February 26, 2021 · 8:00 am
The 40 Days of Lent
What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due.
Lord, I know that my works can never save me, but why do I work so hard. Teach me to have faith and trust in your grace. Give me the freedom to be able to trust you more than I trust myself. That trust is what I seek this day.
August 30, 2017 · 9:42 am
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?
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.
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 a 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.
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?
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.
Filed under Grace, Thomas Merton
Tagged as Abraham, African Americans, Christ, Christian, Christian monasticism, God, Grace, Jesus, Lord, Thomas Merton, United States
October 12, 2016 · 9:00 am
In our world of narrowing down what God does or who he loves, I share with you some of my observations from Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love.
God still does miracles. He intervenes actively in our lives. These are usually preceded by very rough times.
God cannot be manipulated by prayer. Asking the intercession of saints, and trying to make prayer more effective by citing arguments or mentioning special things or events, are not helpful. Prayer is effective when it is the result of God wanting a person to receive something, and putting the content of the prayer into the person’s mind. Julian seems well-aware that this sounds as problematic as all other accounts of the power of prayer.
God still issues calls to individuals
. Apparently He does not call the “beautiful people”, whose lives and abilities seem perfect, for special assignments. Instead, he chooses the obviously flawed individuals, people
who get ridiculed for some reason by others through no fault of their own.
Christ reveals Himself to living persons. When He does, He is always a warm, intimate, and “courteous” friend. This increases their faith tremendously, and they in turn are called to share this revelation with others. Julian was one such person, and she expressed the hope that people would not consider her a celebrity or focus on her, but on Christ.
The Jewish people will be saved. Julian asked about the good Jewish people and whether they would be saved. It is clear that she was told “Yes”, because right after she mentions this, she adds a few paragraphs saying how she was sure that nothing in the revelation contradicted anything she’d been taught in church
Lord give us hearts of inclusiveness that allow us to live with people as you love them. The world seeks to splinter and divide your creation and we know that you came to bring us together and show us a better way.
You want all who are called to serve you.
You offer miracles of grace and healing to those who seek them.
Lets us open our eyes and just see.
“And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.
In this little thing I saw three properties.
The first is that God made it.
The second that God loves it.
And the third, that God keeps it.”
—–Julian of Norwich
Read more of about Julian of Norwich
Filed under Julian of Norwich
Tagged as A Course in Miracles, Abraham, Activism, Agape, Asmodeus, Atonement in Christianity, Black Death, Capital punishment, Christ, Christian, God, God the Father, Jesus, Jews, John 3:16, Julian of Norwich, Lord's Prayer, Mary Magdalene, Prayer
August 10, 2016 · 10:55 am
One day some old men came to see Abba Anthony. In the midst of them was Abba Joseph. Wanting to test them, the old man suggested a text from the Scriptures, and, beginning with the youngest, he asked them what it meant. Each gave his opinion as he was able. But to each one the old man said, ‘You have not understood it.’ Last of all he said to Abba Joseph, ‘How would you explain this saying?’ and he replied, ‘I do not know.’ Then Abba Anthony ‘Indeed Abba Joseph has found the way, for he has said: “I do not know.”
—-Abba Anthony of Egypt
The current events of our day demand that presidential candidates know everything. As a result, these candidates say things that are not well thought out, and even reckless. People lie on their resumes because they feel they must do so in order to get ahead. The world we have created is one that encourages everyone to be more, do more than is realistic. That demand has been the downfall of many who could function in a world that accepts and respects, “I don’t know.”
“I do not know.” These are four most difficult words. Admitting these words has been difficult for people since the beginning, since we are created with a “must know” nature. All men run from mystery, and yet God is a mystery. He calls us to believe what we have not seen. We are led to serve without knowing the results of our service. Be attentive to the voice of the Spirit that calls us to action, even the things that remain a mystery to us.
The old monk helps us find a way in the here and now to the mystery of God. The “I do not know” is the way that we express our belief in that unknowing mystery of God. We are surrounded by atheists and doubters who have demanded concise and quick answers about the God we worship. We are first and foremost a people of faith. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” Proclaim your faith and live your life in the joy of not having all the answers.
