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A.W. Tozer: Are you fallow or plowed?

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. Luke 8:15

“There are two kinds of lives also: the fallow and the plowed. For examples of the fallow life we need not go far. They are all too plentiful among us.

The man of fallow life is contented with himself and the fruit he once bore. He does not want to be disturbed. He smiles in tolerant superiority at revivals, fastings, self-searchings, and all the travail of fruit-bearing and the anguish of advance. The spirit of adventure is dead within him. He is steady, “faithful,” always in his accustomed place (like the old field), conservative, and something of a landmark in the little church. But he is fruitless. The curse of such a life is that it is fixed, both in size and in content. To be has taken the place of to become. The worst that can be said of such a man is that he is what he will be. He has fenced himself in, and by the same act, he has fenced out God and the miracle.

The plowed life is the life that has, in the act of repentance, thrown down the protecting fences and sent the plow of confession into the soul. The urge of the Spirit, the pressure of circumstances and the distress of fruitless living have combined thoroughly to humble the heart. Such a life has put away defense, and has forsaken the safety of death for the peril of life. Discontent, yearning, contrition, courageous obedience to the will of God: these have bruised and broken the soil till it is ready again for the seed. And as always fruit follows the plow. Life and growth begin as God “rains down righteousness.” Such a one can testify, “And the hand of the Lord was upon me there.”

A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) from Paths to Power, excerpt from chapter 51, entitled “Miracles Follow the Plow” in The Very Best of A.W. Tozer, 127-128.

Funny, when I read this, I thought of the “Do Not Disturb” sign on my hotel room door. That’s the person of fallow life. “Don’t bother me. Don’t inconvenience me.”

Tozer rightly noted that this person has chosen comfort over contrition and will never amount to anything more. They might as well cash in their proverbial chips. Often they do. Is that you?

If so, I hope this post shakes and wakes you to the reality that God has bigger dreams for you. Fasting during Lent is about setting aside human desires for heavenly ones. Let God plow you to produce another crop.

After a great full day of conferences in Guatemala yesterday I pause from my own fasting to celebrate the first of seven feast days this Lent culminating with Easter.

As many have asked me what I am fasting from, I will share. I am fasting from bread this Lent while feasting on the Psalms at the divine hours.

God has impressed this verse deeply on my heart. Whenever I am tempted to take control of any situation. Rather than take control, He whispers for me to trust Him.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Matthew 4:4.

When I connect this idea with today’s reading, it reminds me that some people are content with earthly bread when eternal nourishment is available, if people would only look for it.

In pausing to read a Psalm and to pray at the divine hours I am partaking of nourishment that was always available to me but not always eaten. It’s like I have been leaving spiritual food on my proverbial plate.

Don’t settle for what you are. The Lenten journey is about letting God plow you afresh so that the seed of the Word takes root and bears fruit in you, which among other things, produces kindness and generosity.

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Richard Baxter: Reformation and Blessing

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. Matthew 16:25

“How long have we talked of reformation, how much have we said and done for it in general, and how deeply and devoutly have we vowed it for our own parts; and, after all this, how shamefully have we neglected it, and neglect it to this day! We carry ourselves as if we had not known or considered what that reformation was which we vowed.

As carnal men will take on them to be Christians, and profess with confidence that they believe in Christ, and accept of His salvation, and may contend for Christ, and fight for Him, and yet, for all this, will have none of Him, but perish for refusing Him, who little dreamed that ever they had been refusers of Him. And all because they understood not what His salvation is, and how it is carried on, but dream of a salvation without flesh-displeasing, and without self-denial and renouncing the world, and parting with their sins, and without any holiness, or any great pains and labor of their own in subserviency to Christ and the Spirit.

Even so did too many ministers and private men talk and write, and pray, and fight, and long for reformation, and would little have believed that man who should have presumed to tell them, that, notwithstanding all this, their very hearts were against reformation; and that they who were praying for it, and fasting for it, and wading through blood for it, would never accept it, but would themselves be the rejectors and destroyers of it.

And yet so it is, and so it hath too plainly proved: and whence is all this strange deceit of heart, that good men should no better know themselves? Why, the case is plain; they thought of a reformation to be given by God, but not of a reformation to be wrought on and by themselves. They considered the blessing, but never thought of the means of accomplishing it.”

