Sunday, 19 February 2017

Frank Laubach’s Inner Journey by Nakin Lenti

Frank Laubach (1884-1970) was a Christian mystic who believed that practicing the presence of God would do more good for humanity than political sand diplomatic schemes devoid of God.
Laubach devised a remarkably effective adult literacy program known as, “Each One Teach One.” However, his primary aims were always spiritual — to live his life in a moment to moment relationship with God, and to inspire others to do the same.

“A university man’s religion”

Swami Kriyananda tells us that there was nothing in Laubach’s religious training to suggest that an inner world of divine realization existed. Kriyananda writes that “it was divinely natural and right for him, in the context of his own spiritual development, to turn his perceptions outward.”
Laubach’s own words support Kriyananda’s perception. Writing about his life before 1930, he describes himself as having a “the university man’s religion:”
I believed that Jesus was probably the best man who had ever lived. But that memory of Jesus lacked power.
Then I had a personal experience of Christ in Mindanao, Philippine Islands, which left me sure that he not only lives, but lives in my heart. When he entered my heart, he brought to me a tender compassion for the multitudes which has been the driving power of my life ever since.
Laubach grew up in Pennsylvania, in a fundamentalist Christian environment, the son of a prosperous dentist. His interest in religion began at a young age and by early adolescence, he had discovered, in the town library, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, a devotional classic on prayer and contemplation.
At age 16, Laubach decided to make the ministry his life’s work. He graduated from Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1913, and received a PhD from Columbia University in 1915. It was during his seminary years that he became acquainted with Brother Lawrence’s book, The Practice of the Presence of God.

A long standing ambition

After being ordained a minister of the Congregational Church, Laubach felt a calling for missionary work and volunteered to serve in the Philippines. He intended to work with the Moros (Moslems) on the southern coast of the island of Mindanao, one of the few areas that had not been Christianized.
However, within a few weeks of arriving in the Moro city of Dansalan in the province of Lanao, Laubach and his wife were forced to leave. The United States Army, which controlled the area, considered the Moros much too hostile to Christians.
The Laubachs settled on the northwest coast of Mindanao where they did missionary work. In 1922 they moved to Manila where Frank Laubach served as a pastor of an interdenominational church and helped establish Union Theological Seminary. But his longstanding ambition was to bring Christianity to the Moros.

An atmosphere of tension and suspicion

After fifteen years, hostilities among the Moros subsided and Laubach immediately made plans to return to Lanao. For the time being, his wife and family were to remain in Manila.
Unsuspectingly, Laubach walked into an atmosphere of tension and suspicion. Some of the Filipino Christian teachers who had previously come to Dansalan had violated local customs. Several of the teachers were killed and at least fifty of their schools burned down.
Laubach encountered hostility and indifference everywhere he went. After a month, he had to acknowledge to himself that he was beaten.

God speaks to him

Laubach was not only discouraged over his inability to win over the Moros. He was also profoundly dissatisfied with his spiritual life. Recalling the books by Thomas a Kempis and Brother Lawrence he had read years before, he realized that he was still not living his days “in a minute by minute effort to follow God’s will.”
Determined to keep the constant presence of God, he prayed with renewed fervor and asked, “What, Father, do you desire done? What, Father, do you desire done this minute?”
Each evening at sunset he climbed Signal Hill, a twenty-minute walk from his house. There, overlooking the lakes, mountains and the distant sea, he often prayed aloud and listened with all his soul for an answer. One evening, in the depths of despair, his lips began to move; it seemed that God was speaking to him through his own voice.
“My child,” the voice said, “you have failed because you do not really love these Moros. You feel superior to them because you are white. If you can forget you are an American, and think only how I love them, they will respond.”
Laubach answered, “It is the truth, God. Drive me out of myself. Come and take possession of me and think Thy thoughts in my mind.”
And the voice said again through his own lips, “If you want the Moros to be fair to your religion, be fair to theirs. Study the Koran with them.”

Learning from the Moro priests

The next day Laubach went to the Moro priests and told them that he wanted to study the Koran. They responded eagerly, thinking he wanted to become a Moslem.
They brought with them a list of the four holy books of Islam — the Torah (the laws of Moses); the Zabur (the Psalms of David); the Kitab Injil (the gospel of Jesus Christ); and the Koran of Mohammed. *
Laubach explained as well as he could in their language, “From childhood I have studied the first three books on your list.” Partly in English, partly in the Moro tongue, the priests talked of Jesus as the holiest prophet after Mohammed.
Having finally established a bridge with the Moros, Laubach was now ready to tackle the problem of illiteracy, which to him was an essential first step before talking to them of religion. His first project was to create a dictionary of  “Maranaw,” the Moro language. A printing press and a building for a school soon followed.
The Moro priests and a group of young Moros often expressed their gratitude: “You are the first who has ever tried to appreciate us,” they insisted.

