All Good Things Come From God

Daily Office Meditations: 6th Week of Easter – Tuesday

 

(5) For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; (6) That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children,

Psalm 78:5-6;

 

(11) ” Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today,

Deuteronomy 8:11

 

16) Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (17) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

James 1:16-17

 

(2) When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. (3) Give us day by day our daily bread. (4) And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”

Luke 11:2-4

The most helpful thing that I have found for keeping God in the proper place in my life is a daily acknowledgment of the ways He has provided for me. We see in the Psalm and the Deuteronomy passage this same principle. We need to see God’s character in His provisions for us. The two lies that the devil attempts to get us to believe are lies about 1. The character of God, 2. The power of God.

When the Israelites were complaining in the desert, right after God rescued them of decades of slavery in Egypt through miraculous means, they lost sight of either the character or the power of God. When He provided food and water in the desert, they asked: “Can God provide meat for His people?” It’s easy to write off the Israelites as terrible people, “a stubborn and rebellious generation,” but we can so easily fall into this same trap.

When I was leaving for college, I didn’t have the funds for my first year. My mom called me the day before I was leaving to tell me that an anonymous donor had provided the funds. The following year, the same thing happened. My third year, I bought my books, registered for classes, and even attended one day of classes in faith, but no money came. It was so easy for me to doubt God that week. He had miraculously provided thousands of dollars for me to attend that school and the first time He didn’t I doubted His plan and resented Him.

I had to remind myself at that moment of what He had done for me. God has never forsaken me, He has provided above and beyond what I have needed and there is no circumstance that can separate me from the love of God. I never finished school and that still grates on me to this day, but I have learned to stop questioning God, as He has used every aspect of my story to propel me into His purposes. His track record towards me is just too good.

James reminds us to count all good things as coming from God. Ann Voscamp wrote a book on how gratitude changed her life. When we put God in His rightful place as the provider of all that is good in our life, it is impossible to live in fear or resentment. How do we put God in His rightful place? We remember everything He has done for us and for those we love. We write down our testimonies (big or small) and we share them with others. We read of the marvelous works He has done in Scripture and in Christian books or blogs.

And we pray the way Christ has taught us to pray. “Our Father” affirms the good identity of God. Later in this same passage, Jesus talks of how we give good gifts to our children and how much more God will give good gifts to us. “Who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” Puts God in His proper place in reference to our daily struggles. God is bigger and greater than anything we are to face. “His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts.” We may not see the big picture, but we can be assured that “all things work together for our good.” “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” Here we see our mission and focus. Because we acknowledge God’s rightful place through our gratitude and worship, we are automatically oriented towards His will and His kingdom. And since His kingdom is heaven, we are called to bring heaven to earth. This is amazingly encouraging to me as I build my family and establish the small slice of the kingdom that God has given me: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” “Give us this day our daily bread” God is the provider. Your job, money, family, success, fame do not provide for you. God is the one who provides for your daily needs, look to Him. “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” Easy link: If we are fully convinced of the greatest miracle of God’s forgiveness and grace towards us through the death and resurrection of His Son, then how can we hold anyone’s sin against them? Our forgiveness and their forgiveness are linked and bought with a price. “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil” This is the result of following the principles above. If you acknowledge God as your good, all-powerful Father, then why run after that which does not satisfy. Tonight my son longed to touch the blazing-hot metal part of the oven door as I was removing our fully-cooked, home-made pizzas. I kept him from that and he was convinced that I was withholding his deepest desire at that moment. We are much like Rowan in that regard. Any time we face temptation, we are questioning whether God really knows our good and cares for our good above all else.

So we see today in the Daily Office a call to orient our lives around God and what He has accomplished for us. I pray that each and every person reading this will take the time to allow God to reveal the depth of His love for us, that type of revelation will transform you from the inside out.

