Devotional THought of the Day:
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, 17 so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (TEV)
18 Lay the greatest weight on those commandments or other parts which seem to require special attention among the people where you are. For example, the Seventh Commandment, which treats of stealing, must be emphasized when instructing laborers and shopkeepers, and even farmers and servants, for many of these are guilty of dishonesty and thievery.8 So, too, the Fourth Commandment must be stressed when instructing children and the common people in order that they may be encouraged to be orderly, faithful, obedient, and peaceful. Always adduce ma.ny examples from the Scriptures to show how God punished and blessed.
531 “Treat him well for me, treat him well,” said a certain elderly bishop with tears in his eyes to the priests he had just ordained. Lord, I wish I had the voice and the authority to cry out in the same way to the ears and the hearts of many, many Christians!
The “S” word, sorry to tell you, isn’t “sex”
It’s the other “s” word that is difficult to talk about and for the same reason. It is just as awkward, embarrassing, and produces as much anxiety as talking about sex with your 11-13-year-old child.
And the consequences of not having conversations about sin are worse than letting the world teach your kids about sex. For lacking understanding about either sex or sin can lead to incredible pain, sorrow, and even death.
Not just physical death, the death of the spirit, death one’s soul.
So it is one we need to have. Not just pastor and parishioner, but parents and kids, those who teach and govern with those whose lives they are entrusted with, those whom God has put in their lives to love and care for beyond the point of sacrificing convenience, to the point of complete sacrifice.
We have to get by the discomfort and have these talked with each other. talking about the sins which entrap us, the sins which drive us into despair, the sins that isolate us.
but we have to do it with the skill and wisdom that only comes because of the love we have, because of the love we know God has for them. To talk about sin with the deliberate intent of freeing each other from its burdens of guilt and shame, from its curse and the death it causes.
We can’t talk about just to prohibit it, as if we could, by proper persuasion, convince them to never sin again. That will last an hour or two, and then they will hide the sin that entraps them, denying it, or justifying it in some form of logic we twisted them to use. I say “we” because talking about sin improperly leads people to fear talking about it with us. They have to realize that our goal is not to condemn the sinner, but free them.
This has to be made clear in our teaching, not just to proactively work with them to rely on God to overcome temptation, but also to help them run to the comfort and peace that comes with repentance, with absolution, that comes via the Holy Spirit washing and renewing our hearts.
This is our ministry, as pastors, as leaders, as parents, as those entrusted with the lives of others. Yet in order to dohese things, we have to be confident that God is working in our life as well, cleansing and strengthening us, causing us to run to the Father, through Jesus.
This is who we are… and Lord help us talk about sin… in the way you did! AMEN!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 340). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1285-1287). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
12 You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. 14 And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14 (TEV)
480 Do you see? That cable—strand upon strand, many of them woven tightly together—is strong enough to lift enormous weights. You and your brothers, with wills united to carry out God’s will, can overcome all obstacles.
13 Although we cannot and should not compel anyone to believe, we should nevertheless insist that the people learn to know how to distinguish between right and wrong according to the standards of those among whom they live and make their living
I am tired.
I am tired because of the fighting going around us. In this world as nation is against nation. As nations are divided into camps we call parties but are not exactly fun! And even inside those parties are divided, starving for attention and often, revenge.
The Church, the one, holy, catholic (as in united, universal church) is likewise fragmented, and denominations and congregations know bitter division, know its horrific pain and avoid the issues. Too often we determine reconciliation and renewal is not possible, or perhaps if possible, not desirable.
I see this all around me, and it makes me weary of life.
I want to compel people to have enough faith in God, to trust Him enough to let Him heal them, and surely He would. I want to force them into a maturity that cares more about being merciful than the pain that has been caused by others. That cares more for Christ being revealed than for hiding our own sins and pretending we are not shamed by them.
But I can’t compel people to trust in God more, it is not the way it works. No amount of threats can do it, no amount of pleading, all I can do is ask, and point to the scriptures.
It is a common dependence on God that turns the church into something more than a group of individuals separated by their own brokenness. That unity, that being woven tightly together, it can create a bond that can conquer anything. That unity is found in Christ’s love,
It is found in the love that is the source, of mercy that empowers us to of set our own discomfort and pain, even the agony aside. That enables us to forgive, for He has shown the way in forgiving us.
