Devotional Thought of the Day:
I know what you are doing. Everyone may think you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! You have only a little strength left, and it is almost gone. So try to become stronger. I have found that you are not completely obeying God. †3 Remember the teaching that you were given and that you heard. Hold firmly to it and turn from your sins. If you don’t wake up, I will come when you least expect it, just as a thief does. Rev. 3:1-3 CEV
Oh, what union is this! It is a depth which reason cannot fathom, that we thus feed upon Jesus. “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” It is also an invitation to enjoy fellowship with the saints. Christians may differ on a variety of points, but they have all one spiritual appetite; and if we cannot all feel alike, we can all feed alike on the bread of life sent down from heaven.
2735 In the first place, we ought to be astonished by this fact: when we praise God or give him thanks for his benefits in general, we are not particularly concerned whether or not our prayer is acceptable to him. On the other hand, we demand to see the results of our petitions. What is the image of God that motivates our prayer: an instrument to be used? or the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? (2779)
Since the Holy Scriptures call Christ a mystery over which all heretics break their heads, we admonish all Christians not to pry presumptuously into this mystery with their reason, but with the holy apostles simply to believe, close the eyes of reason, take their intellect captive to obey Christ, comfort themselves therewith, and rejoice constantly that our flesh and blood have in Christ been made to sit so high at the right hand of the majesty and almighty power of God!
When I was in doing my undergraduate work in preaching, the British pastor Spurgeon was held up to be a paragon of reason. A great man who explained the scriptures in a way that amazed people. We were urged to imitate him.
Yet I don’t remember the passion in his quote above (in purple) nor his appeal for the Lord’s Supper and to realize it is unexplainable, unfathomable, by our greatest minds. Read it again, see the incredible appetite that he notes all believers should develop, an appetite that displays our unity in Christ!
Likewise, the quote from the Formula of Concord, admonishing those who would pry presumptuously into this mystery with their reason, tells of something wonderful, and amazing. It encourages us to let Chirst take our intellect captive… to turn it over to God, and rejoice!
The Catholic Catechism’s rough question, about how we perceive the God we pray to nails our intellect once more. Give up trying to reason God into what you want, stop trying to find the way to manipulate Him, and realize this is the Father who sent Jesus to suffer on a Cross for you…
This is how the situation the church is facing in Sardis is avoided. People who were considered mature in their faith, but lived an empty life. That forgot the wonder of the teaching that Christ had made them His own, a gift for the Father. A teaching that left them in awe, that made them realize the moments in prayer, and in sharing the feast together in the presence of God were beyond any treasure they would ever know. That nothing could explain it.
Some may thing this means following Christ is not for the intellectual, the people who are brilliant, who are able to capture the knowledge that is beyond so many of us. That simply isn’t true, for these blessings are beyond their ability to explain as well…and the smartest people know their limitations as the ancient philosopher Socrates did, as well as the Solomon. (That time wandering with God will make the earthly knowledge more practical in its application to the benefit of man!)
The more I age, the more I seen the wisdom of this passage from Paul, “
1 Friends, when I came and told you the mystery that God had shared with us, I didn’t use big words or try to sound wise. 2 In fact, while I was with you, I made up my mind to speak only about Jesus Christ, who had been nailed to a cross. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (CEV)
This matters… and makes all else relevant, for if we don’t know Jesus, we simply chase after the wind…
He loves you! He died for you, so that you would rise with Him! And the Spirit dwells with you, until Jesus returns.
Rejoice.. and desire to experience His love more and more….e
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 656.
The Formula of Concord: Solid Declaration: The Person of Christ. from Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 609–610.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 The LORD Who are you to question my wisdom with your ignorant, empty words? 3 Now stand up straight and answer the questions I ask you. Job 38:2-3 (TEV)
11 When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I am an adult, I have no more use for childish ways. 12 What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God’s knowledge of me. 13 Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:11-13 (TEV)
It’s been 30 years since i read it, but I think we need a sequel to the book. Specifically, asking the very tough question of whether we replaced our emotions with what we perceive to be our logic, our ability to reason.
I am not talking about outside our churches, although that might be an interesting study. I am talking about inside the church. We have tried to divorce our feelings from ourselves, and the church has been lifeless because of that. We extoll those who present the faith logically, who try to show, step by step, the logic of scripture. (Side note: It is not surprising that as Dobson downplayed emotions, exegetical preaching – verse by verse – became “the” way to preach. Exegesis is good, but it can be blind to the gospel)
But is our intellect, our reason, our ability to be logical all that reliable? Or does it have the same frailty as our emotions? Can you actually divorce the two? The biggest question we need to be asking ourselves is the same question Job was asked, who are we to question God?