How to Respond to Profound Evil

There are some things that we encounter in the world that are profoundly evil. Friday night, the world witnessed that evil in the attack on locations in Paris that resulted in 129 dead, 352 injured, and heartbreak beyond count. The slaughter of innocents in the name of fear is profoundly evil. Events like this leave us reeling, no response seems good enough and, for those who attempt to comfort the mourning, words ring hollow. How then do we respond to these acts of depravity and brokenness? How do we shine the light of Christ into such immense darkness?

Silence.

First, we are silent. Words ring hollow and there is a reason we observe moments of silence in the wake of tragedy. There is a power in shared silence, in a space created for the chasm of grief. It is not an inactive or passive silence, this is an empathetic connection that speaks loudly, “we are here for you.” This silence is modeled with Job’s friends after he has lost his sons and daughters. These friends lose their power of comfort as soon as they begin to speak. The power of silence cannot be overestimated. We use words to calm our own hearts, to ease our conscience, to quantify the unquantifiable, but there is an engagement with reality in silence that goes farther than any verbal formulation. That is why we are told to, “Be still and know that I am God.”

After silence, we should weep with those who weep. The Biblical practice of lamentation is an all too unfamiliar spiritual expression among Western Christians. “How long O Lord!” is the chief refrain of the lament. How long will you be silent, how long will you allow the wicked to flourish, how long until we are saved out the depths of the pit? We should cry out against injustice, we should join our voices to the mourning in our cries for healing and restoration. The Psalms are full of prayers prayed from the depth of despair and anger. We should not shy away from our feelings and we should not throw our feelings into accusation. Encounter God in those places through lament. There are probably many people who feel forsaken in the wake of tragedy: Jesus’s own lament began, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” The miracle of lament is found in the power of putting our everything before God; through that process we often find the strength to praise Him in the midst of our doubt and suffering.

As we lament and call out against the wickedness of these acts, we are called to a place that can only be reached by God’s grace. We are called to pray for those who persecute us. In the midst of the lament against injustice, we call out for the redemption of the attackers and not just the victims. We call out blessings on those who would curse us. Martin Luther King phrases it beautifully, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” We must love our enemies, we must pray for them. This is not an abstract love with the support of forced prayers through gritted teeth. This is a love that would, and did, die for those who persecuted Him. This is not an easy thing (the praying for our enemies often precedes the loving of them), but through the power of the Holy Spirit we can change our vengeful hearts. The journey to Christ is long, but it ends in love’s embrace of us and our loving embrace of all men.

Finally, the love that is shown through the sharing of suffering in silence, the lamentation against injustice, and the prayers for our enemies and brethren alike will cast out fear. The attack on Paris was a “terror” attack and the purpose was to sew fear. The true enemy (i.e. the principalities and powers of this world) strives daily to cause fear and fear causes the most evil in our world. Fear of “other,” fear of insignificance, fear of weakness, fear of pain are all apart of the motivation for terrible evil. My uncle, Fr. Kenneth Tanner, writes, “The Christian is one who embraces suffering and is at war with fear.” Through our silence, lamentation, and prayer we embrace suffering and wage war with fear. The power of the image above is that people came together and in their love for their city, countrymen, fellow man, they rose up to defy terror in unity. It should never be easy to respond to profound evil, but we must respond. I hope these thoughts above can help you to respond to this terrible tragedy.

The Lord’s Prayer

kozzi-praying-people-at-the-church-1774-x-1183

Growing up in a Christian home and part of a Sacramental Church we prayed the “Our Father” a lot. In fact, almost every night before bed my dad would come up and say our prayers with us. The prayers would start with the Lord’s prayer said in unison and then we would repeat after my father as he said, “We pray for Papu and Nama,” echo, “we pray for Papu and Nama” and we would cover every member of our family this way with a few specific prayers brought up by us or introduced by him. There were times when I was tired and would barely manage to say the words to the Lord’s Prayer and I definitely was not focusing on them but I am positive that God used those prayer times to form me as a child. I thought plenty of times, “This prayer doesn’t seem all that amazing to be the prayer Jesus taught!” and I am sure many other people have thought this way as well or just haven’t thought about the prayer much at all through lack of use or through too much use leading to mindlessness. However, this prayer is a treasure trove of theological truth and below I will attempt to expound upon some of the concepts within the words to the best of my ability. Others have done this better than I could but this is an exercise for myself as much as an opportunity to share with you.

