Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thomas Merton and Conversion of Manners

Fr. Dale Matson
The three vows of the Benedictine Monks are obedience, stability, and conversion of manners. Poverty and chastity are included in conversion of manners. Having read many of Thomas Merton’s books, I have an admiration for him. He was spiritually brilliant and insightful. I am blessed to have known him through his books and have known a couple of other men who influenced me through their lives. Although they did not shine with his brightness and were not as articulate, they lived the life he discussed in his writings and remain an inspiration for me. I will discuss them further in a short while.

Why does one become a monastic? It is accepting the call of Christ to follow Him. The vows of the monastics are an attempt to live out the beatitudes listed by Christ in His Sermon on the Mount. “Therefore we can conclude that we come to the monastery to seek Christ—desiring that we may find Him and know Him, and thus come to live in Him and by Him.” (Thomas Merton, Basic Principles of Monastic Spirituality, 1996, Templegate Publishers, p.21).

“By conversion of manners we definitely consecrate our whole life to the service of God as monks, men who have turned their backs on the world, who have substituted the humility, chastity, poverty, renunciation of the cloister for the ambitions, comforts, pleasures, riches and self-satisfaction of the world.” (Ibid, p.86).

The two other men I knew were not monks or oblates by intention but they were monks in their unspoken permanent vow of conversion of manners. Merton stated, “The vow of conversatio morum is a vow to live in the Spirit”. It is aimed at spiritual virginity which is purity of heart. The point here is that the goal of monastic living is not seeking personal perfection. It is as Merton noted. “Christ is the center of monastic living. He is the source and the end. He is the way of the monk as well as his goal.”(Ibid, p.9).

There is no reason to think that the intentionality of monastic living is a less distracted search for the face of God than a life where one is married, raising a family, serving in a parish church, living a disciplined and virtuous life, working in a vocation that provides meaning and seeing sacredness in ordinary existence. These two men were what I would call deacon monks. They took the church into the streets and into the workplace. They were Christ for their families. They were contemplatives who were also active. They were courageous leaders of others and helped form Christ in the novices. Their hearts were pure and their speech was unguarded. It didn’t have to be guarded because they loved the people they spoke to. They only saw the good in others because their own hearts were pure. They brought out the best in others and gave them a hand up. They were innocent as doves and surprised at the moral failures in others. They were quick to forgive and easily brought to laughter. And why is this? It is because they had at a critical junction in their lives decided that Christ was the pearl of great price. He would be their head and they would live a life worthy of His unmerited grace to them. They were in holy orders and unaware of it. Their conversion of manners took place outside the walls of a monastery. Amen

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Recovering the Image of God

Fr. Dale Matson
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27, NASB).

St. Athanasius stated “God became man so that man might become God”. Luther repeated this in his Christmas sermon in 1514. I think an important understanding of this is that to the extent to which we participate in the Divine nature and as Christ is formed in us (Galatians 4:19), the image of God is restored in us and we become fully human. Obviously, Only Christ was fully human. None of us, even the saints become fully human on this earth. What does it mean to be fully human? I believe it is taking on the qualities of God like the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

How much of our condition before the fall is recovered as we are Sanctified/Deified? We don’t become “As God”, we share God’s qualities. Being fully human is a loss of self-consciousness and egocentricity but it is not the loss of person-hood. It is not the annihilation of personality. We become incarnational as The Holy Spirit dwells in us. It is having in us the mind that was in Christ Jesus. (1 Corinthians 2:16) In the words of Alexander Maclaren,[The notion of the indwelling Christ] “It is not to be weakened into any notion of participation in His likeness, sympathy with His character, submission to His influence, following His example, listening to His instruction, or the like. A dead Plato may so influence his followers, but that is not how a living Christ influences His disciples. What is meant is no mere influence derived, but separable, from Him, however blessed and gracious that influence might be, but it is the Presence of His own Self, exercising influences which are inseparable from his Presence, and only to be realized when He dwells in us.” I would add that it is also not cases of what people commonly refer to today as, “What would Jesus do?” (WWJD).

