Category Archives: Dallas Willard

God did it again! Grrrrrr! Can He frustrate me!

Devotional Thought of the day

23 Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.   Proverbs 4:23 GNT

Be open to the night…
Pray with open hand, not with clenched fist…
Shapes loom out of the darkness, uncertain and unclear: but the hooded stranger on horseback emerging from the mist need not be assumed to be the bearer of ill…
The night is large and full of wonders…

Lord Dunsany from Morning Prayer: 12/15 Northumbriacommunity.org

For God, we are not numbers, we are important, indeed we are the most important beings to him; even if we are sinners we are the closest to his heart.

Again I find myself sitting in my office, upset at another injustice I see.

Something that seems dark and ominous, something that I’ve got to watch someone deal with, something that just isn’t right, or in my humble opinion, Godly.

I want to react, some might accuse me of wanting to overreact.  I want to step in and make things right, to bring light to the darkness, to bring healing where there was only division and repression…. and brokenness.

Even as I go to pray about it, I want to vent my anger to God and pray that He gets angry as well, angry enough to leave His throne and come done and do something about it.  As I tried to pray, I found my anger too strong, and I tried to ask God to bless all involved. and then I moved onto my readings for the day… 

You see some of these readings above…. and I my anger shifts a little, changes a little as I realize that God did it too me again.  He frustrated my anger, my agenda, my coming to Him with clench hands by pointing these readings right at my weakness, at my brokenness, at my lack of trusting, in Him. 

I need to guard these thoughts of mine, I need to be careful of how I think, of how I respond, of how I resent injustice. I need to realize that God could work through this dark time for my friend (actually friends – I am dealing with at least three such situations.. just one more appeared this mornign) and I need ot pray that God determines how this situation should go. 

And I need to realize the people involved in causing the injustice, they too are just mindless numbers, that they too are people that God cares about, even as they are broken sinners as much as I am. I need to pray for them, not just that their hearts are convicted, but that they know God would bless them, and work in their lives.

Of course, I don’t appreciate God pointing this out, arranging these readings in such a strong and powerful way.  It’s more than a little frustrating, not to mention I feel like he’s spying on me and playing with me a little.

Then again, I am incredibly grateful that He loves me that much, that He calls me on my anger when giving into it and when I forget His goal of revealing His mercy and love.  I am grateful He makes me wrestle with Him, and He allows me to see the Holy Spirit at work.  I am grateful He shares with us His love…and mercy…and enables us to (eventually) reach out in real prayer for those who antagonize and hurt us.

This is God…who knows and cares about us.

and I am thankful for His work in our lives.   AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

The Value of Quietness…and how it leads to a joyful dance!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9  This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.
Genesis 6:9 (NLT2)

All of us, in this era when public life is being more and more Americanized, are in the grip of a peculiar restlessness, which suspects any quietness of being a waste of time, any stillness of being a sign of missing out on something. Every ounce of timeis being measured and weighed, and thus we become oblivious to the true mysteryof time, the true mystery of growing and becoming: stillness. It is the same inthe area of religion, where all our hopes and expectations rest on what we do;where we, through all kinds of exercises and activities, painstakingly avoidfacing the true mystery of inner growth toward God[1]

You can suffer from a desperate hunger to be loved. You can search long years in lonely places, far outside yourself. Yet the whole time, this love is but a few inches away from you.
It is at the edge of your soul, but you have been blind to its presence.
We must remain attentive in order to be able to receive.

John O’Donohue

Our primary goal, then, is not just to hear the voice of God but to be mature people in a loving relationship with God. This will result in our living a certain kind of life—one ofloving fellowship with God and those who love him. Only with this in mind willwe hear God rightly.[2]

As a child, my favorite times were when I was alone. Alone to read, along to wander the woods behind our home, alone especially in a church, an hour or two before mass.

Something happened as I was growing up, somehow, I turned into an extrovert, which is kind of awkward, because socially, I am pretty awkward. I can’t find contentment, or satisfaction, or peace easily when I am alone anymore.  Which is pretty good considering my vocation as a pastor, but not okay really, because spiritually, there is a huge need to be alone.

Well, not really alone, for in Christ, we never area.

