The Wandering Desert Monk

The Wandering Desert Monk

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

God! Listen to me!

People have all kinds of ideas about how to win God’s favor. Many people think that some kind of asceticism will convince God to pay attention to them. Some people think if they give up chocolate for Lent or if they abstain from certain beverages or if they keep themselves from any guilty pleasure then God will hear their prayers. People were no different in the days of Isaiah the prophet living some 600 years before Jesus. Here is what he says gets God’s attention:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: “Here am I.” (Isaiah 58:6-9).

Wait, we say. You mean the self-sacrifice I am to make has really nothing to do with my little “give up” for a few days? Yes! When we work for justice, when we feed and clothe the hungry and naked, when we give shelter to the homeless, then we are really doing God’s work. Eager to hear from God? Join God in working on God’s agenda. – Ron Friesen

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Need a new perspective?

When life is out of sorts it is easy to become bogged down in the mud of the circumstances. Like the frog who lives in his little pond who finds his life ending on the muddy bank, we who are caught in our circumstances see nothing but more mud. But not for the eagle who soars over that little pond. She sees the headwater of the rivulet that feeds that little pond; she follows the creek that empties the pond to a lake. The eagle has something that the little frog lacks: the benefit of perspective. Isaiah’s neighbors were becoming more desperate everyday to the point of eating their children. Isaiah’s God reminds him and his friends of this perspective:

“But whoever takes refuge in me will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain.” (Isaiah 57:13)

Taking refuge in God will not make you a landowner of a larger estate complete with a majestic peak. The land represents, Shalom, or peace that includes enough of this world’s goods to satisfy a man. The mountain represents guidance in a bewildering world of disrupted values thrown into chaos of living in a culture that represents everything but divine truth. Feeling like life is swallowing you up in its muddy grip? Seek a new perspective. – Ron Friesen

Monday, July 29, 2013

Where is prayer?

When Americans are asked about their spiritual practices, prayer comes out on top. While American church attendance continues to decline, people still say they pray. When I visit churches I am amazed how little praying actually goes on. Traditionally, there was a part of the worship service something called the Pastoral Prayer. The point of the prayer was for the pastor to lead the congregation in praying for various concerns of the congregants. Many churches no longer include this prayer in their liturgy. I think the prophet Isaiah would be disappointed. He noted that this is what God thought about this:

“…for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7)

Many churches call themselves houses of worship not houses of prayer. I wonder what would happen if we became houses of prayer. What do you think?  - Ron Friesen

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Is it really free?

Who isn’t interested in a bargain? Free! Did you say, “Free?” Yet when God offers the Good News of a life for the taking, many will protest: “There must be something I have to do get such a gift of love!”

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” (Isaiah 55:1)

The only requirement for receiving the gift of God’s love and mercy is the humility to know you are needy. This requirement is a stumbling block to many whose pride keeps them from admitting any need. In a culture that celebrates self-sufficiency, it is not easy to confess one’s neediness. Join the counter-culture of humility. – Ron Friesen

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Do you only trust God in the light?

Some days it is very dark. It is so dark that it seems that God has gone into hiding. Maybe God has! God certainly went into hiding in the days of the Assyrian invasion of land of Judea and God said so!

“I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord your Redeemer.” (Isaiah 54:8)

What is this about? God’s ways are not our ways. It is ours to ask the reason only to understand that God’s discipline is for our benefit. It is here where faith is often tested. When God seems to be hidden from you, do you still trust God’s everlasting kindness and compassion for you? – Ron Friesen

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It will all be made right...

As much as we would like everything to last forever, we know that eventually everything will come to an end. The prospect of this demise of our universe is disconcerting because, being material beings, we stake our sense of stability and security on the sun rising very morning and the ground holding us up. As the prophet Isaiah reflected on the recent disruption of his life and lives of his neighbors, he realized this:

“Look up to the skies above,
      and gaze down on the earth below.
For the skies will disappear like smoke,
      and the earth will wear out like a piece of clothing.
The people of the earth will die like flies,
      but my salvation lasts forever.
      My righteous rule will never end!” (Isaiah 51:6)

There is something which will last long after this world is gone: God’s way to settle justice. Even those who lack much of this world’s goods cry out for justice. When we are out of the last ray of hope, we will still seek a sense of fairness. History is not a meaningless cycle of re-dos; His-story is a story of a day of final making right all that is wrong. – Ron Friesen