Meeting God face to face

Not only was Laubach’s work showing outward results, his spiritual experiment was also bearing fruit. He wrote: “Now I like God’s presence so much that when He slips out of my mind — as He does many times a day — I feel as though I had deserted Him and lost something very precious in my life.”
In letters to friends and relatives, Laubach shared his inner experiences:
How infinitely richer this direct first hand grasping of God is, than the old method which I used and recommended for years: the reading of endless devotional books. Almost it seems to me now that the very Bible cannot be read as a substitute for meeting God soul to soul and face to face….
I have tasted a thrill in fellowship with God…. This afternoon the possession of God has caught me up with such sheer joy that I thought I never had known anything like it. God was so close and so amazingly lovely that I felt like melting all over with a strange and blissful contentment.

The birth of “Each One Teach One”

The reading campaign was a great success. When the depression of the 1930s and lack of funds threatened to cripple the work, Laubach arrived at the “Each One Teach One” concept — a revolutionary idea, whereby everyone who knew how to read must teach someone else.
This concept became the cornerstone of Laubach’s adult literacy program, and the foundation for teaching adult literacy on a mass basis, using volunteer teachers. His new teaching method soon spread throughout much of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.
In spite of years of intense travel and activity, Laubach continued his “game with minutes” in which he challenged himself to think of God at least once each minute. Having disciplined himself to rise at 3 or 4 a.m., he wrote, prayed and meditated during the early morning hours, and recorded in his diary his daily struggle towards spiritual perfection.
In the mid-1930s he wrote a booklet, The Game with Minutes, designed to show others how to practice the presence of God.

The secret “interview room”

Many years later Laubach had a vision of God and Jesus together in a long room. Jesus spoke to him, saying it was time for him to take “a long stride toward becoming a full-grown son of God.” Jesus explained:
Your game with the minutes was in the right direction, but tonight you are going beyond that game into the game with moments. One of your songs which best express the goal for you is:
Moment by moment
I’m lost in His love.
Moment by moment
I’ve power from above.
Jesus said that from then on, Laubach was to spend each “day and night, with the door wide open into the secret interview room with us.” In an obvious reference to the spiritual eye, Jesus explained that the interview room was “in the front of your head: When you wish to consult us, lift up your eyes a little and there we are, not beyond the stars but just over your own eyes.”

Intense and constant work

As Laubach approached his eightieth birthday, he was asked about the seeming conflict between his trust in God and his habit of intense and constant work. He said:
As far as my faith is concerned, I believe that God is running the universe.  He is going to work out everything. If He doesn’t work it out through one of us, He will work it out through another who is willing. But I must not forget that these things will not come through me unless I work with all my might.
Frank Laubach died June 11, 1970, at the age of 85.
*Muslims do not regard Muhammad as the founder of a new religion, but as the restorer of the original monotheistic faith of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. Most Muslims today believe that the Jewish and Christian scriptures have been corrupted and are not the original divine revelations.
Nakin Lenti, a minister and long-time Ananda member, serves in the Sangha Office at Ananda Village.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Paul's Passion | Dr. John Maxwell

Passion of Paul – John Maxwell
On New Year’s Day, Pastor John Maxwell shared a sermon with Christ Fellowship church about Paul’s passion for personal evangelism.
As I got to the end, I nearly cried with him.  

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (MSG)
Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized –whoever.
I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view.
I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message.

1. Paul’s passion changed him.
I am a free person, I am free in Christ and I am free to go left, I am free to go right. I am free to go forward. I am free to go backward. I can go upward. I can go downward but I can’t live a free life because what I need to do is I need to reach people so what I need to do is become a servant to any and all.
If I am going to be effective in bringing people to the kingdom, I have to put people first, that I have to constantly think of them and adding value to them. If you want to be Christ-like, just put others first and add value to them every day.

2. It has caused him to include everyone.

Paul’s passion had no territory, had no turf, had no fences around it.
He says “I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all. In order to reach a wide range of people, I want to reach religious and non-religious people. I want to reach meticulous moralists. I want to reach loose living immoralists. I want to reach the defeated. I want to reach the demoralized.”
He is just trying to express all of which he wants to reach because he wants to reach them all and then finally sums up one word – whoever.

