6 The LORD Almighty says to the priests, “A son honours his father, and a servant honours his master. I am your father—why don’t you honour me? I am your master—why don’t you respect me? You despise me, and yet you ask, ‘How have we despised you?’ 7This is how—by offering worthless food on my altar. Then you ask, ‘How have we failed to respect you?’ I will tell you—by showing contempt for my altar. 8When you bring a blind or sick or lame animal to sacrifice to me, do you think there’s nothing wrong with that? Try giving an animal like that to the governor! Would he be pleased with you or grant you any favours?” Malachi 1:6-8 GNT
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!”
Everyone who hears this must also say, “Come!”
Come, whoever is thirsty; accept the water of life as a gift, whoever wants it. Rev. 22:17 GNT
Meditation is a continual prating or talking and is here used in a bad sense. For as a lover is always spontaneously saying many things about the object loved, so the hater is assiduously prating the worst of things about the object hated. There is the same modesty also in the words “rage” and “take counsel together;” the act itself was far more atrocious than the purport of these words would seem to indicate. We are thereby taught not to exaggerate the evil conduct of men, but as much as possible lessen it, and thus show that we do not feel so much indignation on our own account as pity on theirs.
823 Love for God invites us to shoulder the Cross squarely: to feel on our back the weight of the whole human race, and to fulfil, in the circumstances of our own situation in life and the job we have, the clear and at the same time loving designs of the Will of the Father.
I write this with more than a little anxiety, as I want people to depend on God to do the the miraculous through them, not add more guilt or shame, or use that to motivate them.
But I read the the first passage, these words that come at the end of the Old Testament, and hear them, and take them in consideration with the words from Revelation, and the words of Luther and Escriva, and see what an incredibly, wild, miraculous God works in and through us, His people.
As I look at the church today, it does seem to have settled with less effort less results in what they offer God. Other things take the best part of our time and our talent, take the best parts of us, rather than allowing God to transform us in His image rather than being conformed to the world. (Romans 12:1-3, 2 Cor. 3 16ff)
We are more than willing to protect what we have in the church, trying to preserve it (whether traditional or contemporary) rather than muddy ourselves by reaching out to those who desperately need to know God loves them. We are more than willing to whine and complain and obsess about those who we see threatening our lives, but are we willing to intercede for them, get to know them, learn to love them? That’s the kind of Cross we need to shoulder, to see that God desires more than anything to transform us and them into His one people.
To say with the Spirit and Jesus, “come!” for that is we need to do to invite them, on God’s behalf! To help them who are thirsty for justice, and for making things right, to realize that is seen best in Christ’s work on the cross. THey may not understand this – but love and prayer, patiently delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit, will cause the antagonists and yourself to be the kind of offerings that makes God dance with joy!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 383.
Escrivá, Josemaría. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
17 Command those who are rich in the things of this life not to be proud, but to place their hope, not in such an uncertain thing as riches, but in God, who generously gives us everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share with others. 1 Timothy 6:17-18 GNT
Especially would he teach them to be useful and bring comfort to the poor flock of Christians by their good example of faith and love in order to strengthen their faith and love. He here shows how he gives and will give rich blessings to the end that such office and service may accomplish much good, and bring forth much fruit.
He knows that he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be. Paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is, in the sight of God, of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing! In God, everything!
751 Faced with the marvels of God, and with all our human failures, we have to make this admission: “You are everything to me. Use me as you wish!” Then there will be no more loneliness for you—for us.
Luther’s words comment on Jesus commanding the apostles to feed thousands upon thousands of people, with not even enough food to feed themselves. One might think they are poor, yet in the presence of Jesus, are they really? The example of faith and love is more important than them having a fleet of food trucks (you would need at least 60?) available. For it is only by realizing the incredible power of God at work in their lives, that they can see the potential they have as servants of the people of Jesus.
