Thoughts to help us learn to love God today…
Matthew 24:29–31 (CSB)
29 “Immediately after the distress of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the peoples of the earth will mourn; and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
Mankind has succeeded quite well in reducing God to a pitiful nothing! The God of the modern context is no God at all. He is simply a glorified chairman of the board, a kind of big businessman dealing in souls. The God portrayed in much of our church life today commands very little respect.
We must get back to the Bible and to the ministration of God’s Spirit to regain a high and holy concept of God. Oh, this awesome, terrible God!…
To know the Creator and the God of all the universe is to revere Him. It is to bow down before Him in wonder and awesome fear.
God wants to be an experience to us. We need to sense the possibility of being caught between the upper and lower millstones, knowing we can be ground to powder before Him. We need to know what it is to rise in humility out of our grief and nothingness, to know God in Jesus Christ forever and ever, to glorify Him and enjoy Him while the ages roll on.
The saying of St. Francis of Assisi is most true: “What I am before God, that I am.” Of what use is it to pass for great in the eyes of the world, if before God we be vile and worthless? And on the contrary, what matters it to be despised by the world, provided we be dear and acceptable in the eyes of God?
Tozer’s words in purple are at least a generation old. perhaps 2. Ye they speak to this generation of church as clearly as any I have come across this year. And because the church is not doing what is “projected” and what is a good business model, those responsible for her are panicking.
“Let’s change this!” “Try this book!” “Let’s focus on parachurch ministries!” “Your model isn’t effective!” as if the church was a Fortune 500 company, and we need to change our identity, our modes of communicating our message, and while we won’t say it, the messsage itself.
Tozer’s encouragement is spot on – we need to know God, to experience Him. We don’t need to have God leading us as a chairman of the board, but guiding us like the fireman we wrap our arm over as he guides and carries us out of the flaming building.
We need to enounter the God who will come back for His people, in all of His glory, to gather us. We need to be terrified of His presence, so that our sin-filled hearts and minds can be crushed, and replaced with His heart, with eyes that focus on Him.
We need to realize, as deLigouri said, that our identiy has nothing to do with the world, but only how Jesus see us, who we are in His presence.
Until we see our churches as the people He’s returning for, our churches will appear to be less than they are. Failures that should be closed, or sold, or changed into coffee shops or schools without the influence of the Body of Chirst.
The Church is His Bride. You are His bride. So we need to adore Him.
Nothing else matters until we understand this.
So get out of the God business – and realize you live in His presence… with the rest of His people….
Look for His return – with fear.. but anticipating the joy that comes…. and know the Lord is with you!
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), 368.
Thoughts to deepen our devotion to Jesus
The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Get up! Go to the great cityc of Nineveh and preach against ite because their evilf has come up before me.” 3 Jonah got up to flee to Tarshishh from the LORD’s presence. John 1:1-3 CSB
“Erasmus, Oecolampadius, Zwingli, and Karlstadt want to measure everything by their wisdom and so they become confused. I thank God that I know and believe that God knows more than I do. He can do what is above my ability to comprehend. From invisible things he can make visible, for everything that is now happening through the light of the gospel is making visible things out of invisible.
Oh, how many spiritual persons there are who do not become saints, because they will not do themselves the violence to break away from certain little attachments!
All the evil arises from the little love they have for Jesus Christ.
Anyone can do the possible; add a bit of courage and zeal and some may do the phenomenal; only Christians are obliged to do the impossible.
I never like reading Jonah.
We always talk about his running from preaching to “those” people, but the message wasn’t easy to preach either.
Luther talked about preaching the real law- preaching where the people you are talking to fail, where they sin, where their pride leads them to fall. In the passage above, Luther nails four contemporaries – guys that were all polar opposites from each other – but who all thought they knew more than the next guy, indeed, more than God. He went after them, and the people sitting before him, for their sin.
DeLigouri notes a similar thing – that there are people so addicted to certain sins that they won’t break away from them, because they love their sins more than they love God.
Neither the monk-turned-reformer or the priest held back much! They went after people – not to condemn them – but to save them!
I am going to be honest, the reason most of us don’t go after the specks in other’s eyes is that we know there is a log in our own. Or perhaps a redwood forest. To deal with others sin means we have to let Jesus deal with ours.
It is a hard thing to try and rescue people form sin, in fact it is impossible. We can’t do it, but Tozer says we need to, we are obliged to do the impossible. THe reason is simple – it is what Jesus did – for us. Whatever it took – calling us on our sin – and providing a way for it to be covered.
Whatever it takes to save them from sin, means that we have to be willing to identiy the sin – ours and theirs, and bring it to God so that, as promised, they can be cleansed of it. And in the process of their being cleansed, we find our sin dealt with as well, just as Jonah had his sin and rebellion dealt with, as God drew Jonah closer.
You and I, as believers, need that ministry that occurs while we minister to others.
So stop running, stop being afraid of God deling with the log… and as He does,,, look on with wonder as God heals those who you were sent among.
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), 147.
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), 333.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
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 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…
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.
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.