Sunday, May 28, 2017

Prayers to St. Jude, saint of the impossible

Source link here.

Prayer used at the Shrine
Most Holy Apostle, St. Jude Thaddeus, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the name of the traitor who delivered your beloved Master into the hands of his enemies has caused you to be forgotten by many. But the Church honors you, and I invoke you as the special advocate of those who are in trouble and almost without hope. Help me to realize that through our faith we triumph over life's difficulties by the power of Jesus who loved us and gave his life for us. Come to my assistance that I may receive the consolation and succor of heaven in all my needs, trials, and sufferings, particularly (here make your request) and that I may praise God with you and all the saints forever.

St. Jude, apostle of the Word of God, pray for us.
St. Jude, follower of the Son of God, pray for us.
St. Jude, preacher of the love of God, pray for us.
St. Jude, intercessor before God, pray for us.
St. Jude, friend of all in need, pray for us.
St. Jude, pray for us, and for all who invoke your aid.

A private prayer to St. Jude

Gracious God, your Son Jesus Christ gave us the confidence to call you Father. We believe you care for us. We believe also in the communion of saints. With confidence we ask St. Jude, patron of difficult cases, to pray with us, for our special intentions....

Thank you, God, for hearing our prayer. Amen.

Additional prayers to Saint Jude Thaddeus, Apostle
Dear Jesus, I want to follow you, I want to be your disciple. But I know my weakness and my need of help. May the example of Saint Jude, the forgotten saint, inspire me. May the intercession of Saint Jude, saint of the impossible, help me. By the prayers of all the saints, may I obtain the grace to surrender completely to your love for me. Amen.

God, the Apostle, Saint Jude Thaddeus, was a faithful servant and friend of our Lord Jesus Christ. Your Church honors him and invokes his intercession universally as the patron of those in difficulty who have found no other help. Grant that through St. Jude's intercessions, we may know your will for us, have the strength to do it, and enjoy the consolations of your Holy Spirit. Heavenly Father, may Saint Jude intercede for us in all our necessities, tribulations and sufferings, particularly (here make your needs known). With him and with all the saints may we praise you with your Son and the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sermon: St. Jude Thaddeus: A Crucible of Hope and Our Patron Saint

A sermon by Pastor Karen Siegfriedt of St. Jude the Apostle Episcopal Church, Cupertino, California, U.S.A., given October 25, 1998 (source link here)

Were it not for hope, the heart would break.

A Sri Lankan steel fitter injures his back. He is filled with hope. Learning of a little shrine dedicated to St. Jude in the mountains of his country, he hires people to carry him there, and soon he can go back to work.

Boris, a three year old canine boxer, vanishes on Christmas Eve while being shipped aboard a Delta jet from Florida to New York. His owner, was at the point of giving up all hope But he continued on. He carried out a devotion to St. Jude for several weeks. Six weeks later, the frightened dog was traced to an abandoned house.

In 1964, a navy chaplain was sent to Vietnam with 6000 marines. He lost his faith and was filled with doubt and unbelief. For two months he experienced darkness and emptiness. In a faint yet glimmer of hope, he prayed to St. Jude, came out of his "dark night of the soul", and regained his faith. The chaplain's name is Cardinal John O'Connor, leader of New York's 2.5 million Catholics.

Hope: The one human emotion, the one virtue that keeps humankind afloat, diverting tragedy, healing the sick, comforting the desperate, deciding with some certainty that there is a way out. Hope is not the same thing as optimism. Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out. Hope is the lived out conviction that God?s power permeates the universe and that in the end, God's will, will be done

St. Jude is the symbol of hope; the patron saint of desperate causes. When you talk about Saint Jude, you talk about the world in despair because Jude is the last stop. That means, that when St. Jude becomes part of your devotional prayer life, you are reinforcing your desire to live and are refusing to be overcome by darkness. Who is this saint to whom more churches in the United States are dedicated than any other except for Mary? Who is this saint whose name is born by thousands of shrines and hospitals and to whom millions of petitions are addressed? What responsibility do we carry as a parish church which bears his name? This is the subject of today?s sermon as we celebrate the feast of St. Jude.

The name Jude, comes from the Hebrew word meaning, "I will praise the Lord." There is little description of Jude in the bible. Jude is listed in the gospel of Luke as the son of James and as being one of the twelve apostles. Jude is not the same person as Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. Now the gospels of Matthew and Mark do not list Jude as one of the twelve apostles but rather Thaddeus. Thus, it had been assumed that Jude's surname is Thaddeus and therefore our patron saint is named, Jude Thaddeus. Other than being listed as one of the twelve apostles, Jude is recorded as being at the last supper, and as praying in the upper room with the other apostles after Jesus' resurrection. Most biblical scholars would say that St. Jude the apostle is not the same person as the author of the epistle of Jude found in the Christian Scriptures. So, what is known about St. Jude comes from sources outside the bible. It is difficult to determine which written accounts of Jude are accurate and which are legend. Perhaps the most widely held account was recorded by the distinguished church historian, Eusebius, during the forth century. The story goes something like this.