3. His passion established his identity.

He said I did not take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ.
In other words, he says, I want to reach him but to reach him, I don’t have to become like him.  Christians often have a hard time liking people who live in the world.
You truly find out who you are when you have to leave your culture, your surroundings, your friends, your church service, all the things that make us so comfortable as Christ followers.
You never know just truly who you are until you have to leave your world and get into their world.

4. Paul’s passion challenged him to enter their world and out of his comfort zone.

Paul entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view.  As Christians, we want people to see our point of view.
Do you best to enter the world of the non-believer, to understand how they see God.
I hope you have a whole bunch of sinner friends.  People should not be able to go to church until they have 25 sinner friends.  You loose your sinner friends and you loose your passion to reach them for Christ.
'I hope you have a bunch of sinner friends.' -- John Maxwell on personal #EvangelismCLICK TO TWEET
They will not be comfortable with you until you are comfortable where you are.
Maxwell tackles how he answers “I can’t believe a loving God would send people to hell” (about 19 minutes in).

5. Paul’s passion helped him to become creative.

Paul thinks about how to reach people.  You’ve got to find them before you can lead them.  There is some creativity in how to reach.
“You got to catch the fish, before you clean them.”
'You've got to catch the fish before you clean them' - John Maxwell, on personal #evangelismCLICK TO TWEET
The key to creativity – believe “there is always an answer.”  Creativity is stimulated on the fact that there is a answer.    You’ve got an awesome gospel, and you have creative ways to share it.
He then gives an example on the Four Pictures of God script.
When was the last time your thoughts were not yours, but about the thoughts of lost people and what it would take communicate to them?
How do you get wise?  Share your faith with lost people.

6. Paul’s passion allowed him to love and live out the Message.

“We are educated in the church way beyond our level of obedience.”
“Transformation doesn’t happen until you act upon what you know.”
Then Maxwell tells a story that provokes tears of “yeah, me too.”  I found myself saying yes, I’d like to do the same.
“What is my gift when I stand before Jesus?”

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

C S Lewis’s dark night of the soul:Chris Armstrong (Ph.D., Duke University), church historian, educator, currently founding director of Opus: The Art of Work at Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL

The faith of Christians is built on Presence. Whether in the pillar of fire, the still small voice, or the Incarnate Son, God has been Emmanuel, “with us.” He has promised never to leave nor forsake us. In thousands of hymns, we have sung of an experienced intimacy with God in Christ. We have asked: “Is Jesus your personal Lord and Savior?” We have prayed, wept, and rested in His presence.
For a committed Christian, then, nothing is more devastating than Divine Absence, spiritual loneliness, the ceiling of brass meeting our every prayer.
Yet when the sixteenth-century mystic John of the Cross identified and described a kindred phenomenon—a sort of desolation called “dark night of the soul”—he insisted that it is an important spiritual discipline. We enter the dark night, said John, as a tortuous but fruitful ascetic path to the mystical goal of union with God.
John’s work on this subject became a spiritual classic. He was honored as one of the very few “doctors of the church” by Roman Catholicism, and he is still widely cited by Catholics and Protestants alike. But most modern Christians have forgotten that for the great Carmelite, “the dark night” was just one part of an elaborate apophatic theology. Apophaticism is the theological mode that tries to penetrate beyond the realm of our senses and our reason and come before God as The Awesome Unknown. (Although some conservative Protestants fear apophaticism as unbiblical and suspiciously “Eastern,” it is well-supported both in tradition and Scripture.)
Few today subscribe to or even understand John’s system. Instead, we have taken over John’s phrase “the dark night of the soul” to describe a subjective experience of the complete loss of God’s loving presence—and without its rootage in John’s larger theology, we are not always sure what to do with it. It seems a rather unpleasant episode, often associated with doubt, that may plague a Christian for a while but that, we hope, will soon pass. We treat it almost as a pathology. In fact, one might ask why we should bother to talk about this sort of loss of the divine presence at all.
I’d suggest one good reason for giving the “dark night” a second look is a shocking fact about who undergoes it. It would be one thing if this experience enveloped only, say, backsliders or immature Christians or those involved in obvious sin. But with great regularity, we find the experience in the life stories of those we think of as having been especially faithful witnesses to the faith: People such as C. S. Lewis. Mother Teresa. Martin Luther. Each of these suffered particularly intense episodes of “dark night of the soul.” And perhaps the best way to begin to understand this experience for ourselves is to listen in on their struggles to find meaning in their darkness.
Lewis’s dark night came after the death of his wife Joy. Mother Teresa’s came at the very founding of her Missionaries of Charity and lasted to the end of her life, with little respite. Luther’s plagued him in one form as a young monk, and then in several others as a Reformer.
Of course, we could draw our own conclusions about why these saints have suffered thus—and historians have frequently done so. Perhaps some character flaw or pathology has led them away from the Divine Presence. The rational apologist Lewis, say some scholars, finally discovered after the death of his wife Joy that the God he had imagined was no longer a supportable hypothesis. The Absence he felt was in fact his coming to realization that Christianity was a fiction. Some critics have traced Mother Teresa’s “dark night” to an almost masochistic proclivity for pain, rooted in a certain Catholic understanding of suffering as inherently redemptive and spiritually meritorious. Most famously, Luther’s life story spawned in the 20th century a cottage industry of psycho-historical interpretation, led by Erik Erickson’s argument that a fraught relationship with his father created a cycle of overachievement and self-doubt that plunged the Reformer into the Anfechtungen—periods of depression and self-doubtwhich never left him alone for long.
This sort of analysis opens up an even simpler explanation. Perhaps the Dark Night is nothing more than an artifact of depressive states of mind that have decidedly non-spiritual origins. So Luther’s many episodes of spiritual darkness (it is said) can be explained easily. Each one was preceded by, and triggered by, a physical illness. (The pinnacle of this sort of interpretation must surely be the book by German scholar Annemarie Halder that chronicled the Reformer’s bladder stones from 1536 to 1546, linking these painful occurrences to his Anfechtungen.)
Of course, the psychosomatic dimensions of illness do run both ways—from physical to psychological (and indeed, spiritual) as well as vice-versa. But such interpretations of the Dark Night remind one of Ebenezer Scrooge who, when confronted by the Ghost of Christmas Past, loudly insisted that the apparition was just a stomach disorder, a mere trick of the psyche resulting from “an undigested bit of beef . . . a fragment of an underdone potato.” Certainly in the opinions of Lewis, Teresa, and Luther, something more was at work in their darkness:


