The Kingdom of God is like
Sewing a Quilt
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain us, as we share His word, and look to see what He produces!
A Needed Parker Parable
- I have a question to start this message off.
How many of you tilled 10 acres of land and planted seed in the last 3 months?
Maybe a follow up – how many of you are going to go harvest an acre of tomato plants? Jim, do you have a couple of trucks filled with your cucumbers for us all to share in?
SO maybe I need to use a slightly different illustration to help us understand this passage abut the rain washing down the ground and causing the seed that is sown to grow and provide that which is needed.
So a pastor parker poignant parable…. And I will do a play on words, and instead of comparing the Kingdom of God to sowing seed, we will see that the Kingdom of God is like sewing a quilt…
We might not know much about sowing fields, but most of us have seen the incredible quilts that are made with love and care, and receiving one has a lot to do with receiving the blessings of Christ Jesus.
- The Benefit of what is sown v.11-13
10 The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. 11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
When God sends the rain, or the sower sows seed, or a lady (or maybe a guy) sews together a quilt, and most definitely when the message of Jesus’ love and forgiveness is shared, there is a purpose, and a person/people who are to be blessed by the creation.
The quilt isn’t just made to toss into a closet somewhere; it has the care and work put into it, even if the recipient isn’t well known to the maker.
In the same way, even the rain, and the seed is worked into the purpose of God—to provide, not just what people want, but what they need. It is amazing to me that Isaiah would write this, not knowing fully what God meant by the word, “Word”.
He’s talking, not just about the scriptures, but Jesus, and the work He would do as He was born, taught and healed, died for you, rose with you, and ascended into heaven until he comes back for us.
Going back to the idea of the quilt in the closet, these things are provided because of need. And we need what Jesus would provide.
Freedom from guilt and shame, that’s surely part of it. Healing for the broken part of our lives. Healing for relationships shattered by sin, and the restoration of the most important relationship we have—the relationship with the One who sends the rain, who provides the seed, the bread, and the life. Just as those who receive a quilt find a special connection with the ones who made it.
There is a relationship that is sewn together, just like the panels of the quilt, according to a pattern that was long provided, just as God planned for Christ to come and dwell in us
- It’s more about the warmth and comfort than just the beauty!
Isaiah described the nature of this plan, with these words,
12 You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! 13 Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up. These events will bring great honor to the LORD’s name; they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”
Both at this church, and in Anza, I saw groups make a bunch of quilts. Those crafting them, and even praying for the people who would receive knew the joy of the work, even as, on occasion, things didn’t fit together just the way they wanted.
But there would be even more joy, when I visited the people who received them, and they had them on their laps, or around the shoulders. Even when it was hot in their living room or hospital room, the quilt was there.
You see, quilts are beautiful and they are warm, but that isn’t the reason they are special. It is the comfort they give, knowing someone cared enough to invest their time and energy and probably a decent bit of money, into making one, for you. Or for someone you love.
It is the same thing – the reason Christ means so much to us, is because God the Father invested Jesus’ entire life – from Birth to the cross, to even now, as He intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father,
And He invests the Holy Spirit in us as well.
Remember Isaiah talked about the rain that pours out? Similar language is used about the Spirit,
5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” Titus 3:5-7 (NLT2)
Or to keep more in line with the parable, 27 And when you were baptized, it was as though you had put on Christ in the same way you put on new clothes. Galatians 3:27 (CEV)
Or wrapped yourself in a quilt, surrounding yourself in the comfort that comes from knowing that since your baptism, you have dwelt righteously in Him.
Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and the Cross
Isaac had come into the wilderness of “The Well of the Living One who Sees Me” and was staying in the southern part of Canaan.
After the death of Abraham, God blessed his son Isaac, who lived near “The Well of the Living One who Sees Me”. Gen. 24:62, 25:11 GNT
Jesus left that place, and as he walked along, two blind men started following him. “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” they shouted. 28 When Jesus had gone indoors, the two blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I can heal you?” “Yes, sir!” they answered. 29 Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “Let it happen, then, just as you believe!”— 30 and their sight was restored. Jesus spoke sternly to them, “Don’t tell this to anyone!” 31 But they left and spread the news about Jesus all over that part of the country. Matthew 9:27-31 GNT
If I, even for a moment, accept my culture’s definition of me, I am rendered harmless.
