healing

Avoiding Adultery

Adulterers and adultresses!  Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

James 4:4

Perhaps one of the biggest misunderstandings we have in the Christian faith is that we look at our relationship with God too much in a legalistic way.  We tend to be, in the words of Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, Old Testament Christians who are stuck on obeying commandments.  Yet, Jesus and the apostles taught that the relationship between God and the church was spousal  with Christ as the bridegroom and the church (and individual believers) as the bride.  Our responsibility then is not morality for the sake of legalism.  We are called to seek intimacy with the faithful and loving Christ who sacrificed himself so that we may draw closer to him.  Here in the text, James is not so much concerned about husbands and wives cheating on each other.  The issue is our cheating on God by linking our souls with worldly concerns instead of seeking the fullness of our marriage to him.

Forty-Five Years of Marriage (© John Gresham

 

AVOIDING ADULTERY

James 4:1-9

Introduction

  • The wrong friends can poison a marriage
  • James addresses the poison in the church’s marriage to God

Propositional Statement

  • When we accept worldly ways of pursuing earthly power and pleasure, we become adulterers and adultresses as much as, if not worse than people who cheat on husbands and wives

Relevant Question

  • How do we avoid this form of adultery?

Points

  • 1.  Resist pride (v.6, 7)
  • 2.  Draw near to God (v.8)
  • 3.  Pursue Purity (v.8)

Conclusion

  • God the Father is Spirit and has given us his Holy Spirit.  Therefore we are enabled to have the fulfilling spousal relationship with him through the gift of Jesus Christ.  We must choose between adultery with the world or spiritual intimacy with him.

 

 

The Corruption of Prayer

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.  …  humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.     – James 4:3, 10

The first and foremost function of prayer is to connect our hearts, minds, and souls to God.  We may intercede on behalf of others who are ill or in danger.  We can offer up our petitions of practical need.  We may even give God the praise and thanksgiving because He is who He is.  These other purposes for prayer are useful and are based on scripture and tradition.  There is nothing wrong with and we very well should speak to God of these things.

Of Moss, Stone, and Water (© John Gresham)

But, I have heard a bit of wisdom that stems from higher education.  One should not major in minors.  It is important that we seek the Lord to change a drug addicted friend, heal an illness, and give him the glory.  But compared to the first and foremost function of prayer, all other reasons we have for going to the throne of grace are not as significant.  To place one of these lesser purposes ahead of the true point is to corrupt the spiritual communication.  Such corruption can only lead to dangerous and deadly consequences.

In our most sincere prayers for the recovery of someone’s health, what if God does not allow the person to recover?  What if that person either lives for many years uncured or dies?  If one has a prayer life founded and rooted in being connected with the Lord, such suffering can not only be endured.  One can even find great spiritual meaning in the struggle. The Apostle Paul was denied relief of his thorn as the Lord revealed to him the greater truth of grace.  The faithful increase in faith because of a prayer life that majors in its true purpose.

Unfortunately, too many people do not have such a prayer life.  Prayer is treated only as an infrequent exercise to be done only as a need arises.  A quick mutter of thanks for a meal or getting through some task or another.  It is certainly to be done at church.  When the minor (yet important) prayers go (seemingly) unanswered, what becomes of those who are not founded and rooted in communication with God?  Hopefully, someone who is more spiritual will guide them in the direction of true faith and they will heal and become stronger.  But with the decline of church attendance, most become more skeptical of the existence of a compassionate and loving God.

To make matters worse, too many clergy sell prayer as a means for people to get what they want.  Gospel artist sing of such encouraging people to “believe it and receive it.”  Tele-evangelist market “breakthroughs” for a “seed offering” of $273.00 (yes, I heard one of these hucksters say this amount).  The person who majors a the minor purpose of prayer buy the sales pitch, often with great sincerity.  The minor purpose goes (seemingly) unfulfilled.  The unfortunate soul that does not find someone of sound spiritual practice will either continue to wander mindlessly through the marketplace of false doctrines, or become a greater atheist than Darwin’s theory of evolution could produce.

Do not major in the minors.  Offer up intercessions, petitions, and thanksgivings and scripture and tradition encourages us to do.  But, let us constantly seek a prayer life that keeps us in constant communion with God.  This is the first and essential purpose and goal of prayer.  Not sporatic mutterings, but a constant way of being for the soul.

