405) Soft or Hard Words? (part one of two)

      Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom…  Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.  It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.  Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.  It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak.  But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”  –Luke 12:32…35-40

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     This one of several parables Jesus told to illustrate the need for us to ‘be ready’ for the time when he will return.  In this parable Jesus uses the example of the master of a house who has gone away and left his servants in charge.  Those servants, says Jesus, better be ready for when the master returns.  If they are, says verse 37, “it will be good for them.”  Very good indeed, it would seem, because the master himself will put on his work clothes and serve them.  The master will serve the servants!  You don’t see that every day.  But this is a very good master, and he treats his obedient servants like friends.  These parables bring to mind Jesus himself who does not place himself above his disciples, but takes the place of a servant and washes his disciples feet (John 13).  And then, in that most incredible story of all, Jesus chooses to give his life for them, dying a cruel death on the cross.  Many of Jesus’ parables tell of such masters whose kindness and goodness is beyond belief– they serve, they wait, they forgive, and they are unbelievably patient with those who are beneath them.  How wonderful it would be to serve in the house of such a master.  And that is precisely the point Jesus is trying to make.  Jesus was here on earth to give everyone the opportunity to serve such a Master.  In another parable, even the street people are invited to come into the King’s palace to be served at the feast for the wedding of the King’s son.  What a world, what a master, what a Kingdom!, where such a good master is so kind to his people.  “This Kingdom of God is at hand,” said Jesus, “Believe in me and you will be saved, and you will be brought into the wonderful kingdom of this wonderful master; believe in me, and you will be ready.”

     “BUT” says Jesus in verse 39, “understand this…;” and then he goes on to say that the master may return at anytime, and don’t let him find you NOT ready.  Other parables tell what will happen then.  Then, if this kind and patient master who has given his servants every opportunity and bestowed on them every goodness finds them not ready and not obeying him, but instead abusing and mistreating the other servants, then those wicked servants will be punished, fired, and cast out into the outer darkness “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  This soft master also has hard words for those who reject or ignore or live contrary to his goodness.  This master, who in so many ways has such a soft heart, can, when despised, be very hard in his dealings with his servants.  So, says Jesus, watch, be on guard, and always be ready for his return.  (continued…)

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“I’m very glad that you’ve seen that Christianity is as hard as nails; i.e., hard and tender at the same time.  It’s the blend that does it; neither quality would be any good without the other.”  

Letters of C. S. Lewis, ed. by W. H. Lewis, 1966, page 250

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Help me, O Lord, to make a true use of all disappointments and calamities in this life, in such a way that they may unite my heart more closely with you.  Cause them to separate my affections from worldly things and inspire my soul with more vigor in the pursuit of true happiness.  Amen.

–Susanna Wesley (1669-1742), mother of John and Charles Wesley and 17 other children

404) Death of a Martyr, 203 A. D.

From EyeWitness to History at  www.eyewitnesstohistory.com  (2004)

     The Roman persecution of Christians began during the reign of Nero and persisted until Christianity was recognized as a legitimate religion by the Emperor Constantine 249 years later.  This persecution was justified by the belief that the Christians’ refusal to pay homage to Rome’s pagan gods provoked their wrath.  The disastrous consequence of a flood, drought, earthquake, or other calamity, was often attributed to the Christians’ lack of piety and the resultant retribution of the gods.  Christians were denounced as enemies of men and the gods and therefore subject to the severest tortures.

     Conviction did not lead inevitably to execution.  Pardon would be granted if the Christian threw a few grains of incense on the altar of the pagan god and thereby recognize its dominance.  If this offer was refused, more severe measures such as scourging or other tortures were implemented.  If these failed, the victim was lead to the circus or theater and subjected to a horrible death for the amusement of the crowd and the placation of the gods.

     Vibia Perpetua was a young woman of noble birth.  She was twenty-two, a wife, a mother of a young son and a Christian.  In the city of Carthage in North Africa, on March 7 of the year 203, she was put to death for her religious convictions.  Her story comes to us from three eyewitness accounts written shortly after her death:

Perpetua was one of five Christians condemned to death in the arena.  One of her companions, Felicitas, was a slave and eight months pregnant.  Two days before her execution she gave birth to a daughter.  Pepetua’s father was a pagan and came often to the prison (many times with Perpetua’s son in his arms) to plead with his daughter to renounce her religion and save her life, but to no avail.  On March 7 Perpetua and her four companions were led to the arena where the crowd demanded they be scourged.  Then a boar, a bear, and a leopard were loosened upon the men while the women were attacked by a wild bull.  Wounded, Perpetua was then put to the sword.