If, for example, someone came asking us to intercede for them before some powerful man who was angry with him but did not know us, we would immediately respond that we were unable to intercede on his behalf because we do not have a relationship with the man in question. If, therefore, a person is too ashamed to intercede for another on whom he has no claim, how could anyone possibly assume the role of intercessor before God on behalf of the laity if he does not know himself to be in the intimacy of his grace because of the merits of his life? And how can anyone possibly ask for the forgiveness of another when he does not know if he is himself reconciled?
IT is in this perfect self-realization by contact of our own anguished freedom with the life-giving Freedom of Him Who is Holy and Unknown that man begins the conquest of death in his own soul. This finding of our true self, this awakening, this coming to life in the luminous darkness of the infinite God, can be nothing but a communion with God by the grace of Jesus Christ. Our victory over death is not our own work, but His. The triumph of our own freedom, which must truly be our triumph if it is to save us from death, is nevertheless also and primarily His. And consequently, in all these meditations we will be talking of contemplation as a sharing in the death and Resurrection of Christ.
We need to cling to God and pray: Merciful God, thou hast permitted me to become a Christian, help me to continue to be one and to increase daily in faith
In the great Easter acclimation, the church shares its hope as they yell, “He IS Risen, Indeed!” The tense of the verb is not mistaken – whether it is 33 AD. 700 AD, 1500 AD, or 2022 – Jesus is Risen!
Yes, the action originated nearly 2000 years ago, but it is still present tense. The impact of the resurrection is right now, wherever you are reading this. Peterson’s point about culture not defining us is based on the fact that Christ, the Christ who is Risen defines us. We are His!
St. Gregory shows the important of this relationship extends beyond the individual.It is from knowing the Lord is present that He is Risen means we are Risen. If we do not realize Chirst’s presence, how can we introduce people to Jesus? How can we promise them the healing of Jesus, unless we have experienced the power that raised Christ from the dead in our own lives. We need to live in that experience every moment of our lives.
Merton sees the same thing, in the selection I read from his work – our meditation, our contemplation has to be wrapped up in the death and resurrection of Jesus – for this is where we find His victory that is the triumph resulting in our freedom. Everything is based there, everything exists in that resurrection. That is this moment as well.
This presence of life is why Luther’s echo of the Apostle Paul – we have to cling to Jesus, even as we count on HIs clinging to us. This is the reason Hagar could name a well “the Lord who sees me”, and the well’s name stuck, a testimony to God’s presence in the life of one forgotten. It is the reason the formerly blind men went and told everyone. Christ was with them…
He is Risen. Therefore We are risen.
We need to know this, everything else in life depends on it.
We being all the people in the world.
so if you know… let those around you know as well. He IS Risen!
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 21.
St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 44.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 10–11.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 399.
Are you the one?
† I.H.S. †
May the love of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be so evident in your life, that you have to give Him thanks!
Are you the one?
A friend of mine asked a bunch of his preacher friends if it was possible to preach the on the gospel reading in a way that praised the man who offered thanks, without making the other nine look bad.
I considered his words as I was completing the sermon yesterday. The question impacted me enough to change up the sermon to answer it.
I don’t think you can speak of what the 1 experienced, without looking at what the 9 would miss out on, because they didn’t recognize Jesus working in their lives.
And that is the critical lesson for this day. Will you be the one whose faith will see them saved?
Or will you be the like the nine, who Jesus talked about when He said, “Not everyone who calls out to me, “Lord! Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of heaven.”
We need to be like the 1, and not the 9. We need more than a rescue from a real and present trauma.
We need to know the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father, enough to see what He is doing, and value Him and His role in our life…
Law–we need healing—from sin, of memories, physical, mental, spiritual
Like many churches, this gather of lepers started out right. They gathered together to offer each other comfort and support during trauma—and leprosy was a horrid trauma they had in common.
They even reached out together to find help. I am pretty sure that Jesus was not the first rabbi they approached, begging for some assistance, any assistance.
Not sure they knew healing was in the offer…
In the same way, the church, this church, needs healings to happen. There is no doubt, and we cry out “Lord, have mercy! Christ have mercy! Lord have mercy!”
