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The Church and the Irony of its Worship!

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

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 4 Days prior to the Cross…

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.[1
]

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).

[1] 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.

Stop Teaching the Faith… teach faith!

The word? FAITH

Devotional Thoughts of the Day:

32  How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33  By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34  quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. Hebrews 11:32-34a (NLT2)

The catechist then takes up a part of the catechism, and begins to catechise not only the children and those to be confirmed, but also the older and matured members of the congregation. Adults shall not be forbidden to ask questions, state doubts or whatever may trouble them, so that the minister may encourage or warn them as need may require.

In this relationship with Jesus Christ through the new birth, something takes place by the ministry of the Spirit of God which psychology cannot explain. This is why I must contend that faith is the highest kind of reason after all, for faith goes straight into the presence of God

O foolish ones of the world, says St. Augustine, miserable creatures, where are you going to satisfy your hearts? Come to Jesus; for by him alone can that pleasure which you seek be bestowed. “Unhappy creatures, whither are you going? The good you seek for comes from him.”1 My soul, be not of the number of these foolish ones; seek God alone: “seek for that one good in which are all good things.”

Loehe, a German Lutheran pastor from the 19th century, prepares young people to be part of God’s family in a unique way.  Look at this demonstrated in the purple quote this morning. He lets the Adults (apparently they sat in on the youth’s classes) state their doubts and what troubles them! These “older and more matured church members are allowed, no encouraged, to speak of their doubts and their troubles in front of the impressionable young minds? The young people witness the pastor working with these older people, encouraging and warning them!

This isn’t how catechesis works today. Now it is all about “teaching the faith,” or to use a less politically correct term, indoctrination. Here is the material, here is data. Digest it, spit it back, and we will make a church service all about you, praising you for passing our class.

Instead of “teaching the faith,” I think we need to teach faith. We need to arrange our instruction so that those we are responsible for experience the love of God!  It is a love with vast dimensions, far more than we can explore, a love that is experienced, for words cannot describe it. (see Ephesians 3:18-19) Tozer talks of this in noting that being born again is beyond Psychology’s science. It is beyond human reason, yet not beyond us.

Augustine, perhaps the greatest and simplest of theologians, speaks to this as well. He just wants people to come to Jesus, to be drawn to Him. There the contentment, the joy they chase is experienced. There is the highest good, the sunnom bonnum of which poets and songwriters attempt to describe. It is no wonder the Old Testament includes a book, solely describes the intimacy Christians have with God, using romance and sex to describe it. Not that our relationship with God is sexual; instead, like sex, it goes beyond explanation and yet envelopes us entirely in the dance.

Teaching this is more than teaching someone to memorize the Decalogue or the Lord’s Prayer. It is teaching them to find peace in the silence of a sanctuary as they contemplate the truth of the phrase, “The LORD is with you!” The moments between the notes of a hymn, where the words take root in the heart. It is in the tears of the one worn out by guilt and shame, as the tears flow even more as the guilt and shame are lifted by the sin being forgiven.

Teach people to depend on God, trust Him, and entrust Himself to His care. This is what catechesis should be.

Then, as they begin to sing…stand back, and look in awe at what God has created…in us.

William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 68.

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), 149.

Why The Church WILL Gather Again…

Devotional Thought for the Day:

53  Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth: if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in yourselves. 54  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them to life on the last day. 55  For my flesh is the real food; my blood is the real drink. 56  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them. John 6:53-56 (TEV)

The sermon is part of the “Eucharistic transaction.” As Williams (Rowan Williams – Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury) says, “We are there at the Eucharist so that we may be changed into [the likeness of Jesus Christ], from glory to glory. We are not there to change certain things in the world, which we then adore from a distance. We are there so that the transubstantiation may occur in us.” Preaching itself has a sacramental quality in radical orthodoxy because its subject matter is transformation. The very act of talking about such transformation is itself a part of the transformational event.

Let us ask our Lord that we may be souls who are ready to work with a heroism that proves fruitful. For there is no lack of people here on earth who, on being approached, turn out to be nothing but large, shiny, glossy leaves. Foliage, just foliage and nothing more. Meanwhile, many souls are looking to us, hoping to satisfy their hunger, which is a hunger for God. We must not forget that we have all the means we need. We have sufficient doctrine and the grace of God, in spite of our wretchedness.

