Category Archives: Catholic Theology

The Meaning of Life… (warning – graphic illustration included)

Thoughts that encourage loving and being devoted to Jesus

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.  Romans 5:8-11 NLT

Without argument, most things are at their best when they are fulfilling their purpose and design.
For instance, a piano is made with a specific purpose: to produce music. However, I happen to know that someone once stood on a piano in order to put a fastener of some kind in the ceiling. Some artistic women have used piano tops as family picture galleries. I have seen piano tops that were cluttered filing cabinets or wide library shelves.
There is an intelligent design in the creation of a piano. The manufacturer did not announce: “This is a good piano. It has at least nineteen uses!” No, the designer had only one thought in mind: “This piano will have the purpose and potential of sounding forth beautiful music!”…
Do not miss the application of truth here. God was saying to Abraham, “You may have some other idea about the design and purpose for your life, but you are wrong! You were created in My image to worship Me and to glorify Me. If you do not honor this purpose, your life will degenerate into shallow, selfish, humanistic pursuits

556    The Way of the Cross. Here indeed is a strong and fruitful devotion! May you make it a habit to go over those fourteen points of our Lord’s Passion and death each Friday. I assure you that you’ll gain strength for the whole week.

I love Tozer’s illustration, but struggle with the application.

Simply put, we weren’t created to worship God, or to glorify Him.  I have seen too many people over the years try and fulfill that purpose, only to burn out, then drop out.

We were created for a purpose, and understanding that purpose can result in the most amazing worship, and result in God’s being glorified, a glory we are promised to share in. (see Col. 1:26-29)

Our purpose, our erason for existence is simpler, and more amazing.

As the piano was made to make music, we are made to be loved by God! We are created to be His friends!

Nothing less that being the ones whom God pours Himself to, whom God has chased throughout History, planning each step to bring us into this wonderful relationship.

We can’t mistake our response for the reason. It doesn’t work backwards. St Josemaria wants us to encounter that passionate love, that is why He wants us to contemplate the cross. Not out of duty, but because we need to know we are loved. And the Way of the Cross shows it to us, step by step, as Christ embraces torment, because it will show that love in a way that is undeniable.

It may be a blunt and graphic illustration, but saying that worship is the purpose and meaning in life is like saying going to the bathroom is the purpose of eating and drinking. Worship isn’t the purpose, it is the consequence. The purpose is being loved – a completely passive experience, and something we have no control over. This even works into my somewhat profane illustration, because a major part of worship is relieving oneself of everything impure… for God’s love will cause the eliminating of waste in our lives.

Therefore His sustains us through the most painful points of life. In the places where everyone else abandons us, He is there, comforting us, drawing us into His peace.

Finally, the glory of God has someone to love. In fact He draws us to Himself and loves us, that is truly glorious.

That is our purpose – to be loved. That is what gives meaning to our lives.

Know that you are loved beyond measure, experience that love that is unexplainable… and find out why we praise His name!

 

 

A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

We need (to be) Committed, Exapendable Believers

Some thoughts for the day

11  There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12  You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13  For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14  Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. Hebrews 5:11-14 (NLT2)

The contemporary moral climate does not favor a faith as tough and fibrous as that taught by our Lord and His apostles. The delicate, brittle saints being produced in our religious hothouses today are hardly to be compared with the committed, expendable believers who once gave their witness among men. And the fault lies with our leaders. They are too timid to tell the people all the truth. They are now asking men to give to God that which costs them nothing.
Our churches these days are filled (or one-quarter filled) with a soft breed of Christian that must be fed on a diet of harmless fun to keep them interested. About theology they know little. Scarcely any of them have read even one of the great Christian classics, but most of them are familiar with religious fiction and spine-tingling films. No wonder their moral and spiritual constitution is so frail. Such can only be called weak adherents of a faith they never really understood.

