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Are We Still Afraid of (intimacy with) God?

ST MARY OF PEACEDevotional thought for our seemingly broken days:
18 All the people witnessed m the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain surrounded by smoke. When the people saw it n they trembled and stood at a distance. 19 “You speak to us, and we will listen,” they said to Moses, “but don’t let God speak to us, or we will die.”
20 Moses responded to the people, “Don’t be afraid, for God has come to test you, so that you will fear Him and will not sin.”  21 And the people remained standing at a distance as Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:18-21 HCSB

213      When you have fallen or when you find yourself overwhelmed by the weight of your wretchedness, repeat with a firm hope: Lord, see how ill I am; Lord, you who died on the Cross for love of me, come and heal me. Be full of confidence, I insist. Keep on calling out to his most loving Heart. As he cured the lepers we read about in the Gospel, he will cure you.

Reading the reaction of the people God led to Mount Sinai, at first I am confused.  Why do they want to distance themselves from the God who had saved them from the Egyptians, the God they had cried out to save them?

Then I wonder if I am any different.  Or if the Church today is any different.

We are in awe of those who seem visibly in tune, intimate even, with God.  They are among those we sort of see as our heroes.  That is, until they invite us along on their journey.  The moment we hear them say that all they have done is possible for us as well, we treat them much as Israel treated God.

“We stand over here and watch as you approach God.  We’ll stand close enough to know some sort of safety, but far enough away that we aren’t overwhelmed by His grace.  We can be afraid of Him, but we don’t want to be close enough to fear Him, to be overwhelmed by His glory so much that we rever Him, that we adore Him.

Look at Moses words again, Don’t be afraid, for God has come to test you, so that you will fear Him and will not sin!”

We might read this and think the reason we will not sin is that of fearing punishment, of fearing His wrath, because we fear both the consequences now and for the future.  That isn’t the reason we won’t sin.  It is because of our fellowship with Him, and the trust that grows that impels us to call out to Him when the darkness of sin begins to cast its shadow over.   We might not like the phrase “intimacy with God”, but it is that very intimacy that gives us hope, that draws us deeper into a relationship with Him, and as we grow in our love for Him, as we trust and adore Him and revere Him, then we are changed, sanctified, set apart to Him.

To use St Josemaria’s words, we are cured. 

He has heard us.

He is here.

As He was for those in the desert, those He rescued to make for HImself a people.  The people He would love, and care for, those through whom His place to reconcile the world would come true.

So let us hear the advice the Apostle Paul gave in his letter to Hebrew Christians,

16  Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. Hebrews 4:16 (TEV)
AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 928-932). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Why the Little Things in Ministry Matter More…

20170124_103703Devotional Thought for Our Day:

42 And whoever gives j just a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple —I assure you: He will never lose his reward!”  Matt 10:42 HCSB

Mission springs from the certainty of faith that coexists with the thousand questions of a pilgrim.
Faith is not a matter of ideology, existential security, but of an irreplaceable encounter with a living person, Jesus of Nazareth.

Most of us will never baptize 30 people in a day, never mind 3000.  Most of us will never write a book that will revive and change the church at large.  We aren’t Calvin or Luther or Pope Ratzinger.  We aren’t the great minds of the church, nor the servants whose love and sacrifice is honored by millions

Yet our ministry is just as powerful, if not more so, even when it is as simple as praying with someone who is struggling or offering a cup of water to someone who is tired and weary.

Pope Francis explains it well if a bit technically. Mission, the work God sends us to do, doesn’t come about because of our doctrinal knowledge. It doesn’t come about because we have all the questions answered, and know it all.  We will still have thousands of questions, many of them which will go unanswered in this life.  For doctrinal statements are not really statements of faith.

Nor does faith come about just because we have security in this life and for the next. It is not because we are assured of heaven that we spring up to serve others, to care for them, to reveal to them the God who loves them.  We can’t even anticipate what heaven is, it is unfathomable.

