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Friday, April 29, 2011

Devotional Classics Unit One Chapter Four

Frances de Sales
One True Devotion
     Frances de Sales was born in 1567 to a noble family in the Castle of Sales.  He attended Jesuit school and learned the classics, Hebrew, Greek, and a life of discipline.  After training in the law and the humanities he was ordained a priest in 1591.  He soon became the Bishop of Geneva.  He was a prolific writer combining spiritual depth and ethical concern which makes him distinctive as a leader of the church.  His use of metaphorical descriptions of common nature to unveil spiritual truth led many to consider him one of the "doctors of the western church".

Smith and Foster selected his Introduction to the Devout Life to inspire us in our search for true devotion.

The topics of this excerpt are:
  1. Only One True Devotion
  2. Phantoms of Devotion
  3. Spiritual Agility
  4. The Fire of Charity
  5. The World Distorts Holy Devotion
  6. They Change It Into Honey
  7. Spiritual Sugar
  8. Various Degrees of Charity
  9. Angelic Hearts
  10. The Scent of Sweetness
  11. Every Vocation Dipped in Honey
  12. Someone to Lead You
     Today's scripture reading is found in Romans 13:8-10, which is titled in my HCSB: 
     Love Our Primary Duty 

and reads 

Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.   The commandments

You shall not commit adultery,
you shall not murder,
you shall not steal,
you shall not covet,  

and if there is any other commandment--all are summed up by this:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Love does no wrong to a neighbor.  Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.   

     Investigating my devotional life I find that I love reading scripture, and some writers of commentary, theology and sermons.  I do this early in my day while sitting alone and quiet.  I try to always give thanks before a meal, and enjoy involving myself in prayer groups.  One of my favorite avocations is preparing and teaching Bible Studies.  I also attend worship service and Bible Study.  One thing I think I more than most enjoy is discussing the nuances of God's word, how that affects my life and the lives of others and whether we are realizing as much of what the word has for us or are we limiting God's power by selective hearing.
     One of my more egregious lack of devotions is the one where I head out and think, 'I wonder who God would have me relate His love to today...", and find myself focusing largely on the task at hand so that I might return home and continue some chore I have planned.

     One of the metaphors de Sales uses to describe the phases of our devotion is the flight or lack thereof of three birds.  the ostrich of course does not fly and so is used to analogize the new christian, or one who is still struggling with unanswered questions of duty and responsibility, one who is focused primarily with everyday life.  The hen describes one who has begun to find answers and to occasionally discover that God is attainable by correct focus.  The eagle, dove and swallow then represent those who have been able to time and again respond to God's word in a positive manner with a positive attitude and realize the positive aspects of a life devoted  to God.  
     I find myself living mostly as a clumsy hen, and sometimes, though less frequently as I go along, hide my head in the sand, neglecting the very thing which I would find is necessary for me to experience the Spirit filled life.  I have, and yearn to do so more often, been swept away in a fervor for God that can best be described as soaring the heights.

     Oftentimes a non-believer sees a devout person talking the talk and walking the walk, and figures there goes a fool or someone with a guilt to work off or hypocrite with a hidden agenda.  What the non-believer does not see is the common factors both he and the devout person have in their daily life along with the gentle encouragement and sustenance of the Holy Spirit.  The rationale of the world is 'me first' and whatever is left over might be available to go to some other poor sap.  What is definitely missed by the non-believer is the strengthening and divine blessing which a devout person experiences in the sacrifice of devotion to God, His purpose and will and glorification.

     Religious devotion can be harmful if the divinity to which one is devoted is a false sum, self absorbed, man defined entity rather than the true premise which is a loving, exacting, yet forgiving God.  When religious devotion is focused on love, joy, peace,  patience, goodness, kindness, perseverance, gentleness and self control, then God becomes manifest and fulfilling and thereby edified and glorified in the devout persons life.

     Prayer, Bible reading, solitude, evangelism, fellowship, service, worship:  all work together to strengthen my faith and witness to others that God is faithful and worshipful. 

     I will work to be better at responding to God in a positive way.

     I will look for and make opportunities to be kind to a neighbor.

     I will utilize my accountability partner to the best of our abilities.

     I will share the joy of devotion with those who do not know God with the intent of dispelling the idea that 'churchies' are sour pusses, and mean.
     Richard Foster explains that if we will learn that love means doing good to all people.  If we have true devotion  then we will burn in our hearts for that relationship with God that is most satisfying and strengthens us to serve even unkind and mean spirited people.

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