Words of Spiritual Benefit | 181-190
181. THE CRITICAL EYE
A critical eye does not see except defects only. It does not see all the other white spots. Therefore, its judgment is not accurate or fair. It also does not give a correct picture.
A critical eye could criticise everyone without exception and nobody would be safe from it. No matter how a person may be righteous or of a sound opinion, such an eye will find something worth criticism. As the saying goes: he who searches for a defect will find it.
The critical eye lacks love and lacks humility.
A loving person does not criticise. It says in the Bible, "Love does not behave rudely, thinks no evil". (1 Cor. 13:5).
A loving person conceals others' mistakes and does not defame them. He finds excuses for the defects and if he fails, he reproaches quietly, in an atmosphere of a useful advice.
As the loving person does not criticise much, so is the humble one. He looks to his personal faults and not to those of others.
The Lord gave us an advice that one should look at the plank in his own eye and not at the speck in his brother's eye.
The one who has love and humility, if needs to criticise, it has to be a very special case concerning a very serious matter.
Criticism is not a permanent and constant attitude in his life and does not become part of his behaviour when dealing with others.
The critical eye criticises without gentleness and does not see anything beautiful except itself.
It sees the thorns that surround the rose and criticises that. But during the criticism, ignores the lovely fragrance of the rose.
Therefore, the critical eye is not favoured by people. Everyone is cautious of it. Everyone says, "it might befall me too!"
Very often the critical eye acts without examination or investigation. Maybe it sees a defect where there is none!
As for the just person who does not judge before examining and the kind person who does not criticise everything, knowing that perfection is only for God. Such a person would be favoured by all.
182. YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE GOOD
Your relationship with the good concentrates on three main points:
1 - To know what is good
2 - To long for it and love it
3 - To transform it into life
1 The knowledge of good is necessary because many sin due to ignorance, or because they stop sometimes at crossroads, not knowing which is the right one. To know what is good needs wisdom and discrimination or it needs guidance and heed.
2 The knowledge of good alone is not enough if you are not willing to follow the good path. Many are controlled by their desires although they know they are sinful ones and it will harm them. But the willingness to leave it behind does not exist inside them.
The most dangerous thing in sin is that man loves it, becomes attached to it and not willing to leave it. He knows that repentance is good but does not want it.
To make one aware that this matter is a sin, needs mental conviction. The rest is to affect his feelings, inclinations and desires, to long with his heart to what he has been convinced with in his mind.
3 Here, we move to the practical step of execution: either to start immediately if the heart was highly burning for repentance or start with spiritual practices and progress gradually.
The prodigal son was not satisfied with his conviction that he is on the wrong path and should change it. He started to carry out what he was convinced with. Then, he left and went to his father.
Those who are carried by grace might not need spiritual practices.
But the majority of people are stopped by obstacles from natural dispositions and traditions, as well as obstructions by external effects. They need an inward struggle within themselves and a struggle against the wars that come from the outside.
If one trained himself practically to be on the good path and followed it, he then has to stabilise himself and not to turn to his old behaviour. The love of good will then become part of his nature. That needs time and work of grace.
183. THEY WERE A BLESSING
There are people who lived on earth and were a blessing.
For example, our father Abraham, the father of fathers, about whom it was said, "I will make you a great nation; I will bless you. And make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.” (Gen. 12:2).
And before our father Abraham there was our father Noah, for whose sake God retained life on earth when it was destroyed by the flood (Genesis 6). All living creatures on earth perished and humanity almost faced extinction, had it not been for Noah, who became father of humanity after Adam.
We also read in the Holy Bible about persons who were a blessing wherever they went. One of them is Joseph, the Righteous, who became a blessing in the house of Potiphar. As it says in the Bible, "And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. Then he made him overseer of his house and all that he had he put in his hand.” (Gen. 39:3-4).
That is how Joseph was a blessing in the land of Egypt and for his sake God saved Egypt and the surrounding countries from the famine.
The same thing happened with Elijah who was a blessing in the house of the widow.
Because of him, God blessed her oil and her flour and so, "The bin of flour was not used up nor did the jar of oil run dry.” (1 Kin. 17:16).
The prophet Elijah was also a blessing in the house of the Shunammite. The woman felt it and knew that because of his prayers God granted her a child and through the prophet's prayers God raised her son from death.
The visit of the Virgin Mary carrying Jesus was a blessing to Egypt.
Because of this visit many of the idols in Egypt were broken and the faith entered some hearts. Later on, Churches were established in all the places they visited. The blessings of the Virgin Mary remain until today and the blessings of Jesus himself are still in our country.
We also remember the blessings of the martyrs in our country and the blessings of those who lived in solitude and the spirit borne. They blessed many places by their prayers and their holy life. These places where they lived in seclusion became visiting spots for people to receive their blessings.
That reminds us with the blessing the "ten" that God mentioned during the destruction of Sodom, "I will not destroy it for the sake of ten." (Gen. 18:32).
We also remember how the tithe blesses our money, if we pay it and also the blessings of the day of the Lord, if we keep it holy.
184. THREE ADVICES IN TRIBULATIONS
If you are encircled by tribulation or an affliction do not be troubled and do not let sadness or weariness control you. How easy it is to pass through an affliction with a peaceful heart and quietness if you remember the following three phrases, in depth and in faith:
God exists - All is good - Wait on the Lord.
Feeling that God exists gives you comfort as you are not on your own. There is the One who supports you, God who told us that even, ".. the very hairs of your head are all numbered." (Matt. 10:30). God who loves you and defends you would not deliver you to the hands of your enemy. The Bible says, "The Lord will fight for you and you shall hold your peace." (Exo. 14:14).
Whatever tribulations surround you, do not worry and tell yourself, "God exists". If my enemy is strong, God is stronger and if the matter is complicated, God is capable of solving any problem. "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." (Luke 18:27).
Put God between you and the trouble, it will disappear and the loving God will remain. Do not put the trouble between you and God as God's help may disappear and the trouble remains facing you, then you shall complain and grumble.
It is also a comfort to say to yourself during tribulations, "all is for good".
Joseph, the Righteous, was sold as a slave by his brothers and the wife of Potiphar accused him unjustly and he was thrown in prison. In spite of that, all was for good. They meant him evil and God meant good, so He changed the evil into good. Here, the saying of the Apostle encourages us, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God." (Rom. 8:28).
Many are the tribulations that ended good. Live them in hope and faith in the good that is about to come and not in the distress that is already here.
Pray that God may be with you and strengthen you. And if the answer was delayed, do not be annoyed and lose your peace. You'll find comfort in the Psalm that says, "Wait on the Lord, be of good courage and he shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!" (Ps. 27:14).
It might seem that good is late but it will surely come, even in the last hour of the night, so wait with a strong heart.
Enduring tribulations is a great virtue. The one that is bigger is rejoicing during the tribulation.
185. FORMALITY OF WORSHIP
God, does not want your worship but your heart. Let worshipping be just an expression of what this heart feels. Therefore, God blamed His people by saying, "These people draw near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." (Matt. 5:8).
This worship on the outside is rejected by God because He always confides to us saying, "My son, give me your heart." (Prov. 23:26).
The people of Israel used to increase their sacrifices and burnt offerings, completing the rituals of the outside worship as fastings, feasts and celebrations, raising incense, offering prayers while their heart far from God, leading both evil and worship side by side.
Therefore, God rebuked them, saying, "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me? I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. Bring no more futile sacrifices. Incense is an abomination to me. Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood." (Is. 1:11-15).
He also said to them through Jeremiah, "Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet to me." (Jer. 6:20). The prophet knew the reason for that, therefore he said to God, "You are near in their mouth, but far from their mind." (Jer. 12:2). Thus God refused their worship and, in His anger, said, "When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine and by the pestilence." (Jer. 14:12).
And you, my beloved Beware of being like the tombs that are whitewashed on the outside concerning yourself with worship and rituals, sacrifices and incense, leaving aside the weight of the Law: Justice and Mercy (Matt. 23:23).
Do not measure your prayer by its length but by its depth and purity. The prayer of the Pharisee was longer than that of the tax collector but God did not accept him as his heart was not pure. Do not concentrate on the outside incense but purify your heart and your prayers will be set before God as incense.
186. TROUBLESOME MESSAGES
"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things?" (Rom. 10:15).
How beautiful it is when God sends some of His saints, bringing glad tidings to people, as He sent the two Marys to announce the good news to the disciples about the Lord's holy Resurrection.
But there are other messages that are troubling, God sometimes instructs His saints to deliver them to people. For example, when He sent the prophet Elijah to Ahab the King, saying to him, "... in the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, the dogs shall lick your blood ... because you have sold yourself to do evil ..." (1 Kin. 21:19-20). The same with the prophet Isaiah who was sent to Ezekial the King saying, "Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live." (Is. 38:1).
There are messages of reproof and rebuke that God sends to people through His prophets. It might trouble them and hurt them. They might even hate the prophets and harm them for that reason. But the men of God are obliged to deliver God's word and witness for it, no matter how painful it is.
The prophet Jeremiah is such an example. He lived in Egypt during a period of complete corruption. He had to rebuke everyone: "The rulers, the priests and those who handle the law." (Jer. 2:8). They turned against him and roused the people saying, "This man deserves to die." (Jer. 26:11).
Many are the prophets who were stoned and killed for a just word that people found troubling for them. The Lord rebuked Jerusalem saying, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her." (Matt. 23:37).
Therefore, Jeremiah the prophet cried saying, "Woe is me, my mother, that you have borne me, a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth!" (Jer. 15:10). Everybody turned against him because he carried to them God's word of rebuke and warning.
The false prophets that Jeremiah had to fight used to flatter the people by saying, "Peace, peace!: when there is no peace." (Jer. 8:11).
As for the prophet of God, he used to deliver the divine message which was troubling but useful. So were the prophets of Baal who flattered Ahab, the evil and encouraged him in his sinful way, the exact opposite of Micaiah, the man of God. Therefore, Ahab said about him to Jehoshaphat when advised to ask God, "There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil." (1 Kin. 22:8). Ahab listened to the flatterers and not Micaiah's honest opinion and perished. It would have been better for him to listen to Micah's troubling, but useful message!!
187. WRONG RULES
What we experience during the feasts of the martyrs and the Feasts of the Cross, with all the beautiful meaning that they indicate about strength, is a reminder of other wrong rulings:
Who was stronger: the Crucified Jesus or the Jews who crucified Him?!
The Lord Jesus experienced various types of humiliation, was flogged, hanged on a piece of timber but He was strong in His crucifixion, capable of defeating sin and the devil and opening the gates of paradise. He was stronger than those who crucified Him, who were defeated by the sins of injustice, the cruelty, envy and false witnessing!
Who was stronger: Cain, the murderer or Abel, the murdered?
Cain managed to throw Abel on the ground and murder him. Nevertheless, Cain was not strong. The sins of envy, hatred and cruelty overcame (defeated) him. As for Abel, the murdered, he was much higher than that.
Often a conqueror thinks he is victorious and shows off in vanity and self-admiration while in reality he is defeated. He is defeated by himself who could not overcome its desires and defeated by other sins and wrong rules that enabled him to image victory where there is only defeat! The same with the one who, when he strikes you on the right cheek, you offer him the other also.
Do you think he has defeated you?! No. His anger, fury and lack of respect for others defeated him. The same with the one who insults and humiliates you. Poor fellow, he thinks he is stronger than you. His heart and his tongue defeated him.
Everyone in this world could get angry, abuse and attack others. But the strong one is that who controls his temper, his tongue, his senses and endures.
The one who endures is the stronger. Therefore, the Apostle says, "We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak." (Rom. 15:1).
Does Herod think that he was stronger than John the Baptist because he offered John's head on a plate?!
Definitely not. The murdered was stronger. Herod remained in fear of John even after he was beheaded. And when Jesus appeared, Herod thought it was John risen from the dead.
How amazing are peoples' rulings! They think it is strength when it is nothing but weakness! They think it is victory when it is nothing but defeat. They are wrong rules.
My brother, triumph over yourself. The one who defeats himself is better than the one who defeats a city.
188. THE ELEMENT OF MEMORISING
You can use part of your leisure time in memorising.
By that we mean memorising psalms, prayers, verses or extracts from the Holy Bible, tunes and hymns or chants from the book of chants "Absalmodia" and others.
There is a phrase that I repeatedly said to many: "Keep the psalms (in your memory), the psalms will keep you. Keep the Bible, the Bible will keep you."
The practice of memorising is not only to occupy leisure time where one spends spiritual time, contemplating on the meaning and depth of what he memorises, but also for many other benefits.
By memorising, one would be able to complete his prayers at any time and in any position and any place; amongst people, without the need of a book to open exposing his prayers before others! By memorising, one would be able to pray while walking in the street or riding means of transport or while with people talking about matters that do not concern him. He would sit quietly as if listening to them while he is praying in his heart secretly without anyone noticing it.
By memorising one would be able to pray in darkness and would be able to keep himself busy when on a trip or a long walk.
What he learns while memorising could be used while serving or giving a sermon and to resist thoughts and combats. It also keeps the mind pure, occupied with God.
As a suggested programme for memorising, one could start with parts that are common in Agbia [The Book of the Seven Prayers] such as the prayer of Thanksgiving, Psalm 50, the Trisagion, Holy, Holy, Holy, Have mercy on us, O Lord, then some psalms according to one's choice, parts of the hours' prayers, their Gospel and Absolution.
As for the young ones: they could memorise many short verses according to the Alphabetical order, some hymns, Church tunes as they love music and chants. Then they could memorise some prayers from Agbia or psalms to match with their level. Competitions could be held by Sunday School and youth groups, giving gifts to outstanding competitors and certificates of recognition.
189. BEAKING THE MIRRORS
As the body looks attentively to its image in the mirror, to make sure it is all right, so does the soul. It has many mirrors where it could consider its image and knows in what stage it is.
There is a mirror called "judging oneself". If one searched within himself and was strict in judging it, then he will know its reality and reform it.
Another mirror is, "Words of God". One sees himself in the light of God's commandments, knows the real scale with which to weigh his deeds.
There is another mirror, that is "tribulations", because through tribulations we are tested.
The fourth mirror is "people's criticism". Many a time one favours himself, justifying its deeds. As for people, they do not favour. They might speak frankly, so we know our true self from them. Even if we get angry with them, we would realise another side of ourselves, that is anger. In that way, the mirror would have done its job.
These are the mirrors in which one sees his real self. But some people, if the mirror uncovers a defect in them that needs mending, instead of correcting what is wrong, they break the mirror!
These people, if self-judgment uncovered a defect, they refuse to sit with themselves. And if they do, they break the mirror by excuses, self-justification and trying to put the blame on others!
If the words of God showed a defect in them, they break this mirror too by applying God's words to others not to themselves or they refuse reading these words. If trials uncovered their reality, they break the mirror by murmuring!
They also break the fourth mirror, rejecting a word of criticism from anyone, not even an advice or a word of guidance. Whoever points out a defect that could be mended, they consider him an enemy, they fight him and try to destroy him until he is silent, then they shall be satisfied.
Those who break mirrors, their faults remain as they were without being corrected.
It is like a person suffering from fever. He puts the thermometer in his mouth. If it shows a high temperature, instead of treating himself, breaks the thermometer and remains ill! The poor, honest thermometer is just like the other broken mirrors!!!
190. USING AUTHORITY
During the Lord's temptation on the mountain, the devil said to Him, "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." (Matt. 4:3). The Lord Jesus Christ could have transformed the stones into bread. He is capable of raising children for Abraham from stones and He is the One who said to the Jews when He entered Jerusalem in answer to their protest against the children praise, ".. if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out." (Luke 19:40).
The Lord Jesus Christ had already put before himself an important principle, that is not to use His divinity for the comfort of His body. He could have used His divine power to stop Himself from experiencing hunger, thirst, getting tired or feeling pain. If He did that, His incarnation would have been formal!! Therefore, the Lord refused to use His Divinity for His bodily comfort.
He used His Divinity for the comfort of people as in the miracle of feeding the multitude from five loaves.
The Lord's decision also indicates another determination, that is not to use authority generally, except when necessary. The Jews attacked Him in various ways: insulted Him, humiliated Him and called Him gluttonous and a wine-bibber, that by Beelzebub He casts demons, that He is a Samaritan, possessed by a demon, that He profanes the Sabbath, breaks the Law, blasphemer and deceptive. He used to hear and remain silent. He never used His authority to punish them.
On the contrary, when His two disciples insisted on punishment, He refused and considered it a repetition of the temptation on the mountain or another effort by the devil to make Him use His authority for Himself. It happened when one of the Samaritan cities refused to accept him. His two disciples said to Him, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" (Luke 9:54). The Lord replied in reproach, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of." (Luke 9:55).
The Lord preferred to always avoid using His authority. Many are those who blaspheme against Him now in our days and many are those who deny His existence. Many are also those who defy His orders, accuse and mock. God leaves all these, without punishing and without destroying!!
All those who provoke for a fire to come down from heaven and consume these and those, the Lord will answer by the same phrase, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of."