Devotional Thought of the Day
1 A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. 2 It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:1-2 (CSBBible)
We have been accustomed to hear of the Creation, Incarnation, Redemption, of Jesus born in a stable, of Jesus dead on the Cross. O my God, if we knew that another man had conferred on us any of these benefits, we could not help loving him. It seems that God alone has, so to say, this bad luck with men, that, though he has done his utmost to make them love him, yet he cannot attain this end, and, instead of being loved, he sees himself despised and neglected. All this arises from the forgetfulness of men of the love of God.
O Thou dealest so mercifully with us, and ascribest to us all Thy merit and righteousness; and in Thee the Father himself accounts us as righteous, even as though we were like Thee, Thou Mediator of the New Covenant; and through Thee the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and quickens us to newness of life.
The hands of God are blistered with love and accompany us on the path of life. Let us entrust ourselves to the hands of God, like a child entrusts himself to the hand of his father. This is a safe hand!
As we come out of COVID, the Church is like an anxious bride moments before
the wedding begins. Anxiety-driven by the moment, as concerns over everything
being perfect, everything fulfilling her dreams comes into play. Anxiety over
how the Church will be renewed, how we will get all our people back, and the
anxiety paralyzes us.
I asked a newlywed about her wedding last year, and she summed it up by
saying that she was walking down the aisle one moment the next moment she was
getting kissed. With that a common thought, why is so much time spent in
anxiety needed? If only I could rid them of the anxiety and allow them to savor
every word, every vow, every promise, every indication of the love that is
shared. Some women get caught up in the moment and are terrorized by it.
I see the same thing in de Ligouri’s quote in blue above. We know all about the
work of God; we can even enter into theological disputes about it. The
masterpiece of creation and every moment that God has formed is there to ponder!
To meditate on His love for us that is revealed. Yet instead of that, we worry
about life, we try to find the latest book to read and recommend to others,
that their lives and churches might be full. So we don’t look for His love; in
fact, we abandon Him in search of other, more immediate answers and fixes.
As God stands there with blistered hands and a pierced side so our anxiety
would be replaced with peace! So that our sin would be replaced with His
righteousness! so that the Holy Spirit would quicken us to new life! He would
care for us with such mercy, like the groom who tenderly holds his wife’s hands!
He is caught up in the moment as well – but caught up in the moment because he is with
her. (By the time the sermon is over, even the most anxious bride is caught up
with her groom, in the moment)
That is where we need to be, fully aware of God’s love, fully aware of His
presence. This is where Solomon’s wisdom comes into play and why he says mourning
is better than feasting. It focuses on the transition rather than ignore it. As
we realize the shortness of this life and what comes after, we should long for
that day and the incredible life that follows! We need to hear Jesus, we need
to hear the vows He made to us, we need to see our hands held in His, and
forward to our eternal life spent with Him.
As we do, the anxiety will fade, and the miraculous happens as the Holy
Spirit breathes life into us. We begin to have hope again as we realize the
love of the God who is here… with us.
As we come out of COVID, together, we need to focus on Jesus, on His love that has sustained and comforted us, and the promise of life with Him. As that is our focus, then church will not just come back to normal, it will revive!
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), 252.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 133.
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), 147.
Devotions for our day:
1 Hallelujah! How good it is to sing to our God, for praise is pleasant and lovely. 2 The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem; he gathers Israel’s exiled people. 3 He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. Psalm 147:1-3 (CSBBible)
“God makes fools of both theologians and princes, for he commits to us an impossible task which nobody would undertake if he knew about it beforehand but which he is not allowed to relinquish once it has been committed and undertaken. So it is with the rest of our work. We demand many things, but they aren’t done except to a limited degree. We teach many things, but they are learned only to a modest extent. ‘Nothing is successful,’ as the preacher of Solomon says [Eccles. 1:1, 2].
“Why does God act so? Because he alone is wise and powerful. Because if our suggestions and ideas were carried out we would become presumptuous and would claim wisdom and power for ourselves. Because we surround the glory of wisdom and power with the defects which belong to our nature. We want to set things straight and make everything right. To this God says, ‘Well, then, go ahead! Be clever and do a good job! Be a preacher and make the people godly! Be a lord and mend the people’s ways! Get to it at once!’
“What a retrogression would occur! And the conclusion would be: ‘Vanity of vanities’ and ‘Let wisdom be attributed to God alone’ [Eccles: 1:2; 2:26]. We are fools and wretched bunglers in all we do and attempt.”
As I began to read Luther’s thoughts this morning, I wondered if he had been projecting himself 500 years forward, and was observing me. You see, I resonate to the frustration of things not getting done, and often wonder whether I am helping anyone learn anything, especialy when I wonder if they are learning to depend on Jesus more.
The battle seems to never end, and so I question the efficiency of my work. The experts all talk about being more effective in ministry, how to get better results. ( Note: It is always good to look at their track record and see how they did! If they were truly successul, why did they leave?) But the weight is burdensome, it can even seem to crush you.
But I ask this question – the one that Luther alludes to, why are you expecting you are the one to get it done?
Why do we expect our work to be as successul as the One who was crucified? Why do we spend more time planning and trying to find the ways we need to manipulate life?
I am not saying do not put effort into what we do, but what we do has to originate in what God is doing. The ancients in the church talked about our reaction of praising God for HIs work and promises being what forms our beliefs (our doctrine – what we teach). Those beliefs in turn should cause our actions.
It starts with God, and what He is doing, as we see God renuild His community, as we see God gather and heal His people. It relies on Him for our efficacy, for it is His work, and we follow. WIth HIm we find that we are loving the unlovable, brining healing to the broken, sharing His mercy with those around us that neither deserve the mercy, nor know it exists.
I need to remember this, I need God to remind me of it often, so that life isn’t managed by the fool and bungler that I am, but the God that works within you and I.
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), 98.
Just Deal With It!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ cause you to rest, knowing God has a plan!
- Somebody’s Day
In 6 weeks, it’s Mother’s Day!
You know what that means, right? Mom’s all over the United States will pretend that they are doing exactly what they want to do that day!
A few weeks after that is Father’s Day, and dads everywhere will “choose” as their favorite restaurants those their kids like!
There are other days, grandparent’s days, teacher appreciation day, even Tom Brady Day, the first Sunday in February.
All these days have in common is that the person who is honored usually ends up doing what everyone else wants! Moms, Dads, teachers, don’t get those days off! They spend time entertaining rather than being cared for by those who say they want to honor them.
With that in mind, hear verse 24,
But before the ink is even dry on that thought, comes…
PLEASE LORD, please save us!
Please, LORD, give us success!
And the Day the Lord made, to rest and walk in the presence of His people… becomes another day of work for God!
- But I want it my way!
Growing up, I still remember some old guy singing a song about the end of life, and facing the final curtain, sure of his fate, because, in his words, “I did it my way.”
I pray at the end of our lives that we aren’t so…proud? Self-centered? Ignorant?
And we wonder why the younger generations seem so self-centered when people applaud Sinatra for choosing to do it his way, rather than Gods!
This may sound like a minor thing, a song written in the 1960s or 70s. But it shows that self-centeredness is nothing new, and it wasn’t then. It is what Satan appealed to, as he convinced Eve and then Adam to eat the apple. It is what makes politics so captivating, the fear that someone else will get what is ours or that our plans must be fulfilled. That self-centeredness challenges marriages. It appears in workplaces and demands that we get ours, even if it is illegal or immoral.
Our way leads to a mess. Look around, and we see that! People are arguing over water bottles. People are at war with each other over this right or that one. Couples struggle with each other while their kids look on, and the world has become a brutal place simply because people want what they want when they want it.
And at the bottom, we finally cry out, either in sarcasm or in despair, for God to save us. Lord, Just deal with it! Deal with it YOUR WAY!
And as we do, we are yelling out with the crowds on the first Palm Sunday, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Son of David, Save us!”
- This is the Day the Lord Has Made!
Hear the words again, the words before the people of God crying out for God to deal with it…
19 Open for me the gates where the righteous enter, and I will go in and thank the LORD. 20 These gates lead to the presence of the LORD, and the godly enter there. 21 I thank you for answering my prayer and giving me victory! 22 The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’s doing, and it is wonderful to see. 24 This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Jesus, the righteous one, would go through those gates and thank the Father. He walks through Jerusalem’s gates that are opened, and as He does, the way into the presence of God the Father is opened to all!
See there that what was rejected! He has become the cornerstone/Archstone. He is the stone that not only sets the foundation, but He is the stone that locks it all together.
His plan, His work, and it had one focus, saving us. That is the purpose of this Palm Sunday, and why it is called the Sunday of Christ’s Passion – he went through those gates for us…
He would be fastened to the place where He would be the sacrifice! He is both High Priest – and the Atoning Sacrifice.
That is why, when this is realized, there is nothing but worship…
Hear it again,
You are my God, and I will praise you! You are my God, and I will exalt you! 29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever!
It all boils down to this: when we cry out for the Lord to deal with it… He did already… at the cross.
That was His intent all the time, as He looked to those gates, as He heard the people of cheer, and cry out praises and cries for deliverance….
He knew how He would respond to both…by taking on the cross.
And there, having dealt with it, He has led us into a peace that goes beyond all understanding, that guards our hearts and minds, for they are in Christ. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you,a but if you abandon him, he will abandon you. 3 For many years Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without instruction, 4 but when they turned to the LORD God of Israel in their distress and sought him, he was found by them. 5 In those times there was no peace for those who went about their daily activities because the residents of the lands had many conflicts. 6 Nation was crushed by nation and city by city, for God troubled them with every possible distress. 7 But as for you, be strong; don’t give up, for your work has a reward.” 2 Chr. 15:2-7 CSB
Every pastor knows … 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 … 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.
They have no greatness to draw to them the admiring eyes of carnal men but are content to be good men and full of the Holy Spirit.…
If eagles, says St. Jerome, on scenting a dead body go from afar to seek it, how much more should we run and fly to Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, as to the most delicious food of our hearts! Hence saints in this valley of tears have always as parched harts run to this fountain of paradise.
Tozer applauds those people that are necessary to the church.
They will rarely be found in leadership (though you can occasionally help them find their role in it!) They are more comfortable being behind the scenes. They are more likely to read a blog than write one. A church can survive without a dynamic pastor; it can grow and thrive if these people are allowed and freed to serve.
And they are too often forgotten in the day-to-day grind of trying to get a church to grow. Sometimes, the church may think they are insignificant or dysfunctional, hindering the church’s growth. Yet, these people are the core.
Yet they are the ones that treasure the church…
De Ligouri describes them well when he describes them as eagles, who intuitively hone in on that which nourishes and sustains them. Take that away, without showing them how what replaces it, and you will know it. They find that nourishment at the altar, and in Sunday School, in workdays and potlucks. They recognize the presence of Christ but may not realize that until you point it out to them, and you should, quite often. But like the eagle, this is more intuitive to most and not as easily explained by them.
They are at their best… when they see the Jesus that they treasure, active in their lives. All of the squabbles, all of the dysfunction caused by not pointing them to Jesus, will fade away when they realize they are in His presence when they are taught why their church’s facility is so special.
And energized by the presence of God, they are that blessing wherever they go. Help them find Him, help them realize what it is that they treasure…
They are more important than all the preachers, all the leaders, all the visionaries…they are the children of the Most High God…..we (leaders) are but their servants.
Treasure them! Show them Jesus and how they already treasure Him in their church lives. And then let them bless others as they are a blessing!
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), 176.
Devtional Thought of the Day:
17 If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. 18 What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News. 1 Corinthians 9:17-18
Grant, my Lord, that before I die I may do something for Thee!
The apostle does not belong to himself/herself, but is buried with Christ
Any other way is to be ashamed of Christ and, therefore, to face
the eschatological consequences: “If anyone is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, also the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with his holy angels” (Mk 8:38).
The Apostle Paul writes something to contrary to our culture today.
He preached Christ crucified, and if that meant surrendering his rights, he did.
Even to the point where he would welcome chains, for then he could share the love of God with those guards to whom he was chained.
I wonder how many of us would be willing to do that today?
How many of us pray with de Ligouri that we could do something for God before we die? What suffering or sacrifice would we accept and embrace if that desire could be come true?
If you think I am trying to pour on the guilt to try and motivate you to serve God, to love your neighbor and your enemy, I am not. If you are feeling guilt over this, go back to the cross, go back and look at the love that Jesus has for you there, as He embraced the guilt as He removed your shame, as He embraced that cross for the joy that He would come to know, as you walk with Him in your life.
That is what it means that you aren’t your own, that you belong to Jesus. That you were untied to Him in His death, burial and resurrection, THat guarantees God is at work in and through you, the queston is do you see it?
THat is the job of pastors and priests, daecons and elders, Bible teachers, and 4 and 7 year olds who remind you that Jesus is with you…
at which point, thoughts about our “rightes” mean nothing, not compated to the love God has for us, as He trusts us to invite others into this divine fellowship.
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), 140.
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), 57.
Devotional Thought of the New Year
5 Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to GOD.” Suddenly the pressure was gone— my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. Psalm 32:5 (MSG)
Brother Lawrence expressed the highest moral wisdom when he testified that if he stumbled and fell he turned at once to God and said, “O Lord, this is what You may expect of me if You leave me to myself.” He then accepted forgiveness, thanked God and gave himself no further concern about the matter.
“Tell the backslider,” says the Lord, “I am married unto him.” Was there ever a tenderer message?
My beloved Jesus, I am not yet perfect; but Thou canst make me perfect. I am not dear to Thee, and it is my own fault, because I have been ungrateful and unfaithful; but Thou canst make me become so, by inebriating me this morning with Thy love.
Gracious and Exalted Savior, we are not worthy to receive the mercy and goodness which Thou dost give us, and on account of our sins are far too unclean and weak rightly to receive this salutary gift. Sanctify us therefore in body and soul by Thy Holy Spirit; prepare us and adorn us with grace to draw near Thy holy Table.
What a way to start a year… with such refreshing prayers of de Ligouri and Loehe, a Catholic Mystic and a Lutheran Pastor. Add in Tozer quoting Brother Lawrence, a protestant quoting Roman Catholic lay monk, and the message is reinforced again. And yet, that is the only way to beging a year….
To realize our imperfection, and our hope!
Such is the way of Christ, who knew our sin, and still died for it. He knew our struggling with it, and sends the Holy Spirit.
It is no wonder deLigouri talks about God causing us to be inebriated to be drunk on the love He pours into us. To be dressed in the very grace of God, to be clothed with jesus.
This has been the way… it has been planned since the beginning, and sinners have become holy by experiencing the giddiness, the feeing lightheaded, that happens as the burdens of guilt, shame and resentment are lifted off of you.
This is how we need to start the new year. This is what you need to experience throughout 2021… It is what I need more than anything as well….forgiveness, pressures and burdens lifted….
God 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), 89.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 31–32.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
And today the LORD has affirmed that you are his own possession as he promised you, that you are to keep all his commands, 19 that he will elevate you to praise, fame, and glory above all the nations he has made, and that you will be a holy people to the LORD your God as he promised.” Deuteronomy 26:18-19 CSB
27 The God of old is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27 (CSB)
We will never be where we ought to be until we go back to those old paths and learn to find God. [Then] we will cease to be bored with God.…[W]e will center our affections upon God and Christ … and become specialists and experts in the realm of the spiritual life.
It is amazing how little outside stimulus we need if we have that inward stimulus. It is amazing how much God will meet our needs. It will not be God and something else. It will be God everything.
My soul, why art thou so timid and fearful at the sight of the goodness and infinite love of thy Lord? why such distrust? Now that thou art made worthy to receive within thee Jesus Christ, let thy sentiments correspond to this grace, by confiding in that goodness of God, who gives thee all himself. Truly his judgments are terrible, but they are terrible only to the proud and to the obstinate; but to the humble and penitent, who desire to love and please him, his judgments are all mercy and love, emanating from a heart full of compassion and kindness.
Tozer’s words struck me this morning.
There is a lot of talk about how the church needs to position itself, what it needs to do to survive and grow in these days of crisis.
I think Tozer is on to something in these words. What are the old paths where God was found? He wrote this not long after the time some think was the “golden age” of the church in America – the 1950’s, so he didn’t mean then.
There have been similar calls throughout history: Barton Stone, John Smith, and Alexander and Thomas Campbell in the 1800s. The work of the Wesley’s before that. Luther and some in the Counter-Reformation. Francis, Augustine, and Anthony, and Athanasius. All sought God and turned ot the times when people did walk with Him.
The time of the gospels, the time of Acts. The good times in Jewish history. The places where they found “the God of Old.” The God who didn’t have to be searched for long, for He made himself apparent to His people.
The times where He comforted them. The times where He rescued them from enemies, or the times He rescued them from idolatry. The times the Lord confronted their sin and healed them of it.
We need to come across, in our own words, the feelings de Ligouri speaks of, where we see God’s compassion and kindness.
This is a time where humility is the only option. We don’t know which doctors to believe; we don’t know which politicians or news media to believe. The pressures caused by trauma are becoming more and more intense.
There is one place the church needs to position itself in this time. In the arms of God, in His presence, for He is our Fortress, our refuge, our strength. We need to find those altars where He has placed His name, where He feeds His people His Body and Blood. The altars from which the declaration that our sin is forgiven comes.
That is what makes us the church… let’s get back to it.
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), 85–86.
Devotional Thought for this Day:
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the LORD your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10 And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” 11 And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” 12 So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them. Nehemiah 8:9-12 (NLT2)
“Unless those who are in the office of preacher find joy in him who sent them, they will have much trouble. Our Lord God had to ask Moses as many as six times.24 He also led me into the office in the same way. Had I known had to take more pains to get me in. Be that as it may, now that I have begun, I intend to perform the duties of the office with his help. On account of the exceedingly great and heavy cares and worries connected with it, I would not take the whole world to enter upon this work now. On the other hand, when I regard him who called me, I would not take the whole world not to have begun it.
Reflect that God is our sovereign benefactor, who has bestowed upon us innumerable benefits, both general and particular. He has drawn us out of nothing, and formed us to his own image and likeness, without having any need at all of us: we are continually dependent upon him for our preservation.
Yesterday, preachers around the world preached on the topic of Joy.
It is not easy an easy task when over one-half of your church regulars are not there, needing to stay safe at home.
It is not easy when your people are in the midst of the holidays, many of them celebrating for the first time, alone.
It is not easy when others are caught up in sin, some whose hearts are crushed because someone sinned against them, others crushed by the weight of their own sin.
Preach on Joy! That was our call…
Every pastor knows the heartache that Luther addresses. OUr tasks are hard, they can suck the life right out of you. If only we knew what God called us to, we would willingly join Jonah in the belly of the big fish, or the boys sent into the furnace, or Elijah in his cave. NO one could talk us into this…ministry.
That isn’t just true for pastors. Parents know it s well, as do small business owner, teachers, nurses and doctors. Anyone who has to minister to care for someone else. Physically, mentally, spiritually. Those who care for others wear down, burn out, and experience despair.
The only answer I have found over the years is worship, to find yourself contemplating the love and mercy of God so intimately that your heart just wants to sing, it just wants to praise Him. Worship that isn’t forced or planned, worship that isn’t done out of a sense of duty.