Likewise, they teach that one holy church will remain forever. The church is the assembly of saints in which the gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly.

There is a lot of talk, during COVID, that the church will never be the same after it is over. That at least one-third to one-half of the people who have not been to church durign this time will not come back again. They will simply sit at home, in their pajamas, drinking their coffee and watch church on YouTube.

I understand the concern, and the anxiety in this time. How do you keep a church going if the people don’t gather together? Some may think I am talking about the organization, So they plan how people can be the church without the organization.

I am not talking about the organization, and that is why I think the anxiety is pessimistic, and more than that, I believe it is wrong. If forgets what the church is. 

You see, it is never, nor has it ever been about the structured organization. It is about the gathering, about being in the presence of God, together. About the communication and communion with God. What Williams talks about as the Eucharistic moment, the time for the transformation of sinners into saints, about what they are calling the moment of transubstantiation in us, those who believe and depend and cry out to the God who has come into our lives.

That is why a church broadcast can, for a time, temporarily fill the gap. But long range, people need the altar to come to and commune. That is why the Lutheran confessions talk about the church being where the gospel is proclaimed and where the sacraments are distributed. Communication and Communion, the presence of Christ with us all.

This is the church… and as those who preach and lead realize that people will return, hungry for the Word and the Sacrament, and sharing in it. And from here, we will go out into the world, to gather others to Jesus, to share in that sweet Communion.

 

Ronald J. Allen, Thinking Theologically: The Preacher as Theologian (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008), 63.

Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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), 43.

The Paradox of the Gospel. You are Valjean and you are the Bishop

Les Miserables Valjean's soliloquy lyrics (2012) - YouTube

Devotional Thoughts of the Day:

9  That was the true light which shines upon every man as he comes into the world. He came into the world – the world he had created – and the world failed to recognise him. He came into his own creation, and his own people would not accept him. Yet wherever men did accept him he gave them the power to become sons of God. These were the men who truly believed in him, and their birth depended not on the course of nature nor on any impulse or plan of man, but on God. John 1:9 (Phillips NT)

He told me that I have a soul
How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life?
Is there another way to go?
(Jean Valjean’s Soliloquy- Les Mis)

Go out into the streets to look, find, knock on doors,instruct and evangelize!
In a history marked by vulnerability our Lord Jesus Christ breaks in with an unstoppable strength and courage. That’s the Good News,the core of our preaching: the outright proclamation of this irruption of Jesus Christ incarnate, dead and risen, in our history.

The humblest Christian is called to live a miracle, a life that is a moral and spiritual life with such intensity and such purity that no human being can do it—only Jesus Christ can do it.

Yet this is no evangelicalistic theology, which is grounded in the same triumphalistic anthropology of the “I” (“I have decided to follow Jesus—no turning back, no turning back”). Instead—I believe that I cannot believe—the reversed Trinity of Luther’s catechism holds in tension the human inability in theology, faith, and life with the Holy Spirit’s work through Word and Sacrament. Thus, the third article is the actual turning point of the entire catechism, because everything that follows (prayer, sacraments, living in community) is precisely what happens to unbelievers when, the Holy Spirit acts on them, turning our “Woe is me!” into “Kyrie, eleison” (Lord, have mercy!). The theology of the reversed Trinity is literally “theo-logy” (God word), where God speaks to us and by speaking declares the old new, the sinner a saint, the unbeliever a believer—God’s service to us, not ours to God.

This mornigns devotional readings were accompanied by Les Mis, and the words of Jean Valjean kept echoing in my ears, as he considers the humble bishop who paid for his salvaiton…and yet Jean’s attitude was not to face who he was, but to create a new life, ignoring who he was. (In the book, this is a constant theme, for him and Javert.)

Their journey is the vulnerability that Pope Francis notes, a vulnerability we need, a lack of resistance to the incarnation, for Jesus must become incarnate in each of our lives.

It is the only way to change our cry of despair, as Wengert notes, from dismay and despair to the expecation of God hearing and acting on our cry for mercy. That is the only way we can live in the life of Christ that Tozer explains, a life that is obviously not ours, for it is not within our ability.

