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Why is Spiritual Growth such a Long Ordeal?

Thoughts that drag me close to Jesus

Three different times, I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Co 12:8–10.  NLT

When the doctor’s (Luther) wife exclaimed, “How can people be so wicked and defile themselves with such sin!” the doctor said, “Ah, dear Katy, people don’t pray,” and then he added, “I think if God had commanded women to take on every man who happened along and in like manner commanded men to take every woman who came by—in short, if things were the opposite of what they are—people would earnestly have sighed for the institution of marriage.

Our lofty idealism would argue that all Christians should be perfect, but a blunt realism forces us to admit that perfection is rare even among the saints. The part of wisdom is to accept our Christian brothers and sisters for what they are rather than for what they should be.…

The Gift of Understanding reveals what is hidden in the major truths of Christian doctrine. The Gift of Understanding perfects, deepens, and illumines faith as to the meaning of revealed truth, adding new depths to the mystery to which we consent. For instance, it could be some aspect of the Holy Trinity or the greatness of God. It could be the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. It could be the infinite mercy of God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In other words, it is not merely the affirmation of something we believe and assent to. A characteristic of the Gift of Understanding is that it provides a kind of living experience of the mystery.

Luther’s wife and Tozer would have gotten along well! Both of them could voice their frustration with people who don’t mature in Christ, who still struggle, and sometimes embrace the sin that defiles them. Tozer had to remind himself and the church that Christians aren’t perfect, not even the holiest of us.

This doesn’t mean that we use some trite phrase to excuse the sin and unrighteousness that we should have set aside! “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven,” is one of them, which seems to allow for Christians to have the freedom to go and sin some more!

Nor do I think we should use what Luther jokes about, a kind of reverse psychology/spirituality that encourages people to feast on their sins till they make them sick to their souls. That didn’t work when my dad tried to teach me the evils of drinking, it won’t work with sin either. Luther’s point is that it wasn’t the sin, it was that whatever is labelled good – whatever is encouraged, our sinful nature will rebel against it!

For me, the frustration of this is one of my weakest points. I am not the most patient person, and I hate seeing myself or others endure the consequences of our own sin and sin nature. TO watch this over and over, to watch people make bad choices for themselves over and over, leaves me dry, worn out, burnet out.

Oddly enough, that is when God works the best.

That is when those blessed sacramental, incarnational moments occur.

It is when people begin to live in the mysteries, especially the sacramental ones, where they experience the love and acceptance of God so profoundly that they (and their pastor/friend) are in awe, and lose the ability to talk.

Those are the moments when we realize how sufficient, how effective, how precious the grace of God is.

I only wish I could say with Paul that I always treasure my weakness, that when I experience them I know something astonishing is about to take place. I wish I could say that, and it is a lesson that is being taught to me, over and over and over…

And Jesus never fails to amaze me, as those moments that impact others come out of moments of my most profound ineptness, weakness, and sense of failure. In those moments, when God’s grace is so manifest – the spiritual growth is amazing as its lack was disturbing.

He is here! He is God! He is guiding and caring for us!

and in that, I can rejoice, and find rest, and praise Him.

I pray the same for you! And then I will rejoice in what God is doing in our lives. That is our moments of weakness, and in our moments of frustration with other’s weakness, we can remember God is at work… and He is creating masterpieces of our lives.

 

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 415.

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

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), 209.

A Missional Lesson Not ot Be Forgotten…the Epistle Written on Hearts

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
11  It was He (Jesus ) who “gave gifts to people“; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12  He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. 13  And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. Ephesians 4:11-13 (TEV)

1  Does this sound as if we were again boasting about ourselves? Could it be that, like some other people, we need letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2  You yourselves are the letter we have, written on our hearts for everyone to know and read. 3  It is clear that Christ himself wrote this letter and sent it by us. It is written, not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, and not on stone tablets but on human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:1-3 (TEV)

195         When there is zeal for souls, good people can always be found, fertile soil can always be discovered. There is no excuse!  (1)

This weekend was one of those lessons in ministry that had to be driven home with an exclamation point.  I listened to 6 sermons, all by men who desired to serve God, who knew HIs love.  One was during our church service when a deacon preached about a widow who would give all because she God could care for her.  Then five deacon candidates preached a sermon on Philippians 2 as part of their homiletics course.

There were other sermons, not prepared, but sermons like the letters Paul mentions to the church in Corinth.  The letters testifying to ministry being done, of the word being preached, of the Holy Spirit at work

One lady, who very rarely comes to church (like 3 times 7 years!) who was telling another guest about how great the church was, and that she should come here regularly.  (And her laugh as I looked at her, and she realized she was talking to herself)  Another man who was taken aback by several telling him he should be in the next class, and seeing his heart consider it, as He was speechless at the thought.  Another man talked to me about how much these friends of his matured, how God had caused them to grow.  Most impacting were the tears of one lady, as she watched her husband of forty-plus years come alive as he preached, and as she encountered the power of God at work in their lives.  I could go on, to tell the stories I witnessed, as people were impacted by those messages, by those messengers.

None of the men who I heard yesterday would most consider “Minister material.” But the people they ministered too could not deny God’s work through them.  Like the small shepherd who would be king, or the terrorist who would become an apostle, or the coward who would lead God’s people to freedom.  They have some rough edges; each has significant struggles in life that would make most hesitate to put them in a pulpit.   But this is undeniable, God used them.  The proof was seen in the lives and conversations they touched.  They worked their tails off, and God blessed others through them.

We are all called to ministry, and it is a wondrous thing to watch the church growing and serving each other.  Even those we don’t anticipate God use so dramatically.

So how are you going to become the messenger whom God will write on others hearts this day?  Or how will someone else by used by the Holy Spirit to imprint on your heart the message of God’s love?  For we need both, we are fertile fields, and workers set apart to work in the fields ready for harvest.

Godspeed!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1026-1027). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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