It was in 1956, in his late 50s, that C. S. Lewis finally found love. He married the object of his affections, American writer Joy Gresham; but four years later, after an agonizing battle, Joy died of cancer. During the period of intense grieving that followed, Lewis filled four notebooks—first, with words of anguish and rage, then increasingly with an introspective record of the changes that this loss worked in his character. The notebooks were published one year after Joy’s death as A Grief Observedunder the pseudonym N. W. Clerk.
Lewis was identified as the book’s author only after his death, and some have guessed that the great apologist resorted to this subterfuge because his journey through grief also took him to the very the precipice of doubt. Not surprisingly, he asked the same sorts of questions that the grieving often ask: How could a good God allow this woman to die, and in such a painful way? Was He, after all, a Cosmic Sadist? Or did he even exist?
Lewis experienced, in other words, both the emotional and the intellectual pain of Absence—not just the absence of his wife, but the immense Absence of God. The “dark night of the soul.” In his words,
“Meanwhile, where is God? When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels— welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. . . . Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?”
What disturbs Lewis most at first is not the thought that God does not exist. Rather, it is the thought that he does, and that he may inflict pain from motives that we do not recognize as positive or even ethical: What reason have we, except our own desperate wishes, to believe that God is, by any standard we can conceive, ‘good’? Doesn’t all the prima facie evidence suggest exactly the opposite? What have we to set against it?” But even this angry thought, written early in his notebooks, he soon subjects to cooler judgment: “I wrote that last night. It was a yell rather than a thought.”
Yelling at God in times of darkness has a long history, beginning with Jesus himself: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” A vivid cinematic example occurs in Robert Duvall’s movie “The Apostle,” when evangelist Sonny Dewey, who has had his own share of darkness, paces up an down in his room, abusing God in a loud voice. “I love you, Lord,” he bellows, “but I’m mad at you!” Below, his mother is awoken by a phone call from a neighbor, complaining of her son’s raucousness. She only grins and says, “I tell ya ever since he was an itty bitty boy, sometimes he talks to the Lord and sometimes he yells at the Lord, and tonight he just happens to be yellin’ at him.” Somehow I think Jesus intercedes for those in pain and darkness who yell at the Father.
Upon reflection, Lewis decides that the pain he is experiencing must have some redemptive purpose. We see the first glimmering not far into the book: “It doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on.” What is a dentist’s drill for except to remove the rottenness from the tooth? It makes us whole, removing (in the long run, at least) a cause of suffering. And of course Lewis would not have published this account of “a grief observed” unless he had concluded that such experiences of Absence—not only absence of a loved one but also Absence of God—in the midst of suffering have at least potentially an educative and perhaps even sanctifying function in the life of the believer.
Ultimately, Lewis decides that his spiritual darkness is a sort of divine shock treatment. “Nothing less will shake a man—or at any rate a man like me—out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.” Likening his former faith to a house of cards, Lewis concludes, “the sooner it was knocked down the better. And only suffering could do it.”
Torture? In the wake of waterboarding scandals, this seems extreme imagery. But Lewis means it: “Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.” God simply does to us whatever needs doing, and it is often painful. Think Eustace, turned into a dragon by his own “greedy, dragonish thoughts,” and turned back only by the deep, gouging ministrations of the claws of Aslan.
Lewis also makes another, different move in trying to understand the spiritual desolation that accompanies his grief at the death of his wife. This move is in the direction of the apophatic mysticism of John of the Cross (whose thought he know doubt knew, along with the great work of English apophaticism, The Cloud of Unknowing). First, he acknowledges how inadequate our senses and reason are in perceiving God: “I, or any mortal at any time, may be utterly mistaken as to the situation he is really in.” Then he admits his own incapacity to know the reality of God: “Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than a minority of them—never become even conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through?”
Finally, Lewis acknowledges the flimsy inadequacy of any sort of image—physical or mental—to capture the reality of God. “Images, I suppose, have their use. . . . To me, however, their danger is more obvious. Images of the Holy easily become holy images—sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast.” In the end, he says, “I must stretch out the arms and hands of love—its eyes cannot here be used—to the reality, through—across—all the changeful phantasmagoria of my thoughts, passions, and imaginings. I mustn’t sit down content with the phantasmagoria itself and worship that for Him, or love that for her.”
What about our own ideas of God? They must, like our incomplete, prejudiced, and generally inadequate ideas of others, be shattered in order for us to have any hope of contact with the real God: “Not my idea of God, but God. . . . And all this time I may, once more, be building with cards. And if I am He will [79] once more knock the building flat. He will knock it down as often as proves necessary.” This is as succinct a summary as I’ve seen of the apophatic theology toward which any dark night of the soul pushes us.