This is the same point as Tozer, as a man looks at himself, and realizes his brokenness, his inability. Then the paradox can be revealed, and the man sees how God truly values him, for Jesus was sent to restore to the Father that which He treasures the most. You need to take a moment and think that through. Jesus was the investment God made, the payment for our restoration.
This is not something just made up, this is the point of scripture, to show that God loves us enough to heal and restore us, and counts that work, started as we were joined to Jesus in our baptism (see Col. 2) All of scripture points to this work of Christ, even though we will not see it fulfilled until He returns, it is true now, and the effect of it is as sure as those people were no longer hungry. As the St. Paul tells Timothy, God provides everthing we need, not just for us, but for us to minister to the world, and not just a little here and there… we are to give generously – without concern, but with reliance on God for what is needed. For this is what it means to have hope – to expect something. TO act on the fact that God wants your neighbors to know Him, to love Him, this is what we have to realize is our life–for it is lived in Christ.
This leads us all to St. Josemaria’s prayer – that recognizing God’s presence in our lives, we should plead for Him to use us as He wishes (think Romans 12:1-15).
Pray those words with me, “Heavenly Father, ‘You are everything to me. Use me as you wish!’ AMEN!”
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 314.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Escrivá, Josemaría. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.#751
Thoughts to encourage our clinging to Jesus…
Then Moses called for Mishael and Elzaphan, Aaron’s cousins, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel. He said to them, “Come forward and carry away the bodies of your relatives from in front of the sanctuary to a place outside the camp.” 5 So they came forward and picked them up by their garments and carried them out of the camp, just as Moses had commanded.
6 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not show grief by leaving your hair uncombed* or by tearing your clothes. If you do, you will die, and the LORD’s anger will strike the whole community of Israel. However, the rest of the Israelites, your relatives, may mourn because of the LORD’s fiery destruction of Nadab and Abihu. Leviticus 10:4-6 NLT
He is gnawing at his own heart,” said Luther. “I, too, often suffer from severe trials and sorrows. At such times I seek the fellowship of men, for the humblest maid has often comforted me. A man doesn’t have control of himself when he is downcast and alone, even if he is well equipped with a knowledge of the Scriptures. It is not for nothing that Christ gathers his church around the Word and the sacraments=- and is unwilling to let these be hidden in a corner. (1)
Of course, if you’re not careful you can burn yourself out in pastoral work. Sadly, thousands of pastors end up spiraling into emotional and spiritual collapse every year.
But when you take care to receive Christ’s own love and strength by means of his Spirit through his word, you have something to give to others without yourself being depleted and emptied. (2)
Any appeal to the public in the name of Christ that rises no higher than an invitation to tranquillity must be recognized as mere humanism with a few words of Jesus thrown in to make it appear Christian.…
Christ calls men to carry a cross; we call them to have fun in His name. He calls them to forsake the world; we assure them that if they but accept Jesus the world is their oyster. (3)
I have to admit, I don’t like the words Moses spoke to Aaron and his boys. Why aren’t they allowed to grieve alongside their family? Paul talks of us weeping with those who weep (and laughing with them as they laugh as wll.) So this stupid act of their cousins should bring a time of grieving and being there for the family.
In this case, by no means in every case, they could not be there. We have to be careful of making this scenario a case study and establishing ground rules for pastoral care. I have heard that pastors must keep their distance and be above and remote from the scenario to pastor people. Based on the Romans 12 description of weeping and laughing, I have heard the opposite.
The question is, how do we become wise enough to know the difference? And how do we deal with our own pain? How do we find our peace when we encounter such trauma as pastors or people? Where do we find the wisdom to enter into the family’s pain, or not?
Senkbeil and Luther both note the high cost of enduring such trials. Trials that lead to the “gnawing at your own heart,” not being able to “have control of himself,” and “emotional and spiritual collapse” that most pastors deal with regularly. They will both find the same solution, which I will get to in a moment after I deal with Tozer – his words help clarify the discernment needed.
