Moods are part of the human condition. When you're in a high mood, life looks good. You have perspective and common sense. In high moods, things don't feel so hard, problems seem less formidable and easier to solve. In a high mood, relationships flow easily and communication is easy and graceful.
In low moods, life looks unbearably serious and hard. You have little perspective; it seems as if people are out to get you. Life seems to be all about you and your feelings. You take things personally and often misinterpret the people around you.
Rather than staying stuck in a low mood, convinced you are seeing life realistically, you can learn to question your judgment when you're in this state. When you are in a low mood, learn to pass it off as simply that: an unavoidable human condition that will pass with time, if you leave it alone and avoid giving it too much attention.
With an understanding of moods, we can learn to be appreciative of our highs and graceful in our lows. When we understand the power that our moods have on our perspective, we will no longer need to react to them or be victims of them. Things will eventually appear to us very differently if we just let them be, for now.
~ Richard Carlson
Happiness, to some, elation;
Is, to others, mere stagnation.
Days of passive somnolence,
At its wildest, indolence.
Hours of empty quietness,
No delight, and no distress.
Happiness to me is wine,
Full of tang and fiery pleasure,
Far too hot to leave me leisure
For a single thought beyond it.
Drunk! Forgetful! This the bond: it
Means to give one's soul to gain
Life's quintessence. Even pain
Pricks to livelier living, then
Wakes the nerves to laugh again,
Rapture's self is three parts sorrow.
Although we must die to-morrow,
Losing every thought but this;
Torn, triumphant, drowned in bliss.
Happiness: We rarely feel it.
I would buy it, beg it, steal it,
Pay in coins of dripping blood
For this one transcendent good.
~ Amy Lowell
I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. And especially if it's given from the heart. When people are talking, there's no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they are saying. Care about it. Caring is more important than understanding. It has taken me a long time to believe in the power of simply saying, "I'm so sorry," when someone is in pain. And meaning it.
This simple thing has not been easy to learn. It certainly went against everything I had been taught since I was very young. I thought people listened only because they were too timid to speak or did not know the answer.
A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well intentioned words.
~ Rachel Naomi Remen
Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito's wing that falls on the rails. Let us rise early and fast, or break fast, gently and without perturbation; let company come and let company go, let the bells ring and the children cry—determined to make a day of it.
Why should we knock under and go with the stream? Let us not be upset and overwhelmed in that terrible rapid and whirlpool called a dinner, situated in the meridian shallows. Weather this danger and you are safe, for the rest of the way is downhill. With un-relaxed nerves, with morning vigor, sail by it, looking another way, tied to the mast like Ulysses. If the engine whistles, let it whistle till it is hoarse for its pains. If the bell rings, why should we run? We will consider what kind of music they are like. Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that allusion which covers the globe. . . .
Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.
~ Henry David Thoreau from Walden
When Robert Morrison set out in 1807 as the first Protestant missionary to China he had to travel by way of America as the East India Company, which had the monopoly of the trade with India and the East, refused to allow missionaries to travel to India or China in any British vessel.
His American host records this incident when they visited the captain of the ship on which he was to sail…
‘We set out together to the counting house of the ship owner previous to his embarkation. I cannot forget the air of suppressed ridicule on the merchant’s face and in his speech and manner towards Morrison, whom he appeared to pity as a deluded enthusiast, while he could not but secretly respect his self-denial, devotion, courage and enterprise.
When all business matters were arranged, he turned about from his desk and with a sardonic grin addressing Morrison said, “And do, Mr. Morrison, you really expect that you will make an impression on the idolatry of the great Chinese Empire?” “No sir,” said Morrison, with more than his usual sternness, “I expect God will.”’
Compiled from Phyllis Garlick, Pioneers of the Kingdom
The story of how the Great Plague of London reached the village of Eyam in Derbyshire:
‘This is a lovely place between Buxton and Chatsworth, perched high on a hill-side, and shut in by another high mountain…At that time lead works were in operation in the mountains, and the village was thickly inhabited. Great was the dismay of the villagers when the family of a tailor, who had received some patterns of cloth from London, showed symptoms of the plague in its most virulent form, sickening and dying in one day.