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Perpetua:  “When I was in the hands of the persecutors, my father in his tender solicitude tried hard to pervert me from the faith.

‘My father,’ I said, ‘you see this pitcher.  Can we call it by any other name than what it is?’

‘No,” he said.

‘Nor can I’, I said, ‘call myself by any other name than that of Christian.’

So he went away, but, on the rumor that we were to be tried, he wasted away with anxiety.

‘Daughter,’ he said, ‘have pity on my gray hairs; have pity on thy father.  Do not give me over to disgrace.  Behold thy brothers, thy mother, and thy aunt:  behold thy child who cannot live without thee.  Do not destroy us all.’

 Thus spake my father, kissing my hands, and throwing himself at my feet.  And I wept because of my father, for he alone of all my family would not rejoice in my martyrdom.  So I comforted him, saying:  ‘In this trial, what God determines will take place. We are not in our own keeping, but in God’s.’ So he left me, weeping bitterly.”

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     Perpetua and another Christian woman, Felicitas, were tossed and gored by a bull; but despite cruel manglings, yet survived.  Perpetua, says a sympathizing recorder, seemed in a trance.  ‘When are we to be tossed?’ she asked, and could scarcely be induced to believe that she had suffered, in spite of the marks on her body.  (They were presently stabbed to death by gladiators)  After having exhorted the others to ‘stand fast in the faith and love one another,’ she guided to her own throat the uncertain hand of the young gladiator.”

The Martyr’s Last Prayer, John Leon Gerome, 1883

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I Peter 5:6-10  —  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 

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MARTIN LUTHER’S PRAYER IN THE FACE OF DEATH:  My dear God, if you so desire that this be my last hour, then let thy will be done,… and I shall gladly die.  Only let your holy name be praised and glorified by my sufferings and death.  If it were possible, dear Lord, I would live longer for the sake of your blessed people.  But if the hour has come, then do as you please, for you are the Lord of life and death.  Amen.

403) Nero Persecutes the Christians, 64 A. D.

From EyeWitness to History at  www.eyewitnesstohistory.com  (2000)

     A generation after the death of Christ, Christianity had reached Rome in the form of an obscure offshoot of Judaism popular among the city’s poor and destitute.  Members of this religious sect spoke of the coming of a new kingdom and a new king.  These views provoked suspicion among the Jewish authorities who rejected the group, and fear among the Roman authorities who perceived these sentiments as a threat to the Empire.

     In the summer of 64 A. D. Rome suffered a terrible fire that burned for six days and seven nights consuming almost three quarters of the city.  The people accused the Emperor Nero for the devastation, claiming he set the fire for his own amusement.  In order to deflect these accusations and placate the people, Nero laid blame for the fire on the Christians.  The emperor ordered the arrest of a few members of the sect who, under torture, accused others until the entire Christian populace was implicated and became fair game for retribution.  As many of the religious sect that could be found were rounded up and put to death in the most horrific manner for the amusement of the citizens of Rome.  The ghastly way in which the victims were put to death aroused sympathy among many Romans, although most felt their execution justified.  The following account was written by the Roman historian Tacitus in his book Annals published a few years after the event.  Tacitus was a young boy living in Rome during the time of the persecutions.

Therefore, to stop the rumor (that he had set Rome on fire), he (Emperor Nero) falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were (generally) hated for their outrageous wickedness.

Christus, the founder of that group, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius.  But the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out yet again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, whither all things horrible and disgraceful flow from all quarters, as to a common receptacle, and where they are encouraged.  Accordingly, first those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of “hating the human race.”  In their very deaths they were made the subjects of sport:  for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and (put in the arena) to be killed by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights…  For this cause a feeling of compassion arose towards the sufferers, though guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment, because they seemed not to be cut off for the public good, but were victims of the ferocity of one man.

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The New Testament book of I Peter was written in Rome, probably around the time of Nero’s persecution, perhaps to give hope and encouragement to Christians undergoing persecution.

