Tuesday, December 15, 2009

“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3.2)

New Testament Challenge, Day 31 – Philippians and Colossians
Nothing sounds better today than these words. This is exactly why we are participating in this New Testament Challenge to read the entire New Testament by Christmas, not simply for knowledge but for preparation and inspiration to celebrate the Holy Nativity of God. Saint Paul doesn’t let up on us today. In both Philippians and Colossians he reminds us that our life must be focused upon the heavenly things rather than the earthly. How can we do this?

The Church offers us three tools that “train our members” on heavenly living: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving, all of which we should do as a discipline in preparation for Christmas. When we set aside time each day for prayer, like we have been to read the New Testament, we are saying with our actions that we are concerned about our spiritual health. We are saying that spending time speaking with God is more important than catching the most recent episode of Survivor. (Which is easy for me since I don’t like Survivor – but consider any of your favorite TV shows)

When we make a decision to fast we are showing God that what we eat is not as important as what we believe about the coming of Christ. Our bodies are flesh and will waste away underground someday but our soul will live forever to be later reunited with our new heavenly bodies. Besides, as I like to say, if I can’t say “no” to a juicy hamburger, then how will I be able to say “no” to other temptation. Fasting is truly a spiritual discipline.

When we give alms (charity) we are reminding ourselves that our wealth and comfort is not our driving force but showing love for others as children of God. When we give to others we cannot possibly be selfish. That doesn’t mean that giving to charity out of guilt and a desire to earn our salvation will be of any benefit. Salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned. In fact, guilt giving is of no joy to either the giver or the receiver let alone to God.

We are in the home stretch of the challenge and our preparation for Christmas. I pray that we are able to remain focused since I fully expect the devil to try harder and harder to distract us away from the things above so we can dwell on the things on earth.

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