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Dare I? Dare I go there? I must

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

18  Zion, deep in your heart you cried out to the Lord. Now let your tears overflow your walls day and night. Don’t ever lose hope or let your tears stop. 19  Get up and pray for help all through the night. Pour out your feelings to the Lord, as you would pour water out of a jug. Beg him to save your people, who are starving to death at every street crossing. Lamentations 2:18-19 (CEV)

14  When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father (from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name), and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner re-inforcement – that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ – and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself! Ephesians 3:14 (Phillips NT)

Give me a candle of the Spirit, O God, as I go down into the deeps of my being. Show me the hidden things, the creatures of my dreams, the storehouse of forgotten memories and hurts. Take me down to the spring of my life, and tell me my nature and my name. Give me freedom to grow, so that I may become that self, the seed of which You planted in me at my making. Out of the depths I cry to You… 

That is why the Song of Songs has been the favorite book of the Bible for so many saints: it lifts the curtain a little and lets us in on the divine secret behind the scenes, the point of the play we are in. All the other stuff in the play—all the war and suffering and death and law and punishment and spy stuff, all the stuff that seems so different from a love story—is part of the love story. It is in the love story as darkness is in a picture or a novel or a musical composition. The contrasting strokes set off the main theme, the villain sets off the hero, the dissonant chords set off the higher harmony of the whole.

20 Likewise the term “vivification,” that is, being made alive, has sometimes been used in the same sense.3 For when the Holy Spirit has brought a person to faith and has justified him, a regeneration has indeed taken place because he has transformed a child of wrath into a child of God and thus has translated him from death into life, as it is written, “When we were dead through our trespasses, he made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5). “He who through faith is righteous shall live (Rom. 1:17).

As I look at the above quotes, and the prayer which shall end this, all quotes from my devotional reading this morning, I almost feel like God is double-daring me to trust in Him, to depend on Him and take a deep plunge into the darkness of life. Maybe He is even, to quote a former pastor of mine, double-dog daring me to do so.

Appleton (in purple) would say it is only there that I can truly cry out for mercy. Kreeft would indicate that I need to read that part of the story, as if there in our depths, we find that dimension of God’s love, a love deeper than our deepest darkness. And there, in the place of spiritual and emotional death, we find that God breathes life into us, that Revival has to happen at THAT point.

This is the place of Jeremiah’s cry as well, the place of tears overflowing, the place where we aren’t to lose hope, but we aren’t to let our tears stop either. It is the place where we are to pour out in our prayers, all though the night, our emotions.

Of course, we children of the Enlightenment, we descendants of rationalism back away from such a challenge. Tears change little we’ve learned, in fact they only reveal our brokenness, our weakness, our need.

Which is exactly what we need, it is part of how God revives us, it is how He renews His church. For these scars, revealed in the darkness by His glorious light, transform those scars, much as the wounds in the ankles and wrists, upon the back and in the scalp of Christ reveal His glory to us.

Perhaps that is what will come out of this time of COVID, and therefore we should be thankful. For they show a unique way to the Christ, and as His blood heals us, to the Father. Which brings up just about the only thing from my devotions, that I haven’t quoted, from Spurgeon, “If we cannot get sinners where Jesus is by ordinary methods we must use extraordinary ones. It seems, according to Luke 5:19, that a tiling had to be removed, which would make dust and cause a measure of danger to those below, but where the case is very urgent we must not mind running some risks and shocking some proprieties. Jesus was there to heal, and therefore fall what might, faith ventured all so that her poor paralysed charge might have his sins forgiven. O that we had more daring faith among us!

This is the lesson for this day, the thoughts that God in His mercy, is merciful here, in the midst of pain, in the midst of the depth of darkness, in the place where if we can pray, it is only because we find someone else’s words, such as the Lord’s Prayer or those from the wounded healer below.

He is here, the tears that pour out, let them. Realize the darkness is but to show us the love of God in a way that doesn’t make sense, for nothing in the darkness truly does. But there, God will breathe life into you and I, and the sufferings are a small part of the glory we will know, as He comes to us.

So if you are in the place, pray with me these words composed by someone else who has been there.

