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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Keep Watch

Failure to keep watch over our hearts will cause us to stumble.

Then let us not be like whited sepulchres, let us study to show ourselves splendid and adorned within and not without; for true religion resides in lowliness not of habit but of heart.

  - Columbanus, Sermon I (Irish, 7th century)

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

  - Proverbs 4.23

Columbanus and his monks encountered a good many priests, bishops, and other clergy once they began their ministry in Gaul. Without exception, they were always disappointed.

While these men displayed all the trappings of ministry and ecclesiastical office, when it came to their spiritual lives, there was just nothing there. Columbanus was so concerned about the shallow and self-interested ways of these pastors that he wrote to their boss in Rome, asking if he couldn't do something to redress this situation.

When, alarmed that he had been ratting on them - though he had also confronted them as well - the bishops of Gaul summoned him to a meeting, Columbanus politely refused to come. He knew that bad company can corrupt good morals.

Meanwhile, Columbanus was careful to instruct his own monks on the proper approach to Christian faith. God looks on the heart; we'd better pay attention to it as well. The heart houses and focuses our desires, deploys our affections, and generally determines the way we will go in life. Whatever we most love in our hearts will be that which commands our decisions and guides our course in life.

Solomon counseled his own son to pay attention to his heart. Know what you love, and love what you should. Seek the Lord, to see His beauty and enter into His glory. For once you have begun to know the abundance of joy and fullness of true spiritual pleasure which are to be known in the Lord's presence, you will not allow lesser desires to direct your steps.

How do we know if we love the Lord? Do we frequent His presence? Delight in His Word? Garner as much time as we can to think of Him and be with Him in prayer? Sing His praises? Testify of His greatness? Walk the path He has marked out for us? Love His creation?

When such things are present in our lives, they reveal a heart truly devoted to the Lord. But if we only focus on the outward appearances of faith - going to church, being in a study group, serving as a leader, having devotions, and so forth - our failure to keep watch over our hearts will cause us to stumble, falter, and lapse into the "practice" of religion rather than the experience of a full and lively faith in Christ.

Keep watch over your hearts, brethren. The issues of life are being decided there, depending on what - or Whom - we love most of all.

T. M. Moore, Principal

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T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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