Thursday, June 28, 2007
I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul... Who are we that you make so much of us, that you give us so much attention, that you examine us every morning and test us every moment?... Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands... Your hands shaped and made me -- will you now destroy me?
Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, 'O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home?'... But God said to Jonah, 'Do you have a right to be angry...?' 'I do', he said, 'I am angry enough to die.'
He has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long; he has walled me in so that I cannot escape ... Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding, he dragged me from the path and mangled me... he has filled me with bitter herbs and sated me with gall. He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust.
You have covered yourself with anger and pursued us; you have slain without pity. You have covered yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can get through. You have made us scum and refuse among the nations... My eyes will flow unceasingly, without relief, until the Lord looks down from heaven and sees.
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.
Then Abraham approached him and said: 'Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city?... Far be it from you to do such a thing.'
'It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs.' 'Yes Lord,' she said, 'but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master's table.' Then Jesus answered, 'Woman, you have great faith!'
'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death... Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.'
At the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice... 'My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?'
During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard.
(Job 7: 11, NIV; 17-18, free translation; 10: 3, 8; Jonah 4: 1, 2, 9; Lamentations 3: 3, 7, 10-11, 15-16, 43-45 and 49-50; Job 13: 15; Genesis 18: 23-24a, 25a; Matthew 15: 26-28; Mark 14: 34a, 36; Mark 15: 34; Hebrews 5:7 -- all NIV)
The trouble with some Christian testimonies is that they leave too many questions answered. Yes, you did read me right -- there's no 'un' before the last word. The book of Job is there in the Bible as a constant reminder that if there are easy answers, we're probably asking the wrong questions. Job's friends are full of suitably pious answers to his inexplicable sufferings, while Job rages on and on -- yet it is Job who, God says, has 'spoken of me what is right'.
Some years ago, it was fashionable to display posters and stickers bearing the legend 'Jesus is the answer'. Not surprisingly, enterprising graffiti artists added, 'What's the question?' Discovery begins, not with hunting answers, but with asking the right questions. If we don't know what the questions are, answers will mean nothing.
We must also learn to hear 'the question behind the question'. Most cries of perplexity, anger, despair, though they may take the form of questions, are not actually requests for an answer- they are simply requests to be truly heard. Job asks 'why?', but he is answered with 'who' and that is enough. Jesus, in Gethsemane and on the cross, questions God's actions, but his real need is to know that God is still there. Abraham's central concern is not so much to save Sodom, as to be reassured of God's justice: 'Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?' Even the sulky Jonah is not really looking for an explanation, but for God to show that he is on Jonah's side.
What is refreshing about these biblical cross-questioners of God is their lack of inhibition about putting God on the spot, saying exactly what they feel and expecting God to respond in kind. Jesus' apparent rebuff cannot keep the spunky Syro-Phoenician woman from capping his argument -- and he concedes the point. So we see that humility is not necessarily about silent, unquestioning submission to events. The writer of Hebrews tells us Jesus was heard because of his 'reverent submission' -- but what did this consist of? 'Loud cries and tears'! Humility can mean being careless enough of our own dignity to speak up boldly and risk looking an 'unspiritual fool'.
Are we too mealy-mouthed about laying it on the line to God? He's taken a lot worse on the cross.
Gentile question: Why does a Jew always answer a question with another question? Jewish answer: Why not?
The basic question of the book of Job is not, Why does suffering come? What is its origin? What is its meaning? Why me? -- but, What am I to do about it? Not, Why I am suffering, but How can I suffer? The answer of the book of Job is clear: the undeserving sufferer must protest to God, must hold him responsible, and must never desist from demanding satisfaction from God. Job speaks directly to God almost every time he opens his mouth... His instinct is right; it is God with whom he has to do, it is God who is responsible. He is single-minded in insisting that God answer him.
David Clines, 'Beyond all Proportion'
Anna was standing on the bed, her eyes wide and wild, tears streaming down her cheeks, both hands pressed over her mouth as if to stifle a scream... I cried; I don't know if I cried for her or for myself... Suddenly out of my tear-filled void I heard Anna's voice. 'Please, please, Mister God, teach me how to ask real questions. Oh please, Mister God, help me to ask real questions.'
