Saturday, November 27, 2010

True generosity measured....

"Generosity is a virtue not just for those with a special spiritual gifting or an admirable philanthropic passion. It is at the very heart of our rebirth. Popular culture has taught us to believe that charity is a virtue. But for Christians, it is only what is expected. True generosity is measured not by how much we give away but by how much is left, especially when we look at the needs of our neighbors. We have no right not to be charitable. The early Christians taught that charity is merely returning what we have stolen. In the seventeenth century, St. Vincent de Paul said that when he gives bread to the beggars, he gets on his knees and asks for forgiveness from them.

The early Christians used to write that when they did not have enough food for the hungry people at their door, the entire community would fast until everyone could share a meal together. What an incredible economy of love. The early Christians said that if a child starves while a Christian has extra food, then the Christian is guilty of murder." Shane Claiborne, Irresistible Revolution.

While I was looking for a picture for this post I ran across these two photos and was taken by the similarity in their gaze. They seem to have the haunting look of hopelessness in their eyes and it is bad enough to see that look in an adult, but how much worse in the face of a child?

Photos by Mitchell Kanashkevic

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I love the following piece by Jeremy Taylor; it makes me laugh to think about some of the things I have heard sermonized or debated. I accept that I’m a simple man and like a simple faith. Christianity contains many great mysteries I must confess; but Micah 6:8 can be read, obeyed and lived out even if your brain is the size of a hickory nut. In Jeremy Taylor’s eloquent way, he makes this point.

“For that which we are taught by the Holy Spirit of God, this new nature, this vital principle within us, it is that which is worth our learning; not vain and empty, idle and insignificant notions, in which when you have labored till your eyes are fixed in their orbs, and your flesh unfixed from its bones, you are no better and no wiser.

If the Spirit of God be your teacher, He will teach you such truths as will make you know and love God, and become like to Him, and enjoy Him forever, by passing from similitude to union and eternal fruition. But what are you the better if any man should pretend to teach you whether every angel makes a species, and what is the individuation of the soul in the state of separation? What are you the wiser if you should study and find out what place Adam should for ever have lived in if he had not fallen? And what is any man the more learned if he hears the disputes, whether Adam should have multiplied children in the state of innocence, and what would have been the event of things if one child had been born before his father’s sin?

Too many scholars have lived upon air and empty notions for many ages past, and troubled themselves with tying and untying knots, like hypochondriacs in a fit of melancholy, thinking of nothing, and troubling themselves with nothing, and falling out about nothings…..

Men’s notions are often like the mules, begotten by equivocal and unnatural generations; but they make no species: they are begotten, but they can beget nothing; they are the effects of long study, but they can do no good when they are produced: they are not that which Solomon calls “the way of understanding.”

If the Spirit of God be our teacher, we shall learn to avoid evil, and to do good, to be wise and to be holy, to be profitable and careful: and they that walk in this way shall find more peace in their consciences, more skill in the scriptures, more satisfaction in their doubts, than can be obtained by all the controversial and impertinent disputations of the world.”

Friday, November 19, 2010


My experience in the Christian walk has been a series of steps forward, then steps back; a success followed by a failure and it seems God has ordained this in the life of the Christian to keep them humble but in spite of our many failings we still find pride and self-righteousness nipping at our heels with each success.

The following piece by John Newton is of special comfort to the guys at the center who have lived much of their lives in addiction and coming out is an exhausting series of baby steps forward and long jumps back. But God is forever patient and faithful when we are not.

“I have been troubled of late with the rheumatism in my left arm. Mine is a sinful, vile body, and it is a mercy that any part of it is free from pain. It is virtually the seat and subject of all diseases; but the Lord holds them like wild beasts in a chain, under a strong restraint; were that restraint taken off, they would rush upon their prey from every quarter, and seize upon every limb, member, joint, and nerve, at once. Yet, though I am a sinner and though my whole texture is so frail and exposed, I have enjoyed for a number of years an almost perfect exemption both from pain and sickness. This is wonderful indeed, even in my own eyes.

But my soul is far from being in a healthy state. There I have labored, and still labor, under a complication of diseases; and, but for the care and skill of an infallible Physician, I must have died the death long ago. At this very moment my soul is feverish, dropsical, paralytic. I feel a loss of appetite, disinclination both to food and medicine: so that I am alive by miracle; yet I trust I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. When I faint, He revives me again. I am sure He is able, and I trust He has promised, to heal me; but how inveterate must my disease be, that is not yet subdued, even under His management!

Well, my friend, there is a land where the inhabitants shall no more say, “I am sick.” Then my eyes will not be dim, nor my ear heavy, nor my heart hard.

One sight of Jesus as He is

Will strike all sin forever dead.

Blessed be His name for this glorious hope! May it cheer us under all our present uneasy feelings, and reconcile us to every cross! The way must be right, however rough, that leads to such a glorious end.

Oh for more of that gracious influence, which in a moment can make the wilderness-soul rejoice and blossom like the rose! I want something which neither critics nor commentators can help me to. The Scripture itself, whether I read it in Hebrew, Greek, French, or English, is a sealed book in all languages unless the Spirit of the Lord is present to expound and apply. Pray for me. No prayer seems more suitable to me than that of the Psalmist: “Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Thy name.” John Newton

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

There is a constant temptation for the men in Teen Challenge who make dramatic progress at first which then gives them a false sense of security and they feel they are prepared to leave the program without completing it. Sadly, drug and alcohol addiction is rarely overcome with a month of treatment. Years of abuse will take, in some cases, years to overcome. There certainly are miraculous deliverance's where a person may walk away from addiction and never turn back, but this is the exception and not the rule. The following piece was a letter I wrote to one of the men who was wavering about completing the program. Later I shared it with all the guys because of its relevance.

"And look that you make constant resistance, as well as strong resistance; be constant in arms.

Satan will come on with new temptations when old ones are weak. In a calm prepare for a storm.

The tempter is restless, always on the offense, and subtle; he will suit his temptations to your personality and desires. Satan loves to sail with the wind. Therefore while you are still fit for fresh assaults, make one victory a step to another. When you have overcome a temptation, take heed of unbending your bow, and see to it, that your bow be always bent, and that it remains in strength.

When you have overcome one temptation you must be ready to enter the course with another. As distrust in some sense is the mother of safety, so security is the gate of danger.

A man had need to fear this most of all, that he fears not at all. If Satan be always roaring, we should be always a-watching and resisting him.” Thomas Brooks

I think this theme is summed up in the following scripture --

Genesis 4:7
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

We soon forget that sin is crouching at our door and we drift off to the land of “Nod” and like the sentry who fell asleep at his post while the opposing army chose that very night to wage their attack and found opportunity for a victorious surprise attack because of the sleeping sentry.

I think it’s very important to remember that even though while in the walls of Teen Challenge, where its structure encourages every form of spiritual discipline; you have brothers to share with and staff to encourage you; classes to teach, chapels to inspire and the environment is relatively free of temptations for gross sins, you will not long from now be back in the world, with little or no structure and none to exhort you to follow the disciplines that have helped you thus far. Remember, the battle has not yet been won. I like the words of Winston Churchill which were applied to the Nazi takeover of Europe, but can be applied to the battle against addictions –

“This is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

So if you find yourself without a hunger and thirst for a deeper walk with Christ you must ask, ‘if not here, where? If not now, when? There is a famous quote by Shakespeare that is so relevant to your circumstance –

“There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Now the tide of opportunity is in, your life is at a crossroad.

The “flood” or circumstances, exist now that may well lead to fortune, or victory.

If you let this opportunity go by in hopes that there's a promise of another easier time, or more advantages place, you may find yourself bound to shallows and miseries. You are now afloat a strong tide and current, and it will serve you well, if taken advantage of;

redeem the time!

Photo by Amanda Hoskin

Monday, November 01, 2010

I appreciate the knowledge and information we have learned about human behavior: the insights we have today with all of history to look back on and help us grow into more responsible, mature and civilized persons. We have come a long way since Shakespeare uttered the words “know thyself.”

Now I love a good motivational speaker and I’m always lifted by “a noble theme.”

That being said, when it comes to dealing with the men at Teen Challenge, who need all of the above to help them overcome life-controlling addictions, and of course overcoming my own personal demons; I know but one way that truly leads to personal victory and that is with the old time preaching found in the writings of the spiritual divines of the past. When it comes to advice that I have found effective in my own life and see change and turn around lives in others, I find but one answer and it is contained in the following piece from Thomas Brooks. Here is the only fail safe, true power I know of to offer a person in desperation and bondage. Taste and see……

“Make strong and constant resistance against Satan’s temptations.

Make resistance against temptations by arguments drawn from the honor of God, the love of God, your union and communion with God; and from the blood of Christ, the death of Christ, the kindness of Christ, the intercession of Christ, and the glory of Christ; and from the voice of the Spirit, the counsel of the Spirit, the comforts of the Spirit, the presence of the Spirit, the seal of the Spirit, the whisperings of the Spirit, the commands of the Spirit, the assistance of the Spirit, the witness of the Spirit; and from the glory of heaven, the excellency of grace, the beauty of holiness, the worth of the soul, and the vileness or bitterness and evil of sin……”

I know of no other way but by application of the above quote poured out at the feet of Christ, bathed in tears in a deep spirit of contrition.