Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Has your "love grown cold"? (Lookin' for help here)

Recent morning reading from Matthew 24:

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved." (vv. 9-13, NKJV)

I think it was Fr. David Baumann in SoCal who said that long-term interaction with people hostile to the Gospel is "corrosive" to a Christian's soul.

Seems like I'm in Corrosionville right now. Readers of this blog know about my disputes with the "lawless" Episcopalian religion and its Diocese of South Dakota. I've just weathered another diocesan convention (half a day was all I could stand). I've been called "liar" by people who hide information, won't answer questions, do business by gossip and, well, lie about everything from administrative decisions to matters of faith.

Then there's the effort to stop elective abortion in South Dakota. I've been F-bombed, flipped off, shrieked at - certainly no more than any other pro-life witness (and much less than some!) - and although I can rejoice at bearing shame for the Name of Jesus, this election season has its share of corrosive stuff.

See? I'm starting to catalog a list of complaints. I'm so stridently aware of the evil that others do. I'm seriously worried that the "corrosion" - a toxic brew of hurt, disgust and anger - is making my "love grow cold."

Recent readings and prayers with others have sounded Jesus' warning: we must be aware of how much we have been forgiven and in turn forgive those who wrong us. That's not what I'm "feeling" (hey, TEC, put that in your "experience" pipe and smoke it). I have info in hand with which I can inflict some pretty heavy personal retaliation on my enemies... the choice to obey Jesus and not use it is grinding and bitter, not light and joyful.

So, you ever been in this place? Ever worried that you are slipping away from God, not from lack of belief, but by a weary disgust with human evil?

What did you do? I am truly interested in such a discussion.


Anonymous said...

I pray, Fr. Tim, that the Holy Spirit will speak to you clearly and that you will know whether to, as prophets must, bring truth to light, how public to make it.

See this post at Anglican Curmudgeon challenging the media by a brave but truthful Democrat:

Unknown said...

Hey Tim+,
You ask a good question. I've been in somewhat similar situations before, and so I think I can relate to what you're struggling with.

First: I will ramp up the prayers for you & your family. You've been in the middle of so much intense stuff. May the Lord provide times of refreshing and rest and joy that will renew you and help you lift your eyes.

Second: There's a passage in Jude that came immediately to mind when I read your blog entry:

Jude 1:20-21
20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.
21 Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Keep yourselves in God's love! Looking at Jude, I'd say the context is pretty darn similar to what you're facing. And I think Jude's words are the key.

Ultimately I think what you're needing is to get your eyes off the folks around you and all their threats & problems, and keep reminding yourself and immersing yourself in the truth of God's love. Focus on building up your relationship with Him.

Psalm 73 also comes to mind and provides a similar lesson. When we look at the wicked our feet can slip, we can become embittered, etc. What to do? Enter the sanctuary. Let God remind you of how good it is to be near Him, let Him give you His perspective on what matters for eternity, how He sees those around you, but even more, may He whisper how much He delights in you in those times, and may He renew your hope in all His promises.

Ps 73:2-6
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.
5 They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.

Ps 73:13-17
13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.
15 If I had said, "I will speak thus," I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

Ps 73:21-28
21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

I will be praying for the Lord to be your refuge and the strength of your heart.

In His fellowship,

Anonymous said...

I have always said that getting it off my chest was the best thing I ever did as long as what I was doing was the right thing.

If it feels right, it is right...always the truth hurts a little but means so much...

I pray that you have the grace of God to walk with you...

Anonymous said...

Re forgiveness - do you know R T Kendall's book Total Forgiveness? Very good.

Anonymous said...

Wow, the comments have edified me...I'm so glad I dropped back by here...thanks to all, especially Karen.

Fr. Tim, re-reading your post one word sticks out like a pimple on a 14 year old kid: 'retaliation'...not just retaliation, but 'heavy personal'...

Scripture tell us thought that vengeance is the Lord's that He will repay... Your heart, your calling, your family will suffer if you try to judge, avenge or harm another for personal reasons...acting to protect the principles and precepts of God is one thing...acting on a personal vendetta or grudge is another.

TLF+ said...

