Devotional Thought of the Day:
and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought: 6 Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. 7 He gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. 8 Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. Phil. 2:5-8 CEV
Do you believe that your sins are forgiven, and that Christ has made a full atonement for them? Then what a joyful Christian you ought to be! How you should live above the common trials and troubles of the world! Since sin is forgiven, can it matter what happens to you now? Luther said, “Smite, Lord, smite, for my sin is forgiven; if thou hast but forgiven me, smite as hard as thou wilt”; and in a similar spirit you may say, “Send sickness, poverty, losses, crosses, persecution, what thou wilt, thou hast forgiven me, and my soul is glad.”
When people talk about Philippians 2, they usually mention the incredible description of Jesus found in verses 6 through 11. It is an ancient hymn, sometimes called the Carem Christi.
But we forget that it is an invitation.
An invitation to suffering. An invitation to love like Jesus loves.
An invitation to know the love of Christ, to know it so intimately that you don’t reject pain and suffering for the cross, but embrace it, s Jesus did, for the joy that it will bring.
That is the point of that hymn being shared, to help us learn how to embrace the hard things in life. To see them as the opportunity to imitate Jesus!
This is possible for the very reason Spurgeon notes. We realize what it means that we are forgiven, that our relationship with God is perfect and new. Everything that was broken has been healed, everything that was corrupted was restored. How amazing this is! How incredible! It can and should overwhelm us as it becomes more clearly revealed.
Even to the point where we “ask for it!” We ask for the pain, the suffering, whatever it costs to help others come ot know God’s love. For it is worth it, all the suffering, even martyrdom, if through it one person comes ot know the Lord’s love for them.
As we suffer, as life hauls off and wallops us, we begin to understand the cost to Jesus of living us, and that love, not our own strength, sustains us. Not only sustains us, but empowers us as we realize what it all leads to, the vision Paul used in the next chapter,
10 All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, 11 so that somehow I also may be raised to life. Philippians 3:10-11 (CEV)
I pray that you and I will come to want to suffer and know the power that raised Christ to life. AMEN!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Devotional Thought of the day:
9 In fact, we felt sure that we were going to die. But this made us stop trusting in ourselves and start trusting God, who raises the dead to life. 2 Corinthians 1:9 (CEV)
Each Commandment makes sense only when you see it in the light of love. Take the first, for example: “You shall have no other gods before me.” Why? Because God is an egotist? No, because God is a lover. What lover wants half the heart of his beloved? Also God is a realist. He knows that false gods simply cannot make us happy, however many times we are deceived into believing and acting as if they could. Love, of course, seeks the beloved’s happiness. It is God’s love of us, not self-love, that is behind His jealousy.
I have had a number of people ask me how I, as a pastor, cope with all that is going on in these days. I have pause for a moment because what I know is going on in people’s lives, I can’t always share. Matter of fact, that is too often the story.
I have my challenges, but they are nothing compared to those that people are experiencing. In the midst of that experience, I am trying to help them experience something else. What I want is for them to experience the love of God, which I know I can’t explain clearly enough. There are no words for it, but that love sustains us through the most broken parts of our lives.
So perhaps it is good for people to ask me how I am coping. By being honest with the fact that I could not cope without God holding me up, perhaps they can know His comfort as well. Perhaps they can see, in the midst of my struggles, that God doesn’t give up on us, that He will comfort us,
This works into Kreeft’s observation about God’s jealousy, about the idea that He isn’t jealous for His sake, but for ours. God wants what is best for us, and being smarter than us (what an understatement) He longs for what is best for us. As Kreeft indicates, it is love, and a desire for our joy, that drives the jealousy of God
That is why Jesus hung on a cross for us. It is why he spent years teaching and mentoring people like John and James, “the sons of Thunder”. It is why Jesus is not only merciful to sinners but is patient with us as well. And it is why He sens and equips apostles and pastors and missionaries and teachers to train us to serve others. As they train us like Paul did, training us by example.
