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Suffering, and trying to blackmail God….

jesus-cross-summit-cross-37737Devotional Thought of the Day:
8  We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9  In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10  And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 (NLT2)

776    Don’t fall into a vicious circle. You are thinking: when this is settled one way or another, I’ll be very generous with my God. Can’t you see that Jesus is waiting for you to be generous without any reservation, so that he can settle things far better than you imagine? A firm resolution, as a logical consequence: in each moment of each day I will try generously to carry out the will of God.

I have been at people’s sides when they were so overwhelmed that they thought they would never live through it.  And I’ve been there when they not only expected to die, they actually expected it. The feeling as darkness closes in, as our hope in this life seems to fade, these emotions?  feelings?  Those words aren’t strong enough, this level of life seems too unbearable, even as tears come without warning, or worse, the days when you wonder if there are any left. 

It is those times we want to be like Luther, hiding in plain sight in a thunderstorm, trying to make a deal with God. “God, if you will only let me survive this, I will dedicate my life to you as a monk, or go on the mission field, or give up my favorite moments of sinful joy.”

 In Josemaria’s words, we refuse to be generous with God unless He miraculously settles the issue, solves the problem, provides the miracle.  We look at accounts like Luther’s, or we misappropriate the story of Gideon’s fleece, and blackmail God, only giving Him what He should have if our demands are met if our rescue is completed if we receive the blessings we want.   We can even find justification for our actions in Jacob’s wrestling with God, demanding a blessing from Him.  

Except that Gideon’s fleece wasn’t something that directly benefited him, and Jacob’s blessing was not a blessing of his choosing. 

And Luther?

I wonder if God hadn’t already been working on his to give up the legal profession for the ministry.  Seems like an awfully random thing to come up with in the midst of a storm. Repent of something might be more common, fearing God’s wrath certainly, but sacrificing his life as a living sacrifice? 

I think he may have already been doing a Jonah routine on that one.

And God used his suffering to benefit many.  God would use his sacrifice to reform the church (yes the Catholic Church reformed after that – some of his issues were handled at Trent, and then Vatican I & II… and maybe some more..eventually) 

When we try, under duress or plan, to blackmail God, we take our eyes off of Him, and we ignore or refuse to see and hear His plan, and how it will be good. Even in this midst of pain, even in the midst of suffering. 

That’s when we need to listen to Paul, and the sure confidence he has in God, who rescues us from sin and death. We learned to rely on God he writes. instead of relying on ourselves. It is a plea to us as well; that we would know we can rely on Him, too. “He will continue to rescue..”

We need to know that.  For the, we can hear Josemaria’s advice, to give generously, without any reservation, without any thought of the suffering, for we shall endure eternally with Jesus. Don’t wait for everything to work out, give of yourself generously during the crisis.  Depend on His faithful love. Look forward to the day we will be at home with the Father/  As it is now, with the Spirit indwelling in us, so it will be with our dwelling in the Father’s presence, fully experiencing the breadth, width, height, and depth of His love. 

Heavenly Father, when we suffer, help us to keep looking to you, knowing Your love is faithful always, that you do promise all to work for good for us who love You.  Help us to realize we aren’t always the best judge of that, and simply trust in You.
We pray this in Jesus name, AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1791-1795). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It’s Hump Day…But You Need Rest to Finish the Week. Here is how to find it!

devotional thought of the Day:

1  One day it happened that Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us how to pray, as John used to teach his disciples.” 2  “When you pray,” returned Jesus, “you should say, ‘Father, may your name be honoured – may your kingdom come! Give us each day the bread we need, and forgive us our sins, for we forgive anyone who owes anything to us; and keep us clear of temptation.'” Luke 11:1-2 (Phillips NT)
5  Then he added, “If any of you has a friend, and goes to him in the middle of the night and says, ‘Lend me three loaves, my dear fellow, for a friend of mine has just arrived after a journey and I have no food to put in front of him’; and then he answers from inside the house, ‘Don’t bother me with your troubles. The front door is locked and my children and I have gone to bed. I simply cannot get up now and give you anything!’ Yet, I tell you, that even if he won’t get up and give him what he wants simply because he is his friend, yet if he persists, he will rouse himself and give him everything he needs.”
9  And so I tell you, ask and it will be given you, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. The one who asks will always receive; the one who is searching will always find, and the door is opened to the man who knocks.” Luke 11:1-9 (Phillips NT) 

470         Our Lord sent out his disciples to preach, and when they came back he gathered them together and invited them to go with him to a desert place where they could rest… What marvellous things Jesus would ask them and tell them! Well, the Gospel is always relevant to the present day.

What did the disciples see in Jesus as He prayed?

HOw did it differ from the prayers they saw in their families growing up, and in the leaders of the synagogue?

