Tuesday, July 31, 2012

PRIDE - From C.S. Lewis Book "Mere Christianity"


Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.
Proverbs 16:18   (NIV) 


Pride
From C.S. Lewis Book
"Mere Christianity"  
The following passages are taken from C.S. Lewis’s book “Mere Christianity,” published in 1952.
 There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. I have heard people admit that they are bad-tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about girls or drink, or even that they are cowards. I do not think I have ever heard anyone who was not a Christian accuse himself of this vice. And at the same time I have very seldom met anyone, who was not a Christian, who showed the slightest mercy to it in others. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.
The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility. You may remember, when I was talking about sexual morality, I warned you that the centre of Christian morals did not lie there. Well, now, we have come to the centre. According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.
Does this seem to you exaggerated? If so, think it over. I pointed out a moment ago that the more pride one had, the more one disliked pride in others. In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?’ The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with every one else’s pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise. Two of a trade never agree. Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive—--is competitive by its very nature—--while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone. That is why I say that Pride is essentially competitive in a way the other vices are not. The sexual impulse may drive two men into competition if they both want the same girl. But that is only by accident; they might just as likely have wanted two different girls. But a proud man will take your girl from you, not because he wants her, but just to prove to himself that he is a better man than you. Greed may drive men into competition if there is not enough to go round; but the proud man, even when he has got more than he can possibly want, will try to get still more just to assert his power. Nearly all those evils in the world which people put down to greed or selfishness are really far more the result of Pride.
Take it with money. Greed will certainly make a man want money, for the sake of a better house, better holidays, better things to eat and drink. But only up to a point. What is it that makes a man with £10,000 a year anxious to get £20,000 a year? It is not the greed for more pleasure. £10,000 will give all the luxuries that any man can really enjoy. It is Pride—--the wish to be richer than some other rich man, and (still more) the wish for power. For, of course, power is what Pride really enjoys: there is nothing that makes a man feel so superior to others as being able to move them about like toy soldiers. What makes a pretty girl spread misery wherever she goes by collecting admirers? Certainly not her sexual instinct: that kind of girl is quite often sexually frigid. It is Pride. What is it that makes a political leader or a whole nation go on and on, demanding more and more? Pride again. Pride is competitive by its very nature: that is why it goes on and on. If I am a proud man, then, as long as there is one man in the whole world more powerful, or richer, or cleverer than I, he is my rival and my enemy.
The Christians are right: it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But pride always means enmity—--it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God.
In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that—--and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison—--you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.
That raises a terrible question. How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound’s worth of Pride towards their fellow-men. I suppose it was of those people Christ was thinking when He said that some would preach about Him and cast out devils in His name, only to be told at the end of the world that He had never known them. And any of us may at any moment be in this death-trap. Luckily, we have a test. Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good—--above all, that we are better than someone else—--I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.
It is a terrible thing that the worst of all the vices can smuggle itself into the very centre of our religious life. But you can see why. The other, and less bad, vices come from the devil working on us through our animal nature. But this does not come through our animal nature at all. It comes direct from Hell. It is purely spiritual: consequently it is far more subtle and deadly. For the same reason, Pride can often be used to beat down the simpler vices. Teachers, in fact, often appeal to a boy’s Pride, or, as they call it, his self-respect, to make him behave decently: many a man has overcome cowardice, or lust, or ill-temper, by learning to think that they are beneath his dignity—--that is, by Pride. The devil laughs. He is perfectly content to see you becoming chaste and brave and self-controlled provided, all the time, he is setting up in you the Dictatorship of Pride—--just as he would be quite content to see your chilblains cured if he was allowed, in return, to give you cancer. For Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.
Before leaving this subject I must guard against some possible misunderstandings:
(1) Pleasure in being praised is not Pride. The child who is patted on the back for doing a lesson well, the woman whose beauty is praised by her lover, the saved soul to whom Christ says ‘Well done,’ are pleased and ought to be. For here the pleasure lies not in what you are but in the fact that you have pleased someone you wanted (and rightly wanted) to please. The trouble begins when you pass from thinking, ‘I have pleased him; all is well,’ to thinking, ‘What a fine person I must be to have done it.’ The more you delight in yourself and the less you delight in the praise, the worse you are becoming. When you delight wholly in yourself and do not care about the praise at all, you have reached the bottom. That is why vanity, though it is the sort of Pride which shows most on the surface, is really the least bad and most pardonable sort. The vain person wants praise, applause, admiration, too much and is always angling for it. It is a fault, but a child-like and even (in an odd way) a humble fault. It shows that you are not yet completely contented with your own admiration. You value other people enough to want them to look at you. You are, in fact, still human. The real black, diabolical Pride, comes when you look down on others so much that you do not care what they think of you.  