Even when that example was tiring, frustrating, painful, and heart-rending. Because you, child of the King, need to know He is there for you in those times. If God was with Paul, and with me, certainly He will be there for you, for He loves you.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 45.
Encounter God and Commune
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ convince you of the feasts to come, and that you will dwell in peace until those days are here.
74 out of 2.4 Million
It struck me, as I was starting to write this sermon tonight, that while 74 of the leaders of Israel communed with God that night, it was 74 out of 2.4 million people camped there at Mount Sinai.
Those their share in the covenant meal, on behalf of those who were below.
I have to wonder if those gathered in the presence of God, eating and drinking, were aware of those who were not there with them? Did it affect their mood?
What about for the apostles in the upper that night, some 1990 years ago. Did some think of who they wished were there?
This is getting me to think of all those I wish could be here, when things are normal, and who are not.
Some of those people are far away, in places like New Hampshire, or Sicily, or Michigan.
Others are in heaven, friends, and family who rest in God’s peace.
Some have moved on to other places, other churches.
Some, sadly to say, are struggling with sin, and are losing. Or they don’t know God loves them, and are not ready to listen to that news… quite yet.
There are a lot of people that I wish could be here… and yet, there is just a handful.
Let’s look back to the feast in Exodus, for there, we will find peace, and hope – that is a vision for the future.
But look at the feast – and what didn’t happen.
I want to read one verse again, listen to it well,
1`11 And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence!
I love this picture!
There they are – in a room blazing with brilliance, the glory of God reflecting off of everything. A light that only God’s holiness could create! Looking at God – gazing at him! They mouths dropped open, then eyes bugged out wide,
Despite the fact they were sinners, they were welcomed into God’s presence, so welcome they were fed a meal guaranteeing the relationship with God – for that is what a covenant meal is – that is what communion is, a meal to celebrate the relationship. It is given as a guarantee of it.
Eating and drinking in the presence of God.
With no fear of His wrath, with no hint of wrath or even disappointment on the part of God.
This is a little picture of a more substantial feast to come.
As is this covenant feast at this altar tonight.
This isn’t the feast we long for, it just helps our desire for that feast.
Just as that feast in Exodus, pointed to this- yet, even more, pointed to the feast when we all arrive before the throne.
Knowing that we can share in the suffering…
While we cannot share in the feast together this evening, there is another way we can commune, something else that we are sharing in….
When Jesus asks the apostles to wait and pray with Him when he faced suffering.
We need to realize He was doing that for those disciples and for you and me.
It is the tears that Romans describes us sharing in together; as one cries, we all dry, and when we laugh, we share in that as well. This is what He invited the apostles to
We surely share in this, and as we do, as we find a bittersweet communion. Bitter because what we are going through is hard, it requires us to forgo one of the usual ways God strengthens and nourishes our faith, and reminds us we are His family, that we are one.
And yet to realize how much we miss it, has an oddly similar effect, as we long to share in the feast that will eventually take place.
Desire the Feast – and yes, the feasts to come.
The feast that is yet to come, the feast of the bread and wine, the feast of being welcome home into not only Jesus’ presence but the presence of the Father.
Not just a small percentage, but the entire people of God, Old Testament and New, Jesus and Gentile, the entire one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, united in Jesus Christ.
This is our hope, our expectation, and nothing can separate us from it, for we cannot be separated from our God. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Descendants of Jacob, I, the LORD, created you and formed your nation. Israel, don’t be afraid. I have rescued you. I have called you by name; now you belong to me. 2 When you cross deep rivers, I will be with you, and you won’t drown. When you walk through fire, you won’t be burned or scorched by the flames. 3 I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, the God who saves you. . Isaiah 43:1-3a (CEV)
A godly man often grows best when his worldly circumstances decay
I had always believed in God’s love and God’s omnipotence. But once I put the two ideas together, saw the unavoidable logical conclusion (Rom 8:28), and applied this truth to my life, I could never again see the world the same way. If God is great (omnipotent) and God is good (loving), then everything that happens is our spiritual food; and we should thank Him for it.
