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Balancing the Intimate and the Holy

Devotional Thought for our day:

15  I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father. 16  “You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.
John 15:15-16 (MSG)

In an effort to embrace the intimacy between the Savior and the sinner, the difference between the holy and the sinful was lost, the distinction between the sacred and the mundane was greatly blurred. To affirm that the Lord Jesus has gone before us so that believers might “approach the throne of grace with boldness” (Hebrews 4:16) doesn’t make the “throne” a cozy loveseat or a beanbag chair. The only reason Christians can enter “with boldness” into God’s presence is because they are invited and because Jesus, as the mediator of both the invitation and the distance, has gone before them. Access to the divine may be unfettered by the mediation of God’s Son, but it is still access to the sacred, the holy.

I am not sure which word, describing what our relationship with God looks like is more intimidating.

Holy
or
Intimate.

The challenge is that these words are often positioned as contrary to each other. As if intimacy cannot be holy, and holiness wants nothing to do with intimacy. (This may be vestiges of a mindset vexed by platonic, gnost and victorian thought – but that is a thesis paper, not a blog) If we can only get past the fear of these two words, and the panic that sets in when people (especially men) hear them, I think the church would benefit.

What is really ironic, is that these words aren’t in opposition, they have a similar meaning. For holiness means to be set apart, to be saved for some special purpose and not defiled by doing some other thing. Think f the chef who has different knives for different tasks, each honed a special way. Or the professional athlete, whose contract prohibits him from doing things, often stupid things, which would put his performance at risk.

Holy – set apart for a specific purpose. Intimacy is being involved deeply in that purpose, being involved with every part of us, body (which we often restrict intimacy to) mind, ssoul, and spirit. It is beyond being focused, or sold out on something, it is defining yourself within the relationship. It is not thinking of the relationship as part of who you are, but the relationship is who you are.

Castleman tries to negotiate this above – noting that while we are invited, the place we are invite too is holy, and that means something. But what i think he is leading to, he stops just short of – we are not just invited by Jesus, we enter that holy space with/in/united to Jesus. The holy and intimate relationship that we are defined by means we belong there. Remember Paul talks of us “sharing His glory,” (Romans 5:2,Col. 1:27, 2 Thes. 2:13) a profound thought that is both intimate and holy – in a way beyond our belief. Castleman does have the right idea in saying we need to embrace this intimacy, even as it reaches our very core, shaking our perception of who we are.

We are His…

Now live, knowing every step you take is on holy, intimate ground because the Spirit indwells in you. AMEN

Castleman, Robbie Fox. Story-Shaped Worship: Following Patterns from the Bible and History (p. 74). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

What are you looking for today? What are you chasing?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:31-33 (KJV)

1   As a deer longs for a stream of cool water, so I long for you, O God. 2  I thirst for you, the living God. When can I go and worship in your presence? Psalm 42:1-2 (TEV)

316    You tell me: “Yes, I want to!” Good. But do you “want to” as a miser wants his gold, as a mother wants her child, as a worldling wants honors, or as a poor sensualist wants his pleasure? No? Then you don’t “want to”!

I look at St Josemaria’s words this morning, and they hit me with a lot of conviction

As I look at a very busy week, as I anticipate the struggles and the hard work, I wonder how I am going to make it through it all, and do everything well.  The temptation is to expedite things, and the really big temptation is to cut short my time with God.

After all, I will be studying scripture, I will be praying with others, do I really need my own time with God.

Abso-freaking-lutely.   (pardon the Bostonese)

And I know I need it, and I want it.  But the question is how much I want it.  Do I want it like the deer wants water, like a mom protecting her child, like those that crave attention or pleasure want it?

I need to, I need to seek first God’s kingdom, I need to seek first those times in His presence, where I am so aware of Him that I naturally respond in worship and adoration.

I know in the midst of this, this is where I have to be, this is where I find healing and life and comfort and peace.   It is where I know I am loved, and so loved that I am cleansed, and my sin cut away from me with even more precision than a heart surgeon, or a rabbi/mohel doing a circumcision.

For what draws me to God is not my own strength, if so, as much as I desire it, I might desire other things more.  What draws me to God is the Holy Spirit, lovingly, caringly, bringing me back,  back to the word that reveals God’s love, back to the sacraments which demonstrate it in my life, back into prayer where I release all my burdens to the Lord who loves me.