The rector of the parish, the Rev. William Mompesson, was still a young man, and had been married for only a few years… (He) wrote to London for the most approved medicines and prescriptions; and he likewise sent a letter to the Earl of Devonshire, at Chatsworth, to engage that his parishioners should exclude themselves from the whole neighborhood, and thus confine the contagion within their own boundaries, provided the Earl would undertake that food, medicines, and other necessaries, should be placed at certain appointed spots, at regular times, upon the hills around, where the Eyamites might come, leave payment for them, and take them up, without holding any communication with the bringers, except by letters, which could be placed on a stone, and then fumigated, or passed through vinegar, before they were touched with the hand. To this the Earl consented, and for seven whole months the engagement was kept.
Mr. Mompesson represented to his people that, with the plague once among them, it would be so unlikely that they should not carry infection about with them, that it would be selfish cruelty to other places to try to escape amongst them, and thus spread the danger. So rocky and wild was the ground around them, that, had they striven to escape, a regiment of soldiers could not have prevented them. But of their own free will they attended to their rector’s remonstrance, and it was not known that one parishioner of Eyam passed the boundary all that time, nor was there a single case of plague in any of the villages around…
Day and night the rector and his wife were among the sick, nursing, feeding, and tending them with all that care and skill could do; but in spite of all their endeavors’…259 people, among them the Rector’s wife, died of the plague but the infection did not spread to any other parish.
Charlotte M. Yonge (1823-1901), from A Book of Golden Deeds
1 Peter 2:16 "Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves."
Paul tells the Galatians that they "were called to be free," but they must not use that freedom as an excuse for the flesh to do as it wills (see Galatians 5:13). In 2 Peter we read of those who promise others freedom but are themselves servants of corruption (2 Peter 2:19). Here, in First Peter, again we are reminded of the doctrine of Christian freedom (also translated 'liberty'); that of all the theological twisting and turning we Christians like to do, this one, the doctrine concerning freedom, is the one that must never be distorted, perverted, or misused.
Biblical scholar, David W. J. Gill, put it like this: "Christian freedom is always stipulated by Christian responsibility. Christian responsibility is always stipulated by Christian love. Christian love is always to be a reflection of God's love."
The Christian is free because he is the slave of God. Christian freedom means being free to do, not as we like, but as we ought. Christians are strangers in the world insofar as it is sinful. Yet citizens of the world recognize a basic goodness, and Christians should live by the 'good' standards of the world. In this way they may hope to lead others to recognize and submit to God's grace-saving, life-giving goodness.
"God's slaves" are slaves to doing good. The underlying Greek here (as well as in vs. 17) appears to be a unique command in the New Testament because it is not confined to honoring only fellow-Christians. Indeed the context makes it clear that Peter means people outside the church. They are not to be despised because they are not believers, nor hated because they are different, nor treated with contempt because they are of lower rank or status, but, as "God's slaves" we are commanded to honor and respect everyone (see 1 Peter 2:17).
Deuteronomy 30:16-20 "For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him."
The name of the book, Deuteronomy, literally means “second law”, but it is not a new law. Nor is it simply a rehash of the first law. It is a re-giving of the first law from Sinai, but something different is at play. Deuteronomy does not simply repeat the Ten Commandments or the holiness codes; it seems to have an entirely different agenda. It’s not new, but it’s not a repeat. Deuteronomy is interpretive. It is “preached law”. It’s the old law for a new context.
Time and again Moses found himself in a new context, in unchartered territory trying to lead God's people. In our text Moses finds himself standing on the far side of the Jordan River, waiting to cross over, preparing to give his last sermon to his people. In fact, Moses is about to deliver some of the last words spoken just before his death.