But this I say for myself: I am also a doctor and a preacher, just as learned and experienced as all of them who are so high and mighty. Nevertheless, each morning, and whenever else I have time, I do as a child who is being taught the catechism and I read and recite word for word the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Psalms, etc. [8] I must still read and study the catechism daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the catechism—and I also do so gladly  Luther’s introduction to the Large Cathechism

Essentially, there are two components in the care of your own soul: God’s word and prayer. The first is the means of the Holy Spirit to sanctify your soul and body. The second is your response; the result of your sanctification, you could say

It took constant effort to keep ourselves in some semblance of peace when we were seeking fantastic goals that were constantly frustrated, setting off the afflictive emotions of anger, grief, fear, pride, lust, greed, jealousy, and the other capital sins. As the false self diminishes and trust in God increases in the night of sense, our energies can be put to better purposes

There was a lot of richness in my readings this morning.

Some of it seems caustic, and the context of Tozer and Luther’s quotes were far more so that what I cut and pasted here. words 50 and 500 years ago still sting, because the church still faces the same challenges it did then, and even back when the church was young, and the Book of Hebrews chided believers for not maturing in their relationship ith God.

Part of me, reading this, wants to figure out to save the church, to find a way to preach so powerfully that the church just finally wakes up and grows up! (It doesn’t help that I’ve been listening to Keith Green music for the last week!) Gosh, if only there was some way to get us all fired up for Jesus!

Luther’s got the idea, echoed by Senkbeil and Keating. Before I see God transform my people and my community, I have to see Him, and allo him to circumcise my heart, to cut away those emotions Keating identifies, as well as the sin. Only the Holy Spirit can remove sin, and its minions—guilt and shame. That is why Luther would go back to basics, to the Prayer, to the word of God, to the Creed, to be reminded of these things that God is doing. That is why Tozer would point people to the heavier classic works of Christianity – not for theological training, but to ask the hard questions. The questions that help us take up and bear our crosses–the truth that we desperately need Jesus.

Not just to remove the stain of sin….

But to walk with us, to be with us,

For then life is sanctified, and our energies are put to a better purpose… for God has removed what isn’t us.

That is the way we become more dedicated, and yet expendable. For what happens to us is not as important. We are expendable because we realize our walk with God is greater than our self-preservation. The more God cuts away that which is not us, the more He recreates us, the more we long for eternal life, and yet the message we communicate becomes a message that convinces people that we walk with God.

Not because of the eloquence of the words, but because we depend God in this life, we know how He provides, and that means more than anything. That is why, despite struggles with sin and doubt, we keep coming back to Him, we keep wanting to hear His voice, and we realize that anyone who knows this can replace us, for the remarkable thing is not that we are witnesses of His glorious love, but the love that we have witnessed. A love that goes beyond anything we’ve known…

A love that changes everything, and mostly changes us.

Expendable simply means that love means more to us than life, because that love is eternal… and it is life.

 

A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).

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), 380.

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 243.

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), 140.

Prayer is like a jacuzzi…

a jacuzzi near a tree
Photo by Erik Mclean on Pexels.com

Thoughts to Encourage Your Devotion to Jesus…

But when you pray, go into your own room, shut your door and pray to your Father privately. Your Father who sees all private things will reward you.” Matthew 6:5 (Phillips NT)

The habit of breaking off our prayers before we have truly prayed is as common as it is unfortunate. Often the last ten minutes may mean more to us than the first half hour, because we must spend a long time getting into the proper mood to pray effectively. We may need to struggle with our thoughts to draw them in from where they have been scattered through the multitude of distractions that result from the task of living in a disordered world.…

First he invites Christians to pray his very own prayer along with him, joining their prayers to his. “Our Father,” he invokes, by these words implying that any Father of his is our Father too. Since we pray in and through Jesus to the almighty Maker of heaven and earth, we have the privilege of approaching him as beloved children

From God’s point of view, it is not accomplishments but efforts that count. If we accept our poverty and limitations, but still go on trying, we will rate higher than everybody else in God’s book, just as the poor widow did.… If we make the effort and receive that one precious point for trying, God can take his pencil and start adding zeros after it.

As I was confronted by Tozer this morning, I struggled with his honesty. I don’t know how often I start to pray or read the scriptures and find my mind wandering off into space. I find myself checking a text, answering an email, or thinking of someone I need to call. Many things demand my attention, and I don’t even struggle to fight them off. I try to justify it by saying I am growing old, and my concentration isn’t what it once was… but that is just a poor excuse.

We need to sink into prayer like we do when we go into a jacuzzi. It requires great patience and the acceptance that it takes a little while to get used to it. But when we do, the comfort it gives, the stress it relieves, and the benefit it brings us are beyond belief. So it is with prayer, the first five to ten minutes are tough. Still, eventually, Satan will tire, and the distractions will dissipate. You will find yourself welcome in this conversation with God.

We need to realize that we belong in that moment. There is a point in entering a jacuzzi when you know you can take the final step in, when the heat has moved up your legs as blood returns to the heart, and you are internally ready. We can boldly enter the water then, and in the same way, as we pray, we get to the point where it just becomes a bold move. We are up to our necks….dwelling deeply – nothing else but our Lord, listening, comforting, directing, healing, empowering.

It takes effort because we are, as Keating notes, poor and limited. What we have to offer doesn’t seem enough. We go on trying, encouraged by the Father of Jesus, our Father, who loves us. And as we struggle, we learn to keep praying, knowing we will find ourselves in a moment with Him. Then we learn it was not about us straining to reach Him but realizing that He came to us.

Distracted as you are praying? Find a quiet place – keep praying… even if it is simply savoring the Lord’s Prayer or personalizing Psalm 8, 23, 139. Keep trying to pray, seek His face, His voice, and His care. You will get there… and then the feeling is incredible…for He is your God, and you are His.

Lord, help us to be patient while we enter the waters of prayer. Help us to keep praying until the distractions pass, and all we know is You and Your love. AMEN!

Tozer, A. W. 2015. Tozer for the Christian Leader. Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Senkbeil, Harold L. 2019. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.

Visionary Servant Leadership

Thoughts helping us focus on Jesus…

Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. John 13:3-5 NLT

Leadership requires vision, and whence will vision come except from hours spent in the presence of God in humble and fervent prayer?

God remains the center, and man is drawn beyond himself toward the absolute as it manifests itself. He “possesses” love only insofar as love possesses him, which means that he never possesses love in such a way that he could describe it as one of his powers, which lies at his own disposal. To be sure, this does not mean that love remains external to him, but if it does not, it is only because love itself takes possession of him in his innermost heart—interius intimo meo.

Nevertheless, as a spiritual physician I’m treating the whole person, not just their emotions. When the soul is at rest in God, emotions will stabilize.

There are a lot of books out there that one could read to learn about Visionary Leadership. That includes those written by pastors, former pastors, corporate CEOs, former military leaders, and sports figures like John Wooden.

Rarely do I find that there is a spiritual component in these books or the seminars they spawn. If so, spirituality made be motioned as an afterthought. Even though we have generations of servant leaders, and the example of the prophets and Jesus of such incredible leadership.

We think such leadership is a gifted ability, something innate in that person but missing in this person. In thinking so, we make a mistake. Authentic leadership is not a gift as much as it is a side effect. (Note – leadership in Romans 12:8 is closer to administration than leading and guiding people. )

A side effect of time with God.

That time with God results in a deeper dependence, a deeper trust. Theologians call this faith, but that overused word rarely is thought of as the desperation that results in our clinging to God, knowing there is no other answer.

And the side effect of that dependence is the leadership Jesus shows as he washes the disciples’ feet and dies for them and the world the next day. Tozer talks of leadership coming from hours spent in the presence of God. Balthasar speaks of being drawn to God and possessed by God’s love – even to the most interior, intimate part of being. God is there; that is what conversion is, as our hearts and minds- cold, dead, broken by sin are replaced by the Spirit with Christ’s heart and mind. It all comes down to dwelling in HIs presence, and being sure of the promises, as Chirst was, as he washed the feet of the apostles… even of Judas…

Ultimately, this kind of leadership is focused on drawing people into the heart of God. That is where we must lead them, for that is where we find out who we are. We have to be confident of God’s presence and His work – then leadership is simply part of the response. This is the work Senkbeil speaks of – the healing that takes place as we wash feet, go and pray, or take the time to explain what the scripture means.

That is visionary servant leadership… which is the kind that makes an actual difference in the lives of people… both not and eternally. AMEN!