Yeah, it’s Monday, and I have a huge week of appointments, tasks, work, ministry, to see accomplished…

But I need to seek Him first, otherwise, the rest is in vain, and the week will be a giant pain in the ass.  But with Him, at His side, the week, the very same actions, thoughts, words… will be glorious.

and so we cry out… Lord have mercy on us, and on our week!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 818-820). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The “S” Word, Relationships, and Accepting Love

Featured imageDiscussion Thought of The day:
21  And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21 (NLT) 

Among experts the question is raised: “Yes, but who actually needs to be converted? Must the fathers yield to the young? Or the young to the fathers?” … It is not a case of one group’s yielding to the other, but of both groups’ yielding to the other by renewing their courage to believe in God. It is only thus that they will learn to accept and understand one another. It is only when hearts have been turned to God that there can arise the courage of togetherness, the confidence in other persons, and so the ability to love them and to endure their otherness.

There are two “s” words that may have come to mind, as you read the title of this blog.

This is about the one that would have been thought far less often, but actually is more controversial.

Yes, this isn’t about sex, it is about submission.

But now that you are here and are disappointed, you might as well stick around and read it.  Because it isn’t just about one relationship you are in, it is about every relationship you are in, and in every one of them, what Paul directs us to do in Ephesians 5:21 is needed.  It’s why the Holy Spirit led him to write those words.

Following verse 21, there are three relationships compared. The first is husbands and wives, and how they must set aside their best interest given the other.  This is not submission to any barbaric thing, but to seek out what is best for each other.  Then there are relationships between husbands and children, and employees and their employers (or back in the day, slaves and masters)

Every relationship, with those who follow God, who are in awe of His love, reaching out with that same love to the person with who they relate.  Every relationship has some form of submission, of setting aside our desires, much as Jesus set aside His divinity, to come down and be with us.

Pope Benedict nails it, when he identifies the key to this being, not in focusing on yielding to the other (a synonym for submission) but instead having and renewing their courage to believe in God. For it is there, in seeing how Christ gave of Himself to save us, to enter into a deep relationship with us, so that He could present us to the Father, that we find the peace and strength to love others.  To love them by having mercy on them, by forgiving them, by seeking their forgiveness.  By reconciling to those for whom reconciliation doesn’t even enter their thoughts.

Allowing them to love you, to care for you, that is at the heart of submission…. whether it be to God or to someone else.

This does require you to see them as God sees them.  Part of this submission is lowering our defenses, letting them in, loving them enough to trust God and let them see us, as we really are, and letting them love us.  For then these relationships transform from being duty-driven and duty bound, to being focused on the love of God that brings us together and causes the relationship to flourish.

Which allows the relationship to endure…. because God is there.

So everyone, out of the reverence, considering the love and mercy of God, seek out and love your neighbor, helping them, caring for them, putting their best interests first.  Have the mind of Christ, for He will never leave nor forsake you.



(1)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 169). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Are You Strong Enough to Really Love as Jesus Asks You to Love?

Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
11  “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12  My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. John 15:11-12 (TEV)

749  Your charity must be adapted and tailored to the needs of others… not to yours.  (1)

It sounds simple and nice, this idea of loving one another.

I think we romanticize it, not in the sense of erotic love, but in the idea of some kind of peaceful utopia.  That all we need is love, and somehow the world will straighten out, the Middle East conflicts will resolve, the kidnapped girls in Nigeria will come home, those who have suffered from hurricanes, earthquakes, and drought will find all they need.

Love, and the relationships, the deep intimate relationships that are created and bound in love are the farthest thing from some restful utopia. Ask any mother who has to care for a newborn,  There is a deep level of love, but it isn’t all cooing and cuddling.  It’s waking up every 2-3 hours to feed and change them, it is dealing with sickness, even when you are sick, it is learning to discipline and teach, it is sacrifice, it is work.

Intimate relationships between soldiers are no different (again we aren’t talking sexual – but simply things so close they can’t describe the bond between them, the extend they will go for their brothers, the sacrifices they make, without hesitation, without thought of cost.  It simply is a bond that goes beyond description, that means more than life itself.

In these two examples, and in so many others, the words of St Josemaria are found to be true.  Love isn’t about our needs… its about life lived in community, loving others as much as we love ourselves.  Walking in the steps of Jesus, who did this better than us all.

In the book of Romans, I was amazed by how many times the prefix syn/sun shows up, How many times the concept is one where we are joined to each other, and the Holy Spirit is likewise joined to us.  It is an incredible journey, not just theologically, but together.  We share in our calling, our joys, our sorrows, in prayer, in being gathered in hope, and in prayer.  Romans isn’t just about the mission and the question of predestination, it is not just about Justification and gifts and Israel.