Think about the importance of that moment. The Israelites had just emerged from the rule of a brutal dictator, wandered in the desert for forty days and nights, and were now standing on the shores of the Promised Land. It was a second chance, a new day for their people. On this historic occasion, Moses preaches a fiery message to his people, ending with one of the best big bring-it-home sermon lines of all time: Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.
Let's look at that sentence a little closer, because I believe it contains one of the core principles of Christianity. Choose life, Moses said. While doing some research I came across a short story. It's about a friend of the commentator, who was about to commit suicide, and decided instead to open her Bible, at random, and found this passage. When she read, “Choose life”, she decided to do so, and claims she is only alive because of this passage of scripture. The commentator of course says that this isn’t the primary model of how to approach scripture, but it does go a long way to show us what is at stake in our text today.
Our passage here is about choosing God—for the sake of our future, for the sake of our children's future, for the sake of the world’s future. The decision Moses is demanding of Israel is the decision Scripture elsewhere calls faith. Part of what Moses is saying here is: The people can choose to obey God's law or not obey it - there is no middle ground offered. You're either for God, or against him. You're either in-Christ, or you're not.
The New Testament confirms this concept in 1 John 2:6, where the writer says, "By this we know we are in Him: whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked." So, in his last sermon, first and foremost, Moses reminds the people that they can worship the Lord or they can worship something else - and there are plenty of other idols out there in the world to worship. What they must not do, however, is worship the Lord and something else. For to worship anything other than God is to "turn away" from the Lord. (vs. 17)
Either God is the one and only God, or you are worshipping one of the other little gods and goddesses. Choose the God who has lead you to the promised land, Moses is saying, not the crazy idols the Canaanites worship in the land where the children of Israel were headed. As Moses warned earlier in Deuteronomy 29:17, "You have seen their filthy idols of wood and stone, of silver and of gold. And it may be that there is among you...someone whose heart is already turning away." In other words, stay away from all the other idols and everything will be just fine.
That is good advice for us too. We may not have a giant golden calf in our home but we do have things that we idolize or covet or prioritize over God's teachings; it happens to the best of us, we are human, but sadly it happens more often in our world today than it should. We all have our golden calf (things we think give us life and joy and sustenance). But Moses tells us that these things do not lead to life. That in fact they can lead to destruction. Idols can be powerful, controlling, influential things.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our life and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming."
Someone asked me once why I paint so many houses and cottages with warm, glowing windows. At first I didn't know what to say. After all, how does an artist explain why he paints what he does?
I've thought a lot about that question, though, and now I think I have an answer. I paint glowing windows because glowing windows say home to me. Glowing windows say welcome. They say all is well. They say that someone's waiting, someone cares enough to turn a light on.
For a person like me, who grew up in a single-parent household and often had to come home to an empty house, that "someone's home" glow is irresistible. It draws the eye like a brightly wrapped present, a promise of wonderful secrets inside. Can you see a brightly lit window without even the smallest urge to go peek in, to see what the people are doing and what their lives are like? I can't either.
~ Thomas Kinkade
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy he has given us 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. This inheritance is 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. (1 Peter 1:3-5).
The salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time?
In this text Peter mentions two concepts, two ideas that existed in the environmental fabric of New Testament thinking. The New Testament frequently speaks of the last days, or the last time. The background of this thinking comes primarily from the Jewish idea of time. According to the biblical scholar F. F. Bruce, the Jewish mindset divided all time into two ages. There was this present age, which is altogether bad and altogether under the dominion of evil; and there was the age to come, which will be the golden age of God. In between there was the day of the Lord during which the world would be destroyed and remade, and when judgment would come.
It is this "in-between-time" which is the last days, or the last time. When the New Testament speaks of the last days and the last time, it is speaking of that time when time and the world as we know them will come to an end. Simply put: Christ will return, time will end, the judgment has come (John 5:28-29). We must always remember that no one, no matter how religious or intelligent they seem, knows when that time will be, nor what will actually happen. But we can gather together what the New Testament does say about the last times.
The early Christians believed that they were already living in the last days. "It is the last time," said John to his people (I John 2:18). The writer of Hebrews speaks of the fullness of the revelation which has come, in the last days, through his Son (Hebrews 1:2). As the first Christians saw it, God had already invaded time, and the end was quickening. The last times were to be times of the pouring out of God's Spirit upon men (Acts 2:17). Yet another prophecy the early Christians found true on the day of Pentecost.
We have been living, you see, in the last days for over two thousand years now; faithfully waiting for the return of the Lord that "will come like a thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5:2). And it is that, and nothing less than that, to which Christians should focus attention when discussing and considering the end times. Salvation (in Christ) has been revealed to the world and has given us, in this last time, a living hope—an inheritance kept in heaven for you (and me). Amen!
Quite often we hear people say, "I'm unhappy," as though happiness were the object, or purpose, of life. It isn't, nor can it be. Happiness is an effect, a by-product of something else.
Happiness generally comes most often to productive and creative people when they have found and are engaged in work in which they can lose themselves. We are usually happiest when we are unaware of our happiness. We'll be busily engaged in something that demands our full attention and best talents and suddenly discover, during a pause in the work, that several hours have passed in which we've been completely unaware of the passage of time and our surroundings. And, if we think about it, we'll realize that we were living close to the peak during that time and that we were in a very high array of happiness.
Happiness comes when we are doing something for others, too. On Christmas morning, our joy or our happiness can be at a very high level, not because of our anticipation of what we might receive but, rather, in anticipation of watching our loved ones open our gifts to them.
So if we can remember that we are happiest when we are doing things for others, when we are busiest, and after we have accomplished something worthwhile, we need never be unhappy again, at least not for long. We need only find a project on which to work, or put in a good hard day doing those things that need to be done, or find a way to do something for others. Then happiness, like a butterfly, will come and land on our sleeve.
Happiness is not the purpose of life. It is a by-product of losing ourselves in our work and of doing things for others. Knowing that, we need never be unhappy again.
~ Earl Nightingale
Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ (Deut. 15:11)
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:16)
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:12)
Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. (Phil. 2:4)
When you give to the poor, it is like lending to the Lord, and the Lord will pay you back. (Proverbs 19:17)
Be generous and share your food with the poor. You will be blessed for it. (Proverbs 22:9)
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:13)
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. (Romans 15:1)
If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. (1 John 4:20)
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:34)
‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:45)
Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same. (Luke 3:11)
If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:16)
Parable of the Good Samaritan... and Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:25-37)
Do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend orphans and widows. (Isaiah 1:17)
If anyone is poor among you...do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. (Deut. 15:7)
Show mercy and compassion to one another... Do not oppress the foreigner or the poor. (Zech. 7:9-10)
The Lord upholds the cause of the needy. (Psalm 140:12)
Abraham Lincoln’s Address at Gettysburg: Lincoln was president of the United States of America during the Civil War. As a Christian statesman he hated war but believed it necessary to defeat the Southern States which had left the Union. He made this speech at the dedication of a cemetery where those killed in the battle of Gettysburg were buried.
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place of those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far and above our power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work they have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that the dead shall not have died in vain, that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom, and that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
~ Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), Dedicatory Address at Gettysburg Cemetery, 19 November 1863.
No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)
I would not be surprised if you've never thought of it like this before, but from the beginning of time it has been man's first instinct to blame others for his own wrong doing. The story of the first sin in the Garden of Eden was, from a certain perspective, a first class dive into the psychology of the human heart.
When God challenged Adam with his sin, Adam's reply was, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate" (Genesis 3:12-13). In other words, Adam was saying, "Don't blame me; blame Eve." And Eve was saying, "Don't blame me; blame the serpent." Since the beginning, we have been experts in evasion of responsibility.
Every trial, every external difficulty, carries with it a temptation, an inner enticement to sin. God may bring, or allow, trials; but he is not, James insists, the author of temptation. Enticement to sin comes from our own sinful natures, not from God. 'Sin,' declared G. K. Chesterton, 'is the most demonstrable of all Christian doctrines.' What he meant by that was, we do not need to prove the doctrine of original sin—the evidence is all around us!
James' concern here is to help the followers of Christ resist the temptation that comes along with the trial. For every trial brings temptation. Financial difficulty can tempt us to question God's providence in our lives. The death of a loved one can tempt us to question God's love for us. The suffering of the righteous poor and the lavish lifestyles of the wicked rich can tempt us to question God's justice, or even his existence.
It was not God who wished to do evil to Job, but the devil. “All right,” the Lord said to Satan, “everything he has is in your power, but you must not hurt Job himself” (Job 1:12). Therefore rather than blame God (who gives only good gifts, James 1:17), Christians should look within at their own desires, which make them vulnerable to testing and temptation. God never orchestrates the events of our lives with an intent to lure us away from Himself. He always roots for us to move closer. That's who God is. The purpose of trials is not to drive us away from God, but to draw us closer to Him. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Kindness should not stop with us—we can extend it outward from ourselves, like the ripples on a pond, toward our family, friends, and loved ones. This is relatively natural and effortless. But for loving kindness to be genuine, it cannot just end with the people we know and like; it has to go further, toward those we do not know and even do not like. This includes people we may be having a hard time with, someone with whom communication is difficult, where negative issues have arisen that are pulling the relationship apart, where there is anger, resentment, or dislike.
When we are affected by someone being dismissive, critical, or hurtful, then it is often because there is a hook in us for that tension to grab hold of, a place where it can land that triggers all our hidden feelings of unworthiness, insecurity, doubt, even self-hate. However, when we extend kindness toward others outside our usual circle, an extraordinary thing happens: the landing place, or the hook within, begins to dissolve.
As a Burmese teacher once told author Andrew Harvey, "Out of compassion for myself, let me let go of all these feelings of anger and resentment toward others."
Prejudice can go very deep. It is only healed when we end the war within and accept those parts of ourselves we find so unacceptable. Then we will have the courage to accept those who are different from us, who have different beliefs, who are a different color, or who live differently. When we can tolerate ourselves, then we can be tolerable toward others and extend kindness to all... equally.
As Gandhi said, "We must widen the circle of our love until it embraces the whole village...until the scope of our love encompasses the whole world."
~ Ed and Deb Shapiro
One of the most important questions you can ever ask yourself is, "Do I want to be "right"—or do I want to be happy?" Many times, the two are mutually exclusive.
Being right, defending our positions, takes an enormous amount of mental energy and often alienates us from the people in our lives. Needing to be right—or needing someone else to be wrong--encourages others to become defensive, and puts pressure on us to keep defending. Yet, many of us (me, too, at times) spend a great deal of time and energy attempting to prove (or point out) that we are right—and/or others are wrong. Many people, consciously or unconsciously, believe that it's somehow their job to show others how their positions, statements, and points of view are incorrect, and that in doing so, the person they are correcting is going to somehow appreciate it, or at least learn something. Wrong!
The truth is, all of us hate to be corrected. We all want our positions to be respected and understood by others. Being listened to and heard is one of the greatest desires of the human heart. And those who learn to listen are the most loved and respected. Those who are in the habit of correcting others are often resented and avoided.
It's not that it's never appropriate to be right—sometimes you genuinely need to be or want to be. Perhaps there are certain philosophical positions that you don't want to budge on such as when you hear a racist comment. Here, it's important to speak your mind. Usually, however, it's just your ego creeping in and ruining an otherwise peaceful encounter—a habit of wanting or needing to be right.
A wonderful, heartfelt strategy for becoming more peaceful and loving is to practice allowing others the joy of being right—give them the glory. Stop correcting. As hard as it may be to change this habit, it's worth any effort and practice it takes.
When someone says, "I really feel it's important to. . . " rather than jumping in and saying, "No, it's more important to. . . " or any of the hundreds of other forms of conversational editing, simply let it go and allow their statement to stand. You'll discover the joy of participating in and witnessing other people's happiness, which is far more rewarding than a battle of egos.
