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.
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.
Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed* and he himself* will be saved on the day the Lord* returns.
6 Your boasting about this is terrible. Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.* 8 So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old bread* of wickedness and evil, but with the new bread* of sincerity and truth. 1 Cor 5:5-8 NLT
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. 12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. Psalm 103:11-12 NLT
I would like to see a church become so godly, so Spirit-filled that it would have a spiritual influence on all of the churches in the entire area. Paul told some of his people, “ye were ensamples to all that believe” and “in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad” (1 Thessalonians 1:7–8).
“This ought especially to be taught, that confession’s not made to man but to Christ. Likewise it isn’t man who absolves but Christ. But few understand this. Today I replied to the Bohemians,134 who insist that God alone remits sins and are offended by my little book on the keys. Wherefore one should teach that men make confession to Christ, and Christ absolves through the mouth of the minister, for the minister’s mouth is the mouth of Christ and the minister’s ear is the ear of Christ. It’s to the Word and the command that one should pay attention, not to the person. Christ sits there, Christ listens, Christ answers, not a man.”
The fundamental theological principle of the spiritual journey is the Divine Indwelling. The Trinity is present within us as the source of our being on every level.
Too many “experts” have given up on the church.
Some find the answer for Chirstianity in starting new groups of believers, some suggest having present small churches die, so that their legacy is not one of faith handed down, but property and financial treasures. Doing such is meaningless at best. For the new ministries planted because there are money start off on, they soon to will age, and not having the example of fortitude that leads us to survive during the lean times.
The key to a nation finding itself in revival is not the redistribution of funds. The key to revival is the spread of revival from a city to the country. The key to a city is found in a church experiencing revival.
And a church experiences revival when its people know God has forgiven them, and dwells in their midst.
When a person knows the purest joy as God lifts their sins away, and they no longer have anything to fear, nothing to feel guilt or shame over, no resentment hidden deep within scars caused by others.
There, revival is found. and the church grows without thinking about it, for the presence of the Lord is undeniable. No one needs to say “share” this.. or “invite a neighbor,” The joy they know, forgiven and free, the presence of God that comforts, empowers and compels them to live in the truth that is thiers, is tangible.
That is why private and public confession is so important. People need to hear they are forgiven.
We have to know this – both in general, and in specific to the sins which have haunted us for years, and decades.
Knowing we are forgiven, knowing the presence of God in our lives also develops the eternal perspective we need, developing in us a desire to see God come.
When this happens, the church explodes… then the community, then the nation….
Sp of you are dealing with resentment, with guilt or shame, go talk to your pastor or priest… and find out God has forgiven you!
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), 394.
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), 182.
Thoughts to draw you closer to Jesus…
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 56 And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!” Acts 7:55-56 NLT
Acedia means a lack or absence of care. And that’s deadly. Whenever we grow numb to Christ’s saving work and the Father’s gracious gifts by which he makes us and preserves us, spiritual boredom takes hold, followed by apathy and subsequent despair. Where acedia takes root in the soul of a pastor, the flock suffers greatly.
There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives.
The gift of contemplative prayer is a practical and essential tool for confronting the heart of the Christian ascesis—namely, the struggle with our unconscious motivation—while at the same time establishing the climate and necessary dispositions for a deepening relationship with God and leading, if we persevere, to divine union.
As I look at the deacon, Stephen, I see a man who is living in the moment. He is not bound to anxiety or fear. He is not burnt out, and He cares about the people with whom he is interacting. The power of the resurrection is something he wants them to know; he wants them to know Jesus.
As I look at the church today, there are many pastors and church leaders that are suffering and struggling, not only in their lives, but in their spiritual lives as well. The are well able to teach the doctrines they believe in, if they still do. But they don’t care, or they are tired of caring. There is something lacking behind the doctrine, a “so what” to the “what” that is so well known and taught. Acedia or Ascesis is so evident in the lives of many I talk to in the church, and the constant work wears the men and women in ministry down.
The hard question is, if this is happening to our leaders, then what is happening to the flocks with which they have been called to shepherd?
Keating talks of the answer to this being contemplative prayer. A time to stop and listen, to contemplate what it means to dwell in the presence of God. To take the time to listen, to invest in the relationship by letting God “hear” us — so that we know He has.
Perhaps this is why the Lutheran Confessions call prayer a sacrament, a sacred time where God’s grace communicates deeply, intimately with the hearts of His people.
It is one of the other sacraments that I run to, that I long for, when spiritual burnout, spiritual fatigue, and life just sucking. The Lord’s Supper is so precious, the peace that comes from being united to the death and resurrection of Jesus is beyond measure. Sharing it with my people, whether in the sanctuary, or in their homes, lifts me out of the spiritual funk (and often physical/psychological funks as well).
