I was reading St. Teresa of Avila’s Autobiography today when I stumbled upon the below quote. It was SO good I had to create a meme and post it. =D
I have been doing a lot of reading about prayer lately in preparation for a coming sermon series. And, as it typically when studying a topic, my soul gets challenged and stretched in ways that I did not foresee.
Take for example the below quote from the book “Beginning to Pray” by Anthony Bloom. It starts off fairly simple – the day is “blessed by God…let us go into it.” Then, out of the blue, the messages shifts and Bloom is challenging us to embrace the suffering that comes with following Jesus.
Not just the persecution that come the outside, but also the struggle within our hearts and souls – the wrestling that we do with our pride and flesh as we seek to obey and live out the commandment so Jesus. Commandment that are so often in direct conflict with our own personal interest and desires… yet, whether ‘bitter or sweet’, each situation is a gift from God – molding and shaping us to be His people.
This day is blessed by God, it is God’s own and now let us go into it. You walk in this day as God’s own messenger; whomever you meet, you meet in God’s own way. You are there to be the presence of the Lord God, the presence of Christ, the presence of the Spirit, the presence of the Gospel – this is your function on this particular day. God has never said that when you walk into a situation in His own Name, He will be crucified and you will be the risen one. You must be prepared to walk into situations, one after the other, in God’s name, to walk as the Son of God had done: in humiliation and humility, in truth and ready to be persecuted and so forth. Usually what we expect when we fulfill God’s commandment is to see a marvelous result at once – we read of that at times in the livers of the saints. When, for instance, someone hits us on one cheek, we turn the other one, although we don’t expect to be hit at all, but we expect to hear the other person say ‘What, such humility’ – you get your reward and he gets the salvation of his soul.
It does not work that way. You must pay the cost and very often you get hit hard. What matters is that you are prepared for that. As to the day, if you accept that this day was blessed of God, chosen by God with His own hand, then every person you meet is a gift of God, every circumstance you will meet is a gift of God, whether it is bitter or sweet, whether you like it or dislike it. It is God’s own gift to you and if you take it that way, then you can face any situation. But then you must face it with the readiness that anything may happen, whether you enjoy it or not, and if you walk in the name of the Lord through a day which has come fresh and new out of His own Hands and has been blessed for you to live with it, then you can make prayer and life really like the two sides of one coin. You act and pray in one breath, as it were, because all the situations that follow one another require God’s blessing. (underline emphasis added)
“As Christians we are always in tension – in anguish and at the same time in bless. This is mad, ridiculous. But it is true – accepting the dark night just as we accept the brilliance of the day. We have to make an act of surrender – if I am in Christ, there are moments when I must share the cry of the Lord on the cross and the anguish in the garden of Gethsemane. There is a way of being defeated, even in our faith – and this is a way of sharing the anguish of the Lord. I don’t believe that we should ever say, ‘This cannot happen to you.’ If we are Christians we should go through this life, accepting the life and the world, not trying to create a falsified world.
“But, on the other hand, the Christian is like someone who lives in three dimensions in a world in which the majority of people life in two. People who live freely and within a dimension of eternity will always find that something is wrong, they will always find themselves being the odd man out. The same problem was faced by the early Christians when they said that their only king was God. People turned round to them and said, ‘If you say that you are disloyal to our king’ and often persecuted them. But the only true way of being loyal to this two-dimensional world is to be loyal to the three-dimensional. If you really live in three dimensions and do not simply live in two and imagine the third, then life will be full and meaningful. The early Christians were able to do it and Christians today are also able to do that.”
“The aim of corporate worship is not simply to sing good theology or witness to our common experience of Christ. The object of our worship is God Himself, nothing less. As we sing to Him rather than about Him, our focus is taken off of ourselves and directed to this throne, whether we are shouting high praises before God’s awesomeness or kneeling in intimate devotion.”
-Don Williams, “Start Here” pg 24
“We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, chastisements, and rewards are rendered according to the merit of each man’s actions. Otherwise, if all things happen by fate, then nothing is in our own power.
“For if it be predestined that one man be good and another man evil, then the first is not deserving of praise or the other to be blamed. Unless humans have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions-whatever they may be….
“For neither would a man be worthy of reward or praise if he did not of himself choose the good, but was merely created for that end. Likewise, if a man were evil, he would not deserve punishment, since he was not evil of himself, being unable to do anything else than what he was made for.”
–Justin Martyr (110-165 AD) First Apology chap. 43
“Three things go by the name of Christmas. One is a religious festival. This is important and obligatory for Christians; but as it can be of no interest to anyone else, I shall naturally say no more about it here. The second (it has complex historical connections with the first, but we needn’t go into them) is a popular holiday, an occasion for merry-making and hospitality. If it were my business to have a ‘view’ on this, I should say that I much approve of merry-making. But what I approve of much more is everybody minding his own business. I see no reason why I should volunteer views as to how other people should spend their own money in their own leisure among their own friends. It is highly probable that they want my advice on such matters as little as I want theirs. But the third thing called Christmas is unfortunately everyone’s business.
“I mean of course the commercial racket. The interchange of presents was a very small ingredient in the older English festivity. Mr. Pickwick took a cod with him to Dingley Dell; the reformed Scrooge ordered a turkey for his clerk; lovers sent love gifts; toys and fruit were given to children. But the idea that not only all friends but even all acquaintances should give one another presents, or at least send one another cards, is quite modern and has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers. Neither of these circumstances is in itself a reason for condemning it. I condemn it on the following grounds.
1) “It gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to ‘keep’ it (in its third, or commercial, aspect) in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out — physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.
“A moderate independence, quietly and honestly procured, is certainly every way preferable even to immense possessions achieved by the wear and tear of mind and body so necessary to procure them. Yet there are very few individuals, let them be doing ever so well in the world, who are not always straining every nerve to do better; and this is one of the many causes why failures in business so frequently occur among us. The present generation seem unwilling to ‘realize’ by slow and sure degrees; but choose rather to set their whole hopes upon a single cast, which either makes or mars them forever.” (emphasis added)
–George Pope Morris, “The Little Frenchman and His Water Lots” (published in 1839)
“It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the think of foes. There is his commissions, his work. ‘The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among the roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?’ (Luther).
“…So between the death of Christ and the Last Day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live in visible fellowship with other Christians. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible fellowship is a blessing…
“….It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden under foot by those who have the gift every day. It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.”
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Life Together” (emphasis added)
“The Charismatic church has enough superstars, far too many miracle makers with jets and bodyguards, but I am looking for a day when the Charismatic church will produce Mother Theresas, Martin Luther Kings and even Mahatma Gandhis….
“I am a Pentecostal pastor. I am very well aware of my background. I like signs and wonders, but I love justice more. I like to see the dead are being raised, but love righteousness more. I like to see people feeling “high” in the spirit, but I love sacrifice more. I may like some tele-evangelists, but I love Jesus more. I like to be touch by the spirit and laugh continually, but I love to cry for justice more. A Christianity that is not standing for the rights of the fragile, for the undocumented migrants, for the poor and the suffering, for the widows and orphans is a worthless Christianity. It is simply a dead religion, even though it has a sign of liveliness.”
–Samuel Lee, a pastor among the immigrant and refugees community in Amsterdam (Netherlands)
“Love is an affection of the soul, not a contract: it cannot rise from a mere agreement, nor is it so to be gained. It is spontaneous in its origin and impulse; and true love is its own satisfaction.
It has its reward; but that reward is the object beloved. For whatever you seem to love, if it is on account of something else, what you do really love is that something else, not the apparent object of desire. St. Paul did not preach the Gospel that he might earn his bread; he ate that he might be strengthened for his ministry. What he loved was not bread, but the Gospel.
True love does not demand a reward, but it deserves one. Surely no one offers to pay for love; yet some recompense is due to one who loves, and if his love endures he will doubtless receive it.
On a lower plane of action, it is the reluctant, not the eager, whom we urge by promises of reward. Who would think of paying a man to do what he was yearning to do already? For instance no one would hire hungry man to eat, or a thirsty man to drink, or a mother to nurse her own child. Who would think of bribing a famer to dress his own vineyard, or to dig about his orchard, or to rebuild his house?
So, all the more, one who loves God truly asks no other recompense than God Himself; for if he should demand ANYTHING else it would be the prize that he loved and not God.”
–St. Bernard of Clairvaux, On Loving God
In loving God, are you seeking something else?
Blessings? Steady home life? Nice spouse, kids, family?
Excitement in seeing signs and wonders? Thrills in performing miracles?
Principles upon which to build your life? A way through the minefield of life?
To seek, desire, and/or demand these things means that it is them that you love and not Jesus…..