Devotional Thought for Our Day:
5 Isaiah then told the king, “The LORD Almighty says that 6a time is coming when everything in your palace, everything that your ancestors have stored up to this day, will be carried off to Babylonia. Nothing will be left. 7Some of your own direct descendants will be taken away and made eunuchs to serve in the palace of the king of Babylonia.”
8 King Hezekiah understood this to mean that there would be peace and security during his lifetime, so he replied, “The message you have given me from the LORD is good.” Isiah 38:5-8 TEV
802 When someone has a very small heart, it seems as if he keeps his desires in a narrow, neglected drawer.
The king in the passage indicated he thought the message of God’s wrath was good, and that bugs me. Is he so self-centered that he doesn’t realize he is welcoming, even approving of God’s wrath to be poured out on others because of his own sin? Doesn’t he realize he is rejoicing in his people’s, his descendants suffering?
What kind of king is that?
What kind of father?
Which brings a hard question to ask, what kind of things will our children, our grandchildren, and those who follow us in Christ have to face because of our lives today?
I am not talking “our” in a corporate sense of America, or even of the entire Church, or my denomination or congregation. I am talking about you and me.
In my case, my cynicism, my own reactions toward those I don’t relate well too, that I don’t trust, that I struggle with, and consider my adversaries, my enemies. Those, if I am in a more condescending mood, that I consider a royal pain in the ass. How will I treat those who add fuel to my already raging sense of cynicism or those who provoke my fine sense of irony?
I have struggled a lot with this as I’ve seen people react to a reaction of other people. That it turn created a reaction, which more people are reacting to with more extremism, more hatred, more calls for violence and acting in anger.
I want to react, I want to call people out on their hypocrisy, I’ve written twenty or thirty replies, then caught myself before posting them. (and a couple of times, I didn’t)
My reaction has to be one of love, it has to be less about me, and more about helping people reconcile, but oh this is difficult, it is brutal, it cuts me to the heart…. and yet, that is exactly what I need. It is this process that St Paul wrote about when he wrote,
“11 In union with Christ you were circumcised, not with the circumcision that is made by human beings, but with the circumcision made by Christ, which consists of being freed from the power of this sinful self. 12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. 13 You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; 14 he canceled the unfavorable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:11-15 (TEV)
The only way I can love those who seem unlovable to me is to live in the reality of my baptism. To know that when I was (and still can be)unlovable, God did anyways. And because He loves me (and you) He is working on me (and you), as I must trust He is working on everyone! Even those who don’t know Him, yet He is calling them to this change of life. To this circumcision of the heart (see Ezekiel 36:25 and following) which cleanses us, changes us, transforms us. (this is what repentance is, and it is far more than saying, “i am sorry”_
It is in His work, that I must trust. Not must in the sense of my obligation to Him, but rather must because if I don’t, I will soon realize I am what I annoys me, I am what I rail against, I am what i hate.
My hope? In the one who loved me enough to die for me. Who loves me enough to transform me, even as I struggle against it. My hope is in Jesus… who is still my advocate, who is still my shepherd, who is my Lord.
May we all let Him change us, as He calls us to his side. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3314-3315). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:
5 Make your own the mind of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped. 7 But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, 8 he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8 (NJB)
1 We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. 2 We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. 3 For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.” 4 Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
Romans 15:1-4 (NLT)
I cannot sufficiently admire the ardour with which this counsel was put in practice by St. Louis, one of the greatest kings the sun ever shone on. I say a great king in every kind of greatness. He frequently served at table the poor whom he maintained, and caused three poor men almost every day to dine with him, and many times eat the remainder of their pottage with an incomparable love. When he visited the hospitals, which he frequently did, he commonly served those suffering from leprosy and ulcers, and such as had the most loathsome diseases, kneeling on the ground, respecting, in their persons, the Saviour of the world, and cherishing them as tenderly as any fond mother cherishes her own child.
856 Spiritual childhood demands submission of the mind, which is harder than submission of the will. In order to subject our mind we need not only God’s grace, but a continual exercise of our will as well, denying the intellect over and over again, just as it says “no” to the flesh. And so we have the paradox that whoever wants to follow this “little way” in order to become a child, needs to add strength and manliness to his will.
What a challenging concept St. Josemaria brings out in the words in blue above.
It is challenging enough to bend my will to make sacrifices that I do not want to, but the truth is, I can do that without putting my mind and soul into it. You can force yourself to do just about anything, but to submit how you think – how you feel about it, now there is a challenge.
if we change how we act, but resent doing so, or are apathetic at best, how does that benefit? Doesn’t that attitude, that state of mind rob us of doing our best – and even going beyond to help those in need? And the action is torturous to us.