Our Father who art in heaven
-Right away we hear the communal nature of the prayer… “Our…” This is one of the most beautiful concepts in Christianity: we are apart of a Body and are praying with all the saints on earth and in heaven as we pray this prayer.
-“Father,” “Abba,” “Daddy,” this word carries in it the central message of Christianity: Christ came to restore relationship and establish our identities as sons and daughters of the Father. You belong. God is no longer to be thought of as the distant God of deism or the impossible to distinguish everything God of pantheism. God is the personal creator in heaven who has granted us the right to call him “Father” by adoption into his family through Jesus.

Hallowed be thy name
-The Word is powerful in Scripture, the spoken Word created everything that was created. Names are much more important in the kingdom economy and the cultures of the Bible than we often think of them in our modern culture and God’s name is the name above all names. At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, there is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain, the name of God was not even written in the Jewish Old Testament because of the sacred nature of it. Let us not take the name of the Lord in vain in our lives and instead revere and love the name of Jesus as it says even the demons are overcome by the power of His name.

Thy Kingdom come
-Jesus talked of nothing more than the coming of the Kingdom. Let us take this seriously as a reality for right now. Let us not run to the modern, mainly Protestant eschatology that focuses on getting your ticket to heaven punched and condemning the rest of this world to hell. Let us instead pray this with God-given authority and, starting with the way we live our own lives, let us bring the Kingdom to earth, participating in Jesus’ work of restoration and resurrection.

Thy will be done
-The echoes of this prayer are found in the Garden as Jesus prays for God to take the burden of the sins of the world from Him and yet gives His all in total surrender in the most beautiful phrase, “not my will but Thy will be done.” This is THE transformative principle in Christianity. “If you love me you will heed my commands.” If you would be set free, be a slave to Christ. If you would live, come and die! Enough doing it our way, Thy will be done.
-C.S. Lewis writes, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says in the end, “Thy will be done.”

On earth as it is in heaven
-The great mission is to redeem earth! Not to leave it! Let us be renewed in hope for this earth, the Creation God loves so much to save.
-C.S. Lewis again, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

Give us this day our daily bread
-What is the Bread of Life? Jesus own body! We cannot live except by the sustenance which comes from Him within us, the hope of glory. The Scriptures, the Eucharist, prayer, spiritual encouragement from community, worship, etc. these things feed our soul and should be daily pursuits! Where do we get our daily bread? Only from the Father! Every provision, even the earthly food we eat is all from Him. We need to look to God to provide what we need daily.

And forgive us our trespasses
-If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

As we forgive those who trespass against us
-Wow, I’ve heard it preached that in order to receive forgiveness we have to forgive. It seems that’s the equation here and Jesus told an intense parable about the man who was forgiven his debts and went out collecting all the debts owed him. Unforgiveness is poison. Love as you have been loved, forgive as you have been forgiven.

And lead us not into tempation
-Those things I want to do, I don’t do. Those things I don’t want to do, I do. Help us Lord to not even be tempted by sin, but to be transformed in the renewing of our minds that we may live out our identities as sinless sons and daughters of God.

But deliver us from evil
-God is the great Deliverer and there is not a thing in the world or anywhere else that can take you from Him. I lift my eyes unto the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever and ever. Amen.
-Words are powerful! We live in a world at war and by stating these things, praying this prayer, we are declaring the truth and establishing God’s kingdom in our own minds and hearts as well as on earth. Lest we forget, Thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory. No matter what it looks like through the mirror dimly, God is in control. God is glorified. And eternally God will have the victory. Amen.