But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Saint Augustine gave a sermon once in which he proposed a kind of self-test to see if we truly love God; Suppose God proposed you a deal and said “I will give you anything you want. You can possess the whole world. Nothing will be impossible for you…nothing will be a sin, nothing forbidden. You will never die, never have pain, never have anything you do not want and always have anything you do want….except for one thing; you will never see my face.” St. Augustine closed with a question; did a chill arise in your hearts, when you heard the words, “You will never see my face”? That chill is the most precious thing in you; that is the pure love of God.
Every time I read the wise words of this story I get such a wave of desire…desire to try harder to be holy! I realize after reading St. Augustine’s words I have a renewed sense of purpose…a new strength…a new hope. I think we work so hard at doing the “right thing” maybe we forget just what we’re working for. It’s easy to get into the habit of doing good things so others will think we’re “nice”. In the words of our former parish priest, Fr. James, “nowhere in the bible are we called to be nice!” We are called to be holy, called to be uncomfortable, called to realize sometimes the Gospel’s hit us sideways…and that’s ok! We are called to do the hard work of following Christ…being His hands and feet on earth and that, as we all know, isn’t always easy. There are days, when that offer from God St. Augustine talked about seems like a great idea! Those are the times we need to set out with new energy to do His work and know it isn’t without great blessing and reward.
I read this story tonight and then I told the room full of teenagers listening, “Our number one task is to get to heaven! Everything we do, say, listen to, watch and everyone we hang out with will either help us get there, or draw us away so pay attention!” The temptation is there to think one little thing here or there won’t matter but it’s still a step away from our task. The most powerful thing I can think of to make those decisions easier is to remember what’s waiting for us in heaven…the face of God. That’s something worth fighting for…that trumps everything! We just have to remember it!
A Seed To Plant: Print the words to St. Augustine’s sermon and read them every day this week. I’m willing to bet if you let them really sink into your heart, living the Gospel message will have a new meaning!
Blessings on your day!
I have made you, I will carry you, I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4
Have you ever made a promise you didn’t keep? When a promise is broken it’s a lousy feeling no matter which end of the promise you’re on. I can remember being in 5th grade and a friend of mine had just received a new cartoon/joke book and I wanted to read it so bad. I promised to give him a dime if he would let me borrow it before everyone else that wanted to look at it got a chance. He let me borrow it and I remember thinking how much more I would have enjoyed the book if I could have actually made good on my promise. I knew good and well that I didn’t have any money to give him and I knew mom and dad wouldn’t have given me the money for such a silly thing. A dime had great value and money was to be used for necessary things only. I couldn’t even finish reading the book that night because I knew I’d have to explain to my friend the next day that I’d broken my promise and I felt too lousy to enjoy the book. I don’t know why that story sticks with me to this day but every now and again it bubbles up in my mind. When I saw this verse the memory of the broken promise sprung up and I realized how my weakness is one of his most amazing strengths.
We are a pretty stubborn and independent people sometimes aren’t we! I forget the truth of this verse from the Prophet Isaiah…often! I’m pretty good at trusting God when things are hard or crazy. I’m pretty good at knowing he will rescue me but while reading this verse and considering what it promises something new occurred to me… probably something he’s been trying to tell me for years! Here’s the revelation…HE MEANS ALL THE TIME! I tend to think I can coast along and tend to the easy stuff saving his service for the tough stuff or for when I’m in over my head. I think I honestly convince myself that when things are smooth I can handle it so he can assist someone who has a bigger need or a heavier cross to carry. It’s almost as if I think I’m doing him a favor by not bugging him so much. The problem with that is when I’m not depending on the truth of his promise I get the false sense that I’m in charge and that never ends well.
Everywhere I go I seem to hear the phrase, “work smarter not harder”. Well duh…I think that’s exactly what this verse is saying. Working smarter means completely living the truth of this verse…everyday…when things are great and when they’re not! If we really believe in these promises from our Loving Father, life just gets better and better. He will never break a promise…ever. If I look at the disappointments in my life I might be tempted to think God wasn’t there for me but the truth is those disappointments that felt like broken promises came at exactly those times when I was trying to take care of things myself and give him a break. So…I think I get it now! This one little verse spoken a few thousand years ago still has enormous truth and promise even today. I think I’ll tape them somewhere important so I can read them again and again. I promise God, I’ll pay more attention to them!
A Seed To Plant: Join me in putting this powerful verse somewhere visible and pray with these words this week.
Blessings on your day!
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
Hope! That’s a word I don’t really pay much attention to. I say things like “Gee I hope we get a snow day so I can catch up a little.” Or “I hope I can finish the laundry and get to bed before midnight.” I don’t think that’s the kind of hope Christ promises. However I got a little glimpse of how powerful real hope can be and I just had to share the story.
A big group of teenagers from the area boarded a bus at 5:30 Wednesday morning headed for the March For Life Rally in Washington DC. They will spend two nights sleeping on gym floors, invest about 20 of the 60 hours they are gone traveling on a bus and stand in the winter cold for one important reason…to support life! It’s not a luxury vacation they were excited about; the enthusiasm I saw in the early morning darkness was contagious and hopeful and rooted in something so much more important than a trip!
My classes prayed for those teenagers who went to the Nation’s Capital to make a statement about the desperate need for a culture of life. We prayed for their safety, we prayed for their mission and we prayed that God and those who needed to hear their message would respond. After prayers the middle lovelies wanted to know what they would be doing on the trip so I gave them a run down of the activities of the trip which will include a Matt Maher concert, and they wanted to know how old they had to be before they could go. I asked them how many of them would like to go when they were old enough and many raised their hands enthusiastically. Then one beautiful middle lovey said, “I don’t want to go!” Surprised at her response I asked her to explain. That’s when a tidal wave of hope washed over me and left me with tears. She said, “I don’t want to go because I want abortion and all the babies it kills to end so there won’t even be one of these rallies to go to when I’m older.” Holy cow! What hope; what faith! She understands the concept of praying with expectation. I realized how easy it is to grumble about all the things that are wrong in the world around us but to pray with HOPE is a beautiful thing and it took an eleven year old to remind me of that.
I spent the rest of the day just floating on that feeling of hope and the joy and peace that came with it. I was pondering it all while running errands and grabbing a quick bite to eat with Dave. Before our dinner arrived we started chatting with a guy at the table next to us. He was outlining all the things that were wrong with this country. His rant on the woes of the world included everything from too many electronics to poor parenting to a complete lack of morals and overwhelming greed. Some of his thoughts had merit but I had to draw the line when he said something along the lines of, “This country’s goin to hell in a hand basket because the kids in this country are a bunch of spoiled brats who can’t do anything but take! It’s all pretty hopeless!” After the day I’d had I absolutely could not have disagreed more! He didn’t know the kids I knew, he didn’t see what I’d seen or hear what I’d heard and I felt bad for him. I tried to give him a glimpse but he didn’t want to entertain the notion that he might be wrong. I suppose he taught me that what makes hope so powerful is you have to want it!
I want it don’t you? If you could use a little hope, start in God’s Word then make it a point to look around you and find the folks that are alive with the love of Christ, let them be the light of hope we all need in this crazy world. After you’ve grabbed on to some hope of your own, make sure you share it!
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time in the Word and find 3 or 4 verses that contain the word hope. Read, ponder and share them!
Blessings on your day!
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