~ Richard Carlson
'T is you that are the music, not your song.
The song is but a door which, opening wide,
Lets forth the pent-up melody inside,
Your spirit's harmony, which clear and strong
Sings but of you. Throughout your whole life long
Your songs, your thoughts, your doings, each divide
This perfect beauty; waves within a tide,
Or single notes amid a glorious throng.
The song of earth has many different chords;
Ocean has many moods and many tones
Yet always ocean. In the damp Spring woods
The painted trillium smiles, while crisp pine cones
Autumn alone can ripen. So is this
One music with a thousand cadences.
By Amy Lowell
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance; and let perseverance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
What were the "trials" that James's readers were enduring? Poverty must certainly have been among them. James's letter is filled with references to poverty and wealth, and he makes clear that at least the majority of his readers are poor. James 2:6-7 makes pretty clear that unfair persecution was one of the causes of the poverty that the early Christians were experiencing. Rich people, who were "slandering" the name of Christ, were "exploiting" the Christians and "dragging them into court." See also 5:1-6, where James accuses rich people of "hoarding wealth in the last days" and "killing" the "innocent" by withholding wages from them.
By stressing that the trials were of "many kinds," James deliberately casts his net widely, including the many kinds of suffering that Christians undergo in this fallen world: sickness, loneliness, disappointment, mourning, uncertainty. Why can believers react to trials with so strange and unexpected a response as joy? Because we know that trials perfect our faith and make us stronger.
I like what Luke Timothy Johnson, a New Testament scholar and historian of early Christianity, points out about the trials we face: "The difficulties of life are intended by God to refine our faith—heating it in the crucible of suffering so that impurities might be refined away and so that it might become pure and valuable before the Lord." The "testing of faith" here, then, is not intended to determine whether a person has faith or not—it is intended to purify faith that already exists.
Testing produces, first of all, perseverance (also interpreted "patient endurance"). The picture of the Greek word here is of a person successfully carrying a heavy load for a long time; eventually steering
them in the right direction. Like a muscle that becomes strong when it faces resistance, so Christians learn to remain faithful to God over the long haul when they face trials of many kinds.
James believes we should rejoice because trials give us an opportunity to develop the virtue of "patient endurance," which will in turn lead to a mature and complete Christian character. This is how Christians are to live. This is not to say that we cannot call pain, pain; difficulty, difficulty. Paul makes it very clear that he could recognize pain, call it what it is, and experience it with the full depth of human anguish (1 Cor. 4:9-13). He also left us the example of fleeing from persecution when it was appropriate (Acts 17:10-14). Yet even in such situations he, with James, could look beyond them to "an eternal glory that far outweighs them all—reminding us to fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
Coronavirus: Responding in Prayer:
Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.
Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbors from helping one another.
Heal us from our opinions, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders.
Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know your protection and peace.
Jesus Christ, healer of all, firmly hold our hand in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.
Be with those who have died from the virus. May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace. Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. May they know your comfort.
Whether we are home or abroad, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Christ Jesus our Lord, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our anxiety, give us your calming peace. In Jesus' name. Amen.
The surest way to suppress our ability to recognize the revelation of God is to take things for granted. Indifference to the divine mystery of life is perhaps our greatest shortfall. As civilization continues to advance our sense of wonder continues to decline. Such decline is an alarming symptom of our shortsighted, mortal condition.
Modern society will not perish from a lack of information, but from a lack of compassion.
The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without God is not worth living. What we lack is not a will to believe, but a will to dig deeper - to go the extra mile - to seek until we find - to sincerely search for whatever it is we lack. Awareness of God's divine presence begins with faith and wonder. It is the result of what a person does on the inside. "The kingdom of God is within." (Luke 17:21)
The greatest hindrance to such awareness, to discovering the kingdom within, is our lack of motivation to learn more, our failed attempts to understand more, and our inability to pray more.
J. E. Royle
Jason E. Royle
Welcome to my blog. I'm an open-minded theologian committed to Christ-like compassion & understanding.
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