I believe the church has focused heavily today on what it considers to be the equipping of the Saints for service (Ephesians 4:12) but has neglected “...the fullness of Christ in Verse 13. The church could be convicted of child labor law infractions. Preaching today should resound with the basics of the person and work of Christ. What does it mean for Christians to be in Christ and what does it mean for Christ to be in them? This is restorative and transformative. This is not just Christ as Savior and Lord. It is Christ in you, the hope of Glory (Colossians 1:27). It is an awareness of the restoration of the image of God through the presence of Christ in all Christians. Amen

Monday, December 27, 2010

To Remain On In The Flesh

Fr. Dale Matson
Late in Paul’s ministry, he wrote the following words to the Philippians during his probable first imprisonment in Rome. At that point he had only a few more years to labor for the sake of the Gospel.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” (Philippians 1:21-24, NASB).

I am at a point in my life of understanding what St. Paul was saying. Increasingly I am on God’s clock and no longer on my own. Through Christ I have accomplished every goal that I have ever dreamed possible. God has blessed me with too many gifts to enumerate. There is no longer any bargaining with God about delaying Christ’s return. Bargaining is something that young persons could identify with. They have so much to accomplish; so much ahead in their lives. They have houses to build, children to raise, careers to cultivate. They are not ready to join with me when I say with John, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20, NASB).

I am coming to a better understanding of the limits of my own strength as I age and the last years of my ministry is a similar kind of captivity to Paul. My health is no longer robust and my strength is diminished. Some injuries are chronic and pain is ever present. My confidence is diminished along with my senses. It is no longer about pleasure but about diminishing pain.

These are not the ruminations of a depressed person but an honest appraisal of my health and strength. The insults of life are cumulative and their weight increases with age. Christ does come as a thief in the night. It is He who binds the strong man that He may steal his goods. My goods have been unwarranted pride, self-reliance and a self-centered agenda. Paul’s captivity letters (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon) do not reflect his life situation at all. In prison Paul discovered true freedom, joy, contentment and riches in Christ.

Paul’s answer to the dilemma to depart or stay was to stay because he knew that he was on Christ’s clock, not his own. For those of you who are imprisoned by aging, infirmity or loneliness, I would encourage you to ask God what He would do with you in the time He has remaining on your clock.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, KJV).

Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm Too Busy

Fr. Dale Matson
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”(Matt. 11:28, NASB).

I have heard the statement, “I’m too busy” quite often over the years. Frequently people will greet me with, “Are you keeping busy”? My response is, “I’m not into busy”. In fact, God has commanded that we rest at least one day a week. The time God allots us is a resource and like any other resource we are obligated to be good stewards. In the church time is sacred.

I believe it is possible to be both spontaneous and disciplined. For example a musician is allowed a cadenza within a musical piece or a figure skater has a free program following compulsory requirements. In both examples however there is a matter of self-discipline. Without discipline neither individuals would have achieved mastery, no matter how gifted. It is a matter of prioritization of time.

So, why are individuals so busy? Why is life so often a matter of putting out a fire over here and heading to the next fire over there? There are a number of factors. “Busy” has a false prestige to it. Most people would rather be Martha’s. It is a way of avoiding being intentional and attentive like Mary. It is also a means of avoidance and an alibi for poor or non-performance. Busy is a way to deal with anxiety and loneliness. People are good at filling their lives with distractor tasks. Multitasking is just a new name for busy.

I am not saying that time is somehow more holy in a monastery then on main street because it isn’t. It is merely a matter of taking the time to listen to God the Holy Spirit speak to us in all things. It is including God in all of our activities in a continual silent dialogue. A life lived intentionally for Christ is prayer without ceasing. A busy life that does not include God is a clanging cymbal and a noisy gong.

In today’s world there is great pressure to live a busy life. Even taking a restorative nap is seen as a venial sin. Busy is not important; it is undisciplined. Busy is a lame excuse for interrupted conversation. Busy is mindless and anhedonic activity. Busy is form with no content. Busy is a vacant expression lacking ears to hear.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matt. 11:29, KJV).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Rain In Due Season

Fr. Dale Matson
“Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.” (Leviticus 26:4, KJV).