We can bend the will, but what we really need is what scripture calls repentance, (see Romans 12:1-3), the transformation of our mind. What Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 3:15ff as the Spirit changes us as we gaze upon Christ, what is echoed in Hebrews 12:2-3 as well, as we journey without eyes set on Christ.
This is what King Louis, one of the few Kings that was labeled a saint knew. It was for joy that he entertained the poor, and cared for the lepers, cherishing those in whom he saw his beloved savior. That changes our mind, which drives our will for the love and joy involved, rather than with resentment. Then sacrifice, and submission becomes an incredible joy, even as it was for Christ! For to help those who need encouragement is our vocation, our doing what we are created to do. As our mind is submitted to Christ’s, and His mind and attitude becomes ours, the greatest joy is when we bring our enemy to the Father, seeing them reconciled to Him.
It is then nothing else matters, for we realize that our self-interest, our burdens, our anxieties stop us from knowing the greatest joys, from seeing God in His glory, as He dwells with us.
Lord have mercy on us, and constantly remind us that our lives are in You! AMEN!
Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1975-1978). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— 2 then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Philippians 2:1-4 (MSG)
Some pressing difficulties can be remedied immediately. Others, not so quickly. But they all are solved if we are faithful: if we obey, if we observe what has been laid down. (1)
It may seem to some that my post title is said in jest, using the formula of the various x-anonymous groups.
I would have you know, it is not said in jest, I can be, and often am, as narcisstic as any person on the face of the planet, and while I am not proud of it, I must recognize it. I must confront it, cofness it, and pray to God that he would help me lay down the idol of “self”. And as with recovery programs, it is this very thing, admitting our need of God, that is our beginning step to healing.
You see narcicism is a pretty lonely life, at best, even if it is “safer” than investing ourselves in others. Fulfillment doesn’t come at the being the best we can be, if we are alone when we achienve it.
We weren’t made ot be alone, or to be he center of our own universes. We weren’t made to live on the defensive, paranoid and hardened against hurt.
We were made in the image of Christ. And we were re-created in that very image as well, created (Eph. 2:10) to be His masterpice, specifically set aside for living life as He did… sacrficially, doing good things He has planned.
It’s not easy, leaving behind our narcissism, confessing our sin, asking God to use as He designs…. It requires we see ourselves nailed to the cross, united with Christ’s death and resurrection. It requires that we live in Christ and die to self, to become living sacrifices. Yet this is what Romans is all about, and this great passage from Philippians, and Eph.5:21 and following as it deals with the relationships of husband and wife, parents and children, bosses and employees. It is what 1 JOhn is about, when it talks of us loving our neighbor, and James when it talks about faith and works. It is Christ’s life, and this life we who trust in Him are called and made right and holy to live. This is what, as St Josemaria says, is laid down.
There is a sense of irony here, for if the goal of the narcissist is self-fulfillment, self protection, to succeed at it, the narcissist has to set himself aside… drop the defenses, and invest themselves totally in others.
That is what our faith, our trust, our confidence in God enables us to do, for we find our life, alive in Christ.
Lord have mercy on us…. and help us realize that you separated us in baptism, from our narcissism.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1718-1719). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Who is more faithful to the faith? Wrong question! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- To prepare servant leaders… (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. 20 Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. 21 It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. 22 “Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. 23 If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have! 24 “You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both. Matthew 6:19-24 (MSG)
Saint John tells us that the other enemy is the lust of the eyes, a deep-seated avariciousness that leads us to appreciate only what we can touch. Such eyes are glued to earthly things and, consequently, they are blind to supernatural realities. We can, then, use this expression of Sacred Scripture to indicate that disordered desire for material things, as well as that deformation which views everything around us—other people, the circumstances of our life and of our age—with just human vision. Then the eyes of our soul grow dull. Reason proclaims itself sufficient to understand everything, without the aid of God. This is a subtle temptation, which hides behind the power of our intellect, given by our Father God to man so that he might know and love him freely. Seduced by this temptation, the human mind appoints itself the center of the universe, being thrilled with the prospect that “you shall be like gods.”22 So filled with love for itself, it turns its back on the love of God. (1)
When we hear the words of the gospel, we often look to our society, to the excess of things that people have. The chasing after the faster car, the nicer home, the bigger screen. Some of it comes as well as we think about our children or grandchildren, and we want “the best” for them as well. The best schools, the best universities, the best spouses. All around us is this culture of narcissism, and yes, even among us in the church as we buy into the ways of the world.
