Words of Spiritual Benefit | 21-30

21. SOME EXERCISES IN SILENCE

It is hard for whoever lives in our society to keep silent completely, but he can exercise silence by adopting the following:

1. Short concise answers:

If a word or a phrase would suffice for an answer, there is no need to go into extended detail and lengthy explanation; one sentence is enough.

2. To cease talk on any subject:

There are some subjects which are not your concern, therefore do not speak about them, especially matters relating to the secrets of others.  Also abstain from talking on subjects which are not your speciality, such as pure scientific or artistic or political matters that surpass your knowledge.

3. Keep away from faults of the tongue:

Such as: condemnation, sneering, futile talk, chattering, worthless argument, words of anger and contempt, etc...

4. Avoid starting a conversation except for necessity:

If somebody talked to you, answer him briefly; and if nobody talked to you, keep silent unless there is something which necessitates your speaking, otherwise you might fall into a certain mistake...


22. LEVELS OF FAITH

There might be a person "who is weak in the faith" (Rom. 14: 1) or, "of little faith." (Matt. 14: 31)

Another person needs to "perfect what is lacking in his faith". A third is "slow of heart to believe," like the two disciples of Emmaus. (Luke 24:25)

On the contrary to this, there are levels of faith...

A faithful person,

Another, "not a novice, " (I Tim. 3:6)

A third, "...his faith grows exceedingly, " (2 Thess, 1:3) or he "abounds in faith." (2 Cor. 8:7)

A fourth, "continues in the faith, grounded and steadfast." (Col. 1:23)

A fifth, "steadfast in the faith." (1 Pet. 5:9)

A sixth, "rich in faith." (James 2: 5).

Above all those, a seventh, "full of faith." (Acts 6:5)

The Lord said about some, "great is your faith." (Matt. 15:28)

There is a strong faith in which "signs will follow those who believe" (Mark 16:17) and faith that, "could remove mountains" (1 Cor. 13:2), and a greater faith which makes everything possible, "all things are possible to him who believes."(Mark 9:23)

Before all this, what is your position in faith?  Are you a true believer?  Do you have that... "faith working through love"? (Gal. 5:6) Do you grow in faith?  Or is your faith strong and great?  Or do you need prayers so... "that your faith should not fail"? (Luke 22:32)

Brethren.. "examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves?" (2 Cor. 13:5)

Undoubtedly, the word faith bears deep meanings...


23. PRAYER

Prayer is to open the heart to God, so that the faithful talks to Him, lovingly and openly.  It is laying the individual before God.

Prayer is a tie, a relationship between man and God.  Therefore, it is not just talk, it is a heart connected to a heart. Prayer is a feeling of being in the presence of God.  It is a partnership with the Holy Spirit and unity with God...

Prayer is the food of the angels and the spirituals by which they are nourished and taste the Lord, "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good." (Ps. 34:8)

Prayer quenches a soul's thirst for God, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul to you, 0 God" (Ps. 42: 1), "I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness." (Ps. 63:5)

Prayer is the submission of life to God to conduct it Himself, "Your will be done.  "

Prayer is an admission of our lack of strength. and insufficiency of intelligence.  Therefore, we resort to a greater power where we find our care...

Prayer is abolishing our independence from God...

It is meeting with God: either we lift ourselves up to Him or He comes down to us...

It is turning oneself to Heaven and to the throne of God...

Prayer is not an obligation or an order.  It is not just a commandment or piety and devotion... It is a desire and longing... otherwise, it would be a burden which we, unwillingly practise, just for obedience sake!!

Prayer is not just a request.  One might pray without asking for anything... but contemplate on the beauty of God and His life giving qualities... Therefore, a prayer of praise and glorification... is more sublime than that of a request...

Whoever seeks something else besides God alone, will never be able to enjoy prayer as he ought to.

Prayer means dying completely to all the world, an utter forgetfulness to pleasures, where God alone remains in one's thought...

Prayer is the ladder which connects heaven and earth.  It is a bridge that we cross to reach the heavenly places where there is no world...

It is a key to Heaven  ...

