Posts Tagged ‘John the Baptist’
The Nature of This Journey: The Land
The weeks leading up to Lent have been very formative for me and helpful in clarifying the nature of this 40-day journey. Many areas of my life have been laid open for examination and I feel some of them have been identified for further examination and tweaking. I am working, as God leads, on some of these areas even now.
Even with this knowledge and my surrendered agreement to God’s transforming work in my life, it seems there is something the Spirit of God is communicating to me beyond what is obvious. I recognize this. I am slowing down, paying closer attention to the details of my day and trying to be hypersensitive to the whispers of God as we enter this season of surrender, turning, and transformation.
A metaphor has emerged that seems to fit with and explain many of the “words” God is speaking to me through my Bible reading and through my meditations. I believe this metaphor is “the land.” I do not know the full extent of the metaphor’s application just yet, but there are several areas of my life that are quite relevant. Some of these I have identified are my health, God’s plans for my future in ministry—what it will be and where it will be, and my present relationships beginning with the Holy Trinity, extending to my wife, my children, my friends, and the community circles of which I am part that continue from there. I’m not sure how I would describe my sense of knowing this… call it intuition, discernment, or whatever, but I am convinced this latest adventure will be a time well-spent with God and I’m fairly certain He will make some things known to me that I have been wondering about for several years now. We will see what those things will be.
If you’ve followed the blog for the past week you will have noticed that talk about the “land” has been prominent. Today, from my first reading in the Psalms, I heard God speaking to me the following:
“3Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. 4Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5Commit your way to the LORD and he will act. 7Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; 9Those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:3-5, 7, 9)
Also, while reading this psalm, I noticed that within the framework of these verses, the psalmist instructs the hearer to “Do not fret” (verses 1, 7, and 8). Between these words of encouragement about “inheriting and inhabiting the land” and partnering with God in the process, I hear God telling me not to over think or obsess during this process of discernment. My part in this collaboration with God will become evident in due time; for now, I am to remain faithful and obedient to opportunities in the moment while remaining focused on Him and attentive however and wherever He speaks. I will pay close attention to how I listen.
Confidence and resolve are good things, but as I continued my reading and meditation today, a couple of warnings became evident to me. The first came to me through my reading in the Book of Deuteronomy and it too was part of the land metaphor. God, speaking through Moses, is warning the people of Israel about the hazards of entering into the new land they were about to occupy. He tells them; “Take care or you will be seduced into turning away, serving other gods and worshiping them” (Deut. 11:16). The applications of this might cover several areas, but the primary intent for me is clear: Stay focused on Jesus. Listen intently for his voice and follow closely. Distractions abound. It is easy to get tired and weakened…the easy path and shortcuts can be alluring. It is important to keep my primary relationship (with God) vibrant and healthy—this includes my mind, my spirit, my soul, and my physical strength or my health.
The second word came to me from the Apostle Paul’s letter to Titus. He writes the following:
“To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure. Their very minds and consciences are corrupted. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions.” (Titus 1:15-16)
I hear two applications that I should heed in this caution; the first is to me. I should be ever conscious that I am being faithful to the knowledge that God has given to me. As God reveals himself and his path to me, it is critical that I obey as quickly as I am aware. Stubbornness, distrust, disobedience, and unbelief will shipwreck my faith quicker than any attack from Satan. My actions should always align with my knowledge of God. The second thing I hear is a warning to be discerning about the people I meet and the company I keep. There is no reason to be obnoxious about this second warning, but it is very important.
Beginning the Journey
Will Willimon reminds us that the introduction to Christ begins with John the Baptist in the Gospels. John is not the Christ. John is the one who gets us ready or prepared for the Christ. How does he do this? John calls for us to recognize our sinfulness and selfish attitudes; he calls for you and me to repent, turn, change our ways—be washed (baptized, cleansed, purified)—symbolically “dying” to self and becoming raised and reborn in Christ. What is our lesson here? I believe that we are being taught that we cannot begin any Journey with Jesus without a preparation of repentance. This was the purpose of John the Baptist…who was sent by God—to prepare us for our Journey with Jesus with a baptism of repentance first.
