Ambrose of Milan: Discover the light

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Ambrose of Milan: Discover the light

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see Him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed Him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10

“Yet Zacchaeus, hearing that the Lord Jesus was passing by, climbed a tree, for he was small in stature and could not see Him because of the crowd. He saw Christ and discovered the light. He saw Christ and gave up what was his own, though he was a man who took what belonged to others.”

Ambrose of Milan (c. 339-397) in Psalm 43 as recounted Milton Walsh in Witness of the Saints: Patristic Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012) 279.

I am having a peaceful weekend in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin, and continue to enjoy my book, Witness of the Saints.

Today, we read the comments of Ambrose of Milan on the interchange between Zacchaeus and Jesus. In short, discovering the light led him to change directions. He was a taker and demonstrated his repentance by becoming a giver.

“He gave up what was his own” is a powerful summary of what took place.

It matches how many scholars parse this text. The text is not saying that he gave half of his possessions to the poor and kept the other half. It implies that half reflected giving and the other half restitution for wrongs done to other.

When we discover the light we give up what is our own.

In the case of Zacchaeus, he made things right for those from which he had stolen (which follows the example set by David in 2 Samuel 12:6) and the other half or portion he gave to the poor. “He gave up what was his own.”

So, take some time today to gaze at Christ and to pray.

Father in heaven, help me discover the light like Zacchaeus. Spirit, guide me in making any necessary restitution for wrongs done. Jesus, teach me to give up what is my own. 

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Bede the Venerable: Surrender

But if you refuse to surrender, this is what the Lord has revealed to me. Jeremiah 38:21

“The Lord has exalted me by a gift so great, so unheard of, that language is useless to describe it, and the depths of love in my heart can scarcely grasp it. I offer then all the powers of my soul in praise and thanksgiving. As I contemplate His greatness, which knows no limits, I joyfully surrender my whole life, my senses, my judgment, for my spirit rejoices in the external Godhead of that Jesus, that Savior, whom I have conceived in this world of time.”

Bede the Venerable (c. 673-735) in Luke as recounted Milton Walsh in Witness of the Saints: Patristic Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012) 263.

I have safely made it to Soldier’s Grove, Wisconsin, to spend the weekend with my dear friend, John Stanley. He’s been a huge encouragement to me over the years and I am grateful for his support of my work with GTP.

And His wife Jamee is an absolute delight and a radiant reflection of Jesus.

Knowing I would stay in a cabin with no wi-fi, down the hill from their place, I determined that this would be a Surrender Novena weekend. As you may recall John alerted me to the Surrender Novena back in Lent.

Say: “O Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything!” (10 times daily). Trust us. It’s life-changing.

Yesterday, we caught some trout together and enjoyed sweet fellowship. But we also did something I had never before done in my life. We visited the source of a spring fed trout stream. Check out the header photo.

That is 600 gallons per minute of cold, pure abundance flowing from the cleft in the rock.

The reason we can surrender is that God always has and always will have everything sorted. We can be generous at all times and all occasions because He, like this spring, is our abundant Provider. If we refuse, like in today’s Scripture, we lose.

Is it time for you to take a weekend to focus on surrender?

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Alphonsus Liguori: Beautiful Creatures

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26

“But He did not wish to give us only beautiful creatures; the truth is that to win for Himself our love, He went so far as to bestow upon us the fullness of Himself. The eternal Father went so far as to give us His only Son.”

Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) in Practice as recounted Milton Walsh in Witness of the Saints: Patristic Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012) 247.

Yesterday, I spent time with special friends in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Tim Dittloff and Charlie Brandt. God blessed us with a great day together. Something special happened.

I grew up around the Great Lakes. For a long time, as long as I can remember, I had wanted to catch a steelhead (a lake run rainbow trout) and a lake trout. Listen to what happened yesterday.

Tim arranged the charter. We went fishing. I landed one of each of these beautiful creatures. But here’s the best part. The main fish we were targeting was salmon, either coho or king salmon.

