Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. Matthew 6:33 (TEV)
When the prophets try to describe for me the attributes, the graces, the worthiness of the God who appeared to them and dealt with them, I feel that I can kneel down and follow their admonition: “He is thy Lord—worship thou Him!”
Here everything must be abandoned: friends, acquaintances, the whole city of Jerusalem, and everything belonging to these and to men; for all this neither gives, nor aids comfort, until the Lord is sought in the temple, since he is in that which is his Father’s. There he can truly be found and the heart is made to rejoice, otherwise it would have to remain without the least comfort.
Annie Dillard goes to church: “I know only enough of God to want to worship him, by any means ready to hand.… There is one church here, so I go to it.” It doesn’t matter that it is out of fashion, she goes anyway: “On a big Sunday there might be twenty of us there; often I am the only person under sixty, and feel as though I’m on an archaeological tour of Soviet Russia.”
It is unfashionable because it is ridiculous. How can searchers after God and seekers after beauty stomach the “dancing bear act” that is staged in Christian churches, Protestant and Catholic alike, week after week? Dillard, cheerfully and matter-of-factly, goes anyway.
Most Christians know we are to seek first Jesus Christ and His righteous life.
But do we do it?
Peterson’s Annie gets it, I think.
SHe chooses to go to a church which isn’t particularly proper or professional. She goes to a small church where two or three are gathered in His name, and share in His gifts of word sacrament. Finding the God she barely knows, but knows enough to know she has to worship Him, that is her focus…
A million and one things to criticise, but she goes to find God, in the middle of His people.
She succeeds, for God will always be found where He says.
Arriving there, Tozer’s words make sense—it is too much to try to comprehend the God who draws us into His presence. There, realizing the very special incredibly intimate relationship He has created, we are drawn to our knees and our face flooding with tears of joy; we praise Him!
We don’t even think about abandoning everything – we just do. We abandon our sin, we abandon those things we think will make life perfect; we abandon our fears and anxieties and simply desire to join Annie, and worship God, who loves us.
Seek Him first and then be aware He is here… and allow that to change and guide your life. When you mess up – be assured, He will be there.
He loves you.
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 35.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 88.
Devotional Thought for our day:
We have run to God for safety. Now his promises should greatly encourage us to take hold of the hope that is right in front of us. 19 This hope is like a firm and steady anchor for our souls. In fact, hope reaches behind the curtain and into the most holy place. Hebrews 6:18b–19 (CEV)
969 We Catholics have to go through life being apostles, with God’s light and God’s salt. We should have no fear, and we should be quite natural; but with so deep an interior life and such close union with Our Lord that we may shine out, preserving ourselves from corruption and from darkness, and spread around us the fruits of serenity and the effectiveness of Christian doctrine.
Thus all the curses pronounced after the fall are a blessing in disguise. They direct us back to God. Like the curses in Hosea 2 (read it!), they are God’s whisperings of love to us in our wilderness exile, enticing us back to Him, our first and true love, by the hard way of suffering and death and the failure of our million little idols
I get a lot of advertisements, all telling me how to grow my church, or be a better pastor, or to be a more dynamic Christian. On occasion, I will look into them, even interact with them. On even fewer occasions, I manage to turn off my cynicism. You see, as I have done this, I have never asked how my church was spiritually. Whether people were reconciling with God, and with each other.
Never been asked whether my people were being drawn closer to God…
That is the key point… that is the question we need to be asking ourselves, are we being drawn closer to God, are we more aware of His presence, for then we can take a hold of His promises, confident of His faithfulness. This is the interior life that St. Josemaria speaks of, linking that life to the not only a less anxious life, but our ability to be seen as God’s special people.
The challenge is how God draws us to Himself. which Kreeft (in green) speaks clearly to, our being drawn closer is out of desperation. That is the unique benefit of the disciplinary curses God places on those who rebel, who sin, who worship and have faith in other things, rather than entrusting their lives to His care.
You want to be drawn closer to God? Then let Him remove the idols, let Him strip you of your sins, removing the grip they have on your life. It will not be easy, but these curses that we live under, when we turn from Him are there to drive us back to God. They are there to remind us of His care and His love.
These curses aren’t blessings, they are used to draw us closer to God, to help realize we need our Creator.
We need to be thankful for such discipline, for a God who loves us enough to call us to repentance. That is how He will preserve us from corruption, correcting us, burdening out consciousness so that we run to Him. The more mature we get in the faith, the less time it takes to start running back into His arms. The closer we draw to Him, the more His word, and His sacraments mean to us.
This flies in the face of most spiritual growth practices, where we are told what to do, and how to do it, and the promise is made that if we do, we will become holier, we will become stronger in our faith, because WE have exercised it. If it depends on you and I, our faith will not grow stronger, we won’t run to God, our pride and narcissism will prevent it.
Spend time with God, let Him call you to repentance, and delight in His mercy. And when you find yourselves being disciplined… don’t run and hide, unless it is running back to Him.
God is with you! Remember to let Him be God! AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 120.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! 8 You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” 9 Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! Psalm 27:7-9 (ESV)
12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.
Hosea 10:12 (ESV)
540 You neither want to be an evil man nor a good one. And so, limping on both legs, you will have mistaken your way and filled your life with emptiness.
When I read the psalm above, I feel guilty. I resonate with the words in my heart, oh how I long to know the grace of God, fully in my life. ANd yet, I don’t seek his face enough. It is not as much God hiding his face from us, as we don’t look for Him as often as we should.
We try to get through life on our own, we try to act like we are mature Christians, we try to walk in His steps, but without His help. We are like the 3-year-old, trying on her mom’s high heels, (or his dad’s boots) And when we fall, we wonder why God abandoned us, why He allowed us to
We need to hear God, we need to take Him seriously on the fellowship He desires to have with us. It is how we need to live, really live. To live and walk with Jesus. To abide in the Spirit, to realize the righteousness, the holiness that rains down upon us.
God is with us, and the more we can seek Him, the more our brokeness is revealed to be a place where His comfort and peace powerfully is at work.
Stop what you are doing, spend a few moments seeking God, letting HIs mercy and peace wash over you, a demontration of the love …anad live a full and abundant life. For it is time
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2333-2335). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 O God, you are my God— it is you I seek!
For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts,
In a land parched, lifeless, and without water.
3 I look to you in the sanctuary to see your power and glory.
4 For your love is better than life, my lips shall ever praise you! Ps 63:2–4 NAB-RE
Let me know Thee, O Lord, who knowest me: let me know Thee, as I am known. Power of my soul, enter into it, and fit it for Thee, that Thou mayest have and hold it without spot or wrinkle. This is my hope, therefore do I speak; and in this hope do I rejoice, when I rejoice healthfully. Other things of this life are the less to be sorrowed for, the more they are sorrowed for; and the more to be sorrowed for, the less men sorrow for them.
About twenty years ago, there became a movement known as being “seeker-sensitive.” The problem is that they were looking for the wrong seekers.
The seekers were the people in the pews already, the members and regular folk who came to church, seeking God. To learn that they could pray like David did in the Psalm above, or like Augustine in the quote in blue.
The seeker-sensitive movement, later re-defined as the “attractional model” didn’t change the course of the Church. Nor did the counter reaction to it, which focused on purity of teaching and practice before doing anything else.
In the meantime, the people who could have been seeking the presence of God, who could have learned that God would answer their desire, their yearning for His presence, were given academic studies, and told to save the world. And the Church suffered, having lost her First Love, the one She was betrothed to marry at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
What would happen if we realized God was waiting for us, yearning for our company, desiring our love, wanting to enter our souls, making them fit for Him, and holding them in that condition?
What if we realized that in sanctuaries, we could find the stillness that would allow us to know that He is our loving God, our refuge, our impenetrable fortress? That there we would see the glory of His love for us, pouring out in the words fo scripture, and through the waters of baptism, and in the celebration that His body was broken, and blood poured out for us?
My dear brothers in ministry, my dear fellow believers walking with Jesus. Seek Him out! Know that the Lord is with you! Yes! Revealed in Word and Sacrament, there incarnationally, and truly present with you, even when the sanctuary is your body. For you are the temple of the Holy Spirit in the midst of a broken world that the Spirit would bring hope and healing too.
If what you desire is to see the Church stop its death spiral, seek Christ. Dwell in Him. Rejoice in His love and mercy.
Years later, you will look back in awe.. amazed at what He has done.
(1) Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo. (1996). The Confessions of St. Augustine. (E. B. Pusey, Trans.). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Devotional Discussion Thought of the Day…
34 Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil. Matthew 6:34 (NAB)
Tomorrow evening I head to the airport – I am travelling to a foreign land, where i will be sharing God’s love with others. Will proclaim God’s word to some, will worship and pray alongside others, will teach and share as I am able.
I am looking forward to it, as I try to work on what the messages will be each day, and wonder how best to reveal to them the height and breadth, depth and width of God’s love for them in Christ. It is my first oversees mission experience, and I am looking forward to it.
It is no odd thing, that among my devotional readings this morning, this came up:
When you are preparing for a work of apostolate (this is his and an ancient term for a mission endeaevor), make your own these words of a man who was seeking God: “Today I start to preach a retreat for priests. God grant we may draw profit from it—and, first of all, myself!” And later: “I have been on this retreat for several days now. There are a hundred and twenty on it. I hope that Our Lord will do good work in our souls.” (1)
We know that God will do these things – yet we pray that we are realizing it is done around us, that God is doing this here!
But even as I planned to plan, I had to encounter that quote from Matthew, and realized, my mission, my apostolate doesn’t start when I land in Asia, today there is a mission. Today’s mission has begun…. Today I will encounter people that need, desperately need to know God’s love.
Are you ready for your mission? Are you ready to be sent – to be God’s apostle to your workplace today? It is not as much “work”, as it is simply realizing that you dwell in God’s presence, realizing that He brought you into His presence. That everything you need, He provides, the cleansing of sin, the removal of guilt and shame, the love and peace that makes life truly abundant….
Living the mission, living the apostolate, is simply living in and depending on God’s grace.. and that occurs whether you are in Cerritos, or Hong Kong…
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2435-2438). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.