“The soul can become entangled with bad little habits. We never completely conquer them. We become attached to certain clothes, a book, a specific food, gossip, or a desire for any number of things. Any of these little imperfections can stand in the way of spiritual progress.” John of the Cross
Repentance is turning—turning from my way and returning to the Way of God—following His ordinances and precepts. I think the act of turning toward God is a good thing, but it might be an even better thing if our turning is bit more intentional. What I mean is this; 40-days is a long time to be focused on something that I might not be sure of. It can be helpful to reflect on the choices I have made that have been responsible for pulling me or distracting from my path of devotion to God. Perhaps spending some time considering and recalling those distractions and naming them might be a helpful exercise for me. This exercise can make me aware of the “triggers” that grab my attention and steal it from holy devotion. Knowing these triggers and being mindful of them can be helpful in remaining surrendered to Jesus as we walk together for these next 40-days.
St. Benedict of Nursia instructs us through his Rule; “First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to God most earnestly to bring it to perfection.” So we pray…
Faithful God, trusting in you, we begin the forty days of conversion and penance. Give us the strength for Christian discipline, that we may renounce evil and be decisive in doing good. We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
[20APRIL2012] Eastertide Devotional Series
I will be posting this devotional series as part of my Eastertide reflections for the next three weeks (see this link for other installments in the series). Each week of this devotional series focuses on a specific theme (week one: brokenness, week two: repentance, and week three: renewal). I hope you’ll enjoy the series and I invite you to comment here on the blog or email me direct; I would love to hear your thoughts.
Repentance: Week 2 | Day 6
“You brood of snakes… Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath?”
This is certainly one of the “ouchie” statements we read from Scripture. At first glance, I quickly wipe the sweat from my brow and thank God that John is talking to those wicked Pharisees and Sadducees… and not directing his words to me. Hmmm… or is he directing his words toward me after all? It’s easy to make villains of the Pharisees and Sadducees, they seem to be the bad boys of the New Testament. Even Jesus denounced them more harshly than any other group of people. However, there is something about John the Baptist’s words in this passage of text that prompts me to look a little more closely.
When he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. “You brood of snakes!” he exclaimed. “Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.
Let’s forget about the Pharisees and Sadducees for a moment. Ask yourself what your motivation for coming to Jesus is? Is it to simply save yourself? “Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath?” I think this is an interesting question to ask myself. It’s easy to think that because I’ve said a prayer asking for forgiveness and joined a church that “I’m safe.” John’s words make me rethink this position… he as much as says “that means nothing” if my repentance doesn’t reveal itself in fruit that proves I have turned toward God. And, what is the fruit of repentance?
I’m sure fruits of repentance manifest themselves tangibly in a number of ways, but I think the journey of transformation that repentance leads us on is very closely related to being re-imaged in the image and character of Christ. Subsequently, I think we get a good picture of what this fruit might involve from the Apostle’s description in Galatians 5:22-23; “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
The question then, I should ask, is this: “Is my motivation for coming to Jesus to save my own skin aka ‘flee the coming wrath?’” Or, is my motivation to be fully reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and allow Him to remake my image into His likeness and fruit? As I finish typing this another saying of Jesus comes to my memory; “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it” (Matt. 16:25). If I honestly examine my life, do I see the evidence of godly fruit such as a more loving nature, exhibiting joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
Our Prayer Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner. I pray today, O Lord, that I have not grown complacent and satisfied thinking I have arrived or I am safe because of the words I speak or the church I attend. I pray you would have your way in my life, help me to completely surrender my life to you, so I might bear the kind of fruit that truly reflects your character and nature. I want to be your true disciple, one who bears much fruit and brings much glory to You, my God and King. Amen.
[04DEC2011] 2nd Sunday Advent: Prepare with repentance, forgiveness, and “straight” living while you wait
[04DEC2011] 2nd Sunday Advent: Prepare with repentance, forgiveness, and “straight” living while you wait
(Readings from the Lectionary—Year B; The Book of Common Prayer)
♦ Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
O God, enthroned above the cherubim, display your radiant glory… Show us your mighty power. Come to rescue us! Turn us again to yourself, O God of Heaven’s Armies. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved. Psalm 80:1-2, 7
I pray you, merciful Jesus, that as you graciously granted me to drink down sweetly from the Word that tells of you, so will you kindly grant that I may come at length to you, the fount of all wisdom, and stand before your face forever. Prayer of Bede
Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken! O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, shout and do not be afraid. Tell all the towns, “Your God is coming!” -Isaiah 40:3-5, 9
“Clear the way through the wilderness; make a straight way; fill valleys and level mountains; straighten curves and smooth rough places!” These are strong imperatives hurled toward the “waiters.” I am a waiter. I am a watcher. The test of my faithfulness and the proof of my repentance are shown in how I wait and how I watch. The words of the voice who proclaims His coming tells me with no uncertainty how my waiting hours are to be filled…my time watching is not consumed with idle peering from behind drawn shades; no, my time is spent with brusque and sweaty activity. I’m shouting from the mountaintops as I flatten them, my voice echoes through valleys as I bring them to sea level…twists and turns are yanked straight at the sound of “Prepare the Way! Your God is Coming!” Honest examination: Does the testimony of my life reveal this lifestyle of urgency and singleness of mind and work?
So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. Hebrews 12:12-13
It began just as the prophet Isaiah had written: “Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way. He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!’” This messenger was John the Baptist… He preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. John announced: “Someone is coming who is greater than I am—I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with fire and the Holy Spirit.” -Mark 1:1-4, 7-8
I don’t think John the Baptist was a “stealth” waiter. I don’t think anyone mistook him for a wannabee prophet of God. I think from the way the Bible depicts him, he stood out like a sore thumb. He went against the grain of society about as much as one could go against the grain. In this style of living, people took notice of him. Apparently he had a legitimate following. People were coming from all over to be baptized and to hear his words… it reads as though many people took his preaching and his message very seriously. John never minced words (Matthew 3:7-10) and was never intimidated by the status or title of any person (Matthew 14:1-5); I wonder how often we allow the circumstances of society or the thought of what someone else may think of us shape the way we live and determine the choices we make. In the case of John’s life and the message of his words, it is clear that our focus should be laser-like in preparing for the coming of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. One wonders; if it were absolute that the return of Christ would be one week from today and his first stop would be to see me… how would I spend the next seven days preparing for that visitation. I think if I am not living with this level of urgency now, there may be a problem. A faith that is real is a faith that is active. The way I live today reveals the measure of my belief in the message of God for my life.
We are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth He has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness… And so, while you wait for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in His sight. -2 Peter 3:13-14
Peter continues to reinforce what I have already received from the previous readings. The way we conduct ourselves as repentant, God-focused, on-the-way Jesus followers is distinct. Isaiah and John the Baptist both exhort the expectant waiters of the Messiah Savior to be busy about preparing the way for His coming and imminent return.
Peter tells us; “while we wait… live peaceful lives.” The words of Isaiah and John the Baptist indicate an active wait that is anything but peaceful. Is there a contradiction at hand? I think not. I believe Peter’s words from his previous letter and elsewhere in his second affirm an active wait in agreement with the other prophets. Additionally, I believe the context of Peter’s “peaceful lives” is not entirely construed as “quiet, mellow, and non-aggressive,” but more toward the confident assurance that Jesus promises in his words to us found in John 14:27 and John 16:33.
The way of the Lord must be prepared within the heart; for great and spacious is the heart of man, as if it were a whole world. But see its greatness, not in bodily quantity but in the power of the mind that enables it to encompass so great a knowledge of the truth. Prepare, therefore, in your hearts the way of the Lord, by a worthy manner of life. Keep straight the path of your life, so that the words of the Lord may enter in without hindrance. -Origen
It is likely that some of these words might be ignored as irrelevant, but Jesus makes a statement that cause goosebumps to rise on my arms and the hairs on my neck to rise when he says:
“For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him…” -Jesus (Matthew 21:32 NLT)
I don’t think your faith can be something kept personal (as in to ourselves) or held in check so that it doesn’t impact the world around us. Conversely, I don’t believe we are to be obnoxious…but there is some “sweet spot” between the two where “mountain-wrecking, valley-filling, top-of-the-lung shouting” Kingdom living is our normal. That’s where I want to be found and how I wish to be found…waiting.
“Rabbi, where do you live?” (John 1:35-39)
Seems like an innocent question until you look at the context in which it was asked and to whom it was asked. Here is the entire passage in context.
35 The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them. They replied, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” 39 “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day.
There is a lot going on in this short paragraph of Scripture. I believe this is a real account, and probably an accurate recounting of the meeting between Jesus, John, Andrew, and (???), but I also see it as a metaphor for our meeting and relationship with Jesus as well.
