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Wealth May Not Be Riches


After my last post, some friends suggested I read the book Radical. Good book but you can tell right away it is speaking from the Southern Baptist Tradition – the author skipped right over love and went straight to the sin problem. For me, I like Saint Ignatius’ approach. Once I am grounded in God’s love for me, then I can look at the shadows, those things which I have hidden from others and even myself because I can now realize that I am a loved sinner.

That brings me to my reflection this morning. Remember the story about the rich young ruler in Mark 10?
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.'” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
“Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to (the) poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through (the) eye of (a) needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

I was just wondering, what if Jesus didn’t mean the wealth of his possessions? What if Jesus meant that he should get rid of the wealth of his righteousness?

I know that I can get all puffed up about what I am doing in my walk with Christ, how I attend church pretty regularly, how I read the word, how I spend time praying, etc. What does it matter if I, that’s a capital I, do all these things? If we really do believe in the finished work of God the Father through His Son Jesus, if we really do believe in the unmerited favor of grace, shouldn’t we be more than willing to give up our righteousness in exchange for the righteousness that comes from Christ? Now, I’m not saying to go out tonight and get blasted! What I am saying is that nothing I can do counts with God. All that counts is what He does with, in and through me. So what can I brag about? Maybe that’s why Paul said this, “Beware of the dogs! Beware of the evil workers! Beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, we who worship through the Spirit of God, who boast in Christ Jesus and do not put our confidence in flesh, although I myself have grounds for confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he can be confident in flesh, all the more can I. Circumcised on the eighth day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage, in observance of the law a Pharisee, in zeal I persecuted the church, in righteousness based on the law I was blameless. (But) whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection and (the) sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

What do you think? Should we be like Paul and give up our own righteous and religious works so that we count all things as loss for the riches found in Christ? The righteousness that comes from as a gift of grace, both imputed and lived.

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Written by John Hannah

October 22, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Three Types of People


7:19 AM
As many of you know, I am taking myself through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in class. The last class covered The Second Week of the exercises. This week is a vacation week. How appropriate!

The Second Week is about surrendering to Christ. One of the meditations in the Second Week is on the three types of people. In actuality, it isn’t three types of people at all, but a progression of faith in Jesus. The first person is that person who has decided to follow Christ in external things. The rich young ruler who asked Jesus what it took to get into heaven and had obeyed all the commandments of God is a perfect example of the first class of person. The second person prays that they would prefer neither riches or wealth, fame or disgrace, health or sickness, nor long life or short. Their preference is to do only that which brings the greater glory to God and causes them to walk more closely with Him. The third person has come to the point where the desire to identify with Christ is so strong that they pray for a life of poverty and disgrace just as Jesus lived. This morning, I was pondering  Luke 12:13-32.

“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!” But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”

As I read this, I thought about how much I was like this man. My barn is my savings accounts and my retirement accounts. Three years ago, I had built a barn that I was sure would give me the ability to enjoy my retirement years and leave a little nest egg for the kids. Like most people my age, my retirement account has taken a big hit over the last few years. Not only that, I have a vision to open a retreat center for those with addictions. You know the ones I’m talking about, addictions to substance abuse, addictions to work, addictions to possessions, and addiction to people pleasing. To do this, I’m going to have to use some of those depleted monies. This is a huge struggle inside me. I really like my barns! I think to myself, “If I weren’t married it would be different” or “I need to leave some inheritance for the kids” or “With inflation and all will Elise and I have enough?” I want to do what Christ wants me to do but I have so many responsibilities. I feel like Peter getting out of the boat during the storm and immediately beginning to sink. However, as I continued to read, Jesus provided the answer.

He said to (his) disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds! Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your lifespan? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest? Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides. Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

I think He wants me to become more like the third type of person, don’t you?

Written by John Hannah

October 14, 2010 at 7:31 am

Literally Humble


As most of my friends know, I am in the process of getting my MA in Pastoral Studies from Loyola Chicago. I read a book earlier entitled The Call to Discernment by Dean Brackley. If you take it to heart, it will shake you up! It talks of how the American economic system has created a hierarchy of status based on wealth. Status symbols have become our standards for determining self-worth. This comparison, what is in reality competition, causes us to look down on those at a lower rung while holding in contempt and envy those who hold a higher rung. His issue was not that there are those who have the God-given talents to increase wealth but that somehow in creating this wealth, they think themselves superior. He also has issue with those who are less wealthy who have bought into the societal norms and somehow feel they are less than. In either case, we dishonor God because He has made us all and we are all equal – equal in depravity and equal in the grace of His love and forgiveness.

This morning I was pondering over the three types of humility as defined by Saint Ignatius. For those unfamiliar with Saint Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, I will give you a brief intro into his understanding of humility. It is important to know that each of these three types of humility builds on the previous humility.