Dear Lord ,I do not know why there is so much evil in the world. I do not know why I fail to love you and my neighbor as much as I should. I do not know why prayers that seem so necessary go unanswered. I do not know why the scripture is full of mysteries. It is in that sort of unknowing that I cry out to you in faith.
Filed under Abba Anthony, Desert Fathers
Tagged as Abraham, Christ, Desert Monks, Epistle to the Ephesians, Epistle to the Hebrews, God, God the Father, Gospel of Matthew, Grace (Christianity), Hebrew language, Jesus
April 25, 2016 · 10:00 am
In the eleventh century, King Henry III of Bavaria grew tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch. He made application to Prior Richard at a local monastery, asking to be accepted as a contemplative and spend the rest of his life in the monastery. “Your Majesty,” said Prior Richard, “do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That will be hard because you have been a king.”
“I understand,” said Henry. “The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you.”
“Then I will tell you what to do,” said Prior Richard. “Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you.” When King Henry died, a statement was written: “The King learned to rule by being obedient.”
Henry didn’t want to be obedient, he wanted to run. Obedience is a heavy word. The “O” word brings with it a chill of negativity. To be obedient is to surrender our freedom. We have been trained that individual freedom is the most important right we will ever possess. The concept of leading by being obedient seems to be contradictory. We lead by telling others to obey us. This concept is so difficult; we just want to run. Indeed, to run as far away as we can.
How many times have you wanted to just run away or bury your head in the sand? Life throws some tough times at us all. There are so many challenges that lead us to believe running (dropping out) is the best option. When we tire of our roles and responsibilities, it helps to remember God has planted us in a certain place and told us to be a good accountant or teacher or mother or father. God expects us to be faithful and obedient to the task where He puts us.
March 1, 2016 · 10:44 am
Breaking new ground is a very difficult task for us. The old, the familiar, the comfortable are always preferable to the new and different. I believe this is even true if God tells us to change. The Israelites were on a great journey. They had escaped from the clutches of the harsh Pharaoh, they had experienced hardship, rebellion and suffering on their journey, but the journey had destination and purpose.
Moses sent out spies to survey the land and they brought back a good report. Many years would pass before they occupied the land but they always knew that it was a good land, a land that God had promised them and one day they would enjoy its fruit. They needed to keep the vision alive.
We too, must keep our vision alive. So many of our days are beset with pain and trouble, but God says, the best is yet to come. Let us try – this day – to see the abundance of God and live with the expectation of being blessed by Him.
Survey the land – IT IS GOOD
Lord help me to keep my focus on you while I toil though the tasks of this life. Keep me free from the temptation of the evil that leads to rejection of your plan for me. Cover my sins with your grace and fill my heart with the joy that comes from knowing you.
Filed under Christian Journey, Christian Living
Tagged as 14th century BC, Abraham, Bible, Christian Living, Egypt, God, Israel, Israelites, Jesus, Lord, Moses
October 14, 2015 · 9:48 am
Some years ago, when Leonard Griffith was pastor of the famous City Temple in London, he wrote a fascinating book entitled Barriers to Christian Belief. In that book he dealt with some problems that have over the years been real obstacles and stumbling blocks for people in their faith pilgrimage… specific problems that hinder people, that burden people, that disturb people… and keep them away from the Christian faith. One of the barriers he listed was…”unanswered prayer.” It does seem to be a fact of our experience that many people do get discouraged and they do give up and drop out on the faith because they feel a sense of failure in their prayer life.
This leads us to ask then… “How do you pray?” “Why pray at all?” “When do you pray?” “Is there a special formula or a sacred language that should be used?” One thing is clear. There are many questions and there is much misunderstanding about how you pray and why. In a Peanuts cartoon Charlie Brown is kneeling beside his bed for prayer. Suddenly he stops and says to Lucy, “I think I’ve made a new theological discovery, a real breakthrough. If you hold your hands upside down, you get the opposite of what you pray for.”
Prayer must be more than an emergency magical lamp rubbed in a crisis. The truth is that many people give up on prayer because they never understand what prayer is. Much that passes for prayer is irrational, superstitious, and self-centered, and is therefore unworthy of the pattern of the prayer that Jesus offered to us his disciples.
