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Walesa Wants New Secular ‘Ten Commandments’.

Polish Nobel peace laureate Lech Walesa on Monday called for a new “secular Ten Commandments” to underpin universal values, addressing a summit of Nobel Peace Prize winners in Warsaw.

“We need to agree on common values for all religions as soon as possible, a kind of secular Ten Commandments on which we will build the world of tomorrow,” he said in an opening speech kicking off the three-day summit.

Walesa won the Nobel 30 years ago for leading Poland‘s Solidarity trade union, which negotiated a peaceful end to communism in Poland in 1989.

Besides universal values, the international community needs to focus on the economy of tomorrow, he said.

“That’s definitely neither communism nor capitalism as we have it today,” said the former shipyard electrician, who became Poland’s first post-war democratic president.

The Dalai Lama, Iranian human rights advocate and 2003 Nobel winner Shirin Ebadi and Ireland’s 1976 laureate Betty Williams are taking part in the summit. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who launched the summits in 2000, said he could not attend.

Hollywood star Sharon Stone is to receive the gathering’s Peace Summit Award for her anti-AIDS campaigning.

The first eight summits were held in Rome. Since 2008, they have taken place in Berlin, Paris, Hiroshima and Chicago.


© AFP 2013


Martin Chernoff: The Father of 20th Century Messianic Judaism.

Martin and Yohanna Chernoff
Martin and Yohanna Chernoff

Any student of Israel knows that Theodore Herzl is the father of modern Zionism. His book, The Jewish State, called for the creation of a Jewish homeland as the only safe haven for the Jewish people.

Eliezer Ben Yehuda is considered the father of Modern Hebrew, a dead, unspoken language in 1880, now spoken by over 10 million people.

But equally impressive as the rebirth of the Jewish nation and the language of Hebrew is the rebirth of the Messianic Jew—the Jew who professes faith in Yeshua, and, like the first believers, continues to live as a Jew. There are many men and woman who were influential in the Messianic revival.

Moishe Rosen birthed Jews for Jesus and raised up an army of Jewish emissaries. Joseph Rabinowitz started the First Assembly of the Israelites of the New Covenant in 1885. Our own Ari and Shira pioneered spirit-filled Messianic Judaism in Israel with their first house congregation in 1977 and then by birthing the first Hebrew only spirit-filled congregation in 1995. As far back as 1959, Victor Smadja started Keren Ahava Mishihit in Jerusalem. My spiritual father, Dan Juster has also played a major role in shaping Messianic Jewish expression through the Tikkun Network and the UMJC.

Martin Chernoff

However, if there is one figure who stands out as the father of Modern Messianic Judaism it would have to be Martin Chernoff. His father, Solomon, fled the Russian army in the early 1900s in order to give his family a better life in America. But, after arriving in Amsterdam, he was broke. For three years he worked and saved in order to buy tickets to cross the Atlantic. However, thinking he had arrived in New York, he was shocked to find himself in Argentina!

After another three years, he and his family took a train through South America to New York City. However, when he got off at the last stop he was in Toronto, Canada, missing New York for the third time! This time, Solomon settled his family in Toronto, as there were already 4,000 Russian Jewish immigrants living there, and continued his trade as a tailor.

A Secret to the Grave-Almost

One day Solomon heard a Jewish believer preaching. He sat down to listen and secretly professed faith in Yeshua. He knew this would send shockwaves through his orthodox Jewish family so he decided he would never tell a soul.

Many years later, their son Martin would make a similar decision, embracing Yeshua as His Messiah, but instead of keeping it to himself would seek to bring as many Jewish people as he could to faith in Yeshua. On his deathbed, his father confessed his secret faith to his son.

Assimilation vs. Jewish Identity

Martin and his wife, Yohanna, worked for many years for an organization seeking to bring Jewish people to faith. He was constantly at odds with them, as he began to realize the need for Jewish believers to have their own meetings in a Jewish context. The organization emphasized winning Jewish people to the faith and then funneling them into local churches to be discipled (where they would often lose their Jewish identity).

