For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 (NLT2)
6 “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant. 7 I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. Isaiah 56:6-7 (NLT2)
In times of extraordinary crisis ordinary measures will not suffice. The world lives in such a time of crisis. Christians alone are in a position to rescue the perishing. We dare not settle down to try to live as if things were “normal.” Nothing is normal while sin and lust and death roam the world, pouncing upon one and another till the whole population has been destroyed.
Paul says, “While we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:11). Thus, according to his view, the passion and resurrection of Christ are going on all the time. They are always present and not limited to an historical moment. It was rather an historical moment which introduced the eternal values of the cross and resurrection into the whole of time. We participate in Christ’s divine life through baptism and the other sacraments. As a consequence, we must learn how to express the risen life of Jesus rather than our false selves in our conduct and relationships.
We also believe, teach, and confess that no church should condemn another because the one has fewer or more external ceremonies not commanded by God than the other has, when otherwise there is unity with the other in teaching and all the articles of faith and in the proper use of the holy sacraments,
I’ve heard people talking about the “new normal” in relation to both COVID and the price of gas. Just get used to things being broken, and hardships, for life is different now. Get used to the new morality, or at least how it is being re-defined.
And the church hears these things and marshals its people to go to war at the ballot box, and on Social Media. I’ve even heard that such times will find us allied with folk we shouldn’t be allied with, for politics and apparently faith makes strange bedfellows.
And once again the Church has entered the wrong war, and is using the wrong weapons.
Because of that, it is losing the war for control over public opinion, and far, far more importantly, we aren’t even in the battle for people’s souls. We are letting them be destroyed, and dare I say, the church is even helping by destroying people’s faith.
Tozer is correct, and we must realize that we always exist in crisis. Add to that the idea of Keating, that our way of battle is not promoting ourselves, but dying to self, that Jesus may be seen, instead of us. That those who are baptized become the evidence of Christ’s death and resurrection. That must be our strategy, that must be our missional value.
How about this for a mission statement for a church?
Making manifest Jesus’ love, by dying to self!
This is how we see our real enemies, sin, self-centeredness, and Satan defeated.
Our weapons are simply, the early Lutherans identified them as all that is necessary for church unity.
Teaching people what they need to know about Jesus, and sharing Him through Baptism, Absolution and the Lord’s Supper.
Each of these sacraments helps us see how we died to self and have risen in Christ. Each shows us the love and mercy of God. They do so for they are commissioned by Jesus to deliver that promise.
You want the world to change? You want everyone to do what is right? You want to win the war we are in?
Know Jesus, experience His love poured out on you… share that victory with others, seeing them freed from what Christ has freed you- not from – but to… to share in the glorious love of God.
For that … should be what we consider normal.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 223.
Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 516.
“I will abandon my people until they have suffered enough for their sins and come looking for me. Perhaps in their suffering they will try to find me.” Hosea 5:15 (TEV)
This is the human condition—to be without the true source of happiness, which is the experience of the presence of God, and to have lost the key to happiness, which is the contemplative dimension of life.… What we experience is our desperate search for happiness where it cannot possibly be found.
In the sacraments your God, Christ himself, deals, speaks, and works with you through the priest. His are not the works and words of man. In the sacraments God himself grants you all the blessings we just mentioned in connection with Christ. God wants the sacraments to be a sign and testimony that Christ’s life has taken your death, his obedience your sin, his love your hell, upon themselves and overcome them. Moreover, through the same sacraments you are included and made one with all the saints.
Hosea’s message is brutal, or at least it seems that way.
How could a good God consign people to suffering, to the pain that is endured because of their sins. Not just the individual sins, but the sins of the community and the sins of the world. (There is another post there, that sins, and their consequences are not individual issues – but every sin is allowed, and affects the community) Back to the thought, how could a loving, compassionate God be this petty?
What God is allowing is not the suffering. Scripture tells us over and over He would prevent that suffering. He would protect us from suffering, and He will heal us from the wounds that we and society embrace.
The problem is our search for happiness, and our hunger for pleasure that we mistake for happiness. Keating is correct, we become so desperate in our search for happiness, because we look for it in places that it cannot be found! Instead, those illusions of happiness only drive us harder to find it, even as we look for it in the places that have already left us dry, wounded, broken.
Money can’t buy us the happiness we thought it could. The perfect house/home, once found and purchased, becomes empty. The perfect job doesn’t fulfill the way we thought it would. Relationships require far more work to be completely fulfilling and sex only leaves us wanting more of the moments of pleasure, or leaves us disappointed as those moments aren’t achieved. Every form of pleasure, though echoing pleasure for a moment, ends and leaves us wanting more. When they don’t provide what we want, we turn to things to distract us from the lack of happiness. Or to anesthetize the emptiness.
In 57 years of life, I have found happiness in the sacramental life. Not just at the communion rail, or in a shut-ins home sharing in prayer and the Lord’s supper. More there than anywhere else, of course, but the promise of such moments sustains me in the most brutal of weeks…. I know the moment of seeing God, of receiving all the blessings of which Luther spoke, is coming. Like heaven itself, these moments, whether forgiving or being forgiven, communing, or seeing new life begin in baptism, show the deep intimate relationship the people of God have been given.
These are the moments of revival of life, and of joy, and of peace. The hope they reveal of a day without pain and heartache brings its own happiness, and empowers us to live, until we are welcomed home by the Father.
And so God allows us to look in places where happiness isn’t, guiding us back to where it is promised. In His presence, in knowing He is here, with us.
And so letting us wander, letting us search, is allowed by God in order that we are drawn home. The power that Christ from the dead is at work, drawing us home, and cleansing us, so that we may be presented without sin, unbroken, completely healed. This is what the sacraments promise, and what they see accomplished, for God has promised this!
Lord Jesus, draw us home from our wanderings, help us hunger for what does fulfill our deepest needs, needs fulfilled by the Holy Spirit. Amen!
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), 154
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), 108..
“Rain Gear, CHECK!”
1 Peter 1:3-9, Isaiah 43:1-3, Isaiah 48:16a
† In Jesus Name †
In the midst of these storms of life, may the grace, the mercy and the peace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ clothe us, as the Holy Spirit sustains and comforts us, His people! AMEN!
Could this be you?
There you are, hiking at 8,000 feet in the towering pines of the San Gorgonio wilderness. Suddenly, a black cloud rolls over the ridge and within minutes a major mountain storm is upon you.
The last thing you want is to get drenched, so you take off your pack and reach for your rain gear… but you forgot where you pack it! By the time you find your rain pants, the rain has started to soak through your clothing. While searching for your rain jacket you begin to panic, did you pack it at all? Finally you locate your jacket, but you are starting to chill. Shivering you put away all your wet gear you pulled out during your frantic search, then discover the pack cover, but too late, your pack is now thoroughly soaked…
So starts Clyde’s trail chat about a critical aspect of hiking – the Rain Gear – Check! As he told me about it, and we talked about this very sermon, this very day, it became apparent that it was to be the theme for the sermon. Not just preparing you for storms on mountain trails, but preparing you for the storms of life, the very kind of storms we who love him, and know him, have witnessed him endure in this last year, and actually saw him thrive in, in the last weeks and months.
As we talked about this message, Clyde told me of the Rain Gear Checks that caused him to write the article. His infamous “inspections” where he would call for the CHECK, then inspect and share how each person would have survived. Those well prepared would be described in terms of being safe and functional. Others would have lost food but would have been dry, and others would have suffered hypothermia and become a burden to the group of hikers, and perhaps, given the remote nature of some hikes, not survived the vicious mountain storm. Does this lecture sound familiar to any of you?
Clyde the Pastor
I can imagine a fervor in Clyde, to see those he trained to hike, be protected and healthy and well, and to know the accomplishment of a successful hike, even through the storms. I can see that fervor translated into a pretty…. Straightforward and maybe brutal assessment – because he knew the dangers of being caught unprepared in the storm – and to make the scouts uncomfortable before they left, or in practice, was better than being unprepared and suffer on the trail.