1. Person of the Law – This person is totally committed to keeping the externals of being a Christian. For instance, making sure they are in church every Sunday, that no curse words cross their lips, you know the external.
2. The seconde humility gets to a point in life that they neither desire riches nor wealth, fame nor disgrace, health nor sickness, long-life nor short. Their only desire is for whatever brings the most praise, reverence, and service to Jesus and/or whatever builds them the most in their faith, hope and love.
3. The third humility is to actually desire poverty over riches, shame and disgrace over fame and honor.

As I was thinking about this, I remembered a conversation about the Genesis creation story. I happened to state that I had changed my view on the Genesis creation story. I wasn’t really sure that is the way it happened and that it might be more allegorical to teach Spiritual truths. Wow! Did I catch it! I was wondering though does he takes the following passage found in Mark 10 as literally as he does the Genesis story?

“As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.'” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to (the) poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”

Most times I hear others speak about this passage, they tend to talk that it really didn’t mean to sell all your possessions but just to love Jesus more than the possessions. It is an allegory. Is that why the apostles got up and walked away from everything to follow Jesus? I guess in my own mind, I have settled on taking the passage in Mark more literally than the one in Genesis.

Written by John Hannah

October 12, 2010 at 11:21 am

Accepting Acceptance


Have you ever had the freedom to look inside yourself to find out the why’s and wherefore’s? If you are like me, it was something I did not want to do! Who wants to look inside and see all of which you are ashamed. The problem is, there is no healing until you are willing to at least take a peek.

My problem was, and is, that I have spent my whole life trying to gain acceptance. I knew what was unacceptable in me and as a result, I needed to keep it hidden. Hidden from me, as a way of not admitting to those faults. Hidden from others so that I would not lose their acceptance. As a result, nobody ever got to know the real me. They only saw what I wanted to present them. This false self, the duplicity in my life, became a real burden. In fact, the impostor became so important that I had to defend it at all times. If I felt that anyone or anything began to destroy my impostor and exposed that which I wanted to keep hidden, I would resort to the protection mechanisms of flight or fight. Usually for me, it was fight. Funny thing is, I was always one of those guys that said, “What you see is what you get.”

So how do we get to be who we really are? The key is in finding acceptance, I mean real acceptance. The kind of acceptance that takes you as is – blemishes, stains and all. Most of us, especially those of us in the Bible Belt, have an intellectual agreement that God is Love and that God loves us. Most of us sing Just As I Am Without One Plea and say we agree with it. The problem is, how many of us have internalized this truth and experienced it through faith. How many of us truly believe that our Father loves us just as we are. How many of us believe that the Father loves us just as much as He loves Jesus? I would argue that if God is love, then God cannot love in degrees or in part. If He is love, then He can only be who He is and that is love, 100% love. Therefore, we are loved 100%.

When we truly believe that we are loved, then we can look inside and deal with our issues. We no longer are so concerned with external things like how we look or how we behave or whether we act like good religious people. We can even actually open up and be ourselves. Think about how crazy we are! If perfect God loves and accepts us, who do we think we are to not accept His acceptance and accept ourselves?

Bear with me one more minute and let me share this image with you. God, who is love, is also light. We are like prisms in that we are created to praise, reverence and serve Him by allowing His light, His love to shine through us. The problem is that when we don’t believe that we’re accepted, we start hiding who we are. We keep part of ourselves in the darkness. When you think of it, this is self-centeredness. Anyway, this darkness blocks the light from shining through us. The prism that God created us to be, the purpose and design of our lives to reflect God to others, has been blocked. We no longer can or will we reflect God’s love for others. It is only when we learn that we are loved and accepted that we begin to be able to quit thinking about self and start thinking about other.

As for me, I choose light! So shadow self, welcome to the light.

Written by John Hannah

October 5, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Experiencing God II


This morning, Jesus woke me up early. To show me something, but, now that I think about it, it started last night. As I had written in my journal previously, I had been experiencing darkness of the soul the last few days. I had written that it was not because of a negligence on my part. Last night, I saw that I was wrong.
When I got in from the appearance and eating, I turned on the iPod and started watching movie clips from Fr. Bill and then started listening to music. Finally, it was time for bed but decided that I would read a Psalm and do my Examen. I read Psalm 106 because that had been given me as my passage for catechism class. As I read it, I naturally started praying it. Praising God for His never-ending love and compassion, his provision. I wasn’t really experiencing very much because the darkness was blocking out the light. Then I began to read how Israel would praise God when He did a major miracle during the exodus but would soon forget and fall away into sin. All the darkness for the last couple of weeks was due to my ingratitude. I was so busy worrying about money and just being so worried about performing my time with God that I was negligent in building my relationship with Him. Even as I write this, God is blessing me with the warm and fuzzies. 
Getting back to this morning. After showering and getting dressed, I started thinking about the illustration Fr. Bill had taught in the Hearts on Fire, The Spiritual Exercises class. He drew up an illustration of a triangular sun representing the light of the Trinity with a stick man under it. I began to think of Gods light on us and how Bill had used the image to explain How once we come into the son’s light we see our shadow, our fleshly self. Even as I type this new knowledge is springing into my head. So, here is what I have been given thus far. When we think of the sun, we know it provides warmth and life itself but also think of it as a as a bad thing, in that too much of it will cause sun burn and eventually skin cancer. we stay under the shade tree and never let the light shine on us. Isn’t that the way most Christians think about God? We know God loves us but we’re also scared of Him. However, as Fr. Bill says, once we come into the light, our shadow is cast and we are able to see our dark side and become aware of the deeper needs that drive the false or shadow self. Then I thought about the passages in Psalms where it says, “our lives are like sand.” I believe sand, when exposed to heat, becomes glass. Glass is transparent and you see right through it. In the same way when experiencing God’s heat, the reality and the magnitude of God’s love, the grace of the Holy Spirit begins to work in us. We know we are loved for who we are and can be operand honest. We do not have to constantly be seeking the things that help us feel accepted, appreciated and loved by others. We start to see our completeness in Christ. Therefore, we no longer have to hide our true selves and pretend to be who we aren’t. The other thing that happens as we turn to God’s glass, people see through us. They no longer see the darkness of our shadow but they can see God.

