Saturday, September 24, 2011

Meditations Brother Lawrence and Practicing the Presence

Brother Lawrence for Normal People

First Meditation:

"That in the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time, the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit appear, he received a high view of the Providence and Power of GOD, which has never since been effaced from his soul. That this view had perfectly set him loose from the world, and kindled in him such a love for GOD, that he could not tell whether it had increased in above forty years that he had lived since."

A. An Experience that Changed His World View

(1) what he sees: a cold and bleak winter scene, deadness, no apparent hope. Might as well chop the tree down and have some fire wood. However, what he sees in the here and now is not all that there is. From experience, he knows that in just a short while, the leaves, the flowers and fruit will most certainly come out upon this tree.

(2) As sure as the sun rises and sets, the earth turns upon its axis, tilted at just the right angle so that as the earth revolves around the sun, the seasons change with perfect regularity. He knows that as winter turns to spring, the sun's rays will hit the tree for longer and longer periods every day. Photosynthesis, taking solar energy, water and nutrients drawn up from the earth through the tree's roots, will produce the compounds that the tree needs, and the tree "knows" that it is time to sprout leaves and blossoms and fruit. Every year it is the same. He may even notice the leaves turning to follow the sun as it courses through the spring sky. He may stop to look at the beauty of one of the blossoms, and marvel at the artist who designed it. He may wonder how in the world that blossom turns into a peach -- but he knows for certain that it will.

B. So what was his worldview before? Perhaps it was as simple (and prevalent) as not taking God into account, or assuming that what you see is all there is or all there ever will be. But what Brother Lawrence sees in the dead and barren tree is that there is Someone who is a designer, provider, planner, and executor of those beautifully designed and wonderful plans. He sees that it is God who is the author of this universe, the designer and creator of the planet and the plant and animal kingdoms. He established it all according to His plans and rules, the laws of thermodynamics and gravity, planetary alignment and rotation, plant and animal DNA, ad the reliability of organic and inorganic chemical reactions that have and will continue to support and sustain life on this planet.

C. Before this revelation, Lawrence did not have a high view of the Providence and Power of GOD. Now, he does, and it is permanent. God opened Brother Lawrence's eyes and heart to see this truth. He was given a powerful revelation of the real providence and power of God. This was something that Lawrence saw, a reality that overtook his former ignorance of God and replaced it with a view of the world that included God as the force to be reckoned with, who was foundational to Lawrence's view of reality. From then on, he lived, breathed, walked, talked and thought with this foundation. God must be considered and factored in to everything -- since He is the source of all that this tree needs for life, God must also be the source of all Lawrence needs for HIS life.

D. This revelation cut him loose from the world. How did it do that? Perhaps it was seeing that the creator of the world and all that is in it, might be a better "bet" than what is in the hands (i.e., at the mercy) of that creative power. He saw that the world and all that is in it is subject to and dependent upon the creative and providential power of God, and not the other way around. Perhaps it was seeing the love of God and having a love FOR God kindled, that cut him loose from the world... the expulsive power of a new affection, as Thomas Chalmers wrote.

E. This revelation not only cut him loose from the world, it also kindled in Brother Lawrence a love for God -- an appreciation of the majesty, glory, and character of God. This God who does all this must be good and loving, a provider for those whom He loves. He is much smarter than we could ever imagine. He is more powerful than any human being who ever lived, because He is the Creator of every human being who ever lived (and every tree). God is someone who can be trusted and depended upon; someone you know will care what happens to you. Someone who will not pull the rug out from under you.

F. Brother Lawrence stopped and took the time to ponder. He did not hurry to his destination, whatever that might have been. He thought and meditated with a readiness to see whatever God might put in his path to see or to do. He wasn't so intent on his own agenda that he whirled past what God wanted to show him.

G. It had been forty years, and in that time, his love for GOD was so big that he could not even tell if it had grown in that span of time. How did that happen? How can I have that kind of love for God? Perhaps it is as simple as "you have not because you ask not."

Nancy Green

September 24, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What Does It Mean If I Refuse to Be a Forgiving Person?

Say somebody sins against me. Happens every once in awhile. When I demand restitution, atonement, repentance and sorrow (DEMAND, not hope in Christ that He will "make it right" if that's His will for me or the situation), then my theology is wrong on more than one level.

First level: What does the Gospel say? All of _____'s sins have been atoned for, nailed to the Cross and Jesus has taken the death penalty for those sins. There can be no double jeopardy. There has been a break in relationship, perhaps a fracture of our trust in one another, but all the crime has been paid for. So what we work on, being confident of that theology, is our relationship and our trust.

Second level: What sins (yours or theirs) were bad enough that Jesus had to go all the way to dying on the Cross to cleanse and forgive them?

When I put my sin behind me
And forget what I have done
There's not a shred of mercy
Found within my heart
When I forget that it was my sin
That caused my Lord to die
And demand you toe the line
While I skate on by, loving
All those people who love me
All of them who think I'm fine
Choking on the Gospel
Gulping sacramental wine.

What do I REALLY think? How much sin did Jesus die for? How much of it is the other person's? Was it a lot? Was it a little?

Had it been just my sin that was involved, would Jesus have just kind of ignored it, or at least shaken His head and thought, "Ah, that's not so bad. She's trying."

