Challenging but Necessary…
Thoguhts that drive me to Jesus… and to the Cross
When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the paralysed man, “Courage, my son! Your sins are forgiven.” Then some teachers of the Law said to themselves, “This man is speaking blasphemy!” Jesus perceived what they were thinking, so he said, “Why are you thinking such evil things? Is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? I will prove to you, then, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralysed man, “Get up, pick up your bed, and go home!” Matt 9:2-6 GNT
Wherever the carnal man is savingly touched by the Word of God, one thing is felt, another is wrought, namely, “The Lord killeth and maketh alive.” Though God is the God of life and salvation and these are his proper works, yet, in order to accomplish these, he kills and destroys, that he may come unto his proper work. He kills our will, that he may establish his own in us. He mortifies the flesh and its desires, that he may implant the Spirit and his desires; and thus “the man of God is made perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
For what, indeed, is a position of spiritual authority but a mental tempest in which the ship of the heart is constantly shaken by storms of thoughts, tossed back and forth, until it is shattered by a sudden excess of words like hidden rocks of the sea?
All too often what happens is that the systematic theology short-circuits the process and usurps the place of the proclamation. The secondary discourse about love displaces the “I love you.” One ends then by delivering some species of lecture about God and things rather than speaking the Word from God. When this occurs, it matters little whether the lecture in question is conservative, liberal, evangelical, or fundamentalist. That only means the lecture is to one degree or another theologically correct. But that is of no great moment if it does not issue in proclamation.
Luther’s words about God killing off our will are so needed today, in my life. And I believe they are needed to be heard by every person in the world, if the individual and indeed, communities, are going to survive.
For until our will is finished with, we will be satisfied with whatever thrills us, whatever agrees with us, and we will not see a need for anything else. We will be satisfied with talking about love, rather than knowing we are loved. We will be glad about talking about God’s covenant, rather than rejoicing we are in a relationship. Mercy will just become a blessing, rather than something which transforms the soul.
In order to take that step, we need to be put to death, our passions, our pride, our will. I think this is why Gregory talks about the tempest those in ministry go through…because, like Peter, we need to let Jesus rescue us from drowning… it isn’t enough to just walk on the water. We need what Luther calls mortification – the dying off time, when all there is to life is the hand of God, lifting us out of the darkness.
This is what Paul shares with the church in Rome in Romans 6-8 – that part of salvation is God cleansing us, breaking us, and killing off our will so that we rise with Christ anew. I see it in the lives of some of my people, who take on incredible burdens, and find it joyous, as they see God at work in the lives of those they help, or those who see them helping. It is amazing to see God at work at such times. There is a correlation between knowing God’s love and showing that love to others that is only possible because of a deep, intimate relationship with God.
This is stuff that needs to be not only thought through – but lived through. Some may even experience it, without being able to put it into words. Like the man whose friends brought him to Jesus, they have imply clung to God during the storm, and treasure His presence. They know He has said to them, “I love you”
I pray then that we can enter those stormy times in our lives… assured of His love for us, and His presence that will see us through.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 397–398.
St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 42.
Gerhard O. Forde, Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 4–5.
Are You the One? A sermon on Luke 17
Are you the one?
† I.H.S. †
May the love of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be so evident in your life, that you have to give Him thanks!
Are you the one?
A friend of mine asked a bunch of his preacher friends if it was possible to preach the on the gospel reading in a way that praised the man who offered thanks, without making the other nine look bad.
I considered his words as I was completing the sermon yesterday. The question impacted me enough to change up the sermon to answer it.
I don’t think you can speak of what the 1 experienced, without looking at what the 9 would miss out on, because they didn’t recognize Jesus working in their lives.
And that is the critical lesson for this day. Will you be the one whose faith will see them saved?
Or will you be the like the nine, who Jesus talked about when He said, “Not everyone who calls out to me, “Lord! Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of heaven.”
We need to be like the 1, and not the 9. We need more than a rescue from a real and present trauma.
We need to know the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father, enough to see what He is doing, and value Him and His role in our life…
Law–we need healing—from sin, of memories, physical, mental, spiritual
Like many churches, this gather of lepers started out right. They gathered together to offer each other comfort and support during trauma—and leprosy was a horrid trauma they had in common.
