Reblog: The Art of Pleasing God

‘The challenge is to keep God before our eyes when our sight is so cluttered with the saga of life’. I quite agree!

A Pastor's Thoughts

“Someone asked Abba Anthony, ‘What must one do in order to please God?’ The old man replied, ‘Pay attention to what  I  tell  you:  whoever  you  may  be,  always  have  God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it.  Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.”

—sayings of the Desert Fathers

Abba Anthony gives us three simple, and yet difficult principles, that we must do to please God. Monk in prayer 1

  • Always have God before your eyes
  • Live in harmony with scripture
  • Have stability of place in your life

The challenge is to keep God before our eyes when our sight is so cluttered with the saga of life. Additionally, we are called to live with the scripture as the ever present guide for our lives. As if that were not enough, we…

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Reblog: Discovering the Desert of My Soul

Excellent post. Some interesting thoughts on one’s spiritual journey and on the nature of Truth.

A Pastor's Thoughts

( This is a repeat of  a previous post but I believe it could be helpful in your Lenten Journey.)

I don’t exactly know why, but a few years ago I felt a real spiritual unction to study Christian Mysticism. My first thought was to look at the experiences of the monks of the desert. These Desert Fathers fled to the parched lands of Egypt to escape the “one size fits all” Christianity of Constantine’s Empire. The Abbas of the desert wanted to experience God as they thought He wanted to be experienced. That experience would not come as a result of legislated belief at the point of the sword of a Roman Legion. That kind of belief was no belief at all, for such a faith had to be discovered within their own souls. They could experience God in a mysterious way in their desert monasteries, and then direct…

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Reblog: The Weight of Judgment

Wonderful post.
Jesus said (Matt 7:1-3, John 8:7) if I want to judge others I must point the same accusing finger at myself. I know for sure I don’t want to do that; I have far too much to ask forgiveness for. I live only by the grace He has gifted.
Not judging doesn’t mean I ignore, or am deliberately unperceptive to, the sins of others (a head-in-the-sand attitude is what has led to so many travesties, esp. in abuse cases). Not judging others means being aware of the nature of love and of the nature of evil, and of rooting out, by grace, the seeds of evil in myself, so that the seeds of love blossom and bear good fruit (and so that evil is less able to disguise itself as ‘good’).
God didn’t ask me to be accountable for the sins of others, but I am accountable for myself – and judging is God’s business, not mine. Don’t get me wrong, I still catch myself thinking judgemental thoughts from time to time, but I’m learning to recognise them for what they are and to give them what they deserve – inattention. This applies backwards, too, for those of us who would over-accuse ourselves. To feel guilty over things beyond our control is wrong, and hence a ‘sin’. If God doesn’t point the finger at me for something, who am I to point it at myself?

Some beautiful words from Paul’s letter to the Galatians (who were presumably experiencing problems in this area and wanted his advice on how to address it):

‘My friends,if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbour’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads… Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.’

Galatians 6:1-7 (NRSVA)

A Pastor's Thoughts

The old men used to say, “there is nothing worse than passing judgment.”

They said of Abba Macarius that he became as it is written a god upon earth, because just as God protects the world, so   Abba Macarius would cover the faults that he saw as though he did not see them, and those which he heard as though he did not hear them.

——sayings of the desert

judgment1Some may think that the monk’s way of handling the faults of others is pure denial. I find that idea very realistic, but allow me to add a few layers to this saying on judgment. How much time do you spend agonizing over the faults of others? Do you use the faults of others as an excuse for your own bad behavior? Would admonishing others bring you any closer to God?

A wise person once said, “Become the change you want…

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Twenty Years? O Still, Small Voice of Calm

Abba Anthony, the first monk (I think?), certainly the first of the Desert Fathers, went into the desert as a young man. There he stayed for 20 years, wrestling with temptations of one sort or another. As regular readers will know, I asked God to use this period of Lent to show me my weaknesses (what in the name of sanity did I do that for? It was quite pleasant having one’s head buried in the sand). Lent is around six weeks in length. Not even 1% of Abba Anthony’s time. I ask myself, as I begin to recognise the significance of sacrifice, what is the level of my sacrifice? Do I need to sacrifice, or do I just need to say ‘yes’ or ‘God, help me’? I do not know the answers to these questions.

After my prayer asking God to show me my weaknesses, He has been gentle in His revelations. But today, good Lord! Tormented today by temptation. Days like today… it’s no wonder it took Anthony two decades. But God is always good. This I know.

 

‘Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.’

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

‘Give us this day our daily bread’

Every day my husband and I share time together, and with God. We are currently using Celtic Daily Prayer and have begun Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices (which sounds bizarre, but actually it’s very interesting – the title is because it was written in 1652. It probably didn’t sound so weird then. Or maybe it did. Who knows? It’s good stuff and worth looking at).

Today we read an extract from the Desert Fathers:

A brother came to visit Abba Sylvanus at Mount Sinai. When he saw the brothers working hard, he said to the old man:

“Do not work for food that perishes, for Mary has chosen the good part”.

Then the old man called his disciple:

“Zachary, give this brother a book, and put him in an empty cell.”

Now when it was three o’clock the brother kept looking out of the door to see if someone would call him for the meal. But nobody called him, so he got up, went to the old man, and asked:

“Abba, didn’t the brothers eat today?”

The old man replied: “Of course we did!”

“Then why didn’t you call me,” he asked.

The old man replied: “You are a spiritual person, and do not need that type of food, but since we are earthly, we want to eat and that’s why we work. Indeed, you have chosen the good part reading all day long, and not wanting to eat earthly food.”

When the brother heard this he repented:

“Forgive me, Abba.”

Then the old man said to him: “Mary certainly needed Martha, and it is really by Martha’s help that Mary is praised.”

from Celtic Daily Prayer

A Northumbrian Office

 

Also each day until the end of the G8 summit I have signed up to receive Tearfund’s prayer requests. This is an extract from today:

 

‘Give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread. 
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonour the name of my God.’
Proverbs 30:8-9 
The prayer for daily bread is a prayer for all – for some it’s a prayer for less. Lord please don’t give me more than I can cope with, please protect me so my cup doesn’t runneth over, so my plate is not stacked too high, so my balance isn’t too big. It’s a plea that we put God’s glory at the centre of our lives. It’s a prayer for protection from over provision so we don’t disown or dishonour God’s glory. 
 
But the prayer for daily bread is also a prayer for more for poor people. In a world where every day one in eight people go hungry something needs to be done. The Lord’s Prayer directs us to hallow God’s name and to forgive others, this requires more than just recitation, it demands a response. 
 
Lord help us to remember, 
make us one, 
help us to live for your glory. 
Lord please give us this day our daily bread.
Reading both of these reminded me of the story of Christ’s temptation:

…Jesus was hungry. Then the Devil came to him and said, “If you are God’s Son, order these stones to turn into bread.”

But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’”

Matthew 4:2-4 GNT

For the Follower of Christ these truths remain:

  • Ending extreme poverty is not just about food in stomachs.
  • Sharing the gospel is no good unless words are accompanied by actions. Fine-sounding words never filled a hungry child.
  • Where I have more than enough, Christ has blessed me so that I may bless others.

 

It is this last one that I  so often struggle with. When I cling to material wealth instead of sharing, I only show the shallowness of my relationship with God. I make idols for myself when I rename ‘want’ and call it ‘need’. I think this makes God sad. No wonder Jesus says it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle…

 

‘Give us this day our daily bread.’

Amen