I Peter 1:3-9  —  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade– kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice greatly, though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith– of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire– may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls…

I Peter 3:14-17  —  …If you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”  But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil…

I Peter 4:12-16  —  Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.  However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

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Eternal Lord God, you hold all souls in life:  Give to your church in paradise and on earth your light and your peace; and grant that we, following the good examples of those who have served you here and are now at rest, may at last enter with them into your unending joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

-Book of Common Prayer

402) For Someone Like… Me

By Tony Campolo, Let Me Tell You a Story, copyright 2000, pages 89-90.

     The story is told of a young lieutenant in World War II whose unit was ambushed by Nazi soldiers.  Almost all of them escaped from the flying bullets by running into an old farmhouse.  However, out of the darkness came the moans and groans of one of the men who had been severely wounded.  The young lieutenant did the heroic thing.  He crawled out into the night, grabbed the young recruit, and dragged him to the safety of the farmhouse.  He saved the man, but even as he himself was going through the door to safety, he was struck by a bullet to his head and killed instantly.

     A year or so later the young man for whom the lieutenant had heroically given his life was back in the States.  The parents of the dead hero asked to meet him.  On the appointed night, the soldier came to meet the mother and father of the man who had died for him.  But when he arrived at the house where they lived, it was obvious to the parents of the dead hero that he was drunk.

     They sat at dinner and tried to make conversation, but the man was loud and at times, obscene.  Toward the end of the meal he vomited.  The parents did the best they could do to make their way through a horrendous evening of suffering.

     When the young soldier left, and they closed the door behind him, the mother of the dead hero slumped against the wall and moaned, “To think that our precious son had to die for somebody like that.”

     I’m sure that when the angels in heaven look upon the behavior of the likes of someone like me, they must say to one another, “To think that God’s precious Son had to die for somebody like that.”  I owe Him better.  He gave His life for me and I should be ready and willing to do what He would do if He was in my place.

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John 15:13  —  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Romans 5:6-10    You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

 

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Guide the rulers of all nations, so that they may lead their land and their people in righteousness and peace.  Enlighten all who are in authority and move them to do what is right.  Grant blessed unity and peace among all nations.  Preserve us from all strife, hatred, and warfare, so that we may eat our daily bread in peace.  Amen.

–Martin Luther

401) What Good is Theology? (part two of two)

By C. S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity, 1943

     (…continued)  When you get down to it, is not the popular idea of Christianity simply this:  that Jesus Christ was a great moral teacher and that if only we took his advice we might be able to establish a better social order and avoid another war?  Now, mind you, this is quite true.  But it tells you much less than the whole truth about Christianity and it has no practical importance at all.

     It is quite true that if we took Christ’s advice we should soon be living in a happier world.  You need not even go as far as Christ.  If we did all that Plato or Aristotle or Confucius told us, we should get on a great deal better than we do.  And so what?  We never have followed the advice of the great teachers.  Why are we likely to begin now?  Why are we more likely to follow Christ than any of the others?  Because he is the best moral teacher?  But that makes it even less likely that we shall follow him.  If we cannot take the elementary lessons, is it likely we are going to take the most advanced one?  If Christianity only means one more bit of good advice, then Christianity is of no importance.  There has been no lack of good advice for the last four thousand years.  A bit more makes no difference.

     But as soon as you look at any real Christian writings, you find that they are talking about something quite different from this popular religion.  They say that Christ is the Son of God (whatever that means).  They say that those who give Him their confidence can also become Sons of God (whatever that means).  They say that His death saved us from our sins (whatever that means).  (NOTE: Lewis addresses the ‘whatever that means’ questions in the rest of his book– that is what theology does and why it is necessary.)

     There is no good complaining that these statements are difficult.  Christianity claims to be telling us about another world, about something behind the world we can touch and hear and see.  You may think the claim false; but if it were true, what it tells us would be bound to be difficult– at least as difficult as modern Physics, and for the same reason.

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John 20:30-31  —  Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

II Corinthians 5:19a  —  God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them…

John 1:1-4…10-12…14  —  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men…  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 3:16-17  —  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 

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O almighty God, who hast instructed thy holy Church with thy heavenly doctrine; give us grace, that, being not like children carried away with every blast of vain doctrine, we may be established in the truth of thy holy Gospel, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  

 —Book of Common Prayer

400) What Good is Theology? (part one of two)

By C. S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity, © 1943

     Everyone has warned me not to tell you what I am going to tell you in this last book.  They all say “the ordinary reader does not want Theology:  give him plain practical religion.”  I have rejected their advice.  I do not think the ordinary reader is such a fool.  Theology means “the science of God,” and I think any man who wants to think about God at all would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about Him which are available.  You are not children:  why should you be treated like children?