But what do we mean by that?
Mercy, what we call compassion which compels action to address what?
That is part of the question.
I don’t know if they were asking for financial assistance or healing, for someone to bring them food and water or take messages to their loved ones. All were things that they struggled with, cut off from the world by their disease.
And the cry for compassion – how many times had it gone unheard, never mind unanswered?
How many times have our cries for help gone unanswered by others, as we have tried to deal with those things that afflict us?
I need to be clear – their trauma wasn’t the issue here, nor were they looking for some compassionate act… those are the things the church does for each other, as we cope with our brokenness.
That part is all well and good – and they even reached out to a Rabbi—a man everyone said taught about God’s love.
So where did their sin come in?
Jesus says – Go.. for us—as we are going – we can begin to recognize the healing
The separation occurs, as they all obey Jesus – to go show themselves to the priests… and as their bodies are made healthy…
All good so far—all great so far!
Can you imagine—if all the cancer and heart disease and arthritis was healed in our church tomorrow? Would we be excited?
Would we be off like a rocket to celebrate? To show everyone how healthy we were? I am not even sure there is a sin by action in this! Nothing they did was wrong…
Remember that sin isn’t just what we do, say or think…
It is also what we fail to do..
In this case, their sin was not recognizing God in their midst. They didn’t make the connection between heir healing and the presence of God, and so didn’t think about how they were healed…
Somehow, the Samaritan made the connection. He realized this could only be God that would make this difference in his life.
He saw God – and realized God’s compassion—and had to go back…
He had to praise and show God that he valued what God was doing in his life. That is what mattered. The relationship Jesus initiated by responding to a cry for compassion—that meant more to this man than the very healing he needed…
A relationship that Jesus acknowledges—when He tells the man stand up — your faith has SAVED YOU. Not just healed you – that is one word, this is the word for salvation, deliverance.
This is the difference—the nine had a good desire and a good request! Nothing wrong there.
But they missed it, the chance to know the love of God that makes more of a difference. Nine miss it—one sees it—and glorifies God
It probably is a good thing to define what it means to glorify something, or someone. It means to recognize the value of the thing or person that far exceeds anything else..
That is what the Samaritan, the odd man out of a group of odd men out realized. The love show to him, while he was cleansed of leprosy was something he needed more of..
And it was all his.
et’s come back and give thanks – and realize we are saved not just healed as we trust in Him.
We haven’t been cleansed of leprosy, but we’ve been cleansed of our sin.
Think on that again…they sin that would kill you spiritually, that would cause your heart and soul to rot, God cleansed you of…but for one reason.. that you would come to treasure your relationship with Him, as much as He treasures His relationship with you…
Which is why we are here… to fall to our knees, and share in Christ’s body and blood, treasuring God’s work in us, kowing it was His work.. in us. And trying to struggle out words of thanks.
For we dwell in His peace, that passes all understanding – in which we are guarded by Christ himself. AMEN!
Thoughts which drive me to Jesus, and the cross, for there is my hope!
I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word. My eyes are straining to see your promises come true. When will you comfort me? Psalm 119:81-82 NLT
So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, 2 Tim 1:8-9 NLT
To carry on these activities [evangelism, missions] scripturally the church should be walking in fullness of power, separated, purified and ready at any moment to give up everything, even life itself, for the greater glory of Christ.
“My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your Word.” Here the first part contains contrition, while the second clearly describes how we are revived amid contrition, namely, by the Word of God that offers grace.  This Word sustains and gives life to the heart. 1 Samuel 2[:6*]: “The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.”
For 39 years I’ve heard about the need for Church Growth. It was a major part of my undergraduate curriculum–my major would have been, a Bachelor or Arts in Bible, Church Growth and Preaching. I’ve been blessed to work with some mega-church pastors over the years, mentored by two, and read a lot of the books, including Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?, which predates all the stuff from Fuller, Willow Creek and Saddleback. And even recent works lauded by people, like Canoing the Mountains
There are surely techniques we can apply from these books. But I think the issues is that focusing on Church Growth has us confused, and to be honest, most of the theory is misapplied–simply because they forget to apply it within context! We are hyper-fixated on church growth, or so suspicious of church growth that we analyze the components to death, looking for a reason to dismiss it.
Because our focus is off, the Psalmist’s words ring so true. We are tired, our eyes, hearts and souls are strained, because we trust in God’s promises, but we aren’t seeing them come true in our era. (It doesn’t help that we reduce era to a brief moment!) We know God hasn’t abandoned its church, but because we are fixated on growth, we don’t see what God is doing. Because we don’t see what God’s doing, we burn out, and only half-heartedly commit to the next theory, the next outreach program, the next book which promises that God will provide the increase, if we do our part.
Growing a church is indeed a blessing, but it skews the work (and the glory received from it) making us believe it is our work, our creativity, our passion and strategic-purpose driven life that causes this to happen. And because of that, the church growth movement, and its counterbalance, the confessional/traditional/fundamentalist movements, are doomed to fail.
We need to pray for and seek Revival, not church growth. We need to hear the word and receive the sacraments, realizing what God is giving us in those moments of intimate interaction with a Divine God. We need to see the Holy Spirit killing off the sinner and bringing the saints to life—for that is revival. That is when Tozer’s goal is realized and the church, focused on Christ as a bride focuses on her groom, lives in the moment of salvation. This is true revival, when people are rejoicing beause God has been revealed to be loving, merciful and present in their lives.
As the Church experiences Revival, it doesn’t have the time to be concerned with Church Growth. It is busy helping people live in the moment, so wanting to share the blessing of Christ that they give up their lives. I have seen such people – they are amazing! They simply know Christ’s love, and they will do anything to make it know. The church grows, but that is never its desire. It is focused on Christ, and helping people to know Him, to learn to abandon their wants, desires and even needs. And their they learn, that without what they once considered precious – they are free to live.
This is what we need to pray for- that people come alive in Christ, that they are spiritually defibrillated, and realize they can live in Christ. Then listen, and see those ready to receive God’s word, and His sacraments, as He quickens their hearts and souls…
May we understand that the Lord is with you! And may that revelation result in many coming to know the same thing!
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
“Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Artticle XII Repentance”, Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 195.
Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people; come near and rescue me.
5 Let me share in the prosperity of your chosen ones. Let me rejoice in the joy of your people;
let me praise you with those who are your heritage. Psalm 106:4-5 NLT
The ninth Fruit of the Spirit is Self-control. Self-control as a fruit of the Spirit is not the domination of our will over our emotions. It is rather our awareness of God’s abiding presence and is the result of the infusion of God’s steadfast love. Hence our former compulsive reaching out for security, affection and esteem, power and status symbols ceases.
The others, however, who are not so callous and dissolute but would like to be good, should not absent themselves (from the Eucharist), even though in other respects they are weak and frail. As St. Hilary has also said, “Unless a person has committed such a sin that he has to be expelled from the congregation and has forfeited the name of Christian, he should not exclude himself from the sacrament,” lest he deprive himself of life.
Keating’s words are powerful, for they recognize the truth.
If self control is a matter of will-power, I might as well give up now. There are too many points where self control is overwhelmed. The desires we have will eventually break us down and overwhelm us. Hunger and Lust are two examples – if we feed them to often, or not enough, they will dominate us, wanting to be fed, or fed more. Other desires include a need for recognition, a need to be valued. That is where security comes from – the position of having meaning, knowing we are needed in a place, by those around us.
Simply put, if we are needed, our place in life is secure.
The problem is when we feel we aren’t needed, then all our desires run rampant, and we become open to addictions of every sort.
Keating makes self-control focus not on man’s will-power, but the infusion and enlightment that comes as the Spirit inswells in us. No longer do we need to be needed, for we know God has a place for us. We no longer need to be valued by the world, because again – He shows us our value as He sends Jesus to the cross, and to the altar. THe more aware of HIs presence in our lives, the less we are needy for others to recognize us.
Hence the Psalm’s cry, for God to come nearer, for God to include us. It is a cry for that security, that recognition, for the need to be valued.
