Monthly Archives: May 2015

What is the Sabbath?

Sabbath 2When I was growing up I was taught that Sunday was the Christian Sabbath. I really didn’t know exactly what that meant, nor did I know anyone who was not Christian. All I knew about the Sabbath is it was the day that we went to church. Over the years I have come to understand that Sabbath is so much more. A rabbi explained the Sabbath to a group of Christians touring the Holy Land in this way – “The Talmud,” he said, “gives us three reasons for keeping the Sabbath.”

“The first reason for Sabbath,” he went on, “is that given the fact that no one is permitted to do anything on Shabbat, no orders could be given, no work done. Therefore, the slaves and the rich would be equal for at least one day a week.”

“The second reason is that we have time to reflect on the meaning of our lives.”

“The third reason for Sabbath is that we can reflect on the goodness of our work as God did on creation on the seventh day.”

Sabbath means rest, but everyone rests, not just the holy people or the privileged ones. The Sabbath is the “great equalizer” that joins all of God’s creation together. Our world is divided is such a way that cries out for something, anything that brings us together. I would be comforted to know everyone is resting regardless of their station in life.

Do you know the meaning of your life? My meaning changes with each task or role that is sent my way. Sabbath rest is a time to focus on the central reason for your existence. Perhaps if we all took the time to reflect in such a way, we would suddenly find that God gives us great peace.

So many of us see ourselves and the world as being self-made. Sabbath says stop and acknowledge your own powerlessness in view of God’s creation. The world could be a so much better place if we would take the time to acknowledge it as God’s creation.Prayer group

The “Christian Sabbath” is just another myth made up by church leaders to make sure you are attending church services. Let’s take a step back from that and observe Sabbath as it was meant to be observed. Try to create for yourself a time when you stop and become one with all of God’s creation and praise Him for who he is to you. In such a time, you may want to attend worship.

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Evil and Innocence

We spend an inordinate amount of time bemoaning the evils of our day. Each day brings a new political and social organization whose primary focus is to turn our country toward “Christianity.” There is a sense that the world has never been worse than is right now.

Nearly 60 years ago C. S. Lewis said:lewiscs34

“The practical problem of Christian politics is not that of drawing up schemes for a Christian society, but that of living as innocently as we can with unbelieving fellow-subjects under unbelieving rulers who will never be perfectly wise and good and who will sometimes be very wicked and very foolish.”

The problem then and now is not that the society is a failure, but that individuals fail to see the role of innocence in their lives. Innocence means believing and doing the “red letter” words of the Bible, and accepting that they are the words of Jesus.

Then we can believe:

  • Innocence is turning the other cheek even when we have the advantage.
  • Innocence is trusting in people that are not saints.
  • Innocence is giving a second chance, and the second, second chance.
  • Innocence is going tone more mile for someone who doesn’t deserve it.
  • Innocence is believing that God will win in the end, and we don’t have to make it happen.

When we can embody these principles and more, we become world changers. Our live and our influence become a great factor in the lives of others. Therefore, by our practice many others are led to a knowledge of the love of God and the reality of Jesus as Savior of the world

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Fasting, Medicine, Approval and Purity

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Today I share some wisdom from Desert Mother Amma Syncletica. The Desert Mothers were women Christian ascetics living in the desert of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria in the 4th and 5th centuries AD. They typically lived in the monastic communities that began forming during that time, though sometimes they lived as hermits Their writings are largely lost because of the male dominance of the church in this time period.

Most of us can relate to medicine tasting bad, and in the same breath admit to it Amma Syn1doing our bodies some good. The wise Amma brings fasting and medicine into the same conversation. Quite often I have had people approach me about the reason and necessity of fasting as a spiritual discipline. Some say that they get absolutely nothing out of fasting except pangs of hunger. Fasting, like any other discipline, must be approached in an attitude of faith. Fasting and prayer are often linked together .Too often, the focus of fasting is on the lack of food. Instead, the purpose of fasting should be to take your eyes off the things of this world and focus more completely on God. Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God, and to ourselves, that we are serious about our relationship with Him. Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God. With that awareness, we have received a dose of Spiritual medicine that leads us toward our goal of being “one with Him.” Might I suggest that a day of fasting and dedication to our awareness of God could do us all a bit of good.