But faith, the kind of faith that leads to being “mission-minded” comes from encountering Jesus.  An encounter that is irreplaceable, an encounter that leaves us in awe, and in peace that is inexpressible.  For in our encounter, Jesus takes away our burdens, our sins, our resentment,  It’s all gone.  Even the anxieties of today and eternity, and the academic explanations of religion, they slide into the background,  for there is only Him.

Only Him….

only HIM!

And it is wonderful, it is beyond explanation.

And from there, we find something else happening.  We see our hearts aware of those in need around us, the very people God has sent us to minister too, even when that ministry is a simple cup of water…given because the Lord is with you!

I pray that we all experience Jesus’ presence, revealed by His word, know in His sacraments, and therebt dwel and minister to others in His peace.  AMEN!

 

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. Print.

Setting Aside Sin Evil – Such An Easy Task? Why not?

Devotional Thought for our Days

 Your old sinful self has died, and your new life is kept with Christ in God. Christ is your n life, and when he comes again, you will share in his glory. So put all evil things out of your life: sexual sinning, doing evil, letting evil thoughts control you, wanting things that are evil, and greed. This is really serving a false god. These things make God angry. n In your past, evil life you also did these things.

But now also put these things out of your life: anger, bad temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and using evil words when you talk. Do not lie to each other. You have left your old sinful life and the things you did before. 10 You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you. This new life brings you the true knowledge of God.   Colossians 3:3-10 NCV

3       My Father—talk to him like that, confidently—who art in heaven, look upon me with compassionate Love, and make me respond to thy love. Melt and enkindle my heart of bronze, burn and purify my unmortified flesh, fill my mind with supernatural light, make my tongue proclaim the Love and Glory of Christ.

“Hallowed be thy name.” 
What does this mean?
A
nswer: To be sure, God’s name is holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may also be holy for us.
5 How is this done?
Answer: When the Word of God is taught clearly and purely and we, as children of God, lead holy lives in accordance with it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But whoever teaches and lives otherwise than as the Word of God teaches, profanes the name of God among us. From this preserve us, heavenly Father!

Paul’s words are difficult in verse 5, these words we hear as commands, as Law.

Put all evil things out of your life…

This sounds easy – that is until Paul defines it, then defines it more. 

How are you doing with that?  I pray you are doing better at it than I am.

It is a battle. A battle not between Good and Evil with Evil being those opposed to us, it is a battle inside each of us, to turn away from the evil we, to embrace good.  But even this battle is a paradox, for we cannot do this by our own strength or will-power.

When we believe we are the masters of our spiritual development, when we believe we can put all these things out of our life by ourselves, we’ve fallen back into the trap of the evil one. Yet that is what we hear often when we read this passage, it is what our pride focuses upon. 

What does it miss… the embrace of Christ as He died, that embrace that continues through His death to the resurrection.  The beginning of life in Christ, and the being MADE NEW AND ARE BECOMING LIKE THE ONE WHO MADE YOU. 

This is what St. Josemaria is talking about, as he points out a part of the Lord’s Prayer.  It is God who makes us new, it is God who changes us, it is God who separated us from evil and our sin, and is our hope for staying disconnected from it.  (that is not to say He is responsible if we return to it!)  Therefore it is our prayer, our begging God to do what we cannot, even as we realize that He has not only promised this, it is His desire. 

It is our need.

And it is how we let go of the evil that has bound us, as we adore our Lord for what He has done and is doing.  We don’t actually create the separation, we don’t broaden it even, we just leave it behind as the light of the glory of God. His love revealed and realized draws us away from the life we had before.  

We can pray for this, that God would do His work.  Not that He wouldn’t do it if we don’t pray, but that as we pray we would realize God is at work, already doing this to us.  This is what Luther was getting at in the small catechism. We pray this to know what God promised to do, and so we can realize it is being done.

It is being done, let us continue to pray we see Him doing it! 

AMEN!

