Here are links to the resources we talked about Sunday for Praying the Psalms. On the Bible translations, I included a link to the Psalms alone and another to Psalms and Proverbs. They are priced the same. Unfortunately, the Psalm/Proverb combo is out of stock at amazon. With several of these books, if you buy them through amazon, the Kindle version is then available at a significantly reduced rate. Nice to have the Bible available on a device too.
These words by St Augustine were part of my daily reading yesterday. They are worth savoring on this Christmas Day.
Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.
You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.
Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.
He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.
Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of a virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.
Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.
Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.
Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory,” but of God’s glory: for justice has not proceeded from us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.
For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.
For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ, were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.
Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head. For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become the son of God?
Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.
IF YOU WANT
by St John of the Cross
the Virgin will come walking down the road
pregnant with the holy,
“I need shelter for the night, please take me inside your heart,
my time is so close.”
Then, under the roof of your soul, you will witness the sublime
intimacy, the divine, the Christ
as she grasps your hand for help, for each of us
is the midwife of God, each of us.
Yet there, under the dome of your being does creation
come into existence eternally, through your womb, dear pilgrim—
the sacred womb in your soul,
as God grasps our arms for help; for each of us is
His beloved servant
If you want, the Virgin will come walking
down the street pregnant
with Light and sing.
During SouthField's Summer on the Soul we've been recommending a different Soul Care Exercise each week. The activities are cumulative, so we keep practicing them as we add new ones.
Week four is relevant to modern life: Screen Control.
Our lives are dominated by screens--
TV's, Computers, Smartphones, Tablets, etc.
Screen can draining the life from our souls. They are influencing our ethics, modifying our morals, distancing us from those closest to us, causing us to choose virtual interactions over face to face conversations and in the darkest moments, leading some to choose internet intimacy over biblical sexual encounters.
We left the application of this one pretty wide open, realizing that everyone interacts with screen differently.
Choose a screen that could have a draining influence on your life. Pay attention to its impact and modify your interaction with it.
Let me share mine.
My morning routine is deadly predictable:
Wish I could stay in bed
Head to the coffee pot
While coffee is brewing, peek at phone (overnight emails and Facebook updates)
Click on the morning news
Sit down with coffee
Wish I could go back to bed
I know from past experiences, my life is better, my soul is healthier, when the screens do not make it to the short list of my first activities of the day.
This week I am not looking at a phone, computer or TV before my morning prayer walk or before 9:00am.
I will not say it has been easy. The impulse to click the remote or pick up the phone is strong. I've gotta say, my soul feels better. Connecting with God before I connect with my virtual life is restoring my soul.
We've been working on this great question from Sunday:
What are we to do when we see others doing impure things? Do we speak up? As a teacher I struggle daily with this.
One of the complicating factors in the questions is that teachers are in a setting where overt conversations about faith are not always encouraged and even not permitted in some cases. So what do we do?
We can never underestimate two great powers of God: prayer and letting our life speak.
If I were a teacher, all my kids would be in my prayers all the time. Think about it, God has given you a year in the life of these kids, and I truly believe it is for more than just teaching English. It is quite possible that they have never had anyone intercede on their behalf before God. God has let you in on their lives for a purpose. Pray for them by name. Pray against their temptations. Pray for a longing for something better, for something more within them.
The second is also powerful: letting our life speak. Jesus called us the salt of the earth and the light of the world. So much of our nature as salt and light is to just be there, being a solid witness of what life in God looks like.
I do not raise either of these as a cop out to overt confrontation. We still need to have conversations about character, or lack of it. We still need to plant questions that work in their minds and hearts. Ask a lot of questions...thought-provoking questions. Mostly, we need to express loving concern for their well-being. So many of their impure decisions risk their physical, mental, emotional, moral and spiritual health, not just today, but for years to come.
I believe in appropriate, loving conversation and confrontation. But too often we act as if we do not truly believe in the deep power of the tools God has given us.
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. 17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.