     In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by theology.  I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the Royal Air Force, an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, ‘I’ve no use for all that stuff.  But, mind you, I’m a religious man too.  I know there’s a God.  I’ve felt Him: out alone in the desert at night:  the tremendous mystery.  And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him.  To anyone who’s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!’

     Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man.  I think he had probably had a real experience of God in the desert.  And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real.  In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real:  turning from real waves to a bit of colored paper.  But here comes the point.  The map is admittedly only colored paper; but there are two things you have to remember about it.  In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic.  In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together.  In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary.  As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map.  But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.

     Now, Theology is like the map.  Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert.  Doctrines are not God:  they are only a kind of map.  But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God– experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused.  And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map.  You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it.  It leads nowhere.  There is nothing to do about it.  In fact, that is just why a vague religion– all about feeling God in nature, and so on– is so attractive.  It is all thrills and no work:  like watching the waves from the beach.  But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music.  Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea.  Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea with out a map.

     In other words, Theology is practical:  especially now.  In the old days, when there was less education and discussion, perhaps it was possible to get on with a few simple ideas about God.  But it is not so now.  Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed.  Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God.  It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones– bad, muddled, out-of date ideas.  For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today, are simply the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected.  To believe the popular religion of modern England is retrogression– like believing the earth is flat.

     For when you get down to it, is not the popular idea of Christianity simply this:  that Jesus Christ was a great moral teacher and that if only we took his advice we might be able to establish a better social order and avoid another war?  Now, mind you, this is quite true.  But it tells you much less than the whole truth about Christianity and it has not practical importance at all… (continued)

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II Peter 1:16  —  We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

Titus 1:9  —  He (an elder) must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

I Peter 3:16  —  In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.

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Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.  

Book of Common Prayer

 

399) Can Money Buy Happiness? (#2)

 

Everyone knows that money cannot buy happiness, but few live as though they believe that.  Therefore, they are unable to be satisfied with what money they do have, no matter how much it may be.  In this, more than in any other area, we see the truth of what Samuel Johnson said when he pointed out that what we need is not so much to be instructed in morality as to be reminded.  Here are a few ‘reminders.’  (The first meditation on this theme can be found at blog #147)

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It is one of the best-known and most studiously avoided platitudes in the world that riches don’t make you happy.  In fact, rich people are by and large less happy than poor people!  The suicide rate is almost inversely proportionate to poverty.  There is more joy among the poor of Haiti or Calcutta than among the rich of Hollywood or Manhattan.  If this seems outrageous to you, check it out.  Visit.  See for yourself.  Or talk to those who have. –Peter Kreeft, Knowing the Truth of God’s Love, page 166.
 
Above all, there is this truly terrible thing which afflicts materialist societies– boredom; an obsessive boredom, which I note on every hand.  Mine is, admittedly, a minority view; a lot of people think that we are just on the verge of a new marvelous way of life.  I see no signs of it at all myself.  I notice that where our way of life is most successful materially it is most disastrous morally and spiritually; that the psychiatric wards are the largest and most crowded, and the suicides most numerous, precisely where material prosperity is greatest, where the most money is spent on education.  –Malcolm Muggeridge, Jesus Rediscovered, 1969, page 232.
 
Dr. R. F. Horton, for many years the pastor of one of the wealthiest congregations in London, said, “The greatest lesson life has taught me is that people who set their mind and heart upon riches are equally disappointed whether they get rich or do not get rich.”

 John Steinbeck (1902-1968):  “We are poisoned with things.   Having many things seems to create a desire for more things– more clothes, houses, automobiles.  Think of the pure horror of our Christmases when our children tear open package after package and when the floor is heaped with wrappings and presents, say, “Is that all?”  And two days after, the smashed and abandoned ‘things’ are added to our national trash pile, and the child, perhaps having got into trouble, explains, “I don’t have anything to do.”  And he means exactly that– nothing to do, nowhere to go, no direction, no purpose, and worst of all no needs.  ‘Wants’ he has, yes, but for more bright and breakable ‘things.’  We are trapped and entangled in things.”  In a letter to Adlai Stevenson, Steinbeck wrote:  “We can stand anything God and nature can throw at us save only plenty.  If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much and soon have it on its knees– miserable, greedy, and sick.”

