Saturday, September 8, 2007
Wendy is now in the eighteenth (18) week of her pregnancy and so far everything looks good, except maybe for the baby’s facial profile. (Yes, the baby DOES look like a vampire!). This past Friday we experienced the joy of seeing “Ellie” for the first time. We are most grateful to report that she appears to be developing normally and according to schedule. Sitting in the darkened room with Calvin on my lap and watching the small ultra sound screen as the tech scanned Wendy’s tummy, I was again confronted with the mystery and wonder of new life. I admit that I could not, and cannot fully grasp the miracle that was before me on the screen – a fully formed, four chamber heart, a perfect spinal cord, limbs, fingers and toes, and if the baby is a she, already there are over 6 million eggs deposited in her ovaries – a lifetime supply stockpiled for the start of a new generation one day! As I reflected on the miracle before me, my thoughts though were drawn to something far greater, even more profound and wonderful – God himself. How wise He must be to have created life with all of its’ delicate intricacies, how good must he be that He allows us to enjoy the unspeakable delights of his creation, and how merciful must He be in patiently putting up with a world of men that spurns the life He creates by ruthlessly destroying it in its’ most vulnerable state? Not only did I see God today, but I also felt the weight of His glory pressing down on my heart. As wonderful as Ellie is, she does not, nor can she ever compare to the gracious God who loved me and gave himself for me. May this redeeming God enrapture your heart and mind this evening as you contemplate His beauty and saving grace.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Did you notice Time magazine’s cover story this week? The lead story focused on Mother Teresa’s “faith” or absence thereof. Though both interesting and sad, the main reason for familiarizing yourself with this article is so that you will have a point of contact in communicating the gospel with your unsaved Catholic friends. The following excerpt provides the gist of the story. www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1655415,00.html)
… Yet less than three months earlier, in a letter to a spiritual confidant, the Rev. Michael van der Peet, that is only now being made public, she (Mother Teresa) wrote with weary familiarity of a different Christ, an absent one. "Jesus has a very special love for you," she assured Van der Peet. "[But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — Listen and do not hear — the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak ... I want you to pray for me — that I let Him have [a] free hand."The two statements, 11 weeks apart, are extravagantly dissonant. The first is typical of the woman the world thought it knew. The second sounds as though it had wandered in from some 1950s existentialist drama. Together they suggest a startling portrait in self-contradiction — that one of the great human icons of the past 100 years, whose remarkable deeds seemed inextricably connected to her closeness to God and who was routinely observed in silent and seemingly peaceful prayer by her associates as well as the television camera, was living out a very different spiritual reality privately, an arid landscape from which the deity had disappeared.And in fact, that appears to be the case. A new, innocuously titled book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday), consisting primarily of correspondence between Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years, provides the spiritual counterpoint to a life known mostly through its works. The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church), reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever — or, as the book's compiler and editor, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, writes, "neither in her heart or in the eucharist." That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and — except for a five-week break in 1959 — never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the "dryness," "darkness," "loneliness" and "torture" she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. "The smile," she writes, is "a mask" or "a cloak that covers everything." Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. "I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love," she remarks to an adviser. "If you were [there], you would have said, 'What hypocrisy.'" Says the Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit magazine America and the author of My Life with the Saints, a book that dealt with far briefer reports in 2003 of Teresa's doubts: "I've never read a saint's life where the saint has such an intense spiritual darkness. No one knew she was that tormented." Recalls Kolodiejchuk, Come Be My Light's editor: "I read one letter to the Sisters [of Teresa's Missionaries of Charity], and their mouths just dropped open. It will give a whole new dimension to the way people understand her."The book is hardly the work of some antireligious investigative reporter who Dumpster-dived for Teresa's correspondence. Kolodiejchuk, a senior Missionaries of Charity member, is her postulator, responsible for petitioning for her sainthood and collecting the supporting materials. (Thus far she has been beatified; the next step is canonization.) The letters in the book were gathered as part of that process.
(Just so you know, the official stance of the Roman Catholic church on these “dark letters” as they are called, is that they are just further proof of her great “faith.” The “faith” they speak of is her perseverance in her work Christ over the course of 50 years, despite her intense personal doubt and spiritual deadness. How could she not be a woman of great “faith?” )
Just a few quick thoughts on this for you to think about. First the faith spoken of is different than the faith spoken of in the Bible. Bible faith is faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ; it is not a “blind” faith (I hope so), or a confidence in something we are or may have once done. Bible faith is the firm assurance that Jesus Christ did come, has died, is now risen and ever lives to give eternal life to all who come to him, trusting him alone for forgiveness and eternal life through faith (Heb 9).Second, there is the dangerous possibility of being religious and yet not being right (or righteous) with God. This was the case with the many of the leading religious figures in Jesus’ day; they honored him with their lips, but their hearts were far from him, and in vain they worshipped him, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (Matt 15:8-9). Being a Christian is not about a religion, it is about a relationship. I fear that Mother Teresa was so close, and yet so very far away.Thirdly, her example supports the Bible truth that no amount of good works or personal sacrifice can ever secure God’s favor, not now, and not later after we die. The Roman Catholic church teaches that salvation is by faith PLUS works, or to say it another way, a person is infused with righteousness by “believing in God” AND by performing good deeds or works. The Bible however is clear on this point, man is justified (declared righteous, made righteous) apart from the works of the law (Rm 3:28) and that perfect and complete righteousness comes through faith alone in the finished work of Christ (Rm 3:22).One of the pesky problems that arises out of a theology of faith PLUS works is the problem of doubt, because it is impossible to know how much one must do before God becomes appeased and satisfied with you. Therefore doubt is something Catholics must live with and accept; it is just part of living the “faith” life. Some good questions we could ask ask our Catholic friends that might cause them to see the folly of accepting doubt as part of their “faith” would be: if Mother Teresa died not knowing that she was right with God, after all that she did over 50 plus years, is there then even the possibility of earning God’s favor through good works? Is it reasonable to think that anyone might succeed where she has failed? Is this (Mother Teresa’s) the kind of relationship that you think God desires with those whom he made for the express purpose of fellowship? Is it possible to know for sure that you are right with God?Of course the Bible has a whole lot to say about these questions which you should spend some time looking them up. One passage for sure would be Romans 5:1-2 which reads: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we EXULT in hope of the glory of God!”