Luther nails it as well, in describing who should come to the Lord’s Supper. It is the life-hack for those who are empty, broken, feeling worthless, and therefore are out of control. There reconciliation and rehabilitation happen, as God lovingly pours peace into our lives. That is why Luther welcomes believers who are struggling. In fact, he encourages them, reminding them they are the reason the feast exists. He quotes Hilary saying this is where we find life! Even as our life began anew when we were baptized, so we find renewal as the Father gives us Christ’s body and blood.
This is who we are, this is our security, that God Himself has paid the highest cost to make us HIs own people, and brings this reminder to us as often as we are drawn to HIs altar. This is where healing happens, and reconciliation, and where peace is poured out – because we are valued by God. It is where we know best the presence of God, the presence that floods through us and helps us realize – nothing comes close to feeding us like this.
Lord, help us to find our life in You, as we receive Your body and Blood frequently. And may our desire for these moments grow, and overwhelm all other desires as You provide for all our needs. AMEN!
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 195.
Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism: The Sacrament of the Altar”, Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 473.
Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus… and closer to the cross
“Now, O LORD my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. 8 And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! 9 Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?” 10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— 12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! 13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! 14 And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.” 1 Kings 3:7-14 (NLT2)
As I say, I have been sitting on these boards for many years, and there are always two kinds of board members: those who can see the miracle and those who can only see their calculators and their strings of calculations.…
The people with the calculators have seen the problem, but they have not seen God. They have figured things out, but they have not figured God in.
Then somebody said, “Yet Paul seems to distinguish, Doctor, when he declares, ‘Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved’ [Rom. 10:10].”
The doctor replied, “Here confession means perseverance, for St. Paul means to say, ‘Faith must express itself and be confessed, and one must abide in it, otherwise faith disappears again.
The eighth Fruit of the Spirit is Long-suffering (patience). Long-suffering is certitude in God’s unwavering fidelity to his promises. Our security is no longer based on anything we might possess or accomplish, but rather on our conviction of God’s unfailing protection and readiness to forgive.
As we wait for the coming revival, there are many things that challenge God’s people.
Enrollment at many seminaries is dwindling, Christian colleges and universities are struggling as well to recruit many more who they can HELP prepare for ministry.
Many mid size churches, in decline prior to COVD (and in denial about that) are not rebounding after COVID. Smaller churches are struggling, and are often told to give up. (It may be phrased in more noble words, but the message is still the same)
People are dealing with more trauma, more polarization, and being put under great pressure to compromise and approve of sin. This is not new, but where it was “Don’t ask, don’t tell” I have had people tell me it is no longer “right” to even think this way. Or if I do, I recognize the consequence, that my thoughts mean I cannot be their friend anymore.
Tozer’s accountants have taken over. The context is Phillip’s comments about the cost of feeing the crowds that had gathered to hear Jesus speak. He saw the problem; he saw the cost. He overlooked that God was there…with him. Feeding the 5000 wasn’t the primary mission of Christ, but it was part of the journey.
Dealing with our day to day needs must be done, and sometimes it seems about as hopeless as feeding 15000 people with a few hamburger buns and two filet of fish patties.
That brings me back to the dilemma. DO we live by the calculator, or do we persevere–depending on the providence of God. Do we confess with Luther that God redeems and restores, even that damaged by sin, or do we give up, and walk away? Do we walk with Keating as well, who also brings into play God’s redeeming action destroying sin.
We must continue to trust God, we must continue to treasure the gifts of love poured out through His words and sacraments. We have to pray for the simple wisdom of Solomon, rather than pray for the earthly victories we think we must have.
For God will take care of the lesser tings. Miracles will happen, people will see their lives transformed, ours will be transformed as we walk with Jesus, as we depend on Him. It is from that kind of faith. Solomon wanted something more, something that calculators couldn’t measure, but his people would be able to see affected them more than money. Revival doesn’t happen because planners and accountants see it is time. It happens because people depend on God and look for His appearing.
That is what we need now, a confidence in God that spawns wisdom, that tells us when to put the calculators away, that rejoices in the amazing things God is doing, for He loves us.
Lord Jesus, help us to be aware of Your presence and providence, and may that awareness cause our faith to deepen until we see revival break forth, and people return to you. AMEN!
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
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), 402.
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 194.
Devotional Thoughts for this day:
I will sing of the LORD’s unfailing love forever!
Young and old will hear of your faithfulness.
