Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:
“You too, like all God’s children, need personal prayer. You need to be intimate with him, to talk directly with Our Lord. You need a two-way conversation, face to face, without hiding yourself in anonymity.”
It’s not a new trend, but it certainly is one that is trending upwards these days. The desire of people to keep God at the maximum distance possible, while staying within range where our salvation would be still… there…ready for when we die. You see it among theologians – who have a tendency to talk more about God, more about the history of God’s people – who prefer to pray in cliche’s. Two days ago, at a funeral – a pastor I know talked about how pastors ( it was at the funeral of another dear pastor’s wife) talked about how we are great at leading people to the cross – but pastors aren’t so good at staying there themselves. (he is right, and I often fit into both of these categories!) There are others, who through themselves into the disciplines of a religion, without asking why, or how the discipline benefits. And of course, there are those, who want the relationship without the religion – talking to them I have found that they want a relationship on their terms, with their rules, and often – their definition of sin.
We like to keep Gdd at a distance – and we aren’t the first – consider these two passages – often used to “invite” people to know Jesus…
19 I am now giving you the choice between life and death, between God’s blessing and God’s curse, and I call heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Choose life. 20 Love the LORD your God, obey him and be faithful to him….” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 TEV
and then this passage from the new Testament,
20 Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if any hear my voice and open the door, I will come into their house and eat with them, and they will eat with me. Revelation 3:20 (TEV)
What is interesting – is that both passages were not written to those unfamiliar with God – it was written to those in a relationship in Him – those who tried to keep Him at a distance, those who tried to live life based on their own decisions, to try and go it their own way…
Yes, those passages are invitations to know God – intimately – but invitations to those first who claim to already know Him. Invitations to pray, to converse, to speak to God and let Him into your life at a level that brings you so close – that you begin to reflect His characteristics, His love, and without thinking, His priorities ( people) becomes your own. When you become aware that it is the worst thing you can do to keep distance, the worse the you can do is to hide – and you begin to do it less frequently, you begin to rejoice in His presence more, you begin to realize that is all you really desire.
It’s one of the reason I love St. Francis, and Martin Luther, and yeah – the saint whose quotes frequently appear here. I don’t think any of them made it to being as intimate with God as both God and they desire – but all speak of that desire – and desire to help free us to desire, to want, to be consumed by, the God who loves us all.
As I prepare to see a little ceramic baby, lying in a wooden manger… I become more grateful, more aware of God’s omniscience and planning. For it is easy to keep God the Father at great distances – or at least imagine Him at great distances. But a baby? Even the strongest, most solidly anti-emotional man (reading this MG?) man shows pictures of his new grandbaby, or speaks with pride of those children/grandchildren he loves. Such is the way God came, in a small package that sneaks into our heart, that we don’t try to keep a distance from, for what could that little baby do?
And He roles the distance back, He comes close, while we think we’ve come to adore Him, He’s come to love us, to be with us, to live with us……
May we realize we don’t have to shout “Lord have mercy” for it to be heard, but He hears and comes, with the softest of whispers.
For He is not at a distance, for He is our life.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2013-2015). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to keep all I have commanded you, and lo I will be with you always, to the end of the age.!
It’s an incredible passage, one Christians and pastors – especially those who are focused on the mission of the church know well, at least we think we do.
Some focus on the going..
Some focus on the making of disciples…
Some focus on what it means to baptize,
Some focus on what they think teaching them to “keep” all that have I commanded you”
Some rightly focus on the incarnational presence of God – with us – for there is no way we could live our lives in Christ without knowing we do that which we do…
Been there, done that, have the t-shirts, the bible studes, the sermons i have written on all five of those great things….heck – talked people into going places and doing things – and those who did the right thing… may have done it for the wrong reason….
In the last few years – I’ve spent some time thinking and dwelling on this idea of Keeping and what is that which is “commanded” . Obviously this is a major part of our responsibility of the church – the vocation of all of us. So it bears a look into it.
First let’s deal with “keep”, which is sometimes erroneously translated “obey”. It is far more than simply obedience. And understanding the difference between keep and obey is critical. Keep in English is from the old English term for that place where you put that which you treasure, the castel keep was where the kings heirs, his wife, and the treasure – his and that of the people – when they are under attack, with they are oppressed. So to it is in Greek – it comes from the word for guard, to protect – to keep safe because it is a treasure. You can obey someone – without treasuring them…
That is far greater than the simple idea of blindly or knowledgeably obeying that which we are directed to do. We have something which is a treasure – it is more incredible than anything else we have! This which we teach to those who walk with Christ and those we are instrumental in bringing to walk with Christ – is something they are to treasure, something that will mean more to them than anything else that they have – could ever have.
So what is the treasure? What is it we ar to guard, to hold onto, to KEEP?
Our translations call it what Christ has commanded.
I have always thought it referred to the Ten Commandments, or the entire list of do’s and don’t in scripture. It’s more – to grasp that – we have to look at what did God “command”
Look to Creation…
He spoke the word, and there came into existence..
Look to our Re-creation…
The centurion’s cry, “only say the word and my servant shall be healed..
the demoniacs were dismissed by the command of the Lord…
We were declared righteous and holy… by the command of the Lord…
Our being called – our being cleansed and brought back to God, as St Paul says – “we are His worksmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” He commissioned us, He has commanded that we are cleansed and given life…. life with Him. Think of Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones… and the Son of man commanding the bones to join and become enfleshed, to stand – and the command given to the Spirit to breathe life into those bones….
Yeah – that’s the treasure that Christ has commanded.. the Creation and Re-creation – of our lives with God.
That’s our treasure… that is what, as we make disciples, as we baptize them…. that is what we teach them to treasure, to keep, to guard….