It’s that attitude which made him a good friend, and a man I looked forward to serving beside as his “mentor” in ministry, even as he taught me much about life, and faith. And it is the attitude that is behind this sermon. Clyde was very concerned about those who would be here, and where you are at in life. A pastor’s role in serving his community is the same duty as the trail boss on a hike, its ensuring the safety of the group – until it reaches its destination. And Clyde, whether or not he was ordained, as a vicar at Concordia, as an elder and deacon in this place, or guiding a bunch of scouts in the wilderness, is a pastor at heart. He wants you each prepared to survive the storms of life, and to do it in a way, that leaves you able to see the power and majecty, not of the storm, but the one who protects you in it.
Are you ready for the storms? Are you going to survive this storm? It’s time for a spiritual Rain Gear Check…
The Storms of Life
As sure as mountain storms come up both unexpectedly and with a ferocity that overcomes all that is in its path, so too, do the storms of life.
Some storms we create, through our inability to love God and realize that His plan for our life, and our inability to live at peace and love each other. Such storms are based in sin, which can simply be defined as not loving and trusting God, and not loving our neighbors. Sin can cause some of the most vicious of life’s storms, which literally can affect generations, and often – those but innocent victims, caught in the crossfire of others. You can’t prepare against such storms, and often our reactions cause the storms to grow in their strength.
Other storms are not attributable to a specific sin, but are the result of living in a broken world; Illness, economic struggles, natural catastrophes. Such storms happen to those who are right with God, and to those who turn their back on God. These storms loom large and dominate our thoughts and lives.
Like the unprepared person backpacking, such storms cause us to scramble, and trying to find a way to deal with them. We look through our hearts and minds, looking for something that will protect us. If we only scramble harder, if we only create some new way to deal with such storms, if we can only find a way to cope. All the while, the storms are beating down us, wearing us thin, and destroying more and more of our life.
The Answer to the Storm
Clyde knew about storms in the mountains and about storms in life. He knew that surviving was found in knowing that the preparations had been made, and that there was protection and a refuge available. That preparation was the key to the peace we saw in him, in the midst of the pain and the suffering, in the midst of the medications, and the chemo and nausea.
He relied what we see in Peter’s epistle,
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
It is our faith, our trust, not in our preparation and our pack, but in God himself, that sees us protected from the storms of life. Christ’s resurrection from the dead, guarantees that Clyde has been raised from the dead as well. Peter’s comment about our new birth into a living hope is echoed throughout scripture, and in one passage in Galatians, is described in this way,
“26 for all of you are the children of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus, 27 since every one of you that has been baptised has been clothed in Christ. “ Galatians 3:26-27 (NJB)
HE is our rain gear, and it is in our baptism that we are dressed with all that it takes to protect us in these storms of life. Perhaps one of the greatest myths about our faith, is that miracles are the effect of strong faith. Yes, miracles happen, but the nature of faith is the assurance that whether it storms or not, we are ready, we will survive, shielded and comforted by God.
Perhaps it is difficult to grasp, but that uniting with Christ’s resurrection is possible because we have united with His death in our baptism as well. Suffering and even death takes on a different focus then. It becomes proof, not just of our faith, but in the faithfulness of the God in whom we trust. Peter said it this way
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
We begin to realize that incredible truth, that in Christ death’s sting is never permanent, it is never complete. Our friend Clyde, who would ask us to check our faith this day; was sure of the peace that would fully encompass him in Christ.
Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that in Christ, Clyde lives, even more than he lived in our presence. Freed of the cancer that entrapped his body and laid it waste, he is also freed of the sin and spiritual storms of life that had the same effect. He is part of what we refer to in our worship service, where we hear, “with angels and archangels and all the host of heaven…
And as we sing that tomorrow at Concordia, as it is sung here at St. Paul’s, know Clyde is singing it with us, as all the saints of God gather and proclaim God’s power and holiness.
Summary of the Matter…
Here then is the Faith-gear – CHECK. Our faith is not a matter of our own personal strength, but in realizing the power, the peace, the refuge we have in Christ, whose words were written these favorite words of Christ.
The Lord says, “I will not forget you ever, for see, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…”
For those hands were pierced, so that all that would separate Clyde from God would be found without any power, and that Clyde could rest in peace, witnessing the glory of the one who made the mountains upon which Clyde so loved to hike.
Those hands were pierced for you as well. So that “38 nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)
Clyde, one more time, today, calls us to consider where we are at. To know that the preparations have been made for the storms of life, and to survive for eternity. Having made the journey, he wanted to guide us, and in that, not pointing to our own efforts, but to the cross, and to the baptismal font, where God has clothed us with Christ, and assured us of sharing in His glory, for He has marked us as His…
Trust in Christ then in the midst of this storm, encouraged by our dear friend, rest in the unsurpassable, indescribable peace of God which guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN?
“It was by faith that...” Hebrews 11:4,5,7,8,11,17,29,21,22,23,24,27,28, 29,30, 31,33,
The astonishing wonderment is that God condescends to place his consoling, comforting word on human lips like ours. And so we, like the prophets of old, open up our mouths to speak that word with the confidence and trust that it does what it says. We have an incredible front row seat seeing God at work as his word has its full effect, creating order out of chaos and bringing solace in the midst of horrific hurt and bitter pain.
But the person of faith who can go alone into the wilderness and get on his or her knees and command heaven—God is in that. The preacher who will dare to stand and let his preaching cost him something—God is in that. The Christian who is willing to put himself in a place where he must get the answer from God and God alone—the Lord is in that!
“it was by faith…that”
Over and over the writer of Hebrews calls our attention to those people who had the ability to depend on God. They weren’t heroes, they weren’t especially holy, if you define holiness as being somehow perfect in your attitudes and actions.
They were like us, wounded by sin, broken by this world. Men and women who doubted who they were, and yet, found a refuge in God’s presence, even as they experienced His love. Within that place of peace, they were compelled to act. They were guided in the “that” by the Holy Spirit.
That guidance isn’t listened to because of the strength of our character – but because the Holy Spirit has been revealed in our weakness, in our wanderings, n our time in the wilderness. Tozer talks about it as finding ourselves in a place where we must hear from God. Those times seem more and more frequent presently than they did in the past, or perhaps they were always there, and I am simply realizing it sooner.
But out of those places comes the amazing things we witness! Senkbeil’s words for pastors are true for all people. There are times that we know are words don’t address the issue as fully a we desire, yet they bring peace, they help the people we minister to in the midst of their wilderness, in the place were they have no option but to trust the God who is there… who sent us to demonstrate His love and presence.
That is the ministry of the church – that is what we have freely received, and freely give. This ability to trust God, to depend on Him, is priceless. It is even more amazing when we realize it is what He desires.
May we learn to rejoice with Him, as this faith grows deeper and deeper… and causes us to do that, and that…by faith.
Senkbeil, Harold L. 2019. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Tozer, A. W. 2015. Tozer for the Christian Leader. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Thoughts to encourage you to adore and cling to Jesus…
5 The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. 6 So the LORD was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. Genesis 6:5-6 NLT
Through all the changes scenes of life, in trouble and in joy, the praises of my God shall still my heart and tongue employ!
Of His deliverance I will board, till all that are distrest, from my example comfort take and charm their griefs to rest. (Evangelcial Lutheran Hymnal of 1927 – Hymn 75 by Tate and Brady)
There are days I wake up, and I wish God hadn’t promised to flood the earth again. I look out and see the devastation of sins. Sins of Omission, Sins of Comission, deliberate ones, and ones that were not intended, but happened anyway. Let me be honest, my sins and the sins of others take a horrible toll on me, and I can understand how it breaks God’s heart… for even as guilty of sin as I am, it breaks mine. I am reminded again of Luther, in his monk’s room, melting down and screaming in the middle of the night at Satan, and despairing of his own life. Been there…
Would He come down and just end it all – a flood, a fire, the second coming!
So how do I find it possible, in these troubled scenes of life, to find the joy and peace needed to praise Him?
There is only one way, to look to the cross and see how God’s promise comes to fruition there. How he carefully circumcises our heart, cutting away the sin and damage its caused. Scripture also uses the term from which we get cauterizes for describing the healing that can take place, as God seals off the wounds, and uses the Body of Christ to bring healing to the wounds.
It is defintely hard to see, in the midst of the troublemd waters, in the midst of the pain, and the way our minds spiral because of the pain.
Yet, He is there…. having died for all the sin, wanting to transform us, and redeem the time. Let us encourage each other to look to Him.
