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.
Abba Poemen said of Abba Nisterus that he was like the serpent of brass which Moses made for the healing of the people: he possessed all virtue and without speaking, he healed everyone.
—sayings of the desert
There is great power in silent centering on God. We are pressed to be vocal and aggressive – even in prayer. I can well remember when the reason I didn’t want to pray in public was because I lacked the spontaneity of some others I knew. The monk tells us that we see great healing when we silently approach God with the needs of others. There are certain times when just being in the presence of prayer heals.
- Thanks to Brother Augustine (supertradmum-etheldredasplace.blogspot.com)
Abba Marcarius the Great said to the brothers at Scetis, when he dismissed the assembly, ‘Flee my brothers.’ One of the old men asked him, ’Where could we flee beyond the desert?’ He put his finger on his lips and said, ‘Flee that,” and he went into his cell, shut the door and sat down.
— sayings of the desert
There is a quite popular saying in the advertising business – location, location, location. When the monk questioned Marcarius, he was saying we desert monks are in the perfect location. Surely in this desert we have retreated from everything, and are in danger from nothing. Not so, says the great master. The greatest temptation of all still plagued them, and they had overlooked it. Their greatest opponent was the corrupt communication that would come out of their mouths.
The sin of gossip, slander and others originate from the words that come out of our mouths. Silence and introspection are our greatest friends. We must all think before we speak, and remain silent instead of having an opinion on everything. In the plethora of words that spew out of our mouths, much harm is done. The brother had just been dismissed from assembly (worship/prayer) , and Marcarius urged them to go back to their cells and reflect on the revelation that had received rather than to speak idle words to each other. This is a hard but worthy lesson for us.
Prayer Thought – Lord let us see the value of times of silence and reflection.
A brother in Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which Abba 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 leaking jug and filled it with water and carried it with him. The others came out to meet him and said, “what is this, father?” The old man 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.
—Sayings of the Desert
Recently I was attending a function with a clergyperson of another denomination, and we began discussing a mutual acquaintance. Quickly the conversation turned somewhat negative and judgmental. After he made what I thought was a rather harsh judgment, I suggested that I didn’t think we should be passing judgment on the man in that manner. His reply was that he was not judging but making an assessment.
North Africa Wadi el Natrun
It doesn’t matter if we call it an assessment or just plain judgment, the monk gives us some direction about this topic. Our sins are forgiven and run out behind us. They are gone! The world would be a much better place if we refrained from making assessments and followed the path of our Savior who came to heal and forgive.
May 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
I am the kind of person who likes to have things figured out ahead of time. That’s my style and I can be a little stubborn about it. I wonder if that a good thing for a Missional Christian? Let look to see how God handled people like me in the Bible. let’s pick three, Moses, Jonah and Peter.
Moses-Long before God had tapped Moses for his mission to lead His people out Egypt Moses had begun his own freedom movement. After seeing one of his fellow Jews being mistreated by an Egyptian he killed the Egyptian. The result. Moses had to live in hiding and exile for 40 years. Moses did it his way. When he submitted himself to God at the burning bush he became the leader of the nation.
Jonah-As soon as he received God’s call to preach to the people of Nineveh, Jonah ran away because he knew that “those people” were not worth his effort. After spending three days in the belly of the fish Jonah led one of the most dramatic revivals in history.
Peter- He was just a simple fisherman who just didn’t seem to know when to keep his mouth shut. In his time he had a tendency to talk BIG but on the night that Jesus was condemned he didn’t talk so big. Jesus later confronted him and he expressed sorrow for his denial. After that experience with Jesus he seemed to know when to talk big and when to be silent.
The point is simple. When we encounter God -things are different. It doesn’t matter that we have everything figured out. When we allow God to speak, and we really listen, things are just different. As Missional Christians we have to be forever aware of the still small voice of God prodding and poking us every moment of the day. He has a message for you. Please listen and things can be so different.
“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.
- Life Lesssons From Moses (gods411.wordpress.com)
Another day when a council was being held in Scetis, the Fathers treated Moses with contempt in order to test him, saying, ‘Why does this black man come among us?’ When he heard this he kept silence. When the council was dismissed, they said to him, ‘Abba, did that not grieve you at all? ‘He said to them, ‘I was grieved, but I kept silence.’
—-Sayings of the Desert
The question was posed: “Why does this black man come among us?” Admittedly,it never occurred to me that race would be an issue in the very early church, but here it is right in front of us. For centuries man has struggled with the difficulty of becoming an accepting and open church. There are so many among us who cannot get past some very old and unjustified prejudices. That aside, let us learn from Abba Moses. Sometimes this pain is best handled in silence. In our “fix it” world, we are all to quick to protest if we feel our treatment is unfair, but the father bears it in silence, and in that silence victory is won. In this silence the voice of God is heard. Remember that next time you feel unfairly treated, and let God speak to you.
Once the order was given at Scetis, ‘Fast the week.’ Now it happened that some brothers came from Egypt to visit Abba Moses and he cooked something for them. Seeing some smoke, the neighbors said to the ministers, ‘Look, Moses has broken the commandment and has cooked something in his cell.’ The ministers said, ‘When he comes, we will speak to him ourselves.’ When the Saturday came, since they knew Abba Moses’ remarkable way of life, the ministers said to him in front of everyone, ‘O Abba Moses, you did not keep the commandment of men, but it was so that you might keep the commandment of God.’
—–sayings of the desert
It is a difficult thing to discern sometimes whether we are acting out of religious piety or truly following the commands of God. Our community, like the community of Scetis, can confuse the two. Men have a way of making so many rules, and often these rules are just a pretense of following God. The practice of His presence is far greater than keeping the commands of a church, a class, or a community. God’s commands are made for the good of His creation. Jesus tells us, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.” The commands of God are not meant to burden, punish or diminish our value, but to allow us to know God’s love and mercy and share it with the world.