2 Your unfailing love will last forever.
Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens. Psalm 89:1-2 NLT
What Satan intends for evil, God uses for good. By these assaults we move from mere intellectual comprehension of his grace to very personal and experiential enjoyment of the multifaceted dimensions of God’s comforting mercy and love.
Prayer and meditation do not occur in blissful peace in some sweet never-never land or beautiful isle somewhere, but in the throes of real life. Prayer, meditation, and spiritual warfare are a package deal. The struggle goes with the territory in God’s economy. Pain, distress of body and soul, emotional struggle and spiritual assault come to all of God’s people. And you can be sure that they will come to you—if they haven’t already
Just as the First Commandment instructs the heart and teaches faith, so this commandment leads us outward and directs the lips and tongue into a right relationship with God. For the first things that burst forth and emerge from the heart are words.
The songs of prayer
The songs of prayer lodge in our mouths.
Let us sing through the snow.
At the dinner table.
On the rooftop where we dance.
May these sounds heal our ears
and those distant ears that hear.
This morning I want to start with Luther’s words in dark blue above. They sound so nice and innocent at first, for if we recognize God is God, and specifically the God who loves us, then words of praise will just force themselves from our heart, through our vocal cords and we will use God’s name to praise Him. An awesome picture!
Just like the Psalmist who sings of God’s unfailing love forever! If only our lives were that simple! If only we were aware of His grace every moment of every day! Then we would spend more time talking to God, thanking Him and giving our problems and anxieties to Him, trusting Him to deal with them
Except that the easier life is, the more like I am to forget God exists. I won’t remember how faithful He is, unless I have a need, and then see His faithfulness as He comforts and cares for me.
It is the relieved heart that overwhelms the voice and causes it to sing praises. It is the broken heart that is rescued and healed that tells others, even distant others, of God’s healing!
And as odd as it sounds, Senkbeil is right. The more Satan attacks a mature Christian, the more we do not fight, but run inot the arms of our Lord, knowing His death rebukes Satan and totally defeats him. The more we spend time in God’s presence, the more we release our hearts’ burdens. It is a blessed circle of freedom, one that affects not only us, but others, as they hear our sincere praises, and see lives at peace amid chaos. Satan and his minions will do everything they can to stop this. But all that should do is drive us back to the hope of the cross and empty grave. This sounds like a high cost, spending time in prayer and becoming susceptible to attack, but it is more dangerous for Satan, as others see his attempts backfire
Trials will come for a season, yet they will cause a closer, more intimate relationship with God. This I’ve found true in my life, over and over. God is there, and the more trauma I see, the more oppression, the more things don’t make sense, the more it is time to stop everything, pray and count the blessings we have, because we are His children.
Heavenly Father, help us hear your offers of comfort in times of trauma, or when Satan is prowling about. My our hearts praise You, even as we recognize Your salvation, and the peace found as we find refuge in You. Amen!
Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 256.
Martin Luther, “The Large Catechism”, Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 392.
Hawksley Workman from https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ for 5/27/2022
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.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Save me, God, for the water has risen to my neck. 2 I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing; I have come into deep water, and a flood sweeps over me. 3 I am weary from my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Psalm 69:1-3 (CSBBible)
Worship is the missing jewel in modern evangelicalism. We’re organized; we work; we have our agendas. We have almost everything, but there’s one thing that the churches, even the gospel churches, do not have: that is the ability to worship. We are not cultivating the art of worship. It’s the one shining gem that is lost to the modern church, and I believe that we ought to search for this until we find it.
Therefore St. Bonaventure says that sinners must not keep away from Communion because they have been sinners; on the contrary, for this very reason they ought to receive it more frequently; because “the more infirm a person feels himself, the more he is in want of a physician……
The second thing that is necessary in order to reap great fruit from Communion is, the desire to receive Jesus Christ with the view of loving him more. Gerson says that at this banquet none are satiated but those who feel great hunger.