I believe that Jesus is always near to us…walking by, close enough to be seen and recognized (As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!“). I think the problems arise when (a) we are not looking for Jesus in the first place (b) we don’t know who or what we are looking for (c) we are too busy to notice Him (d) we refuse to believe it is who we see (e) we put off for tomorrow what we should act on today.
Not looking for Jesus in the first place
Everyone is looking for someone or something. The universal question for mankind is “what is the meaning of life?” It is in this question that finds every man, woman, and child a searcher. We all look to find satisfaction in life. People look for gratification, satisfaction, and fulfillment in all sorts of things many times not even realizing the fulfillment they search for will only be found in reconciled relationship with their Creator God.
We don’t know who or what we are looking for
Our hearts are restless and lonely. In many cases, we just know we want something. We try to satisfy our hunger with all types of “food.” Sometimes this “food” is power, sometimes it is material possessions, and it might be money, fame, sex, or any number of items from the menu of life. We go through our days and years pursuing one item after another hoping that it will fill the restless gnawing of our soul…feasting on and fasting from anything and everything hoping to find the satisfaction that will end the insatiable growl of our soul. We do this because we don’t know what we are looking for.
Too busy to notice Him
Often, because we are diligently searching for life fulfillment elsewhere (looking for LOVE in all the wrong places), we are too busy to notice Jesus as He walks among us and near us. God can be, and is, found in every place, circumstance, and situation of life. There is nowhere that God is not. Our greatest challenge in the circumstance that we do not see God, Jesus, is because we do not have eyes to see Him or ears to hear Him. If we slow down and take the time to diligently seek Him to see Him…He will reveal Himself to us in the way that will bring fulfillment to our need.
We refuse to believe it is who we see
There are times when some of us slow down enough and quiet our minds-hearts enough to see Him walking amongst us. The problem comes when we compare the size of our hunger to what we see. “How can a man be God?” “How can someone’s death make me right with God?” “What did I do that made me broken to God?” “I’m a good person…” The mind of man without the Spirit of God cannot comprehend the mystery of God’s salvation. When we try to intellectualize our way to satisfying our “soul hunger” we end up in failure. The result is most often our refusal to believe it is who we see.
We put off for tomorrow what we should act on today
We recognize and realize who we see… We see Him and for a moment our hearts are stilled, the gnawing hunger stops, and we sense for the first time the satisfaction that comes when we are truly filled and fulfilled. But, we’re not ready to follow Him and it is only here in the following that the hunger remains abated. We presumptuously assume we can figure out where “He lives” later and have the chance to “meet with Him” then and perhaps decide to follow then. We gamble and presume upon the mercy of God that we have all the time in the world to determine how He will satisfy us on our own terms and in our own time.
All of these scenarios introduce potentially fatal outcomes, but we see none of these in the account mentioned in John’s Gospel. We know from Scripture that John the Baptist was “looking” for the Christ. He was the forerunner and herald of the Messiah. John was looking for Jesus and subsequently so where his disciples. John pointed to Jesus and as a result his disciples were looking for Him; therefore, when Jesus walked amongst them…they saw and recognized him too.
Those disciples with John understood the nature of their gnawing soul hunger and sought the One thing that would satisfy the hollow in their heart. When they saw who they had been looking for they did the only thing they could do in response; they followed Him. They were in touch with their need and the remedy thereof.
I love the nature of God as our Teacher. Not only does He want us to be fulfilled and satisfied with Himself, He wants us to recognize and realize that it is HE that is the Fulfiller and Satisfier. When Jesus sees these disciples following Him, He turns to them and asks them “what do you want?” I believe Jesus knows what they want, but I think the purpose of the question is more for the disciples than it is for Jesus. I think the purpose of the question is to bring self-awareness to the disciples. When they are asked “what do you want?” they are forced to consider what it is that they want… Why do they feel the need to follow Jesus? The question prompts an inward exploration and examination of the hearts of the disciples. I think at some juncture in every person’s journey with Jesus, they are asked the same question; “What is it you want?”
The disciples answered the question of Jesus with a question of their own… I don’t think they were being coy or evasive with their response; their question revealed what they wanted. They did not answer with: we want food, we want shelter, we want power, we want healing, or we want ______. They answered; “where are you staying-where do you live?” This question revealed that what they wanted was Jesus. I believe they answered correctly because in response to their question to Jesus he replied to them; “Come and see, or follow me.”