Martin was told he was not qualified to disciple “Hebrew Christians,” as they were called then, and once, when he immersed several new Jewish believers in water at a conference, the leader of his organization saw red, as he rebuked Martin, telling him again that it was beyond his scope of authority.

“The Jesus Revolution and the Jews’ is the biography that Martin’s wife, Yohanna, wrote.

In the midst of a prayer meeting in 1963, just after the assassination of President Kennedy, Martin had the second of three visions. He saw, in addition to scores of Jewish people coming to faith (as in his first vision) a group of unkept and shabby young people—dressed in rags. He had no idea that the coming years would usher in the hippy phenomenon and that God would use his wife, Yohanna and him to bring many of these young Jewish people to Yeshua.

In addition to ushering in the sexual revolution, psychedelic rock and popularizing LSD usage, the hippie movement revealed a deep spiritual hunger inside that generation. In April 1966, Time Magazine ran the headline: Is God Dead? However, only five years later, after this massive revival, their headline in June 1971 was, The Jesus Revolution.

Scores of young Jewish people came to faith in Cincinnati forming the nucleus of the Chernoff’s home congregation. Thousands more Jews embraced Yeshua all across the U.S. as God raised up a leadership for a new thing he was about to do.

From Hebrew Christianity to Messianic Judaism

In 1970 Martin had his third open vision. “Two electrifying simple words stretched across the sky in the form of a banner.” He saw the words: Messianic Judaism.

This vision would define the rest of Martin’s life and his legacy. The small group of Jewish believers in Cincinnati confessed:

“We are Jewish believers in Yeshua as our Messiah. We have our own destiny in the Lord. We will no longer be assimilated into the church and pretend to be non-Jews. If Yeshua Himself, His followers and the early Jewish believers tenaciously maintained their Jewish lifestyles, why was it right for them, but wrong now? Gentile converts are not expected to forsake their families, culture, holidays and traditions; nor shall we do so.”

No longer would they call themselves Hebrew Christians, but Messianic Jews.

Despite the fact they were seeing dozens of young Jewish people receive Yeshua, the leader of the organization who paid their salary gave them an ultimatum. They either must disband their congregation and hand over the names to the organization (so these Jews could be placed in churches), or leave.

Marty had a major decision to make: Stay with the organization, get paid, disband their congregation and funnel new believers to churches or resign his position, officially birth congregation Beth Messiah, and trust God to provide for their needs. Other than a few isolated cases, there was no example of a self-sustained, independent Messianic Congregation. It was virgin territory.

After a lengthy discussion between the leaders and the congregants, it was decided that disbanding was not an option. Martin would become their rabbi and they would support Yohanna and him. Congregation Beth Messiah was birthed.

National Influence

Soon Martin was elected to be president of the Hebrew Christian Alliance of America. More and more Jewish believers were calling themselves Messianic Jews instead of Hebrew Christians. The moniker Hebrew Christian emphasized that the believer was of Jewish background, whileMessianic Jew, emphasized that the believers continued to live as Jews, after believing in Yeshua.

However, changing the name of the HCAA would not be easy. Many old-timers strongly objected to the new Messianic theme and Jewish identity. They didn’t like the dancing or the singing of Klezmer (Yiddish sounding) songs with Messianic lyrics. The first vote was defeated, but not without controversy. Rather than fighting, Martin wisely put the issue to rest, realizing that it was only a matter of time.

Two years later, the young hippie believers far outnumbered the old guard and the name was changed to the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA).

Beth Yeshua in Philadelphia

Eventually the Chernoffs would move to Philadelphia and take over the “Fink Zoo”—a group of young Jewish believers who met in the home of Joe and Debbie Finklestein. They called their new congregation Beth Yeshua.

