Esteeming His Word

Quite often, we’re intimidated by the Bible.  We all can take on a verse or two.  But that is pretty much it.

The Bible isn’t made up of singular verses, but of whole books.  I intend to go on record, to encourage you to ingest the Word.  It’s as if we went to a Chinese restaurant buffet.  There is so many delicious choices.  But we load up exclusively on the “Kung Pao Chicken.”  We make many trips, but that is all we take.  Only the Kung Pao, and that’s it.

Have we really experienced this restaurant?  Or just the chicken?  The Word is extensively diverse.  There are recipes, and there are heaping and steaming platters of things we will never personally experience, and that is a shame.  So much is there, but we pick out just one thing.

I have been reading the first few chapters of the prophet Jeremiah.  It really humbles me, and I sense I’ve been sliced open and my innards have been drug out into the streets.  It has spiritually eviscerated me. It has opened me up, with a spiritual power.  (I’m sorry, but “Moby Dick” or “Great Expectations” or other works of classical literature does nothing comparable for me.)

God’s Word has a peculiar dimension to it.  What it does is spiritually forceful.  It eagerly waits for us–this leather backed book.  At random we pick it up and start to read.  Quite quickly, it slips through our issues, and it directly ministers to us.  It has such power that it enters our thinking, and detonates, when the time is right. And we are left to pick-up the pieces. (This is good.)

You see, His presence has throughly saturated His Word.  He comes and infuses His books.  They have been dipped in His very personality and brought out for us to read and handle.  The things we discover there develop an awareness of truth and what is real.  If you study, you will hear the voice of God.

You have not arrived.  There is still a substantial work to be done.  You desperately need God’s words.  And you don’t need to become proficient or educated.  Perhaps we should just strive to be holy and kind.  Even an unorthodox approach is better than none.  Please–put down the remote, take up your heart, and apply it to your Bible.  It won’t take long, but the work is eternal.

“The Bible is alive; it speaks to me. It has feet; it runs after me. It has hands; it lays hold of me!”

 — Martin Luther

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

 

Becoming a Gentle & Meek Person

Being very gentle with others
Being very gentle with others

Gentleness means recognizing that the world around us is fragile, especially other people. It is recognizing our own capacity to do harm and choosing instead to be tender, soft-spoken, soft-hearted, and careful. To be careful means that you are becoming aware.

Perhaps this idea of becoming careful brings us the closest.  People who know exactly who they are become the most gentle of human beings.  They now live for others, and show a deep-seated care for even the “least.”

Jesus was gentle just as much as He is strong and wise and bold. You could say He was always gentle, even when He was bold and authoritative. No once did Jesus show unkindness in His words or teaching or actions. He was kind all the time, even when He was tired and hungry.

“He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
21 And his name will be the hope
of all the world.”

Matthew 12:20-21, NLT

 

“The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority.  Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself.  He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life.  He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels.  In himself, nothing; in God, everything.  That is his motto.”                                                

 A.W. Tozer

“The higher people are in the favor of God, the more tender they are.” 

Martin Luther

“Perhaps no grace is less prayed for, or less cultivated than gentleness.  Indeed it is considered rather as belonging to natural disposition or external manners, than as a Christian virtue; and seldom do we reflect that not to be gentle is sin.” 

Norman Bethune

“Gentleness is an active trait, describing the manner in which we should treat others.  Meekness is a passive trait, describing the proper Christian response when others mistreat us.” 

Jerry Bridges

 

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

Living Tethered to the Cross

We live in this place.
We live in this place.

St. Francis of  Assisi once wrote, “The devil never rejoices more than when he robs a servant of God of the peace of God.” Sometimes I think I’ve made the devil dance far too many times.

I confess that peace has never been real high on my list. Love, joy, kindness and even goodness are clear priorities. Peace–well… not so much. Until it’s not there. And then I get frantic by its absence, and look for it with manic bewilderment.

I’m panting for some sign that God still loves me. Anxiety eats at me. I beat myself up by my last failure. The guilt of my latest sin grows until it looms larger than the blood that saved me. Sometimes religious people have the most neurosis.

I’m afraid that we are taking “the present tense’ out of the Gospel. The past tense is far preferable to us as we manage the Christian life. We like to make check marks on our list. Repentance– check. Baptism– check. Bible study– check. I think it gives me a definite feeling of ‘maturity.’

But truth has a way of punching through. I haven’t arrived, and it seems I’m still the hideous sinner I always was. I cannot pretend otherwise, even with a truck load of cosmetics at my disposal. I know, I’ve tried. And I’m still ‘ugly.’ I do know forgiveness, and I do walk in its wonderful light (by grace.)

I read Luther 30 years ago. (And Bonhoeffer would say something similar.)  “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” – Martin Luther (this is the first of his 95 Theses.) There is a present tense here we can’t ignore. I don’t just repent over smoking, or fornication, or of hypocrisy, once and done. But my entire way of living is to be one of repenting.

Repentance is a ‘moment-by-moment’ grace.

As I read the Beatitudes I cannot evade the sense that they are present tense. Read them, they’re obviously not a spiritual checklist. Each verse seems to speak of the time being, the present moment. No list here, guys. It will never be ‘one-and-done.’

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
    for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
    for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
    for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
    for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

Matthew 5:3-10, NLT

All of the Christian life is repentance. Turning from sin and trusting in the good news that Jesus saves sinners aren’t merely a one-time inaugural experience but the daily substance of Christianity. The gospel is for every day and every moment. Repentance is to be the Christian’s continual posture.”

–John Piper

Luther’s last words, on his deathbed wrote on a scrap of paper these words, “We are beggars! This is true.” Thirty years before, he was only echoing his first thesis. It seems dear ones, we are to live at the foot of the cross. Everyday. Because we desperately need to.