Of course, it is very right, and often our duty, not to care what people think of us, if we do so for the right reason; namely, because we care so incomparably more what God thinks. But the Proud man has a different reason for not caring. He says ‘Why should I care for the applause of that rabble as if their opinion were worth anything? And even if their opinions were of value, am I the sort of man to blush with pleasure at a compliment like some chit of a girl at her first dance? No, I am an integrated, adult personality. All I have done has been done to satisfy my own ideals—--or my artistic conscience—--or the traditions of my family—--or in a word, because I’m That Kind of Chap. If the mob like it, let them. They’re nothing to me.’ In this way real thorough-going pride may act as a check on vanity; for, as I said a moment ago, the devil loves ‘curing’ a small fault by giving you a great one. We must try not to be vain, but we must never call in our Pride to cure our vanity.
(2) We say in English that a man is ‘proud’ of his son, or his father, or his school, or regiment, and it may be asked whether ‘pride’ in this sense is a sin. I think it depends on what, exactly, we mean by ‘proud of’. Very often, in such sentences, the phrase ‘is proud of’ means ‘has a warm-hearted admiration for’. Such an admiration is, of course, very far from being a sin. But it might, perhaps, mean that the person in question gives himself airs on the ground of his distinguished father, or because he belongs to a famous regiment. This would, clearly, be a fault; but even then, it would be better than being proud simply of himself. To love and admire anything outside yourself is to take one step away from utter spiritual ruin; though we shall not be well so long as we love and admire anything more than we love and admire God.
(3) We must not think Pride is something God forbids because He is offended at it, or that Humility is something He demands as due to His own dignity—--as if God Himself was proud. He is not in the least worried about His dignity. The point is, He wants you to know Him: wants to give you Himself. And He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble—--delightedly humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life. He is trying to make you humble in order to make this moment possible: trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly, fancy-dress in which we have all got ourselves up and are strutting about like the little idiots we are. I wish I had got a bit further with humility myself: if I had, I could probably tell you more about the relief, the comfort, of taking the fancy-dress off—--getting rid of the false self, with all its ‘Look at me’ and ‘Aren’t I a good boy?’ and all its posing and posturing. To get even near it, even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.
(4) Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.
If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.

 C.S.Lewis’s book
“Mere Christianity,”


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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Life Of Faith - 1 - How Great Is Faith


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit One God. Amen.

CHAPTER 1

HOW GREAT IS FAITH

The importance of faith is clearly seen in the apostle's words about the Lord, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Heb. 11:6).

The importance of faith also shows in the apostle's description as one of the three great virtues "faith, hope and love" (1 Cor. 13:13) and the life of righteousness "Now the just shall live by faith" (Heb. 10:38).

Faith is the beginning of the road which leads to God, for how can you be united with God and God in you, to walk with Him and keep His commandments, if first, you do not believe in His existence, His divinity or in His book the Bible and all that it contains?

Thus, faith is the beginning of the road to God and an elementary necessity for salvation according to the Lord Himself "He who believes and is baptised will be saved" (Mark 16:16). "That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already" (John 3:18). He also reprimanded the Jews by saying, "You will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He" (John 8:24).

Salvation is available to every one through the blood of our Lord Jesus, but it can not save without faith. As St. Paul and Silas said to the Jail keeper "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:31).

Through this faith, the gospels were written and preached by the apostles.

John, the evangelist inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31).

Faith is the beginning of a life with God. Faith is also our companion throughout our lives, and the importance of faith in its relationship with righteousness.

Thus spoke the apostle about righteousness that was credited to faith "By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith" (Heb. 11:7). And about faith that was credited to righteousness, "And it was credited to him as righteousness" (James 2:23). The Bible also speaks of
justification by faith, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom.5:1).

Faith is a necessity to miracles and their acceptance. How great is our Lord's saying to the blind man of Jericho when He said, "Your faith has healed you" (Luke 18:42, Mark 10:52). And His saying to the man with leprosy, "Your faith has made you well" (Luke 17:19). To the sick woman He said, "Take heart daughter, your faith has healed you" (Matt. 9:22). When He heard the two blind men shouting "Have mercy on us, Son of David" (Matt. 9:29), He said to them, "According to your faith
will it be done to you" and their sight was restored.

On the other hand, we see the Lord in His home town that "He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith" (Matt. 13:58).

The power of God can do miracles for you, but it awaits your faith. He will grant you according to your faith. For this reason, miracles happen to some and not to others although the power of God is the same.

What about he, who is weak in faith? He has to pray as did the boy's father who said, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24). Here we see that God performs miracles in general according to faith, but on other occasions, He performs miracle that we may believe. In both cases faith is coupled with the miracle, either it comes before or is caused of it.

Faith, regardless of type, is a source of power.

It is sufficient that a person believes in an idea, so you see him working with Christ's power to carry it through. Faith gives him perseverance, might and courage which he would not have otherwise.

Thus, where there is faith there is power. A prayer in faith is a strong prayer. He who believes in prayer and its effect prays with warmth, assurance and power. A sermon preached by a person who believes in every word, makes a strong sermon, and through it, his faith is transmitted to the hearts of his listeners.

The importance of faith lies in its association with many virtues.

The fruits of faith are strength, peace, courage, tranquillity and restfulness. Its fruits are a life of purity and righteousness, a life of submission and devotion to God, a life of prayer and many other virtues.

A few questions then come into mind:

- What is faith?
- What is faith, the basis of salvation and redemption?
- What is faith, the basis of all these virtues?
- What is faith, the basis of miracles and God's words who said,

"Everything is possible for him who believes" (Mark 9:23)?


Pope Shenouda III

----------

Title: Life of Faith

Author: H. H. Pope Shenouda Ill.

Press: Dar El Tebaa El Kawmia.

Edition: August 1989 - First edition.

Legal Deposit No.: 5606/1989

Revised: COEPA 1997


Also See:
Life Of Faith - Introduction
http://coptorthodox.blogspot.com/2012/07/life-of-faith-introduction.html


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Life Of Faith - Introduction


In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit One God. Amen.

INTRODUCTION

Faith is not merely adopting a set of beliefs that you may say in the "Creed", but a way of life or adherence to that which leads to life.

To what benefit is believing in God without having a relationship with him, obeying and loving Him?

In addition, what is the benefit of believing in eternity and in life after death if one does not prepare for it by repentance, spiritual vigil, and loving God?

And to what benefit is believing in virtues if one does not live them? Therefore there is a big difference between theoretical faith which does not save the soul, and practical faith, the fruits of which are evident in one's life.

This book was written to explain to you the meaning of faith, its stages and types and its importance in our lives and its greatness.

St. Paul wrote, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves" (2 Cor. 13:5).

Not everyone who says he believes has faith, but is measured according to God's saying "You will know them by their fruits" (Matt. 7:16).

There are those who claim to have faith, but have neither the heart nor the life of a believer. So what then is the life of a believer?

The life of faith is linked with peace, tranquillity and lack of fear, for when you become afraid, then the Lord will say to you "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matt. 14:31).

The life of a believer is also associated with purity of behaviour, for the believer feels the presence of God, who sees, hears and records all that he does. For this reason the believer feels ashamed and afraid of wrong doing in front of God.

The life of a believer is a life of submission to the will of God.

Having faith that God is the maker of all things, and all that He permits to happen is for our own good. In this way, God's children live in peace, happiness and satisfaction with all that God grants them.

The life of faith does not believe anything is impossible for the Lord, who said, "All things are possible to him who believes" (Mark 9:23).

Therefore the believer does not quiver in times of distress, but believes wholeheartedly that God has many solutions, and will interfere to fulfil His will.

The believer does not enter into an argument with God about His doing, but accepts all things and confidence in God's wisdom and love.

The believer concentrates on the unseen than the visible things, "For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18).

The heroes of faith are not only those who defended their faith, but also those who lived a fruitful life of faith that worked in love.

This book before you, gives you a clarified ideas on the life of faith, how it acquired, and how to test if you are really in faith or not.

Pope Shenouda III

----------

Title: Life of Faith

Author: H. H. Pope Shenouda Ill.

Press: Dar El Tebaa El Kawmia.

Edition: August 1989 - First edition.

Legal Deposit No.: 5606/1989

Revised: COEPA 1997


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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Verses





Keep yourselves in the love of God, 
waiting for the mercy of our Lord 
Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 
 Jude 1: 21 ESV




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من اقوال البابا شنوده الثالث



إنه اختبار روحي جميل أن نرى الله في التجارب
نراه معنا وبقوة وربما لولا التجارب ما كنا نراه هكذا
وهذه هي إحدى فوائد التجارب العديدة
العمق الروحي للتجارب، هو أنه لا يجـوز لنا
أن نراها، بدون أن نرى الله فيها


أقوال البابا شنوده الثالث
 
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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

3- THE RELEASE OF THE SPIRIT - By H.H. Pope Shenouda III



3 - THE RELEASE OF THE SPIRIT  
By H.H. Pope Shenouda III 

 
The following is a collection of articles entitled, "The Release of the Spirit" written by HH Pope Shenouda III for the Sunday School Magazine from the year 1951 before starting his monastic life. 


These articles were published in the form of a book in the year 1957 including some of his poems which were published in the magazine as well..


It was his first published book and it gained the approval of many and was reprinted many times.



3 - THE RELEASE OF THE SPIRIT 




The release from bonds 

 
It was seven O'clock in the evening, and silence (surrounded) everything when my father monk and I began to set our feet on the sand of the desert. We walked from time to time contemplating on matters beyond human utterance. A long time passed without our being aware until we stopped at the gate of the monastery to discuss together. 