I am not sure I would use the phrase “godly man” to describe myself. Others might, assuming since I am a pastor, I must be. But I know the difference, and so does God.
But I can say, I desire to be a Godly man, and that expresses my broken and sinful heart. I desire it and know how deeply I fall short of it. That God guarantees that I will be, that I am in His eyes because of Jesus is a great theological and often academic exercise, but there are days where theology doesn’t serve, and where my academic strengths fail.
It is then that I realize that even for who would desire godliness, the times of failure can be blessings. Spurgeon is right, even for those like me. Kreeft says it even better – everything that happens to me, whether I am in control of it, or am not, is a result of God’s omnipotence, and more importantly, His love.
That’s hard to say when faced with disease and genetic disorders. It is hard to face for those who suffer from mental illness, and for those who have been affected by the evil of others, or by their own, this is a brutal truth, and one that it is hard to comprehend, and harder to accept.
Even so, as I desire godliness, I must grow to trust, even when I struggle ot accept, that this is true. Even more so, I need to grow in trusting and sensing His presence when the deep waters come, and I feel like I am drowning. Even more so when life feels like Dante is right about the inferno. When the pain and anguish seem to overwhelm, I need ot remember the promise of my baptism, and the discovery that I have made at the altar, that God is with us is not just words, it is a truth that is the purest of blessings, even when faced with the brutality of this world. Even when I am too tired to see it.
He is with us, He calls us by name, for we are His.
Even in the midst of “it”
Lord, help us to know Your presence in our lives, to experience the love that is beyond explanation, the peace which is beyond understanding. Help us not to praise You because You rescued us, but because you made us Yours. Lord, until you let the waters recede, and the fire be quenched, sustain us, and help us to be thankful for Your presence.. AMEN!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 19.
Devotional Thought of the Day
81 I am worn out, LORD, waiting for you to save me; I place my trust in your word. 82 My eyes are tired from watching for what you promised, while I ask, “When will you help me?” 83 I am as useless as a discarded wineskin; yet I have not forgotten your commands. 84 How much longer must I wait? Psalm 119:81-84a (TEV)
165 You, who for an earthly love have endured so many degradations, do you really believe that you love Christ when you are not willing to suffer—for him!—that humiliation?
I know it is not just me, other pastors and teachers of the faith will tell you this as well.
God prepares us for what we have to endure through the things we come across in our preaching, and in our personal study.
Preaching on a passage about Judas? Prepare to be betrayed by someone close. Or worse, prepare to deal with your betraying Jesus.
Teaching through 1 COrinthians, you might have to deal with some division, some self-centeredness, and some people who need to be taught that worship is about the community not the individual.
Been asked to give a message on missions and the need to go out into your community? Prepare to feel like Jonah at time.
It happens in our devotions too, and so when I come across passages like those quoted above… I shudder a bit. ANd then I look around figuratively and consider who do I know that is undergoing what the prophet Jeremiah and St. Josemaria are talking about.
In this case, who is overwhelmed, worn out, suffering under the weight they bear? Who is struggling and barely able to croak out a prayer asking God, “when?” WHo is feeling useless, so tired emotionally and spiritually they cannot even remember the promise that “all things work for good?”
St. Josemaria’s comfort comes across harsh, as if he is judging us as being thankless cowards, unwilling to suffer. I wonder if that is a translation issue? Working through his words for a few minutes, I see his point. Compared to our earthly loves, how much more God has done for us, and as we contemplate that, our sufferings become tolerable, they might even be forgotten.
