Tag Archives: Belief

The Great Work of Man

Abba Anthony said to Abba Poemen, “This is the Great Work of a man: always to take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his last breath.” He also said, “Whoever has not experienced Temptationtemptation cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” He even added, “Without temptation, no one can be saved.” Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, “What ought I to do?” and the old man said to him, “Do not trust in your own righteousness, do not worry about the past, but control your tongue and your stomach

—-Abba Anthony of the Desert

There are several very biting suggestions made here by the old Monk. Perhaps we can use his advice to bring us a little closer to God. I am convinced that all men seek closeness to God. Some call this closeness getting in touch with their inner bein., Others may call it karma, but I just call such closeness prayer, and prayer allows me to know  God. He is my creator, friend and redeemer.

Our first step is to take blame for our own sins. A good expression for this is “owning up.” We live in a world of excuses and explanations, but raw truth is always best. I confess to being amused when I heard the expression”alternative facts” this past week. Anthony tells us to simply take blame for our own failures. The scripture says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” That is the beginning of our path to heaven and peace on this earth.

He reminds us to expect temptation every day of our lives. On face value that is very depressing, but temptation drives us to the grace of God. The scripture reminds us that we have all sinned but it also says,“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Simply put, temptation drives us to a choice – God or self satisfaction. God created us with a free will and salvation is a choice, a serious and demanding choice that we all have to make. Our easy, comfortable and pleasure seeking world resists the concept of choices that limit our “freedom.” For those that choose Jesus, there is no greater freedom to be had.

Allow me to chase the “sin rabbit” for just a moment. God offers forgiveness and the world offers forgiveness. There is, however, an astounding difference between God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of the world. Convicted felons Forgive-Forgetwho have served their time and even expressed genuine remorse for their crimes are excluded from voting and holding public office, have limited credit privileges, can be denied a job,cannot serve on some juries, and are excluded from other rights in ways that vary from state to state. They have served their time, but their crime is not forgotten. ALL of us, whether we admit it or not , are unable to forget the sins (we may forgive and even move on) of those that have offended u., Only God can do that. God’s offer of forgiveness and salvation is the one that we can’t pass up. No one, I mean no one, offers such a gift but God.God says, “For I will be merciful towards their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” God is so good to us!

Now back to the monk, “do not trust your own righteousness but control your tongue and stomach” The tongue has the ability to destroy others and ourselves. When we utter a false wittiness against some we have the potential of denying that person so much. With our tongues we can cause people to lose their relationships, reputations and in some cases their lives. In World War Two there was an expression,”Loose lips sink ships.” The importance of keeping confidences and telling the truth cannot be underestimated. Control of the stomach is an analogy for controlling our carnal nature. We should think before we use our bodies in ways that dishonor ourselves and God. Control your carnal nature or it will be the end of you.


The great work of man is to trust God and control our nature with the tools He provides. I found a poem that calls this an act of wisdom.

He, in whose bosom wisdom’s seed is sown,

To waste a single day was never known;

Either he strives to work God’s will,

Or else exalts the cup, and works his own.

Omar Khayyam


O Lord as I embark on my great work this day I do so fully aware of my dependence on you. Walk with me and keep me aware of your company. Rebuke when I need rebuking. Give me encouragement when I am down. Most of all remind me when I have moved into my own path while forgetting your path. In doing these things you give me the richness of your grace and the benefit of your remarkable love.


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Filed under Abba Anthony, Abba Poeman, Temptation

This Thing Called Love

Loving TendernessHildeguard

Loving tenderness abounds for all

from the darkest

to the most eminent one beyond the stars,

Exquisitely loving all

she bequeaths the kiss of peace

upon the ultimate King.

– Hildegard of Bingen

Jesus tell us : Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ There is none greater. Many of us spend our lives searching for the best way to live a godly life but Jesus gives us a truly simplistic answer – love God , our neighbors and – just as important – ourselves. We are horrible at loving ourselves and finding neighbors to love is an almost impossible task.

Let us begin at the beginning – love God. If we are to love God we have to begin by acknowledging Him as our creator and the sustaining power of our lives. We must put aside the notion that was are masters of our own destiny and give Him credit for who He is. We love God by staying in touch with Him through prayer and listening His Spirit when He answers our prayers. That is a beginning of love for God.

Love our neighbors – We dream of the perfect neighbor and we never find them. That because we are looking in the wrong place. Our concept of neighbor is physical proximity but God has something much greater in mind. My wife told me a story about meeting a neighbor at McDonalds recently. She enter the restaurant and ordered food for herself and two of our grandchildren. There was a somewhat disheveled lady who later ordered a cup of coffee and a very small amount of ice cream. Soon it was evident that she was receiving her food out of the generosity of the restaurant staff. On her way out my wife asked her if she was hungry and needed help to buy a meal, her reply was “no.” as my wife proceeded to the car she noticed that she was followed by the lady who then approached her with these words, “Neighbor I didn’t really tell you the truth because I am hungry – Can you help me?” My wife accommodated and she replied, “Thanks, neighbor.” That is the kind of neighbor Jesus was talking about. A lady that is down and out by our standards understands God’s concept of neighbor. That lady is my neighbor as well and I didn’t say it was going to be easy to love your neighbor.

