Category Archives: Grace

Self Denial

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?

—–Jesus

 

Self Denial is defined as – the willingness to forgo personal pleasures or undergo personal trials in the pursuit of the increased good of another.

Christian monastic asceticism(severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence) is remarkable for its balance, its sense of proportion. It does not overstress the negative side of the ascetic life, nor does it tend to flatter human nature by diminishing responsibilities or watering down the truth. It shows us clearly that while we can do nothing without grace, we must nevertheless cooperate with grace. It warns us that we must make an uncompromising break with the world and all that it stands for, but it keeps encouraging us with the hope of the happiness that lies ahead.

—— Thomas Merton


 

Self-denial is not very popular in our American culture. We are taught to want the best and more of it. A beer commercial once proclaimed, “You only go around once in life: Go for all the gusto you can.” The commercial is no longer aired, but the attitude permeates our society. Over and over we are urged to grab for all of life that we possibly can, and then go for more. An unprecedented number of Americans classify their religious status as unaffiliated or “none.” The concept of self-denial is an anathema to our society and, therefore, so is Christianity.

Nones

Jesus teaches his followers to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow him. That concept just doesn’t speak to our society. Everything must have a payoff, a good result, be successful or it is just not worth doing. We in the church speak of what sacrifices are necessary to live the Christian life. Hypocrisy, ill will and scandals have unfortunately brought Christianity to aHypocrites screeching halt in our day. Many people have a hard time seeing that Christianity has any genuineness at all. We are no longer the focus of the marketplace or the leaders of society. Quite honestly, it seems as though we are being erased as if we never existed. We are either considered uneducated at best or mean hypocrites at worse. Our identity has become the purveyors of the “thou shat not “message. Why, you ask?

Because of the overall negativity of our message, much of the world has forgotten about the grace of God. This grace is the free and unmerited favor of God. In the secular world grace is simple elegance or refinement of movement. I would like to propose that both definitions are applicable to the follower of Jesus who practices self-denial. Merton says that we can do nothing without grace, and asserts that we must cooperate with grace. I believe that the Christian who lives in oneness with God by taking up of their cross is a person who is both receiving the unmerited favor of God and journeys through life with simple elegance. This life of self-denial is surprisingly freeing. We are no longer dragged down by competition, envy or even defeat. Now we can live in a world where God truly reigns. Simple self-denial makes God’s kingdom very real in the here and now.

Grace-1

The challenge is – do we truly believe in Him enough to practice self-denial and cross bearing? Tall orders these are, but ones that have an” other worldly” payoff. Those large numbers of “nones” that the pollsters tell us about have rejected the grace that comes with self-denial and can scarcely imagine what “grace freedom” really means. Grace freedom is the ability to live in the kingdom of God in the now and be excited about what is to come. The best things in life come by letting go.

For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?


Prayer

Lord, I pray for the gift of grace that allows me to deny myself and take up my cross. That road is one that my mind will not let me follow, but I know that if I open myself to your grace I can see your mind and gladly follow. When that happens I have unimaginable freedom. The road is confusing, but I trust you.

Amen

1 Comment

Filed under Grace, Thomas Merton

God’s Proposal

Ephesians 1:2-12

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

The Genesis account tells the saga of creation in human time. Imagine… it was day six of the most fascinating week of all time. God turned to his right and looked at The Son. He made a proposal that paled the awesome creation of the previous five days. A proposal that stilled the birds in flight and the fish as they swam. A proposal that caught the undivided attention of heaven and hell. A proposal made only once in an eternity and once in a universe. A proposal only God could conceive. God said, “Let us make man! Let us make man like we are!”

Related image

All the new creation united with breathless anticipation. The Son gave a confirming nod and smiled. His agreement sealed His fate and man’s opportunity to live forever. Heaven rejoiced! Creation cheered! Hell shook! The Son approved a plan only He could accomplish.

The season of Lent is that time set aside in the church’s liturgical calendar for us to seriously contemplate the amazing proposal God made on the “sixth day” of creation. These 40 days are days to reflect on God’s fascinating design for the eternal soul of each person and how that plan was accomplished through the passion, death, and resurrection of The Son. To properly prepare for the celebration of Christ’s victory at Easter, we must make a serious, spiritual attempt to recognize the enormity of God’s grace to us – from the beginning.