This too is the Psalmist’s answer. In the midst of bottoming out, he comments that he hasn’t forgotten God’s commands. I don’t think he is just talking about the “do’s and do not’s” bt the words God has established things by, from “let there be light” to “you will be my people, and I will be your God”. Especially that last “command.” We need to remember that as we are in the midst of suffering, or in the midst of bottoming out.
“I will be with you,” “I will never forsake you!” These phrase are what we hold on to when we can’t find anything else, for they remind us that what we are going through.
That this time will pass, and we will see God.
This moment may last 10 minutes, or a few hours, or even a week or more. These times where we simply endure, knowing the Lord is with us. His presence will strengthen us, and allow us the freedom to ask for reassurance, and to be reminded that we dwell in peace, for He is God. AMEN
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 515-516). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
23 When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge. 1 Peter 2:23 (TEV)
1 Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (TEV)
The reception of communion too requires faith in the grandiosity of what is about to happen—the Lord comes to me or rather coming to me, He embraces me and wishes to transform me into His very being. It is not just a mechanical act of reception of a piece of bread—something done in an instant. It is this invitation to be in communion with the Lord: invitation to love.
I remembering hearing a sermon about “imitating Jesus” when I was in Bible College. The thoughts that ran through my mind were about imitating Jesus as He taught, as He trained the disciples, as He did miracles, even as He “officiated” at the first communion service.
I didn’t think about the suffering, or even the insults he endured from those who should have been his closest followers. The pains caused by his family who didn’t understand. The loneliness when even his closest disciples didn’t understand His ministry. The times that were so challenging that He needed to go away and pray to the Father… alone.
Are we ready to imitate Paul as he endured, as He imitated Jesus who endured through all of this?
Can we forgive the insultm? Can we show mercy to the one who threatens us? Can we love the ones who cause us to suffer, either deliberately, or accidentally?
That too is part of the call to imitate Jesus.
Can we do it?
I believe it is possible, but only as God has a relationship that is, only one word works here, a relationship that is intimate.
A relationship where He is able to transform us, a relationship where He is able to cleanse us thoroughly. A relationship where He is able to descend to a darkest place, where fears and anxieties form and control more of our life than we can explain.
A relationship that is that intimate.
A relationship that is nurtured at the altar, when Jesus comes to us, where we come face to face with the Lord who died for us, even though we didn’t deserve it.
It is there, in the midst of His grace being poured out on us, that we realize what God is doing, and how complete the change is that He is crafting in our lives. We become more and more like Him, and we may not even realize it. His desire that people would come to know His love, that the Spirit would grant them repentance becomes far more important than our revenge.
Such a transformation is the result of, and only possible because we encounter Jesus. For then, we see the final judgment of God, and His work in all of us, making reconciliation possible. Our being reconciled, as well as those who offend us.
This is our hope, this is His work.
Ranjith, M. (2012). Addressing Objections to Adoration. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 162). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 His wife said to him, “You are still as faithful as ever, aren’t you? Why don’t you curse God and die?”
10 Job answered, “You are talking nonsense! When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” Even in all this suffering Job said nothing against God. Job 2:9-10 GNT
Celebrating the Eucharist is the most sublime and most sacred function of every priest. As for me, from the very first years of my priesthood, the celebration of the Eucharist has been not only my most sacred duty, but above all my soul’s deepest need.
For a while our dear God looks on and lets us lie between a rock and a hard place, and from our experience we learn that the weak, suffering word is stronger than the devil and hell’s gates. The devil and his followers can storm the fortress all they want. They will find something there that will make them break into a sweat and still not win the day; it is a rock, as Christ calls it, that cannot be overcome. Thus, let us suffer what we will; we will experience that God will stand by us to guard and protect us against the enemy and all his followers.
I think that the hands of a priest, rather than expressing routine gestures, must tremble with excitement when administering baptism or giving the absolution of sins or blessing the sick because they become instruments of the creative power of God.