It is a combination of feelings that are expressed in words

Prayer would be without words or utterance

The heart's beat is a prayer ... the eye's tear is a prayer ... the feeling of God's presence is a prayer

In all these shades of meaning, do you really pray?


24. THE WORDS "I HAVE SINNED" BETWEEN REALITY AND FALSITY

Very often the words "I have sinned"., are said from a true and contrite heart, to prove repentance and to receive God's forgiveness...

=> For example when the prodigal son said to his father, "...I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son." (Luke 15:21).  He was forgiven and the fatted calf was killed for him.

=> Another example is what David said, "Against You, You only have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight. (Ps. 51:4). We repeat the same words in each of the seven daily prayers.

But there are other occasions where the words, "I have sinned".- were said, without proving repentance and were not accepted by God!...

=> Pharaoh repeated this phrase more than once.  It was a policy he adopted, due to fear, so God may take away the punishment.  But once the plague was removed, he hardened his heart, as before!!

When the hail struck, Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said to them "I have sinned this time.  The Lord is righteous and my people and I are wicked. Entreat the Lord that there may be no more mighty thundering and hail, for it is enough.  I will let you go." (Ex. 9:27,28).  But when the plague ceased, he hardened his heart once more.

When the plaque of the Locusts struck, Pharaoh said to them, "I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you.  Now, therefore, please forgive my sin only this once, and entreat the Lord your God that He may take away from me this death only..." (Ex. 10: 16,17).

Many say "I have sinned", like Pharaoh, then turn back as he did.

=> Balaam, whose straying was mentioned in the Bible, said to the Angel of the Lord, "I have sinned," (Num. 22.34); then turned and disobeyed...

=> King Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned." He repeated it twice, not for repentance but because he wanted the prophet to honour him before the people (1 Sam. 15:24-30).  Saul perished and God rejected him.

=> Achan, the son of Carmi, said to Joshua, "Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God.of Israel.." (Josh. 7:20). And Achan perished, like Balaam before him and like King Saul after him, despite their saying the phrase "I have sinned."

=> Shemei, the son of Gera, also said to King David, "I have sinned" (2 Sam. 19:20).  He might have said it because of fear or flattery.  It was not accepted and Shemei perished.

=> What else is there to say?  Judas, the betrayer himself said, "I have sinned."

He said to the chief priest and elders, in despair and after it was too late, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood" (Matt. 27:4).  Then he departed and hanged himself, And so Judas perished after saying, "I have sinned."


25.  THE NEW YEAR PRAYER

Lord, make it a blessed year...
A pure year to please You...
A year in which Your Spirit prevails...
And joins in working with us...
Hold our hands and guide our thoughts from the beginning of the year till its end...
Let this year be Yours, to please You...
It is a New Year, spotless; let us not tarnish it with our sins or impurities...
Lord, be with us in every work we intend to do this year...
Silent we will be, and you will do everything...
Let us rejoice in all Your deeds, and say with John the Evangelist:

"All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." (John 1:3) Let this year, 0 Lord, be a happy year... put a smile on each face and gladden every heart... Let Your grace emerge in our trials and help those who are tempted...

Grant us peace and quietness of mind...
Give those who are in need, cure the sick and console the grieved...
We do not ask You, God, only for ourselves...
But we ask for the all, because they are Yours...
You created them to rejoice in You. ..then make them happy with You...
We ask You for the Church, for Your mission, that Your word may reach every heart...
We ask you for our country, for the world's peace that Your Kingdom may come everywhere.
Let it be a fruitful year, full of goodness...
Every day and every hour has its own work...
Do not allow a futile moment...
Fill our life with activity, work, and production...
Grant us the blessing of a productive and holy toil.
Let the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us in all our deeds...
We thank you, God, for you have kept us till this hour and granted us this year, that we may bless You...


26. CONFESSION AND REPENTANCE

The sacrament of confession in the church is the sacrament of repentance.  And without repentance, confession would not be a confession...

Repentance is an utter conviction from the heart that you have sinned.

Repentance is to judge and convict yourself...

Thus confession, is just an admittance of your own...condemnation...

Then it is not the phrase, "I have sinned." or reciting your sins. The true confession starts in the heart, with one rejecting his own deeds and despising his behaviour.