Let your lips speak to God on their behalf. Let your life speak to them on God's behalf.
Here's the question tweeted Sunday:
What are we to do when we see others doing impure things? Do we speak up? As a teacher I struggle daily with this.
We started yesterday with motive. Why do I feel compelled to speak up... to get involved? Love has got to be our driving motivation. Any lesser motive is an invitation to sit in silence until our heart is in the right place. God is actually using this as an invitation to grow Christ in us.
If the motive is pure love, then a second question must be raised: does the person claim to follow Christ?
Our response differs based on the answer.
The Bible is clear about our relationship toward fellow Christ followers. We are to live in community, calling each other to live out the high standards of devotion to Jesus. I could list many verses.
In the positive, Hebrews 10:24 says
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
On the other hand, all of 1 Corinthians 5 helps us to discern our role when sin is the issue.
We have a responsibility to call each other toward Christ-likeness, and to call out sin. This however, does not give us license to be rude, insensitive and inappropriate. Discretion is in order. Matthew 18 lays out a process for confrontation that starts privately, one on one. Too often we talk to everyone but the person, and when we finally do, we blurt it out in a public setting. Loving kindness is the key. Again, we are motivated by love. This is not a purity witch hunt; it is an opportunity to lovingly bring a person back toward God.
As far as the person who does not claim or pretend to follow Christ, I am concerned that at times we miss the point. We try to correct behavior without getting to the root cause. God wants more than corrected behavior or proficient sin management. He wants true conversion. Cleaning up behavior simply leaves us with well-behaved pagans.
Their need is Christ!
Does this mean that there is never a place for input or correction? No. We still want the better path for this person whom we love. But we do not simply want the better path, we want the best path. Focus on the real issue; they need Jesus!
I come back to where we started. All of this is about love. Paul speaks of being compelled by Christ's love.
Below you'll find an extended passage from 2 Corinthians 5. In the NIV it is entitled, "The Ministry of Reconciliation." This is our calling, not to simply clean up the world by correcting immoral behavior, but to bring people safely home to God. When they are reconciled, the old is gone and the new can come!
2 Corinthians 5:11-21
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Part 3 tomorrow
On Sunday morning we've added a feature--The Five Minute Follow Up. It provides an opportunity to Tweet, Text or Toss a question back to the stage about the teaching of the day.
Five minutes creates two challenges: lack of time for all the answers and lack of time to give a studied answer. Sunday we hit a third challenge...technology glitch. I missed this question in my feed, and it's a good one:
I want to answer this one with three posts.
As Christ followers, all examination starts at home, and by home I mean, within our hearts.
We have to start with some serious self reflection.
First, we need to ask ourselves the why question: Why do I want to raise this issue with the other person? Any motive less than love is a suspect motive. My desire to call another person toward righteous living must come from a deep seated love for the other person. I want to see them experience God's best. By examining my motive, I am actually allowing God to use this moment to form something good in me.
Please understand, I do not think that a loving approach guarantees that the other person will receive our words positively. A motivation of love is not about manipulating the results. It's about being like Christ in every way.
The other area of required reflection is to examine where we are personally with the issue we are about to address. I am amazed in working with broken people (and being a broken person myself) just how often we are quick to point out in another person the very sin we are carrying in our own flesh. Or maybe it is not the same sin, but pointing out their sin helps to camouflage my own.
And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 42 How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
Pretty vivid illustration. Jesus knows that we are great at spotting dust in the eye of another when we have a tree growing out of our own heads.
By the way, I do not think Jesus is saying we can say nothing until we are perfect. He's talking about owning our own junk. We can actually approach another person with sincere words like, "You know, I struggle with this too" or "I'm working on this as well."
Our starting point matters. The starting point in confrontation has to be me, my heart. We need to ask, "Why am I doing this?" Do I really love this person and want God's best for them? We also need to ask, "How am I doing with this?" Is it possible that God's Spirit is giving us an opportunity to look in the mirror and see our own fault, our own sin?