As I finished reading my daily readings this morning, I pondered aloud if there was something up. I mean the reading in Luther in green and starting the book of Job (In my read through the Bible in a year) could be considered ominous.
As in… what’s coming that I have to be prepared for it by all this?
I mention this aloud, somewhat as a joke, and one of my co-workers said something to the extent of, “it worked out okay in the end, so as long as it works out alright…”
While I know that it all does indeed work out in the end, and that GOd has promised it all works out for good, it is hard in the midst of trauma to focus on the end result. Indeed, it is more than challenging, and while we talk about patience, persistence and prayer, we also must admit that there is a drain mentally, physically and spiritually to the repetitive trauma that life and ministry throw at us.
So how do we learn what Job advocated for, this idea that we should not complain, but welcome the suffering of life, simply, because like the blessings, it comes from God!
Even as I looked at what I just typed, it strikes me as wrong, as unjust, and to be honest, impossible. I might be able to teach this as a theory, but an honest reaction is that this is not how I think, normally.
The key word is normally.
What i need is what Luther wrote about at the end of that citation. That Christ is the rock that cannot be overcome. We can endure suffering and struggles, aware of God’s presence, that He stands by us and guards us, even in the valley of the shadow of death that David describes.
In the midst of the suffering I need to experience His love, and there it seems even more sweet, more rich, more real, more comforting. In the midst of the struggle, when I take a breath (Psalm 46) and slow down, I can realize He is my God, He is my fortress, Luther is absolutely correct, aware of God”s presence we can echo Job’s welcome – suffering simply then becomes a tool by where we realize even more the blessing of being God’s people,
Which is where the other two quotes come in, and the role of the sacraments. You see, as much as it is a privilege, and my sacred duty to distribute the body broken and blood shed for the people of God, I need to receive it, I need to realize the blessing that it is, the presence of God there in my hands, even as it is given away and shared. Francis is right, as we administer the sacraments our hands should tremble, as should the hands of those who receive it.
For there, at the altar, over the font, at the bedside, there is the inescapable presence of God, there specifically for the people I am ministering to, and there for me. It is at that point I can release all the stress, and the pain. I can find hope for reconciliation, I see God’s mercy helping me realize my sins are taken away. It is there peace overwhelms us, and we realize God has answered our prayers, and come to us.
So even before it all works out in the end, we find what we need, what makes the difference, even if on a Monday we begin a journey like Job’s.
God is with us.
He is our sanctuary, our place where even Satan’s hordes and suffering cannot separate us from God.
Lord, as we struggle in life, help us not look past you. Help us to realize we dwell in your presence, that Your Spirit is there to comfort us, and enable and empower us to endure, and minister to others, revealing to them Your healing and grace. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!
Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 145). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. 159). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 207). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11† Imitate me, then, just as I imitate Christ.2 I praise you because you always remember me and follow the teachings that I have handed on to you. 1 Cor. 11:1-2 GNT
2 To Timothy, my true son in the faith: May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace. 1 Timothy 1:2 (TEV)
Thinking of the next Pope, he must be a man who, from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the Church to go out to the existential peripheries which will help her to become a fruitful mother, revitalized by the “sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”
Nevertheless, they do not err only in that they have a self-selected cross, but also in that they exalt their suffering so highly and award themselves great merit, thereby blaspheming God because it is not a true but a stinking, self-selected suffering. We, however, say that we earn nothing from our suffering, and we do not display it in beautiful monstrances as they do. It is enough for us to know that it pleases God that we suffer, so that we are conformed to Christ, as I have said. Thus we see that those who boast and teach the most about suffering and the cross know the least about either the cross or Christ, because they make their own suffering meritorious. This is not what it is about, nor is one pressured or forced to suffer. If you do not want to do it for nothing and without any merit, then you can let it lie and so deny Christ. The way is at the door. If you do not wish to suffer, you simply need to know that you are not worthy of the court. So you can chose between the two, either to suffer or to deny Christ.