 Luxury is more ruthless than war.  –Juvenal, approx. 100 A. D.

We are stripped bare by the curse of plenty.  –Winston Churchill

Enough is more than much.  –Dutch proverb

 Our lives now revolve around the shopping center, the place where most people spend more of their leisure hours than anywhere else.  –Jeremy Rifkin

 Our possessions weigh life down.  My house has a big front yard, and friends say I am fortunate to have it for the children to play in.  I am not sure.  The grass not being so green as I wanted it, I spent $52.34 on fertilizer.  Now I have the best crop of weeds in the neighborhood and have to buy weed killer.  Once the weeds are dead, I will harrow up the yard, rake, scatter grass seed, and cover everything with straw.  Then watering begins.  During the whole process, the children will not be allowed to play on the lawn.  –Samuel Pickering, Jr., The Right Distance

Someone once asked Mother Teresa, “Why do you include the rich among the oppressed and enslaved?”  She responded, “You in America live in greater poverty than these poorest of the poor in Calcutta because you suffer from poverty of the spirit.”

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Proverbs 30:7-9  —  Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; 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 dishonor the name of my God. 

Revelation 2:8, 9 —  To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:  These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.  I know your afflictions and your poverty– yet you are rich!

Revelation 3:14a… 17  —   To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:  …You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.  

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Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.  

Book of Common Prayer

 

398) Remedies Against Anger

From Holy Living by Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) (paraphrased)

     1.  Prayer is the great remedy against anger.  When we get angry we ought to say a prayer before we say anything else, and as we approach God in prayer we will lay aside our anger, and the curing of the anger will then be the effect and blessing of our prayers.

     2.  If anger arises in your heart, instantly seal up thy lips and let it not go forth, for anger is like fire in that when it lacks ventilation, it is suppressed.  Anger is a fire, and angry words are like breath to fan it; together they are like steel and flint sending out fire by mutual collision.  Some men can talk themselves into an angry rage, and if their neighbor is also enkindled, together they are enraged.

     3.  Humility is the most excellent natural cure for anger in the world, for he who considers his own failings and remembers that he daily needs God’s pardon and his brother’s forgiveness, will not be as apt to rage at the wrongdoings, irritations, or indiscretions of another.

     4.  Consider the example of the Lord Jesus, who often suffered at the hands of sinners, and received many insults and reproaches from malicious, rash, and foolish persons; and yet in all of them he was calm and gentle.  For if Jesus, though innocent, suffered such great injuries and disgraces, we should be able to quietly endure all the calamities of misfortune, the indiscretion of fellow workers, the mistakes of friends, the irritations of kindred, and the rudeness of enemies, since we deserve this and worse, even hell itself.

     5.  Remove from yourself all provocations and incentives to anger; especially, (a) Games of chance with great wagers.  Be indifferent toward such external things, and do not get passionate upon them, for they are not worth it.  (b) Do not heap up valuables, jewels, glasses, or precious stones, because much may happen in the spoiling or loss of these treasures, and that becomes an irresistible cause of anger.  Those that desire few things, have fewer things to anger them.  (c) Do not listen to tale-bearers, for the tales they tell can make us angry; and, it all may be a lie– but even if it be true, it is a matter for God‘s forgiveness and not our conversation.  And it will serve us well, as much as we are able, to choose to be with peaceable persons.  If we are with peaceful and prudent persons, they will not easily occasion our disturbance.

     6.  Be not inquisitive into the affairs of other men, nor the faults of thy fellow workers, nor the mistakes of thy friends.  And when you do hear something hurtful to yourself, be ready to forgive as you have been forgiven.  But do not look for trouble, for that is like gathering sticks to kindle a fire to burn your own house.

     7.  Use all reasonable means to understand the faults of others, considering that there are many circumstances of time, person, accident, inadvertency, infrequency, aptness to amend, and sorrow for doing it.

     8.  In contentions be always passive, never active; upon the defensive, not the assaulting part.  And then give a gentle answer, receiving the furies and indiscretions of the other, like a stone into a bed of moss and soft compliance, and you shall find it will quiet down more quickly; whereas returning anger with anger makes the contention loud and long, and injurious to both the parties.