They even reached out together to find help. I am pretty sure that Jesus was not the first rabbi they approached, begging for some assistance, any assistance.
Not sure they knew healing was in the offer…
In the same way, the church, this church, needs healings to happen. There is no doubt, and we cry out “Lord, have mercy! Christ have mercy! Lord have mercy!”
But what do we mean by that?
Mercy, what we call compassion which compels action to address what?
That is part of the question.
I don’t know if they were asking for financial assistance or healing, for someone to bring them food and water or take messages to their loved ones. All were things that they struggled with, cut off from the world by their disease.
And the cry for compassion – how many times had it gone unheard, never mind unanswered?
How many times have our cries for help gone unanswered by others, as we have tried to deal with those things that afflict us?
I need to be clear – their trauma wasn’t the issue here, nor were they looking for some compassionate act… those are the things the church does for each other, as we cope with our brokenness.
That part is all well and good – and they even reached out to a Rabbi—a man everyone said taught about God’s love.
So where did their sin come in?
Jesus says – Go.. for us—as we are going – we can begin to recognize the healing
The separation occurs, as they all obey Jesus – to go show themselves to the priests… and as their bodies are made healthy…
All good so far—all great so far!
Can you imagine—if all the cancer and heart disease and arthritis was healed in our church tomorrow? Would we be excited?
Would we be off like a rocket to celebrate? To show everyone how healthy we were? I am not even sure there is a sin by action in this! Nothing they did was wrong…
Remember that sin isn’t just what we do, say or think…
It is also what we fail to do..
In this case, their sin was not recognizing God in their midst. They didn’t make the connection between heir healing and the presence of God, and so didn’t think about how they were healed…
Somehow, the Samaritan made the connection. He realized this could only be God that would make this difference in his life.
He saw God – and realized God’s compassion—and had to go back…
He had to praise and show God that he valued what God was doing in his life. That is what mattered. The relationship Jesus initiated by responding to a cry for compassion—that meant more to this man than the very healing he needed…
A relationship that Jesus acknowledges—when He tells the man stand up — your faith has SAVED YOU. Not just healed you – that is one word, this is the word for salvation, deliverance.
This is the difference—the nine had a good desire and a good request! Nothing wrong there.
But they missed it, the chance to know the love of God that makes more of a difference. Nine miss it—one sees it—and glorifies God
It probably is a good thing to define what it means to glorify something, or someone. It means to recognize the value of the thing or person that far exceeds anything else..
That is what the Samaritan, the odd man out of a group of odd men out realized. The love show to him, while he was cleansed of leprosy was something he needed more of..
And it was all his.
et’s come back and give thanks – and realize we are saved not just healed as we trust in Him.
We haven’t been cleansed of leprosy, but we’ve been cleansed of our sin.
Think on that again…they sin that would kill you spiritually, that would cause your heart and soul to rot, God cleansed you of…but for one reason.. that you would come to treasure your relationship with Him, as much as He treasures His relationship with you…
Which is why we are here… to fall to our knees, and share in Christ’s body and blood, treasuring God’s work in us, kowing it was His work.. in us. And trying to struggle out words of thanks.
For we dwell in His peace, that passes all understanding – in which we are guarded by Christ himself. AMEN!
The Road to Holiness Starts With Significant Failure…
Thoughts that drive me to Jesus Christ, and His cross:
The king’s demand is impossible. No one except the gods can tell you your dream, and they do not live here among people.” Daniel 2:11 NLT
605 “Father, how can you stand such filth?” you asked me after a contrite confession. I said nothing, thinking that if your humility makes you feel like that—like filth, a heap of filth!—then we may yet turn all your weakness into something really great.
The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.…
When the wisemen around the King heard his demand, they heard only a death sentence, for they knew all their intellect and wisdom was not up to the king’s demand. And unknowingly scripture records a prophetic statement – that only a God that would live among men could possibly save them.
There was no other way. The task was too great.
Daniel will step in, and walking with God will have the impossible made possible, the unknowable revealed, and will become the savior of the wisemen. All of them, even those who served other gods and demons.
His words to the king reinforced this: it isn’t about our strength or power.
