Category Archives: Theology in Practice

9/11, Peace, Nirvana and Heaven

Devotional Thoughts for 9/11:

14 We are people of flesh and blood. That is why Jesus became one of us. He died to destroy the devil, who had power over death. 15 But he also died to rescue all of us who live each day in fear of dying. Heb 2:14-15 CEV

We doubt God’s love when we see and feel all the sufferings that our freedom to sin has brought upon us. Like Dostoyevski’s Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov, we prefer happiness to freedom. We wish God had given us less freedom and had guaranteed that we would stay in Eden forever. We wish that He had put up a sign saying “No snakes in the grass”, that He had given no law that we could ever have chosen to disobey.

I was in Del Taco, the one on 29 Palms Highway, the one from which you can see Yucca Valley High School. I had just placed my order, and heard people gasp. I rounded the corner. and froze.

And we, along with millions of others, watched as thousands died.

I don’t remember what I ordered, or if I ate it. I was supposed to go play golf on the base golf course, that would be cancelled. I drove to my church, threw open the doors, let 107.7 know people could come and pray…. and they did.

19 years later, the memories, along with many of the people I’ve stood by the bedside of, as they died. Many of those times are passing before me this morning. Some people were at peace, others not so much. All, along the journey, questioned God about the suffering that they, or the loved ones they cared for endured.

Why does it have to exist? Why couldn’t god just leave us in paradise, and make it impossible for us to sin? Impossible for us to suffer, impossible to…die. Why do we fall for temptation, again and again? Why do we have to suffer the consequences of the freedom God has given us all? Why did Adam and Eve fall for the lie that all freedom is good? Oh the power of that lie! Oh the damage that freedom can wreak… for freedom means that we often choose that which leads to death. Our death, or others.

Wouldn’t we be happier if God just programmed us perfect, and we knew no freedom, but only happiness? If we knew naive bliss, but not how love is still love in the midst of our brokenness? Would it not be nirvana if there was no war, no discrimination, no terrorism, no death?

Perhaps it would, but nirvana is but emptiness, it is the emptiness, the lack of self, and while this may seem peaceful, it misses out on what truly creates and sustains peace. It lacks the thing we need to know the most

Love.

The kind of love that brings peace in the midst of suffering and death. The kind of peace that has us give up control, but in order that God’s love may be revealed to be in control. The kind of love that rescues us from the fear of dying, by reminding us for the promise of heaven.

Kreeft finishes the paragraph above with this,

Mere kindness or compassion would keep us protected against suffering by denying us real freedom. That is the love we have for pets but not for persons, at least not persons we really respect. We are not meant to be God’s pets. He did not create us for that. We are to be God’s lovers.

We aren’t not God’s pets, His naive, companions. Who wants a scratch behind the years, or a treat when we behave right, and ask to go out rather than leaving a puddle on the kitchen floor. We are the bride who will cry on His shoulders, who will depend on His strength to get us through life,e who will sing His praises, for eternity is more than death… and even in the times of death, those who know Him, can know His peace. We need the Holy Spirit to come, and to comfort us, in the midst of terrorism, amid the brokenness of a country torn apart by disease, or sin, or natural disaster. We need to find something so amazing that we can leave the painful emptiness behind, in view of the amazing love.

That is why people ran into First Christian Church on 9/11. That is why they cried at the altar, and why they could leave… still distraught, still not believing, but knowing that God was with them, and therefore knowing peace on a horrendous day.



Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 116–117.

