Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner, still needing salvation & guilty of living a faith without living with Christ.
Today is exceptional so far. For this morning, after a very early morning meeting with my community leaders (normal, not exceptional), I returned home, and God met me. I say God met me because I felt a desire, emotive, to spend time with Him, but there He was waiting for me. Do you understand? Allow me to contrast. Often, while trying to resist it, I go to spend time with God… I get a nugget or two, ponder some point, see some application or posture I should have and maybe a point for another person in my world. BUT, on the rarest occasion, far too rare and more reflective of me, than the Living Good God, He shows up and finds me, tells me something. Today is such a day.
All of Communitas is working through Ezekiel in our weekly spiritual formation times. In preparing for that time this evening I read Chapter five, then six. Ezekiel’s task as prophet was not an easy one, nor a one off “go tell them off” and you are finished and then go home… No. His task was years… humiliation, people laughing at him, scoffing at him, hurling insults, thinking he was crazy… they later wanted to kill him for “his insults” as he proclaimed the coming condemnation and judgment that would end up in the cannibalism he forecast as they suffered being besieged and then destruction. Chapter five repeats over and over again how they rebelled against the Lord’s statutes, his commandments, disobedience. We usually without thinking much about it, think they did immoral things, which they did, that they secularized and did not worship the Living God, but there is not a lot of evidence of that, but they did worship other gods and idols also. But, what were the statutes God gave them? Closer examination reveals God gave them statutes (guides, postures and boundaries) on how to relate with not only Him, but each other, foreigners, strangers, aliens, the poor, the destitute, widows, etc. Think I’m wrong? Later God tells His people through Ezekiel that Sodom & Gomorrah were destroyed not merely for their vile immorality, but their affluence and failure to care for those less fortunate. No? See chapter 16, “As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your faughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.” Scary to think about…
Why write about this? How did God meet me? I was struck by this and began to think how I, how we, our society thinks… we are affluent, but do not think in a dependent upon Him posture… but think rationally and God therefore must submit His rationale and thinking and guides for us to our rationale… backwards. Rather that He calls us to pass all we do and think, our decisions, our emotion, our will, our attitude to Him. Stay with me…
My average day finds me praying a five office prayer day… “called praying the daily office” or “praying the hours”. It is a great habit I picked up from friends in different orders (Benedictines, Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans). Some habits include seven or even nine offices of prayer a day. My phone (handheld computer more like it) reminds me five times a day to pause and pray. It looks different each office. Sometimes it is merely listening; or worship; or thankfulness; or intercession. It may be short one day, longer another. Right now though, my 2d office (lauds), I use the Common Prayer, A liturgy for ordinary radicals. This joint project of two acquaintances and another I do not know, is a nice guide. It has Scripture, prayer, worship – but the most interesting for me, I confess, is little anecdotes on saints who went before us. BUT, what does this have to do with God meeting me – there waiting for me, today? It was today’s office there… It celebrates William Booth. Take a look;
William Booth (1829-1912) was a Methodist preacher in Britain who co-founded the Salvation Army. He was born in Nottingham and ended up living and working with his wife, Catherine, among the poor and ostracized. Out of there work on the streets was born the Salvation Army, with its uniforms and discipline. The movement became structures as a quasi-military organization with no physical weaponry, but with an army of people passionate about salvation and healing the broken wounds of our world.
It goes on to say near the closing of the prayer office today;
William Booth said, “Consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.”
This was not the end of my encounter with the Living God, who actually was waiting for me this day. I was stunned enough, for I, for we, for the church, for our society has so become this, even those of us who claim Him as ours. We have become just this. I confess it, though I did not intend or want to, though I never consciously devolved to seeing life like this – it was in reading this that He showed me my heart if not my mind.
This special day, I had also pulled form my desk to read a chapter from “The Indwelling Life of Christ”, by Sir Ian Thomas, a British noble who after the 2nd World War turned his family estate into a Bible School, known today around the world, Capernwray Hall. The Torchbearers have gone on to establish similar Bible schools around the world and I have had the grace to meet and know many touched by this ministry and to have been personally changed by a week with Sir Ian, a week I will never forget, and the privilege to know several of his children. Today’s entry stunned me – silenced me. Please read on:
“God is the absolute source of righteousness, but there is also an absolute source of unrighteousness—the devil. All human activity derives from one or the other of these two origins.
That is why the Bible says, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23 KJV). Whatever does not derive from your attitude of total dependence upon God, whatever does not release God’s activity through your life, is sin. It is sin because it stems from an attitude of independence that makes you open to any and all of Satan’s deceptions in his long history of usurping God’s authority.
Every step you take, every attitude you adopt, every decision you make, everything you do and all you hope to be, is either in dependence upon the God who created you as His own dwelling place, or else the byproduct of the demon spirit of this world, “who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2), and who perpetuates his lies through a mindset of self-reliance in fallen humanity.