King Abgar Ukkama, a brilliant and successful monarch of Mesopotamia was dying from a terrible physical disorder which no human power could heal. Having heard about Jesus' ability to heal, the King sent Jesus a letter, begging for relief from his disease. Jesus promised that he would send one of his disciples to cure the king's disease, and at the same time to bring salvation to him and his people. After Jesus' death and resurrection, Jude Thaddeus was sent to Edessa to heal the King. After examining the king's faith (in the healing power of Jesus), Jude laid his hands on the king and healed him of his infirmities. At daybreak, king Abgar instructed his citizens to assemble and to hear the preaching of the Good News by Jude Thaddeus. It was in this manner that the gospel was spread to that area of Northern Iran.

There is a thirteenth century manuscript in Armenia that describes Jude's death. This manuscript records that after having won favor from King Abgar with his miracles in Edessa, the apostle pressed eastward to Armenia to the court of King Sanatrouk, son of Abgar's sister. The apostle "arrived at the king's court to preach the good news of the kingdom of heaven, and there performed miracles and cured all kinds of sicknesses. Many believed his words and were baptized, including the king's daughter. Upon learning of this, king Sanatrouk grew wrathful and sent one of his princes to murder the apostle and his own daughter. Jude was forced to climb up to a ledge raised in the midst of rock. Stretching out his arms in prayer, Jude cried: "my Savior Jesus Christ, do not abandon my diocese, do not leave the people in the errors of idolatry, but illuminate them at the filling moment in the knowledge of your faith." Then the king's men murdered Jude with a sword and buried him in the midst of an overturned rock."

Are these events based on fact or fiction? Are the cures and acts of grace bestowed upon people who turn to St. Jude, miracles, or are they coincidences? We will never know the answer. However, this we do know. St. Jude is the symbol and crucible of hope for many Christians. Were it not for hope, the human heart would break. Hope is one of the great theological virtues. It is what keeps us going when darkness obscures the light. Hope is different from wishing. Wishing means to place before one's mind, a desired object or goal and waiting for a favorable outcome. But hope is remembering what God has already done in history and what God has promised to do in the future. Hope is the realization that the love of God has permanently affected humankind and that the whole creation will eventually be lifted up to God. "All things work together for good to them that love God."

As the second Christian millennium draws to a close, America is caught up in one of the most fervent religious revivals in its history. We see it in the zeal of the religious right, the passion of the New Age seekers, and the yearning of the hearts of those who are searching for meaning. Our nation has been most blest among nations. Our people have been seen as the best, brightest, richest, prettiest, smartest, and resiliently optimistic. Yet now, we are perhaps the most desperate, a depressed, self satisfied and spiritually empty people. We are now turning our spirits inward to explore the emptiness that no American military or political victory seems able to fill, or that no material gain or scientific milestone can dispel. We found out that a small, poverty stricken country in Southeast Asia could cripple our economic security, and thus have been brought face to face with our own vulnerability. The fitting recourse to this sense of loss of security must be hope, for without hope, desperation waits to fill the void.

So how do we increase our hope? When I hear this question, I like to look at a group of exemplar Christians who maintain an incredible sense of hope in the midst of poverty, chaos, corruption, and disease. This group is called the Sisters of Charity, a group of nuns who was founded by Mother Theresa. These sisters are able to pick up rat bitten, infected lepers off the dirty, noisy streets of Calcutta and show these discarded human beings, the love of God. These sisters do not get discouraged. They do not give up. They do not lose hope. Why? What is it that allows them to maintain a non-anxious presence, a presence of hope, in the midst of worldly darkness and despair? A lot of it has to do with their prayer life. Each day, they put aside an hour to practice devotional prayer. It is a simple, innocent approach to religion, where God and the communion of saints are called upon in intercessory and petitionary prayer; where God's saving acts in history are rehearsed over and over again so that they can remember God's faithfulness when there is no apparent evidence in the present moment. Devotional prayer is a means of placing one's mind, and heart, and soul, and hands into God's presence, and allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to permeate one's thoughts, words, and actions.

Now many Episcopalians scoff at devotional practices especially when it has to do with praying with and to the saints of our church. Most of us are at a different stage of faith than devotional practice. Our approach tends to be more intellectual. We would rather study the faith than pray it. We would rather be in control than abandon ourselves into the arms or God. However, I do notice that the people of St. Jude's light candles during Sunday worship. I notice that the people of St. Jude's offer prayers of petition each Sunday. Perhaps at a deep level we know that devotion to God and prayer has power to give us a the hope, without which the heart would break.

Now what does this mean for us, the people of St. Jude's in Cupertino,whose church bears the name of the Saint of desperate causes? Well there are a lot of desperate people out there who need to experience the light of Christ; who need to be coaxed out of despair and into hope. We need to provide a place where anyone can come and be reminded that God is intimately working in the world, even when there is no evidence in their lives.

Now this weekend, your vestry has come up with a vision for St. Jude's in Cupertino. They envision this place to become a spirit-filled church where every Sunday is like Easter Sunday. This means that we are present each Sunday at worship, that the pews are overflowing with joyful and spirit-filled people, raising their voices in song and prayer such that the presence of God can be felt even to the rafters. What an oasis of hope in Santa Clara County we could become! But we have work to do. We need to learn how to pray and to turn to a life of prayer, out of which hope rises up. "It is very important to cross the threshold of hope, and not to stop before it, but to let oneself be led." St. Jude, help us to cross that threshold of hope.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Article: The Saint of the Sock Drawer

An article by James Martin, S.J., associate editor of America, The National Catholic Weekly, January 3, 2005 (source link here)

When I was 9 years old, I spied an advertisement in a magazine for a plastic statue of St. Jude. I can’t imagine which magazine this could have been, since my parents weren’t in the habit of leaving Catholic publications lying around the house, but apparently the photo of the statue was sufficiently appealing to convince me to drop $3.50 in an envelope. At the time, my greatest pleasure was ordering things through the mail. The cereal boxes that lined our kitchen shelves all boasted small squares on the back to be clipped out, filled in with my address and sent away, along with a dollar bill. A few weeks later a brown-paper package addressed to me would arrive in our mailbox. Few things filled me with more excitement.

While the most attractive offers were featured in comic books, these photos rarely represented what the postman eventually delivered. The “Terrifying Flying Ghost” on the back cover of a Spider-Man comic book turned out to be a plastic ball, a rubber band and a piece of white tissue paper. The “Fake Vomit” looked nothing like the real stuff and the “Monster Tarantula” was rather small. Worse, my six-week wait for “Sea Monkeys,” whose colorful advertisement showed smiling aquatic figures (the largest one wearing a crown) cavorting in a sort of sea city, was rewarded by a packet of shrimp eggs. Though the Sea Monkeys did hatch in a fishbowl on a chair in my bedroom, they were so small as to be nearly invisible, and none, as far as I could tell, wore a crown. (Sea Monkey City was nearly annihilated when I accidentally sneezed on it during my annual winter cold.)

Other purchases were more successful. My Swimming Tony the Tiger toy, whose purchase required eating my way through several boxes of Sugar Frosted Flakes to earn sufficient box tops, amazed even my parents with his swimming skills. The orange-and-black plastic tiger had arms that rotated and legs that kicked maniacally, and he was able to churn his way through the choppy waters of the stopped-up kitchen sink. One day Tony, fresh from a dip, slipped out of my fingers and dropped on the linoleum floor. Both of his arms fell off, marking the end of his short swimming career. I put the armless tiger in the fishbowl with the Sea Monkeys, who seemed not to mind the company.

Even with my predilection for all these mail-order purchases, I can’t imagine what led me to focus my childish desires on St. Jude and spend in excess of three weeks’ allowance on a plastic statue instead of, say, another Archie comic book. My only other obsession at that time was a green pup tent I had seen in the Sears catalogue, but this too was thrown over in favor of St. Jude.

It wasn’t any interest on the part of my family, or any knowledge about St. Jude that drew me to him. I certainly knew nothing about him, other than what the magazine ad said: he was the patron saint of hopeless causes. But even if I had been interested in reading about him, there would have been little to read. For all his current-day popularity, Jude remains a mysterious figure. Though he is named as one of the Twelve Apostles, there are only three brief mentions of Jude in all of the New Testament. Two lists of the apostles, in fact, in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, fail to name him at all. They instead mention a certain Thaddeus, giving rise to the name St. Jude Thaddeus. To confuse matters more, there is also a Jude listed as the “brother of Jesus” in the Gospel of Mark. And though some ancient legends mention his work in Mesopotamia and Persia, the Encyclopedia of Catholicism says candidly, “We have no reliable information about this obscure figure.”

But Jude’s story didn’t concern me. What appealed most was that he was patron of hopeless causes. Who knew what help someone like that could give me? A tiger that could swim in the kitchen sink was one thing, but a saint who could get me what I wanted was quite another. It was worth at least $3.50.

In a few weeks, I received in the mail a little package containing a nine-inch beige plastic statue, along with a booklet of prayers to be used for praying to my new patron. St. Jude the Beige, who held a staff and carried a sort of plate emblazoned with the image of a face (which I supposed was Jesus, though this was difficult to discern) was immediately given pride of place on top of the dresser in my bedroom.

At the time, I prayed to God only intermittently, and then mainly to ask for things. Please let me get an A on my next test. Please let me do well in Little League this year. I used to envision God as the Great Problem Solver, the one who would fix everything if I just prayed hard enough, used the correct prayers and prayed in precisely the right way. But when God couldn’t fix things (which seemed to be the case more frequently than I would have liked) I would turn to St. Jude. I figured that if it was beyond the capacity of God to do something, then surely it must be a lost cause, and it was time to call on Jude.

Fortunately, the booklet that accompanied the St. Jude statue included plenty of good prayers, and even featured one in Latin that began “Tantum ergo sacramentum....” I reserved the Latin prayer for only the most important impossible causes, like final exams. When I really wanted something I would say the Tantum ergo prayer, uncomprehendingly, three times on my knees.

St. Jude stood patiently atop my dresser until high school. My high school friends, when visiting our house, often used to hang out in my bedroom. And though I was by now fond of St. Jude, I was afraid of what my pals would think if they spotted a weird plastic statue standing on my dresser. So Jude was relegated to inside my sock drawer and brought out only on special occasions.

My faith was another thing, you could say, that was relegated to the sock drawer for the next several years. During high school, I made it to Mass more or less weekly; but later, in college, I became only an occasional churchgoer (though I still prayed to the Great Problem Solver). As my faith grew thinner and thinner, my affinity for St. Jude began to seem childish: silly, superstitious and faintly embarrassing.

That changed for me around age 26. Dissatisfied with life in the business world, I began giving thought to doing something else with my life, though at the time I had little idea of what that “something else” would be. All I knew was that after a few years in corporate America, I wanted out. From that banal sentiment, however, God was able to act. The Great Problem Solver was at work on a problem that I comprehended only dimly. In time, God would give me an answer to a question that I hadn’t even asked.

One evening, I came home and flipped on the television set. The local PBS station was airing a documentary about a Catholic priest named Thomas Merton. Though I had never heard of Merton, a parade of talking heads appeared onscreen to testify to his influence on their lives. In just a few minutes, I got the idea that Merton was bright, funny, holy and altogether unique. The documentary was sufficiently interesting to prompt me to track down, purchase and read his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain. It captivated me as few books ever have.

Over the next two years, whenever I thought seriously about the future, the only thing that seemed to make sense was entering a religious order. There were, of course, some doubts, some false starts, some hesitations and some worries about embarrassing myself, but eventually I decided to quit my job and, at age 28, enter the Society of Jesus.

Upon entering the novitiate, I was surprised to learn that most of my fellow novices had strong devotions to one or another saint. They spoke with clear affection for their favorite saints, almost as if they knew them personally. One novice was fond of Dorothy Day, quoting her liberally during our weekly community meetings. Another talked a great deal about St. Thérèse of Lisieux. But though my brother novices were sincere in their devotions and patiently related the lives of their heroes and heroines to me, I now found the idea of praying to the saints wholly superstitious. I wondered, what’s the point? If God hears your prayers, why do you need the saints?

That question was answered when I discovered the collection of saints’ lives that filled the creaky wooden bookcases in the novitiate library.

The first selection I pulled from the shelves resulted from some serious prompting from one novice: “You’ve got to read The Story of a Soul,” he kept telling me. “Then you’ll understand why I like Thérèse so much.”

At this point, I knew little about “The Little Flower,” and imagined Thérèse as a sort of shrinking violet: timid, skittish and dull. So I was astonished when her autobiography revealed instead a lively, intelligent and strong-willed woman, someone I might like to have known. Reading her story led me to track down other biographies, some well known, some obscure, in our library: St. Stanislaus Kostka, a young Jesuit saint, who despite vigorous protests from his family, walked 450 miles to enter the Jesuit novitiate. St. Teresa of Avila, who decided, to the surprise of everyone and the dismay of many, to overhaul her Carmelite order. And Pope John XXIII who, I was happy to discover, was not only compassionate and innovative, but also witty.

Gradually, I found myself growing fonder of these saints and feeling a growing tenderness toward them. I began to see them as models of holiness relevant to my own life. And I began to appreciate the marvelous particularity of their lives. Each saint was holy in his or her own unique way, and revealed God’s way of celebrating individuality. As C. S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity: “How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints!”

This gave me, and gives me, enormous consolation. For I eventually realized that none of us are meant to be Thérèse of Lisieux or Stanislaus Kostka or Pope John XXIII. “For me to be a saint means to be myself,” wrote Thomas Merton. Each saint lived his or her call to sanctity in different ways, and we are called to imitate them in their diversity. There is no need for anyone to do precisely what Mother Teresa or St. Francis of Assisi did. Instead, we are called to lead holy lives in our own places and own times and own ways. And that meant that my own quest for holiness was, ultimately, a quest to be myself.

In his beautiful Journal of a Soul, the autobiographical work that runs from his young adulthood almost to his death, Pope John XXIII meditated on this truth in an entry recorded in 1907. Reflecting on the lives of the saints, Angelo Roncalli notes that he is not meant to be a “dry, bloodless reproduction of a model, no matter how perfect.” He is meant rather to find sanctity in his own life, according to his own capacities and circumstances. “If Saint Aloysius had been as I am,” he concluded, “he would have been holy in a different way.”

In reading about the saints, I also discovered that I could easily recognize myself, or at least parts of myself, in their stories. This was still another aspect of their lives I appreciated: knowing that they had struggled with the same human frailties that everyone does. This, in turn, encouraged me to pray to them for help during particular times and for particular needs. I knew that Merton had struggled mightily with pride and egotism, so when combating the same I would pray for his intercession. When sick I would pray to Thérèse: she understood what it was to battle with self-pity and even depression during an illness. For compassion, to Aloysius. For a better sense of humor and an appreciation of the absurdities of life, to John XXIII.

Quite by surprise, then, I went from someone suspicious of affection for the saints to someone who counted it as one of the joys of my life.

Now I find myself introducing others to favorite saints and, likewise, still being introduced to new ones. And the way you discover a new saint is often similar to the way in which you meet a new friend. Maybe you’ll hear an admiring comment about someone and think, “I’d like to get to know that person.” When I started reading about English Catholic history, I knew that I wanted to meet St. Edmund Campion. Or perhaps you’re introduced by someone else who knows you’ll enjoy that person’s company. Like the novice who introduced me to Thérèse. Or you run across someone, totally by accident, during your day-to-day life. It wasn’t until my philosophy studies as a Jesuit that I read St. Augustine’s Confessions and fell in love with his writings and his way of speaking of God. These days I wonder which new saint I will encounter next.

Now I have a confession to make. At the beginning of this essay I said that I wasn’t sure what had led me to my affinity to St. Jude. But when I think about it, that’s not entirely true: I now know it was God who did so. God works in some very weird ways, and certainly moving a boy to begin a life of devotion to the saints through a magazine advertisement is one of the stranger ones. But grace is grace, and when I look back over my life I give thanks that I’ve met so many wonderful saints who pray for me, offer me comfort, give me examples of discipleship and help me along the way.

All of this, I like to think, is thanks to St. Jude, who, for all those years stuck inside the sock drawer, prayed for a boy who didn’t even know he was being prayed for.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Painting: St. Jude Thaddeus by Maria Matheus

Maria Matheus, is an artist born in São Paulo, Brazil. She graduated in architecture, having worked as a designer at the Anos 50 Art Gallery. She participated in individual and group exhibitions, at cities like São Paulo, Santos, Brasilia and others.

Ending her work at Anos 50 Art Gallery, Maria Matheus returned to academy where she obtained her doctorate degree, devoting herself to teaching and research. The possibility of dividing her life between Paraty in Brazil and Bayfield in the U.S.A. led her back to fine arts. Her works signed as Maria Santeira reflect her theme option, having sacred as predominant theme.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Why do people pray to St. Jude?

Source link here.

Catholics have a long tradition of praying to the saints and this tradition has sometimes been misunderstood. With all Christians we keep the First Commandment and adore only the Most Blessed Trinity. Praying to the saints is not a substitute for praying to God, whom we acknowledge to be the source of everything.

We pray to the saints because they are our older sisters and brothers who have gone through what we ourselves are experiencing now. We ask them to remind God that it was by His grace that they triumphed over life’s difficulties and that we today need that same grace.

Even though we have a long tradition of praying to the saints (or more precisely asking the saints to pray to the Lord our God for us!), it is only in our own times that St. Jude has become a popular patron. Why? In the past, people sometimes confused St. Jude with Judas Iscariot, but people now realize they are alike in name only!

And people realized too that the story of St. Jude is very often like their own: people sometimes ignored and misunderstood – people struggling to accept their call to holiness and the offer of forgiveness – people finding it hard to believe that God is always faithful to his promises.

If any of those phrases describe you, welcome!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Article: Touching Incidents and Remarkable Answers to Prayer by S.B. Shaw

From “Touching Incidents and Remarkable Answers to Prayer” by S.B. Shaw, 1893 (source link here).

I had had a very busy day, and experienced a very delightful feeling of restfulness, as I settled myself in a comfortable arm-chair, after having said “Good-night” to my children. Just before going, they had sung their evening hymn. As their sweet childish voices had joined with that of their mother, one verse had made an impression on my mind.

I was familiar with it, but it came to me with a new beauty and force. It was:

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord
Familiar, condescending, patient, free,
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.”

My wife went away with the little ones to see them to bed, and I was left alone with this verse of the hymn repeating itself in my memory; and the thought came to me, supposing He were to come as He came to his disciples, am I altogether prepared to receive Him into my house, to abide with me? And as I meditated on the subject, I fell asleep, and dreamed, and, lo the door of the room opened, and in walked one whom I knew at once to be the Christ. Not the glorified Redeemer, as seen by John in the Isle of Patmos. No, he had answered the prayer of our hymn, and had come in humble human form:
“Familiar, condescending, patient, free.”

I knelt before Him, but He laid His hand on me and said: “Arise, for I have come to tarry with thee.”

My recollection of my dream here grows somewhat confused; but I remember it again when the next morning seemed to have arrived, and I was gathering my children around me, and telling them that Jesus had come to stay with us in the house. The little ones clapped their hands for joy, and my dear wife’s face beamed with rapture that seemed to transfigure her.

Just then the Lord Himself entered the room, and we took our seats around the breakfast-tablet. What language can I use to describe the wondrous peace which filled all our souls, or how our hearts burned within us as He talked with us?

But when the meal was over, and we had family worship, which was that day a foretaste of heaven itself. I was ailed with perplexity. What should I do with my strange visitor? It seemed disrespectful to leave Him behind me at home yet it would mean serious loss to me to stay away from my place of business that day. But I could not take him with me, that was certain who ever heard of taking Christ to a counting-house?

The Savior surely knew my thoughts, for he said, “I will go with thee. How didst thou ask me? Was it not:
“Come not to sojourn, but abide with me?”

So whatever thou art doing, henceforth I will be beside thee. Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

It seemed rather strange to me, but I could not, of course, question what He said, so I started for my office with the dear Lord by my side.

At my counting-house I found a man waiting my coming with a good deal of impatience. He was a stock and share-broker, who transacted considerable business for me. To tell the, truth, I was not greatly pleased to see him there, as I was afraid that he might bring forward matters which I would not feel inclined to go into with Jesus listening to our conversation.

It was as I feared. He had come to tell me of a transaction he had arranged, which, whilst perfectly honorable according to the usual code of morals of the share-market, meant the saving of myself from the fear of loss by placing another person in the danger of it. He laid the whole scheme before me, without taking the slightest notice of the Lord; I knew not if he even saw Him.

I cannot tell the bitter shame I felt. I saw how impossible it was to square such a transaction with the Golden Rule; but I could not hide from myself the fact that the broker told me of it with a manner and tone that meant that he had no doubt whatever that I would applaud him for his cleverness, and eagerly close with the offer. What must that mean to the Christ? Would it not tell him that I was in the habit of dealing with one thought in my mind-how I could benefit myself?

The broker was astonished when I rejected his proposals, on the ground that they would be prejudicial to the interest of the other party in the transaction; and left me abruptly, apparently thinking I had developed a mild species of insanity.

Humbled, I fell at my Savior’s feet, and cried to Him for forgiveness for past sinfulness, and strength for time to come.

“My child,” said He, in tender accents, “thou speakest as if my presence were something strange to thee. But I have always been with thee. I have seen and seen with grief, the way thou hast dealt with thy fellows, in business, and marveled at thy unbelief of My promise that I would ever be with thee. Have I not said to my servants, Abide in Me, and I in thee?

Just as He said these words, another gentleman entered the office. He was a customer whom I could not afford to offend, and I had uniformly shown a cordiality to him which I was far from feeling in my heart. He was vulgar, profane, and often obscene in his talk.

He had not been many minutes in my office before he made use of an expression which brought a hot blush to my cheek. I had heard him speak in a similar way before; and, although I felt repelled by it, I had, for fear of offending him, met it with faint laughter. But now I felt as I should have had it been uttered in the presence of a lady; only this feeling was intensified by the realization of the absolute purity of the Divine One who had been a hearer of the speech.

I gave expression to my feeling in a word of expostulation , and he exclaimed: “You seem to have suddenly grown very prudish,” and left me in a rage.

Again, I turned to the Christ with a cry for pardon; and again, I learned that he had beheld all my former intercourse with this man.

I was now called into the adjoining office, where my clerks were employed, and found that one of them had made a foolish blunder, which would mean a considerable complication, and perhaps loss. I am naturally irritable, and at once lost my temper, and spoke to the delinquent in unmeasured terms. Turning my head, I saw that Jesus had followed me out of my private office, and was standing close beside me.

Again I was humbled, and had to cry for mercy.

Through all that strange day, similar incidents occurred; and the presence of the Master, which I thought would have been a joy, was a rebuke to me. It showed me, as I had never dreamed before, that I had framed my life on the supposition that He had but little to do with it.

But, on the other hand, there were times during the day when my soul was filled with rapture; times when He smiled on me in loving approval, or when He spoke words of pardon and absolution, or when He opened out before my wondering gaze some fresh beauty of His character and person. Such a time was the moment when, on my return to my home, the children came crowding around Him, and wanted to show Him their toys and pigeons, and a brood of newly-hatched chickens, and I rebuked them, and said to them “Run away, children! Trouble not the Master with such trifles.”

And he seated himself and took my curly-headed little boy on His knee, and called my two little girls to His side, and said to me: “Suffer these little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

I awoke, and lo! It was a dream. — The Ballarat Christian Union.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter 2017

Let every man and woman count himself immortal. Let him catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection. Let him say not merely, "Christ is risen," but "I shall rise." - Phillips Brooks

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Article: Prayer: The Unsung Hero

A web article from (source link here)...

Prayer has not received the recognition that it deserves. Many people feel that since God already knows about our need, there isn't any need to tell God about them. This is a very costly mistake.

On my desk there is a little card that reads, "No Christian is greater than his prayer life." I have come to a gripping realization that prayer is probably one of the greatest contributions we can make to advance the Kingdom of Christ. Yet, we as Christians, seldom capitalize on this resource. Surveys show the average Christian prays 15 to 30 minutes a week. If the statement, "No Christian is greater than his prayer life," is true, then it would explain, in part, why so much of the world is still not evangelized.

Why do we spend so little time in prayer? Why is prayer one of the first things we neglect as we drift away from God? Many pastors have preached sermons condemning us for spending up to 3 hours a day in front of a television set while we pray less than 30 minutes a week. Although there is a need for such sermons, I have no intention of pointing out something for which you are probably already painfully aware. It is my desire to encourage you, to share with you what I have learned from my struggles in this area.

We, as Christians, often condemn ourselves because we do not pray as much as we think we should. Often, the simple task of praying only 15 minutes a day seems almost impossible! Of course, we can understand why it is easier to sit in front of the TV than devote time to prayer. TV is relaxing and prayer is work. I do believe energy is drained from us when we pray.

I am convinced, though, the main reason we do not pray as much as we should is not because it is too much work. There are many sincere and dedicated lay-Christians who spend as many as 15 hours a week working on Christian projects, yet find it difficult to spend a significant amount of time in prayer. With all this time spent on Christian projects, their lack of prayer cannot be considered laziness.

Satan understands the power of prayer, and I believe he is fighting fiercely to reduce its impact. An obvious military strategy is to concentrate attacks on the targets, which are the greatest threats. For example, in war, primary targets are radar installations, ammunition depots and weapons factories. Limited military resources are not used on non-strategic targets such as the officers’ dining hall (although many soldiers would probably welcome the relief from military food). It is my conviction that Satan knows the biggest spiritual battles are won or lost because of our prayers. Therefore, why would Satan not try to blind our eyes to the need and urgency of prayer?

The story of the disciples at the time of the resurrection is a good example of how capable Satan is of blinding our eyes to important truths. Jesus told his disciples on several occasions that He was going to be killed and would rise again on the third day. Yet, on the third day, where were His disciples? Why were they not waiting at His tomb? They were not even looking for His resurrection.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, remembered Jesus talking about His resurrection. This is why they requested a guard be placed at the tomb (Matthew 27:62-64). It appears Satan, the author of deception and distraction, had blinded, or at least distracted the disciples to this very important truth. If the disciples, the very men who walked with Jesus, could miss something as important as the resurrection, isn’t it reasonable to believe Satan could blind us to the power of prayer?

The attitude with which we as non-Christians first approached God is what released the dynamic power of salvation through Jesus Christ. It was essential when we came to God, we recognized Jesus Christ as our total redemption. Our human abilities played no part in the salvation process. We had to trust God fully.

Likewise, when we as Christians approach God, He still wants us to trust Him fully and understand that the solutions to our problems lie beyond our abilities. It is this recognition that releases the power of God. Prayer is an expression of the commitment and trust we have in God.

When we come before God in prayer and give Him full control of a situation, we are acknowledging His sovereignty in that area. As a result, God begins to work on the problem with His mighty power. God desires to be involved in every area of our life. He wants us to specifically commit each of our concerns to Him. I have found the more specific we are in our prayers, the more direct and effective will be the answers. For example, the prayer, "God, please bless the missionaries," will not be nearly as effective as naming specific missionaries and their particular needs.

Although we are in a Space Age of high-tech transportation and communication, we still go further on our knees. We will never have a true appreciation of how powerful and effective our prayers are until we enter God’s presence and He unfolds the completed story. At that time we will see how people were saved and lives changed as a direct result of our prayers.

God is continually working in ways that we are unaware. An example of God’s hidden involvement in our lives is seen in 2 Kings 6:13-17. In this passage Elisha and his servant ran across a huge Syrian army and the servant becomes afraid. Elisha prays and asks God to open the servant’s eyes, and the servant sees that the mountain is full of God’s angelic army.

Looking at the great needs of this under-evangelized world, it is easy to be overwhelmed with feelings of futility or the thought, "What is the point? I can’t make much of a difference." This discouragement can often keep us from even trying.

There are two things we must keep in mind. First, God does not expect us to change the whole world. He only wants us to do our part, to grow where he has planted us. Second, we must realize that, although we cannot change the whole world, there is much we can realistically accomplish.

Being consistent in our prayer life can help us accomplish more than we may have ever thought possible. A consistent savings plan at a bank can help save money without the feeling of having a "big bite" taken out of your paycheck. Likewise, a consistent prayer system can help us pray for a large group of people without feeling burdened.

Many short prayers throughout the day are easier than praying an hour at a time. An example of this is the old tale of the Tortoise and the Hare. The rabbit, which is obviously the faster of the two, was overconfident, and did not pay attention to the race. Although the turtle was slow, he was consistent, and as a result, his seemingly "insignificant" effort paid off in a big way.

There are two types of prayers I use: Systematic prayers and Onetime prayers. My systematic prayer list is a list of people, Christians and non-Christians, whom I have met throughout the years. I systematically work through this list from top to bottom over a period of time. Praying for 5 to 30 names at a sitting is non-burdensome and yet gives me the opportunity to intercede for a large group of people.

Onetime prayers are requests that are usually prayed for only once. These prayers are often for people I have run into throughout the course of my day, or someone who has caught my attention. The aspect that makes onetime prayers so practical is they consume very little of my time. They are ideal for situations where I am already doing something but not using much mental energy, such as driving in a car or standing in a line.

When I pray for these people, I pray not only for their salvation, but I ask God to make them strong, dynamic Christians who will become prayer warriors in their own right. I also ask God to raise up thousands of people to pray for this person. So, although I may pray only once for this person, I am confident God will raise up others to continue where I have left off.

Obviously, praying many times for one person is much more effective than just a single prayer, but never underestimate the power of these onetime prayers. It is important to realize for some people, you may be the only Christian who has ever prayed for them. This is the reason I ask God to raise up hundreds of people to pray for each person. As you expand your prayer time, be careful not to become overburdened. You should approach it as an adventure, not an obligation.

Years ago, I started what I call the quick prayer list. This short list contained 10 of the most important issues going on in my life at the time. (You have to keep this list short or you get overwhelmed and stop using the list altogether.) Every hour, such as on the hour, I pull out the list and pray for my concerns. I found this to be an excellent way to ensure I prayed on a consistent basis.

Since I was a Correction Officer with lousy days off, two of the items on my prayer list were: I would get a job working with computers and would have good days off. After two years of praying for this, I was called into the Warden’s office. He told me the Deputy Director for the State’s Department of Correction wanted me to work for him personally to do computer programming. For 4 ½ years, I worked for the Deputy Director’s office overseeing a large number of computer projects. Every time someone asked me how my "rags to riches" story came about, I always tell them about the prayer list and give God the credit.

In the 19th Century, rescuing a drowning person from a pier presented certain logistical problems for lifeguards. They did not have the luxury of our modern rescue techniques and equipment. Instead, they used a "lifeline" system. When a lifeguard dove into the water after someone, he would tie a rope around himself and hand the other end to someone to hold. One stormy day, a lifeguard spotted a swimmer being swept under by the mighty ocean waves. In his haste, he forgot to tell someone, "hold the rope." Thus, as he went into the water, so did his lifeline. This lifeguard needlessly lost his life in the stormy ocean rage because of carelessness.

This story illustrates the importance of being consistent and faithful in upholding Christian workers through prayer. However, there is another lesson to be learned too. We should never rush off to do God’s work before we have adequate prayer support. As we serve the Lord, let us not forget to ask people to "hold our ropes."

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Article: Does God Answer Our Prayers?

Source link here.

Have you ever known someone who really trusts God? When I was an atheist, I had a good friend who prayed often. She would tell me every week about something she was trusting God to take care of. And every week I would see God do something unusual to answer her prayer. Do you know how difficult it is for an atheist to observe this week after week? After a while, "coincidence" begins to sound like a very weak argument.

So why would God answer my friend's prayers? The biggest reason is that she had a relationship with God. She wanted to follow God. And she actually listened to what he said. In her mind, God had the right to direct her in life, and she welcomed him doing just that! When she prayed for things, it was a natural part of her relationship with God. She felt very comfortable coming to God with her needs, her concerns, and whatever issues were current in her life. Furthermore, she was convinced, from what she read in the Bible, that God wanted her to rely on him like that.

She pretty much exhibited what this statement from the Bible says, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer..."

So, Why Doesn't God Answer Everyone's Prayers?

It may be because they don't have a relationship with God. They may know that God exists, and they might even worship God from time to time. But those who never seem to have their prayers answered probably don't have a relationship with him. Further, they have never received from God complete forgiveness for their sin. What does that have to do with it you ask? Here is an explanation. "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God. Your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear."

It's pretty natural to feel that separation from God. When people begin to ask God for something, what usually takes place? They begin with, "God, I really need your help with this problem..." And then there's a pause, followed by a restart... "I realize that I'm not a perfect person, that I actually have no right to ask you for this..." There's an awareness of personal sin and failure. And the person knows that it's not just them; that God is aware of it too. There's a feeling of, "Who am I kidding?" What they may not know is how they can receive God's forgiveness for all their sin. They might not know that they can come into a relationship with God so that God will hear them. This is the foundation for God answering your prayer.

How to Pray: The Foundation

You must first begin a relationship with God. Imagine some guy named Mike decides to ask the president of Princeton University (whom Mike doesn't even know) to co-sign a car loan for him. Mike would have zero chance of that happening. (We're assuming that the president of Princeton is not an idiot.) However, if that same president's daughter asked her dad to co-sign a car loan for her, it would be no problem. Relationship matters.

With God, when the person is actually a child of God, when the person belongs to God, he knows them and hears their prayers. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand."

When it comes to God then, do you really know him and does he know you? Do you have a relationship with him that warrants God answering your prayers? Or is God pretty distant, pretty much just a concept in your life? If God is distant, or you're not sure that you know God, here is how you can begin a relationship with him right now: Getting Connected.

Will God Definitely Answer Your Prayer?

For those who do know him and rely on him, Jesus seems to be wildly generous in his offer: "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." To "remain" in him and have his words remain in them means they conduct their lives aware of him, relying on him, listening to what he says. Then they're able to ask him whatever they want. Here is another qualifier: "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us -- whatever we ask -- we know that we have what we asked of him." God answers our prayers according to his will (and according to his wisdom, his love for us, his holiness, etc.).

Where we trip up is assuming we know God's will, because a certain thing makes sense to us! We assume that there is only one right "answer" to a specific prayer, assuming certainly THAT would be God's will. And this is where it gets tough. We live within the limits of time and limits of knowledge. We have only limited information about a situation and the implications of future action on that situation. God's understanding is unlimited. How an event plays out in the course of life or history is only something he knows. And he may have purposes far beyond what we could even imagine. So, God is not going to do something simply because we determine that it must be his will.

What Does It Take? What is God Inclined to Do?

Pages and pages could be filled about God's intentions toward us. The entire Bible is a description of the kind of relationship God wants us to experience with him and the kind of life he wants to give us. Here are just a few examples:

"...the Lord longs to be gracious to you. He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for [trust] him!" Did you catch that? Like someone rising out of his chair to come to your help, "He rises to show you compassion." "As for God, his way is perfect...He is a shield for all who take refuge in him." "The Lord delights in those who fear [reverence] him, who put their hope in his unfailing love."

However, God's greatest display of his love and commitment to you is this: Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends," which is what Jesus did for us. And so, "If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since God did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won't God, who gave us Christ, also give us everything else?"

What about "Unanswered" Prayer?

Certainly people get sick, even die; financial problems are real, and all sorts of very difficult situations can come up. What then?

God tells us to give our concerns to him. Even as the situation remains dismal, "Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you." The circumstances may look out of control, but they aren't. When the whole world seems to be falling apart, God can keep us together. This is when a person can be very grateful that they know God. "The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." God may provide solutions, resolutions to the problem WAY beyond what you imagined possible. Probably any Christian could list examples like this in their own lives. But if the circumstances do not improve, God can still give us his peace in the midst of it. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."

It is at this point (when circumstances are still tough) that God asks us to continue to trust him -- to "walk by faith, not by sight" the Bible says. But it's not blind faith. It is based on the very character of God. A car traveling on the Golden Gate Bridge is fully supported by the integrity of the bridge. It doesn't matter what the driver may be feeling, or thinking about, or discussing with someone in the passenger seat. What gets the car safely to the other side is the integrity of the bridge, which the driver was willing to trust.

In the same way, God asks us to trust his integrity, his character...his compassion, love, wisdom, righteousness on our behalf. He says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." "Trust in him at all times, O people. Pour out your heart before him. God is a refuge for us."

In Summary...How to Pray

God has offered to answer the prayers of his children (those who have received him into their lives and seek to follow him). He asks us to take any concerns to him in prayer and he will act upon it according to his will. As we deal with difficulties we are to cast our cares on him and receive from him a peace that defies the circumstances. The basis for our hope and faith is the character of God himself. The better we know him, the more apt we are to trust him.