An undue amount of time is spent byAmm Syn 2 all of us seeking the approval of one person or another. The Amma tells us that if approval of all is necessary, we will spend our lives begging for a mere earthly goal. Instead she suggests that purity of the heart should be our goal. This whole concept of universal approval is an impossibility, however, purity of heart is a difficult but reachable goal. As we seek to live the Christian life, we should learn the wisdom of seeking purity rather than approval.

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Living the Gospel

All of Jesus’ rules of ministry, his “tips for the road,” are very interpersonal. They are based on putting people in touch with people. Person-to-person is the way the gospel was originally communicated. Person-in-love-with-person, person-respecting-person, person-forgiving-person, person-touching-person, person-crying-with-person, person-hugging-person: that’s where the Spirit is so beautifully present.

The challenge is to preach a gospel that is livable, believable, and life-giving. Perhaps that is the most simple criterion by which we can discern Jesus’ teaching. It is always a call to death but is always life-giving in the long run. When you see life being created between people and within people, you see God. Where you see God, you will always see freedom. Restraint and passion—that is the paradoxical experience of the Holy. It takes time to learn. You grow into the ability to love another in a way that totally gives yourself and entrusts yourself and yet respects that person and stands back.

Prayer Thought

Lord help me to grow this day so that I might be able to better understand your holiness. Amen

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The Dark Journey

We May say that there are three reasons for which this journey made by the soul to union with God is called night.

· The first has to do with the point from which the soul goes forth, for it has gradually to deprive itself of desire for all the worldly things which it possessed, by denying them to itself; the which denial and deprivation are, as it were, night to all the senses of man.

Zurbarán_St._John_of_the_Cross· The second reason has to do with the mean, or the road along which the soul must travel to this union — that is, faith, which is likewise as dark as night to the understanding.

· The third has to do with the point to which it travels — namely, God, Who, equally, is dark night to the soul in this life.

These three nights must pass through the soul — or, rather, the soul must pass through them — in order that it may come to Divine union with God.

—- John of the Cross from Ascent to Mt. Carmel

The writings of John of the Cross clearly point toward the ultimate mystery of attempting to reach into the inner sanctum of spiritual development. In this small excerpt from his “Ascent to Mt. Carmel,” he points out that the end of every path there is night (mystery) as we ascend to a meaningful relationship with God. We often think we can understand and reach union with God without encountering the pain of mystery. Such a path does not exist. Let us examine these three reasons we experience this night.

Preparation for the journey, any journey, is always stressful. There are plans to be made, things to be done that are not always things we look forward to doing. In the case of spiritual preparation we must learn to deny ourselves. Jesus asks us to take up a cross and follow Him. Fasting, denial, even simple living are among the things that can bring us into the night. All these disciplines, and more, are what it takes to journey closer to God.

Faith for the journey is a tall order. In the simplest of terms “… faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” We live and breathe in a world that is constantly seeking to understand, prove or discover all manner of truth. Conversely, faith on the road to God cannot be understood, proven or discovered in any tangible way. Faith is clearly a journey into the night that only has God at the end of a dark tunnel.

Focus for the journey is found in an unshakable belief (most of the time) in the person of God. There is much darkness in not seeing. We can’t see or touch God and yet we spend our lives trying to get closer to Him. That is a remarkably dark and lonely place to be. Through resolute behavior and unshakable faith we can reach into the inner sanctum and find God.

May we all commit ourselves to this ascent to God, for in it we find a heavenly Peace.

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Orthodoxy vs Orthopraxy

Orthopraxy is usually distinguished from orthodoxy. Orthodoxy refers to doctrinal correctness, whereas orthopraxy refers to right practice. What we see in many of the Eastern religions is not an emphasis upon verbal orthodoxy, but instead upon practices and lifestyles that, if you do them ,end up changing your consciousness.

Let’s get out and do something for God.

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Scripture

Merton quote 5-1-15

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May 1, 2015 · 5:15 am