Only in Christ Jesus is this possible. In that love that weaves us together, binding the broken, splicing us together, making us stronger than anything else can.
Can we all get along? Only in Christ, who draws us all into Him. This is what is good and right… everything else is wrong.
Lord have mercy on us, mercy that is so overwhelming that our anger, our pain, our resentment and even shame our washed away, revealing that we dwell in You, and in You, we are already one. Amen!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1175-1177). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 339). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
15 After they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my lambs.” 16 A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 A third time Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter became sad because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” and so he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep. John 21:15-17 (TEV)
“Thy kingdom come.”
7 What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us.
8 How is this done?
Answer: When the heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit so that by his grace we may believe his holy Word and live a godly life, both here in time and hereafter forever. (1)
16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray. (2)
79 I will not stop repeating until it is deeply engraved in your soul: Piety, piety, piety! For if you lack charity it will be for want of interior life, not for any defect of character. (3)
There is a secret to ministry, A secret because it seems like we’ve forgotten it, not because someone has hidden it. It is something Luther and Melancthon, Ignatius and Escriva all understood.
The necessity of prayer. The necessity of what is called “the interior life” or a devotional life. Prayer not just as obligation, prayer not as a conversation between good friends (though that is part of it). Prayer that actively turns over to God the things that are His, our very lives, and finds comfort and peace in the midst of it all.
But prayer is the kind of conversation that Jesus and Peter had on the beach, a time where we, broken, finally hear Jesus. It is then that we realize that He knows we love Him, that we realize He accepts us, and is transforming us, and is calling us to serve, even as we ourselves are being healed.
This is the piety that Escriva talks about, the piety that makes the difference, that teaches us to love, (to be charitable, to be grace-driven, not purpose driven) For as we realize the richness of God’s grace, of His love, of His presence, of His knowing we love Him; that love causes us to be devoted to Him, to adore Him. (I think the old A.C.T.S. prayer model had it wrong, it should be Confession, Supplication, Thanksgiving, Adoration – for adoration flows out of the freedom given in that which precedes it!)
It is from that place of devotion, that place of adoring the God who welcomes Himself into out life, and walks with us, that ministry begins. It is in knowing he accepts our love that our holiness and piety matures, a holiness and piety that sees the Kingdom of God established and revealed here, in our daily lives.
We do love Him, He accepts that love, because of the incredible dimensions of His love for us.
And realizing that changes everything in the church, including giving broken churches the hope we need to know…..
The Lord is with us!
(1) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 213). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. (The Small Catechism Article III:The Second Petition
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 346). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. (Apology of the Augsburg Confession: Article XIII)
(3) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 495-497). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)
4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 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.” 8 This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone. Titus 3:4-8 (NLT)
Article VI: Of New Obedience Also they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. For remission of sins and justification is apprehended by faith, as also the voice of Christ attests: When ye shall have done all these things, say: We are unprofitable servants. Luke 17:10. The same is also taught by the Fathers. For Ambrose says: It is ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved, freely receiving remission of sins, without works, by faith alone. ( The Augsburg Confession: The Chief Articles of the Fatih)
For all of this, I must thank Him, praise Him, serve Him and obey Him. Yes, this is true!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained, Under: “Part Two: The Creed”.
In these days following Easter, as we move towards Pentecost, the readings in my devotionals, and the assigned readings for church describe a major shift in the lives of those who trust in God. They don’t change; they are changed. They aren’t simply justified by faith, as if that is the end of their salvation, they are also sanctified, set apart in a holy relationship, described as the New Covenant between God and His people.
I think as a church we do a disservice. At the time of the Reformation, Lutheran and some Reformed churches has a balance between Justification and Sanctification. While we were absolute that nothing we do merits our salvation, that there is nothing we do to justify ourselves before God, there was a change that He did to us.
In the green and blue quotes above, from the Augsburg Confession and Luther’s Small Catechism, this change is made clear and absolute. It is necessary to do good works, and We must thank, praise, serve and obey Him. There is no option allowed in those words
Change happens. Change will happen. We are not saved by faith alone as if that is all that salvation is; it is to misrepresent Luther and the rest of the evangelical Catholic reformers to indicate that is so. They knew what would happen to us in the relationship we have with God; the New Covenant spells it out, as clearly as it spells out the assurance of Christ’s work in redeeming us.