Fynn, Mister God, this is Anna
People is always telling us
You is the answer
But we didn't ask them
You may be the answer, Jesus,
But I hope you know how we all feel.
Carl Burke, Treat me cool, Lord
Pray as you can and do not try to pray as you can't.
Abbot John Chapman
Talk to him in prayer of all your wants, your troubles, even of the weariness you feel in serving him... If God bores you, tell him that he bores you, that you prefer the vilest amusements to his presence, that you only feel at your ease when you are far from him... You cannot speak too freely, too trustfully to him.
Put a name to my sorrows
and I shall let them pass
loose my angry grip upon
these precious shards of glass
but the name must be grand and great
the name must be true
spoken on a hill's side
cold in the dew
O I see the name printed
printed on the page
and tears come running in a stream
releasing my rage
I let go the fragments
my palm begins to bleed
the name of my sorrows
who climbs a hill may read
Veronica Zundel, Put a Name
To conceal your grief is to find no remedy for it.
Do you know what 'le vice Anglais' -- the English vice -- really is?...
It's our refusal to admit our emotions.
Terence Rattigan, In Praise of Love
I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe;
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
William Blake, 'A Poison Tree'
The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.
William Blake, 'Proverbs of Hell'
Anger is one of the sinews of the soul. Who lacks it hath a maimed mind.
Anger -- no peevish fit of temper, but just, generous, scalding indignation -- passes (not necessarily at once) into embracing, exultant, re-welcoming love. That is how friends and lovers are truly reconciled. Hot wrath, hot love. Such anger is the fluid that love bleeds when you cut it. The angers, not the measured remonstrances, of lovers are love's renewal.
C.S. Lewis, Prayer: Letters to Malcolm
Ah my dear angry Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.
I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve;
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament, and love.
George Herbert, Bitter-sweet
'Read your complaint,' said the judge... 'Enough', said the judge. And now for the first time I knew what I had been doing. While I was reading, it had, once and again, seemed strange to me that the reading took so long; for the book was a small one. Now I knew that I had been reading it over and over; perhaps a dozen times. I would have read it for ever, quick as I could... if the judge had not stopped me... At last the judge spoke. 'Are you answered?' he said. 'Yes,' said I. The complaint was the answer. To have heard myself making it was to be answered...
I ended my first book with the words No answer. I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face, questions die away. What other answer would suffice?
Queen Orual in C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces
'Surely our wrath shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.' Lord God, I find this a mystery; that it is not in thanking you for your goodness that I draw closest to you, but in complaining to you, shouting at you, even accusing you. It frightens me, exposing to you the naked truth of my frequent antagonism to you; yet somehow I know that 'What on earth do you think you're up to, Lord?' is often a more honest prayer than a meek 'Your will be done'. For I still call you, Lord, even when I question you.
It's just like human relationships; it's the friend you trust with whom you dare to quarrel. Politeness is for mere acquaintances. The first row -- if it leads to the first making-up, and a greater depth of understanding -- is a major step in the growth of love.
Give me the courage, then, Lord, to speak my mind to you without fear; for only when I have confessed what my own will is, can I come truly to the conclusion: 'Your will be done.'
Give your people the integrity to turn to you with our real questions, when you hand us over to suffering or allow us to wander in the maze of our own sinfulness. Keep us seeking you, in anger, frustration or confusion -- for when we stop seeking you, then we are really lost.
When we are too weak to summon the joy to praise you, let our anger praise you; and restrain us from the overwhelming wrath which destroys, rather than heals. Free us to show you our real feelings; then free us to let go of them and let them be transformed by you.
And now unto him who is able to keep us from falling and lift us from the dark valley of despair to the bright mountain of hope, from the midnight of desperation to the daybreak of joy; to him be power and authority, for ever and ever. Amen.
Martin Luther King
Rivers in the Desert ed. By Rowland Croucher pp. 135-141
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
I have complete confidence, O God! I will sing and praise you! Wake up, my soul! Wake up, my harp and lyre! I will wake up the sun. I will thank you, O Lord, among the nations. I will praise you among the peoples. Your constant love reaches above the heavens; your faithfulness touches the skies. Show your greatness in the sky, O God, and your glory over all the earth. Save us by your might; answer my prayer, so that the people you love may be rescued.