You might say that you don’t, that everything you listen to or teach or preach is in complete accordance with God’s revelation. That your brand of theology is the correct version, and you are sticking to it, come Hell or high water. That everything else is heretical or heterodox or mysticism or pietism or legalism, and you are contrary to all that crap.
At which point, you have sinned, and placed yourself in the place of God.
Get it straight, even as your emotions can betray you, so can your logic. That is why John tells us that if we deny our sin, our brokenness, the truth is not in us, we are liars.
That is why we need Christ, that is why we need Him to come to us, His presence revealed and know by hearts and minds in word and sacrament. Not just emotionally, not just logically, but present here, now, overwhelming us with His righteousness, with His mercy, and with His peace.
That is why we need the Spirit to transform us, to conform us to the image of Christ, and to the will of the Father. That is why we need to lay aside all things, and set our eyes on Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, of our life.
It is then, Paul tells the church in Rome,
2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. Romans 12:2 (TEV)
Be still and know He is God, let Him be your place of rest, and safety, and let Him transform you. This is the hope you need, that those around you need as well. That He will reconcile our broken reason and our broken emotions to Himself, and gives us life.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained, WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “The Third Article: On Becoming Holy”.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. 2 Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. 3 And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you.Romans 12:1-3 (TEV)
ANOTHER TEMPTATION is to prefer head-values to heart-values. That should not be the case. Only the heart unifies and integrates. Intellect without a sense of piety tends to divide. The heart unites ideas with reality, time with space, life with death and with eternity. The temptation is to dislodge intellect from the place where God our Lord put it. He gave it to us so that we could clarify faith. God did not create human intelligence so that we could set ourselves up as judges of all things. It is a light that has only been lent to us, a mere reflection. Our intellect is not the light of the world; it is simply a flash for illuminating our faith. The worst thing that can happen is for human beings to let themselves be dragged along by the “lights” of reason. They easily become ignorant intellectuals or carefree “sages.” The true mission of our minds is to discover the seeds of the Word within humanity, the logoi spermatikoi. (1)
On vacation, so a different set of devotions may appear for the next few days. I left my normal devotional book in my office, and so I picked up Pope Francis’s book off my kindle – and came to this passage.
It addresses far more clearly that I something I have long thought.
We’ve somehow disconnect the heart of our faith, preferring the reason of faith. We hear “logos” and reduce it to logic, to human reason, and make the “logos” of God submit to our ability to process it, to analyze it, to dissect it and categorize it.
This despite the numerous passages, scripture that remind us how God’s ways are not ours, how His thoughts are beyond ours.
The result is staggering! Children of the enlightenment, of the age of reason, we consider ourselves judges of everything. We judge manuscripts, ignoring the 99.996 percent consistency, but that gives us the right and authority to judge which texts are to be heeded, and which we can dismiss. On the other edge of the spectrum, we build from scripture a legal system that cares less for mankind, but raises the system we produced to God’s writ. There is no mercy, confession and absolution becomes a duty, not a sacrament (we even consider ourselves lords over the sacrament!)
The struggle is to dismiss the heart, if we cannot create cardio-eunuchs, we are least circumcise our heart until it is smaller than the Grinch’s. We let reason drag our Christianity behind it, as Pope Francis said.
Faith is like loyalty, like volition, a matter of the heart. It is the relationship, both with God and with those who live life in our midst, or we in theirs. Faith is a verb, better translated trust, and the trust we have in God supersedes our knowledge. Just as a young couple in love will not be reasonable in their parent’s eyes when it comes to establishing a home and finances, there are times our trust and love in God will seem unreasonable and even foolish to those around us, and even us. We will dare to love our enemies, we will forgive those whom logic demands eye for an eye. We will sacrifice our desires and preferences in order to see people come to know God’s love, and to love Him in return.
We realize that God has planted, as Solomon wrote, eternity into the hearts of mankind. As Francis wrote – the seeds of the Word. That capitalized Word is not logic, it is not reason as man understands it. It is Jesus Christ, the one who came and suffered and died, and rose from the dead (which of these is “logical” by man’s standard?
Does our intellect have its place? Sure! Can academic theology have its place, a role in helping us understand the love we know? Yes, but it is a servant, not a guardian. It is a tool, not the foreman.
The great commands, and the Great commission bear that out – we are to love, God and our neighbor, we are to make disciples, not converts. We are to proclaim God’s grace, that mercy and peace that is ours because He loves us…. Even though it doesn’t really seem reasonable….
Let us learn well, but let us trust and love the Lord, and may that love govern our reason.
(1) Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (pp. 27-28). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.