And it is not because I am wiser than anyone else that I know the secret of your dream, but because God wants you to understand what was in your heart. Daniel 2:30 NLT
That’s why St Josemaria finds hope for the man confessing the filthiest of sins. For he has realized the need for assistance that only God can provide. Not only can He help and heal us, He will. He promised that help, that comfort.
Similarly, Tozer finds that the man so convinced that he cannot purify himself has finally reached the point where holiness is assured – because his only option is to look to Jesus!
Therefore, while receiving the sacraments is important, it is critical to meditate on what God is doing, as He sprinkled water on us, as He feeds us His body and Blood, as we realize what it means for Him to say, “My Child, you are forgiven all your sin, all injustice has been cleaned from our lives. We need to think that through, not just 2 minutes before church. These sacraments were not established, so God could look down on us as well behaving muppets. He established them so that we could be ministered to, so that we would have something tangible to remember, to think through, to have our souls captivated by. As He captures out hearts and minds, we reflect His glory into the dark world in which we live. That is what holiness is, to be so caught up in the relationship that we unconsciously take on the image of Jesus.
Our God is here. He is with us… and He makes us holy, as we find peace in His presence.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Not WWJD?, rather WDJD!?!!!
Thoughts that draw me closer to Jesus:
15 As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness. Psalm 17:15 (NKJV)
18 All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (TEV)
Against both of these errors we believe, teach, and confess unanimously that Christ is our righteousness neither according to his divine nature alone nor according to his human nature alone. On the contrary, the whole Christ, according to both natures, is our righteousness, solely in his obedience that he rendered his Father as both God and a human being, an obedience unto death.
Then there are the men who are good but not great, and we may thank God that there are so many of them, being grateful not that they failed to achieve greatness but that by the grace of God they managed to acquire plain goodness.…
Every pastor knows this kind—the plain people who have nothing to recommend them but their deep devotion to their Lord and the fruit of the Spirit which they all unconsciously display. Without these the churches as we know them in city, town and country could not carry on. These are the first to come forward when there is work to be done and the last to go home when there is prayer to be made. They are not known beyond the borders of their own parish because there is nothing dramatic in faithfulness or newsworthy in goodness, but their presence is a benediction wherever they go.
Yesterday was one of those days I am glad I am a pastor. Not because of anything I did, but simply because I saw everyday people ministering to others as Jesus would have done. 5 different situations, 4 of them in my church, and one of them in a church I am trying to help, showed me the kind of people that Tozer’s quote describes.
People in ordinary walks of life, who blessed others, and thought nothing of it. Their deep trust in God resulted in a “unconscious display” of the Holy Spirit’s work! THere wasn’t 1000 conversions, or a hospital filled with people who were healed. A young couple were helped with some challenges, a handicapped lady found peace during a medical procedure, a young man was encouraged in his preparation for seminary, an church elder asked for help in caring for their pastor, I see it in a daughter, who honors her mom by caring for her in ways beyond description, and a grandmother, energized and active in her two grandchildren’s lives. There are more stories, none of them “heroic” yet all of them living a life that is being transformed by the Holy Spirit as they look to Christ, as they depend on His work in declaring them righteous and holy. They are my version of Hebrews 11, the group we can talk about by saying, “by faith they….”
This is what it means for Jesus to be fully God and fully man, He has the ability to connect the sacred and the secular, the holy and profane, so that there can be this kind of change. He makes us righteous, He makes us Holy, He works through us!
These people are the church, they don’t ask “What Would Jesus Do?” but are evidence of “What did Jesus do!” His ministry thorough them is obvious, because of what God is doing in them.
It is a wonder to behold, and therefore, I rejoice.
I need more days like yesterday… or maybe, I just need to open my eyes more
God is work in wondrously common ways, through people who simply trust in Him. I pray I see His work in and through you, as you see His work all around you!
Article 3: The Epitome of the Formula of Concord; Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 495.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015). 7/27/2022
A Call to Intimately Know What We Preach…and Hear
So look at Apollos and me as mere servants of Christ who have been put in charge of explaining God’s mysteries. 1 Corinthians 4:1 (NLT2)
Many of us who preach the unsearchable riches of Christ are often pretty dull and hard to listen to.
The freshest thought to visit the human mind should be the thought of God. The story of salvation should put a radiancy in the face and a vibrancy in the voice of him that tells it. Yet it is not uncommon to hear the wondrous message given in a manner that makes it difficult for the hearer to concentrate on what is being said. What is wrong?…
We learn to trust God beyond our psychological experiences. And we become more courageous in facing and letting go of the dark corners of ourselves and begin to participate actively in the dismantling of our prerational emotional programs. We cannot escape from the worldliness that is inside us, but we can acknowledge and confront it. The invitation to allow God to change our motivation from selfishness to divine love is the call to transforming union.
As I’ve suggested, pastors do everything by God’s word. They listen with ears tuned to the word of God, they speak words taught by the Holy Spirit in his word, they pray by means of the word, and they bless by means of the word. By constant exposure to these words of Christ, you begin to see things from his perspective. You develop the eyes and ears of Jesus. You watch and listen with his outlook. And that includes the lost. When Jesus beheld the milling crowd by the shore of Galilee, “He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36). It was a pitiful sight. Sheep without a shepherd are in dire straits. His heart went out to that vulnerable throng.
Tozer’s bluntness is a something I am learning to appreciate. The reading I encountered this morning is the basis for the call to know intimately what we preach – and what we hear. If the message we are going to hear and share is going to be worth all the time invested in prayer, study, and some deep thought about the subject, it needs to be a message worth treasuring.
We must realize that what was true for Apollos and Paul is true for us. We explain the greatest of mysteries, the fact that God loves us, and desires for us to join Him, and share in the glory of Jesus.
That means investing time in deep thought about God -based on what the scriptures teach us. Not just taking it out on Monday or Tuesday to study for this week’s sermon, but reading it for the same reason we desire to share in communion with the people and with God. These are the times where we are so overwhelmed by God that we beg Him to transform us. For his transforming us comes, not from academic study and planning, but from time spent with Him.
That transformation cannot remain individualistic in scope – that is the point that Senkbeil is making. The more God transforms us, the more we reflect Christ, the more we cannot stand seeing people wander around in bondage of sin, This desire to see them come to find the peace we know infuses our sermons, our Bible studies and our prayers. This infusion transforms the preaching and sharing of Christ with those around us.
Passion returns to the pulpit and to those seated in the church, when God’s word reveals God’s desire for us to be His people, and the works He does which draw us to Him.
Lord, infuse Your pastors with Your outlook, even as Your Spirit works in the hearts of those they serve in the church. Help us all, I pray, to treasure all you have called into existence, that we may know that You love the world, and us in it. 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), 126.
Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 223.
The Obstacle to Spiritual Growth
Thoughts to encourage you to adore Jesus…
29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. Romans 8:29-30 (NLT2)
After a mother has smiled at her child for many days and weeks, she finally receives her child’s smile in response. She has awakened love in the heart of her child, and as the child awakens to love, it also awakens to knowledge: the initially empty-sense impressions gather meaningfully around the core of the Thou. Knowledge (with its whole complex of intuition and concept) comes into play, because the play of love has already begun beforehand, initiated by the mother, the transcendent. God interprets himself to man as love in the same way: he radiates love, which kindles the light of love in the heart of man, and it is precisely this light that allows man to perceive this, the absolute Love: “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).
In the beginning, emotional hang-ups are the chief obstacle to the growth of our new self because they put our freedom into a straight jacket. Later, because of the subtle satisfaction that springs from self-control, spiritual pride becomes the chief obstacle. And finally, reflection of self becomes the chief obstacle because this hinders the innocence of divine union.… Human effort depends on grace even as it invites it. Whatever degree of divine union we may reach bears no proportion to our effort. It is the sheer gift of divine love.
In the 70s and 80s, the church talked about the need for discipleship.
Then in the 90s, authors encouraged our Spiritual Growth. After the turn of the century, Spiritual Formation became one option; having a life coach became another. Sadly, most people have left the seats of their churches, looking for something outside the church that the church was always meant to provide.
The Apostle Paul talks about it here as having “right standing with Him.” He speaks of His people having been given His glory. He doesn’t talk of them attaining it; God doesn’t talk of giving them 4 steps to spiritual fulfillment or 10 stages of a spiritual journey. God does the work, choosing, calling, justifying, sanctifying, and sharing His glory with them.
Please understand me; I love the work of spiritual formation, discipleship, and guiding people in their spiritual growth. But I think it starts and finds its power in the gathering God’s people, in revealing to them God’s love for us. That is the purpose of Absolution, of the public reading of the word of God, of that thing we call the sermon, the homily, or “the message.” And by all means, that is the reason for regularly celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
It works, not by stages or steps, but much as Balthasar notes occurs the same way a baby learns to respond to their momma. We experience God’s glorious love, we experience His presence and welcome, and we learn to love. We learn what we can’t understand and explain. The glory, the love, and peace of being accepted into God’s presence.
That is why I think Keating is correct in his analysis – that our constant reflection hinders our growth. Our desire for a diagnosis or a spiritual progress report hinders us because it takes us away from the innocence of looking to God and seeing Him at work in and around us. Of simply kneeling there at the altar and knowing He is there. By taking our eyes off of Him, we neglect the union with God that leads us to spiritual maturity spiritual completeness.
Am I saying the church service is enough? That all we have to do is sit there passively? Of course not – but it starts there and is nourished there, and what drives us in our daily lives centers there – for there we experience His love together….
Lord, help us to innocently receive Your role in our lives, as You cause us to dwell in You. Sharing in Your glory, in Your peace, and Your love. May those who lead and shepherd Your people see Your work in those You gather together…. AMEN!
Balthasar, Hans Urs von. 2004. Love Alone Is Credible. Translated by D. C. Schindler. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
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.
We’re in this boat together…but not for long…
Some thoughts to help you see Jesus in your lives!
Listen to what I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, because they are ready for harvest. 36 The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life,d so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For in this case the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps. 38 I sent you to reap what you didn’t labor for; others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor John 4:35-38 CSB
Simon Peter told them, ‘I am going out fishing’; and they said, ‘We too will go with you.’ So they went out and embarked on the boat; and all that night they caught nothing. But when morning came, there was Jesus standing on the shore.”26 He passes by, close to his Apostles, close to those souls who have given themselves to him, and they don’t realize he is there. How often Christ is not only near us, but in us; yet we still live in such a human way! Christ is so close to us, and yet we can’t spare him an affectionate glance, a loving word, a good deed done by his children.
The angel told Mary Magdalene that Jesus would meet the disciples in Galilee – so we know Jesus knew they would go there, to return to their old ways, their old work. That without help they would go back to what they knew.
Even after knowing Jesus was risen from the grace – they still did this! They didn’t connect the Resurrection to the Mission of God, to draw all people tto Him.
But in their pain, in their anxiety, dealing with the change, they forgot this.
I think the church has done the same thing in the last 2 years. We have been struggling with COVID, many of us are helping people deal with grief, or struggling families, trying to hold up each other – all these things are good and right, and beneficial.
But we’ve forgotten who we’ve been sent to help, who we are called to serve, who we’ve been called to guide, as the Spirit calls them, into the realization that God truly loves them.
Even though they knew Jesus was there, that He had preceded Him there (Mark 16:7) they didn’t look for Him. And they didn’t look for the men they would catch. And so Jesus comes by – and reminds them the harvest is ready (Peter – feed my sheep!) He reminds them of His presence. amd the work they would share.
Perhaps they needed that moment set aside… perhaps not. It happened though, and Jesus refocused them on the ministry they had together. MWe aren’t any different. This time of COVID has been our time in the boat together. Now its time to throw our nets in on the other side, and see the catch God has for us to bring in – a great harvest of souls.
Let’s go fishing my friends… but not for fish – the Spirit says it time to gather all God would call!
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Spiritual Formation/Devotion > Theology
Devotional Thought of The Day
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:5-8, 12-13 (NLT2)
Our Lord asks for generous hearts that are truly detached. We will achieve this if we resolutely cut the thick bonds or the subtle threads that tie us to ourselves. I won’t hide from you the fact that this entails a constant struggle, overriding our own intelligence and will, a renunciation which, frankly, is more difficult than the giving up of the most prized material possessions.
