The Liturgical Year
Book Review: Pilgrim Road
Author: Albert Holtz, O.S.B.
Publisher: Morehouse Publishing ISBN: 9780819222510
This was not the typical devotional piece that I am accustomed to; actually, it was for this reason that I purchased it. I think I would best describe Pilgrim Road as the sum of many parts: personal journal, Christian devotional, monastic rule, spiritual discipline, liturgical calendar, and artistic creation. In some ways it almost bordered sensory overload for me, and in other ways it was a very refreshing change of pace.
There is a lot of “movement” in Pilgrim Road…much is happening. Maybe it is my personality type, but I felt as though I really needed to pay attention to keep the “dots connected” through the journey. This is not to say the book was difficult to follow, it was not; I simply did not want to miss anything and there seemed a lot was going on. I should explain what I mean with a little more detail about the premise of the book.
The author, Albert Holtz, is a Benedictine monk and structures this book, Pilgrim Road, around four different journeys. The first journey is Christian Pilgrimage, the second is the Lenten Journey/Experience, the third is the Inward or Spiritual Journey, and the fourth is a Sabbatical Holiday/Trip. Brother Albert describes the convergence of these journeys in the following words:
This book weaves the threads of four journeys into a single spiritual travelogue: Lent’s journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter serves as the spiritual framework, my sabbatical trip provides a geographical locale for each meditation, the medieval pilgrimage provides the unifying theme, and the journey into my inner self with Christ gives the whole enterprise its ultimate meaning. (From the introduction—p.vii)
I should point out that I counted another thread in this tapestry of journeys as Brother Albert weaves in an element of the Rule of Benedict with each meditation. He might be counting as part of his inner Christian journey (he is after all a Benedictine monk), but seems valid to me that is a thread its own—part of the overall tapestry, but a thread its own nonetheless. Credit is due as Brother Albert does a remarkable job of keeping the weave tight in this tapestry of journeys and stories. The unity of the storyline remains almost seamless as he stitches location to location, reflection to insight, and insight to theme; the integrity of continuity remains throughout.
The structure of the daily devotional writings is well done. Each day’s writing is approximately four pages long. The day begins with a new location; for instance Arles, France, Assisi, Italy or another site along the way of the Brother’s pilgrimage. A brief narrative sharing the day’s observation from that locale is followed by a spiritual reflection connecting the day’s events with the inner journey. The reflection is completed with a Scripture reading and an excerpt from the Rule of Benedict.
My overall impression is lacking a bit and this is my fault. My reading list was somewhat heavy during this Lenten season and was the cause of distraction while reading the Pilgrim Road. I intend to go back and read it again with less distraction. I think it deserves more attention from me. This was a different style of devotional reading than I am used to, but I found great enjoyment in it. I think after another more intentional reading, I will have an even deeper appreciation and respect for the artistry of Brother Albert as he shares his journey and his wisdom.
Book Review: Show Me the Way
Author: Henri Nouwen
Publisher: Crossroad Publishing Co. ISBN: 9780824513535
Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings
Henri Nouwen is one of my favorite spiritual writers; I have no less than nine of his works in my personal library, so I was looking forward to spending time with this collection of writings during Lent. I was not disappointed as my expectations were met in abundance.
The book is arranged for daily readings beginning on Ash Wednesday and running through Easter Sunday. The days are arranged in themed weeks; for instance, Week One is titled Only in God and features the topics of hospitality, prayer, forgiveness, and love as the subjects of the meditation. The following weeks have similar themes leading up to Passion Week, Holy Week, and Easter Day.
I particularly enjoyed the structure of this devotional guide. Each day’s reading begins with a Scripture verse followed with a thoughtfully probing devotional from Henri Nouwen and concludes with a prayer. I do not recall any day that exceeded four pages in length, so I feel confident in saying the time commitment for these readings is minimal. This is not to say more time cannot be devoted to them, but for those persons whose schedules are busy, this might be a worthy consideration.
Perhaps another reader might see something different, but I noticed a recurring theme or maybe it was THE theme for the devotional. I think that that theme was attentiveness to God. One particular day seemed to capture this idea very well for me. (Other samples can be found here)
Thursday of the Third Week of Lent
Through the practice of a spiritual discipline we become attentive to that small voice and willing to respond when we hear it.
