Saturday, November 19, 2005

Interesting situation...

At work, I have a number of employees that are under my charge daily. Today, the "boyfriend" of one girl who works for us came into the store and started up an arguement with her. Now, me personally, I don't really care what is going on at home for the two of them, other than they be kind to each other (which they aren't) and happy (which they aren't). But what amazes me about this guy is he's abusive, he's abused the woman in the past, he's violent, he's all sorts of things... And he drags her to Church every week.

That blows my mind. I had to stand toe to toe with him today, and tell him he had to leave and never come back. I was angry with him, oh yes. Angry not only because he does what he does, but also because he professes to witness for Christ. After it was over and he'd left, I had to force myself to ask God that he lead me into forgivness of this man's offenses against me and Christ and to pray for him that he see the light. But after that, I felt much better. There's no amount of theology that can explain it when God delivers like this, giving a peace that surpasses all human understanding...

I still Pray that this guy come to know that peace.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The nightly vespers...

Heavenly Father, who brought us out of slavery to sin and into the Light of your Son, Jesus Christ, Grant us the strength and wisdom to recover the truths that many of us have left behind that we may fully understand the pure message and good news of Salvation that comes only from You in the name of your precious Son Jesus Christ, who together with you and the Holy Spirit, reign in glory forever and ever. Amen.

The nightly vespers, or evening prayers, is an old practice that used to be commonplace amongst Christians. God deserves our prayers, and I'm finding that it's just as proper to study how to pray as it is to just pray. There are many parts to the vespers, but I want to look at just one right now.

Take the prayer above. I just composed it using an old formula, the collect, which begins with an invocation, a petition, and a doxology. First we invoke name of God, which could be any of the various names that are used in the bible. I like the hebrew name El-Shaddai, not just because it's the title of a great song performed by Amy Grant, but because it means "LORD God Almighty". Part of the invocation is to state something that God has done not just for us, but for all people. God has stated of himself in Scripture statements like, "I am the LORD, your God, who brought you our of egypt", so we invoke his name in the same way. A petition is exactly that, a petition.

In a doxology, we have a statement of honor and praise, like the doxology at the end of the Lord's prayer: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever.

Now, I'm like most folks. I've had enormous difficulty with the act of praying over the years, because I believed that a prayer needed to come from the heart. The problem always came the with endless stream of uhs and justs and stops and starts... not very heartfelt at the end of the prayer. But using a simple structure like this has made quite a difference for my prayers. I want to offer up more than uhs and justs to God in my prayers, and it's been a real blessing to study these old forms.

I also found a great website that can help with daily morning and evening prayers.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Bible studies and Christian friends

I conduct a bible study every monday evening with a group of mostly old people. In this particular study, the topic is "how to handle offenses". I've found that this is a fairly common thing among Christians, because we all seem to have a hangup about being offended and needed to forgive.

But what amazes me is the fact that there seems to be a disconnect here with what I'm bringing to them. Scripture testifies that the promise of Christ includes actually is the starting point for handling everything that comes along in life, including being offended. Christ's death and blood brings both forgiveness of sins and cleansing from sins, by us receiving his word through study and prayer. The problem seems to be that I thought that this was how all Christians look at it. They seem to be believing the forgiveness part, but not the cleansing part.

Since I'm reformation, technically a confessing evangelical, each session of study I lead I remind the people of how God's law is good for instruction in righteousness, but God's law by itself gives no power whatsoever to keep the law. In the case of offenses, there's plenty in God's law telling how we are to handle being offended. But by itself, the law can do nothing for us.

I find that the disconnect comes when I show them the power itself through God's word. The Power of course isn't an "it", or "itself", but rather Jesus himself, given by God in his mercy as a propitiation for our sins, raised for our justification to work our sanctification by that same work on the cross. This is the gospel, and "the gospel (good news) is the power unto salvation for all who believe". That means that Jesus is our power, Jesus is our justification, and he is our sanctification. He's our everything. But when I tell of this, they seem to easily understand the forgiveness part, but the cleansing part they don't understand. "Yes", I tell them, "you must be taught how to handle offenses, but unless Jesus is the center and the reason you are handling them correctly in the first place, then its pretty much a useless endeavor on your part to even try". They always tell me after the session that I'm doing a wonderful job, but then tell my assistant afterwards that they don't understand.

They requested doing this whole thing because they perceive that they aren't being forgiving enough... In other words, they believe they aren't holy enough yet. They want to "do" better for God, or "gut it out for God", as on pastor I know likes to say, but they aren't trusting in the promises of God at all. They get the forgiveness part, but when it comes time to allow the Holy Spirit to convict us of transgressions and lead us to Christ, where we find the actual power to forgive offenses, they spend time saying, "well, I have to pray more", or "I have to calm down and take a breath" or "I will go now and anoint my office with oil and plead the blood over my job situation"... They talk about everything else but what Jesus has already done on our behalf.

They aren't receiving the second half of the promise. I don't know exactly what to do about it, other than say what I've already said in this post. I sometimes have moments where I want to act like Isaiah, and basically rain down fire on them, but I resist this temptation by God's grace. My only hope is in Jesus in this, that the Holy Spirit will work faith in them for this.

the big test

Since someone, somewhere, has seen fit to deprive the world of Issues etc and take a huge bite out of confessional Lutheranism at the same time, I will not take up the mantle of working to see that those who did it answer for their actions.
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