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/)

The King, the Missionary and the Priest walk into…

Devotional Thought for Today:
1  First of all, I ask you to pray for everyone. Ask God to help and bless them all, and tell God how thankful you are for each of them. 2  Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honor God. 3  This kind of prayer is good, and it pleases God our Savior. 4  God wants everyone to be saved and to know the whole truth, which is, 5  There is only one God, and Christ Jesus is the only one who can bring us to God. Jesus was truly human, and he gave himself to rescue all of us. 6  God showed us this at the right time.
1 Timothy 2:1-6 (CEV)

“I think more of the place where I was baptized than of Rheims Cathedral where I was crowned.  It is a greater thing to be a child of God than to be the ruler of a Kingdom.  This last I shall lose at death but the other will be my passport to an everlasting glory.” (St. Louis IX, King of France)

746      From there, where you are working, let your heart escape to the Lord, right close to the Tabernacle, to tell him, without doing anything odd, “My Jesus, I love You”. Don’t be afraid to call him so—my Jesus—and to say it to him often.

In the same spirit of humility he directed in his will that the following inscription and noting more should be vut on his gravestone:-
WILLIAM CAREY, BOTRN AUGUST 17th, 1761.: DIED-
A wretched, poor, and helpless worm…on Thy kind arms I fall.”

The king and the missionary knew the same thing.

They understood what truly mattered in life. Both had amazing successes, and failures beyond imagination. They were known and loved by some of those they served, and hated by others. Neither was perfect, yet both knew what mattered in their life, to the extent that I would hold their words up to you, and ask you to come to similar conclusions.

The same conclusion that St. Josemaria urges us, even as we work diligently, to let our hearts escape into God’s presence, and declare boldly, “my Jesus…”

You see that is what the great missionary to India meant, as he fell into the arms of Christ. Nothing else in his life was worth recognizing, save that. The King, choosing more important the moment where the Father unites him to Jesus, in the death and resurrection of Christ, (see Romans 6, Colossians 2) says the same thing.

Everything that is critical in life boils down to to that point, where Jesus makes us His people.

This is what we need to pray, that as God is revealed to people, that they know His love, and His mercy, so shown to us at the cross.

It is the presence of God that we need in our lives. That is where everything changes. To realize that is what Jesus gave up to gain for us, to be welcome there in the presence of the Father, to be drawn into the glorious love in which the Trinity dances, this is everything.

That is the point of the religion we call Christianity. Not to just explore where we have come from as humanity. Not just to reign in behavior, teaching people how to be good to each other.

Our purpose is that everyone, from people in France and India, clergy and politicians and those they lead, know the miracle of being welcome into the presence of God!

This is why we pray for people, surely asking for God to help them in their times of being challenged, but that they might now Him as well.

So my friends pray for all… and pray they come to know the living Lord Jesus, and then together with Louis, and Josemaria, and William, find the peace that passes all understanding, as we experience the Love that goes beyond explanation.. and know I pray you know this too!.

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

Spurgeon, Charles. Morning and Evening – Morning, August 29, Logos Edition

Do We Make Church Boring?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Never give up praying. And when you pray, keep alert and be thankful. 3 Be sure to pray that God will make a way for us to spread his message and explain the mystery about Christ, even though I am in jail for doing this. 4 Please pray that I will make the message as clear as possible. Col. 4:2-4 CEV

736      Your life cannot be the repetition of actions which are all the same, because the next one should be more upright, more effective, more full of love than the last. Each day should mean new light, new enthusiasm—for Him!

God designed all finite things to be eventually boring because He designed our heart with an infinite hole in its center, a hole that cannot be filled even with the whole enormous but finite universe. There is a Black Hole in our heart analogous to the physical Black Holes in intergalactic space that can suck all the matter in the universe into themselves. This spiritual black hole is the restless heart that will not and cannot rest anywhere except in God, its home.

Gracious souls are never perfectly at ease except they are in a state of nearness to Christ; for when they are away from him they lose their peace. The nearer to him, the nearer to the perfect calm of heaven; the nearer to him, the fuller the heart is, not only of peace, but of life, and vigour, and joy, for these all depend on constant intercourse with Jesus.

There is a challenge in leading worship, and in leading a church. It is all to common to get in a rut, to try to do the same pattern of worship faithfully. But as St. Josemaria points out, we can’t just be repeating everything, over and over.