For there is our hope… found in the love that drove Him to the cross, and raised Him from the dead.
Thoughts to help us realize God’s love….
71 Then he started to curse and swear,be “I don’t know this man you’re talking about!”
72 Immediately a rooster crowed a second time,a and Peter remembered when Jesus had spoken the word to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. Mark 14:71-72 CSB
When Jesus encourages us to pray with insistence he sends us to the very heart of the Trinity where, through his holy humanity, he leads us to the Father and promises the Holy Spirit.
We’ve been there…
We have fallen deeply into whatever temptation Satan has thrown at us.
You and I deny Jesus far more often than we want to admit.
Sometimes that denial is in order to secure some momentary pleasure. Sometimes the sin is to avoid discomfort, the unknown or known consequences that happen because people don’t understand what it means to be baptized into Jesus.
And in that moment, when we are in tears, the Spirit comes and brings us to repentance once again.
As the Spirit calls us to pray, as Jesus encourages us to pray, it is not a prayer of an someone cast away, drowning. Satan would love for us to think of it that way. And our own hearts and minds might agree with that demonic assessment.
But God is drawing us in, cleansing us, brinnging us into the very heart of the Trinity, into the place of healing, into the sanctuary, into the place of rest, until we find hope….
When we realize that, when we take a deep breath and remember that we dwell in Chirst – and therefore are in the presence on a holy, triune God, everything slowly takes shape.
And that is the only answer when we find ourselves betraying God, or anything that is less painful.
Here is our hope, that He is our fortress, our sanctuary, our place of hope and healing. Ours, not yours or mine, but everyones. If, as we are realizing God’s work in our lives, can help someone else come along, that is wonderful, and the way it should be…
But you and I, we need to pray… and talk with God.. even when we just sinned.
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), 255.
Devotional Thought of the days:
7 “As for you, son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel.a When you hear a word from my mouth, give them a warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, ‘Wicked one, you will surely die,’b but you do not speak out to warn him about his way, that wicked person will die for his iniquity, yet I will hold you responsible for his blood. 9 But if you warn a wicked person to turn from his way and he doesn’t turn from it, he will die for his iniquity, but you will have rescued yourself. Ezekiel 33:7-9 CSB
When the Church does not come out of herself to evangelize she becomes self-referential and then gets sick.
There are two images of the Church: the Church that evangelizes and comes out of herself, and the worldly Church that lives within herself, of herself, for herself, falling into a sterile, theological narcissistic limbo.
This should shed light on the possible changes and reforms which must be done for the salvation of souls.
The church talks about mission a lot. It writes books, it hires consultants, it attends conferences of defending the faith, and how to be a missionary for Jesus. Some of the Church revamps and changes what it does, while other parts of the Church spend time and resources doubling down on how it is faithful. (But faithful to what?)
So much time is spent on this that we never get out of the church. We don’t seek out the lost, we expect that we’ve built our ministries, hired our staff, developed our programs and therefore people will come.
and then we wonder why they aren’t coming……
The warning that God our Father gave Ezekiel needs to be heard again. It is the responsibility of the church to be out there, working with the broken, those who have been entrapped by evil. It is our responsibility to do so, not to earn our salvation, but because we have been saved. We have this relationship where we hear God speak a message of wanring, but a warning issued in love. After all, God will tell Ezekiel, “As I live—this is the declaration of the Lord GOD—I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live!” Ezekiel 33:11 CSB
It is a scary thought that we will be held responsible.
But that should not be as scary as to think people could live their lives with no hope for their brokenness, that they could die, enslaved to sin.
These are people we are called to love…. even though they may seen unlovable. Being unlovable is the damage that sin does, damage easily healed by the Spirit as they are drawn to Jesus.
It should be further noted, that we are responsible for them knowing the option to being broken and shattered by sin. Their conversion and transformation is up to the Holy Spirit.
All we have to do is share the news…
God loves them
God wants to care for them, cleansing them sin, healing them from unrighteousness,….
even as He has done this for us.
So let’s stop talking about it, stop studying it, stop preparing for it, and planning change…. and let’s get out and love people.
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), 197.