Your Brother In Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

Seeking Thirst (Good Friday)

“I am thirsty.”  John 19:28

It would seem more reasonable that we seek refreshment than thirst.  Any trip to a convenience store or grocer will provide us with a wide range of beverages from upscale fine wines to bottled water.  Our consumption of high calorie sodas and juices is responsible for much of our diabetic and obesity issues.  In fact, often what we seek is not refreshment.  Rather we indulge in our taste which results in problematic consequences.

Living Water (© John Gresham)

Here we have hanging on a cross an innocent man who without proper clothing cannot enter 7-11 or Food Lion to buy a drink.  He has been unjustly condemned, brutally beaten, and assaulted with insults.  And now, after showing mercy to the woman who bore him, Jesus gives this one complaint of torment in John’s account of the Gospel.  “I am thirsty.”  I offer you tonight that the thirst of our Lord has nothing to do with not having change for a vending machine.  No, this thirst comes from completing the task God had for him and a desire to fulfill the word.  I challenge you that our true calling is not to over-indulge in this worlds offerings.  But, to seek Thirst.

Jesus knew that everything had now been completed.  He said all and done all he was called to do as the Messiah on earth.  He humbled himself to be baptized by one he could have baptized himself and kept wine at a wedding party.  His compassion went to a Pharisee and Samaritan woman who were willing to listen and learn.  Where there were ill and infirmed people, He gave healing.  Where some built walls with legalism, he tore them down with the word of love.  He proved that God gives life in resurrecting Lazarus, gave his disciples the example of faithful service, and has combined all of the lessons, love, and power into one simple sentence.  Jesus was thirsty.

The prophets declared his way would be made straight  by a voice crying out in the desert.  He offered living water so that no one would thirst again.  His food was to do the will of the one who sent him.  His very flesh became bread and blood became wine so that anyone who ate and drank of him would have eternal life.  Where as the religious authorities taught only from a handed down tradition, Jesus taught as he was the word, the word was with him, and the word was him.  And now the embodiment of the law, prophecy, and the pre-existing truth makes one last claim on the world that knew and received him not.  “I am Thirsty.

Thirst is the condition of completion and fulfillment of God’s will in our lives.  Too often we settle for foretaste of God’s glory in worship on Sundays, Wednesdays, or special conferences and concerts.  And yes, the foretaste is divine.  But, if we are to claim his name, we must aim for the same.  The true pursuit of Christ has nothing to do with our sporadic moments of “getting a praise on.”  We are called to complete his will in our lives.  That is to be done with the utmost diligence and persistence.  We are called to fulfill the word of God in how we live.  Not being moral fearing God’s wrath.  But, living in the Spirit because He is Spirit and gives his Spirit to dwell in us.

The point of thirst cannot be reached easily.  It requires us to be pierced with thorns and climb a difficult hill.  In spite of what we endure, we must still have compassion and seek the preservation of humanity even as ours has been shamefully mistreated.  And even still, the best the world can give us is sour wine.  Let us seek this thirst.  Those who are thirsty shall have a refreshment and restoration that the world cannot give and never take away.

John Robert Gresham, Jr.

Pastor, Trinity Baptist Church

Moderator, Pamunkey Baptist Association

PBA Division of Clergy Good Friday Service 2012

Rock Spring Baptist Church in Manquin, Virginia

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Sixth Friday)

“Call him here.”  Mark 10:49

Out of that great crowd, Bartimaeus received his sight.  A couple of things strike me about this text.  Firstly, is the mercy Jesus has for the man.  Others scold Bartimaeus for crying out to him.  “How would he know Jesus since he has never heard his voice and certainly hadn’t seen him before?”  “Bartimaeus is blind, but at least he gets a few coins begging on side of the road.”  “He should be quiet and accept his lot in life.”  Jesus listened past the critics and heard the faith of a man who wants restoration.  The will of God cannot be dictated by nay-sayers who wish to keep the status quo.  The mercy of our Lord looks past such callousness with great compassion.

New River State Park (© John Gresham/Virginia State Parks)

Also, Bartimaeus calls out in hope when hope makes no sense.  How would Jesus hear his voice over the crowd?  Why should such an important man pay him any attention?  People gave money to beggars on the side of the road.  So, why should he want to change his lot?  Bartimaeus had a real need that could only be solved by real faith.  A faith that goes beyond obstacles and opposition.  A faith that only ask for the root need.  He didn’t ask for wealth nor a wife.  Bartimaeus only asked for pity and his sight.