Worship that comes from thinking about what God is doing in our lives. Experiencng the love, witnessing the removal of the burdens that plague us, and the millions of blessings that grace our daily lives, His presence in our lives, not just the pastors, but in the lives of the people entrusted into the pastor’s care.
THat is the moment that you understand what Luther said as well – that once in the ministry, there is nothing that the world could give you that would cause you to willingly give it up…
My prayer for you, as you are burdened, as you are distressed, is the same as Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus, for this will lead you (and me) into that joy,
16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen! Ephesians 3:16-21 (NLT2)
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), 12–13.
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), 64.
Devotional Thoughts of the Day:
39 “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life. John 5:39-40 (NLT2)
Yet experience alone makes the theologian.
For many liberals the scientific worldview functioned as a norm by which to measure the credibility of Christian claims. As I once heard someone say, “How can the church ask you to believe something that you otherwise think is not true?”
I have a Master’s Degree in Theology, and am working on my doctorate. An yet I know the title of this blog is accurate.
Theology is far more than an acdemic subject, or an academic/intellectual pursuit. I have seen children and those with barely high school degrees who are better theologians than those who teach in seminaries and BIble Colleges.
That is because education has nothing to do with whether someone is a thoelogian or not. Yes, there are some theologians who are academics, but it is not necessary. And whether conservative or liberal, advanced degrees don’t make you a theologian.
Luther was correct – theologians are made by experience. And Allen points out an essential necessity, you have to set aside your disbelief and depend on what scripture reveals about Jesus. The claims are credible, it is inability to see that, that is the problem.
Just as seas don’t split open, a man dead for 60 hours doesn’t start breathing and walking around – with his wounds gaping open for all to see. Man can’t take 5 loaves and 2 fishes and feed 12-15000 people, or take bread and wine and declare it to be His Body and Blood … and it is. We can’t prove it, our minds may scream these things are untrue… but they are true.
The challenge is seeing that every scripture is about Jesus. That every page of scripture declares His glory and His power and His love for us. A love that planned for our salvation before we were born, but not before He was.
And here is the experience you and I need, to become theologians, (and hear it, dear reader, as my prayer for you!
19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:19 (NLT2)
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), 7.
Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 24.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Israel, the LORD who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. 2 When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the holy God of Israel, who saves you. I will give up Egypt to set you free; I will give up Ethiopia and Seba. Isaiah 43:1-3 (TEV)
Christians often want to die when they have any trouble. Ask them why, and they tell you, “Because we would be with the Lord.” We fear it is not so much because they are longing to be with the Lord, as because they desire to get rid of their troubles; else they would feel the same wish to die at other times when not under the pressure of trial. They want to go home, not so much for the Saviour’s company, as to be at rest. Now it is quite right to desire to depart if we can do it in the same spirit that Paul did, because to be with Christ is far better, but the wish to escape from trouble is a selfish one. Rather let your care and wish be to glorify God by your life here as long as he pleases, even though it be in the midst of toil, and conflict, and suffering, and leave him to say when “it is enough.
In the class I am taking, there is the usual insistence on pastors and those in ministry taking time to rest, to take a sabbath, a vacation from all the stresses that we encounter. They point o Jesus going away, sometimes with the disciples, sometimes alone. He went off to pray to the Father, and one to converse with Moses and Elijah.
It hit me, as I was reading the words of Spurgeon in blue above, that we can want those times of rest for the wrong reason. We want them, much as we might long for death, as an escape from life. An escape from the problems.
We need to change that, we need to re-orient and want these times as a sabbath, a time of rest in God, a chance to be nurtured and to see the healing. We need to remember what God is communicating through Isaiah this morning, that God saves us.
We may not be comfortable in the fire, or in the storm, or in the midst of the troubles that we are caught up in at the moment. We may weep, and cry, and struggle, and yes, even want it all to end. It is in those moments, we have to see the cross, we have to see the love, we have to cry out, “Lord have mercy,” and find our rest, in Him.
We need to learn ot run to Jesus, not just escape, but to glorify Him, as we realize His love for us all. The love that will sustain us, even in these times.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).