But it can slip into the church in a different way as well – when we demand that the church meet our needs, that it provides for us. That the worship service provide what we think we need, that the beauty there is for us to enjoy, that everything in the church revolves around its members – for isn’t the church here to minister to “us”? You want to know whether a church is healthy or narcisstic? Look at where it’s treasures are. Is the budget and the best resources, focused on ministering inward? Or is it on ministering to those around us – and we the center of the church’s work. Does the church find comfort in its own secret language, in being anti-cultural instead of counter-cultural? What about the music – and the sermons? Do we want the sin confronted to be the sins in our community, or are we willing to have our sins addressed, with both the law that nails them to the cross – and the grace that cleanses us of them? Is the beauty of our liturgy, our sanctuaries, our Bible translations and sermons and our music such that someone who is not familiar with the church, will perceive God’s glory during the service? Or is it all about those within the church?
Or are we willing to be such a church, that we see what Paul is really saying to the church in Corinth,
16 Otherwise, if you say your blessing only with the spirit, how is the uninitiated person going to answer ‘Amen’ to your thanksgiving, without understanding what you are saying? 17 You may be making your thanksgiving well, but the other person is not built up at all. 1 Corinthians 14:16-17 (NJB)
Paul is telling us, that church doesn’t exist just to encourage the individual – especially the individual who already has been baptized, gifted with faith and repentance, and sealed as God’s child. The world doesn’t revolve around the believer, nor should the church. Instead, we are called to love as Christ loved, to submit ourselves to others our of reverence for Christ, to die to self.
For interestingly, it is then, as we willing lose our life – that we find it, and in dieing to self – we truly live.
So this week – as you receive God’s love – see who God is sending you to… to love so well – that they find themselves saying Amen….
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 475-484). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:
There is a game that we play, that came to an abrupt end last Friday.
I call the game, “Utopia”, and I think we get addicted to playing it.
The premise of the game is to see how well we can pretend the world is “perfect”, that there are no problems, or that the solution to them is as easy as whose name we check on a ballot. Or what we will unwrap on Christmas day will finally put us in the winner’s circle of the game. Or perhaps getting that new job, or being able to retire. Or if we find the right partner, (and if they aren’t perfect, we toss them away and try again). Even our schools prefer to have perfect images, and sometimes ignore the kids with serious issues, until it is too late. In churches as well, we often fail to see our own heresies, our own legalism, our own devotion to our culture more than our devotion to our community. Our empty sanctuaries are too hard too fill – with 100 times more people in our community than when they were built, so let’s close their doors and turn them into a starbucks, or a museum
We like perfection, and we avoid those things that would call us to admit there is work to be done. If things are perfect, if we are not in control, anxiety looms, more powerful and stronger than our wills. Often, in defense, we project the problem a distance away, its someone else’s fault, their problems, their issues, their weaknesses are now affecting us! If only they would pull their weight, if they only followed our wisdom,
There is a very subtle evil, a very determined narcissistic nature, a very powerful form of self-idolatry, that is alive and well as we play such a game as Utopia.
And one of the reasons we all take tragedies, whether natural ones like a hurricane or earthquake, or man-made ones like 9/11, Columbine, Paducah, Va Tech, or now NewTown, so hard, is that they stop our games. We can’t pretend our world is perfect anymore, we can’t play the game… it just seems…vain.
Which the game always was… vain.
We are free of the vanity now… but will we embrace it again?
There is an option to Utopia – it is reality.
A reality not of blind optimism, or some kind of hopeless fatalism. There is God’s reality. There is His work in our lives, there are His promises.
The risen Christ, Christ in glory, has divested himself of the things of this earth, so that we men, his brothers, should ask ourselves what things we need to get rid of.
Part of me wants to rebel against this – to dismiss it as some sort of fanaticism, some form of Amish like pietism.
But when trauma robs us of everything on earth – even the lives of those we love, we have something. We have Christ. We have His glory, we have His love and the promises that all is not lost, all is not vain and empty.
For what becomes the center of our life is a relationship, with our Mentor, our Guide, our Master, our Protector, our Healer, our Advocate, our Righteousness, our Lord, our Comforter, our Brother, our Father….our God,
The One who loves us.
The One we don’t see when we play Utopia…
So live in the reality of His love, look to Him every day, ask Him to cleanse you of your idols, ask Him to strengthen your trust, your love, ask Him to remind you that you dwell in His peace…..
Ask Him, Lord have mercy!
And rejoice, in knowing He has promised, and His is doing this very thing – even now.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1990-1991). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition. 526