I know many theologians, good ones who are also great teachers, imparting
information in ways that their students gain knowledge. Their knowledge is
beneficial, and I rely on them when considering the problematic intersections
of life and religion.
But there is more to Christianity than doctrine. There is the relationship with
God that is established. Surely good Theology describes that, and its
understanding of scripture ensures we do not go off and recreate God in our own
image or imagination.
Spiritual Formation is different. It is getting involved in the
relationship. It means God is working in us, giving us the desire and the power
to live life in a way that resonates with Him and thereby brings Him joy. Being
devoted to God means what St Josemaria describes, detached hearts where our
intellect and will are overridden.
St Paul was describing this when he was quoting the early Christian hymn known as the Carmen Christi. This is what Jesus did,
what we are called to do! The Theologian looks at this, and words describe the incredibly sacrifice of self that we see in Jesus. The pastor, guiding the disciples formation, sees verse 5 and says -here – how will this happen. They see this attitude develop because of God’s
work, not human will, and so they focus the believer on Jesus, on His love and mercy, on His presence.
This isn’t a either or, we are not getting rid of Theology or Theologians, But
there needs to be as much effort, no there needs to be more effort in forming
disciples. We need to help people be able to have the mind of Christ, to be
able to see God’s work in their lives. To see God manifested in their
relationships. This is what shepherding, about what being a pastor or a
minister is truly about. It is why elders and Sunday teachers, exist as well,
as we work together to present every person perfect in Christ Jesus.
Father in Heaven, help us keep the desire of studying Theology in its proper place, balancing it out with drawing people deeper and deeper in their relationship with you. Lord, help us to help them imitate Christ, as you give them the desire and the power to serve and love as He did. Help us as well to see that our efforts keep this balance, so that we can continue to see the Spirit at work, making disciples and seeing them grow. We pray this in Jesus most precious name.
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
We don’t need to play the game…
Devotional Thought of the Day
12 When he was in distress, he sought the favor of the LORD his God and earnestly humbled himselfe before the God of his ancestors. 13 He prayed to him, and the LORD was receptive to his prayer. He granted his requestf and brought him back to Jerusalem, to his kingdom. So Manasseh came to know that the LORD is God. 2 Chronicles 33:12-13 CSB
26 Say this to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the LORD: ‘This is what the LORD God of Israel says: As for the words that you heard, 27 becausen your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before me, and you tore your clothes and wept before me, I myself have heard’—this is the LORD’s declaration. 28 ‘I will indeed gather you to your ancestors, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace 2 Chron 34:26-28 CSB
Someone wrote to the godly Macarius of Optino that his spiritual counsel had been helpful. “This cannot be,” Macarius wrote in reply. “Only the mistakes are mine. All good advice is the advice of the Spirit of God, His advice that I happened to have heard rightly and to have passed on without distorting it.”
Likewise, they teach that this faith is bound to yield good fruits and that it ought to do good works commanded by God on account of God’s will and not so that we may trust in these works to merit justification before God Article VI, Augsburg Confession
Naturalness and simplicity are two marvelous human virtues which enable men to take in the message of Christ. On the other hand, all that is tangled and complicated, the twisting and turning about one’s own problems—all this builds up a barrier which often prevents people from hearing our Lord’s voice.
Reading about the Kings of Judah can be depressing, it can even rob you of hope. For so many of them rejected the God we know, that their ancestor David knew so well. Mannasseh started out like so many of them, in fact, he may have been the one who strayed the furthest from God, leading people into all forms of idolatry.
Then God entered into the picture… and everything changed.
God brought him back to Jerusalem – completely reversing the captivity that has been prophesied to Hezekiah. His grandson would grasp on to that promise as well, and restore the Temple, the place where God would meet His people, care for them and cleanse them.
They both realized their need for God, and that humbled them. And God healed them, and healed the people,
That is the same kind of spirit that Macarius had, One that realized that anything good in him was because of God, and indeed tracable to Jesus. It is the same thing the Lutheran Confessions testify too – that the believer will do good and righteous thigns, as they dwell in Christ. That is the nature of the Bishop, who gave up the treasure of the church, his own treasures, because ValJean was one of God’s people. It would take a lifetime for ValJean to give up the game… but he did.