Here is the theology behind this – we know that when we take and eat the bread, we unite to Christ’s body (koinonia). The same when we drink from the cup, there is unity with the sacrifice of Christ. But anytime God unites us with the death of Christ Jesus, there is the absolute promise of the resurrection! Knowing this is our reality, and someday will be a visible reality, stirs the soul, and revives me. This is not just some activity or obligation without an impact in our lives. To realize we commune with God, in that instance, He draws into His glory, and gives us a tangible lesson in how deep His love is for us.
Every pastor gets tired, every pastor gets weary and suffers from burnout. The same for elders, deacons, ministers of every type. I do not know a pastor during COVID who didn’t think of hanging it up – and finding some other field of work. The answer is that divine unity that Keating points out, the “manifest presence” is how Tozer describes it. Stephen, even in the face of martyrdom, finds his hope there, as he gazes into heaven and sees the glory of God.
That is the experience of the altar, whether serving the people of God, or receiving it with them.
We need that… so let us not neglect it, but run to it. AMEN!
Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 210.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
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), 123.
devotional thought of the day:
“ ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: I will respond to the house of Israel and do this for them: I will multiply them in number like a flock. 38 So the ruined cities will be filled with a flock of people, just as Jerusalem is filled with a flock of sheep for sacrifice during its appointed festivals. Then they will know that I am the LORD.’ Ezek 36:37-38 CSB
m 28 They will know that I am the LORD their God when I regather them to their own land after having exiled them among the nations. I will leave none of them behind. 29 I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel.” This is the declaration of the Lord GOD. Ezek 39:27-29 CSB
“Give me your heart, my son,”12 he seems to whisper in our ears. Stop building castles in the air. Make up your mind to open your soul to God, for only in our Lord will you find a real basis for your hope and for doing good to others.
As we come out of COVID, I find the church offered a myriad of solutions to address the fact that prior to COVID, the church in America was already shrinking. We want to blame people not coming back on COVID, but if we are honest, many had left before that, in fact they have been leaving for decades.
It is not because the church isn’t relevant enough, or faithful enough to traditions. It isn’t because we haven’t found the right book or the right coach/consultant/father-confessor/seminar or podcast.
It is much simpler than that.
We aren’t looking to God to full our ruined cities and churches. We aren’t looking for Him to fulfill His promises.
SImply put, we don’t know that He is the Lord, that He is our God!
And so we don’t look to Him to fill our churches, to bring healing and reconciliation to our communities,.
We build our castles, both physically and mentally, when we need to open our soul to God. St Josemaria is correct, it is there, open to God, led by the Spirit, that we not only find life, we find a reason for living. Walking with Him, we find the most incredible blessings. As the Spirit changes us, the masks are lifted, and we can see what God is doing.
And that is revive the church, by reviving the people who find themselves in His presence.
Abba Father, let Your Spirit fall on Your church! Draw our eyes to Your Son Jesus, that our hearts and souls are open to the Spirit’s presence, and help us to see Your work, reviving and restoring Your Church. Amen!
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 However, I did give them this command: ‘Obey me, and then I will be your God, and you will be my people. Follow every way I command you so that it may go well with you. 24 Yet they didn’t listen or pay attention but followed their own advice and their own stubborn, evil heart. They went backward and not forward. 25 Since the day your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until today, I have sent all my servants the prophetsae to you time and time again. 26 However, my people wouldn’t listen to me or pay attention but became obstinate;ag they did more evil than their ancestors. Jeremiah 7:23-26
The word mediocre comes from two Latin words and literally means “halfway to the peak.” This makes it an apt description of the progress of many Christians. They are halfway up to the peak.… They are morally above the hardened sinner but they are spiritually beneath the shining saint.…
Do we really think that this halfway Christian life is the best that Christ offers—the best that we can know? In the face of what Christ offers us, how can we settle for so little? Think of all that He offers us by His blood and by His Spirit, by His sacrificial death on the cross, by His resurrection from the dead, by His ascension to the right hand of the Father, by His sending forth of the Holy Ghost!
And we acknowledge and confess that we are not worthy to receive such manifestations of thy mercy and goodness, but rather deserve thy judgment and condemnation and on account of our indifference, sins and hypocrites to be left without the light of thy holy Word. But we beseech thee of thine mercy, deal not with us after our sins nor reward us according to our iniquities. Abide with us, O Lord, for it is toward evening. Keep us and our posterity in the faith of Thy Word and in the right use of the holy Sacraments. Sanctify thy Church in our midst; further and advance thy Kingdom; glorify Thy Name; put down Satan under our feet, and destroy the Son of perdition by the brightness of thine appearance. Preserve us from all false teachers, hypocrites and enemies of Thy Word who seek to overthrow thy Church purchased at so great a cost by thy dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord; but at all times send us faithful ministers and teachers who shall lead us into the knowledge and confession of the heavenly mysteries, and finally into the glorious righteousness of thine everlasting Kingdom. Amen.
