Tag Archives: Israel

Bigger than Christianity

I share this meditation from Richard Rhor the founder and director of The Center for Action and Contemplation. I hope you find it as stimulating as I did.

Irvin

The “Christ Mystery” is much bigger than Christianity as an organized religion. If we don’t understand this, Christians will have little ability to make friends 00058_christ_pantocrator_mosaic_hagia_sophia_656x800with, build bridges to, understand, or respect other religions or the planet. Jesus did not come to create a country club or a tribe of people who could say, “We’re in and you’re out. We’ve got the truth and you don’t.” Jesus came to reveal something that was true everywhere, for everyone, and all the time.

Many Christians have a very limited understanding of Jesus’ historical or social message, and almost no understanding of the Cosmic Christ—even though it is taught clearly in Scripture (see John 1, Colossians 1, Ephesians 1, 1 John 1, Hebrews 1:1). Christ is often taught at the very beginning of Paul’s and other New Testament authors’ writings, yet we still missed it. But you can’t see what you were never told to look for. Once you do see the shape and meaning of this cosmic mystery of Divine Incarnation, you’ll be able to see that the Presence is everywhere—and the archetypal Jesus will not be such an anomaly, accident, or surprise.

God is saving everything and everybody, it is all God’s emerging victory, until, as Paul says, “God will be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). If Christ is truly the “savior of the world” (see John 4:42), then God’s shape, form, meaning, and message are all far bigger than any single religion. Talking to the intellectual Athenians, Paul is wise enough to say: “God is not far from any of us. It is in him [sic] that we live and move and have our very being” (Acts 17:28).

St. Augustine writes that through love we come to be in “the frame of the body of Christ” so that in the end “there shall be one Christ, loving himself.” [1] You are chosen in Christ (see Ephesians 1:4), and the purpose of being chosen is to let everyone else know that they too are chosen! We are not making a triumphal statement about the Christian religion here, but we are making a triumphal statement about the nature of Divine Love—which will finally win the day!

Loving both Jesus and the Christ is essential to a Christian’s growth and transformation. You might begin with one or the other, but eventually you should be drawn to love both. Too many Christians have started and stopped with Jesus, never coming to know the Universal Christ. Many who are not Christian have started with the Christ by some other name—after all, there is only One God, One Love. I have met Hindus and Jews who live happily and fruitfully inside this hidden Christ Mystery, and I have met many Roman Catholics and Protestants who are running away from any notion of an all-pervading, loving Presence. Their stinginess and exclusivity gives it away.

You can have the right words and not the right experience, whereas if you enjoy the right experience, the right words are of much less importance. God did not become Incarnate Love in the universe to create “word police” and debating societies.

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The Dead End of Pride

There are two kinds of pride. The first kind of pride is when a man despises his brother, considers him worth little or nothing, while he puts much greater value on himself. Such a man, unless he speedily repents and takes great care, will come in a short time to that second kind of pride by which he lifts himself up against God , and ascribes what he does right not to God, but to himself.

-Dorotheos of Gaza

Dead-End-SignThere are many proud people who handle their pride in proper ways. We should be proud of our achievements, our children, our honesty, our morality, but all these things must be credited to God who has given us all that we have. Without a God based pride in ourselves we accomplish very little for ourselves, the world or God. We are His creation and He has created us for good. He wants us to accomplish and thrive for His glory. The scripture says, “…everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.” He created us for His glory and we are all called by His name. As we do our very best for God, and take pride in doing so, we glorify Him.

I live on a dead end street. Simply expressed, that means if you get to the end of my street, you have to turn around or back up to get out. The two types of pride that Dorotheos refers to are dead ends. The first one, the devaluation of the brother is the beginning of the dead end. It has a way out, the second, the devaluation of God, requires that we turn around or back out before we are destroyed.

Dead-End-PrideAre you traveling down that dead end path of pride? Do you find yourself enjoying the company of yourself more than anyone else? Is it difficult for you to admit the possibility that you may be mistaken? Worse yet, are you forgetting that you are created for God’s glory, not your own? If you see these warning signs in your life, you are headed down a dead end road, but faint not, all things are possible through the God who gives us strength. Take a pause and call on Him. Dorotheos says to “speedily repent,” before it is too late.

Prayer

Lord I ask You to give me the wisdom to know the difference between the actions that give You glory and the ones that give me glory. I repent of the times that I have acted for my own glorification. I pray that you will forgive me for those times. Set me forth on a road, this day, that will lead to You and Your glory.

Amen

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Survey the Land

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

Numbers 13

Prayer

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.

Amen

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The Keys to the Kingdom

Our Life and death is with our neighbor. If we gain our brother, we have gained God, but if we scandalize our neighbor, we have sinned against Christ.