Please be careful, I am not advocating changing the church service every week, but to engage in it better every week, To be more effective and build the enthusiasm in the service. Not just an upbeat sense of enthusiasm, but an enthusiasm, a desire, a will that is focused in on being in the presence of Jesus. For in His presence, together, being cleansed by His blood, by being fed on His word, by being united together in Him, each week can be the same thing, done in a way that continually draws people closer.

This is the same for private life, as the black hole is filled with the presence of God, the only thing that can fill it. It is no different to say “never give up praying” as it would be to say, “never stop being aware of being in the presence of God” for both are the same thing.

The way to keep from getting into a rut in either your devotional life, or in church is to remember Who you are talking too, Who you are walking with, to realize what happens as you draw nearer to Him. Pray for your pastor and worship leader to help you realize that you are in God’s presence, not just in theirs! (They should be like waiters in a restaurant – you should know they were around, because of Who has been brought to your attention – but Who is brought to your attention is the focus, and the reason you are there!)

Let God fill you! Let God bring about your healing, as you realie He is forgiving and sanctifying you.

Sing, pray, listen, with the knowledge of His presence…

Church and private prayer will never be boring then… you will desire it more and more. And the day you don’t, just refocus on Jesus.

AMEN!

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

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 89.

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

Is This What We Should Pray for?

St francis at the crossDevotional Thought of the Day:

and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought: 6 Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. 7 He gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. 8 Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. Phil. 2:5-8 CEV

Do you believe that your sins are forgiven, and that Christ has made a full atonement for them? Then what a joyful Christian you ought to be! How you should live above the common trials and troubles of the world! Since sin is forgiven, can it matter what happens to you now? Luther said, “Smite, Lord, smite, for my sin is forgiven; if thou hast but forgiven me, smite as hard as thou wilt”; and in a similar spirit you may say, “Send sickness, poverty, losses, crosses, persecution, what thou wilt, thou hast forgiven me, and my soul is glad.”

When people talk about Philippians 2, they usually mention the incredible description of Jesus found in verses 6 through 11.  It is an ancient hymn, sometimes called the Carem Christi.

But we forget that it is an invitation.

An invitation to suffering. An invitation to love like Jesus loves.

An invitation to know the love of Christ, to know it so intimately that you don’t reject pain and suffering for the cross, but embrace it, s Jesus did, for the joy that it will bring.

That is the point of that hymn being shared, to help us learn how to embrace the hard things in life. To see them as the opportunity to imitate Jesus!

This is possible for the very reason Spurgeon notes. We realize what it means that we are forgiven, that our relationship with God is perfect and new.  Everything that was broken has been healed, everything that was corrupted was restored.  How amazing this is! How incredible! It can and should overwhelm us as it becomes more clearly revealed.

Even to the point where we “ask for it!”  We ask for the pain, the suffering, whatever it costs to help others come ot know God’s love. For it is worth it, all the suffering, even martyrdom, if through it one person comes ot know the Lord’s love for them.

As we suffer, as life hauls off and wallops us, we begin to understand the cost to Jesus of living us, and that love, not our own strength, sustains us. Not only sustains us, but empowers us as we realize what it all leads to, the vision Paul used in the next chapter,

10  All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, 11  so that somehow I also may be raised to life. Philippians 3:10-11 (CEV)

I pray that you and I will come to want to suffer and know the power that raised Christ to life. AMEN!

 

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

 

Remember Who You Are!

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

Before you knew God, you were slaves of gods that are not real. 9 But now you know God, or better still, God knows you.  Galatians 4:8-9 CEV

We will, we choose, we create the moral ignorance in our souls, the ignorance that Plato saw as a prerequisite to doing evil. We voluntarily turn off the light of truth. For instance, we shut out the divine truth and justice of “thou shalt not steal” before we sin by stealing. The ignorance of the thief—by which he thinks that filling his pockets with stolen money will make him happier than filling his soul with proper virtue—is indeed, as Plato saw, a prerequisite for his act of theft.