[The Curé of Ars] sought in every way, by his preaching and his powers of persuasion, to help his parishioners to rediscover the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence. He thus created a ‘virtuous’ circle. By spending long hours in church before the tabernacle, he inspired the faithful to imitate him by coming to visit Jesus with the knowledge that their parish priest would be there, ready to listen and to offer forgiveness.
As I came across the quote from Pope Francis this morning, I was amazed. Written early in his role as Pope, he was already looking toward and praying for the man who would succeed him.
As I read that, I wondered about our own work, and who we would leave behind to do what we do. For some of us, that isn’t much to be concerned about, or so it seems. We don’t do much, keep a seat warm on Sunday morning, sometimes on Wednesday evenings, or at another Bible Study here or there. We might say a prayer, especially for our favorite sports team, or when someone we love is sick.
If we said, “imitate me as I imitate Christ,” the question needs to be asked. “What do we do?”
Well part of the mixu=ture for Luther would include the way we take up our cross, and what kind of cross is it? Is it one we boast in, the persecution created by our own indifference and antagonistic attitude toward the world? Or is it the cross that comes from the heart of Christ, a compassion for those who are broken and need the comfort we have received?
It is that cross, that hardship which we endure for the sake of the gospel, that is the cross we need to carry. It is in realizing that every part of our life that would crush us, defeat us, cause us to cry out, “why?” can be the cross that would benefit someone else, as they see God’s peace descend on us in the midst of our brokenness. There is a place to imitate us, in that place where God’s peace comforts us, not matter how broken we are.
It is the kind of thing Burke talks about, as he quotes Pope Benedict. The cure (as in curate – the pastor/caretaker of souls,) of Ars was said to have lived and slept in the sanctuary, so that he was always ready to care for the people who needed a listening ear, and a voice to comfort with mercy and forgiveness. He was there for his popel, and in doing so, his people realized that God was present for them as well.
As he spent time in the presence of God, his people began to be drawn into that presence , and they in turned drew others into His presence, the more they would draw others in their community into the presence of God as well,
This is the future of the church, this is its hope.
Its’ not found in the type of worship we do, or the dynamism of the pastor and those who lead. It’s not found in the management style and leadership vision and focus.
It is found, as the people of God learn to imitate their Lord, as they are drawn into His presence, as they are spiritually revived and nourished, and experiencing the love of God, they desire to explore it more, with those around them. It is in the believer saying to another believer, “imitate me as I imitate Jesus, and providing the hope thier spiritual kids need.
Lord Jesus, help us to care for those you entrusted to us, whether it be 2 or 20 or 200. Help our desire to dwell in Your presence grow, and then become their desire. AMEN!
This is our past, and our future.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 198). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Luther, M. (2007). Sermon at Coburg on Cross and Suffering. In P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey (Eds.), P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey (Trans.), Luther’s Spirituality (p. 153). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Burke, R. L. (2012). Adoration in the Formation and Life of Priests. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 139). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional 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.
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.
What Really Matters
2 Cor. 12:1-10
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you realize what matters in this life., which allows you to depend on His faithfulness. AMEN!
The Fable of the Animals
As Vicar Timothy and I talked about this passage this week, he told me an ancient Chinese fable.
Once upon a time, there was a gathering of the animals. And as they gathered along the seashore, they wanted to know about each other, what strengths they could bring to the community. There was a gracious grand eagle, who told of his ability to soar high over the land and see how glorious the kingdom was. There was a huge elephant, who talked about his power and strength that was greater than all of them so he could take on all the heavy jobs. A Blue whale, resting comfortably offshore, talked of being the largest animal in the ocean, and an ability to explore deeper than any other animal. One after another they went, telling of what they could do best.