When I first heard of Messianic Jews in 1984, the orthodox community had declared war on Beth Yeshua and they were fighting for their survival. By 1985, they were calling for a nationwide protest—with the goal of destroying the Messianic Jewish movement. Jews from all over were bussed in to protest and Beth Yeshua was their target. If Beth Yeshua could be toppled, then maybe they could crush the whole movement.

I drove right by Philadelphia during Hurricane Gloria just before this mass demonstration, as my Long Island-based Bible School released us for our own safety.

The folks at Beth Yeshua were hoping that Gloria would ruin the planned protest. However, Pat Robertson rebuked the storm just before it hit his Virginia Beach-based CBN and Gloria headed out to sea. Pat was happy; the Messianics in Philadelphia were dismayed.

However, when Beth Yeshua took their worship team outside in the midst of the anti-Messianic demonstration, the entire protest was diffused. Some protesters ended up actually dancing with the Beth Yeshua congregants. After a short time, leaders called off the protests and fled.


So many leaders that lead congregations today were discipled by Martin Chernoff. His legacy lives on in these many men and women, not to mention his own children Joel, David and Hope, all leaders in the Messianic Movement today.

(All quotes are taken from Born a Jew, Die a Jew, the biography of Martin Chernoff, written by his wife, Yohanna.)



Ron Cantor is the director of Messiah’s Mandate International in Israel, a Messianic ministry dedicated to taking the message of Jesus from Israel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Cantor also travels internationally teaching on the Jewish roots of the New Testament. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua, a Hebrew-speaking congregation in Tel Aviv. His newest book, Identity Theft, was released April 16. Follow him at @RonSCantor on Twitter.

For the original article, visit

Trappist Monks.

Trappist Monk

Trappist monk praying at the Abbey of Mount St. Bernard (circa 1931).

Photo: Getty Images

Ascetic Trappists Seem a Remnant of Medieval Times.

Trappist monks and nuns fascinate many Christians because of their isolated and ascetic lifestyle, and at first glance seem a carryover from medieval times.The Cistercian order, parent group of the Trappists, was founded in 1098 in France, but life inside the monasteries has changed much over the centuries. The most obvious development was a split in the 16th century into two branches: the Cistercian Order, or common observance, and the Cistercians of the Strict Observance, or Trappists.Trappists take their name from the Abbey of La Trappe, about 85 miles from Paris, France. The order includes both monks and nuns, who are called Trappistines. Today more than 2,100 monks and about 1,800 nuns live at 170 Trappist monasteries scattered throughout the world.

Quiet But Not Silent

Trappists closely follow the Rule of Benedict, a set of instructions laid down in the sixth century to govern monasteries and individual behavior.It’s widely believed these monks and nuns take a vow of silence, but that has never been the case. While talking is strongly discouraged in monasteries, it is not forbidden. In some areas, such as the church or hallways, conversation may be prohibited, but in other spaces, monks or nuns may converse with each other or family members who visit.

Centuries ago, when quiet was more strictly enforced, the monks came up with a simple sign language to express common words or questions. Monks’ sign language is rarely used in monasteries today.

The three vows in the Rule of Benedict cover obedience, poverty, and chastity. Since the monks or nuns live in community, no one actually owns anything, except their shoes, eyeglasses, and personal toiletry items. Supplies are kept in common. Food is simple, consisting of grains, beans, and vegetables, with occasional fish, but no meat.

Daily Life for Trappist Monks and Nuns

Trappist monks and nuns live a routine of prayer and silent contemplation. They rise very early, gather every day for mass, and meet six or seven times a day for organized prayer.Although these religious men and women may worship, eat, and work together, each has their own cell, or small individual room. Cells are very simple, with a bed, small table or writing desk, and perhaps a kneeling bench for prayer.

In many abbeys, air conditioning is restricted to the infirmary and visitors’ rooms, but the entire structure has heat, to maintain good health.

Benedict’s Rule demands that each monastery be self-supporting, so Trappist monks have become inventive in making products popular with the public.Trappist beer is regarded by connoisseurs as one of the best beers in the world. Brewed by monks in seven Trappist abbeys in Belgium and the Netherlands, it ages in the bottle unlike other beers, and becomes better with time.

Trappist monasteries also sell such things as cheese, eggs, mushrooms, fudge, chocolate truffles, fruitcakes, cookies, fruit preserves, and caskets.

Isolated for Prayer

Benedict taught that monks and cloistered nuns could do much good praying for others. Heavy emphasis is put on discovering one’s true self and on experiencing God through centering prayer.While Protestants may see monastic life as unbiblical and violating the Great Commission, Catholic Trappists say the world is sorely in need of prayer and repentance. Many monasteries take prayer requests and habitually pray for the church and God’s people.

Two Trappist monks made the order famous in the 20th century: Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating. Merton (1915-1968), a monk at Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, wrote an autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, which sold over one million copies. Royalties from his 70 books help finance Trappists today. Merton was a supporter of the civil rights movement and opened a dialogue with Buddhists on shared ideas in contemplation. However, today’s abbot at Gethsemani is quick to point out that Merton’s celebrity was hardly typical of Trappist monks.

Keating, now 89, a monk in Snowmass, Colorado, is one of the founders of the centering prayer movement and the organization Contemplative Outreach, which teaches and fosters contemplative prayer. His book, Open Mind, Open Heart, is a modern manual on this ancient form of meditative prayer.

(Sources:,, and


Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack’s Bio Page.

Does Doctrine Matter?.

Doctrine is, quite literally, the teaching of the church – what the church understands to be the substance of its faith. It is no substitute for personal experience. Evangelical Christians have given clear witness to the necessity of personal faith in Jesus Christ, but that personal faith is based in some specific understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished on the cross. After all, we do not call persons to profess faith in faith, but faith in Christ.

There is no Christianity “in general.” Faith in some experience devoid of theological or biblical content – no matter how powerful – is not New Testament Christianity. Those called to Christianity in general may believe nothing in particular. But faith resides in particulars.

Some churches seem to think that doctrine is a concern for those of a certain intellectual bent, but unnecessary for most Christians. Interest in doctrine amounts to something like an intellectual hobby. Others steer clear of doctrine for fear of argument or division in the church. Both factors indicate a lack of respect for the Christian believer and an abdication of the teaching function of the church.

Those who sow disdain and disinterest in biblical doctrine will reap a harvest of rootless and fruitless Christians. Doctrine is not a challenge to experiential religion; it testifies to the content of that experience. The church is charged to call persons to Christ and to root them in a mature knowledge of Christian faith.

Taken from “Why Doctrine Matters” (used by permission).


Monastic Orders.

Vatican City Nuns

Monastic orders may include both monks and nuns.

Photo: Getty Images

Major Religious Orders of Monks and Nuns

Monastic orders are groups of men or women who dedicate themselves to God and live in an isolated community or alone. Typically, monks and cloistered nuns practice an ascetic lifestyle, wearing plain clothing or robes, eating simple food, praying and meditating several times a day, and taking vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience.Monks are divided into two types, eremitic, who are solitary hermits, and cenobitic, who live together in community.In third and fourth century Egypt, hermits were of two types: anchorites, who went into the desert and stayed in one place, and hermits who remained solitary but roamed about.

Hermits would gather together for prayer, which eventually led to the founding of monasteries, places where a group of monks would live together. One of the first rules, or set of instructions for monks, was written by Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430), a bishop of the early church in North Africa.

Other rules followed, written by Basil of Caesurea (330-379), Benedict of Nursia (480-543), and Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). Basil is considered the founder of Eastern Orthodox monasticism, Benedict the founder of western monasticism.

A monastery usually has an abbot, from the Aramaic word “abba,” or father, who is the organization’s spiritual leader; a prior, who is second in command; and deans, who each supervise ten monks.