Or would my sin been enough, foul and filthy, wretched and humiliating, so much so, in fact, that Jesus would have hefted the cross, taken the betrayal and beatings, the torture and mocking, and bled just for my sin, because - yeah, it really IS that bad?

When you're in the right, suffered a wrong at the hands of somebody, feeling pretty righteous because they've gone too far and caused you some damage, do you weigh their sins and see them as HUGE, compare them to yours and think, "wow, I'd never do anything quite that bad. But THAT person's sin - what they just did to me - well, that required the death of the Son of God. But my sins, Jesus would have understood my heart, known I'm trying to be a good person. He'd just wink and shrug His shoulders at mine; but their sins? They deserve the wrath of God!"

Any of those thoughts ringing true? Well, I must admit, they have a ring of truth for me, as a matter of fact. The evidence of my true mindset is there, shown by the way I've been behaving (long term behavior, style of relating, demanding restitution, withholding forgiveness until certain non-negotiable conditions have been met, etc.). I may be oblivious to it and live in denial, but it cannot be hidden from God or the people who really know me.

If those thoughts are ringing true (any of them) then our theology is wrong. Are we counting sins here? Are we measuring sinfulness by specific acts of conduct or failures to act? By any specific attitudes? What is sin, anyway? Is it my basic heart condition (idol-factory), or is it just all the little specific instances where I put myself first and said "to heck with you"?

Why was God so offended with my heart or my behavior, my thoughts or my words? Why is my sinful heart bad enough that it would require the precious infinitely valuable and beloved blood of the Son of God to be spilt to cleanse and forgive me? Am I that vile? filthy? untouchable or awful?

Well, as a matter of fact, yes. And when I can finally get that right, when that gets into my heart, then mercy will flow from me in measure with the amount of mercy that God through Jesus Christ, has lavished upon me. Oh, I believe, Lord. Help me in my unbelief!

Friday, January 28, 2011

I have a tendency to insulate myself from God by letting a human sit in the place where God belongs - and that is the essence of idolatry. Human approval or rejection cannot, does not, define me or my value as a person, but I have allowed both to do that for as long as I can remember. My Jesus is the One - His smile of approval, His words of correction or admonition, His comfort, are what my soul really needs and thirsts for.
Lord, please wean me from hunger for human approval or fear of rejection, disapproval or anger. Help me to be on such intimate terms with You that all my needs (or fears) for such things are fully and abundantly met in You, my Lord. I worship the ground You walk on and melt when You let me know You love me. Help me to bring all my hurts and feelings of rejection to You for You to take care of, and not bleed all over the place in devastation, feeling empty because some human being didn't give me what I was expecting. (sigh) You alone. Only You.
And upon being nourished and comforted, strengthened and provided for by You, help me to stand and speak the Truth in love, humility and courage. Amen!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Trust Is a Big Deal

The evidence of genuine faith is intentional and active trust and confidence in Who God is and what He has said. We have a better chance of being most satisfied in God when we are dependent on and trust Him for all things all the time.
What does it mean to trust God with all my heart (Prov. 3:5-6)? It means that I trust Him enough to obey, and am confident enough in His character to wait patiently on His promises; and when I blow it, I am secure enough in His love to be completely transparent with Him. As the father said when Jesus was about to cast the demon out of his son (Mark 9) "I believe; help my unbelief!" well, for me, it's "I trust You, Jesus; please help me trust You more every day."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Believe, Trust, Depend & Obey

John Piper's famous saying: "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." Well said!

Perhaps we would be more satisfied in Him if we would believe Him, trust Him, depend on Him and obey Him. As for believing God, it seems to me that although we say we believe Him, our belief is qualified or parceled out and filtered through a grid of our own mental and experiential processes. That is, if the promise seems realistic and makes sense, i.e., not too outlandish, then we believe it. As R. C. Sproul Jr. says in his book "Believing God," we have a little simultaneous translator sitting on our shoulder when we read God's Word, and that "translator" says "oh, God couldn't really mean what you think He's saying! We may secretly think that promise is a bit like the used car salesman telling you that the luxury sports car you're considering buying was only driven by a little old lady from Pasadena, when she drove to church." You shake your head wistfully and say "I wish that were true, but it can't be. It promises too much." So, you qualify the promise and it ends up emasculating what God intended to say to you. Example: God loves us. We wriggle out of that one by saying "nothing more than that He forgives us, that He is gracious to us. . . . [God's] love isn't exactly like our love. But this doesn't diminish the promise; rather, it amplifies it." We theorize that because we are filled with the Spirit of Christ, it is really only Jesus IN US whom God loves. But we are UNITED with Christ. "we all, if we are in Christ, are so loved that we have been adopted into the very family of God." When appear before God in Heaven, he will not just "look over His glasses at you, shuffle a few papers, bang His celestial gavel and say 'Not Guilty. Next'." He will pull up the hems of His robe as He sees you from afar off, and RUN TO MEET YOU, embrace you, and call for the fattened calf to be killed and prepared for you, for a banquet in celebration of your return to the Family. (See, Believing God, R. C. Sproul, Chapter 2 "Our Heavenly Father Loves Us."

As believing God pleases Him, so does trusting. He designed us to trust Him, depend on Him, and love Him back. Then we will obey from the bottom of our hearts, depending on Him to supply what we need according to His riches, trusting Him to bring us safely to His heavenly Kingdom. When He comes through on His promise, as He most surely will, we will be satisfied in Him, and He will be glorified.