So how does this work? How much effort will it take to change? How mandatory is it?
Regarding mandatory, I think Luther and Melanchthon and the words necessary and must make it clear from Lutheran theology. The quote from ROmans 12, Paul pleads with people to let God work this our lives, just to give ourselves into His hands (which is where we belong anyway!) and let the Spirit mold us, working through us.
Paul will also tell Timothy to keep teaching about God’s work transforming us, and the Spirit overwhelming us, for that will result in our devoting ourselves to doing good. That is the key to this, our grasping, not just with our mind but with heart, sou, mind and strength what it means to be in Christ, to have the Spirit dwell within us.
As we pray, as we learn, as God reveals Himself to us, in us, He transforms us. We become His masterpiece, a divine work of art. This is the promise God makes to us in His word.
So it makes no sense to argue about works or to call those who teach what God is doing pietists. Some need to be corrected gently, that they realize the change is made in us, rather than we make the change. Often we aren’t even aware of it, as the sheep in Matthew 25 were unaware when they ministered to Jesus. Love and ministry become more natural, more of what needs to be done. The sacraments become dearer, these active, covenant renewal moments, when the grace of God promised is delivered, whetting our appetite for the feast when all become completely transformed when all are welcomed home into the presence of our Father.
Look to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, look to Him as the Holy Spirit transforms you from glory to glory, Look to Him, know HIs love, hear His promises, and let His word direct your thoughts words and actions. And if you fall, confess it, let His absolving cleanse your heart, and continue to journey with the God, who loves you.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
15 I assume I’m addressing believers now who are mature. Draw your own conclusions: 16 When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness—Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is. 18 That’s basically what happened even in old Israel—those who ate the sacrifices offered on God’s altar entered into God’s action at the altar. 1 Corinthians 10:15-18 (MSG)
Who, then, receives such a sacrament in a worthy way?
828 Have you ever thought how you would prepare yourself to receive Our Lord if you could go to Communion only once in your life? We must be thankful to God that he makes it so easy for us to come to him: but we should show our gratitude by preparing ourselves very well to receive him. (2)
I’ll be the first to admit to loving watching football.
Especially watching the Patriots, who in the last 21 years, have been in the Superbowl 7 times!
I really love it when people write them off, say they are done, and they make it look like child’s play in the playoffs.
Tomorrow, I hope they beat the Seahawks, and I hope they come back for one more, next year. B
Yet, if the game started at 9:50 here, rather than at 3:15, you wouldn’t find me in front of my television. There is something more precious, more meaningful, more important to life where I am a spectator, and yet, am a full participant.
The Eucharist, The Lord’s Supper, Communion. the Feast that is a foretaste of the feast to come.
St. Josemaria above puts a perspective on it….what if tomorrow was the only day, the only time you could receive it in your life? What would your thoughts be today? What kind of expectation would be building? what would get in the way?
is a Superbowl big enough? is the need for sleep?
If tomorrow was the only day you were able to commune with God, what would stop you?
If the answer is, ‘nothing”, then apply the question without the frequency, is it the same/ should it be/
This is a hard question, because to ask it could promote shame or guilt, or harden you against those things.
It will also make you examine what you think the Lord’s Supper is, and how it benefits you….. strengthening your confidence in the Lord’s love and presence in your life, healing you from the brokenness of sin, relieving stress and anxiety, and mostly giving you the rest and peace that comes from knowing the Lord is with you……
I am glad this is not a once in a life time thing… in fact, I am somewhat envious of those churches that provide it daily, simply because I know people who need this sacrament, this holy time, this holy meal…. more than once a week. Or who cannot get there on Sundays…..
So are you ready? Do you recognize your need for it?
(1) Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained. Part 6, The Sacrament of the Altar
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2940-2942). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought On ANOTHER MONDAY……
22 They strengthened the believers and encouraged them to remain true to the faith. “We must pass through many troubles to enter the Kingdom of God,” they taught. Acts 14:22 (TEV)
77 Sometimes you feel that you are beginning to lose heart and that everything is getting on top of you. This kills your good desires, and you can hardly manage to overcome this feeling even by making acts of hope…Never mind: this is a good time to ask God for more grace. Then, go on! Renew your joy for the struggle, even though you might lose the odd skirmish. (2)
Have I mentioned before that I hate Mondays?
Probably, once or twice.
I get to my office, knowing that my office manager is out sick, A little frustration there, anxiety more ( I pray no little preschoolers get sick…) and I get to answer phones. Sigh
Go to turn on my computer – blue screens of death – call to help desk – their jammed – seems the new windows 8.1 update has some bugs? Sigh…
Finally get to my devotions… a time of peace, of calm.. (interruptions begin)
How the heck on a day like this, am I supposed to be holy, set apart to God, and example for those whom I pastor and shepherd towards His grace?
How can I trust that God’s will, will be accomplished, that He will be in charge, (that He will reign in MY life) Or will I be tempted to cuss and rant and basically act like I don’t believe He is here?
Grace – we have to keep remember the gifts, the promised and fulfilled gifts of God. We have to know He is here. That beyond our ability, beyond even our ability to conceptualize, He is working within us, through us. We don’t set ourselves apart to Him! He has already done this – in the very cross of Christ (read Rom 6:1-8) In His death, which is why we proclaim it as we commune with God.
That is how the Apostles strengthened the church, appointing pastors to care for them, encouraging them by pointing them to Jesus, helping them realize what happens in baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, What happens when we are assured that nothing separates us from God. For they taught we are His children, adopted, cleansed from the filth of the world, forgiven, loved.
We don’t have to do anything to earn this, but oh, how easily this knowledge can fade from our minds, can escape our lips, can be hidden in the depths our our heart… forgotten for the moment. We too easily let the comfort of knowing His presence fade as the challenges of the day overwhelm us…..seemingly crush us, distract and disillusion us.
Perhaps it would help if once an hour – I prayer the Lord’s prayer? Not that it is a holy act, but that I would remember that His kingdom has come, He is in charge here, that His will is being done here, among us, as Luther taught – among us. We need that. That God will provide, that He will show mercy and strengthen us against temptation and save us from evil. Again – this isn’t my act of piety, but my need to be reminded of the work God is doing here….the work we rejoiced in yesterday, as God makes a masterpiece, and reveals to us that we walk in Christ.
Prayer, especially this wonderful prayer that Christ taught us… the anti-dote for Mondays….
Lord, help us to realize you mercy… even…no, especially on Mondays!
(1) Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 543-546). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
8 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. 9 On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8-9 (MSG)
16 Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. James 5:16 (MSG)
22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:22-23 (TEV)
The priest mentioned the sacrament of confession. That was new to me. The confessional in our parish church had been transformed into a storage room for buckets and brooms. I had always thought that confession had been abolished in the sixties. That evening, I asked the Carmelite sister about it. “On the contrary,” she said. “Confession has not been abolished at all. It’s one of the most beautiful sacraments there is!” “So… um… how does it work?” I asked. “Do you just tell the priest all your sins, and that’s it?” “It isn’t just about listing your sins,” she answered. “Confession is first and foremost an encounter with Christ. He loves you more than you know, and when you truly meet him, you start to discover what in your life stands in the way of that love. So you entrust all those obstacles to his mercy, and he takes them away.” “If that’s the case, I would love to go to confession,” I said. After all, I did like Jesus. I also knew that there were many things in my life that still needed to change to be able to deepen my friendship with him. “Just go see the priest, and ask him to help you. He will guide you through it. Don’t worry about a thing.” That evening, I made my first confession. The priest was friendly and listened to me with his eyes closed, as if praying. I do not recall what he said to me afterward, but I do remember vividly the moment he stretched out his hand and told me my sins had been forgiven. It was as if a ton of bricks just had been zapped to another dimension. I felt like I was walking on air— I was so light, so relieved, so incredibly happy. That night, I hardly slept. I felt overwhelmed by God’s love for me. My doubts had vanished. I didn’t just believe in God on an intellectual level— I sensed that I had just met him personally. (1)
As I was reading this book, I came across the above passage, and though a little long, it talks so well of something so needed. There are too many of us dealing with the repurcussions of sin, the guilt and shame from doing what we know we shouldn’t. The confusion we get when the games we play to avoid that shame come crashing down, and even the stress caused by the way we react to others sinning against us.