Let us have faith in a God who is able to restore us.  To bring us to a condition to live abundantly.  We have obstacles that would prevent us from this gift.  We have opponents that say we ought to be content with where we are.  But, let us have the faith that overcomes these.  If we do, some in the crowd will speak to us in a different tone.  “Courage.  Get up; he is calling you.”  Indeed, the compassion of Christ knows no boundaries and hears past those who try to set them.

Yours in Christ,

Brother Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Fifth Saturday)

“… Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.”    Mark 9:49

If the truth is being taught, does it matter who is the teacher?  Isn’t falsehood a far greater problem than honest teachers who aren’t part of our clique?  And why be concerned about the good someone else is doing when one must seek good for themselves?  Again, the disciples were concerned about their petty positions of greatness.  Jesus is far more concerned about the purity of their message.

Great Blue Heron (© John Gresham)

We must be disciplined to avoid the things and situations that lead us into temptation.  Yes, the Holy Spirit does lead us to a place of testing from time to time.  Angels are there to minister to us when we are there.  But, when we put ourselves in such places and times, we leave ourselves without an aide except for sincere repentance.  God forgives.  But, we are not to put him to the test.  If others see us testing God with our undisciplined lifestyles and are led astray by it, we are no better than the willing deceivers who seek whomever they can destroy.

Salt is the character of the Spirit that prevents rotting and prepares for healing.  Fire is used to test and separate pure precious metal from dross.  If we careful to spend time seeking self purification rather than trying to silence brothers and sisters who are doing a good work, the good of the Gospel can be seen by all.  Seen because of direct evidence of good works and miracles.  Seen because of indirect evidence of Godly lifestyles.

Your Brother in Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Monastic Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Fourth Thursday)

And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, …  Now there had been about four thousand people.  He sent them away and at once, getting into the boat with his disciples, …  Mark 7:36, 8:9, 10

Dr. Alix B. James used to teach seminarians at Virginia Union University to wear simple colored suits and ties when preaching.  The only jewelry we should have on us include a class ring, wedding band for the married, and cuff links if needed.  His point was that we should not draw attention to ourselves, but put the attention on God.

Rev. Evans C. White (@ John Gresham)

Jesus does not seek the praises and attention of the crowds nor the people he heals.  He could have easily made a disciple out of the former deaf-mute and created a small army of the thousands he fed with what could feed only two or three men.  By his very power though compassion he was going to draw crowds anyway.  Speaking truth through love gained him audiences.  But his only role was to do the will of the Father who sent him.  He moves with those who believe in and diligently follow him.

We who preach the Gospel are sometimes tempted to become spectacles rather than servants.  Popularity among people means as much, if not more, than fulfilling the unique calling God has given us.  Let Jesus be our standard.  When our lessons, miracles, sacrifices, and victories surpass his; we should present ourselves as we wish.  Until that time, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us to draw attention to the one who deserves all of it.

Yours in Christ,

Brother Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Fourth Wednesday)

… “For saying this you may go home happy; the devil has gone out of your daughter.”  Mark 7:29

She was not of the lost sheep of Israel.  The ministry of Jesus had been focused more on the Jewish communities of the Galilee region, though there were most likely Gentiles of all sorts among the crowds.  This woman in particular had a persistence despite her outcast status.  Furthermore, it was her daughter that needed to be healed.  Females were not considered equal to men in the ancient Jewish society.  Gentile women were considered even lower.  But she loved her daughter too much to let herself be hindered by social status.  She believed, based on what she heard about him, that Jesus had enough compassion to heal the girl.  And despite his cutting remark and the disdain of his disciples, she was willing to take even the least bit of power the healer would offer.  By this faith, Jesus dismissed her with good news.

Crab On My Claw (© John Gresham)

Do we have persistence in our pursuit of Christ?  Where is our love for someone else that we don’t give up seeking him? Do we let our outcast status define how close we can get to the Lord?  Are we fearful of the comments of the religious?  Do we maintain hope when even Jesus seems to distance himself from us?  Are we willing to receive the most insignificant of blessings?  Depending on how we answer these questions, we can have total contentment and inward joy or perpetual frustration and disappointment.

Your Brother in Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Third Friday)

And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey …    Mark 6:8

The more stuff we carry, the more difficult it is to reach the summit.  Last year, I hiked Cold Mountain by the Appalachian and Old Hotel Trails with a very heavy backpack.  A camper I met along the way tried it on and asked me if I were in the military.  Only one with much mental discipline and physical strength could bear such a heavy load for any distance.  I considered the question a compliment and took pride that I made the loop solo with such a load.  But, I also learned that for the spiritual journey of life, we are more effective when we are not overburdened in the first place.

A Weary Self Portrait (© John Gresham)

The more things the disciples carried, the more they would be distracted by the things they had to lose.  Food, shelter, and clothing are necessary.  But, when we tie these things on to our faith, we damage our ability to effectively minister to the world.  Where is the repentance in our possessions?  Can a devil be driven out by homes and cars?  And what if we are called to pay the ultimate dues for our belief in Jesus, aren’t we tempted to use our wealth to bribe our way out of lesser cost?  How much more would we try to use it not to die for the cross?

John the Baptist preached with mercy and power that a wicked king would listen reverently even if he didn’t repent.  Herod had him killed only because he made an oath based on momentary lust.  John wore a camel’s-hair garment and ate locust and wild honey.  He had nothing to corrupt him and preached the incorruptible Christ.  Avoid the corruption of possessions by having only what you need to do the will of Christ.  By this, our witness of the Gospel becomes so evident and true that even our enemies will be reluctant to kill us.  Make sure your backpack isn’t too heavy.  You may not be able to go the distance and reach the summit.

Yours in Christ,

Brother Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Third Wednesday)

… and he gave them strict orders not to let anyone know about it, …   Mark 5:43

So many had an opportunity to be healed.  Others had the chance to witness a miracle.  Only those who were bold and faithful were blessed.  For the president of the synagogue to humble himself and believe a Nazareth street preacher had the power and compassion to heal his daughter was no small feat.  Nor was it insignificant that a woman who was unclean for much of her life to think she could be healed by touching his clothes.  How many in the crowd had some illness among their kin but didn’t hold the office that Jarius did?  How many others touched Jesus with far less lengthy of illnesses?  All of the others in these stories were in the crowd, made incidental touches, had lost hope, and finally ridiculed the one who was able to bring redemption.  Only a few of his disciples and the true believers could bear to witness his resurrecting power.  The crowds and mourners didn’t have faith and courage.  So, why should they be blessed to know what their weak spirits would not allow them to see and experience?

Growth on the Summit (© John Gresham)

Faith and courage are what separates those who walk in spirit from those who walk in flesh.  Those who walk in flesh only follow the crowd and think according to the hopelessness around them.  The spiritual know there is something beyond their limitations and the doomsayers around them.  It takes spirit to be humble, ever seeking, and believing beyond the odds.  May we develop these two qualities so that we may be blessed with what the crowds are denied.

Yours in Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Second Tuesday)

They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there-the man who had the legion in him-properly dressed and in his full senses, and they were afraid.  Mark 5:15

Jesus is with the one whom he restored.  A community could not restrain him, much less get him to think correctly.  He lived among the dead torturing his body and voice.  His many demons kept him from the fullness of life and company of others.  But, as long as he was isolated in the graveyard, no one was very concerned.  It is only after Jesus sent the legion of demons out of the man and into the pigs causing them to drown themselves did the people become fearful.  Only when they saw the same man who was once an isolated menace now in a state to rejoin society did the people become fearful.  The order they were used to and the sustenance they were accustomed to were radically changed.  Can it be said that the Gadarenes prefered the order of a suffering man than the confusion of his freedom?

Driftwood (© John Gresham)

And do we not see the same fear in our societies throughout the pages of human history and today’s newspapers?  As long as our pigs are feeding in the field, we could care less about those who suffer in isolation that we couldn’t help.  But, if we they are cured beyond our ability and our convenience taken in the process, we are afraid rather than faithful.  A faithful people would have rejoiced in the miracle and had faith that the one who made it possible would give them a greater substitute for their pigs.  The faithless Gadarenes had a unhealty fear of the Holy and attachment to their possessions.

Sometimes when Jesus delivers someone, we have to lose something.  We must decide if the Holy making people whole is more important than our hogs.

Yours in Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene