Tag Archives: faith

TWO KINDS OF FAITH

(Proper 12B ) John 6, verses 1 – 13   In the well-known story of Christ feeding the five thousand, we come across two very different attitudes toward the situation from Jesus’ disciples.

  1. Firstly, when Philip saw how many people were there and needing to be fed he said ‘It would take two hundred silver coins! – about eight month’s wages – even to give them just a bite!’

Philip’s was a pessimistic faith. A pessimist is one who defines hope as wishing for something you know isn’t going to happen. Twin boys – one a pessimist, his brother an optimist – discovered where their parents had hidden their Christmas presents.  There were two rooms one full of brand-new toys, the other full of hay and horse manure.  Two children are taken into them, one a pessimist, the other an optimist.  The pessimist looked at the first room and cried because all those wonderful toys would soon be broken.  The optimist was in the other room shovelling.  “I know there’s got to be a horse in here somewhere,” he said. A man said to a pessimist, “Isn’t this a bright, sunny day?”  The pessimist replied, “Yes, but if this heat spell doesn’t stop soon, all the grass will burn up.”  Two days later, the same man said to the pessimist, “Isn’t this rain wonderful?”  The pessimist replied,  “Well, if it doesn’t stop soon, my garden will wash away.” Philip represents someone with a pessimistic faith.  He needed to see his faith for what it is — pessimism. Pessimistic faith sees money and human resources, and that is all.  It sees only the available resources.  It stresses hopelessness. It forgets God and his glorious power in the past and how that same power controls the present and future.  It says that the problem is too big for God.

  1. Then, there was Andrew.

Andrew is an example of an optimistic, though questioning faith.  Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist before he met Jesus.  It seems that he always willing to take second place.  He was not only the very first to follow Jesus, but he was also one of the very first to bring another to Christ (his own brother Simon Peter).  But Andrew was called to take a back seat to Peter; he lived under his shadow.  And throughout the New Testament, Peter is always mentioned first, but from all I can see, Andrew never resented his place.  TO BE WITH JESUS AND TO DO WHAT HE WANTED WAS ENOUGH FOR HIM. “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many”, he asked An optimistic faith but questioning faith loves the Lord and is committed to the Lord.  Andrew sees Christ concern and he goes among the crowd and searches for food.  HE FOUND AND GATHERED ALL THE RESOURCES HE COULD. An optimistic, but questioning faith lays what it can find before the Lord.  No matter how little the resources or how poor the quality, it is placed all before the Lord. But the problem with an optimistic but questioning faith it does QUESTION. Whatever the need may be; we all need once again to learn to trust Christ and not question and doubt His love, care, and power in our lives.

Supremely, there is Jesus himself. Christ Himself demonstrates for us the kind of strong faith we are to have in God. He takes what He has and gives thanks to God for what He has which is a meagre supply of bread.  In fact, He could hold all that had in the palm of His hand.  Jesus gave what He had, and all He could do was distribute what was in His hands and trust God.  This he did – simply gave what he had, and God did the rest. All any of us can do is give what we possess, what we hold in our hands [our lives, our time, our priorities, our gifts].  And if we so give, God does the rest.  Our needs will be met.  And as the story tells us, more than met.

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‘Dostoevski and Thomas’ (2 Easter B )

John 20:19- 29 (NRSV)

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

 

doubting_thomas

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas 1602 –  Caravaggio
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

 

On cold December morning in Russia in 1849, 20 political prisoners were lined up to be shot by a firing squad.

However, just before the order was given, a message was delivered from Czar Nicholas I cancelling the executions.

Instead, the men were to serve ten years of hard labour in Siberia.

One of the prisoners was Feodor Dostoevski, a young man whose mother had died when he was only 16 and whose father had been murdered a few years later.

When Dostoevski got to Siberia, he found a copy of the New Testament and began to read it.  By the time he had finished, he was a firm believer.

Describing his impression of Christ, he wrote to a friend:

“No one is more beautiful… and more perfect than Christ…If anyone proved to me that Christ was outside of the truth…I would prefer to remain outside with Christ than inside with the truth.”

After his release from prison, Dostoevski turned to writing novels.  In quick succession, he wrote such classics as ‘Crime and Punishment’ and ‘The Brothers Karamazov’

 

fyodor-dostoevsky_eK44Z

 

But success went to his head, and he began to drink and gamble heavily.  More than that, he set aside his faith.

Shortly before he died, however, Dostoevski returned to the faith.  This irritated his atheistic friends who ridiculed him.  They said that this was just the sick act of a sick man.

Commenting on their mockery, Dostoevski wrote in his diary:

“These fools could not even conceive so strong a denial of God as the one to which I gave expression….It is not like a child that I believe in Christ and confess him.  My hosanna has come forth from the crucible of doubt.”

 

–oo00oo–

Dostoevski’s story is not unlike the story of Thomas in today’s Gospel.

Like Thomas, he had once placed all his faith in Jesus.

Like Thomas, he abandoned his faith in Jesus.

And like Thomas, he returned to his faith in Jesus.

Many of us can perhaps relate to the stories of Thomas and Dostoevski.

After placing all our faith in Christ, we too so often have gone on to abandon him, as they did.

Or, if we didn’t abandon him, we did not follow him as closely as we should have.

Anyone who has travelled the road of faith, knows that it’s not a wide paved highway; rather it’s a narrow dirt track.

Jesus himself said of the road of faith: ‘How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.’

So often that road involves struggle and times of darkness.

 

There are times when we find it hard to believe and we are sore tested by God.  When these times of darkness come, we might recall the words of a fugitive from the Nazis who wrote on the wall of a basement in which he was hiding:

‘I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. 

I believe in love even when I do not feel it.

I believe in God even when he is silent.’

 

Travelling that road of faith involved loving trust in God even in the darkest of times.

Remember these words which Jesus addressed to Thomas:

‘Do you believe because you see me?  How happy are those who believe without seeing me!’

 

hendrick-ter-brugghen-doubtingthomas

Hendrick Jansz ter Brugghen (or Terbrugghen) (1588 – 1 November 1629)

 

Collect

Almighty and eternal God, the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt,

may we, who have not seen, have faith and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing,

who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,

now and for ever.

 

 

 

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Sounds like a real stinker!

 

 

Rachel Whitaker, a Christian girl, heads off to college for her much-anticipated freshman year. New friends create situations that require important, quick decisions—some about her social life, some about her core beliefs! Rachel begins to embrace the ideas of the university’s immensely popular biology professor (Harry Anderson) who boldly teaches that Darwinian evolution is the only logical explanation for the origin of life, and the Bible therefore cannot be true. When Rachel’s father (Jay Pickett) senses something changing in his daughter while she is home on a weekend visit; he begins to look into the situation and what he discovers catches him completely off guard. Now very concerned about Rachel drifting away from her Christian faith and the clear teachings of the Bible, he accepts an impossible challenge and tries to do something about it!

 

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May 3, 2014 · 15:22

Bono Vox

Bono talks to Gay Byrne about religion and his beliefs

When Bono and his family want to worship, they read Scriptures, go to church or sometimes just pile into bed and pray.

In an interview with Ireland’s RTE One in June 2013, the U2 frontman opened up about his belief in Jesus, his prayer practice and the way he and his wife instill religious values in their children.

“I pray to get to know the will of God, because then the prayers have more chance of coming true — I mean, that’s the thing about prayer,” Bono told interviewer Gay Byrne. “We don’t do it in a very lofty way in our family. It’s just a bunch of us on the bed, usually, we’ve a very big bed in our house. We pray with all our kids, we read the Scriptures, we pray.”

Byrne presses Bono on his perception of Jesus — Was he divine? Did he truly rise from the dead? Bono answers in the affirmative.

“[Jesus] went around saying he was the Messiah. That’s why he was crucified. He was crucified because he said he was the Son of God. So, he either, in my view, was the Son of God or he was nuts. Forget rock-and-roll messianic complexes, I mean Charlie Manson-type delirium. And I find it hard to accept that whole millions and millions of lives, half the Earth, for 2,000 years have been touched, have felt their lives touched and inspired by some nutter. I just, I don’t believe it.”
When asked if he believed Jesus made promises that would come true, Bono replied, “Yes, I do.”

Apart from his prolific music career, Bono is also an avid philanthropist and social entrepreneur. In 2002 he co-founded DATA, an AIDS and poverty awareness organization that would go on to create ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History.

Bono’s faith has been an ongoing factor in his advocacy work, and it even cropped up in the lyrics of some of his most famous U2 hits. From ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’: “I believe in the kingdom come/Then all the colors will bleed into one.”

(from Huff Post)

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April 11, 2014 · 15:30

Change and Decay 3: The Religious Right

AlterNet / By CJ Werleman
Christian Right Has Major Role in Hastening Decline of Religion in America
Soon, there will be more atheists and agnostics than Christians.

March 22, 2014

Of those aged 18 to 35, three in 10 say they are not affiliated with any religion, while only half are “absolutely certain” a god exists. These are at or near the highest levels of religious disaffiliation recorded for any generation in the 25 years the Pew Research Center has been polling on these topics.

As encouraging as this data is for secular humanists, the actual numbers may be significantly higher, as columnist Tina Dupuy observes. “When it comes to self-reporting religious devotion Americans cannot be trusted. We under-estimate our calories, over-state our height, under-report our weight and when it comes to piety—we lie like a prayer rug.”

Every piece of social data suggests that those who favor faith and superstition over fact-based evidence will become the minority in this country by or before the end of this century. In fact, the number of Americans who do not believe in a deity doubled in the last decade of the previous century according to both the census of 2004 and the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) of 2008, with religious non-belief in the U.S. rising from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 14.2 percent in 2001. In 2013, that number is now above 16 percent.

If current trends continue, the crossing point, whereby atheists, agnostics, and “nones” equals the number of Christians in this country, will be in the year 2062. If that gives you reason to celebrate, consider this: by the year 2130, the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Christian will equal a little more than 1 percent. To put that into perspective, today roughly 1 percent of the population is Muslim.

The fastest growing religious faith in the United States is the group collectively labeled “Nones,” who spurn organized religion in favor of non-defined skepticism about faith. About two-thirds of Nones say they are former believers. This is hugely significant. The trend is very much that Americans raised in Christian households are shunning the religion of their parents for any number of reasons: the advancement of human understanding; greater access to information; the scandals of the Catholic Church; and the over-zealousness of the Christian Right.

Political scientists Robert Putman and David Campbell, the authors of American Grace, argue that the Christian Right’s politicization of faith in the 1990s turned younger, socially liberal Christians away from churches, even as conservatives became more zealous. “While the Republican base has become ever more committed to mixing religion and politics, the rest of the country has been moving in the opposite direction.”

Ironically, the rise of the Christian Right over the course of the past three decades may well end up being the catalyst for Christianity’s rapid decline. From the moment Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority helped elect Ronald Reagan in 1980, evangelical Christians, who account for roughly 30 percent of the U.S. population, identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. Michael Spencer, a writer who describes himself as a post-evangelical reform Christian, says, “Evangelicals fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith. Evangelicals will be seen increasingly as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.”

In light of the recent backlash against Republicans who supported the right-to-discriminate bills across 11 states, Spencer’s words seem prophetic. Republican lawmakers had expected evangelicals to mobilize in the aftermath of Arizona governor Jan Brewer’s veto of SB1062. Instead, legislatures in states like Mississippi, Kansas, and Oklahoma have largely backed down from attempts to protect “religious freedom” after a national outcry branded the proposed bills discriminatory.

Every denomination in the U.S. is losing both affiliation and church attendance. In some ways the country is a half-generation behind the declining rate of Christianity in other western countries like the U.K., Australia, Germany, Sweden, Norway, France, and the Netherlands. In those countries, what were once churches are now art galleries, cafes and pubs. In Germany more than 50 percent say they do not believe in any god, and this number is declining rapidly. In the U.K., church attendances have halved since the 1970s.

A recent study into thebeliefs of people living in 137 countries concludes that religious people will be a minority in many developed countries by 2041. Nigel Barber, an Irish bio-psychologist, based his book, Why Atheism Will Replace Religion, on the findings. His book also debunks the popular belief that religious groups will dominate atheistic ones because they collectively have more children. “Noisy as they can be, such groups are tiny minorities of the global population and they will become even more marginalized as global prosperity increases and standards of living improve,” writes Barber.

Anthropologists have often stated that religion evolved to help early man cope with anxiety and insecurity. Barber contends that supernatural belief is in decline everywhere for the fact that ordinary people enjoy a decent standard of living and are secure in their health and finances. “The market for formal religion is also being squeezed by modern substitutes such as sports and entertainment. Even Facebook is killing religion because it provides answers for peculiarly modern narcissistic anxieties for which religion has no answer,” observes Barber.

While some polls show roughly 9 in 10 Americans still maintain belief in a god or gods, the trend of religious young Americans is toward a mish-mash of varied religious beliefs. A 2010 USA Today survey revealed that 72 percent of the nation’s young people identify as “more spiritual than religious.”

With an increasingly majority of younger Americans accepting evolution as fact, Christianity for many under 35 is becoming a watered-down hybrid of eastern philosophy and biblical teachings. “The turn towards being ‘spiritual but not religious’ points at the decreasing observation of doctrine and strict rules and a broader relationship to sentiment and ‘Jesus and me’ on the one hand alongside the rise of yoga, Buddhism, Hinduism and a blend or smorgasbord of eastern practices with the idea of being loosely/broadly spiritual—yet not in any specific context or foundation of the Trinity, Seven Deadly Sins, Karma, Nirvana or any of the pillars or branches of belief,” writes Alan Miller, moderator of a “spiritual but not religious” event.

Young people are turning away from the church and from basic Christian beliefs. While a number of non-denominational mega-churches continue to thrive, their teachings are less dogma and more self-help. Eventually, Christianity-Lite will be replaced with Spirituality-Full Strength.

Certainly, pro-secular groups have been largely successful in removing Jesus from the public square, workplace and classroom.

All of which leaves only one self-evident conclusion: that despite the Christian Right’s well-funded and well-organized effort to transform America’s secular state into a tyrannical theocracy, Christianity will inevitably mirror the days of its origins i.e. something that is only whispered about in secretly guarded places. And that may happen sooner than you think.

CJ Werleman is the author of “Crucifying America,” and “God Hates You. Hate Him Back.” Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman

 

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Dangerous

Herbert and Catherine Schaible did not seek medical help for their eight-month-old son who died.

A fundamentalist Christian couple in the US who believe in faith-healing over medicine pleaded no contest to third-degree murder in the death of their infant son, nearly four years after they were put on probation for the similar death of another child.

The 10-year probation term in the 2009 case required Herbert and Catherine Schaible to seek immediate medical help if another of their children became sick or injured. But prosecutors said the couple instead prayed over their 8-month-old son, Brandon, before he died of pneumonia in April.

Assistant district attorney Joanna Pescatore said she could argue for any sentence up to the 20- to 40-year maximum prison term when the Schaibles return for sentencing in February.

The Schaibles were on probation because they had previously been convicted by a jury of involuntary manslaughter in the January 2009 pneumonia death of their 2-year-old son, Kent.

Herbert Schaible, 45, remained jailed Thursday, unable to post US$250,000. His 44-year-old wife has been free since members of their church raised 10 percent of the same bail amount to secure her release.

The no-contest plea has the same legal effect as a guilty plea, but it means the couple didn’t admit wrongdoing and chose not to contest the evidence against them.

Herbert Schaible’s attorney, Bobby Hoof, said his client didn’t want to go to trial.

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Sermon preached at Dumfries Northwest – 18 August 2013: “Chaos, Fear and Faith”

Psalm 27, vv 1, 7-11, 13-14      Mark 4, vv 35-41

 

Richard Trench was the Archbishop of Dublin at the end of the 19th Century.  In the last two years of his life he fought with great courage a progressive illness that left him increasingly paralysed.

As a guest of honour at the Lord Mayor’s banquet in London, he was seen to be growing increasingly disquieted until someone asked if he felt well enough to continue.  ‘It has come at last’ he sighed, ‘complete paralysis of my lower left-hand side. I have been pinching my leg and cannot feel a thing.  And yet with Christ as my companion, I shall endure it with courage’

 At this point, the lady sitting next to him leaned across and said ‘Your Grace, would it help you to know that it has been my leg you have been pinching for the last quarter of an hour?’

Many people have been helped by the prayer of serenity:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference

–ooOOoo–

 

But many people who find themselves ill are less philosophical.

For many, illness is a corrosive wretched traumatic time of inner turmoil and confusion.

On a summer’s day sometime in the past, I first came across a particular young woman  In the Crichton Royal Hospital in Dumfries where  there are beautifully kept grounds – lawns and flowerbeds with shrubs, plants, and flowers which are a delight to the eye.

Standing in the veranda of a particular ward I was talking to someone who had come to visit a relative who had been admitted there.  He mentioned the grounds and how attractive they were, and I responded by saying something along the lines of how the planners had designed them to be therapeutic.  They are calm and tranquil, and were created to have a beneficial effect upon patients.

Behind me there was a mocking voice .  The young patient who I learned later was a troubled, confused, anxious, frustrated and unhappy young woman.

‘What the **** would you know about it?’,  she shouted.  ‘What’s the point of peaceful lawns, when you’re feel like this, when you’re not peaceful inside.’

And with that, got up and went back into the ward, slamming the door to the veranda.

That’s always stuck with me – even although it happened back in 1999 

So many people are not, to use her words, ‘peaceful inside’

–ooOOoo–

It doesn’t have to be those who are in the mental health care sector.

I’ve seen it so often elsewhere – folk who are in turmoil, frightened, anxious, disorientated, lost, adrift from family, divorced from happier days… and sometimes angry and guilty.

For some, all the old signposts have gone.  They may be disorientated and directionless.  Their feeling of wholeness, of    personhood has been fractured.  They are  isolated from his known worlds

Patients are, if you will, captives.  Prisoners of their illness, prisoners of their fears and anxieties.  

Someone once said that being ill is like being in a state of chaos.  In a maelstrom of emotions. 

 –ooOOoo–

 

The Gospel story from Mark which we listened to earlier tells of a storm at sea.  It’s perhaps interesting to note that the author or editor has placed this story of an actual literal storm immediately before three other events which involve people in chaos and confusion: the stories of a demon-possessed man, a young girl who is terminally ill, and a confused and despairing woman who has been haemorrhaging for some twelve years without relief. 

In the boat the disciples were panic stricken, confused, frightened men who were at the mercy of elements beyond their control.  They were being tossed hither and thither on a turbulent sea, facing an uncertain future.  And no one seemed to care.  Christ was even asleep in the stern of the boat..

Yet Jesus was with them in the storm – he was with them in the same boat, as the strong winds buffeted the sail and the waves were crashing over the side. And he is with us in the storms of life.  He never abandons us.  He cares about us and our situation whatever that may be. 

He enters into the chaos.  He is present with us in the chaos.  He journeys with us through the maelstrom.

 –ooOOoo–

 Shouldn’t we as Christians, followers of the Great Physician of our souls and bodies,  enter  these predicaments, accepting folk for what they are, with all their resentments, anxieties, anger, self-pity, unspoken needs.

Our aim is to instil faith for fear and hope for despair, demonstrating in the process God’s love and interest in his children, and responding always to the fundamental human need to be heard and understood.

–ooOOoo– 

We think of doubt and unbelief keeping people from faith.  Perhaps, more often than we realise, it is fear.

The fear of the disciples in the storm was an unbelieving fear – Jesus didn’t care about us, they thought 

When St. Paul was being taken prisoner to Rome, he was caught in a violent storm which was so bad that Luke recorded ‘We finally gave up all hope of being saved’ (Acts 27, v. 20b)

Then one bleak morning Paul came out and said, “Take heart!  Not one of you will lose your life; only the ship will be lost.  For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship came to me and said ‘Do not be afraid, Paul!  You must stand before the Emperor.  And God in his goodness to you has spared the lives of all those who are sailing with you’ So take heart, men!  For I trust in God that it will be just as I was told”  (vv. 22-25)

Paul was trusting in ‘the God to whom I belong and whom I worship’ All of us can take heart – all of us will be safe.

–ooOOoo–

 

 But we too have to have the courage of our convictions.

A family was on holiday in a remote cottage.  There was no electricity and no running water.  The only gas was from a camping stove.

At bedtime, the young daughter was extremely brave about going upstairs with her mother by the light of a candle.

But a puff of wind blew the candle out, leaving them in total darkness.  The little girl was afraid.

“I’ll go back downstairs to get the matches” said her Mum, “but don’t be afraid, Jesus is here with you” “But Mum” replied the daughter, “Can’t you stay here and we’ll send Jesus for the matches?”

It doesn’t quite work like that!

 We are called to live by faith and not by fear.  Living by faith means that, while we may not know the details of life, we can be sure of the outcome.

We can live by faith – for we know that God has promised to be with us.  His grace is going to be sufficient for us.  His Word will guide us.  His Spirit will be within us with enabling power. 

‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear.  The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid…..Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord’

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Terry Waite

waite

 

Terry Waite, the special envoy of the then Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt.Rev. Robert Runcie was captured by the Hezbollah in Beirut, Lebanon as he attempted to negotiate the release of a group of western hostages. He remained in captivity for 1,763 days, much of it in solitary confinement. For the first year he was kept in a windowless, underground room and deprived of all but the most basic of human contact. Permitted, at most, one hour of exercise per day he spent the rest of his time chained to the wall.

In his mind, he reviewed the books he had read; travelled down the roads he had once travelled and viewed the sights he had seen on those travels. Deprived of pen and paper he composed his autobiography in his head. He remembered books he had read long before and he recited portions of the various prayer book services and biblical passages that had become a part of his soul, if he could only remember parts of them, he recited those parts.

Then, after he had pleaded for some time, he was brought a series of books. Along with the very Church of England Prayer Book he had carried as a gift to some earlier prisoners, by then somewhat mutilated and a Bible, he enjoyed classics, and crime fiction novels of varying
quality. As his captors could not read much English, and had to be careful when they went out to buy English books, he sometimes received some very odd choices: Dr Spock, manuals on breast feeding and even a story of an ingenious escape from a prison camp in World War II!

During his years of solitary confinement, he received only one letter, a postcard from a woman he did not even know, who told him that he was in her prayers. This lone card gave him immense strength.

As his captivity was nearing an end he was allowed a radio and heard numerous references to the hostage situation in general and to himself in particular. One such broadcast was obviously designed in the hope that he had a radio and could indeed hear it and it gave him much sought information on his mother and his wife and children. He also listened to several church services where his name was lifted up in prayer or mentioned in the sermon.

Upon his release he wrote and published the autobiography he had penned in his head during those long days of captivity. He also actively sought out copies of those books which had sustained him in during those long five years and later published a book which contains excerpts from those books and his commentary on what they had meant to him. His books are honest accounts of his thoughts and feelings, his ups and downs during his captivity and his strong faith in the presence and power of God.

After his release, he was invited to give many speeches on his experience in captivity. After one such speech, a questioner pointed out to him that he had been fortunate, that he had been given a kind of gift; the gift of being able to reflect on his life and his faith and to decide what was most important to him.

He said that Waite had been given the opportunity to do it in ways that people who have the responsibility of the regular round of work and family duties rarely can. Waite agreed with him.

Terry Waite had – still has – a faith which sustains, as contrasted to a faith or a lifestyle which looks good on the surface, and may seem more pleasant, but which has no real substance or rooted-ness.

 

Jesus was in no doubt which way in the end brought true happiness. It is his teaching that the joy of heaven will amply compensate for any trouble on earth.

As St Paul said, ‘Our light affliction is but for a moment and works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory’ (2 Corinthians 4:7)

The challenge of Jesus every day – is ‘Will you be happy in the world’s way, or in mine?’

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Optimism

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

― Helen Keller

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Questions

Some questions…..

Why do doctors and lawyers call what they do practice?

Why is abbreviation such a long word?

Why is it that when you’re driving and looking for an address, you turn down the volume on your radio?

Why is a boxing ring square?

What was the best thing before sliced bread?

How did a fool and his money get together in the first place?

There are indeed a lot of things in this life that we just really don’t understand.

But let me take it to a deeper and more disturbing level. For example, we don’t really understand disease.  Why is a youngster perfectly healthy for 13 years of his life… and then suddenly just happens to be in a place where he suddenly encounters some germ or bacteria that invades his body and destroys it? This happens in meningitis cases.

And we don’t understand accidents.  They are so random and indiscriminate. You start out a day that is like any other day… and then something happens in a matter of seconds… and life is forever different.  You can never go back beyond that accident.

On and on we could go with our list… of things we don’t really understand.

Why is there so much pain in our world? Why do good people suffer? Why do we hurt one another? Why can’t people get along? And why do some of the best prayers seem to go unanswered?

Now, all of these difficult questions prompt us to raise yet another crucial question: What can we count on from God?  When we face the troubles of the world, the heartaches of life, the tough challenges of this existence… what can we count on from God?

Christ tells a parable – a rather strange parable. It involves two people: an unjust arrogant judge and a humble but persistent woman.  The judge ignores her at first, but finally grants her justice because she is so persistent.  She won’t give up and she won’t go away… so eventually he gives in and comes through for her.

Now that’s the parable. Jesus then makes his point and he frames it in the form of a question.

He says, if an unjust judge gives this woman justice how much more will God bring about justice for his chosen ones?

A loving God hears our struggles, hears our cries of help and then responds to them.

WE CAN COUNT ON GOD TO BE WITH US WHEN WE ARE HURTING.

A tragedy left the man homeless, widowed and fatherless. Fire had swept through his house, and all was lost. It took some time for the full weigh of the loss to descend, and when it did, he was nearly crushed.

Like Job in the O.T. he would not be comforted…When the gift of shock was lifted, anger, resentment filled every waking thought.

God had not been fair to him God had not protected his family. He had not come to him with a special visitation to explain the “why” and the “what next”.The greatest temptation was to add to his losses by forfeiting his faith.

He felt justified. No one would fault him. Some might even support him. He prayed angrily now, daring god to hurt him further, challenging him if you like.

He prayed angrily, but he prayed, and God could handle it….The anguish continued to mount until one afternoon he uttered a cry so forcefully, it could only be described as a scream. No word was spoken, just a loud angry scream against the forces of heaven and hell, as if to say, “I’ve hurt all I can, and I’ve paid my dues for love…. Help me.”….

The silence that followed was quieter than silence. A peace was evident for the first time in months.

He believed, at last, that God was caring for those he lost. That God was caring for Him. that God could handle his honest anger, his honest emotions

And God can handle all our pent up emotions, feelings, denials. He is with us in our hurt and our pain.

And, although our questions may not be answered, we can come to know him as the one who always listens, always cares.

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