There is a certain irony in the fact that the seasonal rainfall for the Central Valley of California is a meager eleven inches yet the Central Valley has the largest agricultural production in the United States. Some of the irrigation water is provided by deep wells but the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range to the East provides the explanation for how such an arid region can be so productive. Sierra Nevada is Spanish for Snowy Range. The mountain snowpack is reclaimed moisture that has traveled east passing the Valley by and returns Westward back toward the Valley as streams and rivers created by melting snow. The U.S. record for snowpack is at Tamarack CA of 37.5 feet. This melting snow is fed back gradually and is captured and stored in reservoirs that help regulate the flow westward toward the Pacific Ocean. These reservoirs provide recreation and electricity for millions of Californians in addition to water for drinking, agricultural products shipped around the world and habitat for wildlife.

The mountains provide natural containment of water reserves in the form of snow. When I hear the seasonal rain on my roof, I rejoice knowing that the Sierras are gleaning much of the remaining moisture from the passing storm and will give it back throughout the rest of the year. Much of California vegetation is green in winter and brown from mid spring until late fall. The spring reminds me of Exodus. “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it that the people may drink." (Exodus 17:6). In spring, the water literally flows from the granite cracks and the earth.

The rivers that flow out of the Sierras are spaced such that the entire Central Valley is supplied with drinking and irrigation water. The combination of mountains and the rivers they give birth to, provide some of the most beautiful scenery on the face of the earth. Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon Parks are located in the Sierras and the rivers provide majestic waterfalls.

This is really a song of praise to God who is the Architect of this landscape. No engineer, artist, or farmer or could have even imagined such an intricate interplay of water, rock, snow and people. No one can describe this early beauty.

“The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand;” (Deuteronomy 28:12a).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Law

Fr. Dale Matson
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord: I will put my laws on their heart, and upon their mind also will I write them; then saith He.” (Heb. 10:16).

Boundaries/rules provide freedom. The most freeing thing God did for the Jews in the Old Testament was not providing for their escape from Egypt but providing them with the Law. The Law gave people rules to live by and a life with meaning and purpose.

As I wrote this statement for my Advent III Homily, it was as if a veil was lifted from my eyes. It became clear to me that the Law is so much more than I had understood it to be. The distinction between Law and Gospel that I imposed on Scripture was a template provided by years of experience in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. This template created a contrast between Law and Gospel and whether Luther or Calvin, the purpose of the Law was in marked contrast to the Gospel. For Luther, the Law was seen as a Curb, a Mirror and a Guide. (Formula of Concord, 6th Article). Roughly put, the Law was a means God used to control men.

Why then is the Law spoken of by the writers of the Old Testament with the same adoration we hold the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Why does our Lord say, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”(Matthew 5:17-18).

As we honor the Law, We are given life. As we honor God as commanded by the Law, we are given purpose. As we honor the Law toward our neighbors, our stony hearts are turned to flesh. As we honor the Law in keeping it, our priorities are established. As St. Paul points out in Galatians, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” (3:24).

The Psalmist mentions the Law twenty five times in the 119th Psalm alone.
I shall delight in Your commandments, Which I love. And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Your statutes. Remember the word to Your servant, In which You have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction,that Your word has revived me. The arrogant utterly deride me, yet I do not turn aside from Your law. I have remembered Your ordinances from of old, O LORD, And comfort myself. Burning indignation has seized me because of the wicked, which forsake Your law. Your statutes are my songs in the house of my pilgrimage. O LORD, I remember Your name in the night,And keep Your law. This has become mine, that I observe Your precepts.
(Psalm 119: 47:56).

