The Enemy of Pleasure

Scripture: Colossians 3.2
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

The pilgrim is not to despise the comforts which he may meet with by the way, but he is not to tarry among them, or leave them with regret. — John Eadie

Reflection: The Enemy of Pleasure
by Steven Dilla

Only when a person is not dependent on an object or experience for pleasure are they truly free to enjoy it. We know this, of course, because things we’ve built anticipation for regularly find a way of letting us down. On the other hand, things for which we have little—or low—expectations find ways of impressing us greatly.

In response, some people cultivate perpetually low expectations toward everything and everyone. It’s a compensatory mechanism in which they seek to avoid life’s disappointments and, if all goes well, find themselves “pleasantly surprised.” This soothes the symptoms, but leaves the cause to fester.

The problem is not in the objects and experiences themselves, but our dependence on them to cultivate joy and happiness. It is another manifestation of the root of pride—our desire to derive primary satisfaction, pleasure, and identity from our personal experiences and achievements.

“True humility,” says Timothy Keller, in summary of C.S. Lewis, “is not thinking less of yourself or thinking more of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.” When our lives take on a posture of humility it affects not just our relationships with others, but our relationships with the objects and pleasures of this world.

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.

Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.

If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. — C.S. Lewis

The Christian posture toward the objects and pleasures of the world is neither asceticism nor hedonism. Instead, our attention, passions, and desires have been so captured by the gospel that we are free to enjoy the many pleasures of this world without falling in love with them. Boasting in the cross makes us humble toward the world.

The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. — Psalm 90:12

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 16 (Listen – 5:31)
Colossians 3 (Listen – 3:09)

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 17 (Listen – 3:14) Colossians 4 (Listen – 2:21)
1 Kings 18 (Listen – 7:08) 1 Thessalonians 1 (Listen – 1:27)

Choosing Christ

Scripture: Colossians 2.6-7
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. — C.S. Lewis

Reflection: Choosing Christ
by Steven Dilla

The words, Christ, Jesus, and Lord, in Colossians 2, were written with the intention of provocation.

  • To the ancient Jewish elite, accepting Christ in the person of Jesus demanded a radical reorientation of how they understood faith.
  • To the Docetists, believing in Jesus as a man required an intellectual transformation. (They denied God would humble himself to the nature of a man, a view deemed heretical at Constantinople in 325 C.E.)
  • To the the secularists, submitting to Jesus as Lord—the one who holds authority over heaven and earth—would confront their illusion of control over their own lives.

Although the names of the groups have changed in today’s world, many of the confrontations of choosing Christ remain the same.

Though it is fairly palatable to accept Jesus as a man, or even an inspiring moral teacher, choosing him as Christ and Lord comes at a cost—socially, professionally, and otherwise. The path of least resistance is to settle for inspiration while maintaining functional control over our own heart, mind, and strength.

This dilemma famously provoked C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

This confrontation is not without an invitation, however. In accepting Jesus as Christ, our Lord, we find the richness and full depth of the human experience—a reality the rest of Colossians 2 explores in depth.

A Reading
…Heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in a physical form, like a dove. And a voice came down from heaven, “You are my Son; today have I fathered you.” — Luke 3:21-22

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 15 (Listen – 5:30)
Colossians 2 (Listen – 3:27)

A Prayer of Dependence on God From Ghana :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture: Colossians 1:15-18
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

This beautiful prayer acknowledges the supremacy of Christ and our dependence solely upon him, not just for salvation but for every eventuality of our lives. May this prayer set us free from the idea of our own sufficiency and turn our hands and eyes Godward in search of his kingdom above all else. — John

A Prayer of Dependence on God From Ghana :: Worldwide Prayer

Our God,
God of all creation,
God of the fierce and stormy wind that plucks the green leaves from the trees,
That enables the dead wood hanging on trees to fall and find their resting place on the ground.
God who allows the poor to find that wood to make fire.

Our God,
God of all creation
You are the rain-giving God, rain that produces an abundance of food.

Our God,
God of all creation.
You who provides in abundance.
Strong warrior, what you have provided we collect with our right hand.

Our God,
God of all creation.
You are friend to the disabled, glorious king of lepers, servant of the crippled, guide to the blind.
Lord Jesus, your eyes mix with the rays of the sun to bring light everywhere.

O God,
You are always there, and we listen to good news from you.
You are king of teachers who always imparts knowledge to your children.
Jesus, your beauty is like the moon rising from the sea.

O God,
Our king, when we come near you, it is as if we come to sleep in a room covered in gold.