Impressions and bonds: 


I do not mean by the 'release of the spirit from the body' what Simeon the Elder meant when he said: "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word.." .. What I mean is the release of the spirit while still in the body; its release from any bonds encompassing it. Only then, one can experience complete peace and live the free life of God's children.


Do you know, dear brother, that a child, after being baptised, has his spirit free, in the original condition in which it was created..? Do you know what happens to it afterwards? The world, the customs and the environment implant in it many impressions. Many bonds bind it and hinder its movement towards God to be united with Him and abide in Him. What God's children seek is to be freed from all this.. to have their souls released from the bonds of the world and the environment and from the bonds of the senses and human wisdom...


At this point the father monk said: 'Perhaps some think of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, “unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 18:3). that they mean, "Unless you become as young as children.." No , He wanted to say, "Unless you become as great in spirit as children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.'


The bonds of the senses:


St. Macarius the Great once met a monk who was fought with self-righteousness, he thought he had overcome adultery, love for money and anger.. St. Macarius began to ask him about his feelings on seeing a woman.. The monk replied that he would discern that she was a woman but would fly away lest he should feel lust.. St. Macarius asked him again what his feeling would be when he saw some money in the desert.. The monk said he would be able to distinguish money from stones but he would abstain from the love of money.. The saint asked him a third time how he would feel if someone insulted him.. The monk replied that he would feel that he was insulted but would not let anger remain within his heart. Here, St. Macarius told the monk that he was still frail and needed to strive more and the saint began to teach him..


The bonds of the senses, dear reader, make a person discriminate between a man and a woman, between an old woman and a young girl, and between a beautiful girl and an ugly one..


Such bonds also make one discriminate between money and stones..


What about praise and insult then?


Once a monk asked St. Macarius for advice.. St.Macarius ordered him to go and praise the dead. He did so but no one replied to him. The saint then ordered him to go and insult them, but when he did no one replied either.


Then St. Macarius said to that monk, 'You also must be like the dead since you have died to the world.. You must not be affected by anything whether this be praise or insult'..


Once a rich man brought some money to the monastery in order to be distributed among the monks.. the abbot wanted to teach that person a practical lesson, so he put the money aside and rang the bell. When the monks gathered the abbot asked them to take their need of the money as an expression of their love for the rich man. But the monks looked at the gold as if looking to stones and took nothing of it in spite of it. Their behaviour had so great effect on that person that he asked to be a monk..


The world and the flesh, dear brother, have many impressions on our senses. This makes us look upon the worldly and material things as being more beautiful and attractive than they really are and as having a deeper effect. However, when the spirit is elevated and released partly-from the bonds which hinder its way, the senses will be elevated accordingly . In other words , they will be released from the worldly feelings and you will have a new spiritual understanding of matters.


You can feel this if you were away from your family for a long time, and on you return they embraced you in excessive love and longing.. You felt overwhelmed by their love, but would you, amidst this love, feel that the person who embraced you whether your father or mother, your sister or brother was a man or a woman!


The same is the case of the person who rescues others in fires or drowning accidents. If such a person felt that whomever he was rescuing was a man or a woman, a girl or a boy, he would expose himself and that person would be in danger of death.


I think this demonstrates that the spirit is superior to the senses. There are even times when the senses are partly or completely suppressed because the spirit is engaged in things which are greater.


So in your spiritual life, you have to get rid of the bonds of the senses . Then you will have a different view of things, you will not be overcome with lust: whether the lust of the flesh, the eyes, the lust for money or women or the pride of life. You will be like the angels of God in heaven, and see everything as good as the Lord Jesus Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount, "If therefore you eye is good, your whole body will be full of light".  (Matt. 6:22)


These were not the only thoughts which my father monk and I discussed, for we talked about things more profound. We discussed the attitude of the senses ‘when one tries to understand and meditate on theological matters. The senses are physical and limited and thereupon are not able to approach God Who is unlimited . The senses are also fallible and often mistake between what is wrong and what is right.


Even the apostles were mistaken when they returned to the Lord joyfully saying, "Lord even the demons are subject to us in Your name", the Lord replied to them, "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this." (Luke 10:1 7,20) 


Likewise, the murderer who kills for revenge or honour, feels content as if he has done a great deed. It is a wrong feeling certainly.


You also, my beloved brother, may have various feelings during your prayers, fasts, seclusion and meditations. Examine them well for they may be unsound human feelings . Try to free your spirit from the bonds of the senses. 


Another point which I like to draw to your attention is that when one is completely involved in meditating on theological matters, one becomes unaware of the world and of the things around them.  For example Hanna was in the temple praying in bitterness from her soul before the Lord . She was not aware of anything around her. Eli the priest thought she was drunk and reproached her saying, "How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!".  (1 Sam.13,14) 


If you are completely involved in your prayers and meditations, you will not be aware at all of anything that may take place around you. There may be some people talking near you or there may be some noise or various scenes but you will not be aware of anything because you are absorbed in spiritual matters. Your senses are partly passive and it is your spirit which acts. I think some consider that the spirit in this case is caught up! I remember an example of this - St. John the Short who used to spend long times in meditations during which people talked to him but he never heard their voice or knew what they were saying. Some tried to repeat what they said but he only exclaimed what the thing they wanted was and the more they repeated their words, the less he heard . "the reason is that his spirit at times was involved in other matters which were more important, far deeper and nearer to the hearing and the memory. Sometimes people asked him certain questions but the saint used to reply to them with theological meditations which had no relation whatever with what they asked. In fact, he did not hear what they were saying, because his spirit was released from the senses..

The release of the spirit from the human wisdom:


Now, I wish that the spirit would be released from the human wisdom as well! because, "Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" (I Cor. 1:20), and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile." (1 Cor. 3:20). The Holy Bible tells us also, ".. the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written 'He catches the wise in their craftiness'."  (1 Cor. 3:19)


The human mind-since the beginning- is defective and limited. The mind was better in the beginning when God created it, for God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. The human mind-after its creation- was subject to sin and to the world with its ideas, researches, experiences, customs, traditions, systems and formalities which had an impression on the mind . This made the mind liable to issue wrong judgements and made it unable to comprehend or approach God on its own. Those who think themselves wise and intelligent and trust in their own wisdom and intellect are the farthest from spiritual and theological matters. Therefore St. Paul the Apostle said,: "And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power...", "... we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual".  (1 Cor. 2:4,13)


Have you now seen , my beloved brother, how vain human wisdom is... ! Would God then abolish wisdom in general? No, but He supports it.. Listen to what St. Paul the Apostle says in the same epistle, "However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery".  (1Cor. 2: 6,7)

So, if you want to learn God's intentions, release your spirit first from the human wisdom. Stand before God as ignorant and lacking every knowledge and understanding. Only then, you will be filled with knowledge.. that knowledge which is spiritual and perfect not human and deficient, "For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God." (1 Cor. 2:10). St. Paul certainly meant this when he said, "If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise." (1 Cor. 3:18) 

Once, a man with a withered hand came to the Lord Jesus Christ asking Him to be healed. The Lord ordered him to stretch out his hand and the man stretched it out and it was restored as whole as the other (Matt. 12:10,13). This miracle demonstrates the power of the Lord but likewise it shows how the human wisdom must vanish. If that man had given a chance to the human wisdom to interfere he would have argued 'How can I stretch out my hand though it is withered? Is it possible that a withered hand be stretched out? And if I can stretch it out, why do I need to be healed? May You heal it first so that I may be able to stretch it out?' This would have been the case, but that man made himself a fool that he might become well. He ignored human wisdom that says a withered hand cannot be stretched out. It is the same wisdom which does not believe that a mountain can be removed from its place as that a person can walk over the water or that one must not be concerned about tomorrow...

Human wisdom even made people examine God , His attributes and doctrines as if with a microscope! It also made some people accept only what conforms with their views regarding the Bible and the Church laws and refuse whatever their intellect does not approve of ...

On the other hand, God's children accept everything simply without any objections.. They say: 'O Lord, do You want us to walk through the Red Sea? Well then, we shall walk because certainly You will prepare for us a road across it so that we may not be drowned..'

There is a legend which says that the waters of the Red Sea were not divided when Moses stretched out his hand with the rod over the sea but only when the first person put his feet in the waters.. It is just a legend but it has a sublime spiritual meaning.


  The Release of The Spirit
 By H.H. Pope Shenouda III 

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Verses



The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. 
The Lord is near to all who call on him, 
to all who call on him in truth. 
Psalm 145: 17 - 18 ESV




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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Verses



Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, 
on those who hope in his steadfast love, 
that he may deliver their soul from 
death and keep them alive in famine.
Psalm 33: 18 - 19 ESV

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Friday, July 20, 2012

The Wooden Bowl



A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.  The family ate together at the table, but the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. 'We must do something about father,' said the son. 'I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.' Therefore, the husband and wife set a small table in the corner.

There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

The four-year-old watched it all in silence.  One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor.  He asked the child sweetly, 'What are you making?'

Just as sweetly, the boy responded, 'Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up. 'The four-year-old smiled and went back to work..

The words so struck the parents so that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.

That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table.  For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family.  And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.


Children are remarkably perceptive. Their eyes ever observe, their ears ever listen, and their minds ever process the messages they absorb. If they see us patiently, provide a happy home atmosphere for family members, they will imitate that attitude for the rest of their lives. 

Be kind to those who are older and less able to take care of themselves. Do not cast them aside, love them, care for them and be patient with them. For   you will never know when one day you are older, you will be in their place and in need of help and care.

The Bible said: "Honor your father and your mother" (Ex 20:12)   Love your parents and treat them with loving care, for you will only know their value when you see them gone.

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Verses



As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; 
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. Isaiah 66:13 ESV


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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

UNANSWERED LETTERS‏



There are many times when we begin a certain task that God lays on our hearts and because we think our efforts are minimal and not making a difference, we quit the job that God told us to pursue.

The enemy loves to plant seeds of doubt and lure us into thinking that we are not capable of making a difference in this world, but with God's help we can overcome and fulfill the destiny that God has for every believer.

If you are going through a situation of doubting your task unto the Lord, then I hope this story will bless and encourage you to never quit what God has laid on your heart because you may never know of the lives that you are touching.

I read of a man who was involved in a tragic accident. He lost both legs and his left arm and only a finger and thumb remained on the right hand.

But he still possessed a brilliant mind, enriched with a good education and broadened with world travel. At first he thought there was nothing he could do but remain a helpless sufferer.

A thought came to him. It was always nice to receive letters, but why not write them?  He could still use his right hand with some difficulty.  But to whom could he write?

Was there anyone shut-in and incapacitated like he was who could be encouraged by his letters? He thought of men in prison--they did have some hope of release, whereas he had none--but it was worth a try. He wrote to a Christian Organization concerned with prison ministry. He was told that his letters could not be answered because it was against prison rules, but he still decided to commence this one-sided correspondence.

He wrote twice a week, and it taxed his strength to the limit. But into the letters he put his whole soul, all his experience, all his faith, all his wit, and all his Christian optimism.

Frequently he felt discouraged and was tempted to give it all up. But it was his one remaining activity, and he resolved to continue as long as he could.

At last he got a letter. It was very short, written on prison stationery by the officer whose on duty, it was to censor the mail.  All it said was: "Please write on the best paper you can afford. Your letters are passed from cell to cell till they literally fall to pieces."

No matter what your situation may be like, you still have the ability to encourage someone who is discouraged and lift up someone who is feeling low.

Take this story as an encouragement to give your all for someone else and do not worry about the results.  No good work will go unseen and only God knows of the impact that your life can have on someone else. Let us not do our good works so that we may be praised, but let us do good works so that others may be lifted up and God be praised because of our intervention.

The only thing that we can take with us into eternity is what we have done for the Lord. There are no bank accounts in heaven to show how much your net worth was on the earth, but there will be accounts in heaven of what you did to show your life as an example in leading others to Him.

- Author Unknown

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul, The Apostles - The Coptic Synaxarium Readings



Martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul, the Apostles
The Coptic Synaxarium Readings

On this day, the two great saints Peter and Paul, were martyred. St. Peter was from Bethsaida, and he was a fisherman. The Lord chose him on the second day of His baptism after He chose Andrew his brother. He had fervent faith and strong zeal.

When the Lord asked His disciples: "Who do men say that I am?" So they answered, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." ... Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 
(Mat. 16:13-20)

After he received the grace of the Holy Spirit, he went around in the world preaching of the crucified Christ, and he converted many to the faith. God wrought great and innumerable signs and wonders by his hands. He wrote two catholic Epistles to the believers.

When he came to the city of Rome, he found there St. Paul the Apostle. Through their preaching, most of the people of Rome believed, so Nero seized Peter and commanded to crucify him. Peter asked them to crucify him head downwards, and he delivered up his soul into the hand of the Lord.

As for St. Paul the Apostle, he was born in Tarsus two years before the advent of the Savior. He was a Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.
He was well learned in the Law of the Torah, and he was jealous for it. He persecuted the Christians. When they stoned St. Stephen, Paul was guarding the clothes of those who were stoning him. He took from Caiaphas, the high priest, letters to the synagogues of Damascus, to bind the Christians and bring them to Jerusalem.

As he journeyed, he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"  And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" And the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads."  Then He ordered him to go to Ananias in Damascus, who baptized him, and he received his sight at once.

He was filled by the grace of the Comforter, and he proclaimed boldly the Faith. He went around in the world preaching of the crucified Christ. He suffered much beatings, imprisonment, and was bound with fetters, some of which are mentioned in the book of the Acts of the Apostles and in his Epistles.
He went to Rome and proclaimed the Faith there and many believed by his hands. He wrote for them the Epistle to the Romans which was the first of his fourteen Epistles.

Finally, Nero seized him, tortured him severely and ordered his head cut off.

While St. Paul was passing along with the executioner, he met a damsel who was a kinswoman of the Emperor Nero, and who had believed through him. She walked along with St. Paul, weeping, to where they carried out the sentence. He comforted her and asked her for her veil. He wrapped his head with the veil, and asked her to return back.

The executioner cut off his head and left it wrapped in the veil of the young girl, and that was in the year 67 A.D. The young girl met the executioner on his way back to the Emperor, and asked him about Paul and he replied, "He is lying where I left him and his head is wrapped in your veil." She told him, "You are lying, for he and Peter had just passed by me, they were arrayed in the apparel of kings, and had crowns decorated with jewels on their heads, and they gave me my veil, and here it is." She showed it to the executioner, and to those who were with him. They marveled, and believed on the Lord Christ.

God wrought by the hands of Peter and Paul many great signs and wonders, that they even carried the sick out into the streets ... that as Peter came by ... his shadow might fall on them ... and they were all healed. (Acts 5:15) 

The handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from Paul's body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. (Acts 19:12)

May their prayers be with us ... Glory be to God forever. Amen.



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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

2- THE RELEASE UNTO THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD - By H.H. Pope Shenouda III




2- THE RELEASE UNTO THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD 
By H.H. Pope Shenouda III


The following is a collection of articles entitled, "The Release of the Spirit" written by HH Pope Shenouda III for the Sunday School Magazine from the year 1951 before starting his monastic life.

These articles were published in the form of a book in the year 1957 including some of his poems which were published in the magazine as well..

It was his first published book and it gained the approval of many and was reprinted many times.


2 - THE RELEASE UNTO THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

I confess before You, O Lord, that I ought to have changed my trend of writing. I confess-in shame-that I often talked to people about virtue but little did I talk to them about You, though You are all in all...

However, to be able to talk about You, I have to know You.. But how can I attain to this knowledge, being a limited man, and You the unlimited God! And further how can I know You, while You are incomprehensible and inconceivable; You are the light that cannot be approached and no human being can see You and remain alive!..

I tried to ask about You from Your holy people who knew You well or partly. just as St. Paul the Apostle who ascended to the third heaven but he said that he, ".. heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter."  (2 Cor. 12:4)

St. John the Beloved also saw an open door in heaven and saw the throne of God but he described the revelation just in symbols which did not give the full real picture...

Sometimes I ask myself, 'Is it a kind of pride that I try to know You though I know not my own self and I ignore many human and material matters? Since I do not know my real self, how can I know the Creator of this self? 

I still do not know Your heavens and Your angels, how can I know Your Godhead then?

I only know what You reveal to us.. and You only reveal what we can endure. If You do reveal to us more, our human nature will be struck with astonishment, and our minds will be unable to understand. No terms will be sufficient to express what is revealed and we have to confess that whatever we see cannot be put into words..

In my attempt to know You, I try to go beyond books with whatever deep knowledge they contain, and even beyond mental knowledge. This allows the spirit-being released-to have a wider scope which surpasses the limits of the mind... However, the human spirit is limited.. in its capacities, in its talents and in its knowledge.. Besides, it suffers much due to the thickness of the human material body..

O Lord, how would I know You then in the eternal kingdom! "Face to face" as St. Paul says! I stand bewildered before these words.

In Your kingdom, in spite of the glorious resurrection and the spiritual enlightened bodies, we will certainly remain as we are - limited human beings.

There, You will reveal to us something more about Your Godhead which we know not while we are in this present world, and so we shall rejoice and become happy. Then, You will reveal to us more and more, gradually, as far as we can endure. Perhaps if You reveal much more, our souls would cry out-in deep love- 'that is enough ‘You will make our hearts and souls greater and wider so as they can take more of You into them... While You remain, O Lord, as You are... unlimited... we remain as we are, limited and knowing little about You .

Along the times which have no end in eternity, we shall enjoy knowing You, we shall taste and see how good You are. We shall know more about You every now and then and so we shall be nourished with this pleasant satisfying knowledge but never shall we comprehend You.

Then, when shall we know You the true knowledge?

Our Lord Jesus Christ says, "And this is eternal life, that 
they may know You, the only true God... " (John. 17:3)
Thus, to know You is not a matter which needs years and 
days but it will take the whole eternal life which has no end.

If this is the case concerning eternity, what can we say about our ignorance while we are on earth? Do we really have any knowledge ?

So, I entreat You, Great Creator, to forgive me because I talk to people about virtue more than I tell them about You.. 
This is due to two reasons:

- The first is that I haven't the knowledge or capacity - all that I know is that I pray to You in order to reveal to me some- thing about You. Whatever You reveal to me I disclose to people so that they may taste the kingdom of Heavens while being on earth.

- The second reason is that when I talk to them about virtue, I want them to prepare their hearts to know You.. I want them to raise incense every day and night on the altar of their hearts to be ready for the Holy Offering.

We cannot know by ourselves.. but we want-through Your grace- to prepare ourselves to know You.. This knowledge comes from You.. through what You reveal to us, not through any mental or even spiritual effort on our behalf. Any striving of our minds and souls, though necessary, is just a kind of prayer or supplication. Such striving is a means through which the cloud may fill the House, and the fire burn in the bush and so God may reveal Himself and every heart would give worship in awe and sing thankfully saying ‘You gave me the gift of knowing You'

This divine knowledge is the precious pearl which made the merchant sell all that he had to buy it.

Such things which the merchant sold represent the various human branches of knowledge which take up all our time and give us no chance to know You. They hinder us from sitting at Your feet with Mary (the sister of Martha and Lazarus) to receive the living water which You pour in our hearts and which whoever drinks of, will never thirst.

I wish that we would seek such knowledge, with all our hearts. Then we shall find it within us, deep in our hearts, where You dwell and where Your holy temple lies that which You consecrated with the Holy Chrism.

25 December 1973 - 16 Kihak 1690

 The Release of The Spirit
 By H.H. Pope Shenouda III 

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Monday, July 9, 2012

MILK






A young man had been to Wednesday Night Bible Study.

The Pastor had shared about listening to God and obeying the Lord's voice. 
The young man couldn't help but wonder, 'Does God still speak to people?' After service, he went out with some friends for coffee and pie and they discussed the message. Several different ones talked about how God had led them in different ways.

It was about ten o'clock when the young man started driving home. Sitting in his car, he just began to pray, 'God...If you still speak to people, speak to me.  I will listen.  I will do my best to obey.'
 
As he drove down the main street of his town, he had the strangest thought to stop and buy a gallon of milk. He shook his head and said out loud, 'God is that you?'  He didn't get a reply and started on toward home. But again, the thought, buy a gallon of milk.
 
The young man thought about Samuel and how he didn't recognize the voice of God, and how little Samuel ran to Eli.

'Okay, God, in case that is you, I will buy the milk.'  It didn't seem like too hard a test of obedience. He could always use the milk. He stopped and purchased the gallon of milk and started off toward home.  As he passed Seventh Street , he again felt the urge, 'Turn Down that street.'
 
This is crazy he thought, and drove on past the intersection.


Again, he felt that he should turn down Seventh Street.  At the next intersection, he turned back and headed down Seventh. Half jokingly, he said out loud, 'Okay, God, I will.'


He drove several blocks, when suddenly, he felt like he should stop. He pulled over to the curb and looked around.  He was in a semi- commercial area of town.  It wasn't the best but it wasn't the worst of neighborhoods either. The businesses were closed and most of the houses looked dark like the people were already in bed.


Again, he sensed something, 'Go and give the milk to the people in the house across the street..' The young man looked at the house. It was dark and it looked like the people were either gone or they were already asleep. He started to open the door and then sat back in the car seat.


'Lord, this is insane. Those people are asleep and if I wake them up, they are going
to be mad and I will look stupid.' Again, he felt like he should go and give the milk..


Finally, he opened the door, 'Okay God, if this is you, I will go to the door and I will give them the milk. If you want me to look like a crazy person, okay. I want to be obedient. I guess that will count for something, but if they don't answer right away, I am out of here.'


He walked across the street and rang the bell. He could hear some noise inside. A man's voice yelled out, 'Who is it? What do you want?' Then the door opened before the young man could get away.


The man was standing there in his jeans and T-shirt. He looked like he just got out of bed.. He had a strange look on his face and he didn't seem too happy to have some stranger standing on his doorstep.. 'What is it?'


The young man thrust out the gallon of milk, 'Here, I brought this to you.' The man took the milk and rushed down a hallway. Then from down the hall came a woman carrying the milk toward the kitchen. The man was following her holding a baby. The baby was crying. The man had tears streaming down his face.


The man began speaking and half crying, 'We were just praying. We had some big bills this month and we ran out of money. We didn't have any milk for our baby. I was just praying and asking God to show me how to get some milk.'  His wife in the kitchen yelled out, 'I ask him to send an Angel with some. Are you an Angel?'


The young man reached into his wallet and pulled out all the money he had on him and put in the man's hand. He turned and walked back toward his car and the tears were streaming down his face.  

He knew that God still answers prayers.


This is so true. Sometimes it's the simplest things that God asks us to do that cause us, if we are obedient to what He's asking, to be able to hear His voice more clear than ever. Please listen, and obey! It will bless you (and the world). 

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Phil 4:13

"Have faith in God."


Faith makes ANYTHING possible. Always trust in the Lord.


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Verses





O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.  Psalm 104: 24 ESV

 

The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.  Proverbs 3: 19 - 20 ESV





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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Verses

Do not grumble against one another, brothers, 
so that you may not be judged; 
behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 
James 5: 9 ESV 


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