     FURTHER THOUGHTS…  1.  Anger is an enemy to sound counsel.  It is a storm out of which no man can be heard to speak.  2.  Of all emotions it does the most to make reason useless.  3.  Uncontrolled anger ends up being troubled at everything, every person, and every accident, and unless it is suppressed, it will make a man always restless.  4.  If it proceeds from a great cause it turns to fury; if from a small cause it is peevishness; and so is always either terrible or ridiculous.  5.  It makes a man’s body contemptible, with the voice horrid, the eyes cruel, the face pale or fiery, the gait fierce, the speech clamorous and loud.  6.  It is troublesome not only to those that suffer it, but to them that must behold it.  7.  It makes marriages, friendships, and societies to be intolerable.  8.  It makes innocent jesting to be the beginning of tragedies, turning friendship into hatred.  It turns the desire for knowledge into an itch for wrangling.  It turns justice into cruelty, and judgment into oppression.  Anger contains all the worst passions; there is in it envy and pride and scorn, rashness and inconsideration, rejoicing in evil and a desire to inflict it, self-love and impatience.  9.  And, lastly, though anger is very troublesome to others, yet it is most troublesome to him that has it.

     In the use of these considerations and exercises, be careful that you do not, in your desire to suppress anger, become angry at yourself for being angry.  But placidly and quietly set upon the mastering of it.  Attempt it first for a day, resolving that day not at all to be angry, and to be watchful and observant, for a day is no great trouble; but, then, after one day’s watchfulness it will be as easy to watch two days as at first it was to watch one day, and so you may increase till it becomes easy and habitual…

     And observe that anger is wrong when it is against charity to myself or my neighbor; but anger against sin is a holy zeal, and a result of love to God and my brother, for whose interest I am passionate.  And if I take care that such anger makes no reflection of scorn or cruelty upon the offender, or of pride to myself, then that anger becomes charity and duty.

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Proverbs 15:1  —  A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 29:11  —  A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.

Ecclesiastes 7:9  —  Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.

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O God, let us not seek beyond Thee what we can find only in Thee, peace and rest, joy and blessedness.  Lift our souls above the round of harassing thoughts to the eternal Presence, the pure bright atmosphere in which Thou art, that there we may breathe freely, there be at rest from ourselves and from all things that weary us; and thence return, with thy peace within us, to do and to bear whatsoever pleaseth Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  –E. B. Pusey

397) Will We Recognize Each Other in Heaven?

By Randy Alcorn, in his January 27, 2014 Blog at:  

http://www.epm.org

        When asked if we would recognize friends in Heaven, George MacDonald responded, “Shall we be greater fools in Paradise than we are here?”

     Yet many people wonder whether we’ll know each other in Heaven.  What lies behind that question is the false assumption that in Heaven we’ll be disembodied spirits who lose our identities and memories.  How does someone recognize a spirit?

     However, these assumptions are unbiblical.  Christ’s disciples recognized him countless times after his resurrection.  They recognized him on the shore as he cooked breakfast for them (John 21:1-14).  They recognized him when he appeared to a skeptical Thomas (John 20:24-29).  They recognized him when he appeared to five hundred people at once (1 Corinthians 15:6).

     But what about Mary at the garden tomb or the two men on the road to Emmaus?  They didn’t recognize Jesus.  Some people have argued from this that Jesus was unrecognizable.  But a closer look shows otherwise.

     Jesus said to Mary in the garden, “‘Woman . . . why are you crying?  Who is it you are looking for?’  Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him’ ” (John 20:15).

     Distressed, teary-eyed Mary, knowing Jesus was dead, and not making eye contact with a stranger, naturally assumed he was the gardener.  But as soon as Jesus said her name, she recognized him:  “She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher)” (John 20:16).

     Some commentators emphasize that the disciples on the Emmaus road didn’t recognize Jesus.  But notice what the text says:  “As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him” (Luke 24:15-16).  God miraculously intervened to keep them from recognizing him.  The implication is that apart from supernatural intervention, the men would have recognized Jesus, as they did later:  “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight” (Luke 24:31).

     Another indication that we’ll recognize people in Heaven is Christ’s transfiguration.  Christ’s disciples recognized the bodies of Moses and Elijah, even though the disciples couldn’t have known what the two men looked like (Luke 9:29-33).  This may suggest that personality will emanate through a person’s body, so we’ll instantly recognize people we know of but haven’t previously met.  If we can recognize those we’ve never seen, how much more will we recognize our family and friends?