Richard Foster (1615-1691) in The Reformed Pastor (Grand Rapids: CCEL) 109-110.

When we think about practicing disciplines in Lent, we realize that practicing self-denial is hard. Only in the doing do we discover that it is a means for our good.

The irony that Baxter points out is that those who, using the language of Jesus, aim at saving their lives or we might say prioritize their comfort or self-preservation, will actually lose them, and those who lose their lives for Christ will actually find them.

Praying and fasting are the means through which we lose ourselves and find how God transforms us into useful vessels for His purposes. Is your heart against being reformed? Consider the implications for your generosity.

We will never sacrifice until we realize that having Christ exceeds all the treasures of the world. We will never do it with kindness until we discover that God never ceases to direct His love and kindness toward us.

Only when we discover this, through practicing disciplines, do we find ourselves. Don’t be one of those people who prioritize their comfort or self-preservation. Lose your life for Christ and you will find it.

Hat tip on this note to my grown son, Sammy. Today he turns 23 years old. He grasped this early on. Upon learning that we fast from lesser things to feast on greater things, he would leap at any challenge.

Some Lenten seasons he would exchange junk food items, movies, video games, and other earthly things for life-giving foods, learning worship songs on guitar, and other heavenly practices.

As our children are both launching this year, we ar thankful to God that they grasp that reformation, while it is really uncomfortable, is the pathway to abundant blessing. Happy Birthday, Sammy.

And thanks for your prayers. Yesterday, the CONFIABLE event (pictured above) in Guatemala City celebrated standards of responsible stewardship for churches and ministries in Guatemala and made a last call for founding members. Participants responded with enthusiasm and support.

Today, I have another full day. I will speak at a morning conference on governance linked to The Council: A Biblical Perspective on Board Governance and at an afternoon conference related to generosity and Good and Faithful: Ten Stewardship Lessons for Everyday Living.

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Jonathan Edwards: Secret Prayer

Will they find delight in the Almighty? Will they call on God at all times? Job 27:10

“It is the manner of hypocrites, after a while, in a great measure to leave off the practice of this duty. We are often taught, that the seeming goodness and piety of hypocrites is not of a lasting and persevering nature. It is so with respect to their practice of the duty of prayer in particular, and especially of secret prayer. They can omit this duty, and their omission of it not be taken notice of by others, who know what profession they have made. So that a regard to their own reputation doth not oblige them still to practice it. If others saw how they neglect it, it would exceedingly shock their charity towards them. But their neglect doth not fall under their observation; at least not under the observation of many. Therefore they may omit this duty, and still have the credit of being converted persons…

They come to this pass by degrees. At first they begin to be careless about it, under some particular temptations. Because they have been out in young company, or have been taken up very much with worldly business, they omit it once: After that they more easily omit it again. Thus it presently becomes a frequent thing with them to omit it and after a while, it comes to that pass, that they seldom attend it. Perhaps they attend it on Sabbath days, and sometimes on other days. But they have ceased to make it a constant practice daily to retire to worship God alone, and to seek his face in secret places. They sometimes do a little to quiet conscience, and just to keep alive their old hope; because it would be shocking to them, even after all their subtle dealing with their consciences to call themselves converts, and yet totally to live without prayer. Yet the practice of secret prayer they have in a great measure left off.”

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) in “Hypocrites Deficient in the Duty of Prayer” II.

The Lenten discipline of prayer helps us regain what Edwards says “by degrees” we lose in the course of life. As converted persons the rigors of worldly business and the life cause us to pray only on Sundays and over time we actually become the hypocrites in the biblical text that we scorn.

Think of secret prayer as visiting a garden of flowers like those pictured above here in Guatemala. Their beauty captivates. It reminds us of God’s tender care. Remember the flowers don’t toil or spin, because the Father cares for them. He cares for us too.

Secret prayer is simply time alone with God in prayer. Block time for it daily during Lent. Do this not to gain favor with God but to re-learn how to live with and for God as His children. In the full sermon, Edwards shakes and wakes us to realize that without secret prayer we lose our hope.