Lord Jesus, my Saviour, Your hands and feet are marked with the wounds of Your crucifixion. In Your risen body, Your wounds have not been taken away, but are part of Your glory. May they remind me that my own wounds are not roadblocks on the way to the Father, but are there to show me my own unique way to follow You, the suffering Christ. Assure me that my wounds, too, will be glorified in my own resurrected life. Amen.

And know, the Lord is with you!


George Appleton ( Celtic Daily Prayer – Daily devotion for 9/7 – https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/ )

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 112.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 542.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Henri Nouwen, https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/saints/september-21st-henri-nouwen-1932-1996/)

God’s Not Dead… but He did die on a Cross…

Devotional Thought of the DayThe Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

22  Jews want miracles for proof, and Greeks look for wisdom. 23  As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24  but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (TEV)

16  I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17  and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18  so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19  Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (TEV)

I venture to assure you, my dear reader, that if you and I enter into this forge of the Love of God, our souls will become better, being cleansed of some of the dross that clings to them.  (1)

I watched a couple of interesting movies yesterday.  The first was Good Will Hunting, and then I watched the movie that has become quite popular among Christians, God’s Not Dead.

I wrote last night on FB that both were about redemption, and that both fell short.  They both dealt with brokenness, they both had characters, several of them, that needed to be healed of the darkness they dwelt in, and they both seemed to find healing for their brokenness.  And both fell short. Both were incomplete.

But what surprised me is that I found that God’s not Dead seems to have fallen shorter in some ways.

Good Will Hunting isn’t a movie trying to serve as an apologetic.  It is simply a John Hughes movie, done in the context of Boston. Quite realistic, even to the language.  it got it when the character that is redeemed can’t be helped by the wisdom and knowledge of the world, of the professors and clinicians.  It takes a broken, battered man (Robin Williams) and the unlikely average joe to bring about the promise of redemption, of meaning.  And it is found, not in the career, not in the perfection of life, but in the need for real love, and the chase of the one who loves.  Replace Minnie Driver with Christ, the sexual scenes with times of intimate prayer – and you have something.

But the brokenness and pain can’t be healed by anything but love.

Now to God’s not dead

Did you notice anything really conspicuous missing from the movie?

Think.

Think again.

The ontological arguments were well done.  The brokenness of relationships with God and between Dean Cain and his family, and Kevin Sorbo and his girlfriend, students and life in general are well done, if a bit over the stop in stereotypes.  The dealing with cancer, and the band ministering to the girl with a cancerous death sentence, nice done as well.

But there is something missing.

Figure it out yet?

I’ll help.

Where was the cross?

You can prove the existence of the Divine, of a Creator, logically and completely, and still have someone who is bound by satan, enslaved by sin, in anxiety over death.

Luther noted that this was true, as he explained the work of the Holy Spirit in the Large Catechism

For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. (2)

We  can know all about the existence of God, but without the cross, you cannot know God’s attitude is towards you.  All we can realize is that you don’t deserve love, but punishment.  Like the mathematicians and fancy psychologists, we cannot find a way out of our brokenness.  We are so broken, so torn up, so enslaved by sin. Even forensic, scientific apologetics becomes, not a hope, but a hindrance.  The victory of young Wheaton in the movie is something we can triumph in, we defended God successfully!  We won the battle, even as they don’t see the victory in the back room, or out on the street, or even behind him, as the girl who lost her family but found Christ was there.

We have to have the cross, for it is there we find God’s attitude toward us, we see the incredible dimensions of His love in those rough beams, in the blood soaked body of Christ.  We proclaim His death until He comes again, as Paul says we do as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the incredible love of the Eucharist.  We are joined to that cross in our baptism (see Colossians 2, Romans 6, Titus 3)

it is impossible to know the love of God without seeing His work, without seeing the cross.

And it was missing.

The relationship?  It was a minor secondary thing compared to the victory.  Compared to the people who came to “know” about God by deciding God’s case.

As if we could comprehend His ways, understand His actions simply by deducing there is a God.

We have to know there is a God who loves us……who loves us enough to die for us.

Yes, God’s not dead, but He did die….

for you.

Get to know Him, walk with Him, it is why He died.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 203-204). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.Part II  Of the Creed: Article III

 

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