The quote from O’Donohue above (from the Northumbrian community daily devotions at https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-prayer/) struck me first this morning.  How often our desperate hunger to be loved forces us into awkward and even harmful situations,  How often are we blind to the purest and greatest love, that is right at the edge of our soul?  And yet to recognize it, we have to set aside our restlessness, we have to realize that being still, being quiet, being able to rest is not a waste of time.

For as Pope Benedict notes, there is a mystery that occurs as we are still, we grow and become, we find our reality, we relate to God.

Willard reinforces this as well, as he notes we aren’t just made to listen toGod, to hear His voice, to praise Him in unison with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.  We are madeto grow up into this loving relationship with God, to be in this amazing lifewhere we dance with God, where we share His joys, where He helps us with peacein the midst of sorrow.

Which means we have to find the quiet times, not to be disciplined, but to restin His presence, to remember He is our God, that He cares for us. To walk inclose fellowship with God as Noah did, and yet find the strength to know Him,to be at peace in His glory, in His presence.

So set the time aside, learn to love the moments of peace that finally set in…learn to leave all the distractions behind.

Meditate on the fact that He love you, until that meditation becomes aconversation, and then a dance.

Lord, may all those who read this, findthe time, and the patience, to realize they dwell in Your presence, and you intheirs… AMEN!


[1] Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 386–387). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

[2] Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

Learning to Listen to God. STEP 1

Jesus foot washingDevotional Thought of the Day:
20  Impressed by their bold belief, he said, “Friend, I forgive your sins.” 21  That set the religion scholars and Pharisees buzzing. “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemous talk! God and only God can forgive sins.” 22  Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking and said, “Why all this gossipy whispering? 23  Which is simpler: to say ‘I forgive your sins,’ or to say ‘Get up and start walking’? 24  Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both… .” He now spoke directly to the paraplegic: “Get up. Take your bedroll and go home.” 25  Without a moment’s hesitation, he did it—got up, took his blanket, and left for home, giving glory to God all the way. 26  The people rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then also gave glory to God. Awestruck, they said, “We’ve never seen anything like that!”
Luke 5:20-26 (MSG)

God’s patience calls forth in us the courage to return to him, no matter how many mistakes and sins there may be in our life.

Doubts and hesitations justifiably trouble those who feel they are spoken to by God as Gideon was. “Why is it,” comedian Lily Tomlin asks, “that when we speak to God we are said to be praying but when God speaks to us we are said to be schizophrenic?”
Gideon, however, pursued the conversation with the angel of the Lord—testing the situation to see if it was real. We can do the same—think about it, wait, ask God to help us know if the speaker was himself or our own self.

There’s a new show, where a man receives text messages from God detailing his role in other people’s life. Though he is the son of a pastor, he struggles to believe in God, so these messages, well, he struggles with the messages, and the idea of a benevolent, loving God. A few years back there was another show with a similar twist, called Joan of Arcadia, and in a like manner, the young lady struggled with the idea that God would talk specifically and directly to her.

Lili Tomlin has a point, we will struggle to believe we are sane (and other people will as well) if we believe that God is talking to us.

But we need to hear Him, we need to hear His voice, as He talks to us.  We need to begin to trust in Him and to have faith in Him, and you can’t do that unless you are listening, (and along with Gideon, asking to Go to help us discern whether it is truly God, or just our heart speaking)

Listening to God isn’t easy, and discerning that it is Him is challenging. He speaks to us through His word, and through His sacrament, but this is delivered through others voices, through others hands. through others lives. And He speaks to us in prayer, which is more than just a monologue of our laying our burdens down.

So how do we start, listening to God?

I would say it starts with hearing one of the most important things we can hear, what the man lowered through the roof heard.

My friend, I forgive your sins!

The Lord, who will judge all of Creation, forgave your sin.

You have to hear that and know that no-one, not even you, has the right to judge you as guilty of them. You have to hear those words, spoken with so much love, “I forgive your sins!”

Hearing God starts there.  It opens up for you a great big can of healing (as opposed to the great gig can of whoop-#*& your think you deserve), it opens up the door to where God dwells and draws you in from the darkness of sin, shame, and the need for self-justification or self-pity.  And in His presence, as you are welcomed into His glory, you get to hear the next message from God.

I am the Lord your God, and you, you are my people.

Start hearing these two messages, let them sink deeply in your soul, and your will begin to hear and clearly understand God.