Devotional Thoguht of the Day:
1 Hallelujah! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. 2 Let Israel celebrate its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King. 3 Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and lyre. 4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. 5 Let the faithful celebrate in triumphal glory; let them shout for joy on their beds. Psalm 149:1–5 (CSB)
It is delightful to worship God, but it is also a humbling thing; and the man who has not been humbled in the presence of God will never be a worshiper of God at all. He may be a church member who keeps the rules and obeys the discipline, who tithes and goes to conference, but he’ll never be a worshiper unless he is deeply humbled. “A humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe.”
How does one find the balance between the scripture passage and the selection from Tozer above?
The pslamist writes of worship in a way that describes an emotional frenzy, such as would have been seen in Acts when the crowd asked if the 120 believers were drunk! There are more than enough examples of this attitude in worship!
There are also enough passages that are similar to Tozer’s humility in worship. There is a somber nature that comes when one finds themselves a sinner in the hands of God. And that sense leaves us in awe.
When is one proper, when is the other? How do we balance the two?
I wish there was a spreadsheet, or a process one can discern when it is time for this or that. Some program to answer 25 questions and determine it is time for dancing, or times to just sit in awe.For to do so would be to try and control God, and how the Spirit moves us. That is the key of course, the movement of the Spirit in our lives. Ultimately, worship is the response to HIs action on our behalf, in His presence.
And sometimes that means a reverential awe, and sometimes dance, and because nothing is impossible with God, sometimes both!
A. W. Tozer and Harry Verploegh, The Quotable Tozer II: More Wise Words with a Prophetic Edge (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 1997), 197.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
17 I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the LORD has done. Psalm 118:17 (NLT2)
We rejoice and are glad in Thee who hast had compassion upon us, and hast delivered our souls. And we beseech Thee, enlighten our hearts, so that Thy birth may minister to us grace against sin, death, Hell and the power of the Devil; and by Thy Holy Spirit comfort and sustain us in the perils and pains of the last hour. All of which we ask, O precious Jesus, who art blessed and exalted forever, for the sake of Thy miraculous incarnation. Amen.
Those who share in the cross do not need to verify their activity with triumphalism because they know that the cross itself is already a triumphant victory.
On August 3, 30 years ago, everything in my life changed.
I died. After a signifcant bout with Arythimic Tachycardia, paramedics and doctorshad to defibrillate me 5 times. I woke up days later, when my heart was medically able to keep a normal rhythm. Since then I’ve had implanted defibrillaors put in, replaced, and replaced again. I have had two heart valves replaced with mechanical valves. Cardiomyoapthy is an issue, because of the meds, diabetes would as well.
Life changed that day. So much of it changed.., and so many things I enjoyed, I miss.
Boogy-boarding, martial arts, basketball, volleyball, running, other activities. My life for 30 years has been more sedate, less dynamic, and there are times where life simply is not good. It is not enjoyable. I’ll be honest, there are times it is seriously depressing, when things ae dark. And Satan knows how to get the most out of such times.
It is one of the reasons I like reading Luther and Pope Francis, and now Loehe.
They treat life as it is, broken, and not the way it should be. They acknowledge the dark stuff, and the work of Satan in our lives. Consider these words of Luther’s,
I’ve heard no argument from men that persuaded me, but the bouts I’ve engaged in during the night330 have become much more bitter than those during the day. For my adversaries have only annoyed me, but the devil is able to confront me with arguments. Often he has offered an argument of such weight that I didn’t know whether God exists or not. I shall now confess this to you so that you won’t believe him. When I was without the Word of God and was thinking about the Turks, the pope, the princes, etc., he came and struck against me with weapons. But when I have taken hold of the Scriptures I have won.
I can’t pretend everything is good in the middle of the battle, in the throughs od despair. I used to try, and it would exhaust me. Jeremiah 20:7 became my go to cry, not just because of my pain, but because of the pain I watch others endure. That too is a challenge, as I’ve watched people deal with guilt and shame, as I’ve watch them overwhelmed by grief or anxiety, as I’ve watched them struggle, and those around them struggle.
The idea of the “triumphant, victorious Christian life” is not in my wheelhouse.