And perhaps the biggest reason is this: Jesus only comes for ‘sinners.’

&

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

The Art of Offending God

SinfulInside1

“Oh, how often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
    and grieved his heart in that dry wasteland.”

Psalm 78:40, NLT

“For forty years I was angry with them, and I said,
‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me.
    They refuse to do what I tell them.’”

Psalm 95:10, NLT

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [do not offend or vex or sadden Him], by Whom you were sealed (marked, branded as God’s own, secured) for the day of redemption (of final deliverance through Christ from evil and the consequences of sin).”

Ephesians 4:30, AMP

I must say, we instinctively know how to offend God.  No one has to teach us how it’s done, we just know how to do it. We have the amazing ability to sadden God. Our sins, and our rebellion causes God to tremble and weep. Disobedience, in any form affects the very essence of God’s well-being.

As a believer in Jesus, I know that sin is never permanent. It is not like getting a spiritual tattoo on our hearts. Our faith prevents sin from completely attaching itself to our hearts. But my sorrow or grief over my sin, must drill itself directly into my heart. I should come to the point where I can not sin against Him who loves me hysterically.

To turn back to Him involves “contrition.” To be contrite is to imply a very simple acknowledgment of our sin– and the rebellion that is often seen within. Somehow this is possible. I do not understand the mechanics of it all. But I am very glad it is there. God loves a heart that is contrite.

God is very offended by our sin. But somehow we do not grasp this. More or less this is a bit intangible. In our mind, we go don’t ever stop sinning against Him. We feel that we are getting away of something, which isn’t true at all.

As a closet-Lutheran, I propose the Lutheran Church which also has its own act  of contrition, which is said during Holy Absolution. The following version, taken from the Lutheran Service Book (2006), says:

    O Almighty God, merciful Father, I a poor, miserable sinner, confess to you all my sins and iniquities, with which I have ever offended you and justly deserved your punishment now and forever. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray you of your boundless mercy, and for the sake of the holy, innocent through many bitter sufferings and death of your beloved son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor sinful being.

I can say nothing more than this. I will simply rest in this kindness that isn’t me at all. He loves each of us, as if we were the only ones. Thank you Father.

Y

ybic, Bryan

*

For The Work, For Our Lord

A Leader's Prayer
A Leader’s Prayer

Lord God, you have placed me in your church.

You know how unsuitable I am. Were it not for your guidance I would have brought everything to destruction. I wish to give my heart and mouth to your service. I desire to teach your people, and long to be taught your work.

Use me as your workman, dear Lord. Do not forsake me; for if I am alone I shall bring all to nought. Amen.

***

A written prayer by Martin Luther, (b. November 10, 1483 – d. February 18, 1546) Catholic Monk, Reformer, Theologian, Writer.

________________

Some General Quotes by Luther:MartinLuther

“Faith is a living and unshakable confidence, a belief in the grace of God so assured that a man would die a thousand deaths for its sake.”

“So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!”

“Either sin is with you, lying on your shoulders, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God. Now if it is lying on your back, you are lost; but if it is resting on Christ, you are free, and you will be saved. Now choose what you want.”

“In our sad condition our only consolation is the expectancy of another life.”

Visit CrossQuotes for more– http://crossquotes.org/category/martin-luther/

*

Reformation is Coming

The door that began it all

Today is known in many churches as Reformation Day. On October 31, 1517, we remind ourselves of the amazing reformation that came as young Martin Luther made his way up the steps of the church of Wittenberg to nail a list of 95 theses speaking of the objections he and others were having with the Roman Catholic Church. (BTW, the doors were used as community ‘bulletin boards.’)

The RCC at the time was dealing with bad doctrine and even worse policies. There were many voices of dissent on many issues, and perhaps the most difficult was the issue of indulgences. Essentially, they were being sold to many who wanted to be forgiven. This generated revenue for the pope’s treasury.

Thesis 86, which asks: “Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?”

Wikipedia says “Luther objected to a saying attributed to Johann Tetzel that “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory [also attested as ‘into heaven’] springs.”

Luther insisted that, since forgiveness was God’s alone to grant, those who claimed that indulgences absolved buyers from all punishments and granted them salvation were in error. Christians, he said, must not slacken in following Christ on account of such false assurances.”

Below are some of Luther’s quotes, which are worth your time in reading. These are taken from Crossquotes.org, a site I set up to pass on some significant words to this generation of Christian believers.
Luther’s Seal

Martin Luther– Top 15 Quotes

Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.

In our sad condition our only consolation is the expectancy of another life.

Faith is permitting ourselves to be seized by the things we do not see.

A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject of all, subject to all.

I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.

The first thing I ask is that people should not make use of my name, and should not call themselves Lutherans but Christians. What is Luther? The teaching is not mine. Nor was I crucified for anyone. How did I, poor stinking bag of maggots that I am, come to the point where people call the children of Christ by my evil name?

Be a sinner and sin strongly, but more strongly have faith and rejoice in Christ.

To do so no more is the truest repentance.

Faith is a living and unshakable confidence, a belief in the grace of God so assured that a man would die a thousand deaths for its sake.

So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!”

I would not give one moment of heaven for all the joy and riches of the world, even if it lasted for thousands and thousands of years.

Is it not wonderful news to believe that salvation lies outside ourselves?

My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.

Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.

If you young fellows were wise, the devil couldn’t do anything to you, but since you aren’t wise, you need us who are old.

Either sin is with you, lying on your shoulders, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God. Now if it is lying on your back, you are lost; but if it is resting on Christ, you are free, and you will be saved. Now choose what you want.

from Crossquotes.org

*

ybic, Bryan