Saturday, March 9, 2019

Transfigured into Christ's Likeness

Lent in all about being transformed--changed into the image of Christ.
This week I heard a new song, "Transfigure Us, O Lord," by Bob Hurd. It has really moved me and has become my focus from the Lord for Lent.
The song has been playing over and over again in my mind: this has become my prayer for Lent!

"Transfigure Us, O Lord"

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Lent: Living Out the Sermon on the Mount

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing . . .
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. . . .
“But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
          -Matthew 6:3, 6, 17-18
In the Sermon the on Mount, Jesus assumes his followers will be praying, fasting and giving to the poor. He wants to guard us from self-focused hypocrisy of doing these spiritual practices for show. Nevertheless, he expects us to be doing these practices of righteousness.
Since the early centuries of the church, Christians began to set aside the 40 days (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter as a time for intentional spiritual growth. They focused on these three practices of Matthew 6: giving alms, praying and fasting. What a wonderful model this is for an extended time of self-examination and the practice of purposeful spiritual disciplines.
Alms, praying and fasting provide a balanced approach to inner formation. Often one or the other of these practices comes fairly easy to each of us, and that is great. However, most of the greatest growth in our lives happens when we exercise the areas of our lives that do not come so naturally.
Beyond my normal offering/financial giving to the Lord, who in need can I give some money to this Lent?
What can I do special for the next 40+ days in my prayer life? Perhaps it would be extra time of silence, going on a one- or two-day spiritual retreat, following a Lenten devotional in addition to my normal Bible reading, or adopting a special focus for intercessory prayer.
What can I fast from this Lent? It could be food, desert, social media, complaining, procrastinating, or any number of things.
As Ash Wednesday approaches in just a few days, ask the Lord to guide you in each of these three areas. Invite the Lord into your use of money, your activities, and your prayer life in special way. See what he wants to do in your life and your heart as we prepare ourselves to celebrate afresh the Resurrection of our Lord!
 © 2019 Glenn E. Myers

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas: God Loves small, Insignificant Places and Little Deeds Done in Great Love

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.”   
     -Micah 5:2

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
        -Mother Teresa
This year as I read and heard the familiar Scripture passages on the Nativity, I was struck with just how often God chooses the small places for Jesus’ birth and live. The Father could have placed Jesus anywhere but chose to place him in the obscure little town of Bethlehem. Although it was the birth place of King David, it had become in insignificant village by the time of the Prophet Micah. 
Jesus grew up in Nazareth, another small town in the region of Galilee where people had a funny accent, as far as the Jews in Judea were concerned. Jesus was raised in an insignificant, poor laborer’s family. Not only was it humble, Jesus’ family had a scandal—everyone knew Jesus was not really Joseph’s son. During Jesus’ ministry, much of his care for people went unappreciated and to everyone at first, his ultimate gift on the cross seemed to be one more scandal and loss.
Yet God the Father knew what he was doing. He chose to send his Son into the obscure, unappreciated, seemingly insignificant places. This was the Father’s perfect plan for the Incarnation.
Christmas is about the Incarnation. The Incarnation dignifies all the obscure and scandalous areas of our life. It dignifies poor families. It dignifies all forms of work. It dignifies those who lack education and might have funny accents.
Moreover, the Incarnation dignifies our little labors of love. By sending his Son, God graced little, obscure places and unappreciated people with great love, dignity and divinity. Thereby he dignified and indeed deified our labor given in his name, our little deeds done with great love. He honored our acts of kindness, even when they are unnoticed and unappreciated. He has infused those small deeds with his Incarnation—the Divine inhabiting the earthly.
Every little act of kindness, every humble service to others, every self-emptying done in Jesus’ name is a participation with the Incarnation. We joint the Christmas story. We step into the grand History of Salvation. Our deeds are no longer about us as we become one with him!
© 2017 Glenn E. Myers

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Third Sunday of Advent—Gaudete Sunday—Hope and Rejoicing!

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
     -James 1:17 (NASB)
Crisp, clear—the sun crests over the eastern horizon this frosty morning, its rays glistening on the snow-graced earth. The sun brings a song of rejoicing to my heart. Its light reflects the Father of lights, in whom there is no turning or shadow. It gives us hope of longer days, stronger sunshine and, in time, warmer weather now not far away.
We are in mid-December as we approach this, the third Sunday of Advent. For centuries the church has call this Gaudete Sunday—Rejoice Sunday! On the advent wreath we have a special rose-colored candle to symbolize our jubilation.
We rejoice as we look forward to the celebration of Christmas, our Savior’s birth, just more than a week away now. Just as the sun is rising this morning with light and warmth and hope in its rays, Jesus arises afresh in our lives with healing in his wings:
"But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.” (Malachi 4:2, NLT)
At any point in life we have sorrows and joys, some situations going well and others seeking to overwhelm us. Whatever our circumstances right now, we can rejoice. Our God is Light and in him is no darkness (1 John 1:5). Even if the sunshine is not shining for us any given day, there is a cause to rejoice. Just as the Sun of Righteousness rose in history some two thousand years ago, he will rise afresh in our given life situation. We have hope.
This is Advent Hope and Advent Rejoicing! This is what Gaudete Sunday is all about!
© 2018 Glenn E. Myers

Friday, December 7, 2018

Advent: Tutoring Us in the Art of Waiting

Advent tutors us in the art and virtue of waiting. Waiting does not come easily to any of us. Especially during the holiday season, any idea of waiting is discarded. Stores pipe in Christmas carols from Thanksgiving Day (or earlier) to Christmas, to put shoppers in the mood to buy. Marketers do not want anyone to hesitate but rather to buy on impulse.
In direct opposition to this atmosphere of having it all—and having it right now—spiritual growth comes slowly. Our faith is built through the gradual year-in and year-out walking faithfully with our God and being faithful to him during exciting times and difficult times alike.
Indeed the Greek word for faith, pistos, means both faith (believing and trusting) and faithfulness (remaining constant and true). We often see these as two separate ideas. However, in the Christian life they are inextricably linked. To believe in Christ is to entrust one’s life to him as Lord and to walk faithfully with him, hand-in-hand, during good times and bad.
Sometimes we experience growth spurts or seasons when we sense God’s presence so close. However, in between times of marked spiritual growth or mountain top experiences, “faith can demand long, patient waiting, when nothing seems to be happening, and this is just as necessary to growth,” writes Maria Boulding. Recently I read this quote and realized how true it is! Often our deepest growth takes place during those long times of just being faithful in the mundane things of life.
Maria Boulding then ties this idea of faithfulness with Advent. “We sometimes have to go on doing the small, ordinary things while we wait for God, as Mary did while she waited for the birth of Jesus; we have to wait for his moment, and wait for his work to ripen in ourselves. It may sometimes be more fruitful in the end if we live with a lingering question, and grow slowly towards wisdom, than if we find a quick answer partly dictated by our own desires. The waiting changes us, schools us, teaches us to know God.”
Advent this year—and life in general—is teaching me to wait. I want to love the questions in my life right now. As I linger with those questions and remain faithful in all the little responsibilities of life, God will bring about the growth and the end results that he desires. Let me not try to prematurely answer the questions only to end up simply following my own will. Rather, let me like Mary, respond to the Lord: Here I am, your servant, let it be done to me according to your word (Luke 1:38).
Maria Boulding, The Coming of God (Conception, MO: The Printery House, Conception Abbey, Inc., 2000), 40-41.
© 2018 Glenn E. Myers

Monday, December 3, 2018

Advent: An Invitation to Stillness

              The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
     He makes me lie down in green pastures.
 He leads me beside still waters.
     He restores my soul.”
-Psalm 23:2-3 (ESV)
Advent invites us into stillness. Away from the multiplicity of demands, opportunities and people, our mind begins to slow down. Many, if not most, of those opportunities and relationships that we set aside for a time are good: we were created to live full lives in this world. However, if they are only one side of the rhythmic pendulum of a whole, healthy life. One side swings into the many-faceted activity and interaction of the day. Then it swings back into solitude, silence and stillness—the time necessary to be alone with self and God. Just as day and night alternate, so we are created to flow out and back: flowing out to the manifold interactions of the world and then back into stillness.
The whole of contemporary society militates against such a practice of stillness and simplicity. Constantly multitasking, we try to squeeze more and more into the hours of the day. Employers want greater productivity out of us. Organizations and churches offer programs and activities to keep us occupied. Sports and media present unending opportunities to be entertained. Advertisers promise us greater gratification in life if we but buy more of their products. While none of these may be innately evil, as a whole the world system distracts us and allures us with a false assurance of genuine purpose and fulfillment in life.
Into such frantic busyness and multiplicity our Shepherd bids us follow him to green pastures where we can lie down and rest. The gentle waters of a stream welcome us to come and be restored—body, soul and spirit. A large shade tree welcomes us to stop running long enough to enjoy the Creator’s blessings freely offered to us. The song of a nearby bird extends an invitation to retreat from the fragmentation of our busy world for a while and step into simplicity.
Stillness does not come spontaneously to the human heart. Since the Fall in Genesis 3, we are worried and anxious about so many things. Jesus points us to nature to gain a different picture of what life could be like. “Look at the birds of the air,” instructs Jesus; “they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:26-27).
Stillness must be cultivated. The more often we practice stillness, the more we are able to carry it with us throughout the day. Even when things get hectic, we are able to access that still place within and find peace.
Advent is a season to cultivate such stillness. Whether it be a devotional time each evening of the four Advent Sundays or a day’s retreat, we are invited to still ourselves and prepare our hearts for Christ’s fresh coming into our lives.
© 2018 Glenn E. Myers

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Stillness Awaits

           “Be still—let go, cease striving—
            and know that I am God.”
            -Psalm 46:10 (NASB and margin note)
Divine stillness waits for us. It beckons us to come. From a distance it welcomes our weary heart and mind to receive rest. How often we hear that invitation, and we desire to come. But, before we do so, we want to finish one more project. As soon as our responsibilities are fulfilled, we tell ourselves, we will take time to be still.
Of course once one obligation is met or one problem is solved, two more raise their heads, and we never quite get to that much-needed pause. That place of stillness eludes us. Like Martha in the Gospels, we are concerned about so many things—too anxious to join Mary in Jesus’ presence.
“Come to me,” says our Lord. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). Jesus continues to extend the offer of inner rest. We somehow think that we cannot come to him until we have first unloaded our own burdens. However, it is precisely while those burdens weigh on us that we need to come.
Entering the place of stillness necessitates that we pause from our frenetic activity, even for five or ten minutes. Often we are afraid to do so. We are fearful of releasing our grip.
If we relinquish those fears and concerns to our loving God, however, we can find rest for our souls. Such a pause can make the difference for our whole day. Our hearts are renewed, our souls refreshed. The whole momentum of our day becomes refocused, and we reenter our responsibilities on the right foot.
Stillness awaits. I don’t want to ignore the Good Shepherd’s invitation.
© 2018 Glenn E. Myers