For those who are mourning

Saint John Climacus

I’ve been going through some trials recently and most of times all I can do when I pray is crying. While looking for some resources on mourning I came across this beautiful saying of St. John Climacus who wrote steps for the “Ladder of divine ascent”. One of the steps is called “mourning” and he says:

“Greater than baptism itself is the fountain of tears after baptism, even though it is somewhat audacious to say so.  For baptism is the washing away of evils that were in us before, but sins committed after baptism are washed away by tears.  As baptism is received in infancy, we have all defiled it, but we cleanse it anew with tears.  And if God in His love for mankind had not given us tears, those being saved would be few indeed and hard to find.”

May our tears be shed at the feet of the cross and may it water our faith as well.

An Interesting Symbol

“The bee itself is considered a symbol of Christ: the sting of justice and the mercy of honey, side by side.”

From Mad Honey by Jodie Picoult and Jennifer Finley Boylan

When I came across this quote in the novel I’ve been reading, I was captivated by this idea. As Lutherans, “justice and mercy” could be read as “law and gospel.” These are the two ways that the Word of God comes to us. We are convicted of our sin by the law, but the gospel then saves us from condemnation.

In researching this symbol, I also discovered that the bee has been used to represent Christian virtuousness.

For more about law and gospel see these posts:

Sins and Sermons

Remember the Gospel

Luther and the Gospel

The Difference Between Wisdom and Knowledge

I know wisdom was the topic a few months back, but I can’t seem to leave it behind. Here is a quote I came across recently in a book I will be reviewing soon — Reactivity by Paul David Tripp.

“Wisdom is the ability to apply the truths of God’s word with specificity to the situations, locations, and relationships of daily life. Knowledge is a way of thinking. Wisdom is a way of living. Knowledge meditates on what is true. Wisdom decides what is right to do. Knowledge is a commitment of the heart and mind to a body of truths. Wisdom is a commitment of everything you are and have to a way of living. Knowledge surrenders your conceptual abilities to the revelation of God. Wisdom surrenders your life to his will, his way and his glory. Wisdom can’t exist without knowledge, and knowledge is incomplete until it is applied by wisdom. Biblical knowledge was never meant to be an end in itself but a means to an end, and that end is wise, godly living. Wisdom understands that every insight, every command, every truth, every principle, every doctrine and every promise of Scripture carries with it a culture for our everyday living. Wisdom understands that you do not know what you know until you can live what you know.”

For more posts about wisdom and knowledge see:

Wisdom vs. Knowledge

The Spiritual Gift of Wisdom

The fatiguing art of being smart

So, here’s the question for the day — are you living wisely?

John Ortberg on Death

“Here’s the thing about death. We’re not going to stay dead. Jesus promises those of us who trust Jesus with our lives that death will not be the end. When it comes, he will say, ‘Get up’, and he will take us by the hand and help us to our feet. And then we will see the tears. Not tears of sorrow. Tears of joy. The joyful tears of God.”

John Ortberg, “I’d Like You More if You Were More Like Me”

For more about death see these posts:

United with Christ in Death and Resurrection

Martin Luther on Death and a New Beginning

death is but a dream by Christopher Kerr, MD—Book review

Union or Communion?

If you are part of a Cursillo community, you will be familiar with the idea of reunion groups. A reunion group is a meeting of friends who hold one another accountable in their spiritual life. The discussion centers around our piety, study and action, and how we have been doing in those areas. One of the questions we ask one another about study is, “What was the most helpful Spiritual insight from you study? (since the last meeting). Here’s a recent one of mine. It’s a quote from a book I’ve been reading by John Ortberg.

“Rankin Wilbourne writes about an old distinction between union with God and communion with God. Union is an objective connection –for example, I will always be my parents’ child; whereas communion is a subjective sense of closeness that will wax and wane.”

A while back when our Bible study group was learning about union with Christ, I found myself wondering, “If I have this wonderful union with Jesus, why do I still sin? Why don’t I feel closer to Him?” This is the answer. I hope it helps you understand this concept better, too!

For more about union with Christ see these posts:

Sinclair Ferguson and Union with Christ

Union With Christ — Four Principles

How Big is Our Union with Christ?

Another Quote about Laughter

 Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.”

Karl Barth

For more about the grace of God see these posts:

Stewards of Gods’ Grace

Remembering God’s Grace

Sin and Grace

Martin Luther on Laughter

“If the earth is fit for laughter, then surely heaven is filled with it. Heaven is the birthplace of laughter.

Martin Luther

For more posts about laughter see:

Laughter in Heaven by Barbara Jean Meter–Book Review

More Easter Laughter

Some Lutheran Humor

Martin Luther on the Kingdom of God

The kingdom of God does not consist in talk, but in power, that is, in works and practice. God loves the ‘doers of the word’ in faith and love, and not the ‘mere hearers,’ who, like parrots, have learned to utter certain expressions with readiness.

Martin Luther

For more Martin Luther quotes see these posts:

What Did Martin Luther Say about the Holy Spirit?

Martin Luther on the First Sin

Martin Luther on Wisdom

A Quote about the Reformation

The Reformation may have resulted in a “Protestant work ethic,” but this was not due to the pressure to prove one’s election by worldly success, as certain social scientists ludicrously maintain. Rather, the work ethic emerged out of an understanding of the meaning of work and the satisfaction and fulfillment that come from ordinary human labor when seen through the light of the doctrine of vocation. — Gene Edward Veith Jr

Gene Edward Veith (born October 15, 1951) is an author, scholar, and Professor of Literature emeritus at Patrick Henry University. He is a Lutheran who has written extensively about the concept of vocation, which has been called one of the great insights of the Lutheran Reformation.

For more posts about vocation see:

What’s Your Vocation?

Are You Called?

What Am I Here For?

What’s Your Idol?

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was a Dominican friar and priest. Coming from an influential family, the life of a cloistered scholar and became one of the most influential thinkers of the medieval period. As someone who had rejected worldly pursuits in order to pursue God, he became something of an expert about idols. Idols are those things that we often substitute for God. According to Aquinas, there are four:

  1. Money
  2. Power
  3. Pleasure
  4. Honor (fame and admiration)

An book I recently read suggested that each of us take a hard look at this list and rank our own idols. What motivates you more? Do you crave money because you believe if you only accumulate enough, you will feel secure? If you have a need to be in control, power may be the idol that attracts you. Maybe you pursue pleasure as a way to numb your emotions and distract you from your problems. Or you could be a people pleaser, who will sacrifice anything in order to be praised.

None of these idols will bring true satisfaction. As Aquinas says:

“.…when we already possess them, we despise them and seek others… The reason for this is that we realize more their insufficiency when we possess them: and this very fact shows that they are imperfect, and the sovereign good does not consist therein.”

Thomas didn’t just write about idols, he lived his life in a way that rejected them. We should do the same. So identify your particular weaknesses and work to eliminate them. When you do, you’ll be blessed by finding your true identity as a beloved child of God.

“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” Jonah 2:8

For more about idols see:

Run Away

Gifts or Fruit?

Keep in Step with the Spirit