2157 The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior’s grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father. The sign of the cross strengthens us in temptations and difficulties.

The law has been given to men for three reasons: (1) to maintain external discipline against unruly and disobedient men, (2) to lead men to a knowledge of their sin, (3) after they are reborn, and although the flesh still inheres in them, to give them on that account a definite rule according to which they should pattern and regulate their entire life.

Peter Kreeft’s words above are truer than we want to admit.

We too often set aside God’s truth, shutting it out, so we can serve gods that are not real. One of them is the pursuit of happiness at any cost. Most of our sins will fall into that category.  One example, choosing to sleep in, because that will make our day go better, rather than getting up and praying before all else. Or if it is Sunday, getting up and going or participating online in a church service. Kreeft’s thief is another example. A third, the man or woman who would commit adultery either in deed or just in thought, because the sex might be better than it is with their partner.

Sin sets aside our God-given identity, choosing to be ignorant of who we are.

The law confronts that worshiping non-existent gods, including the god of happiness, for sure. But it is often missed in the Christian. Rather than using it to establish the pattern of our lives, and to regulate that, we try to use it to externally discipline each other. We are great at pointing out others’ failures, others’ sins, but not so great at truly addressing our own. When we do, we usually beat ourselves up, fall into depression, and do not really change anything.

I find the key to this, when I remember it, in the words of the Apostle Paul.  The part where he says what is better still. God knows you!

God knows you.

He cares for you.

God loves you!

That challenge is convincing you of that.

You see, before you knew God before you were united with Jesus, you were someone different. But that all changed when God came to you and baptized you, joining you to Jesus in His death and resurrection. (See Col. 2) We need to know that we need to stop setting it aside for this sin or that one. We need to celebrate that salvation with joy, recognizing who we are because of it.

The children God loves.

That is why Lutherans and Catholics and Orthodox make the sign of the cross when we pray, or when they start the day. The reason should be to remember the cross, to remember that they were saved there, as Jesus hung there and died…and with Him, they died to rise to a new life. It needs to be done, (and I will admit it is not… often) with reverential thought, remembering our identity that was established there.

Remembering, we are defined by this very thought. God knows us.

 

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 65.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997)521.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 479–480.

Heavy Burdened for a While? Please consider this!

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
These tents we now live in are like a heavy burden, and we groan. But we don’t do this just because we want to leave these bodies that will die. It is because we want to change them for bodies that will never die. 5 God is the one who makes all of this possible. He has given us his Spirit to make us certain that he will do it. 6 So always be cheerful!  2 Cor. 5:4-6

Full of burning affection he toiled, like Jacob for Rachel, until the whole of her purchase-money had been paid, and now, having sought her by his Spirit, and brought her to know and love him, he awaits the glorious hour when their mutual bliss shall be consummated at the marriage-supper of the Lamb.

Of all the people in scripture, I pity, I don’t think anyone deserves it more than Leah. She who was the first wife of Jacob, the sister of Rachel. I thought of her as I read Spurgeon’s words this morning. She didn’t have someone “full of burning affection” for her, she had someone whose marriage to her was like a duty.  He did it, gave her sons (lots of them), but there was no passion, no desire.

There are days I do not just pity here, I resonate with her.  I wonder if God treats me the way Jacob treated Leah. He loves and desires the rest of you, but the cost of that is fulfilling his duty and saving me so that He can bring His true love, YOU, home.

I know the feeling isn’t valid, but it is still there. Using the wedding analogy, you all have your reception at some posh Bel-Air hotel, and I get drive-through at Burger King.  I am still glad to be provided for, I am glad to be in the household, yet am I a second class citizen?

I think this is just weariness from the burden that Paul describes to the church in Corinth. We want to give up theses second class bodies, this life that isn’t really living. This being Leah. We want the first-class life, the real living, knowing that we aren’t just loved, but really loved.

And in this part of life, the weariness gets to us, the burden of brokenness challenges our hearts and minds. We begin to think we are second class, that we belong in the background, that even in heaven, we will be given the “nose-bleed” seats. (Maybe this is why the back rows of churches are so popular?)

It is hard to realize we are viewed more like Rachel than Leah. It is hard to believe God could love billions of people, including us, with that same level of passion. That there aren’t 999,999,999,999 people in front of us for God to care for, to cherish, to love and adore.

There isn’t. He desires your love, your companionship, as fully as He does anyone. You aren’t on His list of things to do today… You are whom He wants to spend the day with, whom He rejoices in the presence of, you are the beloved.

Understand this, He loves you! (me too)  The presence of the Holy Spirit, the promise of our baptism, earned for us at the cross, proves it.  Look at all the promises God makes, to you and me. Look at the love He shows us, directly.  Spend time with Him now, hear Him reveal His love for you, through His word, See His desire for you, and the joy He looked forward to, even while embracing the cross to make it happen.

Think about that… and be at peace… for you are loved like Rachel… by the One who is love.

AMEN

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

 

Making Sense of It All

man wearing jacket standing on wooden docks leading to body of water

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the day:

9 In fact, we felt sure that we were going to die. But this made us stop trusting in ourselves and start trusting God, who raises the dead to life. 2 Corinthians 1:9 (CEV)

Each Commandment makes sense only when you see it in the light of love. Take the first, for example: “You shall have no other gods before me.” Why? Because God is an egotist? No, because God is a lover. What lover wants half the heart of his beloved? Also God is a realist. He knows that false gods simply cannot make us happy, however many times we are deceived into believing and acting as if they could. Love, of course, seeks the beloved’s happiness. It is God’s love of us, not self-love, that is behind His jealousy.

I have had a number of people ask me how I, as a pastor, cope with all that is going on in these days. I have pause for a moment because what I know is going on in people’s lives, I can’t always share. Matter of fact, that is too often the story.

I have my challenges, but they are nothing compared to those that people are experiencing. In the midst of that experience, I am trying to help them experience something else. What I want is for them to experience the love of God, which I know I can’t explain clearly enough.  There are no words for it, but that love sustains us through the most broken parts of our lives.

So perhaps it is good for people to ask me how I am coping. By being honest with the fact that I could not cope without God holding me up, perhaps they can know His comfort as well. Perhaps they can see, in the midst of my struggles, that God doesn’t give up on us, that He will comfort us,

This works into Kreeft’s observation about God’s jealousy, about the idea that He isn’t jealous for His sake, but for ours. God wants what is best for us, and being smarter than us (what an understatement) He longs for what is best for us. As Kreeft indicates, it is love, and a desire for our joy, that drives the jealousy of God

That is why Jesus hung on a cross for us.  It is why he spent years teaching and mentoring people like John and James, “the sons of Thunder”. It is why Jesus is not only merciful to sinners but is patient with us as well. And it is why He sens and equips apostles and pastors and missionaries and teachers to train us to serve others. As they train us like Paul did, training us by example.

Even when that example was tiring, frustrating, painful, and heart-rending. Because you, child of the King, need to know He is there for you in those times. If God was with Paul, and with me, certainly He will be there for you, for He loves you.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 45.

 

 

Why Do We See Scripture Reading as a Duty, Not a Blessing?

photoDevotional Thought of the Day:
2  You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. 3  That’s right—you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set.
Psalm 119:2-3 (MSG)

Let us use texts of Scripture as fuel for our heart’s fire, they are live coals; let us attend sermons, but above all, let us be much alone with Jesus.

When I made you a present of that Life of Jesus, I wrote in it this inscription: “May you seek Christ. May you find Christ. May you love Christ.” These are three very distinct steps. Have you at least tried to live the first one?

I have often struggled to find the words to encourage people (and pastors) to meditate on Scripture.

