Dallas Willard: Understanding

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Dallas Willard: Understanding

Be alert and of sober mind. 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 the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8-9

“For most of us, the thought of a life without lack is unimaginable because we live in a world so obviously full of lack — lack of kindness, fairness, and compassion, all of which are more precious because they seem so rare. So much is going wrong all around us: injustice, oppression, natural disasters, broken relationships, perversity, selfishness, pride, and apathy, so much pain that it seems we would need to block it all out and pretend that all is well to have any hope for a semblance of safety and sufficiency. Yet it is not pretense we need, but understanding.

We live in a world under the care of a wholly good God with unlimited power, who lacks nothing and intends only good for His creation. Why, then, is there so much lack and evil? What has gone wrong? Many people believe that the source of these problems rests with humanity alone but we must acknowledge the activity of Satan here. His presence in the world accounts for the seemingly unlimited extent of human wrongdoing that goes far beyond what humanity (made in the image of God) would generate on its own. He has humanity in his grasp through the ideas, beliefs and bastions of wickedness he has developed throughout history, and he intends to keep them there. He works in the realm of the heart and ideas, in their individual as well as social forms, to control the major structures and processes of human life upon the earth.”

Dallas Willard (1935-2013) in Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2018) 67-68.

A great gift we can give to people during a plague is understanding.

We must help them grasp that God is sovereign and that He sends plagues to get our attention and call us to a place of humbling ourselves, confessing our sins, and changing directions (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).

But we must also alert them to the fact that much of the evil and havoc in the world, the lack that exists around us, largely links to the devil, the father of lies who leads many astray (John 8:44).

This is where we find our purpose. When people have understanding they can navigate the storms of life. Do do this we must tune out the noise and attune to the Word of God in order to help others stand firm in the faith.

Listen to their challenges of those around you and show compassion by giving understanding generously.

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Richard Swenson: Godliness with Contentment

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 1 Timothy 6:6-8

“God is rich in all things good, and He shares these continuously with us. Not only does He supply our material needs, but even more, He gives us riches in the things that matter most, such as faith, love, mercy, grace, goodwill, kindness. The degree to which we value these gifts versus the monetary gifts is a measure of our progress. . . Be assured, the wealth of this world will end. One day, it will be completely extinguished, never again to rise and distract us. The wealth found in godliness, however, will never end.”

Richard Swenson in Contentment: The Secret to a Lasting Calm (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2013) chapter 6.

When the plague subsides, one can only wonder if people will resume their pursuit of more financial wealth or if they will instead pursue more godliness.

The wealth of this world, as Swenson puts it, will end and be completely extinguished. Naked we are born and naked we depart. What will you pursue in between?

Decide now. Be content with food and covering. Choose to go after godliness. It’s countercultural in every society, but the way to peace, life, and generosity.

I am thankful for my wife and her pursuit of godliness and helping others as Soulcare Anchoress. I am praying for her today as she speaks online to Denver Seminary chapel.

Whether you tune into podcasts, webinars, blogs, or other channels for spiritual enrichment in lockdown, dig into the Word of God to find the only thing that satisfies.

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Cyril of Jerusalem: Holy Deeds

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. Matthew 25:31-32

“The entire human race will be there. Think only of those who have lived down the centuries from Adam till today: an immense crowd. Besides them, the angels will be there too. It is impossible not to feel awestruck. And aside from the punishment to which we may be condemned, the idea that God will judge us in front of so many witnesses is frightening… How will He set about separating them? Will He leaf through some sort of register? No. He will judge on the basis of what He sees. Wool characterizes sheep: a shaggy, wrinkled skin marks goats by contrast. You, if you have been cleansed from your sins, will put on clothing woven from your holy deeds, and that clothing will be pure wool.”

Cyril of Jerusalem in Catecheses 15, 24ff (PG33, 904) in Drinking from the Hidden Fountain: A Patristic Breviary, Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World, ed. by Thomas Spidlik (Kalamazoo: Cistercian, 1994) 404-405.

For Jesus, our actions reveal our beliefs. While we often proclaim our faith with words, Jesus wants us to demonstrate our faith with our works, or holy deeds. What holy deeds is He looking for? Read Matthew 25:34-36.

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

While I am not making an eschatological predictions, the challenging times lead me to think that the end of all things could be near. If that’s true, this should be our greatest moment for rich generosity.

Might God be using the lockdown to give the whole world one last chance to humble themselves, confess their sins, and acknowledge His reign. It’s entirely possible, so let us live today in preparation for reward on judgment day.

But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 1 Corinthians 3:13-14

Whether our Lord Jesus Christ will tarry His return for weeks, months, or years, or whether He is coming soon, let’s be found serving others generously following His example. Does He see a sheep or a goat when He look at you?

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Theodoret of Cyrus: Magnet

If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land. Isaiah 1:19

“A magnet has the property of attracting iron. Sometimes we see a piece of iron suspended. It is not resting on any support underneath it, and it is not tied to any object above it. It is only attracted, with invisible bonds, to the strength of the magnet acting on it from above.

Something similar happens with the Holy Scriptures. Many people, if not all, have heard them. Only those who have faith, however, are attracted to them. Those people do not rest on material prosperity nor are they bound to heaven by any visible tie, but they nourish their spirit solely on an invisible hope.”

Theodoret of Cyrus (393-457) in The Cure of Pagan Diseases 5, Iff. (SC57, 226) in Drinking from the Hidden Fountain: A Patristic Breviary, Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World, ed. by Thomas Spidlik (Kalamazoo: Cistercian, 1994) 381-382.

The magnet is a brilliant picture of the invisible hope we have. Our human tendency is to cling to material prosperity as our hope which leads us to aim for the good things in the land. When we go after those things, we miss what God desires for us.

Crisis times are helpful to us because they reveal our true self and our attractions. They show whether our focus is self-preservation or sacrificial service. They reveal whether we will hoard or exhibit generosity by giving to things God cares about.

Let us, feed on the Scriptures to nourish our spirits during lockdown and with willing and obedient hearts do what they say. Those with genuine faith will be attracted to them like a magnet because they know, therein, is the path to hope and life.

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Evagrius of Pontus: Take off your shoes

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5

“Moses was prevented from approaching the burning bush until he had taken off his shoes. You are aspiring to stand in the presence of the One who is greater than every thought and every passion. How then can you refuse to strip yourself of every passionate thought?

Praying means rejecting pleasures and banishing anger. Do not open your heart to fleshly longings. They stir up emotions that trouble the eye of the mind and therefore destroy prayer.

Your prayer ought to be steadfast and fervent. So dispel all distractions and wandering thoughts the moment they present themselves. They disturb you and worry you so that your fervor is weakened.

During your prayer, try to keep your mind deaf and dumb. Only so while you be able to pray. Do not be content with external attitudes of prayer. Turn your mind to the prayer of the spirit, with awe and fearfulness.”

Evagrius of Pontus in Sentences on Prayer 479ff (PG79, 1167ff) in Drinking from the Hidden Fountain: A Patristic Breviary, Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World, ed. by Thomas Spidlik (Kalamazoo: Cistercian, 1994) 361.

Notice the reason why Moses had to take off his shoes to draw near to God. The ground was holy. It was sanctified, set apart for God. To enter such a place ourselves means that, like Moses, we have to take off our shoes. We have to set aside our fleshly desires.

Only after Moses did that, that is, set aside his comfort and pleasure and focused on God did He see God and hear the plan God had for Him. Like Evagrius describes it, Moses was in “awe and fearfulness” before God. Read Exodus 3 to discover this.

This relates to generosity because when we draw near to God and take off our shoes, the plan He reveals to us will not only be greater than anything we imagine, it will be accomplished only because God will make it so.

So, take off your shoes, let go of worry and wandering thoughts, and draw near to God in prayer. Oh, and don’t be surprised if His plan for you is not something on your radar. To strip yourself of passionate thoughts is to take on God’s vision, His radar for you.

Ponder God’s words to Moses as you respond to today’s Meditation. And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” Exodus 3:12 

God promised His presence with Him on the journey. He also promises to make it so and the sign wa celebration and worship on that mountain. May God give you a similar sign and celebration as you take off your shoes and follow Him wherever He leads you.