Tozer, A. W. 2015. Tozer for the Christian Leader. Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Balthasar, Hans Urs von. 2004. Love Alone Is Credible. Translated by D. C. Schindler. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Senkbeil, Harold L. 2019. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.d

Don’t Confuse Church with Heaven…

Thoughts to urge you closer to Jesus… and to adore Him!

6  I am quite confident that the One who began a good work in you will go on completing it until the Day of Jesus Christ comes. Philippians 1:6 (NJB)

They dream of a church as righteous as Adam was in paradise, though the wrath of God was revealed from heaven against him when God said, ‘Adam, you may eat of every fruit, but if you eat of this tree you shall die.’

The Eucharist received in Holy Communion awakens us to the permanent presence of Christ within us at the deepest level. The Eucharist, like the Word of God in Scripture, has as its primary purpose to bring us to the awareness of God’s abiding presence within us.…

There are times where being a part of a church is overwhelming.

It might be because of conflict.

It might be because people have expectations that they place on the church, but not on themselves as part of the church.

It might simply be because of too much truama.

Simply put, church is not heaven on earth. We might want it to be perfect, we may think it should be, we will get angry when it is not heaven on earth, when people in it disappoint us, and even hurt us.

People may think churches are built on holy ground – and I will argue they are! But that doesn’t mean everything that happens within it is holy and perfect. For sinners in need of grace find a place there, and God begins His work in someone’s life, as the church is gathered together, and shares in the words of God, and the sacraments through which He pours out His love.

Keating is right – church is where God reveals Himself to His people, especially through the Eucharist! He is here as God’s people are gathered – whether in stately cathedrals, simple wooden buildings, caves, or at the local starbucks.

But Luther is also correct – in this midst of these groups, there is sin, and sin that God must purge or punish, cleanse or condemn. ANd sin means people get disappointed, hurt, betrayed. They fail and yes, they sin.

Here is why – the work of sanctification happens there – as God continues His work – and will continue it, until we are are completed when Jesus returns. That means there is always work going on, sins being confronted and cleansed, reconciliations occuring where there was only brokenness, life becoming real and glorious, even as evil is dealt with, and people who are muddied with sin being cleansed. If these things aren’t happening in a church, it isn’t the church.

Church isn’t heaven…. but it is the place where we see glimpses of it, as we see God at work. It’s full of broken people – and that can be frustrating – and even depressing – and it can even break you. But it is also where you heal, where you find God at work, where you find hope and rest..

So keep looking to what He is doing – and become part of it…. and be patient with His work, and not dismayed that it is needed. In fact, rejoice as you see it being accomplished – for it means God is at work…. around you and in you. And He will complete it!

AMEN!

Luther, Martin. 1999. Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 54. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.

The Obstacle to Spiritual Growth

Thoughts to encourage you to adore Jesus…

29  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30  And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. Romans 8:29-30 (NLT2)

After a mother has smiled at her child for many days and weeks, she finally receives her child’s smile in response. She has awakened love in the heart of her child, and as the child awakens to love, it also awakens to knowledge: the initially empty-sense impressions gather meaningfully around the core of the Thou. Knowledge (with its whole complex of intuition and concept) comes into play, because the play of love has already begun beforehand, initiated by the mother, the transcendent. God interprets himself to man as love in the same way: he radiates love, which kindles the light of love in the heart of man, and it is precisely this light that allows man to perceive this, the absolute Love: “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

In the beginning, emotional hang-ups are the chief obstacle to the growth of our new self because they put our freedom into a straight jacket. Later, because of the subtle satisfaction that springs from self-control, spiritual pride becomes the chief obstacle. And finally, reflection of self becomes the chief obstacle because this hinders the innocence of divine union.… Human effort depends on grace even as it invites it. Whatever degree of divine union we may reach bears no proportion to our effort. It is the sheer gift of divine love.

In the 70s and 80s, the church talked about the need for discipleship.

Then in the 90s, authors encouraged our Spiritual Growth. After the turn of the century, Spiritual Formation became one option; having a life coach became another. Sadly, most people have left the seats of their churches, looking for something outside the church that the church was always meant to provide.

