Volume. XXXI, No. 35
Sunday, 26 February 2017


From the Pastors Heart: A Lesson from Brother Lawrence (Part 1)


What I am going to write about today is something unusual.  It is about a man from an order of Discalced Carmelite Priory in Paris.  Yes, he was a monk in the order of Carmelite.  Though he was neither a famous theologian nor a preacher, many have admired his wisdom, devoted heart and humility.  His examples are so outstanding that even prominent Protestant church leaders recommend him to sinful, lazy, and arrogant Christians.  It is not a secret that there are many immature and proud but fervent and zealous people in Christian churches.  They talk about the Lord magnificently without understanding what it means to love God.  They have forms of external religious piety and demonstrate passionate religious talks and persuasions, which give them opportunities to make their own circle of followers and disciples.  However, their inner piety is at low and shallow.  To such people, even in our midst, they may find some lifelong lessons from Brother Lawrence.  

Christianity Today (CT) magazine has an article about him, whose first introductory sentence was a quote from him, “It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”  It truly sums up his attitude toward God. (christianitytoday.com/history/people/innertravelers/brother-lawrence.html). During the tumultuous seventeenth-century in France, there was no one who spoke about the grace of God and His presence in daily life like this humble monk.  

He was only a kitchen aide, but his wisdom and spiritual walk with the Lord could not be unnoticed.  He granted four interviews, from which a book was printed, known to us today as The Practice of the Presence of God.  This book also has a few letters he wrote to different individuals.   

The CT says of his spiritual awareness as following: “In the deep of winter, [he] looked at a barren tree, stripped of leaves and fruit, waiting silently and patiently for the sure hope of summer abundance.  Gazing at the tree, Herman grasped for the first time the extravagance of God's grace and the unfailing sovereignty of divine providence.  Like the tree, he himself was seemingly dead, but God had life waiting for him, and the turn of seasons would bring fullness.  At that moment, he said, “that leafless tree, first flashed in upon my soul the fact of God,’ and a love for God that never after ceased to burn.”  

He was assigned to the monastery kitchen where, amidst the tedious chores of cooking and cleaning at the constant bidding of his superiors, he developed his rule of spirituality and work.  In his Maxims, Lawrence writes, “Men invent means and methods of coming at God's love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God's presence.  Yet it might be so simple.  Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?”  

For Brother Lawrence, ‘common business,’ no matter how mundane or routine, was the medium of God's love.  The issue was not the sacredness or worldly status of the task but the motivation behind it.  ‘Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king.  It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.’  

The following excerpts are from the book, Practice of the Presence of God.  “Brother Lawrence retreated to a place in his heart where the love of God made every detail of his life of surpassing value.  ‘I began to live as if there were no one save God and me in the world.’  Together, God and Brother Lawrence cooked meals, ran errands, scrubbed pots, and endured the scorn of the world. He admitted that the path to this perfect union was not easy.  He spent years disciplining his heart and mind to yield to God's presence. ‘As often as I could, I placed myself as a worshiper before him, fixing my mind upon his holy presence, recalling it when I found it wandering from him.  This proved to be an exercise frequently painful, yet I persisted through all difficulties.’”

“Brother Lawrence insisted that, to be constantly aware of God's presence, it is necessary to form the habit of continually talking with Him throughout each day.  He said, ‘Our only happiness should come from doing God's will, whether it brings us some pain or great pleasure.  After all, if we are truly devoted to doing God’s will, pain and pleasure won't make any difference to us.  We also need to be faithful, even in dry periods.  It is during those dry spells that God tests our love for Him.  We should take advantage of those times to practice our determination and our surrender to Him.  This will often bring us to a maturity further on in our walk with God.’”
 
“He was content doing the smallest chore if he could do it purely for the love of God. He even found himself quite well off, which he attributed to the fact that he sought only God and not His gifts.  He believed that God is much greater than any of the simple gifts He gives us.  Rather than desiring them from Him, he chose to look beyond the gifts, hoping to learn more about God Himself.  Sometimes he even wished that he could avoid receiving his reward so that he would have the pleasure of doing something solely for God.  ‘Only the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us of sin.  For this reason, we should strive to love Him with all our hearts.’ Brother Lawrence said he concentrated on doing little things for Him, since he was unable to do bigger things.  After that, anything the Lord willed could happen to him, and he wouldn’t be concerned about it.  Therefore, he didn't worry about anything and asked God for nothing except that he might not offend Him.”