Tozer’s statement about the Christianity becoming mediocre is all too accurate in our day. The church wants to find itself better (morally) than sinners, but doesn’t want to do the spiritual work to become saints. The church is becoming apathetic, caring less for its people, and even less for those that are “outside.” You see this in the recent treand to automate the church, from contacts,, to attendance tracing, to even planning worship and using sermons that are pre-written for a generic congregation, rather than the message for the people of God in this place. Are we going backward, not forward, as Jeremiah wanrs?
We wonder why the church gets weaker, and people who have no reason too,, sit at home and watch, rather than interacting together.
THe problem is how do we address this? Since it is not by our own reason or strength that we come to Christ, how do we bring people back? Using guilt and shame may seem effective, but it doesn’t deliver what they truly need. The fellowship, the compassion of God, the mercy and love. Why are we beoming distant from God, and then from each other?
Looking at Loehe’s prayer this morning, I wonder why we don’t pray like this anymore. Not the ornate flowery language of days gone by, but the cry of broken, needy hearts, which want to see the chruch holy, that wants to see the next generation grow in its dependence on God. That we would be preserved against false teachers.
What would happen if we began to pray this way again, with heartfelt cries to see God at work in our lives and in the lives of those around us, Praying, not to manipulate God or get our desire – but really communicating with Him? If we listened to God, if we allowed the Holy SPirit to tune our hearts to sing of His grace? If our faith became a living dialogue again…
Lord, send forth Your Spirit, revive Your Church, help us to pray again, and through us, renew this world. Amen!
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 149–150.
Devotional Thought for the Day!
31 “The day is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD. 33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NLT2)
Expectation has always been present in the Church in the times of her greatest power. When she believed, she expected, and her Lord never disappointed her.…
Every great movement of God in history, every unusual advance in the Church, every revival, has been preceded by a sense of keen anticipation. Expectation accompanied the operations of the Spirit always. His bestowals hardly surprised His people because they were gazing expectantly toward the risen Lord and looking confidently for His word to be fulfilled. His blessings accorded with their expectations.…
We need today a fresh spirit of anticipation that springs out of the promises of God. We must declare war on the mood of nonexpectation and come together with childlike faith. Only then can we know again the beauty and wonder of the Lord’s presence among us
As we come out of the COVID lockdown, I am starting to see life in the church more clearly that I have in a long time. If you study history, you know Europe and the U.S.A..Canada are at the bottom, with people doing what is right in their own eyes, which means revival is near. It is already occuring in places on the Eastern side of Africa, and in parts of South East Asia.
But will it happen here?
If Tozer is correct, one of the signs of a revival is the church having the attitude of expectation, the attitude of anticipation. Both are a signs of trust and dependence on God – God who is acitive in our lives, God who wants to redeem everyone. Looking for God to do that, our expectations change, and church changes from being a refuge fro the faithful into a refuge and sanctuary for everyone.
Its time to stop trying to manufacture church growth, it’s time to stop trying ot manufacture a pure and perfect church. It is time for revival, to rejoice in what God is doing…
God has promised this covenant… it is time for the church to believe it is here… for this is the covenant of life!
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Tell God to Deal With It…
To Deal with What Lurks within….
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus so fill your life that all is made new!
1. Does Only the Shadow know?
Most of us wouldn’t know the name of Frank Readick and may only have a vague recollection of the words he said in the past.
But I thought of them while reading verse 12 of today’s Psalm. It says there,
“How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?”
Here is the line from Readick,
“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Only the Shadow knows!”
Anyone remember those words? They are old, from the 1930s. More than that, they are incredibly inaccurate. God knows, and unlike the Shadow – God can do something about it and will!
The only question is, will we tell Him to deal with it, or will we keep what lurks within, deep within, burying it deeper and deeper.
Before we get there… we need to understand why evil lurks there….
2. Getting anxious
When I read the beginning of the Psalm, I get more than a little anxious because I become aware that stuff does lurk deep within our hearts.
I become more aware of it as I hear about the glory of God. As I consider the works, as I consider the praises. I am in awe, but like Moses and Isaiah, there is some fear there, too, because sin lurks there.
And the dissonance between the all powerlful, all-knowing, glorious God and my darkness is just overwhelming. The more I read how radiant that glory is, how the sky proclaims it, how and nothing can hide from it, I am at once warmed and yet frightened by it.
For the light of Jesus, the glory of God is so bright that there are no shadows allowed, for He is our light.
And that means my darkness will be revealed.
Sin can lurk deep within us, as the pain it causes dominates our hearts and minds. We know it’s there, but we try to bottle it in to stop it from being revealed. That pressure builds, as that sin that lurks breeds its guilt and shame. It may even be telling you that you don’t belong here in church, that you really don’t belong here at the altar.
The Shadow would convince you of that, for his closing line was, “”As you sow evil, so shall you reap evil! Crime does not pay…The Shadow knows!”
If the Shadow was correct and only he knew, you would be in trouble…for indeed, all you could gain would be evil in return.
3. The Answered prayer
But He isn’t the only one who knows. God knows. We have to learn that this is a great blessing. For when we cry out for Him to “just deal with it!” He is ready.
Hear King David’s prayer again,
12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.
That is where we need to be in life. We need to come to this point where our frustration with our lives, both individually and corporately, causes us to cry out to God.
God is there, ready to cleanse you from hidden faults!
God is there, ready to guard you against the sins that are so tempting. He is there to stop them from controlling you!
We need to know this, not just as individuals but as a community.
We need to see this community be cleansed of all sin, of rebellion against God, of all the ways in which we all don’t love our neighbor.
We need to help people see that God will help them deal with those deliberate sins they struggle with and help them break free of sin’s control over them. And we do this together; the glory of God is revealed more and more!
For only He can deal with the sin and temptation that assaults us from what is within.
He is the one Who breaks us free from the Shadow.
He can break us all free from that Shadow as we enter His glorious light.
That is what Lent is, this glorious time like the moments just before the dawn. When you know it is coming, the shadows that seem to lengthen even as they fade. And then there is nothing but glorious light, and we can come to the final part of the prayer.
4. Final prayer
Knowing you are free from that which lurks within, that God is dealing with the deliberate sin and its control, we find ourselves “free of guilt and innocent of great sin.”
Hear that again, you are, “”free of guilt and innocent of great sin.”
Hmm – maybe we need to say that together,,,
We are “free of guilt and innocent of great sin.”
Knowing that, and knowing that God has cleansed what lurked deep within, we can, with confidence pray this.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”
Those words and meditations will be pleasing, for He knows what lurks in your heart… and when He is working, the answer is nothing. AMEN!
Devotional Thought for this Day:
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the LORD your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10 And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” 11 And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” 12 So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them. Nehemiah 8:9-12 (NLT2)
“Unless those who are in the office of preacher find joy in him who sent them, they will have much trouble. Our Lord God had to ask Moses as many as six times.24 He also led me into the office in the same way. Had I known had to take more pains to get me in. Be that as it may, now that I have begun, I intend to perform the duties of the office with his help. On account of the exceedingly great and heavy cares and worries connected with it, I would not take the whole world to enter upon this work now. On the other hand, when I regard him who called me, I would not take the whole world not to have begun it.
Reflect that God is our sovereign benefactor, who has bestowed upon us innumerable benefits, both general and particular. He has drawn us out of nothing, and formed us to his own image and likeness, without having any need at all of us: we are continually dependent upon him for our preservation.
Yesterday, preachers around the world preached on the topic of Joy.
It is not easy an easy task when over one-half of your church regulars are not there, needing to stay safe at home.
It is not easy when your people are in the midst of the holidays, many of them celebrating for the first time, alone.
It is not easy when others are caught up in sin, some whose hearts are crushed because someone sinned against them, others crushed by the weight of their own sin.
Preach on Joy! That was our call…
Every pastor knows the heartache that Luther addresses. OUr tasks are hard, they can suck the life right out of you. If only we knew what God called us to, we would willingly join Jonah in the belly of the big fish, or the boys sent into the furnace, or Elijah in his cave. NO one could talk us into this…ministry.
That isn’t just true for pastors. Parents know it s well, as do small business owner, teachers, nurses and doctors. Anyone who has to minister to care for someone else. Physically, mentally, spiritually. Those who care for others wear down, burn out, and experience despair.
The only answer I have found over the years is worship, to find yourself contemplating the love and mercy of God so intimately that your heart just wants to sing, it just wants to praise Him. Worship that isn’t forced or planned, worship that isn’t done out of a sense of duty.
Worship that comes from thinking about what God is doing in our lives. Experiencng the love, witnessing the removal of the burdens that plague us, and the millions of blessings that grace our daily lives, His presence in our lives, not just the pastors, but in the lives of the people entrusted into the pastor’s care.
THat is the moment that you understand what Luther said as well – that once in the ministry, there is nothing that the world could give you that would cause you to willingly give it up…
My prayer for you, as you are burdened, as you are distressed, is the same as Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus, for this will lead you (and me) into that joy,
16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen! Ephesians 3:16-21 (NLT2)
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 12–13.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 64.