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Cyprian of Carthage: Deliver us from evil

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:13

“The Lord’s Prayer has an ending which nearly summarizes the different requests. We say actually at the end: ‘but deliver us from evil,’ understanding by such an expression everything that the enemy can devise against us in this world.

One certain conviction we have: that God is a powerful support since He grants His help to anyone who asks for it. Consequently, when we say: ‘deliver us from evil,’ there is nothing else left for us to ask. Invoking the protection of God against evil means asking for everything we need.

This prayer secures us against any kind of machination of the devil and of the world. Who could be afraid of the world if he has God as his Protector? You see, brothers and sister, how amazing the Lord’s Prayer is. It is truly a compendium of all the requests we could possibly make.”

Cyprian of Carthage in On the Lord’s Prayer (PL4, 538) in Drinking from the Hidden Fountain: A Patristic Breviary, Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World, ed. by Thomas Spidlik (Kalamazoo: Cistercian, 1994) 353.

Deliver us from evil.

Free us from trusting in money for security. Provide for our needs. Supply that which satisfies. Save us from worldly thinking. Liberate us from lies. Transform us with truth. Protect us from the plague.

Deliver us from evil.

Remind us that in you we have everything we need. From that place, unleash heaven through us. Transform us into generous conduits of love and blessing because we lack nothing in You.

Deliver us from evil.

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Pray As You Go: A Surprise in the Wilderness

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go towards the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.

Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to this chariot and join it.’ So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: ‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.’ The eunuch asked Philip, ‘About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’

Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?’ He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. Acts 8:26-39

The apostle Philip is guided by an angel along an unlikely road, a wilderness road. How is the road that you are on at the moment? Does any part of it feel like a wilderness?

The angel has a surprise in store for Philip and the Ethiopian. God was at work in the wilderness. How is God at work in your life in these days?

Notice the energy and joy in this encounter. Philip was guided by the angel and then acted as a guide himself. He received and then he gave.

What has God given you that you want to share with others? Talk to the angel of the Lord about this.

Pray As You Go reading for 30 April 2020. Bill Crowe, a faithful Daily Meditations reader sent this to me. It was so good, I had to share it.

Notice again the progression. We are guided, then we guide. We receive, then we give. And don’t miss the irony. The apostle Philip gives true riches to a person who managed the entire treasury of the queen.

There’s something greater than money. The eunuch did not have it. That means that the wealthy have needs and the poor have something to give. Where is God guiding you? What do you have that you can share?

Generosity, during the pandemic and beyond, comes into view not as the size of a gift or coming from people with wealth but as taking a posture of receiving and giving.

Let us be obedient conduits of material and spiritual blessing. In so doing, our generosity will surprise people in the wilderness of these hard times.

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Teresa of Ávila: Weighty and Important

Give us today our daily bread. Matthew 6:11

“The good Jesus understands, as I have said, how difficult a thing He is offering on our behalf, for He knows our weakness, and how often we show that we do not understand what the will of the Lord is, since we are weak while He is so merciful. He knows that some means must be found by which we shall not omit to give what He has given on our behalf, for if we did that it would be anything but good for us, since everything we gain comes from what we give.

Yet He knows that it will be difficult for us to carry this out; for if anyone were to tell some wealthy, pampered person that it is God’s will for him to moderate his eating so that others, who are dying of hunger, shall have at least bread to eat, he will discover a thousand reasons for not understanding this but interpreting it in his own way. If one tells a person who speaks ill of others that it is God’s will that he should love his neighbor as himself, he will lose patience and no amount of reasoning will convince him…

Seeing our need, therefore, the good Jesus has sought the admirable means whereby He has shown us the extreme love which He has for us, and in His own name and in that of His brethren He has made this petition: “Give us, Lord, this day our daily bread.” For the love of God, sisters [and brothers], let us realize the meaning of our good Master’s petition, for our very life depends on our not disregarding it. Set very little store by what you have given, since there is so much that you will receive.

It seems to me, in the absence of a better opinion, that the good Jesus knew what He had given for us and how important it was for us to give this to God, and yet how difficult it would be for us to do so, as has been said, because of our natural inclination to base things and our want of love and courage. He saw that, before we could be aroused, we needed His aid, not once but every day, and it must have been for this reason that He resolved to remain with us. As this was so weighty and important a matter, He wished it to come from the hand of the Eternal Father.”