Where is hope today? As we think about being kind and generous followers of Christ, hope is one of the greatest gifts we can dispense with abundance, but Edwards notes that it’s only found in people of secret prayer. Want to dispense it? Become a person of secret prayer. Form a habit during Lent to last you a lifetime.

And when you pray, remember me, speaking at the CONFIABLE Founders Event and having strategic meetings for Global Trust Partners in Guatemala City today. Thank you.

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Charles Haddon Spurgeon: God turns our fasts into feasts

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

“Sometimes the day of affliction becomes as a fast which has been turned into a feast. It is a trying thing to lose one’s health, and to be near to death; to lose one’s wealth, and to wonder how the children will be fed; to have heavy tidings of disaster come to you day after day in doleful succession. But if you can grasp the promise, and know that “All things work together for good to them that love God;” if you can see a covenant God in all, then the fast turns into a feast, and you say, “God is going to favor me again. He is only pruning the vine to make it bring forth better grapes. He is going to deal with me again after his own wise, loving, and fatherly way of discipline.” You then hear the Lord saying to you –

“Then trust me, and fear not: thy life is secure;
My wisdom is perfect, supreme is my power;
In love I correct thee, thy soul to refine,
To make thee at length in my likeness to shine.”

I have met with some saints who have been happier in their sickness and in their poverty than ever they were in health and in wealth. I remember how one, who had been long afflicted, and had got well, but had lost some of the brightness of the Lord’s presence, which he had enjoyed during his sickness, said, “Take me back to my bed again. Let me be ill again, for I was well when I was ill. I am afraid that I am getting ill now that I am well.” It is often worth while being afflicted in order to experience the great lovingkindness of God, which he bestows so abundantly on us in the hour of trouble and perplexity. Yes, God turns our fasts into feasts, and we are glad in the midst of our sorrow; we can praise and bless his name for all that he does.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) in Sermon 2248 intended for Reading on Lord’s-Day on 20 March 1892, delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, on Lord’s-day Evening, 7 September 1890.

God turns our fasting into feasting because we forgo that which cannot satisfy and tap into that which does. Fasting is about saying “No” to some things so we can say “Yes” to better things.

It also teaches us how to live life after Lent. Let me explain.

Just as the saints Spurgeon recounts learned that God met them in a powerful way in their suffering, when we say “No” to things, we feel like we suffer for a season, but we learn what is necessary and what satisfies.

We don’t end up lacking, but rather, we flourish in a way that only God could arrange. Enjoy your fast, because God turns our fasts into feasts!

I notice that Spurgeon wrote this in the twilight of his life. It’s a lesson that can take us years to learn. Do yourself a kindness. Teach it to yourself this Lent!

I am flying to Guatemala City today to speak at the CONFIABLE Founders event tomorrow. CONFIABLE stands for “Concilio de Organizaciones No-lucrativas, Financieramente Integras, Auditables, Bíblica y Legalmente Establecidas” or “Council of Non-profit Organizations, Financially Integrated, Auditable, Biblically and Legally Established.” CONFIABLE aims to serve Christ-centered churches and ministries in Guatemala like ECFA does in the USA. I also have time blocked for prayer and meetings regarding Global Trust Partners, and to speak twice for G2G on Saturday on governance and generosity.

I’d appreciate your prayers for a safe and fruitful trip.

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John Wesley: Christian Self-denial

Welcome to Lent! Today is Ash Wednesday, a day we focus on prayer, fasting, and repentance. In modern terms, we recalculate the routes of our lives back to alignment with the way of Christ. From now until Easter, may God use the disciplines of fasting, prayer, and giving to shape us into kind and generous people. And, for our material this Lent, I will draw from famous preachers through church history. This one is long, but worth the read. Enjoy!

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

“Why has Christianity done so little good, even among us? Among the Methodists, among them that hear and receive the whole Christian doctrine, and that have Christian discipline added thereto, in the most essential parts of it? Plainly, because we have forgot, or at least not duly attended to, those solemn words of our Lord, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

It was the remark of a holy man, several years ago, “Never was there before a people in the Christian Church, who had so much of the power of God among them, with so little self-denial.” Indeed the work of God does go on, and in a surprising manner, notwithstanding this capital defect; but it cannot go on in the same degree as it otherwise would; neither can the word of God have its full effect, unless the hearers of it “deny themselves, and take up their cross daily.”