Jesus’ life was a life of obedience. He was always listening to the Father, always attentive to his voice, always alert for his directions. Jesus was “all ear.” That is true prayer: being all ear for God. The core of all prayer is indeed listening, obediently standing in the presence of God.
A spiritual discipline sets us free to pray or, to say it better, allows the Spirit of god to pray in us. (pp. 94-95)
I make no apologies for my bias and favor toward Henri Nouwen, but bias and favor aside, this was one of my favorite devotional books for this season. If you have never experienced the gentle and pastoral writing of Henri Nouwen, I recommend this book for a first experience. I don’t think it necessary to wait for Lent to pick it up for reading. I know that I will be returning to it again regardless of the season, I was and will be inspired by it over and over again… of this, I am sure.
Book Review: Lent and Easter with the Holy Fathers
Compiled by: Peter Celano
Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781557256928
As much as I wanted to enjoy Lent and Easter with the Holy Fathers, it just did not stand up to the other devotional resources I had collected for this Lenten season. I feel disappointed making this admission as I had higher expectations for this book when I ordered it, but it was not what I expected. In fairness, there were very good excerpts included in this collection of writings, but the consistency of quality was lacking in my [subjective] opinion.
About the Book
The Holy Fathers in this compendium are popes from the past to the present. Some of the writings are from St. Peter, Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope St. Gregory I, Pope Innocent III, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and several others. Again, with such a list of revered papal voices, my expectations were high. The title of this devotional, Lent and Easter with the Holy Fathers, led me to believe that the devotional writings would carry me through the entire season. There are writings arranged for every point of the Lenten calendar beginning with Shrove Tuesday even, but the actual weeks of Lent only include 5-6 short writings. Holy Week provided reflective excerpts that helped spur good meditations throughout the week beginning with Palm Sunday, but with such a deep and rich supply of writing to draw from I just expected more.
The book is just over 100 pages long and is sectioned into six chapters grouped by the points of the season: Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Lent: Forty Days of Preparation, Holy Week, Easter, and Eastertide.
I do not want to be misunderstood; there are some great meditations in this small devotional and several were very inspiring for me. If this collection were the only devotional book I had in my possession, my impressions may have been different; however, with the luxury of abundance in resources I had, I can definitively say there are better options available.
Book Review: Bread and Wine
Author: Collected Writings
Publisher: Orbis Books ISBN: 9781570755729
I have been fortunate this Lenten season to have a very deep and very broad selection of writings and devotional materials to inspire my meditations. Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter has been one of the very rich pools that I have been dipping into.
There are several things that I like about this collection of readings. First, out of all the devotional reading I have been involved with this season, Bread and Wine is by far the most intellectually stimulating. The second thing that has been very enjoyable to me is the great diversity of authors included in this collection. The diversity is not limited in any way; there are both men and women writers spanning the entire two millennia of the Church and from every tradition of the Christian faith, truly a spiritual cornucopia of devotional writing. Despite these things being a couple of my favorite features of this book, these points also produced the most uncomfortable tension for me.
Some of the writings really pushed my thinking. The level of writing and degree of intelligence of the original author was at the very limit of my ability to comprehend. This isn’t entirely a bad thing, but there were days that I left the reading more exasperated and frustrated than inspired. I realize this point is entirely subjective and the experience of other people might be completely different with these same writings to which I refer, but I think it is a point worth mentioning nonetheless. Also worth mentioning is the other side of the diversity point. Some of the ideas presented in these writings are very different from what I have been exposed to; consequently, my thinking and my theology has been challenged. Again, this isn’t a bad thing, but there were many days that my doctrinal precepts were drawn into wrestling matches. I believe the point here is that Bread and Wine is not for the passive reader, it is a challenging and engaging read no matter your background and no matter intellectual level.
The format of the book is thematic, following the Lenten movement from Ash Wednesday and into Eastertide. There are approximately two weeks’ worth of writing for each of the movements which follow: Section One – Invitation, Section Two – Temptation, Section Three – Passion, Section Four – Crucifixion, Section Five – Resurrection, and Section Six – New Life.
Bread and Wine also includes a very detailed list of sources and a very brief biographical index of authors found at the end of the book. Personally, I find this an important inclusion and very helpful to me should I desire to dig deeper with my own studies.