How do you pray and why? We are not the first to ask. The disciples of Jesus
came to Him one day and said, “Lord, teach us. Teach us to pray!” Notice something here. When did the disciples ask for this? When did they make this request? Was it after Jesus gave a lecture on prayer? No! Was it after Jesus led a seminar on prayer? No! Was it after Jesus preached a powerful sermon on prayer? No! None of these. Remember how it is recorded in Luke 11… “Jesus was praying in a certain place and when he finished, they said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.'” They saw the power of prayer in Him. They saw how important prayer was to Him. See the point. Harry Emerson Fosdick stresses it in his book, The Secret of Victorious Living. “Note that this awakened interest in prayer came not at all from new arguments about it, but from a new exhibition of its power. Here, before their very eyes, they saw a personality in whom prayer was vital and influential! The more they lived with him, the more they saw that they could never explain him or understand him unless they understood his praying and so not at all because of new arguments, but because of amazing spiritual power released in him by prayer. They wanted him to tell them how to pray.”
The disciples sometimes were slow to learn, but at this point they were quickly and precisely on target. They saw in Jesus the answer to this question: how do we pray and why do we pray? And they learned from Him what the elements are that lead to a meaningful prayer life.
Filed under Jesus, Prayer
Tagged as Abraham, Bible, Christ, Christianity, God, Gospel of Luke, Jesus, Muslim, Prayer, Twitter
May 6, 2015 · 11:27 am
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.
Lord help me to grow this day so that I might be able to better understand your holiness. Amen
- Being a WWJD Christian (histruthwillsetyoufree.wordpress.com)
January 7, 2015 · 10:12 am
Fire purifies. Desert fire purifies mercilessly. Silence pierces. Desert silence pierces incessantly. Solitude strips bare. Desert solitude strips bare to the bone.
The Desert Fathers knew all this. They knew that the Lord your God is a consuming fire (Dt 4:24), and they threw themselves into that fire with all the confidence of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. There in the midst of the flames they were purified, pierced to the heart by the silence of the Word of God, and stripped bare of their sinfulness by solitude. There in the desert they saw God—and themselves—and lived.
Young monks flocked to join them. From far flung places, men and women came to beg their counsel. These men were terrifying in their purity, alarming in their austerity, disquieting in their discernment. Theirs was not a sweet but a shocking sanctity.
It was like talking to a burning bush.
The teachings of the Desert Fathers were rarely long. Their words, like their souls, had been purified, stripped of all that was unnecessary. They packed their brief sayings with divine intensity.
Imagine traveling miles on foot, sweating, sun-burnt, and hungry, you come to a cave and shout a greeting. Out comes the old man with penetrating eyes. Those eyes strike you. He says nothing. You awkwardly ask.
“Abba, give me a word.”
Giving such a word is the whole purpose of this blog. I simply seek to find a short word from these desert monks –and others as well- that might speak to us today. The sayings themselves are many times shorter that a tweet, but can have such great meaning.
Filed under Desert Fathers, Desert Mothers
Tagged as Abraham, and Abednego, Bible, Christ, Desert Fathers and Mothers, God, Jesus, Lord, Meshach, Shadrach
March 29, 2014 · 10:30 am
John Wesley said: “Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”
If the church needs anything, it needs enthusiasm. Remember when people use to regularly knelt at the altar of the church? Such actions stir the soul to go forth with the message of Christ to the world. There are so many people in our world who are searching for something that gives them reason to soar. Mr. Wesley knew long ago that people are drawn to enthusiasm. Our challenge is to be enthusiastic people who just naturally lead people to want to know about the Christian journey.
Remember the words of the writer of Hebrews. “This Melchizedek was king of the city of Salem and also a priest of God Most High. When Abraham was returning home after winning a great battle against the kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him.”
Enthusiasm is a state of mind that cannot be hidden. It defines who we are and how we act. It brings a smile to our face and kind words to our lips. Practice enthusiasm and it will be as infectious as the flu. We are followers of the “MOST HIGH GOD” – what could be more exciting?
- Who was Melchizedek? (924jeremiah.wordpress.com)