How does the bishop know Jean ValJean has a soul? Because the bishop has one, and has seen Christ invade it. It is why the silver is worth far less than Jean’s soul. It is why the investment is worth it, though it will take decades, with only a glimpse of the return here and there. Not until his death…is it revealed. ( I believe Colossians 3:1-4 explains this quite well)

You have a soul, and I have one as well. It is where the Holy Spirit dwells, bringing us peace, even as we struggle within this life.It is were our faith, our dependence on God is formed. It is where joy resonates from, when anxiety and trauma threaten to overwhem us. It is where peace exists, far beyond our comprehension, it is where we know His love more intimately than we can express.

Yet, we can share it with others… for that to is a miracle. You are ValJean and you are the Bishop.



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), 366.

A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

Timothy J. Wengert, Martin Luther’s Catechisms: Forming the Faith (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2009), 46.

What I Want to Be When I Grow Up….

Devotional Thought of the Day:
1  Take me as your pattern, just as I take Christ for mine.
1 Corinthians 11:1 (NJB)

For the Christian, the Mass also becomes an encounter of love. St. Josemaría lived it this way, and many are the testimonies of those who left renewed after participating in a Mass he celebrated. For example, Antonio Ivars Moreno, a student who attended a Mass celebrated by the founder in Valencia one day in 1939, notes:
“I didn’t miss a word. Not a single gesture. When he celebrated Mass he made all of us there feel that he had penetrated the depths of the great mystery of our Redemption. That Mass was truly the same sacrifice of Calvary without the shedding of blood.”
There was no room for distractions.
20 He kissed the altar, aware that he was kissing Christ himself. During the celebration, he knew himself to be at the center of the universe, of history, contemplated by God the Father and identified with Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest. He possessed a very lively awareness of the cosmic meaning of the Eucharist: “When I say Dominus vobiscum
(The Lord be with you), even if I am alone with the one assisting me, I say it to the whole Church, to all the creatures of the earth, to the whole of creation, to the birds and the fish, too.”
21 He proclaimed the Word with the conviction that its pages were authentic letters from God to men, inspired by the Holy Spirit. At the moment of the presentation of the gifts, he brought there, together with the bread and wine, many intentions, and made himself spokesman for the sorrows, joys, yearnings, and plans of all humanity, beginning with those of his own spiritual sons and daughters.

When I was young, one of the nuns I had for a teacher sugggested we imitate saints for Halloween, rather than pirates or Spiderman or a police officer, fireman or soldier. The goal was to be able to share with others the saint’s story, and why we chose them.

I used to take the easy way out – and look at St Francis. Good guy, a bit odd, not well understood. I could ge that. I think now, I would choose St. Josemaria, and find a pattern of life in his life, where he was able to pattern his after Jesus’s life.

The above quote I think explains what I would desire more than anything. That people, when attending worship, would realize that they are in the presence of God, and that together, we have penetrated that great mystery of redemption. There are a few things, differences in practice because f thoelogy that need to be considered, but the general quote is that where i wish life could be found.

To be a spokesman for the sorrows, joys, yearnings and plans of all humanity, bringing them to Christ, Letting the Holy Spirit shepherd them, thorugh the word of God, and bring healing to them through the sacraments. What greater role could there be in life?WHat greater pattern to emulate?

TO help people see that God could work through one such as me, assuring them that He will make their lives a masterpiece? (that is the greatest role of the pastor/priest – to prove to people God can work in their lives, because he took wretches like us and has done so in our lives) It isn’t about us, we realize that each time we distribute the Lord’s Supper, each time we baptize a baby, or a 70 year old, or declare Christ’s forgiveness on those who are bring cleansed and renewed by the Spirit.

There is a pattern to long for, to have that impact on people, where they pay attention to the words we utter, because they are used to draw them closer to God….

Lord, I pray thatevery pastor, every priest would serve in such a way that this observation they declare to people is true, “The Lord is with You!” May that declaration convince their weary souls of this, and empower their love for another. AMEN!





Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (pp. 37-38). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Paradox of the Pinnacle of Holiness

Devotional Thought for the Day
5  Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.
2 Corinthians 13:5 (MSG)

This passage reminds us that during the offering the Eucharistic liturgy all of us are to taste, to experience fully—not something less—of this paschal mystery. Indeed, this renewal of the Lord’s covenant in Mass draws the faithful into a compelling love “and sets them afire”. This burning love reminds us of Psalm 34:8 where we read of tasting and drinking deeply of the goodness of the Lord. When a person reaches this depth he is close to the pinnacle of holiness.