Thanks for the prayers, Scriptures, suggestions and support so far, folks.

Haven't read Kendall's book, anonymous, but I have a bunch of Barnes & Noble gift cards left from my birthday and will get it!

Karen, I really treasure your post - the Father's love is what gets elusive in all this and I will seek Him in these Scriptures.

Floridian - bless you for checking in again. Yes, I will refrain from personal attack. I believe in Jesus. I believe that His teachings are the truth - He is the way, the truth and the life.

My problem is that my obedience is not joyful. It is because I believe that I obey - but it feels bitter and grudging these days.

Anonymous said...

You are very dear to us...because of your genuineness, transparency, warmth, gracious manner, your ministry to all - your local church, phone and online 'congregations' - your writings here, prayers at Common Cause, comments on the blogs are full of the good fruit and power of the Holy Spirit and reveal Jesus.

We love you...prayers for you and your family,

Anonymous said...

Let me add my thanks too, Tim, for sharing your spiritual/emotional struggle so openly. Yes, I've had my times of struggling in the same way. Any priest (and lay leaders too, but especially us clergy) who dares to defy the natioal TEC line these days probably will have to work through the same feelings.

So maybe that's the first step in handlling such difficult inner turmoil: realize that you're not alone. So, like Karen above, let me remind you, and all of us who read this, of some familiar Scriptures that it's easy to forget.

First, 1 Cor. 10:13. "There is no trial (or temptation) that has overtaken you that is not common to humanity, but God is faithful, and with the temptation will provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

You are not alone.

Second, recall the message of Psalm 37: "Fret not yourself because of evildoers..." They will get what they deserve eventually, and it won't have to come from you.

Third, this is in part a boundary issue. When there are corrosive people or situations in our lives, we have to set up effective boundaries, to keep the bad stuff out, and the good stuff in. Easier said than done, I know.

mousestalker said...

I am a vengeful, wrathful, stiff necked person, so please bear in mind that what follows is something I usually fail at.

But I think what's needed is to pray for our adversaries and to try to see them as children of God. Unrepentant, blatantly evil children perhaps, but He died for them as well. And so we have to love them. Even if they are socicopaths, we have to love them and work for their repentance.

I suck at that, and I'm usually only doing it out of duty, but over time, that dutiful grinding away at the burden can grow to joy. It's happened once for me.

"Till We Have Faces" has a lot to say about the fruits of acting through duty. Smart man, that CS Lewis.

TLF+ said...

A couple of confirmations of your various thoughts came up in my morning reading of Titus 3:

Look at God's love, not my own stuff:
4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

And stop being so hung up on the wackadoos (leave them to God):
9 But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. 10 Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.

Anonymous said...

Rick, O.P., says,

Oswald Chambers taught that one day we will all be humiliated to learn that the behaviors of those wo irk us the most are precisely the behaviors that we exhibit toward God.

You use the right word, Fr. Tim, when you write that you are struggling against impulses that are corrosive to the heart. Our enemies are not damaged by our hatred and bitterness toward them. We are damaged.

Here's a thought exercise for you: How does perfect faith approach an enemy who is not only saying bad things about you, not only doing bad things to you, but injuring those whom you love?

I'm not certain I have the answer to that one, but I can think of some threads to the answer. First, of course, we are explicitly commanded by our Lord to love and pray for our enemies.

Second, we are forbidden by our Lord to judge others. We all have beams in our eyes which deserve our attenion more than the mote we can see in our neighbor's eye.

Third, perfect faith rests peacefully in the conviction that God has a plan, that he knows far better than we ourselves what is best for us in eternity, that he wants what is best for each of us, and that God's plan cannot be defeated. When we condemn others, when we worry, when we become angry or sarcastic in our comments, we betray our own lack of faith. We are saying we know better than God. We are placing ourselves on his throne.

When we have faith, we know that God is fully in charge. We know that he works for good in all things with those who love him. If we believe that deeply in our hearts, is there anything else we need to know? Is there any way for our serenity to be pierced?

Those we think of as our enemies are really the victims of our enemy. We are engaged in spiritual warfare, not temporal warfare. One of the enemy's tactics is to use his victims to generate anger in us. When we are angry, we are turned away from God. Now Satan has two victims.