[1]  From the Small Catechism: edition from Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 242-246). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Do Not Pursue Virtue and Perfection. There is a better route…

nativityDEvotional Thought for our Days:
7 So that I would not become too proud of the wonderful things that were shown to me, a painful physical problem n was given to me. This problem was a messenger from Satan, sent to beat me and keep me from being too proud. 8 I begged the Lord three times to take this problem away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.” So I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me. 10 For this reason I am happy when I have weaknesses, insults, hard times, sufferings, and all kinds of troubles for Christ. Because when I am weak, then I am truly strong.  2 Cor. 12:7-10

In a letter to Leonie, Therese writes,

I find perfection very easy to practise, because I have realised that all we have to do is take Jesus by the heart. Consider a child who has just upset his mother by losing his temper or disobeying her. If he goes and hides in a corner with a sullen look on his face and cries because he is afraid of being punished, his mother will certainly not pardon his fault. But if he comes to her and holds out his arms to her and smiles at her and says, “Give me a hug, I’ll never do it again,” how can his mother resist taking him fondly and pressing him to her heart, forgetting his childish wickedness? Yet she knows perfectly well that her dear child will do it again as soon as the occasion arises, but that makes no difference; if he takes her by the heart again, he will never be punished.

Tugwell informs us that “Therese had herself been tormented by scruples for more than a year” but later on came to a different conclusion about herself: Even if she committed every possible sin, she would still have exactly the same confidence in God. She no longer needed the assurance of her own virtue.

11 Likewise, faith does not ask if good works are to be done, but before one can ask, faith has already done them and is constantly active. Whoever does not perform such good works is a faithless man, blindly tapping around in search of faith and good works without knowing what either faith or good works are, and in the meantime he chatters and jabbers a great deal about faith and good works.

When I came across the words of St Therese, (quoted by a Baptist) I was a little in shock.  

The words resonate with me, I could have perhaps said them myself, for the value running to God when we see, and when we are tempted is beyond explanation.  To know the comfort of God, the mercy, and peace that flows over us as we are in God’s arms, 

Knowing that love of God is so powerful, so overwhelming that we dropped the carefully constructed facade of virtue that we create.  His love makes us so confident we can drop the attitude of piety that we careful craft, and admit that we are simply poor, broken sinners. Sinners who have no confidence in our own strength, but instead learn to completely depend on Jesus. We can depend on God like the child running to his mother, rather than being punished in the corner.

This is when holiness, when sainthood is seen by others.  When it is not contrived, when it is not planned, when it is no longer an act, but the natural life lived in the presence of Christ. It’s the life of faith that the reformers saw, one that doesn’t argue about faith and works, one doesn’t even contemplate how to do good works, but simply does them, constantly active. It doesn’t wait for the exegetical, historical and systematic explanation of loving God and therefore loving those around them, but faith does that, while searching the scriptures for God, find the promises delivered to them in and through Jesus. 

That is true holiness, one that isn’t holier than thou but realizes that hope for its brokenness is found in the God we adore, and in finding in His heart, our life.

Dwell in peace… knowing the blessed life that is found in Christ!  Amen!

Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Futpietyeries.  

Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.

Why I Don’t Want Sinners to Change their Behavior.

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

17 When Jesus left the people and went into the house, his followers asked him about this story. 18 Jesus said, “Do you still not understand? Surely you know that nothing that enters someone from the outside can make that person unclean. 19 It does not go into the mind, but into the stomach. Then it goes out of the body.” (When Jesus said this, he meant that no longer was any food unclean for people to eat.)
20 And Jesus said, “The things that come out of people are the things that make them unclean. 21 All these evil things begin inside people, in the mind: evil thoughts, sexual sins, stealing, murder, adultery, 22 greed, evil actions, lying, doing sinful things, jealousy, speaking evil of others, pride, and foolish living. 23 All these evil things come from inside and make people unclean.”  Mark 7:17-23 NCV

He that examines and prepares himself in this way, he truly uses this Sacrament worthily, not unto judgment,44 but unto salvation. And though all these things are still weak, infirm, and sluggish, yet one should not for that reason abstain from the holy Supper. Rather on the contrary, this very reason will rouse and impel us the more to partake of it more frequently, especially since we know that the Son of God gradually kindles, increases, and strengthens repentance and faith in us more and more through this means. For this medicine has been prepared and provided for the sick who acknowledge their infirmity and seek counsel and help.

