Reflections on the Morning Scripture

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject whatever is harmful. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

—1 Thessalonians 5:14-24 (TNIV)

Here Paul gives us some practical advice about how Christians should live in the “end times,” the time between Christ’s first and second comings, whenever the latter may occur. Apparently there were some Thessalonians who thought Jesus’ return was imminent and so they just stopped working. Paul would have none of that, however. He reminds us that we are to do our part in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. We are not to kick back and expect the Spirit to do our work for us, either in our vocation or in our spiritual lives. The Holy Spirit will indeed do his part but we are expected to do ours as well in cooperation with the Spirit.

Notice too the hope that is contained in this passage. We have this hope because this life and this world are not the end game. Paul has previously talked about the New Creation and our future destiny living with the Lord Jesus. That is the basis of our hope as Christians and that is the source of our joy, irrespective of circumstance we find ourselves dealing with in this broken and fallen world. Take heart! Take hope! Paul is reminding us again to live in the here and now, but also to realize the here and now isn’t your destiny. Living with the Lord Jesus in his New Creation is.

Last, notice the emphasis Paul gives to living life together. No rugged individualism here. Yes, we are to do our part and take responsibility for our lives. But we are to live life together. We are to encourage each other, warn each other, be patient with each other, and to look out for each other’s good. We are to be moral people and allow ourselves to be held accountable by our fellow Christians. This is Christian love in action. This is what Christian love looks like. We do all this with hopeful expectation, waiting and watching for our Lord’s return so that we will not be caught with our proverbial knickers down.

And why do we do this? Simply in response to our faithful Lord who has redeemed us by his blood and promises to return to finish the mighty work he started when he took on our flesh and became human. We can count on his promises because Paul reminds us, along with the rest of the biblical witness, that God is always faithful, even when we are not.

Do you have this kind of hope and expectation? If not, what is holding you back?

Another Prayer for the Easter Season

O God, who by the life and death and rising again of your dear Son has consecrated for us a new and living way into the holiest of all: cleanse our minds, we ask you, by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that drawing near to you with a pure heart and conscience undefiled, we may receive these gifts without sin and worthily magnify your holy name. Amen.

Liturgy of St. James

The Openness of Heaven

In heaven everyone will see the thoughts which now only God sees. There no one will wish to conceal what they think because no one will think evil. Just now our thoughts are only known by ourselves; they are hidden in darkness from our neighbor. In heaven your neighbor will know what you are thinking. Why be afraid? Now you fear to reveal your thoughts because sometimes your thoughts are wicked. In heaven you will have only good thoughts. Just as now you are willing to let others see your face, in heaven you will be willing to let them see your conscience.

—Augustine, Sermon 243.5

The Deepest in God

Now what is the deepest in God? His Power? No, for power could not make him what we mean when we say God. Evil could, of course, never create one atom; but let us understand very plainly, that a being whose essence was only power would be such a negation of the divine that no righteous worship could be offered him: his service must be fear, and fear only. Such a being, even were he righteous in judgment, yet could not be God. The God himself whom we love could not be righteous were he not something deeper and better still than we generally mean by the word—but, alas, how little can language say without seeming to say something wrong! In one word, God is Love. Love is the deepest depth, the essence of his nature, at the root of all his being.

—George MacDonald, Creation in Christ

How to Measure Progress in Prayer

If you wish to know whether you have made progress, my daughters, here is the measure for each of you: that you consider yourself the most imperfect of all and that you show this belief by actions conducing to the advancement and good of others. Consolations in prayer and ecstasies, visions, or any such favors which the Lord may give are not the signs to look for; we must wait until the next world to understand their value. The knowledge of yourself is current money, an unfailing revenue, an estate in perpetuity; it is no annuity subject to cancellation. Extraordinary favors, however, may come and go. Our true treasure consists in humility, mortification [the process of putting to death our sinful nature], and…perfect obedience.

—Teresa of Avila, Way of Perfection