To treat it more than a textbook, or a self-improvement novel, or something they have to do, in order to be better believers, to be loved by God.

I would love to blame it on the enlightenment, or modernism and the need to rationalize and have a purpose for everything we do. But we, conservative or progressive, high church or low church, all seem to be willing to forgo spiritual disciplines like prayer and meditation on the words through which God reveals Himself to us.

It is too easy when trying to encourage people to spend time contemplating God and His love, to resort to tactics which can produce guilt or shame. It is challenging to help someone see the blessing of spending time, no, cherishing the time that comes when we slow down and hear the word of God, describing how we are loved by the Word of God.

Notice that the translation doesn’t say go and find your blessing? It simply acknowledges you are, when you follow the directions to find Him and do. He’s not that far off, even today amid a pandemic.  Spurgeon says we need to be alone with Jesus, he gets the blessing that it is!  St. Josemaria urges us to find Jesus, with the same concept. Not because we have a duty too, but because of the blessing.

This is our time of refuge, our time of peace, it is the time where we are loved and affirmed, and our hearts set on fire, our passion for God grows because we realize how passionate He is about us. It is the time of restoration, a time where we spend intimately with God, a time we need to survive, to take a time out, to breathe, to regain hope, to be healed, to realize that God is even dealing with our sin.

All that and more happens when a believer finds Jesus, right were they are. When they spend time savoring the message of Scripture when they don’t just read it to read it, but let it soak deep inside them.

I can only but urge you to do so, to spend time with God as He reveals Himself to you… and how He is you God, and you are His beloved people.

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

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

Really God? You Have to Remind Me of this today?

dscf1215-copy-copyDevotional Thought of the Day:

It’s better to go to a funeral than to attend a feast; funerals remind us that we all must die.  Ecc. 7:2 CEV

Blessed is he who keeps the moment of death ever before his eyes and prepares for it every day.

I guess God likes a sense of irony.

Tomorrow I go under the knife.

Just cataract surgery, but still, it is surgery.

Read through the Bible in a year, and the reading I come to the day before surgery deals with death!  So did the book report I had to deal ith last night, chapter after chapter of dying to self that as awesome, but also passages that told us to desire death

Not what I want to think about, at least that is my first reaction.

But why not?

We need to think about death for a number of reasons, that are practical, and spiritual.

1.  So we learn to value the life we have.
To often we take life for granted, we don’t think about making the most of it, we just let it slide by. Especially in these days of isolation. We can see God at work in every day of our lives, working in relationships good and bad

2.  So we leave things somewhat in order, as a blessing to others.
It can be things as simple as your favorite songs for your funeral.  Or where money is stashed and other issues of that note.  (Of course, now I have to think of all this stuff) Wills, testaments, advanced directives, all that messy stuff.  But it is even messier if you don’t do it.

3.  Not taking even for granted, or the gifts that assure us of our eternity.
Living life fearing deaeth is no fun… I spent nearly half my life living in fear of dying. THat’s what happens when you have Marfans and you think about it. Working as a hospice chaplain, and seeing many people pass away has led to the point where I am not as afraid of dying.
But what I am talking about is being excited about seeing God face to face. NOt just the benefits of less back pain, and less trauma, and no more dang surgeries. But see God, who loves us so much, and being welcomed into His presence, and sharing in the glory and love of God, Father, son and Holy Spirit. That is more than exciting, that should leave us in awe,

Kempis’s thought is that we should think about heaven, so that we behave better in this life. Not quite fear driven, but somewhere between fear and reward driven behavior modification. That might work, but works better is to live life, thinking about the glory and love of God. Of letting the thought of that love, that care fill your life. That will change you far deeper than mere intellect. It will change your soul, and you will desire to see others find that place of rest, that place of pace.

So making me think of death… it’s not that bad.  Actually, it is a huge blessing.

Now, thinking of them slicing my eye open, to replace the lens… ugh!

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1996), 46.

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