Love yourself – “..Love your neighbor AS YOURSELF.” People who cannot love themselves find it impossible love others. Did you know that suicide was the seventh leading cause of death among adolescents in 2013? (CDC stats) The National Institute Mental Health estimates that in the United States, 16 million adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2012. That’s 6.9 percent of the population. Wow! We are not loving ourselves very much. The key to self is recognizing our worth in God’s eyes. He created us, He redeems us, and He watches out for us. That makes you and your neighbor worth loving.

The challenge is simple learn to love God because of who He is and what He has done and I believe the rest of the puzzle will come together.


Lord give me the vision to recognize your loving tenderness in the beauty that surrounds me. Allow me to see it in the life giving nature of the morning dew and the majesty of the setting sun. Such a realization will lead me to love You more and to love and care for myself and my neighbor. Might I see the majesty of all your creation – especially we humans who are the crown of all creation. Help me to discover Your brand of love and make it mind.



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Filed under Christian Living, Hildegard of Bingen, Love, Love of God

The Leaky Sack

A brother committed a fault. A council was called to which Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to him, saying, “Come, for everyone is waiting for you”. So he got up and went. He took a sack, filled it with sand and cut a small hole at the bottom and carried it on his shoulders. The others came out to meet him and said, “What is this, father” The Abba said to them, “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” When they heard that, they said no more to the brother but forgave him.

—–Abba Moses of the Desert

If I were to say that we live in a judgmental world, it would be a surprise to no one. We are surrounded by people who make judgments on everything from the call of a referee at last Sunday’s football game to the right of someone to call themselves an American. People very neatly set up boundaries that give them permission to judge, and we just love being in the seat of judgment. From that seat we are a notch above everyone else, and it sure feels good. Jesus said: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Abba Moses took the saying of Jesus very seriously. He was so mindful of his own sin that he knew he couldn’t possibly sit in judgment of another. His lessonabba-moses of the sack with the hole in it drives home an important point. We don’t see our own sins very clearly, how can we clearly see the sins of others? Our lives consist of a series of successes and failures that make up our journey towards God. Just as the monk didn’t see that going to a meeting of judgment was appropriate, we need to begin to get a glimpse of what is the true calling of the Christ follower. Our present age conditions us to see ourselves as far more the judges of the world rather than the light of the world.

The symbol of the leaky sack is to remind us that sins are not always seen by those who commit them and our sin is never far away from us. We do leave a trail of sin in our daily walk. That trail, however, is covered by grace that come from God’s love for us. We, in turn, need to understand grace so that we might fully receive such a gift and pass it on to others. That is the lesson of the leaking sack.


Oh Lord, why does the wisdom of forgiveness escape us so readily? It seems so very difficult to empty ourselves of the baggage we carry. This baggage blinds us from the reality of our own weaknesses and frailty and drives us to a life of false righteousness. Help me, Lord, to tend to my own sin and allow me to live into a peace with You and my fellow sinners.


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God Wins

Amma Theodora said that a teacher ought to be a stranger to the desire for domination, vain-glory, and pride; one should not be able to fool him by flattery, nor blind him by gifts, nor conquer him by the stomach, nor dominate him by anger; but he should be patient, gentle and humble as far as possible; he must be tested and without partisanship, full of concern, and a lover of souls.

— sayings of the desert

This little snippet of desert wisdom gives us a model for the spiritual teacher. All of us live in a high pressure, performance driven culture. If we are not pressured we have a tendency to lack in passion for our work. On the other hand, our culture is a “me” culture that expects high praise for our efforts. Both student and teacher have certain expectations when they meet. The call of the teacher is to be single minded and focused on the task and not on the gratification or domination that can come from the task. The call is to be humble and allow God to win

Doorways Thin PlacesMore than once I have heard a less than happy church member say, “This church is not meeting my spiritual needs.” The very essence of that statement is that the church is about me. The teacher sometimes struggles with the needs of those who have been entrusted to them, but it is clear that the primary role of the spiritual teacher is to be a lover of souls. The point at which student or teacher loses that concept and turns to self-gratification, the mission is lost.

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False Humility and Hypocrisy

An Egyptian brother came to see Abba Zeno in Syria, and accused himself to the old man about his temptations. Filled with admiration, Zeno said, ‘ The Egyptians hide the virtues they possess and ceaselessly accuse themselves of faults they do not have, while the Syrians and Greeks pretend to have virtues they do not have, and hide the faults of which they are guilty.’

—–sayings of the desert

Guilt driven humility and hypocrisy rob God of his glory. These traits are more similar than we realize.

Korn_let_the_guilt_goWe have our own brand of guilt driven Egyptians in our society this very day. They have been so weighted down by the rules of religion that they fail to shine forth the light that the Creator has bestowed upon them. Out of guilt they hide their light under a bushel basket . The scripture tells us, “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar, but on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light.” God says let ,”your light shine!”

Hypocrites – we certainly have our share. Our modern day Syrians and Greeks populate some of the more prestigious seats in our society. They are found in government, in the sports arena and certainly in our churches. They are taught very early to put their best foot forward and to spin the story in their favor. Such people are admired and put forth as role models for all to follow. The scripture gives us a warning about such behavior. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.”

God created us with both good and bad, so let us never forget that we all sin and fall short of him. That being said, we are the vessels that carry forth His light to the world. We are called to be a genuine cracked, bruised and flawed works that are mended together by His love and grace. Today the Abba calls on us to think on these things.

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Filed under Christian Living, Desert Fathers