I asked Mark Herring, of King of Kings (Christian charter boat), what fish might we catch today. He said we’d mainly see coho salmon, and possibly kings. He added that we might have a rare shot at a steelhead, and he had not seen a laker yet this year.

When fishing we would take turns as the charter had many lines in the water. We were trolling. Long story short, I caught a nice coho. I got the first fish. Then when it was my turn again, I said, “Lord, I’d love to catch a steelhead.”

God blessed me with a 29″ trophy steelhead. It was about a 20 minute battle. Charlie proclaimed, “God heard your prayer. He loves you. He gave you exactly what you asked for.”

My next two fish were coho salmon. As the limit is five fish, I said that it’d be cool if I got a lake trout. You can guess where this is going. I landed a 30″ lake trout. Tim reminded me that God was sending me a huge message with that fish.

As we made our back to Milwaukee harbor, I pondered that God gave me two gifts. They were beautiful creatures who reminded me that God is the greatest and most generous Giver who hears our prayers.

I continued to ponder. Even more than that, He gave me what I needed most, His only Son, Jesus. Thanks Father! I love you.

Take a moment and ponder beautiful creatures. Perhaps you have a dog or a cat. Remember who made that animal and then who made you, and who loves you so much He gave you Jesus!

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John of the Cross: New seams

He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all — how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32

“God has spoken so completely through His own Word that He chooses to add nothing. Although he had spoken but partially through the prophets He has now said everything in Christ. He has given us everything, His own Son…

We must then dig deeply into Christ. He is like a rich mine with many pockets containing treasures: however deep we dig we will never find their end or their limit. Indeed, in every pocket new seams of fresh riches are discovered on all sides.”

John of the Cross (1542-1591) in Ascent and Canticle as recounted Milton Walsh in Witness of the Saints: Patristic Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012) 245.

I had safe travels to Wisconsin and will spend time with Tim Dittloff and a group of pastors today discussing ways to help congregations tap “new seams” in the area of stewardship.

Ponder the implications of “new seams” with me.

The more we study the Word, the more we locate new insights, tap new courage, and realize that we have everything we have ever needed and will ever need in Jesus Christ.

And, as John states, we discover “fresh” riches.

They may be new to us and new for others. As we dig deeply into Christ, we explore many pockets and find treasures that, when applied, help people grow to new levels of generous service.

To locate rich pockets and new seams we must deeply into Christ. Are you digging?

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Irenaeus of Lyons: To share in life

And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” He said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Exodus 33:19-20

“In His greatness and inexpressible glory no one can see God and live, for the Father is beyond all comprehension. But in His love and generosity and omnipotence He allows even this to those who love Him, that is, even to see God, as the prophets foretold… By His own powers man cannot see God, yet God will be seen by men because He wills it… As those who see light are in the light sharing its brilliance, so those who see God are in God sharing His glory, and that glory gives them life. To see God is to share in life.”

Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130-202) in Against Heresies as recounted Milton Walsh in Witness of the Saints: Patristic Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012) 217.

Remember how close Irenaeus was to our Lord. Jesus discipled John, who discipled Polycarp, who discipled Irenaeus. And notice what Irenaeus says. He echoes Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” Matthew 5:8. Because of God’s generosity and His omnipotence, or in plain terms, because He is infinitely good and wants to share it and all-powerful and willing to wield it, we can see Him, We who were dead have been made alive. We who were blind now see.

John also comments on this. “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” John 14:21. Consider an implication of this for our generosity. It’s found in the last line: “To see God is to share in life.” People are trying to sort life and figure things out. Our generosity comes into view as showing them how to see God and grasp life. We do this by enjoying and sharing Him and the gifts He gives us.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:17-19

I am flying to Wisconsin today. So excited to see Linda Maris and Brent Eggers from NCF Wisconsin, Nick Breach from Compass Finances God’s way, Tim Dittloff with Full Sail Leadership Academy and Catalyst Ministry Solutions, and John Stanley with Generosity Gameplan. These people are fellow servants in God’s kingdom and dear friends who see God. They have taken hold of life and help others grow in their grasp of it. I am hoping to bless them and be blessed by the fellowship.

