“For every century in the life of the Church, there have been places of persecution. In many instances, the persecution has included terrible, physical violence and even martyrdom. Rather than the world evolving into a more and more mellow environment, the persecution has actually accelerated. In the twentieth century, more Christians were martyred than in the previous nineteen centuries put together! Hopes that the world would mature and come to a more civilized and gracious demeanor have certainly not been realized. Increasingly, as the realities of Christendom have faded into a memory, there have been a number of forces assaulting Christians: Secularism, Radical Islam, and Paganism.”
Much, much more here. Must read material!
Nouwen was an extraordinarily gifted spiritual writer. Here’s a passage from his Out of Solitude, Conclusion that provides some very powerful reasoning for prayer by means of withdrawal to the lonely place.
(Mark 1:35) ” ‘In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. When Simon and his companions found him, Jesus said: “Let us go—to the neighboring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.”
The words which Jesus spoke in these neighboring country towns were born in the intimacy with the Father. They were words of comfort and of condemnation, words of hope and of warning, words of unity and of division. He dared to speak these challenging words because he did not seek his own glory: “If I were to seek my own glory,” he says, “that would be no glory at all; my glory is conferred by the Father, by the one of whom you say, ‘He is our God,’ although you do not know him” (John 8:54). Within a few years Jesus’ words brought about his rejection and death. But the one who had spoken to him in the lonely place raised him up as a sign of hope and new life.
When you are able to create a lonely place in the middle of your actions and concerns, your successes and failures slowly can lose some of their power over you. For then your love for this world can merge with a compassionate understanding of its illusions. The your serious engagement can merge with an unmasking smile. Then your concern for others can be motivated more by their needs than your own. In short: then you can care. Let us therefore live our lives to the fullest but let us not forget to once in a while get up long before dawn to leave the house and go to a lonely place.”
Is it unusual to find it providential when you stumble upon a prayer that carries with its reading and heart-borne utterance a deep, rich sense of the fragrant offering of Christ?
from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers, by Arthur Bennett:
Lord God Almighty,
I ask not to be enrolled among the earthly great and rich,
but to be numbered with the spiritually blessed.
Make it my present, supreme, persevering concern
to obtain those blessings which are
spiritual in their nature,
eternal in their continuance,
satisfying in their possession.
Preserve me from a false estimate of the whole
or a part of my character;
May I pay regard to
my principles as well as my conduct,
my motives as well as my actions.
never to mistake the excitement of my passions
for the renewing of the Holy Spirit,
never to judge my religion by occasional
impressions and impulses, but by my
constant and prevailing disposition.
May my heart be right with you,
and my life as becomes the gospel.
May I maintain a supreme regard to another and better world,
and feel and confess myself a stranger and a pilgrim here.
Afford me all the direction, defense, support,
and consolation my journey hence requires,
and grant me a mind stayed upon you.
Give me large abundance of the supply of
the Spirit of Jesus,
that I may be prepared for every duty,
love you in all my mercies,
submit to you in every trial,
trust you when walking in darkness,
have peace in you amidst life’s changes.
Lord, I believe, help my unbelief
This is a prayer that’ll preach, too!
Beloved in our LORD Jesus Christ, for background to my little reflection, open your Bibles to Matthew 5: 1-12.
The LORD Himself, I believe, enlivens my awareness of being blessed even when I may not sense it during times of stasis, stress, sorrow, sickness, or separation. I submit that He uses every avenue of approach at His disposal to reassure us of His being the one and only source of all blessing. He may do this at the biblical/intellectual/theological level in bringing to our minds the truth of God’s blessings through His covenants and myriad promises. At other times, our no longer hardened hearts become aware of an inexplicable provision or miracle or the unmistakable, solid, really real presence of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. At still other times, our LORD sends us messengers -some heavenly (angels), most walking around this earth with us (our Kingdom family members) – to be conveyors, ambassadors, sub-contractors of His blessings. There are times, I strongly believe, He uses all three at once. Mountaintop moments, we are prone to call them.
Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Messiah, Be Blessed by the One Who Blesses!
Take this simple, short statement for all its worth. For it is worth all (and I mean ALL)!
A Happy and Blessed and Miraculous Christmas to one and all!
Add this reminder of walking in our neighbors’ shoes to your methodology tool box:
Archbishop Michael Ramsey, “We state and commend the faith only in so far as we go out and put ourselves inside the doubts of the doubters, the questions of the questioners and the loneliness of those who have lost their way.”
Our business is to present the Christian faith clothed in modern terms, not to propagate modern thought clothed in Christian terms… Confusion here is fatal. ~ J I Packer