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
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.
Devotional Thought for this Day
7 Our LORD, punish the Edomites! Because the day Jerusalem fell, they shouted, “Completely destroy the city! Tear down every building!” 8 Babylon, you are doomed! I pray the Lord’s blessings on anyone who punishes you for what you did to us. 9 May the Lord bless everyone who beats your children against the rocks! Psalm 137:7-9 (CEV)
896 At this time—and always!—when the Lord wants his seed to spread in a divine diffusion among the different surroundings, he also wants the extension not to lessen in intensity. And you have the clear and supernatural mission of helping to ensure that this intensity is not lost.
The passage in Psalm 139 bothered me for decades. To an extent, it still does. The retribution, the revenge the psalmist proposes seems over the top, it seems beyond belief. How could a follower of God write such a horrid peace, how could they wish that kind of pain on someone else.?
How is this loving their enemies and praying for someone who persecutes them?
The intensity of the faith is some good, the way it ovices itself, perhaps not so much?
Then I see the power of addiction, the brokenness of those who have been abused, the heartache of those betrayed by a close friend, and I want to use that passage to justify praying for revenge, asking God to crush those who cause such damage.
And am I wrong?
Yes, if the enemy is another human.
No, if the enemies are the demonic forces that tempt, that kill, that try to blot out the image of God created in mankind.
I need to be praying for those who seem to be the cause of such, praying for God to reach their heart, to circumcise their hearts, even as I need mine to be. To free them from the enslavement to sin that creates the havoc in their lives, which spreads like a virus, affecting all around them.
This is the intensity we need in our faith, that dear Josemaria speaks of, that focuses our battle where it should be, crushing the gates of hell which tries to stop the power of the gospel.
This is the seed which must be sowed, in more and more places, but not with any less intensity.
May we increase in our intensity, may we realize the damage the powers of hell try to create in life, and may our hearts be set on seeing God’s love free and heal those who have been so damaged.
Lord, Lead us into this battle, and protect us, we pray. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
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).
Devotional Thought for This Day:
15 In Ramah a voice is heard, crying and weeping loudly. Rachel mourns for her children and refuses to be comforted, because they are dead. 16 But I, the LORD, say to dry your tears. Someday your children will come home from the enemy’s land. Then all you have done for them will be greatly rewarded. 17 So don’t lose hope. I, the LORD, have spoken.
37 Can you measure the heavens? Can you explore the depths of the earth? That’s how hard it would be for me to reject Israel forever, even though they have sinned. I, the LORD, have spoken.
Jeremiah 31:15-17, 37 (CEV)
743 If you put your mind to it, everything in your life can be offered to the Lord, can provide an opportunity to talk with your Father in Heaven, who is always keeping new illumination for you, and granting it to you.
Maybe it is a once dear friend who loved the Lord in a way that inspired others. Maybe it was a cherished mentor in the faith, a professor who taught you more than you ever realized. Maybe it is a parent, a child, a cousin, even a spouse.
Most of us have someone who has rejected God, or is struggling with His way, and so rejects the gifts of forgiveness and mercy, who rebel against God. Perhaps there is a reason, a church, a pastor or priest who has caused them pain.
WE all have a person who has wandered, even as many of us have. Our reaction is usually the same as grieving the loss of physical life, for we realize that eternity is at stake… We may not want to say it is the difference between heaven and hell, yet our heart fears that consequence.
The words of the prophet Jeremiah are so appropriate for those who watch with tears, those who attempt to wander away. The need to hear God say “dry your tears, they will come back” is real, to allow God to comfort those who worry, who deal with anxiety over those they care about.
The second part of the selection, where God reminds us of His power, and the inability of man to completely reject them is even more comforting. It tells us how much God is willing to pour into calling the people back. Despite their sin, God will continue to work in their hearts.
So then, how do we deal with the trauma we see in their lives? Josemaria’s words comforted me this morning. We talk to God about it, we spend time offering the person, and the situation, and our hearts, batter and torn, to Him. It seems counter-intuitive to offer such to God as a sacrifice, but it is the best we can do. We are His children, and our Father wants to fix what is broken in our lives. He wants to recreate, to show the craftsmanship He finds joy in…and as we give into His care those we love, whom we worry about, we can realize peace. He died for them, that they may live.
Lord, help us give you our brokenness, help us place in your care those we would see return to the joy of your salvation. For Your love for them is even deeper than ours, and You can reach them. Help us to trust You, and in Your love and work in all our lives! Amen!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thoughts for this Day
My friends, even though we have a lot of trouble and suffering, your faith makes us feel better about you. 8 Your strong faith in the Lord is like a breath of new life. 9 How can we possibly thank God enough for all the happiness you have brought us? 1 Thes. 3:7-9 CEV
Like homing pigeons flying home, like iron filings drawn irresistably to a magnet, like solar flares falling back to their parent sun from which they had sprung, lovers of God become one with the fire of their Beloved. The twentieth-century British poet Stephen Spender wrote their epitaph: “Born of the sun, they travelled a brief while toward the sun and left the vivid air singed with their honor.”
That is what a Christian is. Not to be one is life’s only real tragedy.
Twelve years ago today, two friends, I knelt down and my District President installed me as the pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos. A few weeks before that, the church had laid to rest a beloved retired pastor and his wife. Within three months, I would bless the graves of another couple. And over the years, there have been a lot of deaths, people that had become not only parishioners, but good friends. There has also been trauma that scars one deep, and ministering to those broken by such, has been commonplace. Enough so that prayers start ascending every time the phone rings, or a text message beeps.
