“Human beings are in trouble most of the time. Those who don’t know they are in trouble are in the worst trouble.” – Eugene Peterson
In After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters N. T. Wright states,
Jesus came to help us discover who we really are, and sometimes, as with Jesus’s first followers, it takes a while for people to figure it out, and they make mistakes as they’re doing so—but they’ll get there eventually.
I love that! As I fumble and stumble as I try to follow Jesus, I take comfort in knowing that I’ll get to where I need to be eventually…and you will too as you continue to abide in the love of God through Jesus.
“Father in Heaven! What is man without thee! What is all that he knows, vast accumulation though it be, but a chipped fragment if he knows not thee! Thee the One, who art one thing and art all! So mayest thou give to the intellect, wisdom to comprehend that one thing; to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding; to the will purity that wills only one thing.” – Soren Kierkegaard
Here’s a quote from Susan Muto’s work “Where Lovers Meet: Inside the Interior Castle.” This work is a companion or commentary to St. Teresa of Avila’s “Interior Castle” classic on the spiritual life. Here Muto is discussing St. Teresa’s ‘vipers’ that one encounters as he or she seeks to draw near to God:
The viper’s trick is to deceive us into thinking that temporal affairs escalate in significance to the point where they almost seem the eternal. They try to deceive us into believing that worldly success will grant us at some point ultimate satisfaction. This illusion blinds us to the inherent finitude of earthbound affairs. However splendid our accomplishments may be, their outcomes pass away over time if we do not give the credit to God. The way of the vipers is to hold before our mind’s eye the esteem in which the world holds us when we exercise this kind of activism. They make us secretly relish people’s praise. Our pride-form allures us into thinking that our worthwhileness rests on the works in which we are engaged rather than in the God we serve. These clever devils also try to convince us that any kind of withdrawal to worship God in solitude is a big mistake. What will the other “worker bees” think of us if we take time to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)?
I believe these comments stand on their own. For me, it is a point of reflection as I seek to live out my faith as true significance only comes from resting in God.
Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading.
If a man wants to be always in God’s company, he must pray regularly and read regularly. When we pray we talk to God; when we read, God talks to us.
All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection. By reading we learn what we did not know; by reflection we retain what we have learned.
Read the holy scriptures confers two benefits. It trains the mind to understand them; it turns man’s attention from the follies of the world and leads him to the love of God.
Two kinds of study are called for here. We must first learn the scriptures are to be understood, and then see how to expound them with profit and in a manner worthy of them. A man must first be eager to understand what he is reading before he is fit to proclaim what he has learned.
The conscientious reader will be more concerned to carry out what he has read than merely to acquire knowledge of it. For it is a less serious fault to be ignorant of an objective than it is to fail to carry out what we do know. In ready we aim at knowing, but we must put into practice what we have learned in our course of study.
No one can understand Holy Scripture without constant reading, according to the words: Love her and she will exalt you. Embrace her and she will glorify you.
The more you devote yourself to a study of the sacred utterances, the richer will be your understanding of them, just as the more the soil is tilled, the richer the harvest.
Some people have great mental powers but cannot be bothered with reading; what reading could have taught them is devalued by their neglect. Others have a desire to know but are hampered by their slow mental processes; yet application to reading will teach them things which the clever fail to learn through laziness.
The man who is slow to grasp things but who really tries hard is rewarded; equally he who does not cultivate his God-given intellectual ability is condemned for despising his gifts and sinning by sloth.
Learning unsupported by grace may get into our ears; it never reaches the heart. It makes a great noise outside but serves no inner purpose. But when God’s grace touches our innermost minds to bring understanding, his word, which has been received by the ear, sinks deep into the heart.
I might split these out and comment on them later.