Publishers Weekly writes about Bread and Wine saying, “Hardhitting and beautifully written [featuring] Christendom’s most celebrated masters.” I absolutely agree with this assessment. While I might not consider this my favorite reading for this season, I’m sure it will grow on me as one that will become one of my favorites and will likely become a resource I go to repeatedly for inspiration and challenge. There is much to like about this collection of writings, but as I have mentioned, it is not for the faint of heart. Prepare to be challenged and prepare to grow spiritually; that is… if you engage the challenge.
Book Review: Small Surrenders
Author: Emilie Griffin
Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781557256423
I have involved myself with several devotional materials during this season of Lent and ranking at the top of my list as “most enjoyed” is this work by Emilie Griffin, Small Surrenders. I have enjoyed many writings and books by Emilie over the years and was equally inspired by this Lenten devotional piece. Griffin sets the tone for the overall reflection of this devotion in the first paragraph of the introduction page; she writes:
Lent is a time when we deepen our faith in a journey not of grand gestures but of small surrenders. (p.vii)
The journey begins, as one might expect, with a reflection on Ash Wednesday and continues through Easter Sunday. Griffin interacts with the writings of spiritual masters, both ancient and contemporary, as well as all points in between to help illuminate her reflections. The content is deep, but the material and presentation thereof is not too difficult to grasp regardless of who the reader might be.
The format is straightforward, simply following the successive weeks of Lent. Each writing is a brief 3-5 pages in length and takes almost no time to read. The substance of the writing, on the other hand, can be something that is meditated on throughout the day…or longer. I found my heart and my intellect stirred repeatedly as I navigated my Lent with Emilie Griffin’s Small Surrenders.
It is hard for me to point to a “favorite” section of the book; as I said, I have enjoyed it from start to finish, but I did mark several pages with quotes that follow:
On Silence and Solitude: “Christians believe the voice of God permeates the universe and can be heard if only we slow down and tune into the place where silence reigns. (p.49)
On Willingness to Surrender: “God leads us in the way of salvation if we are willing to listen for the instructions God gives.” (p.63)
On Attentiveness to God: “One of the principal disciplines of the spiritual life is attentiveness: being alert to the simple, often subtle ways that God’s grace enters our lives. Often, we have to set aside our anxious preoccupations in order to see that our days are filled with mercies.” (p.79)
On Reconciliation: “The reconciliation we look for in Lent is not only with God but with others. The Gospel says clearly that, if we want t relationship with God, we should make peace with each other.” (p.140)
As I have pointed out, I am a fan of Emilie Griffin and have several of her books in my personal library. There is a reason for this; she writes with a gentle and tender spirit, drawing from a deep well of spiritual wisdom. Her words are seasoned with humility and genuine concern for others—this attitude shines forth in everything I have read.
Personally, if I have any recommendation about reading this beautiful little devotional book, it would be not to wait until Lent. It is worth reading anytime…again and again. I know I will be dipping into its goodness again.
Lectio Divina: Luke 19:28-44
“…because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” (Luke 19:44 NRsV)
These tragic words fall at the end of the narrative in Luke’s Gospel describing the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Triumphal Entry, sometimes I wonder if that really is the best description of what takes place in this account, but I’ll save that thought for another time.
These are horrific words coming from the mouth of Jesus. The strange, if not ironic thing about this indictment, is that the people were recognizing something about Jesus, but they failed to recognize THE THING about Jesus. It is apparent in their accolades, greeting, and cheers, they wanted a savior, but they were not interested in a visitation from their God.
As I read this account, the tragedy here was not so much the “wrong want” as much as the big miss. I think it was natural—is natural—to wish to be freed from oppression and injustice. Desire for a leader to push back the Roman was an acceptable want. The heartbreaking reality is in the course of intently searching for a fix for their desires they missed the greatest blessing of all: God was in their midst.
The focus of their search was no longer vertical, with eyes looking to and for God, but horizontal…toward an immediate and felt relief of their most obvious aches and pains. I think, had they been looking for and attentive to God, they may have realized their deeper needs over their felt needs and had both met…instead of having neither met.
Herein lies a broader lesson for me. The people onsite for Jesus’ triumphal entry had no realization of their true identity. They thought they were the people of God; yet, on another occasion Jesus had told most of them they were deceived even calling them sons of the devil (John 8:39-47). They did not know who they were, so they did not know what they needed…consequently, they were not looking for the right remedy for their true need—
And they did not recognize the time of their visitation from God.