Finally, there was Mr. Frog, who looked around and considered all the incredible things others could do. He didn’t do all that much, just sat on his lily pad and watched and observed and occasionally… caught a passing fly for dinner. You know, sort of like this! He thought his life was boring, and if that’s all he said he was, the other animals would mock him, or laugh, or perhaps ignore him. And so he came up with an odd talent of his and said he could transform himself into a much larger being. So he swallowed more an more air, extending out his belly and making it larger. He looked around and realized he didn’t impress anyone, so he refused to swallow his pride, swallowed more air and puffed himself up even more, and again, puffing himself up even more, and finally, he puffed himself up so much, his gut exploded, and body parts went all over the room.
Too Great – or the Ultimate martyr
We do this all the time, no matter the culture. We want others to think we are great, or what we do is great. We want to be admired, we want to be someone, even if only in our grandparents, or grandkids eyes. So we exaggerate a little. We feed our ego.
Or if we can’t be the greatest, we make ourselves out to be martyrs, those who sacrifice everything for others. I suffer more than you do, see how great I am at giving things up so you can have what you want? That too feeds our ego, if we serve more and harder, and are willing to sacrifice everything.
It’s to people like us, the frogs of the world that Paul writes to when he writes to Corinthians. Average people, but people that struggle with their identity, with their reputation.
Paul, you know, the apostle who spread the gospel throughout the Mediterranean Basin, the guy, who like John, had a revelation of Jesus that we’ve never read about, save in these few words. Paul, who wrote to the Philippians that all his earthly credentials were as valuable as the remains of the human digestive system. Here is saying that even visions from heaven are not worth it, because maybe they take attention from what really matters.
And then he says something really strange, the problems he has, the thorns in the flesh, the stresses, the brokenness, these things are a blessing. A blessing simply because when we are in the midst of the trauma when we are in the midst of the thorns. There, we hear God say these simple words,
My grace is all you need, Those were words that enabled Paul to boast, not about his strengths, not about his suffering, but his inabilities, his weakness, his brokenness. Because when he was at his worst, the power of God was able to be seen in Him.
My grace is all you need…..
If we could only understand that.
The incomplete fable
Going back to Timothy’s fable, it ends with the frog, blown out of shape, his body exploding from trying to live up to the hype, trying to live up to the pressure from blowing his value all out of proportion.
I asked him what he thought most people would think God would say if he walked up on the scene. He thought most people in the world, even Christians, would expect God to lecture the frog, or even judge and condemn him for doing all that damage to himself. For breaking the commandments, for making himself the idol that needed to be worshipped, for bearing false witness about himself. Mr. Frog, people would think – you have done yourself in.
That is not the God that tells us, “My grace is all you need” He gently picks up each part of us, and puts us back together, healing us. That is what grace is, not just forgiveness as in, “you aren’t going to get punished for this” but the grace that brings healing to whatever we’ve done, that restores us and makes us hole.
What our sin destroyed, God calls back into being. What sin has killed, God resurrects.
If he does that with our sin, He also does it with those things that challenge us in each day. The insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that exist as we try and serve those who need it, as we care for those who can’t seem to care for themselves, as we love those who consider themselves unlovable.
Beyond our Sin
If this is true regarding Christ saving us, it extends into all our life and all our ministry to others. We don’t need to be the one people praise, we don’t need to be the one everyone notices.
What matters is that people know we know that God’s grace is sufficient for us, that it will get us through the trials and pains that serving God too often results in, even if those challenges are as brutal as Paul mentions. For that is Paul’s context, in this letter. He doesn’t care where he ranks among the apostles, even though he could claim it.
He would rather have God’s people know that in every part of life, the thing that matters is God is there. If that is seen in his weakness, praise God. For then they know in their weakness, in their days where anxiety sets in, in those days when nothing gets done, or it seems two steps forward result in 10 steps back…
In those days, He is there, and our ministry, our caring for others, he does in ways far beyond anything we can imagine. For what really matters is that you know God’s love, and His mercy, and His faithfulness. Understand that… and you will be at peace.