It’s about a life lived in relationship – a deep relationship between God and His people. A life that can be messy, and painful, that can be sacrificial to the point of heroic, a life that is full of Love… May God enable us both to desire this, and to do it… with Him

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3118-3119). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Faithfulness, Sex and our Relationship with God

 Treasuring God’s GiftsSAMSUNG

Means We Value Deep

Relationships, especially Marriage

Ex. 20:14, Eph 2:10. 5:27, Luke 10:25-28

In Jesus Name!

May you know well God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who brings mercy, love nad peace into your life!

Really – This Commandment is a Topic WE need to cover? 

When I started to write out the topics of this series of sermons, when I came to the 6th commandment, my first reaction is that this would be a fine sermon to hear Chris preach on, or perhaps Vicar Mark, or Vicar Albert.

Simply because talking about Adultery means touching on the subject of the three letter word that begins with S and ends with X.

For me, it is one of those topics I would rather not talk about, it is too personal, too intimate, and like many guys, I’d rather talk about anything else, especially in a group with both men and women in it.

Heck, it is a topic I don’t want to talk about with a group of women or a group of men.

But I think my reticence about discussing the topic gives me a hint towards why this commandment, about reserving that level of intimacy, both physical and psychological/spiritual aspects of the relationship, is worth a commandment.

It is because it is so intimate to a relationship, that God treasures it.

And therefore to diminish it, diminishes something God gave us to treasure…..

Because it teaches something about our life, about our relationship with God…..

Let me explain that some..

Why is this so important to God?
While no one will doubt the physical aspects the relationship between a man and a woman, those acts are by no means just physical.

There is a spiritual/psychological aspect to them, something that uses that word that sends shivers down most men’s spines….there is something ….

“Intimate”

Something that takes all of our walls down, that leaves us and our spouse as one, relating to each other, caring for each other.

It is that level of emotional and spiritual intimacy that God desires us to have with Him.  That’s why we heard Ephesians 5 tonight as well as chapter 2. That is why the Old Testament Books of Song of Solomon and Hosea talk of marital faithfulness and love as an example of God’s relationship with His people, and even the unfaithfulness of Hosea’s wife, as an example of Israel’s actions towards God.

A bitter betrayal, the deepest betrayal.

A depth of pain that goes beyond our ability to cope with…..

Yet a level of pain God has endured, as again and again He has picked Israel up from her wandering into idolatry…..

It’s hard to imagine God hurting as the couples I’ve had in my office have hurt.  It’s hard to realize that you or I could hurt the Creator of the universe, that a congregation, that a people could so devastate God by betraying His love.

But we can… and we do…..

We fail to love Him with our entire heart, our soul, our mind, when we trust in our idols the way we are supposed to trust Him.  Even when the idol we trust in is ourselves.  When what we are proudest of, what we are in awe of, isn’t the God who created us, who created this planet.

If how we love our neighbor reveals how we love God, as the apostle John writes in 1 John, how much more does how we treasure our spouse, our faithfulness tell us about our relationship with God?

A Relationship to Cherish, to Guard, to Teach

Hear again Paul’s words from Ephesians 5…

25  For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26  to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27  He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.

 If what we’ve been working through, that these 10 commandments actually are the Old Testament Beatitudes, the masterpiece of God that is how we, rescued from Satan are to live, then Jesus’s work to render us a “the glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or blemish, makes incredible sense.
It is what Hosea did for his wife, the very model of it.  Even though her sins, like ours, are scarlet red.  It is the depth of Christ’s desire for a relationship with us, the emotional intimacy, the being unified as one.  Not sexually, but in ways that are just as deep.

He is faithful, even when we struggle.  Even when we take the great blessing He has given us, this great example of marriage, that God considers it the model of our special relationship with Him, and we see it trashed around us, and sometimes, in thought or word and deed, we trash it ourselves.  Or don’t speak up when we see it cheapened, and mocked.

God’s faithfulness extends even then, calling us back to our relationship with Him, healing us, restoring us, and yes, He can and has even restored the relationships, He can recreate us, revealing His masterpiece that is creating by uniting us to Jesus.

But it is there, where healing happens, where God ministers to us, Father, Son and Spirit.  It is there were marriages find their healing as well, and the example of faithfulness and yeah – intimacy.  It is there, in that relationship, that all relationships can find the peace that passes all understanding, that peace in which we find ourselves guarded and treasured by Jesus.

AMEN?

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