It would be easy to show, in how many respects the Methodists, in general, are deplorably wanting in the practice of Christian self-denial; from which, indeed, they have been continually frighted by the silly outcries of the Antinomians. To instance only in one: While we were at Oxford, the rule of every Methodist was, (unless in case of sickness) to fast every Wednesday and Friday in the year, in imitation of the Primitive Church; for which they had the highest reverence.

Now this practice of the primitive church is universally allowed. “Who does not know,” says Epiphanius, an ancient writer, “that the fasts of the fourth and sixth days of the week” (Wednesday and Friday) “are observed by the Christians throughout the whole world.” So they were by the Methodists for several years; by them all, without any exception; but afterwards, some in London carried this to excess, and fasted so as to impair their health.

It was not long before others made this a pretence for not fasting at all. And I fear there are now thousand of Methodists, so called, both in England and Ireland, who, following the same bad example, have entirely left off fasting; who are so far from fasting twice in the week, that they do not fast twice in the month.

Yea, are there not some of you who do not fast one day from the beginning of the year to the end? But what excuse can there be for this? I do not say for those that call themselves members of the Church of England; but for any who profess to believe the Scripture to be the Word of God. Since, according to this, the man that never fasts is no more in the way to heaven, than the man that never prays.

But can any one deny that the members of the Church of Scotland fast constantly; particularly on their sacramental occasions? In some parishes they return only once a year; but in others, suppose in large cities, they occur twice, or even thrice, a year. Now, it is well known there is always a fast-day in the week preceding the administration of the Lord’s Supper. But, occasionally looking into a book of accounts in one of their vestries, I observed so much set down for the dinners of the ministers on the fast-day; and I am informed there is the same article in them all.

And is there any doubt but the people fast just as their ministers do? But what a farce is this! What a miserable burlesque upon a plain Christian duty! O that the general assembly would have regard to the honor of their nation! Let them roll away from it this shameful reproach, by either enforcing the duty, or removing that article from their books. Let it never appear there any more! Let it vanish away for ever.

But why is self-denial in general so little practised at present among the Methodists? Why is so exceedingly little of it to be found even in the oldest and largest societies? The more I observe and consider things, the more clearly it appears what is the cause of this in London, in Bristol, in Birmingham, in Manchester, in Leeds, in Dublin, in Cork. The Methodists grow more and more self-indulgent, because they grow rich. Although many of them are still deplorably poor; (“tell it not in Gath; publish it not in the streets of Askelon!”) yet many others, in the space of twenty, thirty, or forty years, are twenty, thirty, yea, a hundred times richer than they were when they first entered the society.

And it is an observation which admits of few exceptions, that nine in ten of these decreased in grace, in the same proportion as they increased in wealth. Indeed, according to the natural tendency of riches, we cannot expect it to be otherwise. But how astonishing a thing is this! How can we understand it? Does it not seem (and yet this cannot be) that Christianity, true scriptural Christianity, has a tendency, in process of time, to undermine and destroy itself?”

John Wesley (1703-1791) in “Causes of the Inefficacy of Christianity” Sermon 116.13-17.

Observe a fast this Lent. Fast from food, technology, or something else that your heart frequently desires. Without Christian self-denial, the church will not only lose it effectiveness; it will destroy itself.

Why do people cease too fast? Wesley points to the fact that our faith leads to blessing. We grow rich. Then sadly, we keep the riches for ourselves, and basically, it turns our self-denial into self-indulgence.

Fasting 40 days follows the example of Jesus (cf. Luke 4:1-13). Before His ministry began, He fasted. This enabled Him to set aside His desires for the Father’s will. We must do the same thing.

Lest you think it will be too hard, you get to break your fast and feast on the seven Sundays, and the seventh Sunday of Lent is Easter. Fasting, prayer, and giving help root control, pride, and idolatry from our lives.

Have we forgotten why Jesus died on the cross for us? Lenten disciplines shake and wake us to remember. May the practice Christian self-denial transform us into faithful and fruitful disciples.

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Phyllis Tickle: Divine Hours

Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules. Psalm 119:164

For the peace from above, for the loving kindness of God, and for the salvation of my soul, I pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For the peace of the world, for the welfare of the holy church of God, and for the unity of all peoples, I pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For the leaders of the nations and for all in authority, for my city and community, and for those who live in them, I pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For the aged and infirm, for the widowed and orphans, and for the sick and the suffering, I pray to the Lord. Lord have mercy.

For the poor and the oppressed, for the unemployed and the destitute, for prisoners and captives, and for all who remember care for them, I pray to the Lord. Lord have mercy.

Grant that every member of the Church may truly and humble serve you and show your love and kindness to all people, I pray to the Lord. Lord have mercy.

For all who have died in the hope of the resurrection, and for all the departed, I pray to the Lord. Lord have mercy.

Phyllis Tickle in Divine Hours: Pocket Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) adapted from the litanies on pages 5, 20, 21, and 69.

Lent begins tomorrow. It is a season to grow in the areas of prayer, fasting, and giving. My hope for my Lenten journey (and for yours) linked to generosity is that kindness will shift from sometime I do to something I am. Make it so, Lord Jesus.

For the discipline of prayer, I plan to pray the divine hours. This simply means I have set a daily alarm on my phone from 6 March 2019 to 21 April 2019 to pray at 6am (Prime), 9am (Terce), 12noon (Sext), 3pm (None), 6pm (Vespers), 9am (Compline), and in the night (Lauds or Matins).

This is not about winning brownie points with God. It’s about becoming a person after God’s heart. I will join followers of Christ through the centuries and servants of God all the way back to the days of King David, who paused seven times a day. Care to join me?

Sometimes I plan to read a Psalm. Other times I will pray a prayer like the litany above. I may proclaim praise or cry out for help depending on my situation. Whether or not you join me, I pray you take time to focus on prayer this Lent.

Today’s Scripture comes from Psalm 119, often called “the treasury of David.” I must note that David shouts praise for the “righteous rules” of the Lord. This refers not to a list of things to do so God will accept you. Hear him praising the Lord that when we walk in His ways, we find the path that is right and good.

Those who follow God’s ways or His design for life and living, become loving and kind. We serve as conduits of divine generosity through which spiritual and material blessings flow. May God guide us all on what to pray for, fast from, and give to this Lent so that, like our Lord Jesus, we become kind and generous.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Magnanimous

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

“Although we are not Christ, if we want to be Christians we must participate in Christ’s own magnanimous heart by engaging in responsible action that seizes the hour in complete freedom, facing the danger. And we should do so in genuine solidarity with suffering flowing forth, not from fear, but from the liberating and redeeming love of Christ toward all who suffer. Inactive “waiting-and-seeing” or impassive “standing by” are not Christian attitudes. Christians are prompted to action and suffering in solidarity not just by personal body experience, but by the experience incorrect by their fellows for whose sake Christ himself suffered.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) in “After Ten Years” Berlin, 1942 as recounted by Chris Pepple in Reflections on Suffering: Defining Our Crosses and Letting Go of Pain.

I shot this new header photo yesterday between snowstorms while walking Sammy’s dog, Hope St. Teresa, along the Bear Creek trail. Navigating the frozen and winding trail in single digit temperatures (in Fahrenheit) reminded me of the rigors ahead in the Lenten journey.

For our kindness and generosity to be magnanimous, we must not wait-and-see or stand-by but take action. Part of Lent, which begins Wednesday, is learning to move away from comfort and toward service to the hurting. Linked to generosity, we do this by giving alms, which is making gifts to the needy.

Part of the reason fasting and prayer are coupled with giving in Lent is that the disciplines are interconnected. To move toward the poor is to move away from our own desires or things that might benefit us. What direction should we go? Whom should we serve? That’s where prayer comes into play.

If you want to bear the name “Christian” then don’t let passivity characterize your living, giving, serving and loving. The journey to the cross is one that embraces (rather than runs from) suffering. It does hard things. It counts the cost and pays the price. Jesus moved toward us with kindness. Let us do likewise.