Roman Catholics call it the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we use a more common term, Private Confession and Absolution. Basically, whether very formal at the altar, or in my office, someone comes in, and shares about the guilt they feel, or some area where they know they’ve done wrong. As this happens, it is awkward, both for the person coming to me and for me. We talk, the person and I and God, and then a time as precious as we get occurs.
But I love Fr. Roderick’s description of what Lutherans call Private Confession above (see the 5th section of Luther’s Small Catechism) …and what Catholics call The Sacrament of Reconciliation (or commonly Confessin) that I had to share it. For even with our differences in our practice and application of this, the effect is the same. As God and the person and the pastor/priest are talking through the sins that afflct them, there is some holy and sacred and freeing that happens. As a pastor I see the burdens lifted, when I get to pronounce them free of the chains by wihich sin oppresses them. There is a great sense of joy and freedom. It’s hard to describe, either from the point of view of the person confessing, or as the pastor (and I think priests feel the same way) who speaks forgiveness as God has commanded us to speak. Even though I don’t get to serve people this way as often as they need. need,
Let’s face it, we all have a past, and we all still live in the present. We deal with sin daily, our own, the sins of those close to us, the sins of generations passed, as the divisions they cause impact our lives still. Too often, rather than obeying God and giving these heavy, heavy burdens to Him, we bury them and stew over them. The anxiety, confusion and grief burdens us more, divides us from others more, and can crush us…
If you are in that situaiton, I beg you, on God’s behalf, let God reconcile you to Himself. (2 Cor. 5:20) Come to one of us, those who know God’s forgiveness. With the Catholic Church and with some Lutheran churches- they often post times the priest/pastor sets aside for this. Others of us have an open policy – just call, drop in and let us know you need the peace and rest this sacrament brings. You will not be imposing… matter of fact, you will make our day. Don’t worry about us being shocked – St Paul has a good point when he says if God can save us, you guys are a peace of cake!
Dump that guilt and shame, be rid of that burden of grief, trust God as His word! And realize the depth of Christ’s love for you, that He would restore you and show you His love.
Vonhögen, Roderick (2013-09-09). Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer (Kindle Locations 658-674). Franciscan Media. Kindle Edition.
We Need a Mighty Fortress!
† In Jesus Name †
May we find ourselves secure and safe in the Fortress of Christ, and as we find ourselves there may our worship takes on a new dimension as we rejoice in His presence and provision!
How powerful is this passage?
In order that we don’t take this day, and this incredible passage from the Book of Romans for granted, I would share with you a story.
There was once a pastor, raised in a great Christian home, sent to one of the finest universities, in the world. Thirty-five years old, quickly becoming a leader in the church. Yet, one night, everything would change. Change so much, that he would talk about it using the word, “conversion”. Here are his words…
“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for my salvation: and an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/bets/vol07/7-3_cox.pdf
The passage that was being read from Luther’s commentary was about this passage – especially verse 28, the very verses that so changed Luther, who was also a minister of the gospel when he heard them, that Luther was willing to die rather than forget them. SO what is so powerful, that men like Martin Luther and John Wesley would use terms like “conversion” and “salvation” when they finally realized what they meant?
Why are these words, “ So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.,” so powerful, so life changing?
I pray, oh I pray, that as we look at these verses, our lives would change as much as Luther’s, as Wesley’s, as King David’s, who wrote the following words when he got this truth,
I love you, LORD; you are my strength. 2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. Psalm 18:1-2 (NLT)
Why do we need a fortress?
When we sing “A Mighty Fortress”, do you ever think about what you are singing? It is what can be called a Creedal Hymn – a hymn testifying, confessing the very core of our belief, our creed.
Reducing all the verses down, it is a simple statement. We believe we need God, that we desperately need His interaction in our lives. That we need Him to deliver us, and to be our sanctuary, our fortress, that we need Him to be rock solid for us…
It is as much a confession of our need for Jesus’s work as when we confess our sins at the beginning of our service.
We need Him.
We need a fortress. A rock, a place where we can catch our breath, where we can find comfort, where we can know peace.