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John Chyrsostom: Abundance

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. Matthew 16:24-25

“So you, the Lord is saying, must surrender everything but your faith: money, body, even life itself. For faith is the head and the root, keep that, and though you lose all else, you will get it back in abundance.”

John Chyrsostom (c. 347-407) in Matthew 33 as recounted Milton Walsh in Witness of the Saints: Patristic Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012) 210.

My travels in Africa in March were rigorous. A person close to me said that God was developing “new muscles” in me. Then in April it seemed that God wanted to “stretch” those muscles, enduring the suffering of cancelled bank accounts.

And lest you think that was an anomaly, check out the recent Washington Times article, “Franklin Graham warns of data, bank cancellations of Christian ministries.” The opposition against Christian causes is real in my country.

Anyway, now I feel God leading me to “use” my new muscles. Specifically, to trust Him to supply for the needs of GTP and undertake work in war-torn, underserved, and difficult places where Christians face persecution.

What about you? Is God giving you new muscles, stretching you, and calling you to surrender everything and face opposition and danger? If not, then invite you to support GTP, where workers on the front lines need help.

If you want more information about GTP program work in May and June in Laos, Ghana, Cambodia, Honduras, Czechia, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Moldova, reply to this email. We are holding back nothing and trusting God for abundance.

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Ambrose of Milan: Martyrdom

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

“As there are many kinds of persecution, so there are many kinds of martyrdom. Every day you are a witness of Christ. You were tempted by the spirit of fornication, but feared the coming judgment of Christ and did not want your purity of mind and body to be defiled; you are a martyr of Christ. You were tempted by the spirit of avarice, but remembered God’s law and saw your duty to give help, not act unjustly; you are a witness to Christ. You were tempted by the spirit of pride but saw the poor and the needy and looked with loving compassion on them, and love humility rather than arrogance: you are a witness to Christ. What is more, your witness was not in word only but in deed.”

Ambrose of Milan (c. 339-397) in Psalm 118 as recounted Milton Walsh in Witness of the Saints: Patristic Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012) 535.

Today is Memorial Day in the USA.

We remember soldiers who gave their lives in service, and I also like to remember the saints whose witness led to their martyrdom. Both the soldiers and the saints gave their lives.

Thanks generosity with great love.

Notice Ambrose reminds us that when we resist the temptations to fornication, avarice, and pride, we appear as pure, generous, and humble. Let’s make that our aim in word and deed.

And let us also honor the fallen in Ukraine today.

As the war rages on, it could be easy for the troops to become discouraged or feel defeated. Jenni and I will travel to Ukraine and Moldova in June and July for strategic meetings, to offer relief, and encourage refugees.

Their situation reminds me of Theoden’s words in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

“Look at my men. Their courage hangs by a thread. If this is to be our end, then I would have them make such an end, as to be worthy of remembrance.”

While the Russians fight to win a war, the Ukrainians are fighting to defend their homeland.

And those who witness to Jesus Christ, also suffer in many places around the world for their faith right now. For a example as recent as last week, a GTP staff member witnessed this in Laos while doing program work there.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.

Let us remember with thanksgiving the service of soldiers and saints. Let us choose purity, generosity, and humility, so our lives honor their sacrifice and follow their example to shine like lights for Jesus in word and deed.

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Bernard of Clairvaux: Feed

And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.” Then I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. Ezekiel 3:3

“Keep God’s Word in this way. Let it enter into your very being, let it take possession of your desires and your whole way of life. Feed on goodness, and your soul will delight in its richness… If you keep the Word of God in this way, it will also keep you.”