The Apostle Paul talks about it here as having “right standing with Him.” He speaks of His people having been given His glory. He doesn’t talk of them attaining it; God doesn’t talk of giving them 4 steps to spiritual fulfillment or 10 stages of a spiritual journey. God does the work, choosing, calling, justifying, sanctifying, and sharing His glory with them.

Please understand me; I love the work of spiritual formation, discipleship, and guiding people in their spiritual growth. But I think it starts and finds its power in the gathering God’s people, in revealing to them God’s love for us. That is the purpose of Absolution, of the public reading of the word of God, of that thing we call the sermon, the homily, or “the message.” And by all means, that is the reason for regularly celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

It works, not by stages or steps, but much as Balthasar notes occurs the same way a baby learns to respond to their momma. We experience God’s glorious love, we experience His presence and welcome, and we learn to love. We learn what we can’t understand and explain. The glory, the love, and peace of being accepted into God’s presence.

That is why I think Keating is correct in his analysis – that our constant reflection hinders our growth. Our desire for a diagnosis or a spiritual progress report hinders us because it takes us away from the innocence of looking to God and seeing Him at work in and around us. Of simply kneeling there at the altar and knowing He is there. By taking our eyes off of Him, we neglect the union with God that leads us to spiritual maturity spiritual completeness.

Am I saying the church service is enough? That all we have to do is sit there passively? Of course not – but it starts there and is nourished there, and what drives us in our daily lives centers there – for there we experience His love together….

Lord, help us to innocently receive Your role in our lives, as You cause us to dwell in You. Sharing in Your glory, in Your peace, and Your love. May those who lead and shepherd Your people see Your work in those You gather together…. AMEN!

Balthasar, Hans Urs von. 2004. Love Alone Is Credible. Translated by D. C. Schindler. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.

The Paradox of Knowing What to Do, and Doing it.

Thoughts encouraging us to be devoted to God.

The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. 33 And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”
34 Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Mark 12:32-34 NLT

43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. 44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.” Mark 12:43-44 NLT

God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed.

Furthermore, we have frequently shown what we mean by faith. We are not talking about an idle knowledge, such as is also to be found in the devils, but about a faith that resists the terrors of conscience and which uplifts and consoles terrified hearts.

There is nothing more affirming, in fact, than the experience of God’s presence. That revelation says as nothing else can, “You are a good person. I created you and I love you.” Divine love brings us into being in the fullest sense of the word. It heals the negative feelings we have about ourselves.

I think the teacher of religious law knew he was right, but he didn’t understand why he was right.

The old lady knew why she did what she did but didn’t know she was right. She just did it.

My quest as a pastor is to help you, my friend, know both sides of the coin. To help you discover what to do in life and why to do it. I want you to love God with everything you are and to do so realizing His presence and love for you.

The quote from the Book of Concord shows why we should depend on God. In those times where problems and anxieties overwhelm us, our dependence on God reminds us He is our Comforter. In those times, we find peace in His presence as we take a breath, and in that still moment, remember the cross and His love.

The old woman knew that – and she responded with everything she had. She knew God loved her; she knew something special about being in God’s presence – so she gave. The idea of affirmation was not on her mind, but it was what was happening…

More often than not, I dwell in Tozer’s spot – I know I should be there; I know I should desire His presence and be more aware of it than I am. I struggle like the teacher of the law- knowing what should be but forgetting why I need to love God with everything. I need, like Tozer, like the teacher of the law – to hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness, to desire God’s presence more than a bride can not wait to see her husband-to-be on her wedding day.

It may sound self-serving, but there is nothing in our lives that compares to being in God’s presence – it is where we find peace, it is where we find love, and therefore meaning to our lives.

A meaning that goes beyond this life into the next, which is God’s desire in the first place…

To have us with Him – because He wants us there…

This is why we love Him… this is why we can give up everything… even our 2 cents.

Tozer, A. W. 2015. Tozer for the Christian Leader. Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Kolb, Robert, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand. 2000. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

Keating, Thomas. 2009. The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings. Edited by S. Stephanie Iachetta. New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.

Why Did I Fall…again?