True and worthy communicants, on the other hand, are those timid, perturbed Christians, weak in faith, who are heartily terrified because of their many and great sins, who consider themselves unworthy of this noble treasure and the benefits of Christ because of their great impurity, and who perceive their weakness in faith, deplore it, and heartily wish that they might serve God with a stronger and more cheerful faith and a purer obedience.
70 This most venerable sacrament was instituted and ordained primarily for communicants like this, as Christ says, “Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Likewise, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

The “pinnacle of Holiness!’ I love the images that come to mind from such an idea. A tangible sense of the sacred, of standing on holy ground, of being so aware of the presence of God that you collapse on your knees and cry out of the purest joy.

How I wish everyone could simply ascend to that pinnacle. To know that you are that blessed. To be able to resonate with Mary as she is told she will be the mother of God incarnate, to know that undeniable experience that we are God’s, that He has brought us into His presence.

Such is what Dubray is describing, the at the moment experience of communing with God, of encountering Jesus in the sacrament. But he also indicates it is a moment of renewal, or restoring the promises of the covenant. The quote from the Lutheran Confessions, (Specifically the Formula of Concord) gives us the context, and why that renewal is necessary.

The Lord’s supper isn’t the kind of feast that is given to the victorious. It is the feast given to the broken, to the homeless, to those who are hungry for something that they cannot satisfy. That is when it makes the difference, that is when this meal brings the most joy. It takes self examination to realize we are at that point, where without God breaking into our world, we are doomed.

And there He is, renewing us. Healing us, comforting us, empowering us.

There, in an under the bread and the wine..

Jesus…for us…

A foretaste of the feast….

and yes, a holy moment beyond compare, until we stand before the throne.

Lord, as we approach Your Altar, to share in Your feast, help us to understand that we so need it, help to experience our unity in You, that was delivered in our baptism, and is renewed as we share in Your Body and Blood. AMEN!

Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 44.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 582.

Revival Realized Sermon 3: The Power of Focus: Now

Revival Realized
The Power of Focus: NOW!
Psalm 27:4-9

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ so mesmerize us, that His presence in our lives consumes and transforms all our thoughts!

Desire – but how do we?

There is no doubt in my mind, that the people of Concordia know what it means to joyfully adore God. I’ve seen you do it.

I’ve even seen it in the hardest of times, when God’s joy overwhelms everything else we encounter in life.

And that is one of the marks of revival, this joy that lifts us up, that incredible joy that comes as we realize that God is here, that God is at work.

He is at work here! 

In each of our lives, whether we are here in the courtyard, or watching it live right now, or watching it a year from now on YouTube, God is at work in our lives.

One of the challenges we face in realizing this revival is focus, and Psalm 27 is going to help us stay focused on the fact…

The Lord is with you! 

At He is at work!

That is why the Psalmist wrote,

The one thing I ask of the Lord— the thing I seek most— is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.

This is the attitude we have, when we realize God is at work, a  work we name revival – bringing life into the church. When we see that, we want more, we can’t help it, we want to see God at work in our lives, and the lives of those around us.

So how do we stay focused upon this work of God? Where do we look for it?

Well let’s keep looking at the psalmist, who knew this revival.

For he will conceal me there when troubles come; He will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music.

David’s joy comes in the midst of troubles,

He tells us he realizes that not only is he in God’s presence during these times, but the reason why he does. He realizes that God is protecting him, that God has him, right in the midst of his holiness, for that is what it means to be in the sanctuary. 

The Apostle Paul taught this to the church when he wrote,

Focus on His Call

1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory!
Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)

Paul and David agree – even as we live in this world, our real reality is found in the presence of God, that is where we belong, and Jesus will make sure we get there. Remember that, rejoice in it, whether in the midst of COVID, fires, heatwaves, earthquakes, even as we mourn, or get anxious because of the world.

You can shout for joy, and sing and praise God with music….

For He has promised that everything will work out for you, and nothing can separate us from God!

Focus on His Promise

How do we do that?  The psalmist helps us there as well!

