Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Voice in the Garden of Solitude

Solitude is the garden for our hearts, which yearn for love. It is the place where our aloneness can bear fruit. It is the home for our restless bodies and anxious minds. Solitude, whether it is connected with a physical space or not, is essential for our spiritual lives. It is not an easy place to be, since we are so insecure and fearful that we are easily distracted by whatever promises immediate satisfaction. 

Solitude is not immediately satisfying, because in solitude we meet our demons, our addictions, our feelings of lust and anger, and our immense need for recognition and approval. But if we do not run away, we will meet there also the One who says, "Do not be afraid. I am with you, and I will guide you through the valley of darkness."

Let's keep returning to our solitude.

Henri Nouwen 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Community Supported by Solitude

Loneliness is poverty but solitude is wealth untold
Solitude greeting solitude, that's what community is all about. Community is not the place where we are no longer alone but the place where we respect, protect, and reverently greet one another's aloneness. 

When we allow our aloneness to lead us into solitude, our solitude will enable us to rejoice in the solitude of others. Our solitude roots us in our own hearts. Instead of making us yearn for company that will offer us immediate satisfaction, solitude makes us claim our center and empowers us to call others to claim theirs. 

Our various solitudes are like strong, straight pillars that hold up the roof of our communal house. Thus, solitude always strengthens community.

Henri Nouwen

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Spiritual Lepers

In the time of Jesus, lepers were treated worse than animals. They were shunned and often chased out of the community. To such extent, that quite a few leper colonies were set up outside the towns and cities. In these remote places, the lepers depend upon each other to survive. The close family members would bring foods and thus these rejects of society survived in their remote abodes.

Another thing that the lepers had to do was to put on torn clothing. This was not because they were too poor to wear better clothing, but it as a sign of repentance. In ancient Israel, the people had the concept that leprosy was a punishment from God for certain sins in the leper's life. Therefore, the poor lepers had to live in perpetual repentance.

Today, there is a group of men and women being treated in similar fashion. These are the spiritual lepers. They may at one time, be church leaders or even pastors of large congregations. However, because of their carelessness and most probably stupidity, they fell into sins. Once they are exposed then immediately, they are cast out among the spiritual lepers.

Very few of these former ministers or church leaders make a comeback to normal ministry or Christian life. Those who are blessed with caring church survive and thrive well in their service to God. Others are ignored, rejected and tolerated at best. There is hardly any ministry that helps these one-time servants of the kingdom to return again to the fold.

Being a fallen but restored pastor, myself, I understand the struggles. It seems like every time, I meet former colleagues and fellow ministers, I have to put on my tattered clothes and shout, "Unclean, unclean!" It could be my imagination or guilt that triggers such thought.

Today, my ministry among the spiritual lepers is more important than ever, Why should I allow the devil to destroy the lives of these servants of God who had made grievous mistakes and commit serious sins in their lives? So for those who feel that you have been marginalized because of your previous sins, please understand that God is more loving and forgiving than you think. As long as you have repented of your sins, you, like all others, have been imputed with the righteousness of Christ. You do not need to go around with a guilt-feeling and shout, "unclean, unclean". You are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb and it is powerful enough to clean you thoroughly. If there be any judgment made upon you now then that judgment will be made upon Christ. You belong to Him and no one else.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Healing & Suffering by Keith Warrington

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I found this book a breath of fresh air. I have repeatedly been disappointed, listening to those who have lost confidence in the ministry of healing, or else to those who have shot over “Crack-Pot Edge” into wild unbiblical claims and harmful pastoral practices. I have sympathy with both views, to experience both inspiration and to witness a miracle is a heady brew.

Seeking to live by faith during or when sharing in suffering can stretch us to the limit. At such times despair snaps at our heels. So welcome then this book, so balanced, so firmly rooted in both an experience of the miraculous and in a sound biblical theology.

Keith Warrington offers a comprehensive and user-friendly resource that maintains biblical integrity whilst engaging with the issues in a context of objective evaluation and sensitivity. He argues that whilst the New Testament encourages us to pray for healing, it does not always lead us to expect that all sickness and suffering will be removed. He remind believers that God is with them in the shadows of suffering as well as health and wholeness.

The final section on suffering is one of the best attempts to tackle the subject that I have read. I recommend this book.

Trust the Catcher

Trust is the basis of life. Without trust, no human being can live. Trapeze artists offer a beautiful image of this. 

Flyers have to trust their catchers. They can do the most spectacular doubles, triples, or quadruples, but what finally makes their performance spectacular are the catchers who are there for them at the right time in the right place.

Much of our lives is flying. It is wonderful to fly in the air free as a bird, but when God isn't there to catch us, all our flying comes to nothing. Let's trust in the Great Catcher.

Monday, January 10, 2011

God's Imagination

So much of our energy, time, and money goes into maintaining distance from one another. Many if not most of the resources of the world are used to defend ourselves against each other, to maintain or increase our power, and to safeguard our own privileged position.

Imagine all that effort being put in the service of peace and reconciliation! Would there be any poverty? Would there be crimes and wars? Just imagine that there was no longer fear among people, no longer any rivalry, hostility, bitterness, or revenge. Just imagine all the people on this planet holding hands and forming one large circle of love. We say, "I can't imagine." But God says, "That's what I imagine, a whole world not only created but also living in my image."

Henri Nouwen

Friday, January 7, 2011

What Signs Indicate That The End Times Are Approaching?

Matthew 24:5-8 gives us some important clues so we can discern the approach of the end times, “For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” An increase in false messiahs, an increase in warfare, and increases in famines, plagues, and natural disasters—these are signs of the end times. In this passage, though, we are given a warning: we are not to be deceived, because these events are only the beginning of birth pains; the end is still to come.

Some interpreters point to every earthquake, every political upheaval, and every attack on Israel as a sure sign that the end times are rapidly approaching. While the events may signal the approach of the last days, they are not necessarily indicators that the end times have arrived. The apostle Paul warned that the last days would bring a marked increase in false teaching. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). The last days are described as “perilous times” because of the increasingly evil character of man and people who actively “resist the truth” (2 Timothy 3:1-9; see also 2 Thessalonians 2:3).

Other possible signs would include a rebuilding of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem, increased hostility towards Israel, and advances toward a one-world government. The most prominent sign of the end times, however, is the nation of Israel. In 1948, Israel was recognized as a sovereign state, essentially for the first time since A.D. 70. God promised Abraham that his posterity would have Canaan as “an everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:8), and Ezekiel prophesied a physical and spiritual resuscitation of Israel (Ezekiel chapter 37). Having Israel as a nation in its own land is important in light of end times prophecy because of Israel’s prominence in eschatology (Daniel 10:14; 11:41; Revelation 11:8).

With these signs in mind, we can be wise and discerning in regard to the expectation of the end times. We should not, however, interpret any of these singular events as a clear indication of the soon arrival of the end times. God has given us enough information that we can be prepared, and that is what we are called to be.

Recommended Resource: Understanding End Times Prophecy by Paul Benware.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

And Jesus Stood Still

"And Jesus stood still."1

Down the long, dusty road on their way from Jericho to Jerusalem, almost two thousand years ago, trod Jesus with his motley band of twelve disciples, followed by a huge crowd.

They were all hot and sweaty. The dust clung to them. They were weary, but Jesus was at the height of his popularity, and the great crowd of people pressed close to him. They were jabbering endlessly. Asking questions. Seeking favors. They could be heard a mile away.

"Hey, what's all the noise?" blind Bartimaeus asked his friend as they sat by the roadside begging.

"I don't know," answered his friend with a puzzled tone in his voice.

"Let's ask someone," they agreed.

"It's Jesus," a passerby informed them.

"You mean Jesus of Nazareth, the fellow they claim can heal the sick and the blind?" Bartimaeus excitedly asked.

"That's the one," the man said, "and I'm on my way to see him. Good-bye."

The crowd came closer and closer. Excitement filled the air. The noise became intense.

"I can't believe it," shouted Bartimaeus to another friend. "This just has to be my lucky day. I've got to get to Jesus; I know he can heal me."

"Hey, Bart, there he is," cried Bartimaeus's friend, "but how will you ever get his attention?"

Dignity was dismissed. "This is it," said Bartimaeus, "I may never see Jesus again and I desperately want to be healed."

So, seeking to drown out the noise of the crowd, Bartimaeus yelled at the top of his voice, "Jesus, have mercy on me! O Lord, son of David, have mercy on me!"

"Cool it, man! Shut up!" retorted some of the crowd. "You're making too much noise. You don't stand a chance of getting to Jesus, so just relax and quit your stupid yelling!"

But Bartimaeus was all the more determined to get to Jesus. He couldn't see, but he could yell. He cried out all the louder. Hear his voice rise above the din of the crowd. It rings out like a great clarion call, "Jesus, O Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus, O Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

And Jesus stood still.

And the crowds stood still.

And a great calm settled down over them all.

The winds and the waves couldn't stop Jesus. Neither could angry mobs. Crowds of people couldn't stop him either. But a lone, blind beggar could—and did.

And Jesus with his great heart of compassion asked for Bartimaeus to be brought to him.

"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked.

"Lord," Bartimaeus replied, "please give me my sight." And Jesus did!

"Go your way," he said, "your faith has made you whole."2

Friend, what do you want Jesus to do for you? Are you as determined as Bartimaeus was? Am I?

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, have mercy on me a sinner. Hear the cry of my heart. Please save me from sinfulness. Heal my wounded spirit and fill my empty heart with your love, joy and peace. Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me too. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."

1. Mark 10:49 (KJV).
2. Adapted from I Hate Witnessing by Dick Innes (Updated Edition), 155-157. On sale at:

By Dick Innes

Living the Moment to the Fullest

Click on the picture of the bears to see them in action
Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. 

Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. 

When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. 

Let's be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fruits That Grow in Vulnerability

There is a great difference between successfulness and fruitfulness. Success comes from strength, control, and respectability. 

A successful person has the energy to create something, to keep control over its development, and to make it available in large quantities. Success brings many rewards and often fame. 

Fruits, however, come from weakness and vulnerability. And fruits are unique. A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability, community is the fruit born through shared brokenness, and intimacy is the fruit that grows through touching one another's wounds. 

Let's remind one another that what brings us true joy is not successfulness but fruitfulness.