On the birthday of my late friend Romanos who passed away a few month ago.

I read this poem to my friend Romanos a few days before he passed away, on message video from Belfast, Ireland. He said he wanted a copy which I duly sent him. I think its sentiment sums up Romanos' persona and should also be the aim of those whose desire is to be like Christ. On his birthday we miss his presence physically but through God's Spirit we are comforted by the Lord, and sense also the presence of the Christ that was in him.
Not merely in the words you say,
Not only in your deeds you do,
But in the most unconscious way
Is Christ expressed.
Is it a beatific smile?
A holy frown upon your brow?
Oh no! I felt his presence
When you laughed just now.
To me, ’twas not the truth you taught,
To you so clear, to me still dim,
But when you came you brought
A sense of him.
And from your eyes he beckons me
And from your heart his love is shed,
Till it's no longer you I see
But Christ instead.

The Loud Absence - Where is God in Suffering? John Lennox at Harvard Me...

Dr. John Lennox Answers the Question: "Has Science Buried God?"

Wisdom from John Stott- Be Blessed WHO AND WHAT WE ARE

We must keep reminding ourselves what we have and are in Christ. One of the great purposes of daily Bible reading, meditation and prayer is just this, to get ourselves correctly orientated, to remember who and what we are.
We need to say to ourselves: 'Once I was a slave, but God has made me his son and put the spirit of his son into my heart. How can I turn back to the old slavery?'
Again: 'Once I did not know God, but now I know him and have come to be known by him. How can I turn back to the old ignorance? 

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Personal Life: Accountability to God. A W Tozer

And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement.—Hebrews 9:27
It was the belief in the accountability of man to his maker that made America a great nation. Among those earlier leaders was Daniel Webster whose blazing eyes and fiery oratory often held the Senate spellbound. In those days the Congress was composed of strong, noble statesmen who carried the weight of the nation in their hearts and minds.
Someone asked: "Mr. Webster, what do you consider the most serious thought that has ever entered your mind?"
"The most solemn thought that has ever entered my mind is my accountability to my maker," he replied.
Men like that cannot be corrupted and bought. They do not have to worry if someone listens to their telephone calls. What they were in character and in deportment resulted from their belief that they would finally be accountable to God.
"Lord, help me to live my life today in such a way that, should You call me tonight to stand before You and give account, I would have nothing of which I would need to be ashamed. Amen