Tuesday, October 27, 2015
I read my first devotional from "My Utmost for His Highest" 47 years ago. I remember my introduction to this book by Oswald Chambers at a time when I was searching for a lost faith. Many a college student gets afflicted with thinking that he knows more than he really knows and I had a double dose of it. Oswald Chambers was one of those influences which helped me get my faith back on track and my heart re-oriented. For all these decades, he has been a constant companion who has spoken to my heart about abandonment to God and challenged me to reach toward spiritual heights I never would have thought to seek.
This morning I was spending a few minutes with Oswald when I ran into something read dozens of times, but today, it was like new. Anyone who journeys in faith has had such moments. If you were in some other devotional reading today, allow me the joy of sharing a word from my morning with Oswald. "The great dominant note is not the needs of men, but the command of Jesus...We forget that the one great reason underneath all missionary enterprise is not first the elevation of the people, nor the education of the people, nor their needs; but first and foremost the command of Jesus Christ--'Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.' " It is a word which challenged me, and perhaps others who read these words today, to give thought to the reason for a life of service. I remember well in the beginning a sense of being swept away by an awareness of human need around me. Chambers reminded me this morning that had I been gripped by nothing else, I would have burned out and given up long ago.
I suppose it is a backward way to come to a place of thanksgiving, but my journey of faith has seldom taken me to a place of insight without some travel through confusion. Jesus warned against doing the right thing with the wrong motivation as did the Apostle Paul when he wrote those Spirit inspired words about the gift of love. (I Corinthians 13:1-3) In my morning with Oswald I was once again reminded to look inward at my heart. Nothing is more important than Who is there.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
"Chasing Francis" by Ian Morgan Cron is more than just a good piece of fiction. It describes one man's journey of faith in such a way that it begins to feel like our own journey. Or, at least such was my reaction to this story of lost and found faith. While there were many pages which caused me to lay the book aside for a moment of quiet personal reflection, none so affected me as those pages which spoke of powerful Table encounters. One image was of a man who laid himself on the floor of the church after receiving the sacrament. Another was of an old man who was carried to the Table by his sons. And finally, there was the scene of one sobbing at the rail and praying over and over, "Thank You, thank You, thank You."
As I remember a lifetime of Table Gatherings, I am amazed that anyone could encounter God at such moments. The tradition of which I am a part has not always been intentional about creating a spiritual environment conducive to divine encounter. It has been far more intentional about being expedient and efficient in time management. In many places the kneeling at the altar has been replaced by a pause in the pace in the coming and going and the receiving of the open hands has been replaced by a grab and go mentality. And, the role of priest at the Table has been replaced by the administrative presider who participates as a spectator instead of a servant.
Some would say these things speak of what must be done when crowds at churches get large. But, I wonder. Where is the room for divine encounters? Where is the place for lingering and responding? Where is the time for people to realize that Jesus is in the room? When the church worships by the clock something is going to be lost. What is lost could be an earth rocking, soul shaking sense of the presence of Jesus.
Sunday, October 11, 2015
Reading the Bible is like taking a trip down a road never before traveled. Oh, it does not matter that a passage has been read a hundred times and studied until the ink is all but worn off the page. We can go to just such a place on the page and all of a sudden it is like we are at a place never before seen. Amazing, is it not? While it truly is amazing, it is also an example of how the Holy Spirit can move into our heart, sometimes on a collision course with the way we think things ought to be, and sometimes gently merging into the stream of our experiences. Those who cannot understand that the Word is alive and powerful are surely those who have never allowed themselves the experience of being abandoned beneath its life giving waters.
I came to one of those moments of being surprised by the familiar a few days ago while reading in the New Testament book known as Hebrews. Any real student of Hebrews knows what is going to be found in the 11th chapter of that writing. It is like a roll call of the faithful. When I came to the sixth verse, I found myself with these words, "And without faith it is impossible to please God.." Flip that verse around and it says a very simple word: "What pleases God is our faith." Most of us live as if there is something else which would please Him more. Maybe it is our gifts, or our sacrifices, or our worked out rational theological understanding. To simply say that faith is what pleases God sounds too simple.
While we say, "Surely, there must be something more," God says, " Faith is what pleases Me." I am reminded of some prophets who told some folks they had it wrong as they tried to please God. And I am reminded of the way Jesus had a way of boiling down what people made complicated into something as simple as loving God and one another. Maybe our pre-occupation with making simple things complicated speaks more to our need to be in control and our fear of what it might mean if we turn lose and live life on the simple terms of the gospel.