John Hannah
6:43 AM

Written by John Hannah

September 24, 2010 at 6:50 am

Posted in God

My Version of the “Our Father”


The other morning I was praying as Jesus taught us to pray. It came out something like this. Hope you get as much out of reading it as I did saying it.

Dad in heaven, I love you. I worship the ground You walk on. I respect and admire you and I want to be pleasing to you. I want to be like Jesus. When people see me, I want them to see You.

Dad you love me more than I love myself. Because You are a loving Father and You only want what is good for your creation, allow me to join You in building your kingdom here on earth by surrendering to your will and following you. Let me know what it is you want me to do today and as I walk through the day. Let me be aware of your presence leading me into circumstances and situations where you want me to act.
Not only that, but give me the wisdom, the strength and abilities, and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of Christ, to accomplish the chores that you’ve allowed me to work alongside you. Let me do a good job so I’ll know you’re proud of me. I know you always love me but I want you to delight in me.

Dad, You always forgive me. Just like the prodigal son, when I come over the hill, You run out to celebrate my return. Dad, let me know how much you love me so that I’m free to love others.

Please keep me from being drawn away from your presence by wanting to control the situation myself; by chasing after things or doing things that build me up that false self; that American Idol, that pride and ego in me; and keep me from the trickery of the evil one.

Written by John Hannah

September 2, 2010 at 10:46 am

Posted in God

Experiencing God


This morning, Jesus woke me up early this morning. To show me something, but, now that I think about it, it started last night. As I had written previously, I had a darkness of the soul the last few days. I had written that it was not because of a negligence on my part. Last night, I saw that it was.
When I got in from the appearance and eating, I turned on the iPod and started watching movie clips from Fr. Bill and then started listening to music. Finally, it was time for bed but decided that I would read a Psalm and do my Examen. I read Psalm 106 because that had been given me as my passage for catechism class. As I read it, I naturally started praying it. Praising God for His never-ending love and compassion, his provision. I wasn’t really experiencing very much because the darkness was blocking out the light. Then I began to read how Israel would praise God when He did a major miracle during the exodus but would soon forget and fall away into sin. All the darkness for the last couple of weeks was due to my ingratitude. I was so busy worrying about money and just being so worried about performing my time with God that I was negligent in building my relationship with Him. Even as I write this, God is blessing me with the warm and fuzzies.
Getting back to this morning. After showering and getting dressed, I started thinking about the illustration Fr. Bill had taught in the Hearts on Fire, The Spiritual Exercises class. He drew up an illustration of a triangular sun representing the light of the Trinity with a stick man under it. I began to think of Gods light on us and how Bill had used the image to explain How once we come into the son’s light we see our shadow, our fleshly self. Even as I type this new knowledge is springing into my head. So, here is what I have been given thus far. When we think of the sun, we know it provides warmth and life itself but also think of it as a as a bad thing, in that too much of it will cause sun burn and eventually skin cancer. we stay under the shade tree and never let the light shine on us. Isn’t that the way most Christians think about God? We know God loves us but we’re also scared of Him. However, as Fr. Bill says, once we come into the light, our shadow is cast and we are able to see our dark side and become aware of the deeper needs that drive the false or shadow self. Then I thought about the passages in Psalms where it says, “our lives are like sand.” I believe sand, when exposed to heat, becomes glass. Glass is transparent and you see right through it. In the same way when experiencing God’s heat, the reality and the magnitude of God’s love, the grace of the Holy Spirit begins to work in us. We know we are loved for who we are and can be operand honest. We do not have to constantly be seeking the things that help us feel accepted, appreciated and loved by others. We start to see our completeness in Christ. Therefore, we no longer have to hide our true selves and pretend to be who we aren’t. The other thing that happens as we turn to God’s glass, people see through us. They no longer see the darkness of our shadow but they can see God.

John Hannah
6:43 AM

Written by John Hannah

August 21, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Posted in God

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