Teresa of Ávila in The Way of Perfection, translated & edited by E. Allison Peers (Image Books 1964) 96-97.

When I turned to the Lord’s prayer this week, I received a kind note from Barbara Shantz, a faithful Canadian fellow worker. She encouraged me to look at the Lord’s Prayer in the thinking of Teresa of Ávila.

In The Way of Perfection, Teresa reminds us that this is more than earthly provision. Daily we need this spiritual food to nourish our souls. Is your soul hungry or satisfied?

For example, if we want to be generous in sharing with our neighbor, we must feed on that which can empower us and enrich us and arouse us to faithfulness.

We get this “weighty and important” provision from the hand of the Father. The Holy Spirit stirs us to seek it, and we are not alone in this journey, for our Lord Jesus Christ is with us.

How are you seeking after spiritual food daily to nurture your life of generosity? What disciplines are you adopting to feed from the hand of the Eternal Father?

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Roger Lam: $10,000 Reasons

Give Like Never Before

There is greater need than ever for the poor due to COVID-19. In anticipation of the upcoming HK Government disbursement of HK$10,000 to all qualifying adults without any means test, we request that you prayerfully consider, should you be willing and able, to give any part of that amount to help the grassroots population in HK.

Many of us are hurting right now, yet the following passage is worth meditating on:

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4

There are NGOs with Relief Funds that will be directly assisting grassroots individuals shepherded by any of their partner churches, without any administrative fees charged. Others are focusing on creating jobs for marginalized youth through soup kitchen type social enterprises.

We would like to stress that we are not insistent on any particular channel of giving, and our only goal is to see Christ’s name glorified through the needs of the poor being met during this most challenging time. Participating organizations will be free to nominate their own NGO or agency that strives to alleviate poverty in our city.

Do start a conversation on this topic with your pastoral staff. Shalom.

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” 2 Corinthians 8:13-15

Roger Lam in $10,000 Reasons – Give Like Never Before on his blog post dated 29 April 2020. With you, Roger!

There is a global movement to give away our government stimulus checks, whether in Hong Kong, USA, or elsewhere, to those with less than enough. Let’s join it!

The gap is widening between the rich and poor. Those who suffer are suffering more deeply than ever. We must launch a global movement of generosity like the Apostle Paul did among churches.

Pastors, rally your churches to give like never before so that the one who has much does not have too much and the one who has little does not have too little.

May our generosity shine like a light during dark times so that the world may see our faith through our works and so Jesus, who is watching, will celebrate.

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Sarah Bourns: What Corona reveals, God can heal

LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. Psalm 30:2

Today’s post is a poem that I received yesterday from my Nigerian friend and fellow worker, Kehinde Ojo. Read it slowly. I pray God ministers generously to your soul. As we call to God for help in the crisis, as David the psalmist said, may He heal us.

“What Corona reveals, God can heal”
by Sarah Bourns

We’ve all been exposed.
Not necessarily to the virus
(maybe…who even knows).
We’ve all been exposed BY the virus.

Corona is exposing us.
Exposing our weak sides.
Exposing our dark sides.
Exposing what normally lays far beneath the surface of our souls,
hidden by the invisible masks we wear.
Now exposed by the paper masks we can’t hide far enough behind.

Corona is exposing our addiction to comfort.
Our obsession with control.
Our compulsion to hoard.
Our protection of self.

Corona is peeling back our layers.
Tearing down our walls.
Revealing our illusions.
Leveling our best-laid plans.

Corona is exposing the gods we worship:
Our health
Our hurry
Our sense of security.
Our favorite lies
Our secret lusts
Our misplaced trust.

Corona is calling everything into question:
What is the church without a building?
What is my worth without an income?
How do we plan without certainty?
How do we love despite risk?

Corona is exposing me.
My mindless numbing
My endless scrolling
My careless words
My fragile nerves.

We’ve all been exposed.
Our junk laid bare.
Our fears made known.
The band-aid torn.
The masquerade done.

So what now? What’s left?
Clean hands
Clear eyes
Tender hearts.

What Corona reveals, God can heal.

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