I deal with these dark times now differently that I did when I was younger. I accept that life isn’t a bowl of cherries, or that I don’t have the spiritual equivelant to Tom Brady’s football career. And words like Loehe’s are there to help me focus on what is good and right.
The love and compassion of Jesus.
For as I realize that, as it is revealed through the Word and the Sacraments, I don’t care about the stuff that I’ve lost. I care about what is coming, and I can look to Jesus. And that is everything.
To know He sustains me in those dark times, to know He takes care of everything Satan can throw at me, to know that life has more meaning than a perfect set in volleyball, or a spinning crescent kick connecting.
There is life made whole, even in the midst of the pain, and the loss, because there is Jesus.
SO I will live, and I will tell people what He’s done.
He’s made me, and you, His own.
and that means more than anything else, than everything else.
It even makes the darkness, gloriously a light in His glory.
May my words help you to see this, so that we can stop pretending that everything is good… and know that because He loves us… it is serenely beautiful.
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), 133.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 123–124.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 93.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Save me, God, for the water has risen to my neck. 2 I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing; I have come into deep water, and a flood sweeps over me. 3 I am weary from my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Psalm 69:1-3 (CSBBible)
Worship is the missing jewel in modern evangelicalism. We’re organized; we work; we have our agendas. We have almost everything, but there’s one thing that the churches, even the gospel churches, do not have: that is the ability to worship. We are not cultivating the art of worship. It’s the one shining gem that is lost to the modern church, and I believe that we ought to search for this until we find it.
Therefore St. Bonaventure says that sinners must not keep away from Communion because they have been sinners; on the contrary, for this very reason they ought to receive it more frequently; because “the more infirm a person feels himself, the more he is in want of a physician……
The second thing that is necessary in order to reap great fruit from Communion is, the desire to receive Jesus Christ with the view of loving him more. Gerson says that at this banquet none are satiated but those who feel great hunger.
WE thank Thee, Lord Jesus, that Thou hast remembered Thy congregation, and has set for us, who are upon the earth, a holy table, and instituted this blessed Sacrament. We thank Thee, Thou only Sacrifice for our sin, that Thou Thyself art our Paschal Lamb, and that Thou givest us Thy body to eat and Thy blood to drink, by means of which Thou sealest unto us the riches of Thy grace. Yea, Lord, the bread which we break is the communion of Thy body, and the cup which we bless is the communion of Thy blood. What shall we render Thee for this Thy goodness, in which Thou drawest so near to us, and by which Thou establishest such a divine and heavenly fellowship, in which we are united with Thee and the blessed Trinity?
I do not think the church has grown significantly in the area of worship since Tozer wrote the words in purple. I think worship has become even less efficacious, less potent. The church is less aware of the presence of God, and therefore worship takes on a whole different flavor.
I am part of a church fellowship that is liturgical. I am doing my doctoral studies at a university that is not, that follows what is called “free worship”, not bound to a hymnal, yet still bound to its own traditions, forms and what it includes or does not. What is ironic is that the liturgical church body keeps experimenting with worship that is more like the “free worship” of the Baptists, while the Baptists are looking at regaining the liturgy of ages past.
As I watch these struggles, I am caught between laughing at the irony, being horrified by the lack of opportunity to experience the love of God, and having my heart ripped out by the world that doesn’t know to cry with the psalmist.
My only answer for the dilemna is simple – to allow the people of God to feast!
We need to get back to God feeding them, nourishing them with His word, and with the sacraments that are His “visbile word”. The bread and wine that He has promised are given and shed for us, the feast the de Ligouri (a Roman Catholic Priest) and Loehe (a Lutheran Pastor and Professor) speak of so eloquently.
It is the feast for beggars, it is the meal given to those who are desperately hungry for a justice that isn’t blind, but is merciful. A blessing that leaves those crying out to God, in awe at His work in our lives.
It is from receiving such a gift that worship resounds. Done frequently, the expectation causes voices to sing and pray with conviction. After the reception, like Simeon, the people of God, having experienced the love of God which saves us, cry out with the sweetest joy.
Worship needs to be revived, but as Christ’s presence is preached from the scriptures, and the Sacraments are lovingly administrated, worship is generated without thought.
God is with us!
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 225- 226.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 132–133.