We worship you in the name of Jesus.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

The Call to Prayer
I will call upon God and the Lord will deliver me.
In the evening, in the morning, and at the noonday, I will complain and lament, and he will hear my voice.
He will bring me back…God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me.

— Psalm 55:17

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 14 (Listen – 5:22)
Colossians 1 (Listen – 4:18)

The Office as Sacred Space :: Weekend Reading List

Discussing personal faith in the workplace can feel like pogo-sticking through a minefield—with the loss of credibility, relationship, opportunity, and income, all at stake. Yet through prayer, thoughtfulness, and intentionality, spiritual fruit can be born as Christians balance the demands of the workplace with the desire to live out their faith.

“For Martin Luther, vocation is nothing less than the locus of the Christian life,” writes Gene Edward Veith for Acton Commentary. Luther wasn’t interested in sparking an evangelistic conversation with a coworker once a quarter. The reformer believed works of faith transformed other people’s lives as well as the very material and meaning of vocation. Veith explains:

God does not need our good works, Luther said, but our neighbor does. Our relationship with God is based completely on his work for us in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. But having been justified by faith, we are sent by God back into the world, into our vocations, to love and serve our neighbors.

Human flourishing is cultivated in the soil of vocation. A recent study found that, “employees who openly discuss their religious beliefs at work are often happier and have higher job satisfaction than those employees who do not.” The bottom line for Christians, however, isn’t that the integration of faith at work is a noble and profitable enterprise. Because God works through his church scattered throughout the world, our offices, homes, and schools are all sacred places of spiritual transformation—for our neighbors as well as ourselves.

“Vocation counters the materialism and self-centeredness of economic pursuits by giving them a new meaning and a new orientation,” Veith remarks.  Luther took this seriously, calling Christians to abandon idolatrous pursuits so their neighbors—their coworkers—might experience the gospel:

If you find yourself in a work by which you accomplish something good for God, or the holy, or yourself, but not for your neighbor alone, then you should know that that work is not a good work. For each one ought to live, speak, act, hear, suffer, and die in love and service for another, even for one’s enemies… so that one’s hand, mouth, eye, foot, heart and desire is for others; these are Christian works, good in nature.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; love your neighbor as yourself. Veith concludes; “God is hidden in vocation. Christ is hidden in our neighbors.”

Today’s Reading
Proverbs 20 (Listen – 3:19)
Colossians 3 (Listen – 3:09)

This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 21 (Listen – 3:12)
Colossians 4 (Listen – 2:21)

Weekend Reading List

 

 

A Prayer for the Hurting :: Throwback Thursday

By Severus of Thrace

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. — Colossians 1:24

*Editor’s note: Severus was a priest in third-century Greece. Variations of this prayer are believed to have been used by the priest himself, and many who followed him, in preparation for martyrdom. 

To all who are tossed by the waves, you are the calm of the harbor; you are the hope of the hopeful. You are the health of the sick, you relieve the needy and guide the blind. To those exposed to punishment on every count, you are merciful; to the weary, a wall; in darkness, light.

You created the land, you rule the sea, you set every element in its place; a word from you and the heavens, the stars, and all else was made, and made perfect.

You kept Noah safe and gave wealth to Abraham, let Isaac go free and provided a victim in his stead, wrestled with Jacob, to his sweet confusion, took Lot away from the accursed land of Sodom.

Moses you let see you; to Joshua, son of Nun, you gave prudence.

In your mercy you went with Joseph on his way and brought your people out of the land of Egypt, leading them to the land they had been promised. You protected the three children in the furnace: your dew—Majesty—flowed over them and the flames could not touch them.

You closed the lions’ mouths, gave life, gave food to Daniel.

You did not allow Jonah to perish in the depths of the see and when the cruel sea-beast caught him in its jaws, you let him escape unhurt.

You gave Judith the weapons she needed; Susanna you saved from the unjust judges.

Esther had her triumph from you; you procured the downfall of Haman. You brought us from darkness to eternal light, Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, light yourself unquenchable, you who gave me the sign of the cross, the sign of Christ.

I beg you not to decide, Lord, that I am unworthy of these sufferings that my brethren have been allowed to undergo. Let me share the crown with them; let me be with them in glory, as I have been with them in prison. Let me rest with them, as I have confessed your glorious name with them.

Today’s Reading
Proverbs 19 (Listen – 3:09)
Colossians 2 (Listen – 3:27)

The Park Forum
Cultivating vibrant faith and sharpening cultural insight. Receive a daily devotional in your inbox.
100% Privacy. We don't spam.