We hear them ask Jesus to teach them to pray, but these are men who had been praying all of their lives, They grew up learning to meditate on the word, great up worshipping God as they sang and read the psalms.   SO what is so different about the way Jesus prays, that they want to learn how He prays?

The answer, I believe, is found in the word, “rest”

Yeah. prayer is the most restful thing you can do, even as we struggle through another long week. (even the week after you get back from vacation)  We are tired, frustrated, worn down, even though the work we are doing is good and beneficial – it can also be spiritually and emotionally exhausting.

And we need that rest.

Sometimes desperately need it.

And it can be found, as we take a few moments, find a place that is quiet, and unload all the crap we are dealing with, all of the stress, all of the weariness on the God who cares for us. who loves us, who asks s to cast all of our burdens and cares upon Him.

As we become confident of His love and mercy, we can do that, accepting He will do as He promised.  what is best for us. ( It may take some to grow in this kind of faith and dependence – that’s okay!  You will need refresher courses in it too!)

As we do, as we unload all that we carry, the good, the bad, the blessings and the unrighteousness, as we drop it all we can breathe, we can find not just hope, but peace.  A peace that restores us, a peace that calms us, and refocuses us on the life we have in Jesus.

We need this daily, but as we do more, we need it more often.  As we mature in faith, we find a correlation between finding rest in God and our ability to endure.

Be at peace my friends, find the rest you need, pray, not as if you are doing somethign for God, but because you will remember He is with you…and loves you, and works to give you that peace.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2066-2069). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why do We Seize Defeat in the Midst of Victory?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

25  I lie defeated in the dust; revive me, as you have promised. 26  I confessed all I have done, and you answered me; teach me your ways. 27  Help me to understand your laws, and I will meditate on your wonderful teachings. 28  I am overcome by sorrow; strengthen me, as you have promised. 29  Keep me from going the wrong way, and in your goodness teach me your law.   Psalm 119:25-29 (TEV)

205      Tell Our Lord with your whole heart: In spite of all my wretchedness I am madly in Love!, I am drunk with Love!  (1)

I understand the cry fo the Psalmist,

There are days I want to lie in defeat, to just give up the fight.

Oh, I bravely dismiss this in front of others, half joking that I want Jesus to return tomorrow.

Yet even as I say that, even as I assure the others of the truth we all know and depend on, that God is with us, even as we know this, like the psalmist, we can be overcome with sorrow.

There are times where this lesson seems like a never ending rollercoaster, as we bottom out in despair, as God lifts us up and we catch our breath, another wave of sorrow swamps us.

We aren’t the first to learn this lesson, one only has to hear the words of beloved hymns, such as

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul

or

And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said.”For hate is strong. And mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

You can’t read the great pastors of the church, from Chrysostom, Augustine and Luther, to the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, without hearing this echoing rollercoaster.  Psalm 199 times cries out for God to revive us, not in parallelism, or as a chorus, even as we hear it across so many of the Psalms, across the prophets.

The answer, of course, is always the same.

God is not dead, it is well with our souls, He has revived us in Christ!

THE LORD IS WITH US!

Yes!  We need to hear this over and over, for the waves will come, we will have those times where we feel like we are defeated, the temptation will be to believe that we can’t go on another moment.  We want to snatch defeat, right in the midst the victory we have gained, when the Spirit of God descended upon us in Baptism, and united us to the death of Christ, that we may live.  That our lives would be abundant and filled with the love of God.

In the midst of the anxiety, the agony and stress, these words of St Josemaria wring out – and it is hard to fathom, but knowing God is with us brings hope, as we learn to be thankful, as we learn to adore Him.  Yes – we adore the Lord who allows the storms, but also is there, assuring us, comforting us, helping us to remember the peace which He has given us.

For this is what we know, it is what we teach, it is what we depend upon, and it is real.

We just need to be reminded, often.  Even as the night is still dark, and we wait for the sun to rise.  It shall, He has promised.

AMEN!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 907-908). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Having a Crisis of Faith? Come Join us!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

22  So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. 23  Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24  Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25  Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. Hebrews 10:22-25 (TEV) 

324 The dust thrown up by your fall blinds and disorients you, and you have thoughts which rob you of your peace. Have you sought relief in tears by the side of Our Lord, and in confident conversation with a brother?  (1)

If a pastor or priest or even lay ministers are honest, they will admit (but not often) that they have what some call a “crisis of faith” occaisonally.  We aren’t perfect, and its my opinion that our people must know this.   Simply put, if we are hoenst about this, then they will be as well, and we will be able to minister to them in spirit and in truth.

A crisis of faith isn’t that we don’t believe in God, but that we simply struggle to believe in God.

It may be that the trauma in our own lives is too much, or that the trauma we help others go through has taken its toll as well.   It could be our sin, or temptation, which finds a spot in our weakened state and steps on through.  Despising our own weakness, we try to overcome it on our own, rather than deal with it at the foot of the cross.  Or it can simply be that we have fallen into a rote faith – we go through the motions, numbed by time to the words, and the God whom they reveal.

Either way, it is as our spiriutal life has become paralyzed.

There is a need in such times for each of us to have what they now call a “spiritual director”, or what I prefer to call a “father-confessor”. Someone who is able to speak for God to us, someone who will shepherd us and guide us, and help us until the fog clears.  Someone who can share God’s love because they’ve known it during their own crisis, their own brokeness. (which is why I think we have to let people know we go through such times ourselves)   They are the ones that can find us, and have our permission to find us, in our  caves, when we choose to isolate ourselves.

We need those times, when we can hear the still small voice of God comforting us.  Even so, we can’t, especially in those times, avoid gathering with others, sincere in our brokenness, yet needing the encouragement that comes from realizing we are not alone. We need to hear of God’s faithfulness, and to celebrate it together.  This too is essential, a major part of our Christian life.  For when we realize that God doesn’t give up on any of us, we begin to realize that His promise of being faithful includes us.  The illusion is then pierced, and we realize the crisis of faith isn’t a crisis of trust, or us being abandoned by God.

It’s simply that we are tired and overwhelmed and… well yes broken.

We say at my church that we are a place where broken people find healing in Christ, while helping others heal.

The cure for such times, is not to avoid the people of God, fearing they will not understand, it is to come and be embraced by them, to join them at the altar and receive the grace of God as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ (yes – during a crisis of faith – communion, the eucharist is a blessing.. a very needed blessing!)   For we all have had, and maybe even having a a crisis of faith, and the church, the people of God provides a great sanctuary during such times.   Let’s lift each other up, as God calls us together, a people He will care for, a people He will comfort.

And that starts with us, those who lead in church… those who are broken, so that you may have faith, for if God can heal us… He can (and will ) bring healing to your crisis.

For the Lord will have mercy!

I know – received it over and over.   You can too.

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1529-1531). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Overwhelmed? Broken?

Quote to ponder this day:

When you have fallen or when you find yourself overwhelmed by the weight of your wretchedness, repeat with a firm hope: Lord, see how ill I am; Lord, you who died on the Cross for love of me, come and heal me. Be full of confidence, I insist. Keep on calling out to his most loving Heart. As he cured the lepers we read about in the Gospel, He will cure you. (1)

As i read this quote this morning, I recoiled a bit at the phrasing, especially “the weight of your wretchedness”.   Wretched?  Isn’t that a bit strong?   I mean, my life certainly faces a lot of “challenges”, but “wretched”?

If I am honest, those “challenges” do weigh heavily on me, as can the guilt and shame that comes with dealing effectively with those challenges.  I want to face them on my own, have the wisdom to deal with them, and I often instead cower in fear, or at least become paralyzed by it.   I don’t think my wretchedness is just about my sin, though it obviously would include it. But we live in a broken world, and we live among broken people, and the situation at times does seem “wretched”, and that there is no way out.  If I dwell on it long enough, I can become depressed and bitter towards God, – why haven’t You helped me!

It is then that a friend, or a passage like this shows up, and my world which was turned upside down… become at peace.

I may have to cry out to Him until I am exhausted and fall mercifully to sleep.  It’s not because He isn’t answering, He does and I am often so overwhelmed, so wretched I don’t hear Him clearly.  For what He will say is often not what I want to hear, but it is always there,, and is effective.

James talks about the prayer of a righteous man is very very effective – so is it that I am not righteous enough?  Interestingly, that question’s answer is found in itself – the reason someone is counted righteous is because they trust God. because they know His presence, and rejoice in Christ.  It is when we draw close, that we find those answers, that peace, that assurance in the middle of being overwhelmed, of being wretched.   The situation doesn’t change as much as we think – what changes is that we are not as concerned as we are in awe…

So are you overwhelmed, has the situation nearly crushed you?  Or at least, do you think it has?   Keep crying out to God – until your heart is ready to listen, to be set at peace.  I love the bullet point before the one quoted above, for it states why this is effective.

“Let us marvel at the lovable paradox of our Christian condition: it is our own wretchedness which leads us to seek refuge in God, to become “like unto God”. With him we can do all things.” (1)

Jesus said it this way:

6:31 What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. 32 People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. 33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. 34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
Matthew 6:31-34 (MSG) 

Lord, have mercy upon us, and as we are seeking that mercy, draw us through it to be aware of You Presence.

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 927-931). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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