Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Passionately in Love with Jesus

So many believers have gone before us who were passionately in love with Jesus. Not only the martyrs of the early church, but throughout the Middle Ages, Reformation and beyond, a great cloud of witnesses has gone before us.

Let me name a few of the highest peaks along a mammoth mountain range of faith. These are men and women who served God in their generation and passionately loved the Lord with all their hearts:
- Irenaeus
- Origen
- Augustine of Hippo
- Pseudo-Dionysius
- Gregory the Great
- Anselm of Canterbury
- Bernard of Clairvaux
- Hildegard of Bingen
- Francis of Assisi
- Thomas Aquinas
- Bonaventure
- Albert the Great
- Meister Eckhart
- Dante Alighieri
- Hadewijch
- Mechthild of Magdeburg
- Gertrude the Great
- Johannes Tauler
- Jan van Ruysbroeck
- Richard Rolle
- Catherine of Sienna
- Julian of Norwich
- Teresa of Avila
- Thomas à Kempis
- Francis de Sales
- Blaise Pascal
- Desiderius Erasmus
- Martin Luther
- Johann Arndt
-Francois Fenelon
-Madame Guyon
- Jonathan Edwards
- John Wesley
- Søren Kierkegaard
-A. B. Simpson
-A. W. Tozer

Many of these in the Middle Ages were referred to as “mystics.” They had an intimate, inner faith and experienced the Lord in a personal way. We would simply call them passionate believers!

This blog is dedicated to introduce these believers to today’s Christians. It will take some years, but I hope to run a series of articles on each of these men and women.

Several recent books helping to bring these bygone saints alive to contemporary readers that I would highly recommend are:
- Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998. ISBN: 0-06-062822-7.
- Foster, Richard and Gayle Beebe. Longing for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005. ISBN: 978-0-8308-3514-0.
- Jones, Cheslyn, Geoffrey Wainwright and Edward Yarnold, eds. The Study of Spirituality. New York, NY: Oxford, 1986. ISBN: 019-504170-4.
- Leng, Felicity. Invincible Spirits: A Thousand Years of Women's Spiritual Writings. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.
- Myers, Glenn E. Seeking Spiritual Intimacy: Journeying Deeper with Medieval Women of Faith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-8308-3551-5.
- Sittser, Gerald. The Adventure: Putting Energy into your Walk with God. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985. ISBN: 0-87784-335-X.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Walking with God

Throughout Scripture, life with the Lord is frequently referred to as a “walk.” As such, our spiritual journey offers many twists and turns along the way.

Although we often assume we know what is ahead, our certainty is an illusion. Many unexpected bends in the road await us. Although we make plans—and need to do so in life—we must also negotiate the many modifications to our agendas that arise. Life is an adventure.

“The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
(Proverbs 16:9 NASB)

In the midst of the uncertainty—the wilderness venture we call life—we can still move forward with confidence, however. Is it possible for us to wander off the path? Of course!

Yet God remains faithful. His love and provision are ever-present. If and when we veer off to the right or to the left, he promises to be the Teacher who comes along behind us to get us back on track. We will hear his voice gently saying, No, “this is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).

Therefore we can embrace the path that we are on—as it winds and turns in unexpected directions—knowing that our God is in control. He will hold us, and he will guide us. Above all, as we stay close to him, he will love us along the way.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, September 9, 2011

Recollection: Bringing Focus to the Whole Day

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isaiah 26:3 KJV)

How does my morning devotional time relate to my busy, hectic, ADHD day?

Whether we consciously articulate this question or not, it is one that so many of us have. Often we simply “recharge our batteries” during our quite time with the Lord, only to lose our focus an hour later as we become consumed by all the activity of the day. It seems like every day gets out of hand and we switch into “crisis mode,” losing any sense of focus and balance that we gained in solitude with God.

In John 16:33 Jesus tells us that as long as we are in this world, we will have tribulation. There will always be responsibilities and crises that stir anxiety inside of us. The issues is, how can we cultivate being “anxious for nothing” (Phil 4:6)? How can we bring our devotional time to bear on our daily lives of work, family, and responsibility? Here are a few thoughts.

Genuine Connection
The first thing I need to do is truly connect with the Lord at the start of the new day. Some days that happens quite spontaneously during my quiet time—I sense the Lord’s presence, and hear his voice speak to me in his Word.

Other mornings are not quite so easy, especially if I’m tired. Those days it is important to stir myself awake. Reading Psalms and singing several worship songs or hymns helps me to wake up and engage my heart with the Lord.

“Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.” (Psalm 108:2-3)

The goal is coming into God’s holy presence. “The secret places of the heart cease to be our noisy workshop,” states Thomas Kelly in his little classic, A Testament of Devotion. “They become a holy sanctuary of adoration and of self-oblation, where we are kept in perfect peace, if our mind be stayed on Him who has found us in the inward springs of our life. And in brief intervals of overpowering visitation we are able to carry the sanctuary frame of mind out into the world, into its turmoil and its fitfulness.”[1]

Entering God’s presence in the morning is not enough to live a truly God-controlled, God-saturated life. Rather, we need to return periodically to that inner sanctuary throughout the day. We need to re-collect our thoughts and our heart from all the distractions and worries of the day.

This practice of refocusing our heart and mind has classically been called “recollection.” We re-collect ourselves—gathering our scattered thoughts, focusing back on the Lord, re-connecting with his love for us, reminding ourselves that he is in absolute control.

In our multitasking world, recollection is not easy. Although the theory is simple enough to grasp, the practice of daily recollection is much more difficult for most of us. Virtually everything in our contemporary culture militates against maintaining focus. Images on TV come to us at a rate of about one per second. Advertisements clamor for our attention. Email, voicemail and snail mail demand that we respond before tomorrow.

Therefore, we must be intentional if we are going to maintain any type of connection with the Lord throughout the day. “How, then, shall we lay hold of that Life and Power, and live the life of prayer without ceasing?” asks Kelley. “By quiet, persistent practice in turning of all our being, day and night, in prayer and inward worship and surrender, toward Him who calls in the deeps of our souls. Mental habits of inward orientation must be established.” [2]

Persistent Practice of Turning
Periodically throughout the day, I am learning to turn away from all the bustle and demands around me in order to turn toward that inward sanctuary. I’m finding that morning and evening are not enough. If I am to maintain my inner peace with the Lord, I need to jump off the merry-go-round regularly throughout the day to reestablish my focus on the Lord, remind my consciousness of his control and reassure my heart of his absolute love for me.
[1] Thomas R. Kelley, A Testament of Devotion (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1941, 1992), p. 4.
[2] Ibid. p. 11.

© 2011 Glenn E. Myers