I wonder how many times a day this happens to me. God is omnipotent, imminent, and transcendent. His Spirit is everywhere and sustains all things—even in me and sustains me as it did those ancient Jews present on the day of Jesus’ return to Jerusalem. How often do I not recognize my own personal visitations from God? Am I present to His grace and nearness, His voice of guidance and comfort, throughout my day? Too often, I might be found looking for an immediate fix for my most present desires; I’m probably looking for the wrong need in the wrong place. The truth is that I rarely understand any of my real needs without first opening myself to God and consequently I do not recognize the time of my visitation of God.
O Gracious and Eternally Present God,
Help me to be attentive and open to You always. I know I am easily distracted and often mistake what my needs are. I know, O God, that you are my sustaining Bread of Life and Eternal Living Water. Help my heart to remain focused upon You, so I might never miss Your visitation. I need You and You alone ever present and always the center of my days. Thank You for Your mercy and thank You for Your grace. All glory and honor to You reigns eternally together, The Father, The Son, and the Blessed Holy Spirit. Amen.
Abandoning the LORD and idol or idle worship
…The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and worshiped the Baals; and they abandoned the LORD (Judges 2:11). …The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, forgetting the LORD their God, and worshiping the Baals and Asherahs (Judges 3:7). …As soon as Gideon died, the Israelites relapsed and prostituted themselves with the Baals… The Israelites did not remember the LORD their God, who had rescued them from the hand of all their enemies on every side (Judges 8:33-34).
…The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, worshiping the Baals and Astartes, the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. Thus they abandoned the LORD, and did not worship him (Judges 10: 6).
…In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25).
I think it is easy for us to hold this narrative at arms distance. We might be quick to say; “I don’t worship idols,” or “I do not forget or abandon the LORD.” I’m not entirely sure those arguments would be true for all of us.
It is rather easy to make the ancient Israelites the bad guys of this story, but is not the story ours too? We distance ourselves from the offenses of the Israelites making distinctions between their ancient idols and our contemporary lifestyles. We might not see ourselves worshiping the god Baal, but during the time of the Judges, Baal was known as the god of nature. More particularly, Baal was the rain god, and subsequently the god of fertility since water was the source of life not only for humanity, but crops and livestock as well.
Asherah aka Astartes, was considered the mate of Baal and the highest-ranking female god. Known as the moon-goddess, she was also considered the god of love and war. The practice of Asherah worship was very sensual in nature and often consisted of ritual prostitution.
Personally, I don’t think it is too far of a reach to connect the idolatry of these ancient peoples to twenty-first century citizens. Nature worship, the War Machines and military complex, Sex Industry, Fertility gods (Wall Street, Financial Investment vehicles, Lottery, Gambling, and other get-rich opportunities), and a host of lesser gods (Entertainment industry, sports industry, and other personal hobbies) exist all around us. I think the reality of our situation is that we have not named these other gods of ours and personalized them.
We will push back against this indictment of idolatry saying, “But we have not abandoned the LORD!” Generally speaking, the ancient Israelites did not abandon the LORD either. In every instance that God turned them over to the care of their idols, when the Israelites were distressed enough, they would cry out for relief to the LORD, so they did remember Him. I think; once again, we are not different from those primitive worshipers who knew the LORD Almighty as their God, but chose to add a host of lesser gods to their collection.
What does it look like to us that we would abandon the LORD for other gods? What is the context of this in our contemporary lives? How often are we guilty of not remembering the LORD our God? I think that for many of us, at least those of us who profess Christianity as our faith, the moment we walk out of our local church we forget the LORD. Others of us might keep God in the forefront of our minds even in the context of our home life, but the moment we walk out of the bubble of our homes each day we “forget” Him. Our attentions become directed elsewhere and our focus is realigned on the business of the day…often on the gods of happiness and personal survival who are often disguised versions of those ancient Baals and Asherahs.