Monica Boudreaux


PRAYER: Father, Give me a clearer understanding of your design for my eternal life. Thank you for the hugeness of your grace.

1 Comment

Filed under Grace, Monica Boudreaux

Adversity and Grace

Abba Isaiah said ‘When God wishes to take pity on a soul and it rebels not bearing anything and doing its own will, he then allows it to suffer that which it does not want, in order that it may seek him again.’

—–sayings of the desert

Desert SageThese particular words of wisdom are not the most popular or believed ones that we are given by the fathers. All of us have seen people who seem to sin abundantly and continue to thrive. Likewise, we have all seen people who are apparently very pious who experience much suffering. Perhaps I might suggest another way of looking at this difficult dilemma.

God created us for good. He created us to be productive, and we are the crown of His creation. God is our guardian, and He watches over us and gives us grace. Through Him we prosper and achieve. There are times in our lives, no matter how pious we appear, that we reject His grace. At times we stand up and say, I want to do this my way, and God gives us the free will to do so. These times often lead to adversity, and in adversity we turn to God knowing that He is our only hope. Not only is He our only hope, He still loves us even when we have been rebellious and stubborn. The message from the desert is that God sometimes draws us to Himself by adversary.

Prayer Thought

Lord help me to see You at work in my bad times. Allow me to surrender myself to your grace so that I might experience your full love.

3 Comments

Filed under Desert Fathers, Grace

Sins and Grace

Monk in prayer orthodoxA brother questioned Abba Poemen in this way, ‘My thoughts trouble me, making me put my sins aside, and concern myself with my brother’s faults’. The old man told him the following story about Abba Dioscorus (the monk), ‘In his cell he wept over himself, while his disciple was sitting in another cell. When the latter came to see the old man he asked him, “Father, why are you weeping?” “I am weeping over my sins,” the old man answered him. Then his disciple said, “You do not have any sins, Father.” The old man replied, “Truly, my child, if I were allowed to see my sins, three or four men would not be enough to weep for them.”

—sayings of the desert

We rarely think of the depth of our failure. Such a thought would be too overwhelming to bear. The best worldly advice we are given is to think positively. Those who fail to see the good in themselves, we are told, can be very perilous. Such a person no longer works as well, fits in the social order as well, and just seems to drag others down. The Abba gives us an important word in this saying. He challenges us to understand that in the recognition of our sins we understand the marvelous grace of God. If we had to carry the full burden of our failures, we would collapse under their weight. Yes, we must recognize and weep for our sins but God will sustain us in our weeping. And, most importantly, He will give us the grace we need.

1 Comment

Filed under Christian Journey, Desert Fathers, Grace, Sin

CLEAR VISION

Luke 15:11-32

 He was born blind.  A perfectly formed, beautiful baby boy kicking his tiny legs and swinging his arms in a sea of darkness.  He had little hope for a quality life in first century Jerusalem.  His father daily led him to his unofficial, but reserved location near a small pool.  Others who had forfeited in some way God’s blessing spent their wretched days there – begging.  Some days he collected nothing.  Some days a hateful boy stole the few pennies resting in his cup.  Everybody in Jerusalem knew that either he or his parents had a great sin for which God was exacting vengeance by taking his sight.  They all wished they knew what that family had done wrong!

One day, just like thousands of other black days, Jesus passed by.  He put some mud on those sightless eyes, gave instructions to wash off the mud in a nearby pool, and left the man to respond in faith.  At first, he saw a blurry light, then large shapes.  He blinked quickly several times.  His vision cleared!  He could see!  Out of darkness!  When questioned by religious authorities already concerned about the miracle worker, the formerly blind man could only explain the phenomenon this way:  “Only one thing I know.  I was blind, but now I see.”  What joy!

Many of us born with sight, still have a clouded vision of Jesus.  We’ve allowed so much to distort our image of the Savior!  The Bible is full of stories of people who did the same.  Let’s learn from them.

He’d been in the field all day, but as he approached the house, it was evident something big was happening.  It was a party!  Why in the world, in the middle of the work week, with no previous notice would Father be throwing such a huge party?  Confusion gave way to anger when he saw him.  So, he was back – the spoiled little brother who took his inheritance and left home to have fun.  He’d lost it all!  The older brother couldn’t feel relief that his younger brother was alive, joy for his father, hope that things had changed – just ANGER!

Jesus was coming for lunch.  Martha had peeled the vegetables, cooked the lamb chops, mixed the fruit salad, and baked the bread.  She had straightened the house, set the table, washed up all the cooking utensils, mopped the kitchen floor, and dusted the living room.  Mary, her sister – sat!  Jesus and Mary were talking and laughing and Martha was jealous.  Why did Mary always get preferential treatment from everyone?  Jesus was telling Mary and Lazarus about his work, but Martha was too JEALOUS to listen!

He was young, handsome, wealthy, – a good man.  Although everyone thought he had it all – he knew he did not.  He spoke out of a sense of frustration when he inquired of Jesus, “What am I missing?  What’s this hole in my heart that my possessions cannot fill?”  Jesus, testing his commitment, suggested he give away all his possessions in order to clear up his priorities.  The rich young man wouldn’t even consider the suggestion.  He preferred his POSSESSIONS to Jesus.

The disciples were riding out choppy waves on the Sea of Galilee.   Jesus, not needing a boat, simply walked out on top of the water to join them.  Impetuous Peter wanted to walk on the water, too.  What a thrill!  Jesus probably chuckled to himself as he gave Peter permission to join him.  At first, Peter managed the miraculous, but after a few steps he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink.  Panic replaced exhilaration because SELF-RELIANCE replaced faith.

Pontius Pilate had a chance to be history’s greatest hero.  He had the power to set Jesus free.  He knew he should.  He recognized his innocence.  He vacillated in his judgment, but the crowd won out.  Pilate was people-pleaser.  He didn’t want trouble from the Jews and a reprimand from Caesar, so he compromised his integrity and ordered the death of the Savior.  He made a ceremony of washing his hands of the Messiah’s innocent blood, but OTHER PEOPLE kept him from allowing the stain to be washed from his soul.

James and John – brothers looking out for each other.  They didn’t feel completely comfortable with the question, but the obsession for power and recognition overshadowed the guilt.  They sucked in their breaths, and nonchalantly asked Jesus for a little favor.  The request – to sit on either side of Jesus on His heavenly throne.  After all, wouldn’t it be lovely to be recognized throughout all eternity as Jesus’ favorites?  How powerful the feeling would be as all the saints of all the ages took note of their importance.  Jesus dealt the brothers a powerful blow with His reply – they had missed the whole point!  Those who find their joy in service are great, not those who find their joy in POWER or RECOGNITION.

What clouds our vision of Jesus?  Like the blind beggar who responded in faith, let Jesus five you clear sight.  What joy!

Monica Boudreaux

Leave a comment

Filed under Grace, Humility

Grace Rules

Child psychologists tell us that children not only need, but want rules.  “They require set limits to ensure them of the security and sense of control needed for proper development.”

Adolescents balk at rules.  They seem to go all out to prove the old saying that, “Rules are meant to be broken.”  They, too, are desperately groping for a boundary of comfort and safety, however.

Adults are generally regarded as “rule setters.”  We use our wisdom and life experience to make those rules we feel are important for our children’s well-being.

I don’t know about you, but when I am exhausted by life’s demands or find myself out of resources to deal with a difficult situation, I long for a set of rules for the game of life.  I would enjoy giving up the gut-wrenching decisions and judgment calls of life, for a set of rules that would free me of the awesome responsibility of the moment.

If you have ever wanted someone to tell you what to do and relieve you of your burden of responsibility – GREAT NEWS!  Romans 12:9-21 gives us ten rules for a successful life:

1.  Love sincerely.

2.  Hate evil.

3.  Honor others.

4.  Have joy, hope, and patience.

5.  Pray.

6.  Share.

7.  Be good to your enemies.

8.  Get along.

9.  Don’t be conceited.

10. Don’t get back.

Paul wrote these words to a group of beleaguered and persecuted Christians in the huge pagan city of Rome almost 2,000 years ago.  The payoff for following the rules for those first century Christians is exactly the same for us today and is found in verse 21.  “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Be assured of this promise – good overcomes evil – always!

1 Comment

Filed under Christian Living, Grace

Source of Approval

The tradition of women going to live a life of prayer and work is as old as that of male monastics. Today I share a saying of the most famous of the Ammas.

 Amma Sarah said, ‘If I prayed God that all men should approve of my conduct, I should find myself a penitent at the door of each one, but I shall rather pray that my heart may be pure towards all.’