The idea that our message is only an invitation to peace and tranquility is the danger of trying to multi-task as a mourner and spiritual care provider. I am not saying God cannot work in these situations, but it taxes us too significantly and will lead to a message that doesn’t tie our peace to the cross. Establish enough of these trials, one after another, and the pain will break anyone. And when we fail, our words become something less, a placebo, no longer connected to the peace that is genuinely needed in a time like these.
Tozer calls the believer to carry the cross first…to forsake the world because focused on Christ whom we meet at the cross, we can be relieved of burdens and find the peace we need. This is why Senkbeil talks of letting the Spirit work through Word and Sacrament to receive Christ’s love and strength within us. It is why Luther talks of the fellowship
and the humblest maid comforting him, even as Jesus gathers His church around the Word and Sacraments. It is only connected to God’s grace that our words can do more than be a placebo. Only then is there something to give something beyond all understanding… the peace of Jesus!
Aaron and his boys were responsible for the Old Covenant sacrifices, those activities that pointed to God’s promise of peace. They weren’t forbidden to weep because God was uncaring. Rather, I think they needed to have the strength
of the promise that would enable the community to find grace and peace at the moment. They needed to remind people that God was still with them and that God was sustaining them, and even as God was ministering to them through the community, Their comfort and peace came from God, and they needed to lead people there. For us that means embracing the cross, accepting its suffering, realizing that there we meet Jesus. That is where we find life and hope, and rest. THat is why baptism, absolution and the Lord’s Supper take us there.. to Jesus… at the cross.
When I was a hospice chaplain, I watched nurses put aside their grief to care for the patients who passed away. We would weep together later – apart from those we had gone to care for, the patient and their family. Like Aaron and his
boys, we were the hands and voice of God for those hurting and grieving. I think that is what Moses was working from with these words. He directed them to not show grief at that moment because if they lost their way in despair, not
only would they drown, so would the community. As they focused on God… and His mercy…then they would be comforted and be able to offer the same.
This isn’t easy; this idea of keeping our eyes on Jesus in the middle of the pain. To be bluntly honest, I needed to be reminded of it presently… but it is there, at the altar with others.. that God’s peace is found, where the burdens
After the years of 2020 and 2021… that is where we need to be found… and when we are… we can minister to so many who need to know the peace of Jesus.
(1) 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), 268.
(2) Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 7.
(3) A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Thoughts that help us to adore Jesus, and encourage our devotion to Him..
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. 5 You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials 7 so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. I Peter 1:2-9 CSB
When we really come to admire and love the most sacred humanity of Jesus, we will discover each of his wounds, one by one. When we undergo periods of passive purgation, which we find painful and hard to bear, periods when we shed sweet and bitter tears, which we do our best to hide, we will feel the need to enter into each one of his most holy wounds: to be purified and strengthened, rejoicing in his redeeming Blood. We will go there like the doves which, in the words of Scripture, find shelter from the storm in the crevices in the rocks. We hide in this refuge to find the intimacy of Christ. We find his conversation soothing and his countenance comely15 because “those who know that his voice is gentle and pleasing are those who have welcomed the grace of the gospel, which makes them say: ‘You have the words of eternal life.’”
Second, I give thanks to him for these precious gifts, that he has revealed his name to me and bestowed it upon me, that I can glory in his name and be called God’s servant and creature, etc., that his name is my refuge like a mighty fortress to which the righteous man can flee and find protection, as Solomon says [Prov. 18:10]
I’ve heard people mock the youth for needing safe places, a
I’ve heard people make fun of brave people who state that they need a safe place.
Part of me wants to ensure those who make fun of others realize that they need a safe place as well. The easy way to do that is to firmly correct their errors! First, the error of their failure to love their neighbor. Second, their belief that they are beyond the need for a refuge, a sanctuary, a safe place.
Luther needed such a place; he wrote sermons and more than one hymn about the ability to find safety in the Mighty Fortress that is God. The words he wrote were not as much a doctrinal manifesto as the cry of a heart that needed comfort, that needed peace. Look a the words of his cry in what was never meant to be the battle anthem it has become. Look at the description of the prayer. He knew God was his safe place…
St. Josemaria also found that refuge, that place to hide, as he meditated on the love which welcomed the wounds borne at the cross. This is where we find the greatest and truly only safe place, where even sin cannot do its damage. It is paid for; it is forgiven.
At this point, in such a sanctuary, the words of Peter become so much more than words! Go up – and read them again!
There is an ability to deal with grief in various trials. It only comes in those intimate moments with God where we realize His ultimate plan. That amid the refining of our faith, as God removes all that is not of Him, that we find a joy that goes beyond anything we can explain. We may not even think of the eternity promised because we are now experiencing a foretaste of it as we rejoice in Christ!
This intimate grace, so full of compassion, so incredibly healing, as we find rest and peace, this is the glory of God, dwelling in us!
This is our safe place, amid the battles, the storms, the complications, the woundedness, and brokenness….
There are times I hate all of that… and yet… in an odd sense, I appreciate it all. For in it, when I don’t run, I realize I have a safe place….there… amid it all, in Jesus.
Lord, in the middle of life, when we are at our wit’s end… help us to remember that You are our safe place, our sanctuary, our Mighty Fortress. AMEN!
Oh – and stop making fun of people who know they need safe places – and invite them into yours!
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 43 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 201.
Thoughts for this Day, to draw us closer to Jesus… and cause us to adore Him!
Please do me a favor, and read each of the following quotes carefully, and the one in blue twice… prior to reading my words
19 A scribe approached him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 21 “Lord,” another of his disciples said, “first let me go bury my father.” 22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:19–22 (CSB)
28 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28–30 (CSB)
Now I am no longer my own, I am Thine; O God of my heart, dispose of me as Thou pleasest. In order to please Thee, I accept of all the tribulations Thou mayest choose to send me—sickness, sorrow, troubles, ignominies, poverty, persecution, desolation—I accept all to please Thee: in like manner I accept of the death Thou hast decreed for me, with all the anguish and crosses which may accompany it: it is enough if Thou grantest me the grace to love Thee exceedingly.
To be filled with the Spirit of God is to have come through feelings, disturbance, anxiety, disappointment and emptiness. When you reach that place of despair, when you have gone to the last person and you have written the last editor, when you have followed the last evangelist around and hunted up the last fellow to counsel with you—when no man can help you anymore and you are in a state of inward despair—that is when you will recognize that you are near the place where God can finally do what He wants to do for you. When there comes that despair with self, that emptying out of you and that inner loneliness, you are getting close.
It is part of my belief that God wants to get us to a place where we would still be happy if we had only Him! We don’t need God and something else. God does give us Himself and lets us have other things, too, but there is that inner loneliness until we reach the place where it is only God that we desire.
“There is only one article and one rule of theology, and this is true faith or trust in Christ. Whoever doesn’t hold this article and this rule is no theologian. All other articles flow into and out of this one; without it the others are meaningless. The devil has tried from the very beginning to deride this article and to put his own wisdom in its place. However, this article has a good savor for all who are afflicted, downcast, troubled, and tempted, and these are the ones who understand the gospel.”
I asked you to read the words in blue twice, but I want to start with those in purple…
I passionately love and hate those words de Ligouri wrote.
I want to be able to pray them, I desperately want to say, “these are my words! Hear them Lord!” I’ve been through enough in life to know the truth in them – this is where I should be, so desirous of God’s love, so adoring Him that I do not recognize the hardships that exist, and so eager to be with Him that I can cast temptation, and the sins of this day aside.
Yet I hate them because I cannot do that easily. The weights, the pains, the heartaches, the temptations, and yes – the sins all overwhelm me and convict me that such a prayer would simply be hypocritical, that it would be a lie. So that prayer angers me because I feel I cannot pray it. I understand the scribes shock and reluctance to leave it all behind to follow Jesus.
Luther’s words add to the dissonance, the relationship with Jesus, where I believe and trust and depend on Him is so critical, that nothing else matters. Again, I know this, but I struggle to live in this truth, and the brokenness it
causes I can’t explain without tears, without heartache.
If you are a Christian, and have been for any time, this tension should sound familiar. (See Romans 7 to now we aren’t alone!)
But the brokenness is a blessing, for it drives us to the point where we understand the gospel! We are those Luther identifies as being able to savor our dependence on Christ. We are the afflicted, downcast, troubled and tempted.
And therefore, there is nothing, nothing but Jesus left.
This is where Tozer’s words in blue, the one’s I asked you to read twice, come into play. With nothing else left, in the midst of our lonely brokenness, we find the Spirit of God filling our lives, comforting us. There are times when God uses someone to remind us of God’s presence, but in that despair, God helps us realize that our only need… is Him.
And that is where the prayer becomes possible. When we realize that God is everything for us, and that deep, intimate relationship becomes everything, and anything we endure is nothing.
For there, is Jesus.
The Friend who takes all our burdens, all our brokenness, all our cares, all the things we think separate us from Him… and He takes that load, and blesses our souls with peace and rest.
Heavenly Father, help us to learn to pray that Your Kingdom come, and Your Will be done…and mean it. Help us to see Your love, revealed in Christ’s love for us, and help us set all else aside…and rejoice as we adore You! Amen!
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), 357.
A. W. Tozer, The Counselor: Straight Talk about the Holy Spirit from a 20th Century Prophet (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 1993), 77–78.
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), 157.
Devotional Thought for this day:
Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 (CSBBible)
When Luther’s puppy116 happened to be at the table, looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes, he [Martin Luther] said, “Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope.”
The workers in the marketplace had all day to spare. The one who buried his talent wanted to kill the passing hours. The one who should have been looking after the vineyard went off elsewhere. They all prove insensitive to the great task the Master has entrusted to each and every Christian, that of seeing ourselves as his instruments, and acting accordingly, so that we may co-redeem with him, and of offering up our entire lives in the joyful sacrifice of surrendering ourselves for the good of souls.
There was a commercial series that ran for a long time. It had a man walking around, in all sorts of places, asking someone on his cell phone, “can you hear me now?” In Deserts, forests, rain, sun, no matter where or how he was, he always made sure he was connected to someone. (we never did hear whether they could hear him)
As I read in 1 Samuel this morning, I realized that Saul’s issue was that kind of issue. He couldn’t hear God, and even when he could, too many things drowned out what he heard.
Saul was so unlike the dog who focused on the food forgetting everything else. He was more like the one who buried the treasure entrusted to him. Or the ones who abandoned the vineyard or the sheep because the wolves were near.
I am not any better, for just a moment ago, while writing this, an ad for a Can-Am Ryker caught my attention. I lost my focus on what God was trying to communicate to me. I lost track of this idea of focusing on Him so completely that His task becomes ours. So completely that we don’t think of the cost to us, but the blessing of others, as they come to know the God we say we love.
But how do we grow in our ability to pay attention to God? How do we mitigate the distractions? I do not believe it is something we force ourselves to do as if we simply whip our bodies into submission. It cannot be, for even the most disciplined people will eventually fail and give up.
I think Luther was on to something as he referenced the dog. The mongrel knows the meat’s taste, and it is beyond his power to not respond. He locks in on it, using every tool to make it his own; pleading eyes, speed, power, all of the tools to try and gain that which their heart and stomach are focused.
The Psalms testify to this desire as well!
1 As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you, God. 2 I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God?
Psalm 42:1-2 (CSBBible)
Some things cause us to respond, we don’t have to even think, because we have learned to treasure them. The smell of coffee does it for some, the smell of bacon for others. It might be playing that perfect instrument or driving a particular car, being on a golf course, finding the perfect shoe; these things are triggers for us. Once we sampled it, we have to return to it.
Following God is like that if our focus is on Him. The more we’ve experienced His love, the more we can’t live without it. The more we see Him work through us. The more we realize our role in redeeming this world, the more we want to see more people freed from the power of sin, Satan’s influence, and the fear of death, the more we want to see it happen and again.
Ministering to others becomes our meat that draws our attention, for there we know we are in God’s presence, we know He is there, and the transformation He has done in our lives…. A transformation that means He can work through us… as He ministers to others.
Lord, help us hunger for You and then satisfy that hunger by working in and thru us. We pray this in the name of the Father, the Son†, and the Holy Spirit! AMEN!
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), 37–38.
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
27 I will live there with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28 When I place my Temple there to be among them forever, then the nations will know that I, the LORD, have chosen Israel to be my own people.” Ezekiel 37:27-28 (TEV)
I want you to know that God has never yet punished the world more harshly than by allowing blind and ignorant leaders to exist, who destroy us by withholding the Word of God and our bread. Let the Turks be Turks. This plague surpasses them. Woe unto us for not realizing this and praying for it to cease!
On the other hand, God has never been more gracious to the world than when he granted it well-informed and devoted spiritual leaders, who supplied this Word daily and abundantly. Christendom, and every Christian soul, is born in and through the Word of God.
The whole point of justification by faith is God’s scandalous, crazy, and wonderful gift of love.
Luther’s words are scathing, brutal, and today are as true as they ever have been.
O sure, we have more pastors with higher education perhaps, more and more of my friends are getting Doctor of Ministry and Ph.D./Th.D degrees. I am going for one myself.
So why am I saying that we are in a period where church leaders are blind and ignorant?
I think it is because we are spending most of our time on things besides the gospel. We are trying to find the answers to the declining church attendance, the aging church, how to fight the decline in morality, the sociological and political jungles out there. We hear the latest Barna report,, the latest Pew Research Study, the latest from our favorite religious blogger/vlogger/podcast and we treat our parishioners to our newfound wisdom, our conservative theological acumen, or our theory on how to get our churches to grow and be relevant while staying confessionally centered.
We might even wax eloquently on the core doctrine of Justification by Faith!
Yet we forget the point of justification is to return us to God, to cause us to walk in the presence of God. To realize, using Dr. Kreeft’s words, that God is scandalous, and crazy, as He loves us!
I don’t care if your church is growing 40 percent a year, or declining as you weed out the refuse. If pastors and church leaders aren’t revealing to people the wonderful, crazy, scandalous love of God for them, their work is a curse! Whether the church is 2000 people on Sunday morning, or 24 faithful, confessional, traditional people.
We have to get back to preaching about God’s love for us broken people. It has to be our message. We have to reveal to them that love as we preach and teach, as we give voice to God’s forgiving them (a wonderful, crazy, scandalous thing on its own,) as we give them the Body and Blood to eat and drink.
Pastors, do these things – we know they bring life to our people. People, pray for your pastors, ask them to focus on revealing God’s love for you, constantly. You are in this all together, and you are not alone. For the scandalous, crazy, wonderful God who loves you, is with you! 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), 55–56.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 25.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Ac 2:42 — All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
Ac 6:4 — Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”
Ro 12:12 — Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
Eph 6:18 — Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
Col 4:2 — Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.
91 You wrote to me: “To pray is to talk with God. But about what?” About what? About him, and yourself: joys, sorrows, successes and failures, great ambitions, daily worries—even your weaknesses! And acts of thanksgiving and petitions—and love and reparation. In short, to get to know him and to get to know yourself— “to get acquainted!”
16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.
Some people are devoted to working out others are devoted to making sure their family is okay. Some are devoted to their work, and others to the volunteering they do. Some are devoted to their political parties, or this cause or that. Or maybe we are more
But how many of us are devoted to prayer, and as part of that prayer, to listening to God through meditation on the word of God and the cross of Christ?
And if we see ourselves as devoted to prayer, what do we mean by prayer? In my case it often means intercession. Our church’s prayer list is between two and three times the size of our congregation, and those people all need to be prayed for, daily! That obviously is a part of prayer, but it isn’t everything that is”prayer”
Prayer Is what St Josemaria describes it as, a conversation that gets deep into who we are, and who God is. It is an intimate discussion of life, even to the point of discussing our weaknesses, and as much as it may hurt, our sin. It is getting to explore the dimensions of God’s love and mercy, it is getting to know Him, and letting Him reveal who we are. (since He knows us better than we know ourselves!) Prayer is that time where our hearts can find peace, where we can realize we are loved, because everything else fo a moment fades, for we realize we are in His presence.
That’s why the early Lutherans agreed in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession that prayer could be considered a sacrament. It is an individual and corporate encounter with God that penetrates our heart and soul. It is both talking, and being silent before God, it is the communication that happens at the altar, and when we are trying to learn from the scriptures, it is the Holy Spirit in us, who even interprets the prayers we can’t find the words for, for the pain is too deep.
Prayer is not an option for us, any more than electricity is a option tor my electronic devices, or blood is an option for the living. Not as a duty, or burden, but as part of our essence.
For the Lord is with you, there to talk to, to listen to, to get to know.
† Lord, help us to walk in Your presence, and be more aware of that presence. Help us to talk, and to listen, and to find out how much You love and care for us. † Amen!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 365-368). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11† Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ.2 I praise you because you always remember me and follow the teachings that I have handed on to you. 1 Cor. 11:1-2 GNT
2 To Timothy, my true son in the faith: May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace. 1 Timothy 1:2 (TEV)
Thinking of the next Pope, he must be a man who, from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the Church to go out to the existential peripheries which will help her to become a fruitful mother, revitalized by the “sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”
Nevertheless, they do not err only in that they have a self-selected cross, but also in that they exalt their suffering so highly and award themselves great merit, thereby blaspheming God because it is not a true but a stinking, self-selected suffering. We, however, say that we earn nothing from our suffering, and we do not display it in beautiful monstrances as they do. It is enough for us to know that it pleases God that we suffer, so that we are conformed to Christ, as I have said. Thus we see that those who boast and teach the most about suffering and the cross know the least about either the cross or Christ, because they make their own suffering meritorious. This is not what it is about, nor is one pressured or forced to suffer. If you do not want to do it for nothing and without any merit, then you can let it lie and so deny Christ. The way is at the door. If you do not wish to suffer, you simply need to know that you are not worthy of the court. So you can chose between the two, either to suffer or to deny Christ.
[The Curé of Ars] sought in every way, by his preaching and his powers of persuasion, to help his parishioners to rediscover the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence. He thus created a ‘virtuous’ circle. By spending long hours in church before the tabernacle, he inspired the faithful to imitate him by coming to visit Jesus with the knowledge that their parish priest would be there, ready to listen and to offer forgiveness.
As I came across the quote from Pope Francis this morning, I was amazed. Written early in his role as Pope, he was already looking toward and praying for the man who would succeed him.
As I read that, I wondered about our own work, and who we would leave behind to do what we do. For some of us, that isn’t much to be concerned about, or so it seems. We don’t do much, keep a seat warm on Sunday morning, sometimes on Wednesday evenings, or at another Bible Study here or there. We might say a prayer, especially for our favorite sports team, or when someone we love is sick.
If we said, “imitate me as I imitate Christ,” the question needs to be asked. “What do we do?”