Even in the midst of the Old Testament, here is the realization, we can hear God say, Come and Talk with Me!

Come and talk of your struggles, come and talk of the heartache, and pain. Come and talk of your dreams, asking God to bless them, to fine tune, them, even correct them, and our thoughts, come and talk to Him, here, even when we struggle with sin, or feel so ashamed that we can’t imagine Him calling to us.

The Lord God, creator of all, says, Tom, come and talk with me.  Bob, come and talk with me. Debbie and Cyndee, come… come and talk with me.

And our heart learns …. to respond… Lord, I am coming!

And revival has been realized!

This is so mind-blowing

To realize God wants us to come to Him, to talk to Him, as a child should talk to a Father,

That time with God is so powerful, so incredible, so reviving and resuscitating that we can’t imagine life without it. This is what our last words from the psalmist testifies to…as He pleads with God!

Do not turn your back on me. Do not reject your servant in anger. You have always been my helper. Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me, O God of my salvation!

I don’t think this is really a fear, as much as it is a realization, hearing Him, hearing the invitation to come and talk with Him, knowing He will listen, knowing He will act brings such life to our lives, we have to ask, is this going to end….

And hear God’s answer.

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age!”

Matthew 28:20 (NLT2)

Assured of this, there is revival… and we realize it…

Let’s pray,

Holy Spirit, come open up our hearts, show us how you are reviving our lives, our church and the community in which we live. Re-kindle in our lives the joy of Your salvation!  And may the revival You are helping us realize, change the world!

A Different Perspective on Death

Tomb Empty With Shroud And Crucifixion At Sunrise - ResurrectionDevotional Thought of the Day:
20  For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21  For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22  But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23  I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24  But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. 25  Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. Philippians 1:20-25 (NLT2)

Thus Psalm 23 [:4] says, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because you are with me.” If this gain through death has only a small affect on us, it is proof that our faith in Christ is still feeble and does not prize highly enough the reward and gain of a blessed death, nor does it yet believe that death is a blessing. Obviously, we are hindered because the old man and the wisdom of the flesh are still too much alive in us. We should, therefore, try to attain to the knowledge and the love of this blessing of death. It is a great thing that death, which to others is the greatest of evils, is made the greatest gain for us. If it was not this that Christ obtained for us, what then did he do that was worth such a cost, yes, actually the cost of his life? It is indeed a divine work that he wrought, and it is not surprising that he made the evil of death into the greatest blessing.
For the believer death is thus already dead and behind its cloak and mask it holds no terrors. Like a slain serpent, death still has its former terrifying appearance, but now this is only a mask, for it is now a dead and harmless evil

There is an old saying that I resonate with, I fear not death, I just dear dying.”

There is some truth to that for me, partially because of health issues over the years, and the knowledge that my heart was a ticking time bomb. (I say was – because in 1998 I had two heart valves replaced.)

Even so, today, in the midst of a pandemic, we live with fear and anxiety caused by the fact that death threatens us, and threatens those we love.  It threatens in a way that we’ve not seen often in the generations alive today.

This is why my devotional reading this morning seems so important to understand.

We have to understand that death will ultimately be a blessing – for it brings us closer to seeing God face to face, and for the believer to an incredible welcome home. .  TO see God face to face, to hear His welcome, to hear the celebration thrown for us, to know we are finally where we belong.

To realize with Luther what Paul means when he writes that death has lost its sting, that the grace is no victory for death, no loss, but an incredible gain for us. (see 1 Cor. 15)  To understand what Jesus means when he says those who believe will never die.

It is hard to process these days, to take what is a theological truth, an absolute promise of God, and let it affect our heart, our soul.

Even once we realize it there, it is hard to keep that understanding, to not go back, and to fear death again. Every time we have to mourn and grieve, every time our heart is scarred by loss, we revert back to the days before we understood the promises of God, the promises found when we are united to Jesus.

I know this, even as I know what Paul talks about when he talks about ensuring death, for itis better, for him. To realize that death is better n the long run is sobering. To realize that could even lead one to desire death because it means being complete with Jesus,. To realize we do not have to meditate and pray to realize we are in His presence. Instead to look up, and see His face…

To set death completely aside, along with the suffering and brokenness caused by sin, and the fear of death.  What a blessing.