It is keeping it simple – because the more complicated we make it, the more plans and strategies we lay down, the more it is about our work, and the less it is about Jesus.
Which brings us to the idea of the church, the people the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and makes holy by the Blood of Jesus. That is who we are. a bunch of broken people desperately in need of God’s love, and His touch on our lives.
That is what being a normal Christian is about, our need for God, a God who is always there. A God who can redeem us, and what we’ve done, and even find a way to make that into a blessing. So we don’t have ot hide who we are, we dont’ have to make up stories, or play games that make us our to be more moral or virtuous than we are. We can stop wasting time on trying to convicne ourselves and others that we are worth some.
God alreayd provided for that, by letting us nail Jesus to the cross. Sending Him to be nailed there, so that we could be drawn into Him….die to self… and be resurrected to new life.
That is what it all boils down to…
We are in Jesus…..
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
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), 41.
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Mystery and Glory of the Church… as it resonates in despair….
Devotional Thought of the Day:
This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
1 Corinthians 12:24-26 (NLT2)
The Christian who is seeking better things and who has to his consternation found himself in a state of complete self-despair need not be discouraged.
Despair with self, where it is accompanied by faith, is a good friend, for it destroys one of the heart’s most potent enemies and prepares the soul for the ministration of the Comforter.…
…..His love will never fail even while taking us through this experience of self-crucifixion.
The same: (John Chrysotom) “When you flee to the church, do not flee to a place, but flee to it with your heart; for the essence of the church does not consist in wall and masonry but in faith and virtue …. It is called a mountain because of its firmness; a virgin because of its sanctity; a queen because of its glory; a king’s daughter because of its relation with God; a mother, having given birth, because of the great number of her children whom it conceived after it had been childless for a long time, not to speak of uncountable other names that Holy Scripture gives to it in addition”
The Lord does not come just to liberate the oppressed so they would feel good, but to send them to mission. He does not announce a year of grace to give us a “sabbatical” but to entrust us with the mission of living our lives by actively participating in everything that enhances our and other’s dignity as sons and daughters of the living God.
When I started my devotional time this morning, I really didn’t like that first reading, the one in purple aboce from Tozer. You and I don’t want to hear about despair, we deal with it enough in real life, especially in 2020. Too many people anxious, COVID, elections, changes, and too many people mourning. Despair is all aorund us, and it sucks us dry at times.
But as I read it, I have to admit, my mind started wandering to what was God preparing me for, by having me read this! Times of self-crucifixion are never easy, and we tend to do a good job of it…. adding extra spikes here and there as our minds spin out of control.
Walther’s quote of John Chrysotom’s started to counteract the building anxiety over what could be coming next. His description of the church is beautiful and distracting, but the line about running to the church means there is something to run from – and my mind went back to a slight form of spiritual paranoia. (okay – its 2020 – maybe not that slight!)
The church, the body of Christ, is not the refuge, but together finds refuge in Him. Where two or three are drawn together, there He is, our refuge, our sanctuary, our rest and our peace. I have found this so true, even more so in 2020 as the people of God, gathered together in person or on line, find the presence of God together. We truly suffer together, and rejoice together. We laugh and cry together, we find the freedom to do so. And then we find healing…. sometimes slower than we would like. Sometimes the progress isn’t as sequentials as we would like, but we find it, Together. In the presnce of God, we resonate, sharing the same note. If it be a sweet one, itis sweet, if it is in minor keey, then we resoinate with it as well, touched by the Holy Spirit, our harmony testifies to His presence.
At which point the words of Pope Francis come into play. Even as we are healing, Christ goes with us to bring that healing to others. He uses the word dignity there. and I had to think about it for a moment. Looking it up, among the definitions there is the idea of worth. Of helping people see their worth, not just in the eyes of others, but in their own, and in God’s eyes. As we heal, it happens as God provies how much He values us… and that is the greatest of game changers.
TO know that we are loved, that we are treasured, that God promises to make our lives, even our times of despair masterpieces… that is amazing.
Lord, help us realize the Spirit’s presence in our lives, and as we are comfoted, as we find healing, help us see those you send us to, to help them hlea as well.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
C. F. W. Walther, Church and Ministry: Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry, electronic ed. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1987), 33.
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 366.