WE thank Thee, Lord Jesus, that Thou hast remembered Thy congregation, and has set for us, who are upon the earth, a holy table, and instituted this blessed Sacrament. We thank Thee, Thou only Sacrifice for our sin, that Thou Thyself art our Paschal Lamb, and that Thou givest us Thy body to eat and Thy blood to drink, by means of which Thou sealest unto us the riches of Thy grace. Yea, Lord, the bread which we break is the communion of Thy body, and the cup which we bless is the communion of Thy blood. What shall we render Thee for this Thy goodness, in which Thou drawest so near to us, and by which Thou establishest such a divine and heavenly fellowship, in which we are united with Thee and the blessed Trinity?
I do not think the church has grown significantly in the area of worship since Tozer wrote the words in purple. I think worship has become even less efficacious, less potent. The church is less aware of the presence of God, and therefore worship takes on a whole different flavor.
I am part of a church fellowship that is liturgical. I am doing my doctoral studies at a university that is not, that follows what is called “free worship”, not bound to a hymnal, yet still bound to its own traditions, forms and what it includes or does not. What is ironic is that the liturgical church body keeps experimenting with worship that is more like the “free worship” of the Baptists, while the Baptists are looking at regaining the liturgy of ages past.
As I watch these struggles, I am caught between laughing at the irony, being horrified by the lack of opportunity to experience the love of God, and having my heart ripped out by the world that doesn’t know to cry with the psalmist.
My only answer for the dilemna is simple – to allow the people of God to feast!
We need to get back to God feeding them, nourishing them with His word, and with the sacraments that are His “visbile word”. The bread and wine that He has promised are given and shed for us, the feast the de Ligouri (a Roman Catholic Priest) and Loehe (a Lutheran Pastor and Professor) speak of so eloquently.
It is the feast for beggars, it is the meal given to those who are desperately hungry for a justice that isn’t blind, but is merciful. A blessing that leaves those crying out to God, in awe at His work in our lives.
It is from receiving such a gift that worship resounds. Done frequently, the expectation causes voices to sing and pray with conviction. After the reception, like Simeon, the people of God, having experienced the love of God which saves us, cry out with the sweetest joy.
Worship needs to be revived, but as Christ’s presence is preached from the scriptures, and the Sacraments are lovingly administrated, worship is generated without thought.
God is with us!
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 225- 226.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 132–133.
Thoughts for Monday on Holy Week:
7 No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. 8 But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (NLT2)
To know God, this is eternal life; this is the purpose for which we are and were created. The destruction of our God-awareness was the master blow struck by Satan in the dark day of our transgression.
To give God back to us was the chief work of Christ in redemption. To impart Himself to us in personal experience is the first purpose of God in salvation. To bring acute God-awareness is the best help the Spirit brings in sanctification. All other steps in grace lead up to this.
When the loving Shepherd,Ere he left the earth,
Shed, to pay our ransom,
Blood of priceless worth,—
These his lambs so cherish’d,
Purchased for his own,
He would not abandon
In the world alone.
Ere he makes us partners
Of his realm on high,
Happy and immortal
With him in the sky,—
Love immense, stupendous,
Makes him here below
Partner of our exile
In this world of woe.
St Paul wrote that the leaders of the world would not have allowed Jesus to
be crucified if they knew the plan of God. The irony is that He had to face
death in order for that plan to be effective. His crucifixion was not just to
pay for our sin.
Tozer explains it well; it is not just to pay for our sins that Jesus died.
It was to impart Himself to us, and the Spirit’s best work is to help us be
acutely aware of the presence of God. This is what the church has to get
back to, to help people be aware of how God wants to be involved in our life,
to be intimately involved in every part of it. To be able to bring healing,
peace, comfort, and meaning to life as we work, empowered and guided by Him,
together in ministry.
This is where Holy Week is such a blessing, to spend more time at the place
where God grabs our attention. He draws us back to the cross, to the altar, to
the place where we let Him wash our feet and feed us the Lord’s Supper. It is
there we find the blessing that de Ligouri talks about, the fact that Jesus
never leaves us, that He is a partner in our exile.
Realizing this desire for not just a relationship with Jesus, but a deep
intimate one causes devotion to Him and dependence on Him. This isn’t about
being weak and broken and needing the healing that does come in Christ. It is
about what that leads to… what God has planned for us,
to know Him.
Lord, may this Holy Week give us the opportunity to gather around your
altar, to contemplate you sacrifice, and to know Your desire for us to be yours.
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), 210.