What was the difference between Javert and ValJean? The priest who cut straight to the heart

But the LORD came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. 6 “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! 7 Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”
8 In that way, the LORD scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why the city was called Babel,* because that is where the LORD confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world.
Genesis 11:5-9 NLT

Satan knows that the downfall of a prophet of God is a strategic victory for him, so he rests not day or night devising hidden snares and deadfalls for the ministry. Perhaps a better figure would be the poison dart that only paralyzes its victim, for I think that Satan has little interest in killing the preacher outright. An ineffective, half-alive minister is a better advertisement for hell than a good man dead. So the preacher’s dangers are likely to be spiritual rather than physical, though sometimes the enemy works through bodily weaknesses to get to the preacher’s soul. (1)

33    You never want “to get to the bottom of things.” At times, because of politeness. Other times—most times—because you fear hurting yourself. Sometimes again, because you fear hurting others. But always because of fear! With that fear of digging for the truth you’ll never be a man of good judgment. (2)

As I get older, and as I watch people around me age, I have learned that when people fall, it is not enough to pick them up and send them on their way. You need to determine why they’ve fallen, what let to it, and therefore, will it happen again? For example, is the fall because they are a klutz like me?  Or is it that the place they fell has to many hazards? Or is it something different, a problem with their heart or mind, muscles or spine?

Each of the possible causes can be dealt with, (even my being a klutz!) but you cannot apply a solution or treatment unless you know the nature of the cause. What one might do for the klutz will not help the person whose mind is challenged. Moving the fall hazards out of the way might help one person but another might need a walker, and another person might do better off with heart medications.

This is true spiritually as well. Why did that person fall, why is this leader struggling, what is going on, and how does the leadership crash and burn? Not all fall the same way, or for the same purpose.

The people at Babel fell and were scattered because of their pride, and their inability to see their need for God. Their fall would be reversed at Pentecost, and the divisions between people groups would begin to heal.

The attempts of Satan to paralyze those in ministry is another cause of a fall. Those pressures, whether of temptation or oppression, whether physical or spiritual, wear out the man, his preaching and administration of the sacraments lacks the conviction it once had, and the entire church – and their community is affected.

When people are falling, or have fallen, when they have become ineffective and paralyzed, there must be more than just lifting them up. (If in fact, anyone bothers to do so!) It is not often simple, nor is it easy. St. Josemaria identifies the reasons why we hesitate – we don’t want to embarrass the person who is fallen. Or we are afraid to look for the reasons, the matters of the heart and soul, or the tripping hazards that Satan has entangled them, lest we get caught up in their pain.

Even more challenging is when we are falling when we are struggling. For a pastor to admit this is rate – we are just too afraid in the implications.

We must trust in God in these moments, more than any other time in our lives. We have to know the promises He has made to us, the power that is behind the promises, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. This will enable us to dig to the bottom of the issue, finding the hope that is in Christ Jesus. In Jesus, there is hope for those who have fallen, and for those who are struggling. That is what the cross is about, and why we preach Christ crucified…for us.

For in Him, we find peace, and that He is at work, guarding our hearts and minds. AMEN!

(1) A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).

(2) Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

When all else fails… there is peace with Jesus

May I focus on Jesus, that I may know the love revealed to me in all of life.

He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death. 17 He came and proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. Eph 2:16-17 CSB

“Fear not,” the Angel said to Mary in the announcement of the incarnation of the Word. “Do not be afraid,”
Jesus repeated so many times to the disciples. It is an invitation that opens a new, refreshing space in the soul,
giving security and engendering hope. (1)

During the last eight or nine years of her life, her temptations became still more violent. Mother de Chatel said that her saintly Mother de Chantal suffered a continual interior martyrdom night and day, at prayer, at work, and even during sleep; so that she felt the deepest compassion for her. The saint endured assaults against every virtue (except chastity), and had likewise to contend with doubts, darkness, and disgusts. Sometimes God would withdraw all lights from her, and seem indignant with her, and just on the point of expelling her from him; so that terror drove her to look in some other direction for relief: but failing to find any, she was obliged to return to look on God, and to abandon herself to his mercy. She seemed each moment ready to yield to the violence of her temptations. The divine assistance did not indeed forsake her; but it seemed to her to have done so, since, instead of finding satisfaction in anything, she found only weariness and anguish in prayer, in reading spiritual books, in Communion, and in all other exercises of piety. Her sole resource in this state of dereliction was to look upon God, and to let him do his will. (2)

