Devotional Thought of the Day….
3 “You must not have any other god but me. 4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. 6 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. Exodus 20:3-6 (NLT2)
9 When they talked to him about committing himself personally, his reaction was to reason in the following manner: “If I did, I could do that…, I would have to do this other… “ The answer he got was: “Here, we don’t bargain with the Lord. The law of God, the invitation of the Lord, is something you either take or leave, just as it is. You need to make up your mind: go forward, fully decided and without holding back; otherwise, go away. Qui non est mecum…— whoever is not with Me, is against Me.”
Back in the late 80’s, early 90’s there was a huge battle over something called “lordship salvation”. The question pit some of the mega-church, whose services were on television and radio against each other. The battle also sold a lot of books for them as well, as they countered each other with the dedication of boxers, each looking for the knock-out punch.
They battled over justification, could a person become a Christian unless they sold out completely to God. Was He going to become your Lord and Master, and would you follow him perfectly? They would use the parables like the king going to war without considering how his army matched up to his enemy or the man who built his house on rock versus sand.
Neither side accounted for the ongoing struggle with sin. Neither side considered the work of the Holy Spirit.
And yet, we need to regularly ask the question, Are we praying to God, or an idol of our own making? Do we worship God, for the love He has for us, revealed in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, or do we create a God that will answer our own desires?
We need to think these things through, regularly. Are we willing to go where God wants us to go? To do what He asks us to do? Or do we just do what we want, what we desire, what seemingly benefits us the most?
It is a hard question, but I like the way St. Josemaria phrases it. Do we consider our relationship with God based on a plus and minus calculation of how it benefits or makes u uncomfortable?
Do we struggle with the big decisions, trying to ascertain His will? What if it means we lose? What if it requires us to suffer?
And what about the small everyday decisions, the challenges to bypass the temptations that leave us broken in sin? For those too deal with the idea of hearing God, and relating to Him as he determines.
So, where is the hope? How do we deal with our own infidelity when it comes to God? How do we admit we’ve turned from our relationship with God, and put in His place an idol?
We learn to do so, to go to God, so that He can deal with the guilt, the shame. That He can remove us again. For just as He called us originally, He will forgive us, and revive us and cleanse us. That too is His promise, and what we need to cling to. he will not reject us, indeed, He will continue to try and call us home, or bring us home, to unite us to the 99.
It is worth the struggle, it is worth seeing what God has in store, it is worth it, for, in the end, our idols can’t answer us or help us, but God can…. and does. So let Him pick you up… and rejoice in resting in His care.
What are the things you don’t like about what God wants in His relationship with Him? Have you checked to see if they are actually Biblical? How will you deal with them?
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 274-279). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
37 “Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples. 38 Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. 39 Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it. Matthew 10:37-39 (TEV)
995 A Christian always triumphs from the Cross, through his self-renunciation, because he allows God’s omnipotence to act. (1)
521 I wrote to you: Though I can understand that it’s not an uncommon way of talking, I’m not happy when I hear people describe the difficulties born of pride as “crosses”. These burdens are not the Cross, the true Cross, because they are not Christ’s Cross. So struggle against those invented obstacles, which have nothing to do with the seal Christ has set on you. Get rid of all the disguises of self! (2)
I came across these two quotes this morning from St. Josemaria Escriva in two different books – one that I finished yesterday, and one that I picked up and continued in this morning. In them, and in the passage from Matthew above, I find something that has been on my heart for a while.
We don’t understand crosses, or burdens that we are to carry. We even label some people our crosses to bear, or our “thorns in the flesh”, as if the only reason they are in our lives is to keep us humble, broken, and praying for mercy.
In 521, St Josemaria describes that we take on problems,which we label crosses, that we think are holy burdens, but are not really. When we find a person burdensome, bothersome, requiring great patience, when we barely tolerate his presence. If that is all we do, we haven’t born Christ’s cross, we haven’t shouldered a burden God would give us to bear.
That is not to say we do not have crosses to bear, that we are free to disobey what Christ commissions us to live, as His masterpeiece. (see Eph 2:10) There is a transformation in us, at our baptism, that as we live in faith causes us to take up the very crosses God has wanted us to bear, to make the sacrifices, to love, not just rolerate, the unlovable. A cross that requires us to confront brokenness, sinfulness, not with the goal of condemnation, but with the goal of seeing people healed in Jesus Christ. To lift the weary, to nurse the sick. These crosses take self-denial, or as it is put above, self-renunciation, Its putting others welfare – especially their eternal welfare, before our own wants and needs.
This is exactly what Paul is talking about in Philippians 2:
1 Your life in Christ makes you strong, and his love comforts you. You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another. 2 I urge you, then, to make me completely happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and being one in soul and mind. 3 Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. 4 And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. 5 The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: Philippians 2:1-5 (TEV)
You might suggest that this is too much of a burden, that you are as unable to comply with this standard, as you are with the law of Moses. That I can’t expect sinners who are justified in Chirst to become this obedient, this transformed, this…. holy.
If that is true, why then inlude Christ’s commission to bear the cross in scripture? Or at least have it footnoted with the statement that this is the ideal? No, this is really what Christ commissions, what he expects, Beyond the above commissions, and Eph. 2:10, and Romans 12:1-8, and all of 1 John, we could add the Beattitudes, Hebrews 12:1-3, and the list goes on.
You have a cross to take up, a place to serve, where you bring people face to face with the God who brought you to Him.
How you do it, is actually simple – you remember you are nailed to the cross with Him, that you have died, that you have risen as His. That He never will leave us, and that as we look to Him, He transforms us into His likeness. THe description of that is the people who take up the cross – and walk like Him.
So I encourage you… start this new year right,
Call our Lord Have Mercy, and realize that loving others is proof that He has.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 4024-4025). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1976-1980). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.