     Scripture gives no indication of a memory wipe causing us not to recognize family and friends.  Paul anticipated being with the Thessalonians in Heaven, and it never occurred to him he wouldn’t know them.  In fact, if we wouldn’t know our loved ones, the “comfort” of an afterlife reunion, taught in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18, would be no comfort at all.  J. C. Ryle said of this passage, “There would be no point in these words of consolation if they did not imply the mutual recognition of saints.  The hope with which he cheers wearied Christians is the hope of meeting their beloved friends again.”

     The continuity of our resurrection minds and bodies argues that we’ll have no trouble recognizing each other.  Missionary Amy Carmichael had strong convictions on this question:

Shall we know one another in Heaven? Shall we love and remember?
I do not think anyone need wonder about this or doubt for a single moment.  We are never told we shall, because, I expect, it was not necessary to say anything about this which our own hearts tell us.  We do not need words.  For if we think for a minute, we know.  Would you be yourself if you did not love and remember?…  We are told that we shall be like our Lord Jesus.  Surely this does not mean in holiness only, but in everything; and does not He know and love and remember?  He would not be Himself if He did not, and we should not be ourselves if we did not.

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1 Corinthians 15:42-44  —  So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.  The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.  (NOTE:  We will not be unrecognizable disembodied spirits– we believe in the resurrection of the body.)

 

1 Thessalonians 4:14-18  —  Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.  For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.

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GOD BE WITH YOU TILL WE MEET AGAIN (1880) by Jeremiah Rankin  (1828-1903)

God be with you till we meet again!
When life’s perils thick confound you,
Put His arms unfailing round you;
God be with you till we meet again!  (verse three)

REFRAIN:  Till we meet, till we meet,
Till we meet at Jesus’ feet;
Till we meet, till we meet,
  God be with you till we meet again.

Source:

 http://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/861#ixzz31Xw4rHlG

396) Just Tell Them About Jesus

By Bob Andrews, in the February 1992 World Mission Prayer League Newsletter.  Andrews served as the General Director of the Minneapolis based World Mission Prayer League from 1985-1987.  www.wmpl.org

     About three years ago I slipped into a meeting of Twin Cities pastors to hear a well known theologian speak on the topic, Preaching Christ in an Age of Religious Pluralism.  An inner-city pastor asked, “Should I really be trying to convert the Asian Buddhists who have moved into our neighborhood?”  When he received a solid “Yes” to his answer he went on to ask, “How?”

     The theologian’s response surprised me and warmed my heart.  Many missiologists and theologians would have said something like “dialogue, build a relationship, start with the known and work toward the unknown, or find some common ground.”  His answer:  “Just tell them about Jesus.”

     Just a month ago, on the other side of the world, I saw it happen.  From a human point of view the circumstances were all wrong.  The speaker was a Western female in a male-dominated society in the Eastern world.  She was not a native speaker of the language she used.  Only about half of the listeners spoke that language as their first tongue.  The audience, with the exception of two small girls, was made up of adult males.  The traditional stance of all was anti-Christian.  The story was told with a flannel graph, an aid normally used with children.

     What could one hope for under these circumstances?  Heckling?  Boredom?  Walkouts?  Antagonism?  Indifference?  There was no introduction.  No invitation:  “Let’s talk.”  No apology for taking their time or interrupting their activities, not even a “thanks for coming.”  The storyteller walked into the hospital ward and announced to the patients and to the relatives who were accompanying them, about 50 in total, “We are going to have a lesson now.”  She set up a flannel board and started telling the story of Jesus.

    In half an hour she took them from the angel’s announcement to Joseph, all the way to the resurrection.  From the first sentence she spoke to the final word, the audience was enrapt.  I did not understand the language, so I occupied myself with observing the listeners.  It was obvious that the Holy Spirit was at work.  There were no objections.  No questioning of motives or authority.  The only reaction was a drinking in of the Word, and many request for the written Gospel in their mother tongues.

     The theologian was right.  Just tell them about Jesus!

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John 14:6  —  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 12:20-21  —  Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival.  They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”

1 John 1:1-3  —  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.  The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.  And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

John 20:30-31  —  Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

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Lord Jesus Christ, you said that you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Help us not to stray from you, for you are the Way; nor to distrust you, for you are the Truth; nor to rest on any other than you, as you are the Life.  You have taught us what to believe, what to do, what to hope, and where to take our rest.  Give us grace to follow you, the Way, to learn from you, the Truth, and live in you, the Life.    –Desiderius Erasmus  (1466-1536)