Friday, March 11, 2011

Devotional reading 110311

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. I can’t believe it is Friday again. Time really flies and we should better take good use of the opportunity that He gives us each day. No matter what kind of responsibility that God has appointed you to do today, do it as a sacramental worship to the Lord with love and joyfulness. God never forsakes you even though you may go through tough time in life like those who suffer in natural disaster in Japan. Pray that God will comfort those who lost their loved ones in Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. There are many missionaries station in that earthquake zone. Pray that Christians and the church in Japan will do whatever to help victims from this natural disaster. Seize this moment when you still have today to fulfill God’s purpose for your life, because nobody knows whether tomorrow will come or not.

A person’s religious experiences can probably be understood best in term of the way that person perceives the divine, and allows it to work in his/her life. As I have suggested, there are three main kinds of these experiences—the sacramental, the contemplative, and those giving an inner perception of the divine in images. The most common and widespread of these experiences are the sacramental ones in which the divine comes into focus directly through some element of the outer, physical world. In the Communion, for instance, a person has the outer experience of receiving the bread and wine, and at the same time may experience receiving Christ inwardly.

It is easy to look down on the original forms of sacramental experience as primitive, and consider it quite unconscious to project the inner, spiritual reality upon outer things…The great Christian sacraments, beginning with baptism, have offered a new step of breaking off from one’s old life and entering into a new relation with God. For Catholics and also many liturgical Protestants the Commune or Eucharist is the continuing place of renewal where the divine touches humanity. The bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ; m partaking of them one actually shares the life of the Risen Christ. For the average Protestant the Bible itself has some of the sesame sacramental power. While most non-liturgical Protestants have shied away from the obviously sacramental, the Bible is literally seen as the congealed thought of God, and if this is accepted, one may then be in touch with God Himself. Total and absolute authority are often given to the words and ideas of the Bible, and thus authority is sometimes projected upon the one who preaches them, which sometimes causes explosive situations. In these churches there is an absence of sacramental action and this gap is only partly filled by services of prayer and great music.

Human beings do not outgrow their need to use sacramental experience. This should be clear to anyone who has ever fallen in love and known the power of projection. Suddenly to one in love another person appears luminous and carries all value and meaning. Poetry often flows, even from those who never before wrote poetry. As Plato originally pointed out, physical love lead to an appreciation of the beauty of spirit of another human being, and then on to worship of God Himself. Thus falling in love can in a sense be a sacramental experience of the divine.

Equally, anyone who has nursed a full-blown hatred or anger can understand how well projection works. Another person seems ns to become the very devil. One need not even know the person to feel the revulsion…People who project this evil onto others believe that the worst that can be done to them is fully justified, because the purpose of harming them is only to eliminate evil in the world. Even so, projection is an important function of the human psyche. So long as we do not think that what we are projecting is necessarily real in the outer world, this is one way of coming into contact with the forces that work from within, so that we can tap some of their power and even begin to learn about these forces.

Even the most conscious people find that some of their meaning and power comes to them through projection. There is great value in these religious experiences, in which spiritual reality is projected upon seemingly inanimate matter. By providing the religious community with its rituals, they offer continuity and stability to religious life. The group itself is held together and given energy by their experiences in common. Psychologically a person is safer in this experience than in many of the others because it is a religious experience that is brought down to a power level that humans can manage easily. Yet there are some real dangers when sacramental experience is seen as the only valid kind of religious expression. In The Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, the Scotch writer James Hogg turned one possibility into a delightful satire. His single-minded hero found himself among the elect of God and proceeded to act as God’s instrument to eliminate the non-elect by murder, beginning with his step-mother.

I believe the extreme form of fundamentalism begins from this form of sacramental type of religious experience. This is how cult begins. When a group of worshippers project their absolute love and devotion to a person, who is considered to be the only true messenger of God, they will do whatever irrational things or perform even immoral behavior without hesitation. Suicidal bombers from extreme Islamic group are typical example. To them, these suicidal acts of hurting others are acts of sacramental worship or ways to project their ultimate devotion to God. And this is definitely dangerous. Satan likes to turns blessing into curse. When worshippers do not discern their religious experiences in sacramental worship, they will become gullible to Satan’s scheme. Let’s not flow the baby out with the bath water. Sacramental worship is a valid religious experience. It is one of the ways to express our love and devotion to God. We should enjoy it as a gift from above but watchful at the same time, in case Satan will sow seeds of deception.

You probably will not hear from me for a long time since I will be on my mission trip around the globe (Asia, Europe and Africa) for next two months. Please pray for journey’s mercy and open doors for ministry in new fields like East Africa. I pray that you will continue to walk with the Lord and digest the materials that I shared with you so far. If time allows in between trips, I will still drop you my devotional reading. May God bless your daily encounter with your Lover.

In Christ,

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