Lord Jesus, as you did for the blind, open our eyes to see You, and as you did for the deaf, heal our hearing so we can hear Your words, spoken in love, that our sins are forgiven, and that we are in a relationship with You.  ANd then help us to list, as you talk to us, thorugh the words You’ve given us, through Your sacraments, and through the people You bring into our lives.  AMEN! 

 

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 366). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

A Lesson We Need to Learn. Church is not “Respectable”

closed eyed man holding his face using both of his hands

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

The devotional thought of the day:

12 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. 13† Go and find out what is meant by the scripture that says: ‘It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’ I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.”  Matt 9:12-13 Good News Translation (TEV)

Neither illumination nor contemplation but rather spiritual attack (tentatio) concluded Luther’s engagement with scripture. For him, when the Holy Spirit breaks our reason and reveals to us the true intention of God’s word, we are not drawn into some sort of heavenly realm or closer contact to the divine by our effort. Instead, all hell breaks loose. The flesh, the world, the devil and any other anti-spiritual power attempt to wrest from the believer the comfort of God’s unconditional grace and mercy. No wonder the psalmist cried out for deliverance from his enemies in Psalm 119!

One of the most serious temptations that lead us to break our contact with the Lord is the feeling of defeat. Facing a combative faith by definition, the enemy under the disguise of an angel of light will sow the seeds of pessimism. No one can take up any fight if, from the outset, one does not fully trust in winning. Those who begin without trust have already lost half the battle.

People are meant to live in an ongoing conversation with God, speaking and being spoken to by him. God’s visits to Adam and Eve in the garden, Enoch’s walks with God, and the face-to-face conversations between Moses and Jehovah are all commonly regarded as highly exceptional moments in the religious history of humankind.
Aside from their obviously unique historical role, however, these moments are not meant to be exceptional at all. Rather they are examples of the normal human life God intended for us: God’s indwelling his people through personal presence and fellowship.

When 3 of my devotional readings go in a certain direction, it is not unusual.  When four do, when I see how they resonate,  the lesson just is about to burst forth, not from the readings, but through experience. So it is today;

I guess I will start with Luther’s thoughts, about this idea that the way we learn about God, is found in its last step in a fight, in the tension and battle that comes as all hell breaks loose, and Satan tries to wrest from us the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the comfort that is found in His cHesed, that incredible combination of love and mercy and peace that comprise what we call grace.

The fight is echoed in the words of Pope Francis, as we deal with an unnatural pessimism, a moment of despair and depression that is not like normal depression but is contrary to it.  As Satan tries to convince us that God wouldn’t care about us, that God sees us as riff-raff, as not worth His time or interest.  We know this is not true, yet, it is so hard to shut out the voice of the ones who are masquerading as messengers of God.

It is hard because we struggle to see ourselves as God does, as the beautiful, pure, bride, set apart as the bride of Christ, as one who deserves the respect and admiration of God.  Instead, we see ourselves as those who are broken, not worthy of a glance, nothing close to deserving respect.

Yet we often treat the church as if it is the place we have to demonstrate how respectable we are.  We might pretend, dressing us, smiling and saying we are okay when people ask, smiling and greeting each other as if every day was a party.  When what we really feel like is staying home, hiding under the blankets and ignoring the world.

I think this is enhanced by how we see what some call the heroes of faith, the incredible men and women we see described in the Bible. Except we forget that Moses was running from Egypt, a prince hiding out with sheep in the wilderness.  That Abraham was an exile looking for his home and future as well, that David wasn’t the hero, but the man broken by his sin, and then by the sins of his children.

As shattered as we are, yet…

Willard reminds us that they are examples of a normal human life and that God was present, and lived with them.   That God walked with them in their brokenness, even as He walks with us.   They are not exceptional, their walking with God, finding hope there, is our example, for we can as well.

After all, Jesus didn’t come to snob around with the perfect and respectful.  He came to draw outcasts, broken folk, exiles and those who struggle to get out of bed every morning.  Because He loves us…..

And Satan will unleash all of hell to stop us from experiencing this, and in that tension, we find God’s comfort, that He is our refuge, our sanctuary, and our hope.

We are His people, He is our God… and He is calling us to His side, so He can comfort and heal us, the children He loves.

Let us pray,  Heavenly Father, in the midst of trials, in the midst of brokenness, and when it seems all hell is breaking loose.  Help us to see Your glory, revealed in Your love and your comfort.  AMEN!

Wengert, T. J. (2007). Preface. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. xiv). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 352). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

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