I have decided to attempt a new project with my favorite devotional, The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis. I won’t be posting every day, but will occasionally post a chapter with a graphic showing what I consider to be the most significant passage from that chapter. Some chapters are a bit lengthy, so I will break those up over a couple of posts (each post should take no more than a few minutes to read). I pray you find these writings to be as inspirational as I do. Feel free to leave your comments on the blog or Facebook. The first post will be up shortly.
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7)
‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
it has become the cornerstone.’
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12)
Rob Bell – often a rather controversial Christian leader – put together the following video as a promotion for his book Love Wins:
Here is the text of the video:
Several years ago we had an art show at our church and people brought in all kinds of sculptures, and paintings, and we put them on display. And there was this one piece that had a quote from Gandhi in it; and lots of people found this piece compeling. They’d stop and sort of stare at it, and take it in, and reflect on it—but not everybody found it that compelling. Somewhere in the course of the art show somebody attached a hand-written note to the piece, and on the note they had written: “Reality Check—He’s In Hell.”
Gandhi’s in hell? He is? And someone knows this, for sure; and felt the need to let the rest of us know? Will only a few, select, people make it to heaven? And will billions and billions of people burn forever in hell? And, if that’s the case, how do you become one of the few? Is it what you believe; or what you say, or what you do, or who you know—or something that happens in your heart? Or do you need to be initiated, or baptized, or take a class, or converted, or being born again—how does one become one of these few?
And then there is the question behind the questions, the real question: What is God like? Because millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message—the center of the Gospel of Jesus—is that God is going to send you to hell, unless you believe in Jesus. And so, what gets, subtlely, sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But what kind of God is that; that we would need to be rescued from this God? How could that God ever be good; how could that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be good news.
This is why lots of people want nothing to do with the Christian faith. They see it as an endless list of absurdities and inconsistencies; and they say: “Why would I ever want to be part of that?” See, what we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about Who God is, and what God is like. What you discover in the Bible is so surprising, unexpected, and beautiful, that whatever we’ve been told or taught, the good news is actually better than that; better than we could ever imagine.
The good news is, that love wins.
Desmond Tutu in his book God Is Not A Christian: And Other Provocations, wrote the following:
My first point seems overwhelmingly simple: that the accidents of birth and geography determine to a very large extent to what faith we belong. The chances are very great that if you were born in Pakistan you are a Muslim, or a Hindu if you happened to be born in India, or a Shintoist if it is Japan, and a Christian if you were born in Italy. I don’t know what significant fact can be drawn from this — perhaps that we should not succumb too easily to the temptation to exclusiveness and dogmatic claims to a monopoly of the truth of our particular faith. You could so easily have been an adherent of the faith that you are now denigrating, but for the fact that you were born here rather than there.
My question for you is simple: Who goes to Heaven? Why?
Born a Jew, Billy Crystal may not have the best insights into the Christian faith, then again, he may have it pretty well worked out. With regards to Easter, in his book Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys, he writes, “Two thousand years ago Jesus is crucified, three days later he walks out of a cave and they celebrate with chocolate bunnies and marshmallow Peeps and beautifully decorated eggs. I guess these were things Jesus loved as a child.” Leading up to Easter, a quick glance around the stores will only confirm his conclusion, but perhaps there is a bit more to it.
When we think of Easter, we often consider it to be that one glorious Sunday of celebrating the Lord’s resurrection. Yet for many, Easter is a season – Eastertide – lasting 50 days. If they had been around, Jesus very well may have enjoyed a chocolate bunny and Peeps, but what he “loved” as a child and as an adult, were the people of God. What did he hope to accomplish through this love? Redemption and adoption. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children” (Galatians 4:4-5). No. Easter is not simply about sugary confections. Easter is the time we celebrate the resurrection of Our Lord, the conquering of death, and the receiving of our full inheritance as sons and daughters of God. So is this great gift something we should only celebrate for day? For only the fifty days of Easter? What would our lives look like, what would the church be like, how would our world change if we lived into the resurrection not just for one day or 50 days, but 51 days? 150 days? 250? What would happen if we lived into the resurrection of Our Lord 365 days a year?
Jesus declares, “I am resurrection” (John 11:25). This is not an event held in suspension to be celebrated for a few hours on a specified day. Instead, it is an event that should permeate everyday and every aspect of our lives. Yet, like so many opportunities in our lives, daily living the resurrected life requires choice and intentionality. Daily living the resurrected life requires us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus without hesitating or questioning where He might be leading. It requires us to boldly say with Mary, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Finally, daily living the resurrected life requires us to love. In Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging, Brennan Manning states, “For me the most radical demand of Christian faith lies in summoning the courage to say yes to the present risenness of Jesus Christ.” What is the “radical demand of the Christian faith”: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). That command is not for the faint of heart! It takes great courage to truly love, because to truly love means to risk everything.
Make the decision. Be bold. Say, “Yes,” to the risenness of Jesus. Not just for a few hours or a day, a week or even a year, but every day. Every day, live the resurrected life God has blessed you with.
Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” – Matthew 27:20-21
There they are, side by side. I can have either and the choice is mine. Sure, I know good from evil (Genesis 3:22). I know the “right” choice, but today I think I will choose Barabbas. That’s who everyone else keeps shouting for. Even the preacher said it!
Why does that feel so wrong? Why does it feel as though a piece of my soul just died? Who is this man?
This can’t be right. I don’t even know this Barabbas. What did this Jesus do? Someone said that if he didn’t die that they would kill us all. Don’t they know, we’re already dead.
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34
Each day is a choice between Jesus and Barabbas. Today you chose Barabbas. There is tomorrow.
Never despair. Lazarus was dead and decaying: “iam foetet, quatriduanus set enim“–“by now he will smell; this is the fourth day,” Martha told Jesus.
If you hear the inspiration of God and follow it–“Lazare, vein foras!“–“Lazarus, come forth!”–you will return to life.
St. Josemaria Escriva – The Way #719
There was once when it actually worked…
On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! … When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. (Joshua 6:16-17, 20)
The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament, but it is in His revealing in the New Testament that we find another way:
When Jesus entered Jerusalem… – Matthew 12:10
Jesus entered a house… – Mark 3:20
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. – Luke 19:1
I came from the Father and entered the world… – John 16:28
What I find curious is that we, as a Christian people, often try the way of the Israelites rather than the way of Jesus. We wrongly believe that we can stand outside the wall, shout at the tops of our lungs, and the walls of the city will come tumbling down.
“You are sinning by _____! (Book Chapter : verse – verse)”
“God said, ‘_____.’ (Book Chapter : verse)” [Swing baseball bat.]
Yes, Jesus gave them a tongue lashing, flipped over some tables, and ran off a few opportunist, but mostly Jesus “entered.” The world. The city. The house. The Temple. LIVES. Jesus entered lives. He sat down and ate a meal, had a conversation, touched, healed… He revealed the Father – not by yelling and beating them with a baseball bat of Holy Scripture – but by entering in and revealing the Father that was within Himself. (John 14:9) Instead of standing outside and yelling at the city walls, enter in and reveal Christ to it’s inhabitants. It won’t mean that you are consorting with the enemy, compromising the faith, soiling your unblemished soul, apostatizing, etc.; it will mean that you are following Jesus and entering in.