Category Archives: Faith

Living in Hope

Paperback cover of Esperanto edition of "...

Paperback cover of Esperanto edition of “Where Love is, God is” by Leo Tolstoy 

Today is the First Sunday of Advent.

Come Lord Jesus, Come.

The Christian lives in the Hope. We look to tomorrow with confidence, even absurd confidence. As the White Queen told Alice, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” There is an exuberance in the Christian Life, an exaltation which passes logic. Why? Because we belong to Christ.

Listen to Leo Tolstoy:

· I believe in God, who is for me spirit, love, the principle of all things.

· I believe that God is in me, as I am in Him.

· I believe that the true welfare of man consists in fulfilling the will of God.

· I believe that from the fulfillment of the will of God there can follow nothing but that which is good for me and for all men.

· I believe that the will of God is that every man should love his fellow men, and should act toward others as he desires that they should act toward him.

· I believe that the reason of life is for each of us simply to grow in love.

· I believe that this growth in love will contribute more than any other force to establish the Kingdom of God on earth

Lord help each of us to be people of belief. In belief we can find meaning and purpose which inspire us to be people who can make a difference. Let us use our belief for the betterment all we touch. Amen

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A Thought for Passion/Palm Sunday

Some years ago a book was written by a noted American historian entitled “When The Cheering Stopped.” It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following WWI. When that war was over Wilson was an international hero, There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought and the world had been made safe for democracy.

On his first visit to Paris after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than their own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. In a Vienna hospital a Red Cross worker had to tell the children that there would be no Christmas presents because of the war and the hard times. The children didn’t believe her. They said that President Wilson was coming and they knew that everything would be alright.

The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. It turned out that after the war the political leaders in Europe were more concerned with their own agendas than they were a lasting peace. At home Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all the President’s health began to break. He suffered a stroke and in the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man.

It’s a sad story, but one that is not altogether unfamiliar. The ultimate reward for someone who tries to translate ideals into reality is apt to be frustration and defeat. There are some exceptions, of course, but not too many.

It happened that way to Jesus. They cried hosanna, He’s the son of David, but less than a week after the Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem, he would be dead. We enter Holy Week with that in mind.

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Affirming Our Faith

ApostlesCreedThe way I affirm my faith is by reciting and believing the words of the Apostles’ Creed. Many times I have been questioned as to the meaning and purpose of the Apostles’ Creed in worship. The words below are my small stab at what the Creed means to me, and what I mean when I refer to myself as an Apostles’ Creed Christian.


The Apostles’ Creed


I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth; 

This beginning of the Creed sets forth our personal profession that we believe in God as Creator. We affirm that nothing was made that did not have His stamp on it. This does not mean we reject evolutionary change, but it does mean that we believe that our God started the process.

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord;

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,

In this section we affirm Jesus as the Son of God, and not only a Son, but a self-creation of God through His Spirit. Mary, the virgin, was the vessel by which God brought Himself into the world.

suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;

In these words we affirm that Jesus really did suffer and truly died. His suffering was brought by man, namely Pontius Pilate. This death was a means of victory for Him because He rose from the dead, and by this act overcame man’s greatest enemy, death.

he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come again to judge the quick and the dead.

When Jesus rose from the dead He went to heaven as God sitting in the throne with equality to the Creator God. Because He is not only man but God as well and as such He will sit in judgment at the appointed time.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

After Jesus left the earth in the ascension, He said to His disciples that He would send a Comforter so that they would not be alone. That Comforter is the Holy Spirit, who is God’s real presence on earth. The word catholic means universal, and we are affirming that we belong to the universal church no matter what label we use. By affirming our belief in the communion of saints we are further asserting our belief that all who call upon Jesus are part of the Church. In the final three lines we express our faith in the plan of God to forgive, renew and reward those who have chosen to be a people of good will.


These few words are far from an exhaustive commentary on the Apostles Creed, but I hope that they can stand as a beginning point of faith. Next time you stand and recite this creed, I hope you will think of some of these thoughts.

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Silent Listening

I recently discovered a fascinating modern mystic. Mama Maggie is a Coptic who works with the poorest of the poor in troubled Egypt. At a leadership conference at Willow Creek Community Church she said, “The hardest task of a leader is to get to know the Almighty and to keep your heart pure.” She asserted that a way to accomplish this is through silence. There “you discover a taste of eternity.” Silence your body to listen to words.

Silence your tongue to listen to thoughts.

Silence your thoughts to listen to your heart beating.

Silence your heart to listen to your spirit.

Silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit.

—–Mama Maggiemamamaggie

I am thoroughly convinced that if all of us would the biblical admonition of “be still and know that I am God” we would experience a sense of peace and be far more successful in all of our endeavors.

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Hope and Love

The more a person loves God, the more reason he has to hope in Him. This hope produces in the Saints an unutterable peace, which they preserve even in adversity, because as they love God, and know how beautiful He is to those who love Him, they place all their confidence and find all their repose in Him alone.

—– Alphonsus Liguori

Love and hope are key ingredients in the Christian walk. When we allow these two factors to come together in our search for the almighty, our faith explodes and we emerge on fire followers of Christ. The Bishop says that our hope allows us to find peace in times of great adversity, and our love for Him permits us to see His unmatchable beauty. Upon arrival at this point we find ultimate rest and peace in God.

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Venerable Bede and Salvation

His name was Bede, also known as Venerable Bede, and he was the father of English history. Bede was truly a master of multiple disciplines, but he is most remembered as the man whose lifelong mission was to bring people closer to God. Bede never traveled more than 30 miles from his Northumbrian Monastery, and from that community he wrote more than forty books covering a wide range of subjects. For all of his 62 years he valued nothing more than his mission.

:"The Venerable Bede Translates John"...

“The Venerable Bede Translates John” by James Doyle Penrose 

Bede said, “He who will not willingly and humbly enter the gate of the Church will certainly be damned and enter the gate of Hell whether he wants to or not!” These strong words establish his doctrine of salvation. The key words to anyone’s faith walk are willingly and humbly. Without this conviction we fail to enter the gates of heaven and live a miserable earthly existence as well.

Scripture proclaims, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Revelation 3:20) God’s word is crying out for us to willingly let Him into our lives. He has prepared such a good life for us, and yet it is our choice to neglect or accept His invitation. Salvation, the Christian way, is never forced upon any soul, but it must be received and received willingly.

The second word that Venerable Bede uses is humbly. Jesus said in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, “for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” Clearly, our Lord articulates to us that acting in humble submission is the key to eternal justification and a peaceful life all the days of our lives. A person who lives humbly not only receives riches in the hereafter but lives without the earthly scourge of excessive pride. This type of pride leads to untold sin and grief.

The word of the Church Father is that the neglect of this simple formula leads to eternal condemnation and a miserable earthly existence. We would do well to give heed to the words of Jesus, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Our world cries for rest, and peaceful rest at that. Jesus offers this life to all who come to Him.

A man who was born of questionable parentage, and died a criminal’s death offers us this gift of peace by the power of His resurrection. Some 700 years later a humble Monk who never traveled more than 30 miles from the place of his birth repeats this invitation in very simple words. Let us not complicate the salvation of the Christ, but merely accept willingly and humbly.

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GOD’S LIKENESS

Anselm of Canterbury was the first to attempt ...

Anselm of Canterbury was the first to attempt an ontological argument for God’s existence. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God’s Likeness, then, may be attained by us in this way; if, musing on Him as the Good, we study to be good; if, owning Him the Just, we strive to be just; if, contemplating Him the Merciful, we make endeavors after mercy.

——-Anselm of Canterbury

The goal of every God fearing person is to somehow be like God. We all want to gain Godly attributes in our lives. Anselm used three words – musing, owning, and contemplating. His first was musing which means to meditate very deeply on a particular subject. Anselm chose to focus on the goodness of God; as a result, goodness becomes more natural to him. Anselm then moved on to seeing God as just. We all have our times of questioning the justice of God in our horribly unjust world. In owning God as a just God, Anselm, and we too, can learn the importance of striving to be just to all. Then comes a most important likeness of God, mercy. To truly understand the good and justice that Gods pours out on us, we must understand and practice mercy.

Think on these things and allow God to use you as His instrument. We serve a mighty and powerful God who wants to equip us to do the manifold tasks of ministry and to live as beacons of His presence in the world.

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Didache 1

The title of the Didache in the manuscript dis...