— Abba Anthony

When Jesus was questioned by the religious leaders of his day about the first commandment he said, ‘The first is, “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.” This dispute of the true and best path to God is ever going. There is no other commandment greater than these.’  This lesson from Jesus and the monk is one in the same. The sacred is in the ordinary which is found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, family, in one’s backyard. We have never quite gotten that idea down. Men desperately search in so many places for peace with God while in continual battle with their neighbors. Our world is mired in war, violence, crime, racism and hopelessness.charity-hand-up

I recently read a story about some neighbors who were in a dispute about the location of some trees and shrubs. John Vilkin shot and killed his neighbor over this landscaping dispute. These proximity neighbors fought over turf and it ended most tragically. Most conflicts are over one turf or another. We are urged by scripture and wisdom teaching to regard our relationship with our neighbor as a relationship with God. By viewing it through that lens, we truly see the importance of getting along. Pray that God will give you the wisdom to see others through His eyes. With that wisdom comes the keys to the kingdom – spiritual wholeness.

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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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A Blessing

Candle PrayerMay the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.

—– Northumbria Abbey

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Repentance

Close up of an 17th-century depiction of the 2...

Lent is a time for repentance. Repentance is far more that simple regret. Sorrow for sin is united with an unwavering decision to change. As the Holy Spirit makes us aware of our failures, repentance is our spiritual response.

Repentance for personal lack of obedience to God was addressed by Jesus. This repentance involves a regretful acceptance of your unrighteousness before God. This acceptance necessitates a transformation of your personal priorities, your attitude, and your behavior.

Paul wrote to the church at Corinth to affirm their repentance as a congregation. In his letter, Paul refers to repentance as “Godly sorrow,” and admitted that while the process was painful for the church, the result would leave no room for regrets for the pain endured. Repentance for the Corinthian church led to a renewed devotion to serve God.

The Old Testament prophets realized that as a nation, Israel had deviated far from the course set out for them by God. Repentance for the nation necessitated a “re-vision” of sight as a country with a new hope of God-centered living and priorities. Repentance for the nation gives us forgiveness for national selfishness and arrogance before God.

When repentance has occurred, a time of refreshing comes. Our lives have meaning, a clearer understanding of God, and hope for the future. God’s promise is that honest repentance brings its reward – the presence and blessing of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Use this season of Lent to experience the cleansing joy of repentance.


PRAYER: Father – I acknowledge my guilt and regret for my lack of obedience to you. Help me change those things in my life that do not honor you.

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St. Joseph

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondone (13...

Everything we know about the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus comes from Scripture and that has seemed too little for those who made up legends about him.

We know he was a carpenter, a working man, for the skeptical Nazarenes ask about Jesus, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” (Matthew 13:55). He wasn’t rich for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified he offered the sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb (Luke 2:24).

Despite his humble work and means, Joseph came from a royal lineage. Luke and Matthew disagree some about the details of Joseph’s genealogy but they both mark his descent from David, the greatest king of Israel (Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38). Indeed the angel who first tells Joseph about Jesus greets him as “son of David,” a royal title used also for Jesus.

We know Joseph was a compassionate, caring man. When he discovered Mary was pregnant after they had been betrothed, he knew the child was not his but was as yet unaware that she was carrying the Son of God. He planned to divorce Mary according to the law but he was concerned for her suffering and safety. He knew that women accused to adultery could be stoned to death, so he decided to divorce her quietly and not expose her to shame or cruelty (Matthew 1:19-25).

We know Joseph was man of faith, obedient to whatever God asked of him without knowing the outcome. When the angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him the truth about the child Mary was carrying, Joseph immediately and without question or concern for gossip, took Mary as his wife. When the angel came again to tell him that his family was in danger, he immediately left everything he owned, all his family and friends, and fled to a strange country with his young wife and the baby. He waited in Egypt without question until the angel told him it was safe to go back (Matthew 2:13-23).

As celebrate St. Joseph with feasting let also remember his commitment to our Savior.

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Prayer of Boethius

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, commonly called Boethius, was a philosopher of the early 6th century. He is venerated by the Roman Catholic Church as a martyr and saint. Boethius was both a Christian and a Hellenist, a truly rare combination. His passion in life was a closer relationship between the empires of Rome and Constantinople, and for that passion, he was jailed and executed. I share this prayer of Boethius.

Woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle

Bless me in this life with but peace of my Conscience, command of my affections, the love of Thy self and my dearest friends, and I shall be happy enough to pity Ceasar. These are, O LORD, the humble desires of my most reasonable ambition, and all I dare call happiness on earth; wherein I set no rule or limit to Thy Hand or Providence. Dispose of me according to the wisdom of Thy pleasure: Thy will be done, though in my own undoing.

——- Boethius

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Just Do It

English: Moses speaks to the children of Israe...

“Not at all! The word is very close to you. It is your mouth and in your heart, waiting for you to do it,”

 Deuteronomy 30:14 (Common English Version)

The word is very close to you. This very definitive statement is found in scripture. We often search in many directions for the secret of God. When this statement was first written, Moses was speaking of the law which had been taught to the people of Israel for many years. But there are other sources of the word. God’s creation speaks of His majesty, and never forget, He created you and me in His image. That image is waiting to be born anew as we come to wrap our lives and hearts around His grace and love.

 Jesus came that we have life, and have it more abundantly. Are we neglecting the abundance that we are offered? The children of Israel, who were led by Moses, had the law, yet we have so much more in the incarnation. In Jesus (God with us) there is an unlimited supply of grace and wisdom just waiting to be tapped. The NIKE slogan is “Just do it!”, and God wants you to do it! Trust Him, love Him, and serve Him with all you can muster.

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