Since I entered Bible College 35 years ago, I have seen many programs that are guaranteed to change the behavior of people,  Some are determined to change the practices of giving to the church, some are geared to change the behavior of sinners.  Some are not that blunt, they seek to make the exercise of faith more visible, as people give, pray, attend, volunteer/serve more, worship more “properly”, seeking the joy and peace that was promised to them, if they do.

Most fail.

They fail because o the basic method of formation, applying a force of some kind to the person, hoping to move them into the behavior that is desired.  They use the four main forms of educational discipline; the promise of reward, the consequence of punishment, the withholding of reward, the freedom from punishment.  Or to put it more religiously, the blessings and curses God warned us about.

These methodologies would work if all we needed was to modify behavior.

Jesus tells us clearly, that isn’t enough.  Sin and Faith/Dependence on God is not a matter of changing the externals, it requires a change of our heart (see Exodus 36:35) and the mind (see Acts 2:38 and Romans 12:2) It is not something we can change in ourselves, it goes beyond our ability.  Just as a man cannot perform open heart surgery on himself, so we can’t perform such a spiritual/psychological operation Change the behavior but not the heart and you end up with another sin putting them in bondage.  It’s like the addict who simply changes drug addiction for work addiction or an addiction to sexual perversion.  The matter is deeper.

So how do we deal with it?  Martin Chemnitz puts forth that it would be trusting God, depending on God to deliver what He promises through His word and sacrament. Chemnitz calls the weak, the infirm, the sluggish to the altar, he urges them to head there more frequently, for Christ comes to those who are sick, not to those who are well.  it is the place for those who acknowledge their need, a need caused by our sin, our brokenness.  It is there we find the medicine that comforts those haunted by grief and shame, who long for something different.

This isn’t the religion of the good and proper, those dressed perfectly for the church, those best and brightest.  It is the religion, the way of life, that delivers hope to the hopeless, healing to the broken, life to those dead, and dying.  It is the blessing for the poor in Spirit.

This is the relationship that we humbly, and with great amazement are drawn into, cleanses and brings us to life in baptism!  That is where that heart that poured forth sin is cut out, replaced with the heart of Christ, which begins to transform us, even as we take and eat, and take and drink the blood of Jesus.

The change to our hearts and minds happens, and then behavior changes, prompted by the Holy Spirit, guided by those who help us explore the Father’s love.

All the while stunned by the fact we are surrounded by His peace…   Amen!

 

 

Chemnitz, Martin, and Luther Poellot. Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999. Print.

 

Is God Hiding from You? Or You from Him? The Game is Over, and there is Peace!

Devotional Thought of the Day:
3  When I did not confess my sins, I was worn out from crying all day long. 4  Day and night you punished me, LORD; my strength was completely drained, as moisture is dried up by the summer heat. 5  Then I confessed my sins to you; I did not conceal my wrongdoings. I decided to confess them to you, and you forgave all my sins. Psalm 32:3-5 (TEV)

175         You are consumed by the desire to seal once more the self-dedication you made some time ago: remembering that you are a son of God and living like one too. Put your many weaknesses and infidelities in the Lord’s hands. For that is also the only way to lessen their weight.

In Paul’s teaching about the Lord’s Supper in  Corinthians 11, he mentions the need for self-examination.  To ake some time and think through our lives. to think about our sins, to realize the great need we have for God’s mercy and abundant love.

Most of us want to please God, we want to avoid sin and temptation, we want to do better.  We understand all too well though the battle that rages on in our hearts and souls which the apostle Paul describes clearly in Romans 7 and then again in Hebrews 12.  In the latter, he begs us to leave it all behind, this sin which so easily traps us.