Who, O God, will take me into the fortified city? Who will lead me to Edom? Have you really rejected us? Aren't you going to march out with our armies? Help us against the enemy; human help is worthless. With God on our side we will win; he will defeat our enemies.
I ask that your minds may be opened to see his light, so that you will know what is the hope to which he has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings he promises his people, and how very great is his power at work in us who believe.
But God's mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God's grace that you have been saved. In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world. He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of his grace in the love he showed us in Christ Jesus.
He did this to prepare all God's people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ. And so shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature.
(Psalm 108:1-6; Psalm 108:10-13; Ephesians 1:18-19; Ephesians 2:4-7; Ephesians 4:12-13 -- all GNB)
Gentle, reflective listening to the unfolding of God's Word in our daily lives has been a practice recommended by spiritual leaders over many centuries. To become aware of God's action in our lives we must stop and quietly reflect on where we have been and what has happened in our lives, to bring to our consciousness the beautiful ways in which God has called us into being and to ac knowledge before him our frailty and our brokenness.
It is a process of discerning each day our movements towards and away from God to acknowledge the gifts with which he has showered us and to ask his help to become ever more aware of the darker side of our personalities which if unattended may harm or cripple us. If we are prepared to enter into our inner sanctum or the fortified city (Psalm 108: 10), we will be in touch with the deeper forces that are beyond our ordinary consciousness and which have the power to exert enormous influence on our actions.
This process of silent listening in God's presence will enable us gradually to experience a greater appreciation of the inner meaning and relationship of those disparate parts of ourselves and of the world around us. As this understanding takes place so will our transformation or personal integration be enhanced.
The liberating spark of the 'light that shines in the darkness' (John 1: 5) will bring new life and light to our hearts and minds and our every action will become a vehicle for God's presence to us and our presence to him in love.
In actual life it requires the greatest discipline to be simple, and the acceptance of oneself is the essence of the moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook upon life.
That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ -- all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, the very enemy himself -- that these are within me, and I myself stand in need of the aims of my own kindness -that I myself am the enemy who must be loved -- what then?
As a rule, the Christian's attitude is [to hide this] from the world; we refuse to admit ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves... We therefore do not hesitate, but lightheartedly choose the complicated course of remaining in ignorance about ourselves while busying ourselves with other people and their troubles and sins. This activity lends us an air of virtue, and we thus deceive ourselves and those around us. In this way, thank God, we can escape from ourselves. There are countless people who can do this with impunity, but not everyone can, and these few break down on the road to Damascus and succumb to a neurosis. How can I help these persons if I am myself a fugitive?
C.G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul
The tremendous compulsion towards goodness and the immense moral force of Christianity are not merely an argument in the latter's favour, they are also a proof of the strength of its suppressed and repressed counterpart -- the antichristian, barbarian element. The existence within us of something that can turn against us, that can become a serious matter for us, I regard not merely as a dangerous peculiarity, but as a valuable and congenial asset as well. It is a still untouched fortune, an uncor rupted treasure, a sign of youthfulness, an earnest of rebirth...
The shadow is a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no-one is spared who goes down to the deep well. But one must learn to know oneself in order to know who one is. For what comes after the door is, surprisingly enough, a boundless expanse full of unprecedented uncertainty, with apparently no inside and no outside, no above and no below, no here or there, no mine and no thine, no good and no bad. It is the world of water, where all life floats in suspension; where the realm of the sympathetic system, the soul of everything living, begins; where I am indivisibly this and that; where I experience the other in myself and the other-than-myself experiences.
C.G. Jung, Psychological Reflections
The teachings of Jesus suggest... that we should not wait until we know all about suffering to find our need. We need to be delivered from the source of our inhumanity, Jesus taught, and he told us first of all to pray, 'Deliver us from the evil one.' Then in various ways he showed that the task is to look within and to know what is causing the trouble and whether we are nursing anger or harmful desires in our hearts. Our job is not just to wait for evil to happen in the outer world and then try to do something about the pain and the agony it causes. Instead, Christians are to recognise the source of evil within themselves so that they can seek help in order to stand outwardly against it.
Morton T. Kelsey, The Other Side of Silence
True knowledge of God always goes hand in hand with a painful self-knowledge. John of the Cross expresses it beautifully by means of the famous metaphor of the log of wood being transformed into fire. As the wood burns, it becomes blackened, it cracks and steams and all the knotholes and flaws are exposed. If the log could speak it would cry out: 'My seeking to become a fire was a mistake! I am now worse than when I started -- black, ugly and flawed. I was better off before.' The log is the soul and the fire is God. And the truth, of course, is that the log is not worse off then it was before. All the ugliness and defects were present before but they were concealed. The only way the log can become fire is to be revealed honestly and openly as what it is in itself. The process is painful but, contrary to appearances, it is the mark of real growth in union with God. That is why good souls who are making real progress often feel they are regressing and getting further from God.
Thomas H. Green, Opening to God
O, to vex me contraries meet in one; Inconstancy unnaturally hath begot A constant habit, that when I would not I change in vows and in devotion. As humorous is my contrition As my profane love, and as soon forgot, As riddlingly distempered, cold and hot; I durst not view heaven yesterday, and today In prayers and flattering speeches I court God; Tomorrow I quake with true fear of his rod. So my devout fits come and go away Like a fantastic ague, save that here Those are my best days when I shake with fear.
John Donne, Holy Sonnets VI
One reason why most of us experience alternating consolation and desolation is because our minds have layers upon layers of consciousness. At one level of consciousness I may be full of faith that all power belongs to God and that without him I can do nothing. Then my security is threatened in some way and I reach a deeper level of consciousness to which my faith has not penetrated and where I have been living in a state of unconscious atheism. This moment of crisis is an invitation to grow in faith. I may accept the invitation and for a few years I live in this deeper level. Then another crisis occurs and I become aware of an even deeper level of atheism within me. In our journey towards God we proceed like those small birds whose flight is in loops. They always seem to be about to drop, but the drop in their flight seems to urge them forwards...
'The answer is in the pain.' We fear whatever causes us pain and try to escape, but in escaping we are running away from the answer, and so another useful guideline in learning to read our moods is: Face the fears that haunt you.
In Jungian language, 'Face your shadow'. Fear, like guilt, is a healthy human reaction to danger, but if we refuse to face the fear, we cannot discover the danger which is threatening. If we refuse to face the fear, the fear may become a ruthless tyrant pervading and poison ing every aspect of our lives. Once faced, the fears often turn out to be illusory.
Gerard W. Hughes, God of Surprises
The act of love -- extending oneself -- requires a moving out against the inertia of laziness (work) or the resistance engendered by fear (courage). Let us turn now from the work of love to the courage of love. When we extend ourselves, our self enters new and unfamiliar territory, so to speak. Our self becomes a new and different self. We do things we are not accustomed to do. We change. The experience of change, of unaccustomed activity, of being on unfamiliar ground, of doing things differently is frightening. It always was and always will be. People handle their fear of change in different ways, but the fear is inescapable if they are in fact to change. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the making of action in spite of fear, the moving out against the resistance engendered by fear into the unknown and into the future. On some level spiritual growth, and therefore love, always requires courage and involves risk.
M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled
Lord, I do love the darkness
The hours folk call the night
Where others see but blackness
I know a lordly light.
The light that burns within
Each breathing hopeful heart
And gives all living kin
Of godliness some part.
Lord I do love the sunlight
Reflected by the moon,
I move by it at midnight
But hide from it at noon.
Your daylight dawning blinds me,
Reveals me from above,
Ungainly and unkindly
Unworthy of your love.
Lord, I do love the darkness
The hours folk call the night
Where others see but starkness
I know a lordly light.
I dance between the trees
Of this cathedral wood.
I scent the gentlest breeze
And know your will is good.
George Scott Moncrieff, Prayer of the Badger
Lord Jesus, may you yourself prepare in the wilderness of our hearts the path of your return.
The hills of our pride - tear them down with your humility. The valleys of our despair - fill them with your hope. The winding roads of our lives - straighten them with your truth, and let bloom in our desert the daffodils of your joy.
Then will we be able to see your glory and adore your presence in the face of each of our brothers and sisters.
Lucien Deiss, Biblical Prayers
May the Lord bless you and take care of you; May the Lord be kind and gracious to you; May the Lord look on you with favour and give you peace.
(Numbers 6: 24-26)
Rowland Croucher ed., High Mountains Deep Valleys, Albatross/Lion, chapter 23
Monday, June 25, 2007
To will one thing (Soren Kierkegaard)
For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Beloved, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards, in Christ Jesus.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn within a large family.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?'
'Yes, Lord,' he said, 'you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my lambs.'
Again Jesus said, 'Simon son of John, do you truly love me?' He answered, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Take care of my sheep.'
The third time he said to him, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?'... He said, 'Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.' 1800
Jesus said, 'Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.' Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, 'Follow me!'
(2 Chronicles 16: 9; Philippians 3: 12-14; 1 John 1:9 -- all NIV; Romans 8: 28-29, NIV/NRSV; John 21: 15-19, NIV)
In Hamlet, Shakespeare has Polonius give this advice to his son, as he leaves home in pursuit of an academic career:
To thine own self be true
And it must follow as the night
the day, Thou canst not then be false to
But what is 'self'? Elizabeth O'Connor in Our Many Selves describes the inner complexity of a person. The kind of self-love which tries to get the best place in the synagogue, or to be seen praying on the streets is pathological. This is self-love at the expense of the interests of others. But self-love which moves from self-acceptance to love of neighbour is surely biblical. So our 'self' needs both a change of master and direction. How can Christ be Lord of the inner self?
First, we must reckon with the past. Forgiveness is not simply theoretical. When Jesus healed the Gadarene demoniac, a complete change took place: the man had a new self-identity.
Then, in the present, we are in the process of 'becoming' the self God intended us to be. Our changing circumstances are less in control than is our heavenly Master-
The future security a Christian anticipates is a function of trust in a trustworthy God. John Sanford (The Kingdom Within) writes: 'For the sake of our own relationship to the Kingdom, as well as our relationships with other people, our attitude towards ourself must be one of self-acceptance. This comes as a shock to people who have often been trained to reject themselves.'
So there is a forgetfulness.
You cannot turn the past into a blank:
the Bible does not encourage this.
In reality, this is not possible.
There can be selective forgetfulness.
Let the failures of the past teach you.
Let them not terrorise you...
Not despair but development.
You must learn to forget successes.
Their remembrance must make us grateful and humble.
Conceit and self-sufficiency are hindrances to growth in faith.
There is also a forwardness in faith.
The goal is 'Christlikeness'.
When a child is born, the family looks for 'resemblance' in the physical appearance of the baby to the ancestors -- present and past. One day, when the wheels of time stop spinning -- and we 'move on' -- then, God looks for the recognisable resemblance with the Elder Brother', Jesus Christ.
Refusing to surrender to God does not mean that we have not surrendered to any other. All of us surrender to something. Most of us surrender to ourselves as 'god'. But we dislike this 'god'. We do as we like and by now we do not like what we do. We express ourselves, but dislike the self we express. We do not like ourself as it is and others also do not like it.
So may thou give to the intellect, wisdom to comprehend that one thing; to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding; to the will, purity that wills one thing. In prosperity may thou grant perseverance to will one thing; amid distraction, collectedness to will one thing; in suffering, patience to will one thing.
Soren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing
Our perfection, therefore, is not to be flawless, but to be in tune with our redeemed destiny in Christ.
P.T. Forsyth, Christian Perfection
Faith is the condition of spiritual maturity in the sense of adultness, of entering on the real heritage of the soul. It is the soul coming to itself, coming of age, feeling its feet, entering on its native powers. Faith is perfection in this sense. It is not ceasing to grow, but entering on the normal region of growth.
P.T. Forsyth, Christian Perfection
Setting up a saving relationship with Christ is not essentially different from setting up a warm human friendship. In the latter the steps are five: (1) The stage of drawing near. This is a tentative, explorative stage. You are not certain whether you want to give yourself inwardly to the other person. It is the stage of yes and no. (2) The stage when there is the inward decision to give yourself to the other person- the stage of decision. (3) You implement the decision- you actually make the inward surrender to the other person. (4) Having given to the other person, you are now free to take from that person. There is an exchange of selves- you belong to that person, and that person belongs to you. You are one. (5) There is a continuous mutual adjustment of mind to mind, will to will, and being to being down through the years. The friendship unfolds.
E. Stanley Jones, Conversion
What happens to the self when surrendered to God? Does he wipe it out or wipe it clean? He wipes it clean of selfishness. The very act of self-surrender gives him the opportunity to cleanse us from our central selfishness. He gives the self back to itself. When we obey the deepest law of the universe it works: 'If you would save your life you will lose it' -- centre yourself on yourself and the self will disintegrate. Every self-centred person is a disintegrating person. Centre yourself on your self and you won't like yourself -- and no one else will like you. But the rest of that verse is just as true: 'Whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it' -lose yourself in the will of God by self-surrender and you will find your self again. It is a paradox, but you are never so much your own as when you are most his.
Bound to him you walk the earth free. Low at his feet you stand straight before everything else. You suddenly realise that you have aligned yourself with the creative forces of the universe so you are free -- free to create, free to love, free to live at your maximum, free to be, to be all he wills you to be.
E. Stanley Jones, Victory Through Surrender
Read John 21:15-19 again and reflect upon your own life calling.
1. If you were asked the same question that Jesus asked Peter, how would you respond?
a. Yes -- all of the time.
b. Yes -- most of the time.
c. Yes -- some of the time.
e. Ask me tomorrow.
2. 'Take care of my sheep.' If Jesus said this to you three times, what would this mean to you now?
a. Get going.
b. I'm counting on you.
c. Get your eyes off yourself.
d. Consider the whole world.
e. Seek first the kingdom of God.
3. In the past three months, where have you seen the most progress in your life?
a. Personal discipline
b. Spiritual development
d. Concern for others
e. Family relations
f. Moral courage
g. Bible understanding
h. Openness to God's will
i. Change in priorities
j. Attitude about work/school
k. Ability to relax/unwind
L. Coleman, D. Rydberg, R. Pearce, G. Christopherson (eds), Serendipity New Testament for Groups
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.'
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. Christ expects us to be faithful where he puts us, and when he returns, we'll rule together with him.
Steve Brown, Leadership
Loved with everlasting love, led by grace that love to know;
Spirit breathing from above, thou hast taught me it is so!
Oh, this full and perfect peace! Oh, this transport all divine!
In a love which cannot cease, I am his and he is mine.
His forever, only his: who the Lord and me shall part?
Ah, with what a rest of bliss, Christ can fill the loving heart!
Heav'n and earth may fade and flee, first-born light in gloom decline,
But while God and I shall be, I am his and he is mine.
George W. Robinson
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth and followed thee.
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give humble and hearty thanks
for all your goodness and loving kindness to us...
we bless you for our creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your amazing love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace;
and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us that due sense of all your mercies,
that our hearts may be truly thankful and that we may declare your praise
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up ourselves to your service,
and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory
now and for ever. Amen.
An Australian Prayer Book
And now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with all you need for doing his will, through the blood of the everlasting agreement between God and you. And may he produce in you through the power of Christ all that is pleasing to him, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13: 20-21, LB
Rivers in the Desert ed. By Rowland Croucher pp. 180-186
Hi! This blog is part of a series of Blogs with daily (or weekly - or take your own time!) devotions. Here we will take a journey through 365 devotional chapters from the best-selling Still Waters Deep Waters series of books. You may wish to read the 1 Month of Devotions Blog first.
Other Blogs in this series:
1 Month to Meet the Baptists
1 Month of Books you should Read
1 Month to Learn About the Internet
1 Month to Understand your Local Church
1 Month of Answers to Tough Questions
1 Month to Change Your Life
1 Month to Meet Some Interesting People
1 Month to Become a Christian
1 Month To Meet Jesus
Basic idea: you read one of these chapters each day slowly and reflectively: at least half an hour per chapter...
Some of the material will be adapted from the 20,000 articles on the John Mark Ministries website. It's a big site, (although many of the 100,000+ unique visitors a month tell me it's easy to navigate).
If you've read all these devotions and want some more, put the titles of any of my devotional books (Still Waters Deep Waters etc.) into the 'search this site' facility at the John Mark Ministries website, and you'll find a couple of hundred more...
I look forward to journeying with you!