Not just because of our sin, but because of the unrighteousness we have to deal with each and every day. Because of the stress the injustice, the unrighteousness of the world deals us daily. We have to have that place where we can pour out all our anxiety, all our pain, all the crap that affects our lives.
Not just because of our sin, and the unrighteousness and injustice of life, but because of the threat and reality of death. For that is where the Law seems to get its strength, for death would make the law a victor. For in death there is no excuses, and based on the law alone, there is no way we can be right with God. We can’t, we don’t make the standard. Our thoughts, words, and deeds, well if we look at them honestly, would we want everyone to know them? Could we stand a record of all that we’ve thought and said (including under our breath) and done be given out this morning?
Yet God knows them all,
And He volunteered to be our fortress, our place of rest.
How do we gain entrance?
As it seems all of our enemies, sin, anxiety, injustice, and the threat of death’s closing the book on us surround us, we have to find a safe place, a secure place, a place where we can recover and heal from our own brokenness. Where we can experience the revelation of what Wesley and Luther and King David and so many have known. But how do we get to that place?
We find ourselves there. The lights come on, and we are in God’s presence. Verse 21,
But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago.
That phase, “shown us a way” is literally translated, “He enlightened us”. This is what Luther wrote in the explanation of the creed, where it says, “But the Holy Spirit called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers together, enlightens and makes holy the whole Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus in the one, true faith.” Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.
God shines the light on what Jesus has done, with kindness we do not deserve, as He died on the cross. Hear these words again,
“24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.”
And now hear them, as Luther and Wesley did….
24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that I am righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed me from the penalty for my sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for my sin. I am made right with God when I trust that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood for me.
This is what it is all about. This is what caused such a dramatic change in Wesley, and in Luther. It’s why we find ourselves, as if we’ve awakened, in the presence of God Almighty and we realize it will be all right. For we have been made right with God, He has declared us right! He has said to each on of us, that we are His child, and that nothing can separate us from Him.
When we needed a place that was safe; He brought us in, cleansed us, healed us, provided for us and does so each moment of our lives!
That is what this day is about – each one of us realizing that we have unlimited access to God – not just when we are at full strength spiritually, but when we are at the breaking point, when we are broken, when our spirits are crushed my sin and unrighteousness and anxiety and even death….
He is here…for you…
As He has been for so many, including John Wesley, and Martin Luther, and Augustine, and the whole company of heaven… and so you can cry with me the words of the psalm,
I love you, LORD; you are my strength. 2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. Psalm 18:1-2 (NLT)
Our place of peace…
Discussion/Devotional thought of the Day.
7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. Exodus 20:7 (ESV)
When the above commandment is mentioned, most people think of someone who hit his hand with a hammer, or gets cut off in traffic, and with a exclamation utters the name by which all are saved, Jesus Christ. Or perhaps they use God’s name to condemn (damn) something. That is what pastors call a “sin of commission”. We actually violated the command by doing exactly what it says we shouldn’t. To misuse God’s name, to blaspheme, to denigrate the name of the Lord who died on the cross because He loves us.
But we don’t talk about sin only as sins of commission, but sins of omission as well. That is – we take GOd’s name in vain, not only when use it to curse or swear or to impress or intimidate others, but also when we fail to use it when we should. Luther spoke of it this way:
We must fear and love God, so that we will not use His name to curse, swear, cast a spell, lie or deceive, but will use it to call upon Him, pray to Him, praise Him and thank Him in all times of trouble.
I was thinking the other day, regarding the proper use of the Lord’s name, and verses came to mind about the Lord and His name and the people that bear His name, or will be given it. Then one in particular came to mind…
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.Matthew 28:18-19 (NLT)
If we are to use God’s name rightly, in marking people as His, in making disciples who bear His name, then indeed, when we fail to be about that, or disdain the sharing of the word of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit in using God’s word to bring people to life in Christ, then we have another place where we have failed to use His name, indeed, in lacking we have used it vainly. For His word will not return void, it will not return in vain. It is His to be used as we praise Him for His wonderful work in our midst, to pray and give Him the very burdens that distract us.
So use His word, use His name as we ought, loving people enough to share with them the very words of life, and see them marked in the name about all names, as God cleanses them.