——Amma Sarah of the Desert

Is it really important that our conduct be approved by men? Obviously, Amma Sarah says that such is an unreachable dream. The concept of being penitent to each person as a way of proving your spiritual value is rejected. Difficulty abounds when we seek individual approval because every person we approach has a different standard. The wise mother tells us to pray for purity of heart and all else will follow.

This advice would go a long way for us as we seek to follow the path of God. Surely we know there are many demands that are put upon us. Each of these demands portends to be the way of God. Now, as it was then, it is impossible to satisfy the opinions of all. The enlightening advice is to pray for purity of heart and all our goals will be satisfied. Prayer for purity of heart is the deepest and most personal of desires because it calls for internal change rather that external behavior.

  • Prayer (christianfaithwalk.co.uk)

1 Comment

Filed under Amma Sarah of the Desert, Ascetics, Desert Mothers, Grace, Monasticism

Love Till the End

Radiant with Prayer

A long time ago there lived a little boy whose parents had died. He was taken in by an aunt who raised him as her own child. Many years later, after the boy had grown and become successful in business, he received a letter from his aunt. She was terminally ill and from the tone of her letter, quite afraid of death. Thus, the man who had been raised and strongly influenced by this woman decided to write her a letter in response.

 He began, “It is now 35 years since I, a little boy of six, was left quite alone in the world. You sent me word that you would give me a home and be mother to me. I have never forgotten the day when I made the long journey of ten miles to your home. I remember being disappointed that instead of coming yourself, you sent your servant, Caesar, to fetch me. I well remember my tears and anxiety as, perched atop your horse and clinging to Caesar, we rode off to your home. Night fell before we finished the journey and as it grew dark I became more afraid. ‘Do you think she will go to bed before we get there?’ I asked Caesar nervously. ‘Oh, no,’ Caesar replied, ‘she will certainly be up to stay with you. When we get through these woods you will see her light shining in the window.’

 “We made it to the clearing and there was the light as he promised. I remember that you were waiting in the doorway. You put your arms around me and lifted me, a tired and frightened little boy, and gently took me from the horse and safely placed me on the ground. You had a fire burning and a hot supper was waiting for me on the stove. After supper you took me to my new room. You listened to my prayers and then you waited until I fell asleep.

 “You probably know why I am retelling these events to you now. Very soon, God is going to send for you and take you to a new home. I am trying to tell you that you need not worry nor be afraid of the summons or of the strange journey or the dark messenger of death. God can be trusted to do as much for you as you did for me so many years ago. You can wait and not fear, for at the end of the road you will find love and welcome awaiting you, and you will be safe in God’s care. I will watch and pray for you until you are out of my sight. I shall also wait for the day when I will make the same journey and find you waiting for me to greet me at the end of the road.”

 —-Author Unknown

I share this story today in the hope that it may remind us of the great love that God has for us. He, in his heart of grace, is with us in our darkest hours. We are never alone, never abandoned, never forsaken, but are always resting in the bosom of his love. A love that defies description, or comparison to anything we possess. C. S. Lewis walked into the midst of a great argument about the love of God toward us and said, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.” Yes, that is grace, and God has chosen us to be the recipients of His marvelous grace filled love.

  • Grace (fivesixteenforfaith.wordpress.com)

2 Comments

Filed under C. S. Lewis, Christian Living, Grace, Love of God

Christian Innocence Part 2

Innocence

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:

“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 one 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 lives 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under C. S. Lewis, Faith, Grace

The Necessity of Actual Grace

This is worth reading.
Irvin

SaintlySages

Father Geiermann mentions five properties of actual grace: necessity, gratuity, efficacy, universality, and inequality. He says that actual grace is necessary for four reasons:

First, “Man needs the light of grace to find the truth. Though he can learn many things in the natural order by persevering application, he needs the help of God to master all human science. ‘For the corruptible body is a load upon the soul, and the earthly habitation presseth down the mind that museth upon many things’ (Wis 9:15). In the supernatural order actual grace must enlighten man’s mind and prompt his will before he can accept the truths of divine revelation. ‘No man can come to Me,’ says the Saviour, ‘except the Father, who hath sent Me, draw him’ (Jn 6:44).”

Secondly, “Man needs actual grace to do good. It is true that in the natural order man can of himself do some good…

View original post 288 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Good Friday, Grace