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) in Advent 5 as recounted Milton Walsh in Witness of the Saints: Patristic Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012) 199.

What’s in your diet? I don’t mean fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein foods. Are you feeding on the goodness and generosity of the Scriptures, so that your both your body and spirit delight in its richness?

Bernard explains why this feeding is important. When we feed on goodness, our soul will delight in its richness. In plain terms, we will get what we need to flourish. It will enter our very being and transform our living.

When the Lord fed Ezekiel the scroll, it was sweet as honey in his mouth. That expression referred to the best tasting thing. And notice the Lord said to “feed your stomach and fill your body” which implies feeding both the material and immaterial self.

When we eat fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein foods it nourishes our body. When we feed on the goodness of the word, it strengthens us physically and spiritually. And it positions us for generous living, giving, loving, and serving.

And notice Bernard’s last line today. If you keep the Word in this way, the Word will keep you. Reminds me of the saying I wrote in my Bible when I was a small child. “This book will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from this book.” Feed on goodness.

Pray for my wife, Jenni, as she heads to Black Rock Retreat near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for 2 weeks. She will speak and offer soul care practices for the summer staff to prepare them for abundant service: teaching them to feed on goodness and much more.

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Basil of Caesarea: Lack of recollection and preoccupation with trivialities

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

“He is so good that He asks no recompense except our love: that is the only payment He desires… When I reflect on all these blessings, I am overcome by a kind of dread… at the very possibility of ceasing to love God and of bringing shame upon Christ because of my lack of recollection and my preoccupation with trivialities.”

Basil of Caesarea (330-379) in Rules as recounted Milton Walsh in Witness of the Saints: Patristic Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012) 178.

Basil is known as “the great” for good reason. He states profound truths clearly and concisely in a manner that shakes and wakes us to our responsibilities as stewards.

Here he reminds us to obey the command of Jesus to love. It’s the only “payment” He desires. By this we show we are His disciples. But what causes us to fail to show love.

We either have “lack of recollection” or we fall prey to “preoccupation with trivialities” along the way. Lack of recollection is to forget. When we focus on ourselves, we forget Christ.

And “preoccupation with trivialities” relates to giving our heart to many other things. By this way, our love for God diminishes, and our actions bring shame upon Christ.

This relates to generosity in this way. Reflect on God’s blessings. Avoid the “dread” of allowing “lack of recollection” and “preoccupation with trivialities” to diminish your love.

Instead, resolve to love God and love others, including the undeserving, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and see how God deploys you and the resources in your stewardship.

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Barnabas of Cyprus: Mine

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Psalm 24:1

“Share with your neighbor whatever you have, and do not say of anything, this is mine. If you both share an imperishable treasure, how much more must you share what is perishable.”

Barnabas of Cyprus (c. 540-604) in Letter as recounted Milton Walsh in Witness of the Saints: Patristic Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012) 391.

Our granddaughter, Eve, is starting to talk. While her vocabulary is small, I am glad “mine” is not yet in her vocabulary. She will learn it soon enough.

From a young age we tend to claim things as our own. The culture teaches us this. While I know her parents will teach her good stewardship, she will learn the word “mine” at some point.

Barnabas, the “Son of Encouragement” from Cyprus, who sold a tract land and set it at the Apostles feet declared otherwise with this act.

“That there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 4:34-37

He said “God’s!” rather than “Mine!” to that piece of land. What do you have? What would it look like to declare “God’s!” rather than “Mine!” today?

Why do this? In short, everything that we might say belongs to us is “perishable” so it’s senseless to hold on to it. Think of perishable foods like tomatoes or apples. Would you keep it for 5 years?

Of course not. But eternal truths, imperishable things, like Bible verses or timeless promises of God. Would we keep those 5 years? Sure. We can hold onto them for eternity. See the difference.

Don’t let your tomatoes and apples rot this side of heaven. Store them up for eternity while you can. That’s what Barnabas reminds us.

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