Jesus’ reply is not the final response in this short narrative. We see the essence of the metaphor completed in the subsequent actions of the disciples. The account tells us that the disciples went with Him to the place where He was and they remained with Him. I think the fundamental nature of our spiritual development can be found in this short little paragraph from the opening chapter of John’s Gospel; “As Jesus walked by, he was recognized. When he was recognized, those who recognized Him followed Him. When Jesus saw that He was being followed, He asked; ‘why are you following?’ Those who followed Him did so because he was Jesus. …Jesus was pleased and told them to continue to follow Him. The disciples followed and stayed with Jesus.” Interestingly enough, Jesus continues to reiterate this same message and does so again in a most beautiful way in the parable of the vine and the branch (John 15), but we’ll save that for another day.
Meditation: Prince of Peace (Part 1)
My brain was on fire today. I started my morning with a prayer for the Fifth Sunday of Easter and the invitation of Jesus to “Follow Me” from Luke 5:27. The prayer follows:
O Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leadeth to eternal life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I started thinking about “follow me” and “follow his steps” trying to understand the gravity of what it means to follow after Jesus… several additional thoughts came to me. First, I remembered several statements that Jesus made to his disciples.
1. I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid (John 14:27).
2. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:14-15).
3. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows… But take heart, because I have overcome the world (John 16:33)
Next, a stream of questions flowed out of these verses and statements. What is the gift of peace of mind and heart? How does the peace of Christ differ from the peace of the world? When Jesus says, “Don’t be troubled or afraid” I think I should probably be troubled or afraid just because he said “don’t be… ” Is he telegraphing things to come? Am I to know God’s business? This is what Jesus infers when he says, “Everything I have learned from my Father I have made known to you.” What kind of responsibility does this put on me… and he says, “Do not be troubled or afraid.” Jesus also tells us the reason for his sharing all this “troubling” information is to give us “peace” since we’ll have many trials and sorrows on earth… “But take heart, he has overcome the world.”
There is either a seriously mixed message in the words of Jesus or he is describing something that not many of us understand or are willing to embrace. I think it is important to explore these questions and ideas, because Jesus’ invitation is to follow him and our prayer is that God would help us to follow Jesus steadfastly. It seems that it is important to understand how to follow and what we might expect. As I pondered this exploration, John the Baptist came to my mind. More tomorrow…
In You, O LORD, I seek refuge; for Your Name’s sake lead me and guide me, for you are my refuge. Into Your hand I commit my spirit; for You have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. My future is in Your hands. (Psalm 31:1-5, 15)
“Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting or should we keep looking for someone else?” (John the Baptist; Matthew 11:5-6)
I wonder how many times I ask this question over the course of a day. I know out of one corner of my mouth I profess Jesus as the Lord and Savior of my life, and out of the other corner I want to trust myself (the known quantity) with everything that is a known quantity… everything that is a tangible reality… which pretty much leaves, well, everything. I’m trying desperately not to take control of my life. I’m trying desperately to let God lead me into the unknown and trust Him completely with everything that is my life, my family, my vocation, my provision, my credibility, my sincerity, my everything and anything, and anything else I may have forgotten or not included… I’m trying to trust God for leadership and divine direction. I’m not lying; I’m anxious and with each passing day doubt gnaws at me and I wonder; “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting or should we keep looking for someone else?” The days begin and the days end… I’m feeling rested and restless. I work through my disciplines and I wait. I think and I wait. I pray and I wait. I doubt and I wait. I believe and I wait. I dream and I wait. I trust… and I wait.
But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because He is good to me (Psalm 13:5-6). How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying His commands (Psalm 112:1).
I can’t imagine what John the Baptist must have felt or wondered while he waited alone in his prison cell. He was the herald, a life decided before he was conceived to announce the coming of the Messiah King, he knew Christ… John was divinely blessed with sight that was capable of recognizing the Lamb of God and pointing men to Him. Yet, he wondered… he questioned, and he doubted. I believe he was comforted with affirmation from the answer Jesus sent back to him; “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’” (Matthew 11:5-6). Sometimes it takes a memory jolt to set our doubts straight… and being close to the Word is that jolt we need. John was close to the Word. He was a cousin. He was a witness; both with his own eyes and with a bond through the Holy Spirit. We too are bonded with the Word; we are regenerated children, adopted into the household of God and indwelled by the same Holy Spirit as was Jesus and John. We too, are affirmed.