Yet many of us are bothered by this idea of self-examination.  We don’t want to see what we know is there, the resentment, the hatred, the lust, the greed and envy, the thirst for what benefits us, no matter what the cost.  We don’t like looking int he mirror, and if we are “made” to, we act like we can clean up our mess.  “Just give me another week, just be more patient, I will fix this,” we tell God.

We can’t, the burden will just get greater, the pressure more intense, the spiritual and emotional crushing pain will go on and it will either eat us up, or will cause us to become callous, and defensive.

With a little humility and some trust, this burden can be removed and in its place, we came know peace and joy, just as the Psalmist says.  We can give to God our weaknesses, our infidelities, placing them in His hands, knowing He will deal with them, forgiving them, cleansing us, answering our prayers to lead us not to temptation, and deliver us from the evil one.

Free of the snares, your heart will be far less burdened, your mind at ease, knowing that what you really desire, to please the God who loves and saves you, is possible.

But you say, how can I do this?  How can I take this step?

You aren’t alone in it, for the Shepherd of your soul, Jesus, has provided you and all the church those who can guide you through this, the pastors and priests who are tasked by God and the church with helping you with this, of hearing you confess, of counseling you through this, and then saying, on Jesus’s behalf (and by His command), “you are forgiven!”

Come, lay down your burdens, and lay down your pain.  Let God deal with your sin, and let the Holy Spirit set you apart as one who is the child of God.  Trust Him, He won’t turn you away, for this is what he wants for you.  AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 945-948). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Whatever happened to purity?

Discussion Thought fo the Day:

2  But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. 3  All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.
1 John 3:2-3 (MSG)

2  Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is. 3  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:2-3 (ESV)

413      Each person in his own situation should lead a pure life, courageously lived. We have to learn to say No for the sake of that great Love, Love with a capital letter.

We hear the word used in church, or maybe we read it in scripture, We bypass it quickly, either not thinking about it or dismissing it as a foreign concept.

Pressed on the issue, we will probably define purity in a way that appeases our nature. We will dismiss it as impossible, we will justify our impurity by indicating such purity doesn’t save us, that the law of Moses which defined purity isn’t binding on us any longer.  We will hide our desire for impurity behind theology, behind reason, behind whatever we think will cover it up.  And we will accuse those who encourage/demand purity it of being pietistic and hypocritical.  ( This is not to say that some who encourage and demand purity are pietistic and hypocritical, but we apply the mocking labels far too liberally!)

So let’s talk about it. is there a sense of purity that is neither hypocritical, but that we should strive to be?  Is it possible to be concerned with our own state without submitting to a legalistic system of demands?

Of course! It is possible!

The problem is that our idea of purity is too narrow, it is focused on behaviors, what we do or do not do, and maybe what we say or don’t say, rather than on who we are.

Purity in Greek is related to the idea of holiness, of being set apart to a relationship with God. It is about who we are in God’s sight, in His eyes.  It means living a life that is devoted to Him, that we strive to please the Lord who loves us, who is compassionate toward us, that is merciful.

Which means we strive to live life as He would desire.  That when we fail and think, say or do things that are not pure, we immediately we turn to Him and let Him cleanse us once again. For God purifies us, He refines us.  Purity is about being grieved by our sin enough that we desire that he care for us, about hearing His voice comforting us with the words of forgiveness, and encouraging us not to sin anymore.

Is this easy?  No, it is much harder to seek forgiveness than it is to enjoy for a moment the sin.  But it is needed.

This is what life really is, living in His presence, not anxious or afraid, but full of joy.  It is about dwelling in peace, assured that our purity isn’t fake – because He is the one who is our model, and who makes us pure and holy.

Let’s not waste His work, let’s not run or hide from it,, but rejoice as His glistening purity becomes ours, as we dwell in Him.

