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Will You Dare Pray this with Me?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Who will set a guard over my mouth, an effective seal on my lips, That I may not fail through them, and my tongue may not destroy me?e Lord, Father and Master of my life, do not abandon me to their designs, do not let me fall because of them!

2 Who will apply the lash to my thoughts, and to my mind the rod of discipline, That my failings may not be spared or the sins of my heart overlooked? 3 Otherwise my failings may increase, and my sins be multiplied; and I fall before my adversaries, and my enemy rejoice over me?
4 Lord, Father and God of my life, do not give me haughty eyes; 5 remove evil desire from my heart. 6 Let neither gluttony nor lust overcome me; do not give me up to shameless desires.  Sirach 22:27- 23:6  NAB-RE

11 *Give us today our daily bread; 12 and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;
13 and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one.  Matthew 6:11-13 NAB-RE.

309      Doubts assail you, temptations, with that gloss of elegance about them. I love to hear you say how this shows that the devil considers you his enemy, and that God’s grace will never leave you unprotected. Keep up the struggle!

As I am working through the book of Sirach, I am amazed at the prayer life on display, and the hope of repentance he depended upon God granting him.. The prayer in the first quote above is an example.  It is a prayer that would answer James’ discourse on the tongue, and Paul’s plea for a rescuee from this body of death in Romans.  It is the plea for the fruit of the Spirit to develop in our hearts and minds.And it echoes the prayer Christ has taught us, in asking God to help us avoid temptation, to be delivered from the evil one, and that hard challenge of not striking back against those who’ve sinned us again, but forgiving them.

We would all say that we long for such a Christlikeness to be developed in our lives. I think that most of us would eagerly respond to that call, and the desire to live life walking with Jesus, and imitating Him.

But will we invite God to make it happen?  Will we let Him set a guard over our mouths, will we let him discipline our tongue, mind, heart, eyes and desires?  Will we accept His chastening and rebuking, recognizing it as His love?  Will we make such a prayer our own, knowing the result of God’s law, the work of the Holy Spirit that we call sanctification?

Letting the Holy Spirit put to death the deeds of our body will not be easy, I cannot promise it will be painless. (Romans 8:13)  Matter of fact, I am sure it will hurt, as war wages over our soul, and our sin which was nailed to the cross tries to keep us ensnared.  (Hebrews 1:1-3)

But our hope is found in looking to Christ, in trusting the Holy Spirit to work within us, to comfort us, to comfort and quiet our souls, and to help us understand the work of Christ, which is our promise of sharing in the glory of Christ.  

So, join with me in prayer, and ask God to transform us, that we would reflect the light of Christ to others who need to be healed and freed. And know this, through it all, your Master is with you!!!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1247-1250). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are Christians Willing to Engage in This Fight?

Discussion Thought of the Day:
23  All this I do for the gospel’s sake, in order to share in its blessings. 24  Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. 25  Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. 26  That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. 27  I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest.
1 Corinthians 9:23-27 (TEV)

22  I love God’s law with all my heart. 23  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Romans 7:22-25 (NLT)

209      In your personal prayer, whenever you experience the weakness of the flesh you should repeat: Lord, give the Cross to this poor body of mine, which gets tired and rebellious!  (1) 

I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church he daily and abundantly forgives all my sins, and the sins of all believers, and on the last day he will raise me and all the dead and will grant eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true.  (2) 


As I look at my social media feeds, it seems there many Christians are calling others to join in the battle against evil.  Some are targeting the recent bathrooms issues; others are targeting abortion, or homosexuality.  Others are waging other battles against divorce, or perceived injustices.  Some want to take on the entire community of Islam, or at least the terrorists who are creating martyrs of our brothers and sisters. 

There are cries in the church, as some want Equal rights for everyone in the church, or at least equal access to roles.  Others want to purify the faith, returning to eras when they think everyone was pure and without sin. They base this on a form of worship, or the use of a translation, or some other thing, overlooking the sin and division of those days.

There are many, many pleas, people begging us to join the battle, and each battle promises some form of heaven on earth, should we be faithful and win.  They promise utopia, if only our side can win, and the other be crushed in defeat.

But the war which is more critical, a true war for our souls.  One which we so easily overlook, one which is simple in theory to win, yet so difficult to execute and realize the victory.

The war for my soul.  The war for your soul. 

This is a battle for holiness, one which has faded into the background, because these other battles are easier to gather people around, they are less insidious, and we can be the heroes that are lauded and praised.  We can even find theological precepts, or create them, warning people about this horror called pietism, without extolling piety.  We will call people to focus on God declaring people to be righteous while ignoring the sanctification that makes the declaration true.

The personal war in our own souls, the souls which the apostle Paul describes at war, that St Josemaria describes as tired and rebellious,  the soul Luther describes as requiring the Holy Spirit to cleanse and make holy.  For we don’t have the ability to do it, save in our surrendering to the Spirit’s work.

What generations of the church called mortification comes from letting the Spirit purge us of sin, of bringing healing to that which is broken, to cleanse those parts of our lives that are rotting spiritually.

Or do we imagine Paul was speaking hypothetically when he talks of being disqualified?

Mortification is not about whipping your body physically; it is by no means that easy.  It is not about fasting to purify yourself, but it can help you to focus and prioritize.  In advocating the mortification that the Spirit controls, I am not talking about some kind of self-abuse.   Then again, we have to do something about the abuse that does crush us, our tendency to sin, even though we are Christ’s.  The sin that leads us to dare confess our wretchedness, and be guided to healing and strength by the Spirit.

Mortification is allowing the Spirit to guide you to take up your cross and walk with Christ. The quote from Romans 7 is preceded by that very discussion in chapter 6.  We are nailed to the cross with Christ, and it is back to that cross we must go to deal with sin and temptation.  If we are to find the strength to withstand the temptation this time, and the grace for those times in the past and the future when we will fail and fall.

Mortification is confessing our sins, and receiving absolution, it is found in remembering the promises that were made sure in our baptism, that we are called to know, as we feast on the Body and Blood of Christ.  As we kneel in prayer, as we adore the God, who calls us His.  These spiritual blessings, these things we call disciplines, are the place where we are reminded that spiritual warfare is the victory that comes in walking with Christ.

It prepares us for the other battles, giving us the reminder about what those battles are.  They aren’t the decisive battle between good and evil, but a rescue mission for the souls of the people we engage with, knowing that God desires that they too are declared righteous, and made holy by the power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead.   Because we need to remember that, for it is our hope when we begin to stray.

AMEN!

(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 914-916). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 345). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press

Imitating Christ… in dying to self.

English: Resurrection of Christ

English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion thought of the Day:

 23  Jesus answered them, “The hour has now come for the Son of Man to receive great glory. 24  I am telling you the truth: a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains. 25  Those who love their own life will lose it; those who hate their own life in this world will keep it for life eternal. 26  Whoever wants to serve me must follow me, so that my servant will be with me where I am. And my Father will honor anyone who serves me. John 12:23-26 (TEV)

 17  In the Lord’s name, then, I warn you: do not continue to live like the heathen, whose thoughts are worthless 18  and whose minds are in the dark. They have no part in the life that God gives, for they are completely ignorant and stubborn. 19  They have lost all feeling of shame; they give themselves over to vice and do all sorts of indecent things without restraint. 20  That was not what you learned about Christ! 21  You certainly heard about him, and as his followers you were taught the truth that is in Jesus. 22  So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to—the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. 23  Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, 24  and you must put on the new self, which is created in God’s likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy.   Ephesians 4:17-24 (TEV)

If the grain of wheat does not die, it remains unfruitful. Don’t you want to be a grain of wheat, to die through mortification, and to yield stalks rich in grain? May Jesus bless your wheat field! (1)

Yesterday I asked on Facebook a question about whether we would follow Jesus if he showed up today and asked us too.  Actually, more specifically, I asked what our excuses would be when we told him we wouldn’t follow Him.

Most people said they would, and I believe in their hearts they sincerely believe it.

Even as I know most of us do not, even now, as Christ is present in our lives,  as He is calling us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and walk with Him, through that dying to self, into the presence of the Father.

Will we walk with Christ in loving those who would kill us, that we could win their souls to God?

Will we forgive others who have sinned against us?

Will we depend on God when life is rough, the answers unknown, when we need to forsake joy and embrace suffering – that a person would come to know God’s love?

Will we give up taking care of what we are responsible for – to care for others.  (think of John, James, Peter and Andrew leaving their fathers and boats behind, or Matthew leaving the tax table and the taxes he collected behind.._

Reading Les Miserable in my spare time is really causing me to ask these questions, not of you, but of myself.   Wondering how I serve as an example, as Paul did, as Peter did, for those whom I have been entrusted with shepherding.  It’s a hard question… and it seems like the law is condemning me…even brutally.

Until I realize that such things I cling to, are actually snares… snares that would stop me from following Christ, or at least blind me to His Spirit’s presence.  I have to come to my senses and realize in whose presence I dwell.  The Lord and Master who shatters those holds, who brings me healing, who brings me life.

This dying to self thing – its not so I can just die.  It is so I can live.

We too need to experience what that seed did… actually we just need to realize we have… He has done this to us, even as He subjected Himself to it.

This imitating Christ – is the living that we were created for…

It is what began at our baptism, it is what is strengthened as we are absolved and commune…

It is the abundant life.

Lord have mercy on us, by crucifying our sin and sinful desires… leaving us nothing else, but You, and the glory in which you share with us. AMEN

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 574-575). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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