It is not the Law contrasted with the Gospel. It was God’s good pleasure to provide us with the Law that we could read and understand and love in the light of the Gospel. Amen

Monday, December 13, 2010

Freud and the Denial of Guilt

If one takes the ten commandments of Moses or the great commandment of Christ as a summation of all of the rules, what is it that enforces compliance? Why do we usually do the right thing? Most would say it is our conscience that is our personal policeman and judge. The conscience is the internal judge that uses guilt to punish individuals that do not live according to their own internal rules. Jesus would compare someone who does not live according to his own rules to a house divided against itself and a house divided against itself cannot stand. In reality, guilt is a painful blessing if it causes us to repent; if it causes us to say, “I am sorry for what I said, for what I’ve done. Please forgive me.”
Freud argued that neurotic individuals were really victims of social rules that were oppressive and unrealistic. These rules were internalized and created a conscience that was too strict and severe. The wish to express what Freud considered to be natural human desires was met with a scolding conscience. People hid these wishes from their conscience by pushing them down into their unconscious mind. Later the person developed mental and physical problems. It was the goal of psychoanalysis to get people to remember what they had intentionally forgotten. Intentional forgetting is called denial or repression. Neurotics were encouraged by their therapists to release the undesirable thoughts from the captivity of the unconscious mind much as Moses led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt. Like Adam and Eve attempting to hide from God, denial and repression are examples of a person hiding from his own conscience. The analyst or counselor is there to say to the individual, “It’s ok to have those thoughts. You are a good person. You are just being too hard on yourself. You are suffering from false guilt. You are punishing yourself unnecessarily.” The reality is that boundaries/rules provide freedom. The most freeing thing God did for the Jews in the Old Testament was not providing for their escape from Egypt but providing them with the Law. The Law gave them rules to live by and a life with meaning and purpose.
Here is where the priest should be taking a different path than other counselors. When it comes to the reality of sin, the Priest must not be “referring out”. The psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker as a secular priest may claim that the individual suffers from false guilt but what about real guilt? They are enabling the individual to deny the reality of their guilt. They are providing a fig leaf and it doesn’t work any better for those they counsel than it did for Adam and Eve. Unfortunately un-confessed sin and denied guilt eventually can give rise to physical problems (why is there such a rise in autoimmune disorders?) and accidents. In many cases self-destructive behavior is self-punishment. Here is the reality of what I am saying. We all have rules inside of us and as Christians we must live a life consistent with these rules. If we don’t, we will experience guilt and guilt is psychological distress. Unrelieved psychological distress leads to physical and mental illness. Sin and its consequence guilt remain a reality in our time for Christians and non-Christians alike. Recent research indicates that one in five Americans is mentally ill. href=""> This is proof positive that a more permissive society with relaxed standards of morality does not lead to less neurosis. Freud was wrong.
It is not the job of a Priest to lower the conscience threshold in order to get rid of the conflict. We are here to diagnose the problem which is sin and prescribe the treatment which is repentance and confession and offer the prognosis which is absolution and forgiveness. What is needed is restoration to fellowship with God, our brothers and sisters and ourselves through repentance confession and absolution. Unfortunately many clergy today have bought into the idea that people are basically good. If we are not in Christ, we are not “OK”. Brothers and sisters, we are not born basically good. In Anglican and Orthodox Churches Baptism has included Exorcism; whether infant or adult. In the Roman Church we have the following: “During the Sacrament of Baptism, the Priest says two prayers of Exorcism”.
On those occasions where we experience real guilt there is only one healthy response. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). Guilt is a symptom of sin, with sin as the underlying illness. For us, there is the weekly confession of sin and there is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We hear the following from the BCP, “When the penitent has confessed all serious sins troubling the conscience and has given evidence of true contrition, the priest gives such counsel and encouragement as are needed and pronounces absolution.” (p.446)
It has frequently been said that the couch of the psychoanalyst has replaced the confessional of the priest. The psychoanalyst has not replaced the priest because the psychoanalyst will not acknowledge the sin and guilt and cannot offer forgiveness on behalf of God. I know this from both personal and professional experience. I have more comfort, consolation and healing to offer as a Priest who is a representative of Christ than as a Psychologist.
If you are troubled with guilt and anxiety because of unacknowledged sin, there is a course of action that is the only remedy. This remedy is not found on the couch of the psychoanalyst. It is found in the church. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16). Amen.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My Testimony Fr. Dale Matson

My Testimony
"Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” (Deuteronomy 30:19, NLT).
I was given a Halley’s Bible Handbook for High School Graduation at the Baptist Church I had attended since childhood. It was also a graduation of sorts from church also for the next twenty years. It was the usual time of life for questioning things in general and it was a time when “God is dead” was the mantra of the professors at my University. The decade of the 60’s was horrible in general and worse for young men in particular. While some relish reminiscing, I think about the instability of life following the previous quiescent decade. Leaders such as President Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated in what seemed like an outbreak of unending anarchy. I was drafted into the Army out of the University my senior year because my grade point average did not meet the criteria for the local draft board. During my two years of service I went from someone with a drinking problem to someone with a serious drinking problem. I remember taking money from a donation canister in a store to buy alcohol. What had I become?
For the next sixteen years I was engaged in the process of killing myself on the installment plan. Addiction to alcohol and cigarettes was only part of a self-defeating and self-destructive lifestyle. I had a rage inside me coupled with a fear that paralyzed personal growth and hurt those around me. I desperately sought peace and found alcohol to be a dependable source. It was a however a deal with the devil. Mornings became more and more difficult. I had panic attacks so severe, I would have to pull off the road in the tractor trailer hauling heavy equipment and sit until the fear passed.
I planned my life around alcohol and always made sure there was enough around to get the job done. While I never drank at work, I had a string of jobs over the years where I fouled my own nest over time. I was a husband and a father but emotionally unavailable to my wife and sons except in a harsh and punitive sense. I believe at this time of my life, I was capable of any act and fortunately God didn’t allow opportunities to present themselves.
God in His grace can even reach into the heart of the active unrepentant addict. I signed up for a sixteen week adult bible study with my wife as an act of appeasement, at the local Lutheran Church. After the first night I remember banging my fist on the steering wheel and saying that I wasn’t going back. During that sixteen weeks, God the Holy Spirit courted me and won me back. I had given my life to Christ as an eight year old in Sunday school. The crucial question for me was the same one Christ posed to Peter. “Who do you say that I am?” To see Christ as God opened the door for my return. I began attending bible class between services and enjoyed the experience immensely. Jim B. the president of the congregation became my spiritual mentor. He answered my many questions and became a father to me. He has passed on now but his biological son became a pastor and his adoptive son became a priest. It is part of a fitting eulogy for a godly man. He is only the first of many good men and women God placed by my side.
God’s will is not initially heavy but the cumulative effect is a rod of iron. I gradually became aware following my baptism that there was no turning back. I remember the thought that came to me before I walked down the aisle for my baptism. “You are throwing your life away for this Jesus”. The statement was true but the life I was throwing away wasn’t worth living. I was now another ambassador of God’s Kingdom and as an ambassador; it was not fitting for me to be a drunk or a smoker. At one point in my life, I had such severe indigestion from drinking that I put baking soda in my wine to avoid the acid stomach. I actually believed the lie that I would die if I quit drinking. I prayed about this and was delivered from the need to drink. I was trustworthy again. I had to pray for two more years to get the desire to quit smoking and when I quit on January 10th 1983, I never smoked again. I believe there can be conversion from addiction also.
There can be an enormous release of pent up power in a recovering individual. I will state unequivocally, that God chose me as He chose so many others to demonstrate His power. I am an ordinary man with a limited amount of physical and intellectual aptitude. For the next ten years God began to release His creative and life giving power in my life. I went back to school and finished my Ph.D. at Marquette University in Educational Psychology. On my first day of classes at Marquette (a Jesuit University) I looked up to see a crucifix on the wall. It seemed so right to me. I was an average student in High School and an honor student in graduate school. I also became a licensed Psychologist and School Psychologist. During this time I also designed and built a home and ran my first marathon. Running became my replacement behavior for smoking. At one point my weight, blood pressure and cholesterol were in the extreme range and in need of medical intervention. Running and a change of diet solved another aspect of a self-destructive life. “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, KJV).
There was also unexpected collateral damage. My marriage of more than 20 years was falling apart. We fought more than ever. We were two decent people who now only seemed to bring out the worst in each other. The rancor was difficult for our sons. We agreed that I would take a tenure track teaching position in California at a Mennonite Brethren University and the family would join me the following year after my oldest son had graduated from High School. It did not come to pass and we agreed to a Pro Se divorce. My university spent nearly a year investigating the circumstances. It was a difficult and lonely time. The same week in December of 1993 our divorce was finalized and the university agreed to allow me to stay on. Once again, God provided a saintly mentor Dr. Bob W., who I worked with for over eight years. His passing is mourned by hundreds of former students that he both taught and shepherded.
After seventeen years of teaching and being a school psychologist, I was no longer able to convince myself that was what God had intended as my final career. As a program director, I was able to both teach and counsel the students in the counseling and school psychology programs. Part of our evaluation was our participation in our church and I could see that increasing year by year with a declining passion for teaching and the academic life.
In the meantime, I walked into church one Sunday thinking that I would never meet a woman there who could be my wife. God’s humor is manifested at times like this. As I was sitting down in the pew, I looked across the aisle to my right and in front of me. There was a woman sitting there that was the most handsome woman I have ever seen. She had the most beautiful gray hair and a youthful face that betrayed the gray hair. Sharon was visiting with a friend who was a parishioner there. I said to myself, “I will meet this woman no matter what it takes”. I had coffee with her at a small local grill on Monday and knew within the next week that we would be married. She also had been divorced about three years. Between us we have four sons. We were married at the foot of Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite in 1996.
While I was still teaching at the university, I began taking classes in Anglican Studies at the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary on the campus of Fresno Pacific University where I taught. I loved the theology and history of Anglicanism and began to sense that God was calling me to holy orders. Unfortunately for me the members of the Commission on Ministry decided after meeting with me that I needed more time to discern my call. This was a polite way of saying that my ego had metastasized and needed a two year course of rejection therapy. I was more humble at my next retreat and had retired as emeritus from Fresno Pacific University.
There remained questions about whether I was being called to the Deaconate or the Priesthood and following a year working as a vocational Deacon, I met with Bishop Schofield to say that I really thought God was calling me to the Priesthood. His response was, “What took you so long”? After a year of additional training and experience, I was ordained a Priest on the Feast Day of St. Gregory the Great, March 12th 2010. It is where God wanted me to be all along but it took me until age 65 to be prepared for this calling.
God has called me above all to comfort others with the comfort that I have been comforted with. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in our entire affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4). I know others who have been prodigals but they have had enormous gifts. What makes my testimony unique is that I am ordinary. If God can accomplish this with me then a similar life dedicated and submitted to God can also demonstrate the Glory of God. “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellence of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9). My personal prayer for those who read this and are choosing death, would have hope that Christ could, like Lazarus also raise them from death to life. Amen

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fruit Worthy of Repentance

This morning I’d like to tell you a story of two wealthy men whose lives came together in an extraordinary way.

Nicky and Philip were both wealthy men though they came into their means differently.

Nicky was one of those who all of us dream about. He was born into a very wealthy family and never knew want. But unlike the kind of “rich kids” we read about or hear about in “the Lives of the Rich and Famous,” Nicky was taught from an early age that one is to be generous to others, especially those in need. Nicky’s family had great wealth and yet he was not spoiled by that wealth. Unfortunately at an early age, his mother and father tragically died leaving all of their wealth to him.

Instead of squandering his wealth, Nicky decided to travel oversees to seek his education at one of the most prestigious universities of his day. And (I’ll let you in on a secret) that since this was a time before air travel, his travel was by ship. On one of his voyages he is said to have saved the life of a sailor who fell from the ship's rigging in a storm. When he arrived home (at semester break) Nicky and the other sailors decided to go to church together to give thanks to God – for you see along with a heart for the needy, Nicky’s parents were also Christians and passed their faith along to him as well. When Nicky entered the church he found that the priest had recently died – and the people (after hearing of Nicky’s heroism) decided that HE should be their new pastor! And so humbly, Nicky took the job. . .

Please read the rest of the story at And Now For Something Completely Different