Prayer is our major defense against this tactic. The enemy doesn't want us to pray for those we think are our enemies. He wants us to hate them. When we pray for our "enemies," we are in fact launching a major mortar and grenade attack against the gates of hell.



Anonymous said...

Jesus said, Judge not after the flesh, but judge righteous judgments...we may or indeed, must 'discern' whether another person's actions are sinful...but we are not authorized to avenge an evil, or to condemn a person to hell. That is God's jurisdiction. He alone knows and weighs the heart. We are commanded to forgive for the sake of our hearts. The early church fasted and prayed for the enemies of the church who were persecuting, killing and torturing their spiritual and physical family members.

We must discern sin in another because if we do not warn them, Scripture says their blood is on our hands.

Anonymous said...

This is the most interesting thread I've read in recent weeks - thanks Fr. Tim for thinking of it.

I think everyone here has given some great advice. I think where the hard part of it is is that Fr. Tim is having to live THROUGH the conflict - it's not like a fight you had and then it's over. This is like an on-going illness that he and his parish are having to endure. The first is hard, but this is like - well, like a dementer from the Harry Potter series, something that sucks out the life and joy in everything.

When the world attacks us - it is hard - but when our brothers and sisters attack us - it is devastating... hard to bounce back from that one.

Fr. Tim - I know what is right - that when hurt and pulled we must cling to Christ - center ourselves in Him so the slings and arrows don't pierce our souls because He is our Heart and Soul. That is the advice my former priest gave me when facing similar issues and he is correct.

However, I know too often, and even at this present moment I feel crippled by the disapprobation of those who claim the cross of Christ.

Easy to pontificate - very hard to apply to ourselves and our own lives. So, I will pray for you and your family (personal and parish) if you promise to pray for me & mine that we draw close to the Person of Christ and get our identity from Him and not those who surround us.



TLF+ said...

Thanks, Kay. Appreciate your prayers and will pray.

Rick, you are on fire with good thougths this week! (He's been refuting heresy over at the EpiscoCafe site). I have "prayer for enemies" in a prominent place on my daily list. Will keep it up!

Matthew, I think I was posting when you were! Just caught up with your good words.

ga/fl - the example of the early church continues to stagger us. Getting back to their simple, direct application of the Lord's teaching runs so counter to our age's desire to overthink and make everything more complex than it need be.

Bless you all. Your support on this thread means a great deal. I am stealing more moments to close the door and pray.

plsdeacon said...

Fr. Tim,

There are times that we look for consolation from God at every turn and find that God is absent. We don't want to obey, but we still do. We don't want to forgive but we are still asked (commanded) to. We want to reach out in pain and hurt or we want to run to our father and cry in His lap, but we don't see our Father around and we know it is wrong to lash out.

In these times, we need to ask for the grace to behave like our Father wants us to. We need to seek God's face in prayer, but be ready when He seems to withdraw. If we can't see God's face in prayer, then we need to look for it in the least likely of places - the faces of our enemies.

May God give you the grace and strength to continue to stand for the Truth and to witness (=martyr) to the Love of Jesus Christ and His power to make all things (even TECUSA) new.

Phil Snyder

TLF+ said...

Deacon Phil, thanks! And thanks for your (and Dallas') efforts to stand for Christ in this whole mess.

Anonymous said...

I also love this thread.
Fr. Tim said,
'I'm hungry, I need Bread.'
And the dearest people came
with roast, casserole, salad, vegetables,
and Bread.
Words of life, love, truth
and he
and we
were all fed.

Anonymous said...

Hang in there, brother.

Fr. Bill in LA

Anonymous said...

Fr. Tim,
Your words tugged so hard at my heart. It was as if God led me to read them in order that I too may be fed.

God bless and know you are in my prayers,

TLF+ said...

Bless all of you for your comments. The need to get apart and know who God is (to really worship) comes through on this thread and in other chats I'm having with folks here.

God is love, and to keep that fire burning I need to be in His presence more intimately than I've been of late.

Thank you - you have been parables of His love via your comments.