AMEN1

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1597-1598). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Being Effective Is Not Always a Blessing!

clydes-cross-2Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:

20  He also asked, “What else is the Kingdom of God like? 21  It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”   Luke 13:20-21 (NLT)

5  In coming to the other side of the sea, the disciples had forgotten to bring bread. 6  Jesus said to them, “Look out, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  ………11  How do you not comprehend that I was not speaking to you about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12  Then they understood that he was not telling them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.    Matthew 16:5-6,11-12 (NAB)

397      Don’t place obstacles in the way of grace. You need to be convinced that in order to be leaven you must become a saint, and must struggle to identify yourself with Him.  (1)

The exquisite elites know how to pucker their noses when confronted with failure; they are scandalized. They prefer to set up models of the Church based on “common sense” rather than on the failure of the cross.

Being effective is not always a blessing.   In fact, some of the most effective things in the world are deadly, those viral and bacterial infections that can run amok and kill or gravely would everyone that comes in contact with them.

The scriptures above show this as well, as two different things are compared to the idea of yeast or leaven.   The Kingdom of God can be like that, as we see the church explode during the time of the apostles, and in certain parts of the world today.  Growth that goes beyond anything pragmatic, that causes us to scramble to try and adjust our plans to compensate for the growth.  Yet the other passage shows a negative form of leaven, that of the teachings and practices of the Pharisees and Sadducees, groups that promoted a very pragmatic approach to being the people of God.

Yet their very approach was an obstacle to grace, a way that blocked people from identifying themselves as God’s children,  And they were very effective – so effective that they were able to kill God, even as they nailed Jesus to a cross.

St. Josemaria talks about effectiveness that arises out of faith, not of reason.  That the leaven we need to become is found in our holiness, in our being set apart to God,  It is found, as Francis says,, not in models set up in common sense, but in the failure of the cross.  For drawn to the cross we find Jesus, that is where the Holy Spirit unites us to Jesus, binds us to His death and resurrection.  That is where we are given gifts like repentance and faith, where we are declared God’s people, where we are cleansed. At the cross, we are infected/affected by His great love and mercy, and find ourselves set apart to Him. It is here we become infectious and spread the gospel simply by being in people’s lives.

Not a very pragmatic or reasoned approach, this dying and rising to life, this admitting our failure and our desperate need for God.

Yet it is how God would affect us, infect us, and see our effectiveness, as the Kingdom of God testifies not only to our presence but His presence in us.

Lord, help us see you on the cross, and know the depths of your mercy, and know you have risen, as it testifies to Your immeasurable love, and may our lives be effective, as we are united to You. Amen!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1548-1549). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2) 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. Print.

Where are you? Where is your focus?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
7  And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. 8  In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. 9  Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:7-9 (TEV)

How does your heart stand with regard to God Himself? Does it delight in the remembrance of God? Does this remembrance leave an agreeable sweetness behind it? “Ah!” said David, “I remembered God and was delighted.” Do you find a certain propensity in your heart to love God and a particular satisfaction in relishing that love? Does your heart feel joy in reflecting on the immensity, goodness, or sweetness of God? If the remembrance of God comes to you amidst the occupations and vanities of the world, does it make room for itself? Does it seize upon your heart? Does it seem to you that your heart turns in that direction, and, is it were, runs to meet God? Certainly, there are such souls to be found.

We all have our breaking point.  It may not be caused by the same stresses, the same anxieties, the same temptations, but each of us has a point where we lose focus.

Without regular self-examination, it is all too common for such a breaking point to catch us off guard.  Without a regular time of giving to God our sin and the unrighteousness we deal with, we are setting ourselves up as easy targets.

One of the things to consider is what is our heart resonating with?  Is it the kind of things Paul urges us to think of in Phil 4:8 above?  Are we rejoicing when we consider our time with God?

Or is our heart being torn apart by cynicism, by gossip and complaining?  Does our time feed such bitter things captivate us?  Are we devoting that time to that which is depraved or immoral?  ( we might not even realize it is so…)

The good stuff in Philippians, and in the quote from St Francis De Sales isn’t self-generated.  It isn’t something we can just make up our mind and focus upon. It comes from being sure we dwell in God’s peace.  It is about relaxing in the presence of God, sure that He is our fortress, our strength, our life. It is our focus because that is what is, when we are aware of His presence. It is a more “natural” way of existence.  That is why Paul surrounds this second about our minds being filled with good things with the thought of God giving and preserving our peace.