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Ignatius of Loyola: Kindness is central to the common plan

How precious is your loving kindness, God. The children of men take refuge under the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7

On 13 December 1545 at the Council of Trent, Ignatius of Loyola offered this instruction which he referred to as their common plan, entitled, “On Dealing with Others.” It’s lengthy, so I offer these excerpts today.

“Since associating and dealing with many people for the salvation and spiritual progress of souls can be very profitable with God’s help so, on the other hand, if we are not on our guard and helped by God’s grace, such association can be the occasion of great loss to ourselves and sometimes to everyone concerned.

In keeping with our profession we cannot withdraw from such association and, therefore, the more prepared we are to proceed according to a common plan, the more likely we are to succeed in our Lord. In the following notes, which may be modified or amplified according to need, we may be able to offer some assistance.

Be slow to speak. Be considerate and kind, especially when it comes to deciding on matters under discussion…and only after having first listened quietly, so that you may understand the meaning, leanings, and wishes of those who do speak. Thus you will better know when to speak and when to be silent…

In lecturing follow the same rules as you do in preaching, and try to enkindle in souls a love of their Creator and Lord, explaining the meaning of the passage read, and have your hearers pray as has been indicated….

Visit the hospitals at some convenient hour during the day, always taking your health into consideration. Hear the confessions of the poor and console them, and even take them some little gift if you can…

But on the other hand, if you wish to urge souls to make progress in the spiritual life, it will be better to speak at length, with order, and with kindness and love.”

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) in his remarks “To The Fathers Attending The Council Of Trent: On Dealing With Others” in Selected Writings of St. Ignatius of Loyola with commentary by Joseph N. Tylenda, 19-20.

Ignatius instructs us to be good listeners, to be generous ministers to the poor and needy, and to make sure that when we speak, we do so, with kindness and love. What beautiful advice! When we speak truth with the kindness and love of God, through our ministry people find refuge in Him.

Too often we think of generosity only in financial terms and kindness only in interpersonal interaction. Here Ignatius frames these ideas in the context of the common plan for the care of souls. Think of it this way: 0ur generosity and kindness are means that the Spirit employs to work through us to help souls connect with Jesus.

With unselfish awareness we listen and attune to the needs of those we serve. Gifts flow through us to those who are sick, hurting, or needy. And, when we speak, our words are filled with kindness. I have room for improvement in this area. God help me, and may He help you too. Let’s make this our common plan today and every day.

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Catherine of Siena: Kindness and the Contrary

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Matthew 7:16

How virtues are proved and fortified by their contraries:

“Up to the present, I have taught you how a man may serve his neighbor, and manifest, by that service, the love which he has towards Me. Now I wish to tell you further, that a man proves his patience on his neighbor, when he receives injuries from him.

Similarly, he proves his humility on a proud man, his faith on an infidel, his true hope on one who despairs, his justice on the unjust, his kindness on the cruel, his gentleness and benignity on the irascible. Good men produce and prove all their virtues on their neighbor, just as perverse men all their vices; thus, if you consider well, humility is proved on pride in this way. The humble man extinguishes pride, because a proud man can do no harm to a humble one; neither can the infidelity of a wicked man, who neither loves Me, nor hopes in Me, when brought forth against one who is faithful to Me, do him any harm; his infidelity does not diminish the faith or the hope of him who has conceived his faith and hope through love of Me, it rather fortifies it, and proves it in the love he feels for his neighbor.

For, he sees that the infidel is unfaithful, because he is without hope in Me, and in My servant, because he does not love Me, placing his faith and hope rather in his own sensuality, which is all that he loves. My faithful servant does not leave him because he does not faithfully love Me, or because he does not constantly seek, with hope in Me, for his salvation, inasmuch as he sees clearly the causes of his infidelity and lack of hope.

The virtue of faith is proved in these and other ways. Wherefore, to those, who need the proof of it, My servant proves his faith in himself and in his neighbor, and so, justice is not diminished by the wicked man’s injustice, but is rather proved, that is to say, the justice of a just man. Similarly, the virtues of patience, benignity, and kindness manifest themselves in a time of wrath by the same sweet patience in My servants, and envy, vexation, and hatred demonstrate their love, and hunger and desire for the salvation of souls.”

Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) in The Dialogue of Catherine of Siena, trans. by Algar Thorold (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., 1907) and ed. by Harry Plantinga (1994) 22-23

I wish I could have engaged in dialogue with Catherine. In this excerpt from “How virtues are proved and fortified by their contraries” she reminds us that our true colors come out not so much on good days but in times of adversity.

To see if virtues of generosity and kindness are present in our lives we must look on bad days when evil abounds against us and not just good days when we live in harmony with our neighbor.

How are you doing with regard to difficulty?

One of my daily readers replied a few days ago rejoicing that God allowed generosity and kindness to flow through him when everything around him seemed to be unraveling. Of course I affirmed him and praised God for this testimony, but let’s reflect on it a moment.

The reason we marinate in God’s Word is so that its flavors come out when we are cut. The reason we soak in Scripture is so that living water saturates us and spills onto others when we are knocked over. We must not be overcome by contraries but overcome them with good.

How do we grow in these areas? We can’t apart from allowing God to work in us.

Hear this as yet another invitation to make the most of Lent in 2019! Consider what you will fast from, give to, and pray for this Lent and how God might want to use those disciplines to make sure the fruits of kindness and generosity are “proved and fortified by their contraries.”

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Julian of Norwich: Goodness and Blessed Kindness

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14

“This shewing was made to [teach] our soul wisely to cleave to the goodness of God. And in that time the custom of our praying was brought to mind: how we use for lack of understanding and knowing of love, to take many means [whereby to beseech Him].

Then saw I truly that it is more worship to God, and more very delight, that we faithfully pray to Himself of His goodness and cleave thereunto by His grace, with true understanding, and steadfast by love, than if we took all the means that heart can think. For if we took all these means, it is too little, and not full worship to God: but in His goodness is all the whole, and there faileth right nought.

For this, as I shall tell, came to my mind in the same time: We pray to God for [the sake of] His holy flesh and His precious blood, His holy passion, His dear worthy death and wounds: and all the blessed kindness, the endless life that we have of all this, is His goodness.

And we pray Him for [the sake of] His sweet mother’s love that Him bare; and all the help we have of her is of His goodness. And we pray by His holy cross that He died on, and all the virtue and the help that we have of the cross, it is of His goodness.

And on the same wise, all the help that we have of special saints and all the blessed company of Heaven, the dear worthy love and endless friendship that we have of them, it is of His goodness. For God of His goodness hath ordained means to help us, full fair and many: of which the chief and principal mean is the blessed nature that He took of the maid, with all the means that go afore and come after which belong to our redemption and to endless salvation.

Wherefore it pleaseth Him that we seek Him and worship through means, understanding that He is the goodness of all. For the goodness of God is the highest prayer, and it cometh down to the lowest part of our need.”

Julian of Norwich (1342-1430) in Revelations of Divine Love, recorded at Norwich in A.D. 1373 (London: Methuen, 1901) Ch. 6. This one of my favorite people on the journey through church history. She reminds me of my wife, Jenni.

Julian was an English anchoress and well-known Christian mystic and theologian. She experienced and recorded 16 shewings or revelations of divine love. After that, she dedicated her life to helping people anchor their lives to God.

Likewise, my wife, Jenni, today serves as the Soulcare Anchoress. Having experienced the goodness of God, she too desires that everyone learns to cleave to Him and His goodness, so she spends herself to helping people do that.

Why cleave to the goodness (or generosity) and blessed kindness of God? Julian says it best: “It cometh down to the lowest part of our need.”  That’s precisely what we celebrate at Easter.

God, because He is so generous and kind, came down to the deepest part of our need. He dealt with our sin on the cross. As we discover this afresh during Lent, life in the light of Easter propels us to do the same thing.

God makes us into people who are generous and kind. We go down and minister to the lowest place of need of those around us. Or in plain terms, our generosity and kindness gives people not what they deserve but what they need most.

Want help from the Soulcare Anchoress for your Lenten journey? Visit her website and download the Lent 2019 Journey with Jesus. Print it and enjoy the journey of learning to cleave to the goodness and blessed kindness of God.

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