Yet it is counting on that blessing that gives us the strength and desire to stay, and minister to those who are in bondage, trying to free them, so that they too can join us in Christ. To see God’s incredible work, as He brings someone to faith, and then strengthens that faith, as burdens slide away, as relationships are healed, as we gain a glance of eternity at the altar together.

To get to that point – to come to the conclusion that it is better to live, we have to realize how incredible eternity is, we have to face the battle of fears, the anxieties, assured of the promises of God are true, that we will be with Him forever. Then we can willingly address the issue, and see the blessing of staying here.. until He calls us home.

Knowing this, we begin to really live…

Walk with Him, through the valley, and learn not to fear it, or any evil.

And become a guide, someone who can help others, helping them to deal with the fears, the anxieties and indeed, the time of death.

Lord, help us walk closer and closer with You, strengthen our faith, be with us, now and at the time when we finally come home. But help us to be there for those who are anxious and fear death, and help us to show them how it will be a blessing. AMEN!


Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 149–150.

Worried about Churches Shrinking and Closing? Consider this threat.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning* of God’s new creation: 15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! 17 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. Rev. 3:14-17 NLT

437    If one of my fellow men had died to save me from death … God died. And I remain indifferent.

In the last week I have received over 25 emails, texts, or posts referring me to articles that provide hope for the church. Well not, really. They don’t provide hope, they provide an answer to their doomsday prediction – that the church in the next ten or twenty years will be even more in decline than it is today.

They may state we are in a post-Christian, or post Church age. They may say the “nones” are a sign of our ineffective ministry, they may claim society is getting more secular, and even hostile to the church. There are more and more reasons that people come up with for churches in decline. They then give advice to counter the threat, many even coming to the theory that we need to “save what we can”.

But those answers are, for the most part, systematic, programmatic, and structural. They make the vision of the church a response to the perceived threat. They make what drives the church an almost militant response to the outside world, and a militant response that seeks to regroup, even while it retreats.

And in the process forgets God, and remains indifferent to His role in His church, in His Kingdom. We have become like Laodicea, trying to work in our strength, and our riches, when most churches have so little in the bank. When we churches have less in attendance that they are supposed to have on their various boards and committees. We look at the threats so much, we don’t realize how needy we truly are.

If we realize our need, it is the panic button, it is the hiring of consultants, it is the blaming of the lack of support and guidance of our denomination or our brotherhood. We might even think it is the congregation’s leadership, or its pastor that is at fault.

When what we need to do, is realize that we will, in this life, always be in need. We will always struggle, whether our church is 35 or 700, or 22,000. Not because we are failures, not because we are sinners, but because we need and have someone who cares for us, who provides for us, who is with us.

The One we neglect to depend on, even as we sing His praises. The Lord who gives us life, who makes right what is wrong in our lives. We need ot look to HIm, to remember He is present, to remember His love for us. We have to remember and celebrate His death on the cross, to do all the above.

There is our primary answer to the church being in decline – to look to Jesus. The church in Laodicea was told this, in this way,

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends Rev. 3:20 NLT

These words weren’t written to unbelievers, they were written to the church, to the one Jesus says he wants to spit out, just a few verses before! These words echo Paul’s who says we are to plead with people, “Come Back to Christ!”

He has always been our hope, and the hope for the world! He has the answer to our brokenness, and the trauma in our society. He is the answer for our churches, and whom we aren’t to neglect, in our sermons, in our worship, and in our meetings and planning and vision casting. We need ot remember Him especially in our response to the dwindling numbers in our churches. What will fill them again is not our wisdom or strength, not our structure, or our regrouping what we have. What will fill them in the power of God, the power of God that raised Christ from the dead, and is at work in you, as you walk with Him, as you hear and respond to the Holy Spirit’s direction. As we lead His people to remember Him, as we share in communion, as we walk out with Him into His mission field that is in our lives.

You want to see the church thrive? Realize what God is doing right now, in your life, as He is present. Look around you, see the people that need that very same blessing, and pray for them. As the s Spirit leads, even tell them you are doing so, or ask them if you can pray for them right there, confident that God is there, hearing you both.

If we, the people who are the church, would realize we live in God’s presence, the church will not be empty for long.

The Lord is with you! AMEN!






Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1074-1075). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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