The title of the Didache in the manuscript discovered in 1873 

From time to time I will be making entries on the Didache. What is the Didache? Simply stated, it is the writings of the apostles about the teaching of Jesus. You might even call it the quick “Quick Help” version of the red letter words of our Lord. The Didache has way of cutting to the heart of the teachings of Jesus. The apostles set this forth as a manual for Christians, and we would do well to make it our guide as well. The translation of the text that I am using was translated and edited by Tony Jones, and is under the protection of a Creative Commons license. I invite your comments

There Are Two Ways

There are two ways, one of life and one of death!  And there is a great difference between the two ways. The way of life is this: First, you shall love God who made you. And second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you. The meaning of these sayings is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the heathens do the same? But you should love those who hate you, and then you shall have no enemies. Abstain from fleshly and bodily lusts: If someone strikes your right cheek, turn the other also, and be perfect. If someone forces you to go one mile, go two. If someone takes your cloak, give also your coat. If someone takes from you what is yours, don’t ask for it back. You really cannot. Give to everyone who asks you, and don’t ask for it back. The Father wants his blessings shared. Happy is the giver who lives according to this rule, for that one is guiltless. But the receiver must beware; for if one receives who has need, he is guiltless, but if one receives not having need, he shall stand trial, answering why he received and for what use. If he is found guilty he shall not escape until he pays back the last penny. However, concerning this, there is a saying: “Let your alms sweat in your hands until you know to whom to give them.”         —–Translated by Tony Jones

The most valuable lesson that anyone can learn is the difference between right and wrong. Many of us think learning such a lesson is basic, but not so. Often we throw up our hands and say, what has our world come to? Things never used to be this way. Yet here we see a document written about 2000 years ago that finds it necessary to address the two ways. Man has not changed so much after all.

The first way and the way that leads to eternal life is the way of selflessness .This way finds it far  more valuable to give than to receive, far more rewarding to love than hate, and above all, that love of neighbor is the path of blessing. “First way” people are generous and kind. They know that following Christ can sometimes involve pain, hurt and sacrifice. Proper carrying out of the mission of our Lord requires discernment and patience. The image of the “sweat in your palms” as you give alms is a prime example of the awesome responsibility of Christian service. Whether we are giving alms or helping a brother with a loan, we are given a heavy burden of doing as Christ would do. May we learn from the holy apostles?

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Catholic Spirit

Stripped image of John Wesley

15When he left there, he met Jehonadab son of Rechab coming to meet him; he greeted him, and said to him, “Is your heart as true to mine as mine is to yours?” Jehonadab answered, “It is.” Jehu said, “If it is, give me your hand.” So he gave him his hand. Jehu took him up with him into the chariot.

2 Kings 10: 15

 

Such a simple and straightforward message is found in the words of 2 Kings, and yet we fail to see how monumental it is. Jehu had has just conquered Ahab, the evil king, and purged the kingdom of his followers. He then went further and met Jehonadab and had that simple question for him, “Is your heart as true to mine as mine is to yours?” The heart is the key to the worth of a person. Too often, we attach labels and reputations to others that are undeserved.

John Wesley in his sermon, “Catholic Spirit,” reminds us that we are all called to love with an unfailing love, and that unity is found in the heart of a man. He states, “Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same liberty of thinking which he desires they should allow him; and will no more insist on their embracing his opinions, than he would have them to insist on his embracing theirs.” We make the mistake of demanding that all those around us see life in the way we see it-that they believe as we do, and even worship as we do.  Let us be reminded that God did not create robot clones, but persons of free will and persuasion. We find the unity of the church in allowing for these differences. Mr. Wesley calls that the catholic spirit, and I like it.

It’s time for the Church to get back on mission. The final command Jesus gave was not “get every nuance of theology right.” The command was, “Go, and make disciples of all nations.” We serve the same God, are saved by the same sacrifice, and were given the same Commission. Instead of focusing on our differences, we should focus on the One who makes us the same.

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Discovering God

Prayer KneelerThere are some fascinating words of Jesus in John 17: 23&24, “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Have you ever pondered on this passage? What does it mean to be one with God? Further, why are we one with Him?

The contemplative monk Thomas Merton had this to say about the passage. “The seeds of this perfect life are planted in every Christian soul at Baptism. But seeds must grow and develop before you reap the harvest. There are thousands of Christians walking about the face of the earth bearing in their bodies the infinite God of whom they know practically nothing.”

Life would be so different if only we recognized and nourished these precious seeds we bear in our souls. God has given each of us a small part of himself. After all, we are created in the “image and likeness” of God. The pilgrimage of a lifetime is to discover and nurture that precious gift God has given us. We discover this gift as we spend time with Him-fully open to His presence. We can pray, fast, meditate, worship and engage in sacred reading, all with the objective of allowing our master to complete this process. It is so very sad that so many people never allow for the development of the divine within themselves.

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Filed under Ascetics, Christian Journey, Commitment, Faith, Focus, Thomas Merton