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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Devotional Classics Review: Unit One, Chapter One:

Devotional Classics
Preparing for the Spiritual Life

Foster and Smith begin the book, Devotional Classics, with an introductory and preparatory group of eight selections on spiritual development. The authors they have chosen are not given to cliche or the easy road. They know that God is not a god of half measures.

Phrases such as 'true devotion', 'complete surrender', 'a will which is no longer diveded', and 'giving all to Christ' tell us that we are going to be taught the true menaing of devotion to God. We will be taught to love god not only with the mind but with the affections as well. To 'love God for God's sake' with the aim of loving self for God's sake reminds us that love is of God. We will also be enlightened to the necessity of the 'dark night'.

Grace, while free is not cheap. Discipleship costs us everything, but the cost of nondiscipleship is far greater: Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God's overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, poe=wer to do what is right and withsatand the forces of evil....'

With one voice these writers, de Sales, Fenelon, Lewis, Edwards, Clairvaux, John of the Cross, and Bonhoeffer unveil the cost of discipleship is far better bargain than the cost of nondiscipleship.

C. S. Lewis
Giving All to Christ

Lewis was born in 1898 in Ireland. He taught meieval literature at Oxford as a Fellow of Magdalen College. At the age of 33 he was in his own words 'surprised by joy' when he became a disciple of Christ. He hung out with J. R. R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings. C. S. Lewis himself wrote The Screwtape Letters, in the 1940's he deliverd many talks on radio concerning topics of Christianity which yielded his book Mere Christianity which is the source of the selection for this devotional.

Topic titles included in this selection are
1. How Much of Myself Must I Give?
2. Two Results
3. Harder and Easier
4. The Most Dangerous Thing
5. The Almost Impossible Thing
6. Listening to that Other Voice
7. The Reason the Church Exists
8. Becoming a Part of the Plan

The Scripture used is from Luke 14:25-33(quoted here from the HCSB)

Now great crowds were traveling with Him. So He turned ansd said to them: "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father nad mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, and even his own life--he cannot be My disciple. Whoever coes not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn;t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundaation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers wilol begin to make fun of him, saying, "This man started to build and wasn't able to finish."

Or what king, going to war against another king, will not first sit down and decide if he is able with 10,000 to oppose the one who comes against him with 20,000? If not, while the other is still far off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

In the same way, therefore, every one of you who doe3s not say good-bye to all his possessions cannot be My disciple.

The most difficult area of my life to give to God, I have found, is letting go of my independence. Especially in a capitalist society we are encouraged to think as independent, responsible members of the human race. Workers who have earned their stripes. This thought plays at the back of my mind as well as in every intention. I find it most difficult to say, "God, it is all yours, and whatever you place in front of me I will thank you for and receive.

If Jesus were to come to me and say, "I want all, not so much your time or money or behaviour--I want you..."I would feel that perhaps He really did not know me that well, or that He must mean when I have time pr am ready to go forward with Him.

Many times I have thought, "Tomorrow is another day and the conditions will be so much better then", only to realize tomorrow is pretty much like today, just a little further down the time line, and gathering a list of undone intentions. The only time I have taken the 'Easy road' and it worked out for the actual ease and betterment of myself and those about me is when I believed that what Jesus wanted, and not that it made 'sense' or seemed like the easy way, was the very thing that needed to be done. Taking that road has very seldom been a road of ease or not frought with some mystery or care, but has always had the effect of growing my faith and trust in God by the knowledge and understanding that God was there and in actuality doing the thing that scared me most, so that His purposes were accomplished.

When I have tried to be morally good for the purpose of personal happiness I have often missed the real happiness(joy) that God has in store for me for being faithful and trusting. The problem with an aim of personal happiness is that some things I have learned make me happy are really very fleeting and can build frustration rather than comfort and joy. Personal happiness often runs at odds with moral behaviour and moral behaviour is very nearly always an on again off again activity muddled by the circumstances and environment in which I might find myself.

Some of the reasons I fear giving myself completely to God are that I want to fit in with the mass of humanity about me. I really want to be understood but not a sore thumb, or a stick in the mud. The area I find most difficult to surrender is that point when after striving to accomplish some 'good' I find that I am rejected, and as a reject then I think rebellion might be the best followup. So submitting to the clear apparency of God's Will when I have, by my own effort, been thwarting that Will, is the most difficult time for me to surrender--I must be victorious or else! I have sometimes been so keen on accomplishment that I do not realize that God is accomplishing His Will all about me. When I finally realize that God is in control I take the burden of that realization and hold onto it so that I might placate my ego with a 'reason' for its bruising. It is when I see that God loves me and wants me in this or that line, in the mentre of His blessings, realizing it is His fruit, fruit that He freely gives to the one who trusts Him, that the burden is relieved.

One of the ways I avoid this frustration is to check myself at the break of day and allow God's Will to override me and follow in the Way.

Richard Foster reflects that we become aware of God's Way as the Super HighWay that it is when we begin to change and transform into that being that He would have us to be, As humans in a world frought with peril and competition and at odds endeavours we naturally become defensive. Walls and shields and isolation become the norm along with hurry and worry and grasping in greed. But when we pause and reflect, studying the One who gave His all that we might become more than we could possibly imagine, then we mysteriously begin to become at first calm , then encouraged, and eventually at peace.
Preparing Spiritually

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