The Bible calls this attitude of independence a “carnal mind” (Romans 8:7). It is a mind that is set “on the things of the flesh” rather than on “the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). It means exercising the faculties of your personality in ways that are not dependent on the God whose presence alone imparts to you the quality of true humanity that He always intended for you.
It means thinking godlessly. In other words, thinking lightlessly, with a mind still in darkness. You take a step, you make a decision, you conceive your plans, you assume a responsibility, all without relating the situation to God and to His light and to all that He is within you.
This carnal mind can be in the believer just as much as in the unbeliever. Carnal or fleshly Christians have been regenerated by the restoration of the Holy Spirit to their human spirit, but in certain ways they still repudiate the Spirit’s legitimate right to reestablish the rule of Christ in their minds, in their emotions, and in their wills. Although they profess Christ as Redeemer, their actions and decisions typically are taken for the sake of their own interests and for who they are in themselves, rather than for God’s interests and for who He is. Their minds are still the plaything and the workshop of the devil, for the devil is smart enough and cunning enough that he can always persuade countless numbers of professing Christians to try and be Christians without Christ. They are willing to do anything for Jesus’ sake, but they fail to understand that His presence is absolutely imperative to do it, that without Him we are nothing, have nothing, and can do nothing.
To be a carnal Christian is still to claim the right to exercise your own jurisdiction, make your own decisions and plans, and choose your own pathway. But you will be useless to God, and you will make it into heaven only “as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15).
What kind of Christian do you want to be? To choose to be a carnal Christian is to choose spiritual oblivion. But if you decide genuinely that Christ must be everything and have everything in your life, if you say in your heart, “I want nothing less than to be all that for which the blood of God’s dear Son was shed,” then He is ready to lead you into discoveries that can completely revolutionize your whole humanity for time and eternity.
After reading this, I stopped, paused, pondered…and then read it again, twice…each time more powerful than the last. The power of those words, of our lives, my life, lived in my own good common sense and discernment, and my interests…. my money, my house, my family, my priorities, my time, my endeavors… rather than that dependent posture of His to whom I am submitted – subject of the King, sovereign and merciful and for whom I have no right but gratitude that He chose me – chief amongst sinners, not on any justice or fairness, but His grace. I am floored, silenced and pause.
Please read just a bit more.
As if not stunned for a week, He had a touch more. He had also nudged me to take along one more book in my time with Him today, as if I am slow. Okay, I am slow. A friend of mine, Matt Woodward, urged me to take a look into a book months ago. I had read it but it was a hectic and unsettled time, and I’ve been rereading it. The chapter I read today, of which I will only share a portion is the icing on this spiritual cake”
If you have ever seen the movie, Fiddler on the Roof, you will probably remember the delightful give-and-take that Tevye, the Jewish mil-man, has with God. He is always pausing mid-scene to discuss something with the Lord right out loud. Back and forth he goes, arguing with God, arguing with himself, pleading, cojoling, even waving his fist, bantering with God as though He’s an old friend who can be buttonholed for advice or a favor anything. God might be invisible, but His presence is palpable. Tevye has a profound sense of God’s continual nearness and an easy comfort in his prayer life that many of us might envy.What if there were a way to feel a little more like Tevye? What was it about his culture that cultivated a sense of God’s immediacy? Believe it or not, Tevye understood an ancient practice that dates from Jesus’ time, one that can greatly enrich our lives today.At one point in the movie, some one questions the rabbi of the Russian village in which Tevye lives, asking him, “Is there a blessing for the sewing machine?”“There’s a blessing for everything!” the rabbi replies. He was talking about the rich Jewish tradition of the blessing. This little habit of prayer can be truly transformational, instilling a sense of God’s continual presence in those who practice it. Let’s take a closer look. A few hundred years before jesus’ time, Jes began to pay close attention to the words Moses spoke on the edge of the Promised Land: “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the land which He has given you” (Deuteronomy 8.10). He then went on to warn the people that when their silver and gold multiplied, they would be tempted to forget the Lord’s great gift, thinking that their own efforts had produced their prosperity (8.14). In order to heed this warning, the Jewish people developed a tradition (habit) of offering specific, short prayers throughout the day, from the instant they awoke until the moment they fell asleep. This has been the practice for many Jews from Jesus’ time until today, to remind themselves of God all day long by saying short prayers of Blessing.”
Uuuhh… I saw here the morning sun dancing in and out of the clouds racing by from the Gulf this morning… I could, to borrow from the author’s words, taste the palpable presence of God, The Living God, the one whom I can talk to, argue with and consider that friend who can with a smile, show me myself to encourage and to admonish. Today’s exhortation to entwine, reintegrate Him into my entire life, day, posture, attitudes, through my decisions, emotions, actions, will… sought me out.
For this, I am grateful. Thank you for reading my treatise and encounter. May you be encouraged by His gentle nudge as well.