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Thursday, Third Week of Lent

March 15, 2007

Blessed Thursday!

Readings:
Jeremiah 7:23-28 (God’s people are rebellious)
Psalm 95:1-9 “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts”
+Luke 11:14-23 (those who aren’t for Jesus are against Him)

When our language becomes distorted, it won’t be long before our
thoughts and actions become warped too.

“Faithfulness has disappeared;
the word itself is banished from their speech” (Jeremiah 7:28)

It’s a sad commentary, not limited to Jeremiah’s day. How many words of
courtesy and devotion have been banished from our language. Whatever
happened to “ladies first”, or wearing our “Sunday best” in honor of
Almighty God? Other words have been so distorted that their meaning is
no longer pure and innocent. How about “Gentleman’s club”? Or “for
mature audiences”? There’s nothing gentlemanly nor mature about the
indulgence of lust. And while we still use the word “faithfulness”, it
seems to have been sapped of a lot of its meaning. “You can count on
me–unless it becomes unpleasant for me. I’ve got to do what makes me
happy, you know.”

“It is by Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils”
(Luke 11:15)

Clever. Not wise.

“If one of you is wise and understanding, let him show this in practise
through humility filled with good sense.”-James 3:13.

Jesus’ accusers seem to have lost out on both counts there. Attributing
His casting out of devils to an evil power is neither humble nor
sensible.

“Should you instead nurse bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your
hearts, at least refrain from arrogant and false claims against the
truth.” -James 3:14

Missed it again. Jesus is the Truth, and these claims against Him are
certainly arrogant and false!

“Wisdom like this does not come from above. It is earthbound, a kind of
animal, even devilish cunning. Where there are jealousy and strife,
there also are inconstancy and all kinds of vile behavior.”-James
3:15-16

That explains a lot of what we see happening all around us…and, if
we’re brutally honest, what we see happening within our own hearts.
We can justify just about anything by making it sound good, by
redefining a word here & there. It’s the same kind of cunning the
devil pulled on Eve, making evil seem so reasonable. So how do
we know the difference, when good and evil both look good,
when the counterfeit looks so real? We are a house divided
against itself, that cannot stand (see Luke 11:17). How do we
know which side is the right one, which side to choose?

“Wisdom from above, by contrast, is first of all innocent. It is also
peaceable, lenient, docile, rich in sympathy and the kindly deeds that
are its fruits, impartial and sincere.”-James 3:17

So where do we get this innocence?

“How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to Thy word.”-Psalm 119:9

We’re back to obedience, to that humility which measures our thoughts,
words and actions by God’s standards–that lesson our Teacher keeps
presenting to us. The devil is the “strong man” Jesus referred to, who
guards us as his captives (see Luke 11:21-22). Only God is stronger
than he. Only God can overpower him and set us free. But we have to
want His freedom. We have to follow Him freely. We have to gather
with Him (Luke 11:23), which means gathering with the Church He
established to perpetuate His Presence among us on earth until the end
of time (Matthew 28:20–directed to the Apostles, who were the first
bishops). He will not carry us off forcibly the way the devil does.
God will, however, send us prophet after prophet, whether we listen to
them or not (“they will not listen to you either”-Jeremiah 7:27),
whether we kill them or not. Even when we’ve shown ourselves utterly
opposed to Him (“It is by Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that He casts
out devils” -Luke 11:15), He patiently cuts through our smokescreen with
His Truth. He knows we’ve been duped, that we’ve bought into a
captivity to sin that masquerades as freedom. He offers us wisdom from
above, a gift of His Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2).

May we learn to speak the language of Heaven,
the language of wisdom from above, in humility filled with good sense.

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