The primary covenant command of our God was that we are to love him with all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our strength. There was to be “no other god” but the LORD Almighty who is One God. Our attention and efforts are to always be “set aside” or sanctified holy unto the LORD our God. While many of us will agree to these covenant stipulations (Israel did too) and believe we are currently living in agreement with them, we will make the distinction that we live in a world that is both secular and sacred. How can this be? We will profess that we embody the Living Spirit of God—the Spirit of God indwells the heart/life of the disciple-believer of Christ. We profess that where God is, that is sacred or holy ground. If then, we embody the Spirit of God, wherever we go and whatever we do as Spirit-filled people, the place we are and the “thing we do” is sacred… or it should be… if we are living as God intended.
Have we become idle worshipers? Is our faith so passive and fragile that we succumb to the lesser gods that society surrounds us with? I think a sad truth is that we have bought into the self-deception that many of these lesser gods are not so bad. As long as we talk with more passion about the LORD that will mean we keep these lesser gods in check. Unfortunately, as is the case with radiation, small doses are just as lethal as the massive doses… one just takes longer to kill than the other.
Another story included in the Book of Judges is the life of a man named Samson (Judges 13:1—16:31). Samson, like us, became an idle worshiper and took his position and his relationship with God for granted. He assumed all was well because he “knew” the LORD. He gambled his very life on this relationship, but he did very little to maintain the health of it. Near the end of Samson’s life a tragic thing happened; he presumed one too many times that God would be with him in spite of his passive relationship (idle worship) with God. What happened follows:
When he [Samson] awoke from his sleep, he thought, “I will go out as at other times, and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him (Judges 16:20).
What a tragic statement; “He did not know that the LORD had left him.” Do we deceive ourselves as Samson did? Do we make assumptions about our relationship with God thinking it is healthy when we surround ourselves with lesser gods…even if telling ourselves we do not? How high is the LORD in my priority list of life? Do I truly love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength or do I excuse myself by proclaiming “I’m trying to get there…”? The choices I make each day express my trust and my understanding of God. My faith and what I base my faith in, is made manifest by how I live out my days.
I, Yahweh, search the heart, test the motives, to give each person what his conduct and his actions deserve. (Jer. 17:10)
“I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matt. 21:43)
The Lenten season is a time to take real inventory of my life and relationship with God. It is a time to turn fully in the direction that takes me toward Him alone. Now is not the time to be an idol worshiper or an idle worshiper. He calls. We answer. What will our answer be?
Yahweh, you examine me and know me, you know when I sit, when I rise, you understand my thoughts from afar. You watch when I walk or lie down, you know every detail of my conduct. God, examine me and know my heart, test me and know my concerns. Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin, and guide me on the road of eternity. (Psalm 139:1-3, 23-24)
Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come unto you.
Lent 2013: By Faith
I’m thinking about faith. More to come…
Light and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord. Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice! O let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleading. My soul is waiting for the LORD. I count on God’s word. My soul is longing for the Lord… Merciful God, we are baptized into the depth of your dear Son. May we die to all sin and selfishness and eagerly await the dawning of our joyful resurrection; by the merits of the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Second Sunday in Lent
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Sunday can be very busy at times…for me. I am thankful for God’s grace and even more so when I fail or fall short of fully reflecting that grace that is so abundantly poured out upon me. I am glad for the moments of space that are available in my life that I can “pull back” and reset my heart on God’s True North. I am grateful for the mercy my friends and family extend to me. I am blessed and privileged beyond anything I could ever deserve to experience favor and love from God through the actions and friendship of others. Praise be unto God for it all.
O LORD, open my lips ~ and my mouth shall declare your praise. Blest be the LORD our God, ruler of the universe ~ Now and always for ever and ever.
Delight in the Lord’s teaching and study it night and day ~ Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.
My heart and flesh cry out for the living God! O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.
“I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you… Sanctify yourselves. There are devoted things among you; you will be unable to stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” -Joshua 7:12-13 NRSV
I suppose there is a need for context here. The story that takes place in this account from Joshua is this; Israel had crossed over the Jordan River into the land of Canaan. God had instructed them to take over by force the towns and nations of the people who occupy the land. One of the instructions to Israel had been to keep the gold and silver for the treasury of God and to destroy (burn up) all other things.
The city and all that is in it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction… As for you, keep away from the things devoted to destruction, so as not to covet and take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel an object for destruction, bringing trouble upon it. But all silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are sacred to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord. -Joshua 6:17-19 NRSV
Achan, one of the fighters for Israel, kept some of the booty from the battle of Jericho.