The key then is the presence of the Holy Spirit, the comforter, the Lord of Life who calms our hearts and sets them at peace.  The Spirit who cleanses us from the brokenness of the world, and heals our souls.

As we open ourselves up to the Spirit, as we search for Him and find He is here, we desire Him more, we desire His presence more, and we see the difference it makes as being a difference the world needs, that our neighbors and family and friends need. For we need it, and are amazed the need is so completely met by the Holy Spirit.

This is the Christian faith, the dependence on God’s presence that makes everything beautiful, everything precious, everything good.

May we desire His precence more and more.  AMEN!

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

The One Exception to Judge Not… there is someone needing judgment.

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Dawn at Concordia

Devotional Thought of the Day:
27  It follows that if one of you eats the Lord’s bread or drinks from his cup in a way that dishonors him, you are guilty of sin against the Lord’s body and blood. 28  So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29  For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30  That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31  If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32  But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world.
1 Corinthians 11:27-32 (TEV)

“Judge not, and you shall not be judged,” says the Saviour of our souls; “condemn not, and you shall not be condemned” (Luke, 6:37). “No,” says the holy apostle, “judge not before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart” (2 Cor. 4:5). Oh, how displeasing are rash judgments to God! The judgments of the children of men are rash, because they are not the judges of one another, and therefore usurp to themselves the office of our Lord. They are rash, because the principal malice of sin depends on the intention of the heart, which is an impenetrable secret to us. They are not only rash, but also impertinent, because everyone has enough to do to judge himself, without taking upon him to judge his neighbour. 

As I read the words in blue this morning, I knew I had to write about them.  

I didn’t want to, because the moment I read them, I start judging all the people around me who are not just judging others but condemning them. The spirits of division, of bitterness, of hatred aren’t just seeping into their lives, we are drowning in the flood of them.

We aren’t foolish enough to claim we are more righteous than the world, but we are more than willing to bash people, Trump, Clinton, the Kardashians, people of other religions, heck some even bash the New England Patriots and their loyal fans.  And the bashing is always judgmental, always condemning, always done in a way that raises anxiety

It is a sickness, one which depresses and isolates.  Personally, I long for the days when I was an introvert and could shut out the world. Even as I write this, I see it for what it really is, a form of judgment, a temptation to isolate myself from the evil, without recognizing that I can’t escape from it, for in trying to do so…. I embody what I am trying to flee.

It was the last line from St. Francis de Sales that helped me this morning, the line about everyone having enough to do to judge themselves.

You might think it odd I found this to be good news, the purest of gospel.  For judging myself does bring the gospel into my life, erasing the need to judge others. For there, when I realize my frailty, when I recognize my sin, my instinct is to cry out for grace, to find sanctuary from the evil that not only threatens me externally but seems to well up internally.

In examining myself, I find the need to find a safe place, a place where judgment is cast aside, where burdens are lifted, where hope is revived and finds stimulation.  Where I find a love beyond measure, seen in a grace where God forgives my desire to judge others, and the times where I do so. Examining myself drives me to absolution, and to the altar where God reminds me of His love by giving me His body and blood to eat and drink, where I get to fellowship with Him!

There, I find not just the peace I need eternally, but I find others receiving it as well.  I find it offered to those I struggle with, those I want to judge, those I want to condemn.  And even if they aren’t there as my parish communes, they might be on their own, and they are to be welcomed at all places. 

Not only am I reminded of God’s grace forgiving me, drawing me to Him, into Christ, but I also am reminded that forgiveness is for all….

And for the moment, peace invades my darkness, shattering it, revealing a wholeness, completeness, that will be mine when we are found before Hi throne.

This is life in Christ, this is why I try to remain devout, depending on Him.  For there I find the answer to my cry,, not for judgment, but for mercy.  

For all of us.

Judge not… except yourself, so you may run to Him and find peace.

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

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