The one who condemns himself accepts any punishment that befalls him either from God or people, considering that he deserves it ...

To grumble about the punishment proves that there has been no repentance...

Repentance also includes trying your best to remedy the consequences resulting from sin... and restitute any injustice that occurred to others.

Therefore, Zacchaeus, in his repentance, stood and said to the Lord, "... and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold." (Luke 19:8) As for you, restore at least the same amount.  Repentance without restoration is not sufficient...

Repentance needs a humble heart.  The one who persists in his pride and dignity would not be able to repent.

The one who always defends himself and justifies his deeds and words is not a repentant person.  His pride stops him from repentance.

The priest is supposed to say to the confessor, "May God absolve you," when he sees that the person has repented.  The absolution is not to be said to the unrepentant.

When one hears the phrase, "may God absolve you", it refers to the sins that this person has repented from...

The confessor who is absolutely sure that he has sinned, and his conscience is harshly rebuking him, could change his behaviour and repent.  On the other hand, the one who justifies himself could easily continue in his sins, as he does not feel their weight and they do not internally disturb him.

How could one repent while he is not convinced that he is wrong!! The first step is one's conviction that he has sinned.

Therefore, confession is the second step, not the starting point. There is a big difference between a true confession and another without conviction.


27. THE STRENGTH OF PERSONALITY

Strength of personality is not an outward appearance, it springs from the depths of a person , from his heart, mind and will.

One might be considered strong because of his intellectual strength, intelligence and ability to understand, conclude, obtain and gather items of knowledge, beside a good memory that collects and arranges information.

There is no doubt that an intelligent person is a strong one...

He is stronger than the knowledgeable person and the well read. If he acquires these qualities too, his personality increases in strength.

The strength of will and determination are also sources of a strong personality.

Therefore, it is said that he who overcomes himself is better than he who defeats a city. An intelligent person without a strong will, could fail in life because he knows, but he is not able.

Among the causes of a weak personality are: hesitation, doubt, lack of self-control, weakness of will and inability to take a decision.

Fasting and spiritual exercises that one follows, strengthen one's will and one's personality.

A spiritual person is strong; due to his inner victory.  He is strong because he conquered sin, the devil, the flesh, materialism and the world.  He plunged into spiritual combats, and all of Satan's flaming weapons failed to defeat him...

Other sources of the strength of personality are wisdom and prudence.

Therefore, those who are known for their wisdom are right for leadership and guidance.  They are capable of attracting others to them.

Courage is also a quality of the strong personality...

Thus, he whose personality is considered strong, is bold and brave.  He does not fear or become troubled when facing counter forces.  He is also able to express his opinion, explain his faith and defend his belief.

There is a big difference between bravery and rashness. Rashness is void of wisdom...

Therefore, a personality is considered strong, when it fulfils many conditions of real strength that support each other.

This is said to differentiate between the real strength and the aspects of false strength that depends on authority, physical power, violence, pride or assault of others.


28. CHRISTIANITY, A RELIGION OF STRENGTH

The gentleness and humility, that Christianity calls for, are no indication whatsoever that it is a religion of weakness, but it is a religion of strength.  The Bible describes the faithful as, "sharp arrows of the warrior." (Ps. 120:4)  Describing the church, the Bible says that it is, "Fair as the moon, clear as the sun, awesome as an army with banners." (Song 6: 1 0)

This power is what the Holy Spirit gives to the faithful.

Therefore, God said to them, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me." (Act 1:8)

The Bible also says, "And with great power the Apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  And great grace was upon them all, " (Act 4:33) as in "... the Kingdom of God present with power." (Mark 9:1)

The summit of power, in Christianity is shown in the Apostle's saying, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13)

He also says about the strength in serving "...I also labour, striving according to His working in me mightily." (Col. 1:29).

It is power, in spite of obstacles, as the Lord said to Paul, "Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you and no one will attack you to hurt you." (Act 18:9, 10)

It is power with authority over all devils...

When the Lord Jesus sent His Disciples, He "...gave them power and authority over all demons." (Luke 9:1) We also thank Him in our prayers as He has,.given us the authority to trample on serpents, scorpions and over all the power of the enemy." (Luke 10:19)

The Christians are strong because they are an image of God and God is powerful...

The Lord Jesus, despite His gentleness and humility, was powerful. It was said about Him, "Gird Your sword upon Your thigh, 0 Mighty One." (Ps. 45:3)  He was powerful..... "for power went out from Him." (Luke 6:19)

"The Lord is clothed, He has girded Himself with strength." (Ps. 93: 1). "He has shown strength with His arm." (Luke 1: 5 1).  He showed His power through signs and wonders, "God's arm has made strength.  "

Power in Christianity has a spiritual nature... It is the power to overcome sin, the world and the devils; the power of endurance, the power of working and serving; the power of personality and how it affects and leads others; the power to defend faith.

This power is far from faults, violence, attacking or defeating others.


29. CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOUR

Some think that life with God means just faith or love or spirit without caring much about virtues or behaviour.

But the Bible is concerned with the Christian behaviour, especially about condemnation, as it says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." (Rom. 8: 1).  Then one's behaviour in the spirit is what protects one from condemnation.

This spiritual behaviour is considered an evidence of being firm in God.  The Apostle, expects a very high level by saying, "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked." (1 John 2:6)

Therefore, we are also expected to act according to the spirit, by taking the behaviour of the Lord Jesus as an example to follow...

The importance of Christian behaviour is shown in God's saying, "You will know them by their fruits." (Matt. 7:16)

This behaviour has two sides: positive and negative.  Each side has its own danger.  Therefore, St. John, the Apostle says, "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7).  This shows the positive side.

As for the negative side, the Apostle says, "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." (1 John 1:6)

Therefore, our Christian behaviour is an evidence of our fellowship with God.  It is also an evidence of our fellowship with the Church...

Accordingly, the Church sets apart anyone who does not behave properly, as in St Paul's letter to the Corinthians, "Put away from yourselves that wicked person." (1 Cor. 5:13)

St John also says, "But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks a disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. " (2 Thess. 3:6)

If behaviour is considered of no significance and only faith is important, why then did the Apostle consider it the top of joy, when he said, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." (3 John 4)

We are believers, but we have to, "... lead a life worthy of the calling with which you were called.." (Eph. 4: 1).  We also have to bear fruit, "Therefore, every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire... " (Matt. 3:10)


30. REMEMBER, O LORD, OUR GATHERINGS, BLESS THEM

Our gatherings are not when we get together, but when we meet with God, or when we meet each other and God is there in the midst, according to his true promise, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." (Matt. 18:20)

God gathered with Adam and Eve in Paradise, and that was the first Church.  Noah gathered with his family in the ark and God was there in the midst.  God was also in the midst of the three young men who were in the burning furnace.  God gathered with Moses on the mountain and it was a blessed gathering, the face of Moses shone with light as he came near to the real Light.

In the New Testament, God used to gather with his disciples in any place: on the mountain, in a house where he healed the paralytic, or in the wilderness where he blessed the five loaves, or in the fields or in a special meeting at Jacob's well, or in the house of Mary and Martha.

One of the most beautiful pictures presented to us in the Revelation is, "...in the midst of the seven lampstands, one like the Son of Man." (Rev. 1: 13).  It is the picture of God in the midst of His Church, in the midst of His people and in His right hand, the angels of the Churches.  This was preceeded by the Lord's gathering with His Disciples for forty days after the resurrection, "...being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." (Act 1:3).  He invited them to this gathering by saying to Mary Magdeline, "Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me." (Matt. 28:10).

Just seeing Him could be an aim in itself.

He said to them before, "... but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you." (John 16:22)

We gather with God in His house, therefore we rejoice in going to the house of God, as the Psalmist says, "I was glad when they said to me, 'let us go into the house of the Lord'. (Ps. 122:1)

God used to gather with people in houses:

One of the first houses that became Churches is the house of St Mark, "...the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying." (Acts 12:12).  And in the upper room, the Holy Spirit ascended, and our saint, St Mark, learned the ideals of gatherings and taught them to us.