The way [faith] works in experience is something like this: The believing man is overwhelmed suddenly by a powerful feeling that only God matters; soon this works itself out into his mental life and conditions all his judgments and all his values. (3)

Return, o wander, return and seek an injured Father’s face; those warm desires that in thee burn were kindled by redeclaiming grace! (4)

As I read the section in green this morning, it resonated with me. That dread feeling that God has abandoned me, that even in prayer or devotion or at the altar there is an emptinesss. It seems a burden, and de Ligouri’s use of the word anguish is not… unknown

It takes some time usually, before I realize the joy that seems gone is not. The burdens and pains are, oddly enough, gifts from God given to re-focus me from the means by whcih God comforts me, to God himself.

The nun looks upon God finally, Tozer says we get overwhelmed with the idea that only God matters, we hear God’s call on our lives to not be afraid, to not be anxious…

And we find deeper hope, we find security, we find again the the peace which we proclaim.

We find ourselves in the presence of God, who has never really left us, we’ve not been forsaken, or abandoned.

We just needed to realize that we are not alone.

It is then, just in the presence of God, just as the Holy Spirit defibillates our faith, which was wavering… it is then that all our disciplinesbecome desirable again. It is then we see the blessing of the struggle, that God is using it for good, as He has promised to us. The pain and tears are blessings, the dryness is a sign of God’s care… to get us to see HIm… and Him alone.

Everything we do, will at some point fail. But He never will, and as we realize it is all about Him… everything else will come alive as well.

Relax, know that God is with you – and let His peace wash over you!

He loves you… He is with you!

(1) Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 324.

(2) 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), 467.

(3) A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

(4) Collyer, Evangelical Lutheran Hymn Book, #54 (Concordia Publishing House 1927)

The Apostle Paul: A narrow-minded, fixated man… who found his safe place.

If only this was how we saw life…

j

Thoughts to encourage us to love and adore Jesus!

21 For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of what is preached. 22 For the Jews ask for signsa and the Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified,ai a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. 24 Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:21-24 CSB

I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Cor. 2:2 CSB

11 For no one can lay any foundation other than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. 1 COr. 3:11 CSB

To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart. (1)

St. Francis de Sales says, that no sooner do children espy a wolf than they instantly seek refuge in the arms of their father and mother; and there they remain out of all danger. Our conduct must be the same: we must flee without delay for succor to Jesus…. (2)

I have heard people say that Paul was a bit narrow-minded, a bit fixated. I think they mean it quite derogatorily, but as I just read through Romans, and now enter 1 Corinthians, I see that fixation, I seen the narrow focus of his work, and…..

I am incredibly grateful for it!

You see what i see him fixated upon is Jesus.

We are to talk to people about Him, helping them to see Him, despite their stumbling, despite their first reaction that it is foolishness. As they are guided past that, they begin to realize what it means for Jesus to be the fullness of God’s power (and ability) and His wisdom. There is nothing else for paul to hold onto in his very complicated, difficult life, and yet his knowledge of Chirst is what sustains the apostle.

As it will sustain us.

Tozer knew this, and talks of pursuing the God, it was enough for him to have saved Him, he has to follow Jesus, to pursure the one who declared him righteous. De Ligouri also sees Jesus as the safe place, just as a child threatened by hostile threats.

No wonder they all still sought the One who created them, found and healed them of their brokenness.!

This is why Paul would have us build our entire lives on him, nothig else.

He is our only true hope, our true comfort, our shelter in the storm, the list goes on and on throughout scripture. Each pointing out that Jesus is our life.

Am I always able to keep my focus there? No i struggle as much as you – but we need to help each other, as Paul does, reminding us (along with the Corinthians) of the narrowed minded focus we need ot have….

Jesus..

Jesus…

(1) A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).

(2) 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), 453.

%d bloggers like this: