should be able to expect these things, and indeed, ensure their pastors have the time to do so.
But what about the other side of the coin? What should a pastor (and other church leadership) expect of those people they invest time serving?
I think we see that in the reading from Exodus, as two men are called, not to be priests and pastors, but to use their gifts in the service of God. These two, out of two million people, were ordained and commissioned, set apart for a certain task. See how God has made it clear that the Holy Spirit is guiding him in this, and God has given him wisdom and made him a skilled craftsman for this very vocation?
Pastors shouldn’t have to beg people to use their God-given skills and wisdom to do what the Holy Spirit is preparing them to do. Most of it isn’t miraculous stuff, it is day to day things, like these guys sewing together the tent, and making the furnishing.
The other thing is the one thing scripture shows Judas doing right, even as he does what some consider the worst sin in scripture. With great sorrow, desiring an answer for the guilt and shame he is feeling, e goes to the priests, looking for hope, looking for mercy, trying to figure out what do with his soul being crushed.
He did the right thing, even in the Old Covenant there was a way to confess sins and be given the hope of forgiveness, of having the sins washed away, of having God breathe new life into a soul oppressed by darkness. (That they “held a meeting” rather than absolving Judas might be the worst case of clergy malpractice in history)
Pastors need to expect people will come to be given hope, to confess their sins, that they will know they are forgiven. That is part of people’s responsibility, but it also takes pastors being open to it, encouraging it often. They need to be helping people to know the burdens they bear, guilt, shame, resentment, anger, are all within God’s ability to remove. They need to know it is God’s desire to free them from that crap.
If these things happen, we won’t need to talk about reviving churches… it will happen naturally.
In summary, the people need to do, as part of the ministry of the family of God, what God has called them, gifted them with skill and wisdom, to do.
And come, as often as needed, to be assured of the grace of God cleansing them of every sin.
Lord, help this occur!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Let Us ever walk with Jesus!
Are You Ready?
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ draw you into this journey, knowing He is there with you!
Don’t go it alone!
In my “down time” I am reading an interesting set of books. The main character is a retired army officer, who has volunteered to work with the British. It was at the time they are forming the first commando units in World War II, the kind of group the old show Rat Patrol was based upon. It is interesting because of the 10 rules that Colonel Randal set up for his raiders.
I like a couple -especially the first
Rule 1: The first rule is there ain’t no rules
Rule 2: Keep it short and simple
Rule 4: Right man ( or woman), right job
Rule 6. It is good to have a plan B
Rule 7: Expect the unexpected
It was because of rule 7 that the unofficial rule 8
was born – never go out alone. So
whether it was a mission of one of his jeep teams, or his special sea going
raiders on motor boats, or missions to drop paratroops or supplies, no jeep,
boat or plane every went out alone.
And that is true today for us as well. We can’t go out into the world on our own, for there is a spiritual battle which will destroy us if we try.
That is why our sermon series for this fall is based on the hymn we are about to sing, Let us ever walk with Jesus. It is why Sunday School is about Joining Jesus on His mission, and why Wednesday Night will be about seeing who God has revealed Himself to be, because we can’t survive on our own,
God’s honesty…is scary…
That is what the reading from Luke’s gospel talks
about this morning, this invitation to be with God on the journey of our
lives. Allowing Him to disciple that and
all that He commits to, when God makes a disciple. That commitment is a 24/7 commitment on God’s
part! He is responsible to
Guide you through problems
Provide for you
Help you heal
Fix the things you break… including yourself
Those are all the things God will do and more, doing what you need Him to do, what He sees all you need! And He makes it happen. For those who make the decision and endure it, those who are willing to give up everything,
I always read this passage as God is asking so much of us. To potentially give up family and friends, to consider how much having a relationship with Jesus could cost you.
Part of me wants to say, Lord, that is too much!
How can you expect us to give up everything?
Are you ready to give it all up?
Have you counted the cost?
Remember rule 7? Expect the unexpected?
That’s what God has done, the unexpected.
You see when Jesus told us to give up everything, when He told us to count the cost before we followed Him, he wasn’t talking hypothetically. He wasn’t fooling around either. That is what He expects, when we
It is not easy walking with Christ throughout life. It may require great sacrifice, it may result in family not understanding, and even abandoning you. But that is what Jesus himself did, in order to invite you to journey through life, into the afterlife, with Him guiding you, teaching you, comforting you, making sure you get there.
He has saved us. But to do so, Jesus gave up everything in order that we could walk through life with Him. Philippians 2 is clear, He gave up heaven to come and dwell with us, and to let us put him to death, and that death was on the cross.
He counted the cost as well, knowing that a sinless sacrifice for our sin would need to be paid. He knew the amount of sin we would commit. He knew that he would bear God’s wrath for it all, He knew the anguish, physical, mental, spiritual anguish,
He did the unexpected, he took it all, so we could be His disciples, His friends.
This is why we walk with Him, God loves us this much, Despite our sin, for He chose to die for us while we were sinning.
He restores us as we confess our sins, forgiving all of it.
He remembers the promises made in our baptism,
He nourishes us at His feast, even as He looks forward as much as we do to the feast that will be our welcome to heaven.
This is God, who gives it all up for you…
Let us ever walk with Him
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 Inside the Tent of Meeting, the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting. Exodus 33:11 (NLT2)
We might even venture to say that what God does is always an answer to this kind of appeal from someone who prays. This does not mean that God is like the potentates of this world who want to be asked before they bestow a favor. No—it is so because it must be so by the very nature of things, because it is only when we pray, when we transcend ourselves, when we surrender ourselves, when we recognize God as a reality, when we open ourselves to him, only then that the door of the world is open for God and that space is created in which he can act for and on us men. God is, it is true, always with us, but we are not always with him, says Saint Augustine. It is only when we accept his presence by opening our being to him in prayer that God’s activity can truly become an action on and for us men.
THE SECOND PETITION (of the Lord’s prayer)
“Thy kingdom come.”
7 What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us
One of my favorite stories in scripture is found in 2 Kings 6, where Elisha’s servant had no clue what is going on around him. He sees what the prophet and he will face, and not realizing the power of God, falls into despair.
We do this often, for our faith is weak, and our memory of God’s presence is not so good. We struggle in the face of the problems, the trauma, and the self-doubt that is caused by sin and temptation. We may not want to admit it, but everyone struggles with that self-doubt. For if we can’t do what we want to do, what is right, and we can’t stop the self-defeating sin that has ensnares us, we end up living in a world that is broken, and we can’t find a way to cope with it. Deny it, get distracted from it by our addictions, we just keep going.
Elisha’s servant hadn’t learned what to do yet, but Elisha did. He simply prayed. The servant then saw the truth, and what was real! He found out what was really going on, and it was a different story.
THat’s why Luther and Pope Benedict talk about prayer the way they do. If we don’t pray, it is not that God isn’t active, for He is. What is missing is our awareness of what God is doing.
It is impossible to know what is going on around us, if we don’t see what God is doing.
Prayer is the beginning of that, as we talk with God, much as Moses did, or Enoch or even David. Blunt conversations, face to face, as we would have with a friend. Allowing God to, with all His wisdom and power, to intervene in our lives, as He reveals His love and the mercy which forgives and heals us. That is what Benedict XVI is talking about, as we transcend ourselves in prayer, and meet with God and talk. It is what LUther referred to when he talked of God’s kingdom coming among us.
We see His reality then, as it is revealed at the speed and fullness He knows we can take. We see His love, His concern, we see the power of God at work reforming us into a masterpiece.
Lord, help us to talk with You, as Moses did. Not just face to face, but as a friend talks to a friend. Lord Jesus, help us depend on You, not neglecting You and talking with You. Open our eyes to the work of the Holy Spirit. We pray this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN!
Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 286–287.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 346.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” 17 But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” Gen. 28:16-17 GNT
While communication with God would be a stretch for many, there is still more. In the progress of God’s redemptive work, communication advances into communion.
Communication often occurs over a certain distance, even amidst possible opposition. We can still communicate with those with whom we are at war. God communicates with us even while we are his enemies, dead in our sins. When communication between two people rises to the level of communion, there is a distinctness but also a profound sharing of the thoughts, feelings and objectives that make up our lives. Each recognizes the thought or feeling as his or hers, while knowing with joy that the other is feeling or thinking in the same way.
Often out journey through life is reflected in the journeys we see in scripture. Or perhaps our journey is simply following in their steps.
Jacob grew up in a house of faith, and yet his life didn’t reflect it, at first. Though there would become a time where God would define himself as the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, that time was only just dawning at the point the passage mentions above. He will still need to wrestle with his God, he will still need to reconcile with his brother, but the work has begun.
God has made his promise known to him. The relationship will begin to deepen and make the change from communication to communion. To the point where feelings that once had to be expressed are now known. Jacob’s heart and mind will slowly begin to resonate with God, as the repentant man slowly is transformed, becoming one of our fathers in the faith.
Communion is what prayer really is about. It’s not just communication, it is so much more. It is more than talking, more than just telling God what you and others need. It is complete sharing, letting him heal the heartache, letting His cleanse out you life, replacing the old stone heart with a one that beats in the Spirit’s time, conforming our mind to that of Christ.
We have to remember this is a journey, that it takes time, that we will stumble along the way. Jacob doesn’t go from Sinner to Saint in one night. We struggle with the old person trying to pop back up, even though crucified with Christ. Jacob will see this as he will still have to deal with his uncle, and his wives, he will still live in fear of his brother. Yet he will grow, as we will.for God is at work.
We see it when we have those “aha” moments. When we realize we have been standing/sleeping on Holy ground. When we suddenly realize what we should have known, the Lord is here, and we didn’t ever know it. But now we do, now, in the moment, there isn’t a doubt.
The Lord is with you…
Those aren’t just words in that moment, this is our existence. In the presence of the Lord who loves us, who comes to dwell with us. Not just to be studied, not just to talk to, but to commune with!
He is here! AMEN!
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.