It would be lying to saying this has been an easy time. It would also be lying to say this time has not been a huge blessing. My devotional reading this morning explains why:
It is all about the faith of the people I see, a faith that is lived out in the midst of trauma, in the midst of sacrifice. A faith that keeps coming back to God, must as Kreeft’s pigeons and iron filings being attracted to their “home.” There is a joy in this, even amidst the shared tears. There is a confidence, born out of the Body and Blood of Jesus in which we share, that even the tears are somehow beneficial.
The ability of people to depend on God in this time is what lifts me up. Just as it did Paul, to see people being sustained by God, to the point where they are ministering to others during their own trauma, is the best feeling a pastor can observe. It is what sustains us, as we see the effect of them being drawn back to God.
This is how, after 12 years, I can look to the future.
Knowing the response of those to whom I remind, “the Lord is with you!”
And knowing they are right when they answer back, trusting in God, “and also with you!”
Lord, as we go through these days, help us to continue to help each other, trusting You to show us their needs, and empowering us to meet them. Help us set our own brokenness aside, help us to leace it there… knowing You are healing us in this time. We pray this, in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit! Amen!
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 93.
Devotional 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).
The Hammer or the Hatchet
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the mercy and love of God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ empower you to reach out to others, knowing it will work for good, and it can’t separate you from God.
The Wrong Tool…sort of?
Yesterday a picture from the past brought up a lesson I learned the hard way. My dad had taught me the lesson growing up, but let’s just say I did not listen as well as I should have.
A simple lesson, “make sure you have the right tools to do the job.”
Every year when I went camping, I forgot one tool, the hammer to pound the ground stakes of our camper into the hard ground. And every year, it would take a while for me to do it with a hatchet. It would eventually get done, but the hatchet is made to chop, not pound. This is the business end of a hatchet, not that end.
I had the wrong tool, the job still got done, but…
As I endured this week, I started wondering more and more about whether I use the reading from Romans 8 the right way…
You see, the passage does the job for two tasks, but I think, it was made to be used as a hatchet, Romans 8:28-39 should free the church to minister to this broken world. Even as it offers comfort, it should be empowering us to provide warmth and light to this broken world.
As a Hammer
So if you notice, this hatchet has this end, so you can use it as a hammer. It is kinda dangerous to use it this way, especially for a klutz like me. Or anyone standing in the immediate area! Hammers are used for securing something in place; to stop it from falling again.
I usually use verse 28 to bring comfort to people who are broken, who are struggling with sin and personal failure. Hey, let God pick you up. God will work this out – He has promised to do so – right here…
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Similarly, I have used verse 38 to bring comfort to those who are struggling, to those who wonder if what has happened means God isn’t with them.
I assure them, nothing can separate you from God. You are His, and the Lord is with you!
This is all true, and it works, but like using the wrong side of the hatchet, there is a danger here. A danger that we just hear those messages find comfort in them, and do nothing else.
Yes, God will work this out, and yes, I am safe with Him. Therefore, it is time to go sit by the pool and have a beer! Or go binge-watch another 2 seasons of a favorite show!
If all we get out of these passages is that, I did not preach the passage correctly. I just picked you up and nailed you in place.
As a Hatchet
A camping hatchet has another job. You use it to cut up kindling and split small pieces of wood to use to build a fire. Something that you can sit down next to, invite some neighbors from other campsites nearby and talk and have a good time. The hatchet is a tool to build a place of community, a place that is inviting and encouraging.
So too, does this passage serve a different purpose than just comforting broken people. It frees them from the brokenness to serve others. It treats us like the kindling, bringing us together to warm and show Christ’s light to the world!
Bob, you screwed up and dropped a few words you should not have. Go apologize, and see how God will use it.
Tom, you have no idea how God will work through you – things are too crazy and unknown! Don’t worry, go do it and rejoice. Even if you screw up, you can not mess it up so bad that God will toss you away. Nothing in all creation can cause that!
The gospel in this passage goes beyond comfort, it should empower you to serve alongside Jesus in mission even more than ever. Hear again part of the passage that lies in the middle, that gets overlooked,
Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.
It is the church, being the church, loving, encouraging, comforting, and drawing people into a relationship with God – even to the point of martyrdom, that is the context for these words about God.
God still loves us. Even when we screw up. Even when we have to lay down our lives. Or lay down our pride, which may be harder!
This chapter is full of that message
You’ve sinned, it’s covered. There is no condemnation in Christ, get up, and get ready to serve.
You are so broken you don’t know how to pray, don’t worry, the Holy Spirit interprets the pain in your heart
You’ve screwed it up? God will make it work out
Your oppressed, beaten, at the end of your wits, and losing your mind? Keep going, nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Get the message, the Lord is with you, working in your life, and He’s not leaving you.
Even in you face death, or covid19,
Yesterday in devotions, we look at a passage from Jude. It told us what we can do, even amid hardship, even as the world falls apart. It is this,
21 And keep in step with God’s love, as you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to show how kind he is by giving you eternal life. 22 Be helpful to all who may have doubts. 23 Rescue any who need to be saved, as you would rescue someone from a fire. Then with fear in your own hearts, have mercy on everyone who needs it. Jude 1:20-23 (CEV)
My friends, let God pick you up, and believe He will use all your lives to make a difference. Know that all you encounter will result in good. Serve with Jesus, knowing that nothing, not even the hardest times you can encounter, not even the most oppressive times Satan can throw at you, can separate you from God’s love.
This victory is yours because Jesus won it at the cross. So let’s pray.
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.
Devotional 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.