I am the one who searches minds and hearts… (Revelation 2:23). Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).
I am blessed by not turning away to feed the doubt that would devour me. I sit today in the quiet… wondering what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know, but I will trust that I do not have to look for someone else and certainly not myself. I will trust that God has a plan for meeting the daily needs of food, shelter, and clothing for my family… and I will trust that He has a plan to use the gifts and experiences He has developed in me. I will wait.
3 Trust in the Lord and do Good. 5 Commit your way to the Lord. 7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him. 23 If the Lord delight’s in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm. 24 Though he stumble, he will not fall for the Lord upholds him with His hand. 34 Wait for the Lord and keep His way. (Psalm 37) 6 Surely you desire the truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51)
Maker and Ruler of all: Govern my life by your wisdom and counsel. Forgive me in those areas where I have failed you, and strengthen me further wherein I have served you well. Save me from complacency and smugness over my spiritual successes as much as from despair and guilt over my spiritual failures. Grant in increasing measure the gift of your Holy Spirit to me, that I may grow in grace and thus more fully praise you day by day; through Christ who strengthens me. Amen. (This Day: A Wesleyan Way of Prayer)
2 Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth. 4 Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. (Psalm 54) 4 In God, whose word I praise. In God I trust; I will not be afraid. 12 I am under vows to you, O God; I will present my thank offerings to you 13 For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling that I may walk before God in the light of life (Psalm 56).
Do not seek the perfection of the law in human virtues, for it is not found perfect in them. Its perfection is hidden in the Cross of Christ. (St Mark the Ascetic)
“Cleans us, O Lord, from our secret faults and mercifully absolve us from our presumptuous sins, that we may receive thy holy things with a pure mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” –The Leonine Sacramentary
“It is while waiting for the coming of the reign of God, Advent after Advent, that we come to realize that its coming depends on us. What we do will either hasten or slow, sharpen or dim our own commitment to do our part to bring it.” Joan Chittister; The Liturgical Year.
- Prepare the way…
- He comes to purify and refine
- …so they (we) may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.
I consider how faithful I am to prepare the way for my Lord Jesus. I think, too often, we (generally) are lax, complacent, and downright lazy in our preparations. Where do we prepare…at some distant location in the future? When do we prepare; hastily, at the last minute…out of desperation? Israel had (at the time of the prophet Malachi) 400 plus years to prepare…and they still weren’t ready. Israel (at the time of John the Baptist) had several years…maybe even a decade or so; and they still weren’t ready. Our nature indicates that our own preparation leaves much to be desired.
I think “prepare the way” is repentance and with repentance we are open to receive the Spirit of the Lord to purify and cleanse us so we might receive His holy things. He is the giver of Light and our Guide in the dark. It is our responsibility to hasten His coming in our own lives through preparation… How do I prepare? I prepare with and through an attitude of repentance with desire to walk upright in purity and righteousness. I want the sacrifice of my life to be a pleasing aroma in the nostrils of my God.
“Prepare;” this word implies it is my responsibility to make the way ready for my King…He will cleanse, He will guide, He will purify… I am given the task to prepare.
- Prepare the way for the Lord…
- He comes to give light…
- He comes to guide us…
Maranatha – “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.”
Wrapping it up: 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed [Days 36-40]
LtJC – Days 36-40:
The way of Agape is not easy. More often than not, it is love that is dispensed and manifest in the faces of the unloved, in the lives of the broken, and in the hearts of the hateful…when those who are the loving are persecuted, despised, maligned and martyred. The way of Agape is selfless, sacrificial, and serving…the way of Agape is the highest calling of all. The way of Agape begins with loving God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. The way of Agape ends with loving our neighbor as ourselves. Anything in between those two points is a distraction…
The final 5 days (leading up to Palm Sunday) were focused on living examples of Jesus Creed love (days 36-40). The first example given (mentioned in my previous entry) is support. Support is evidenced in many ways not the least of which is our finances. It can be seen in other ways as well; for instance, the sharing of material resources, time, and serving with our gifts and abilities. The bottom line is love for Jesus supports his teaching and his kingdom. Read the rest of this entry »