“The worst trial he could imagine was losing his sense of God's presence, which had been with him for so long a time.  However, his confidence in God's goodness made him certain that He would never leave him entirely.  Should he encounter any great difficulty in his life, he knew the Lord would provide the strength he needed to endure it.  With this assurance, Brother Lawrence wasn't afraid of anything.  He added that he wasn’t afraid of dying to self or losing himself in Christ, because complete surrender to God’s will is the only secure road to follow.  In it, there is always enough light to assure safe travel.  In the beginning, it is always necessary to be faithful, both in actions and in the renouncing of self.  After that, there is only indescribable joy.  If difficulties arise, simply turn to Jesus Christ and pray for His grace, with which everything will become easy.  Our brother remarked that some people go only as far as their regular devotions, stopping there and neglecting love, which is the purpose of those devotions.  This could easily be seen in their actions and explained why they possessed so little solid virtue.  Neither skill nor knowledge is needed to go to God, he added.  All that is necessary is a heart dedicated entirely and solely to Him out of love for Him above all others.  He said, ‘the most important part resides in renouncing, once and for all, whatever does not lead to God.  This allows us to become involved in a continuous conversation with Him in a simple and unhindered manner.’”  

I hope that the quoted wisdom could teach us to be better, humble and spiritual followers of Christ.  I wish that all of us serve the Lord because of love for Him and that our inner virtues grow into maturity.  I’ll quote him one more time next week.

Lovingly,
Your Pastor

More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

*Sunday School BBQ on Mon, 13 March. Location TBA.
*Volunteers still welcome to join Easter Family Bible Camp Committee meeting. Biscuits provided.
*New Basic Bible Knowledge classes will start soon for those interested in Baptism, Re-Affirmation of Faith or Transfer of Membership, please see Elder Michael D Lee.
*ECM for by-election of Dn Colin Gan for Elder & Bro Kevin Low for Deacon in the 8th Session; presentation of mini-budget 2016-17 on 26 March, 2017.
*Volunteers needed for the kitchen cleaning roster. If available, please see Dn Sung Hyun Ma or Sis Megan Lim.
*Reminder all worshippers: Please turn mobile  phones off/silent during Worship Service. Please do not bring food & beverages to Sanctuary except water or food/fluids for babies & toddlers.

Praise & Thanksgiving
Journey mercies: Pastor Okman & Sis Myung Ki (S’pore/Indonesia); Rev George van Buuren (Bris); & others arriving safely at their destinations.
Visitors & new worshippers.
God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.
Church activities in past week.
YAF Welcome Night – new students.
Fruitful ministry in Life University (Sihanoukville) - Pastor Okman & Sis Myung Ki.

Prayer Items
Health & God’s healing - Pastor Ki; Dr Gary Cohen (USA), Dr SH Tow (S’pore); Rev George van Buuren; Rev Edward & Sis Lehia Paauwe; Rev Patrick Tan (S’pore);  & others in affliction.
iSketch & Tell Ministry: Pr Hai Seng Lim’s ministry in Melbourne.
Cambodia Missions
New Life BPC (London) - Dr Carl Martin; God’s guidance & encouragement for Task Force & congregation.
God’s guidance for our theological students - Dn Sung Hyun Ma & Bro Kevin Low.
Youth & Assistant Pastor for Hope B-P Church.
Journey mercies: Rev George van Buuren & others who are travelling.
Those working away.
Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.
God’s wisdom & guidance for the Building Committee in making decisions for the use of new premises.
God’s help with preparation for 31st Anniversary & Dedication Service.
God’s guidance for Covenant, Ebenezer, Hope & Providence BPCs to form an Australian B-P Presbytery.

 

 

© Hope Bible-Presbyterian Church
PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063