Well part of the mixu=ture for Luther would include the way we take up our cross, and what kind of cross is it? Is it one we boast in, the persecution created by our own indifference and antagonistic attitude toward the world? Or is it the cross that comes from the heart of Christ, a compassion for those who are broken and need the comfort we have received?
It is that cross, that hardship which we endure for the sake of the gospel, that is the cross we need to carry. It is in realizing that every part of our life that would crush us, defeat us, cause us to cry out, “why?” can be the cross that would benefit someone else, as they see God’s peace descend on us in the midst of our brokenness. There is a place to imitate us, in that place where God’s peace comforts us, not matter how broken we are.
It is the kind of thing Burke talks about, as he quotes Pope Benedict. The cure (as in curate – the pastor/caretaker of souls,) of Ars was said to have lived and slept in the sanctuary, so that he was always ready to care for the people who needed a listening ear, and a voice to comfort with mercy and forgiveness. He was there for his popel, and in doing so, his people realized that God was present for them as well.
As he spent time in the presence of God, his people began to be drawn into that presence , and they in turned drew others into His presence, the more they would draw others in their community into the presence of God as well,
This is the future of the church, this is its hope.
Its’ not found in the type of worship we do, or the dynamism of the pastor and those who lead. It’s not found in the management style and leadership vision and focus.
It is found, as the people of God learn to imitate their Lord, as they are drawn into His presence, as they are spiritually revived and nourished, and experiencing the love of God, they desire to explore it more, with those around them. It is in the believer saying to another believer, “imitate me as I imitate Jesus, and providing the hope thier spiritual kids need.
Lord Jesus, help us to care for those you entrusted to us, whether it be 2 or 20 or 200. Help our desire to dwell in Your presence grow, and then become their desire. AMEN!
This is our past, and our future.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 198). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. 153). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 139). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thoguht of the Day:
7 Go and preach, ‘The Kingdom of heaven is near!’ 8 Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, heal those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases, and drive out demons. You have received without paying, so give without being paid. Matthew 10:7-8 (TEV)
For if a work is not oriented toward serving others or toward suffering under another’s will (as long as one is not forced to act against God’s will), then it is not a good, Christian work
All good things flow into us from Christ, who accepted what we are into his
Every once in a while, we pick up on sayings and make them our own. They resonate with us, and eventually, we give them the exalted status of being scriptural. Or at least we assume they are scriptural.
One of those sayings comes across this way.
You need to forgive them for your sake, if you don’t the only person you affect negatively is you.
The saying comes across in many forms, but it teaches that we forgive, not for the sake of the person that is indebted to us, but for our own sake.
Nice sentiment, and surely reconciliation blesses us as well as them, but forgiveness must be an act of love, an
Luther nails this when he talks of works not directed to the best interest of others not being “good Christian works”. As Jesus is quoted by Matthew, the point is made, – freely receive? Freely give! And as he hung on the cross, there wasn’t thought of his burdens being lifted by forgiving us. There was love, and the desire to minister to us and heal us.
This certainly makes forgiveness harder, relegating it to what it is, an act of love, an act that is Christlike, taking on the burden of sin, and releasing the person who committed it. It’s not going to be easy, it is not going to be full of warm fuzzies. It is a work that takes a dedicated decision to love.
Even our enemies.
Which means that is is an act of faith as well. Not trusting the sinner, but trusting that God can heal us of the pain caused by the sin, by the betrayal. It is going to take realizing the healing and love that God pours out on us, even as He forgives us a million times in our life,
And knowing we are loved, knowing He is healing us, knowing He is the righteous judge, we learn to forgive as He did. Forgiveness which testifies to a love greater than sin. It doesn’t happen as quickly or easily as we would wish.
But it can still happen. As w dwell in the peace of God which passes all understanding, guarding your hearts and minds as we dwell secured by Christ.
Heavenly Father, help us to forgive as Jesus did. Send your Spirit to comfort and empower us, and build in us the desire to love people enough that
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 89). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.