But the Israelites broke faith in regard to the devoted things: Achan son of Carmi son of Zabdi son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things; and the anger of the Lord burned against the Israelites. -Joshua 7:1 NRSV
Now, in this case, I believe the devoted things were the items that had either been set aside for destruction or set aside for the LORD’s treasury—this is how the narrative reads. There is obvious application for us even if we stop here. God had given instruction and there was willful disobedience. Achan had been deceived by the lust of his own eyes and the greed that burned within him led him to succumb to an act that sinned against God. Achan’s sin against God had repercussions that extended beyond just himself; his sin affected the lives of his household and the lives of the people of his entire nation. And there are more applications I’m sure with a literal interpretation, but there were some ideas that came to me beyond a “first look” at Achan’s sin and this is where I started to fixate a bit on the word “devotion.”
When I started doing some exploration into the root meaning and eytomology of the word devotion, I found that it was steeped in pious or religious application. Regarding the use of the word in the original language, Hebrew, (charam) is associated with many religious uses; devotion, ban, exterminate, dedication, consecration, sacred, sanctuary, and temple are just a few of the mentioned applications (click the link for more examples).
Devoted / ha·che·rem from charem / (Hebrew) Strongs 2764a ::: definition—devoted thing; devotion; ban
Early 13c., from Old French devocion ”devotion, piety,” from Latin devotionem (nominative devotio), noun of action from pp. stem of devovere ”dedicate by a vow, sacrifice oneself, promise solemnly,” from de-”down, away” (see de-) + vovere ”to vow,” from votum ”vow” (see vow).
In ancient Latin, “act of consecrating by a vow,” also “loyalty, fealty, allegiance;” in Church Latin, “devotion to God, piety.” This was the original sense in English; the etymological sense, including secular situations, returned 16c. via Italian and French.
Perhaps it is just the way my mind works or maybe it has to do with the way we have incorporated the word (devotion) into our language today, but I started to think about how easily we are distracted by our devotions… And, I’m not talking about those devotions where you sit down for a few minutes to pray or read a short passage of Bible verse. I am considering the other things in our lives that consume our energy and attention, the things and activities that steal our devotion from God. So much of our time, energy, resources, and attention is devoted to making money, purchasing objects, pursuing activities that steal us away from the real object of our devotion, God. We pay homage to Him; perhaps we offer Him a tithe (tenth) of our income (after tax of course) and we give Him a couple of hours on Sunday of our undivided attention (it is undivided isn’t it?), and occasionally we’ll participate in one of the annual community outreach thingies. This counts as devotion doesn’t it? By comparison, a car, house, or credit card payment gets far more devotion from us than does our God… in many case.
The question that I think I’ve been fixated on today is, “Where is my devotion or what is my devotion?” I think we can take a closer look at the first-person application with Achan’s sin and make a comparison that strikes a little closer to home for us. In the case of Achan, he took things that were supposed to be set aside for the use of God and perhaps extended to the community of God’s people. He thought only of his own selfish desire. By thinking only about himself, his actions isolated and excommunicated him from the community… ultimately to the point that it caused his death. Are we guilty of this? Maybe I haven’t stolen God’s gold… or have I? Am I enamored by the “purple robes” I see others wearing? What might those “robes” look like in our contemporary society? I think the application really isn’t as far removed from us as I might have originally thought. Perhaps my fixation is not such an extrapolation or reach after all. I wonder how much we might be devoted to ourselves instead of devoted to God.
When the sin of Achan affected the community, Joshua, as their leader, went before God and fell prostrate before Him. He began to cry out and plead for God’s assistance and mercy. God responded by telling him to “Stand up! Why have you fallen upon your face?” and instructed Joshua to tell the people to “Sanctify yourselves” (Joshua 7:6-12). Perhaps in the midst of our misguided devotions today we need to take a step back from the harried lives we lead and “set ourselves apart” by renewing and realigning our devotion. Sanctify yourselves and your devotion for you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. Devotion.
“I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you… Sanctify yourselves. There are devoted things among you; you will be unable to stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” -Joshua 7:12-13 NRSV
The only “devoted thing” that belongs in my life is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Any other “devoted thing” will cause Him to be with me no more. Sanctify yourself. Yeah. That’s what he said.