Following are the major monastic orders, each of which may have dozens of sub-orders:


Founded in 1244, this order follows the Rule of Augustine. Martin Luther was an Augustinian, but was a friar, not a monk. Friars have pastoral duties in the outside world; monks are cloistered in a monastery. Augustinians wear black robes, symbolizing death to the world, and include both men and women (nuns).


Founded in 356, these monks and nuns follow the Rule of Basil the Great. This order is primarily Eastern Orthodox. Nuns work in schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations.


Benedict founded the abbey of Monte Cassino in Italy about 540, although technically he did not begin a separate order. Monasteries following the Benedictine Rule spread to England, much of Europe, then to North and South America. Benedictines also include nuns. The order is involved in education and missionary work.


Founded in 1247, the Carmelites include friars, nuns, and lay people. They follow the rule of Albert Avogadro, which includes poverty, chastity, obedience, manual labor, and silence for much of the day. Carmelites practice contemplation and meditation. Famous Carmelites include the mysticsJohn of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux.


An eremitical order founded in 1084, this group consists of 24 houses on three continents, dedicated to contemplation. Except for daily mass and a Sunday meal, much of their time is spent in their room (cell). Visits are limited to family or relatives once or twice a year. Each house is self-supporting, but sales of an herb-based green liqueur called Chartreuse, made in France, help finance the order.


Founded by Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), this order has two branches, Cistercians of the Common Observance and Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappist). In following the rule of Benedict, the Strict Observance houses abstain from meat and take a vow of silence. The 20th century Trappist monks Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating were largely responsible for the rebirth of contemplative prayer among Catholic laity.


This Catholic “Order of Preachers” founded by Dominic about 1206 follows the rule of Augustine. Consecrated members live in community and take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Women may live cloistered in a monastery as nuns or may be apostolic sisters who work in schools, hospitals and social settings. The order also has lay members.


Founded by Francis of Assisi about 1209, Franciscans include three orders: Friars Minor; Poor Clares, or nuns; and a third order of lay people. Friars are further divided into Friars Minor Conventual and Friars Minor Capuchin. The Conventual branch owns some property (monasteries, churches, schools), while the Capuchins closely follow the rule of Francis. The order includes priests, brothers, and nuns who wear brown robes.


Also known as the Premonstratensians, this order was founded by Norbert in the early 12th century in western Europe. It includes Catholic priests, brothers, and sisters. They profess poverty, celibacy and obedience and divide their time between contemplation in their community and work in the outside world.(Sources:,, and


Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack’s Bio Page.

Survey: Many in Muslim World Want Shariah as Law of Land.

Large majorities in the Muslim world want the Islamic legal and moral code of Shariah as the official law in their countries, but they disagree on what it includes and who should be subject to it, an extensive new survey says.

Over three-quarters of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia want Shariah courts to decide family law issues such as divorce and property disputes, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life said on Tuesday.

Views on punishments such as chopping off thieves’ hands or decreeing death for apostates is more evenly divided in much of the Islamic world, although more than three-quarters of Muslims in South Asia say they are justified.

Those punishments have helped make Shariah controversial in some non-Islamic countries, where some critics say radical Muslims want to impose it on Western societies, but the survey shows views in Muslim countries are far from monolithic.

“Muslims are not equally comfortable with all aspects of Shariah,” said the study by the Washington-based Pew Forum. “Most do not believe it should be applied to non-Muslims.”

Unlike codified Western law, Shariah is a loosely defined set of moral and legal guidelines based on the Koran, the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (hadith) and Muslim traditions. Its rules and advice cover everything from prayers to personal hygiene.

More than four-fifths of the 38,000 Muslims interviewed in 39 countries said non-Muslims in their countries could practice their faith freely and that this was good.

This view was strongest in South Asia, where 97 percent of Bangladeshis and 96 percent of Pakistanis agreed, while the lowest Middle Eastern result was 77 percent in Egypt.

The survey polled only Muslims and not minorities. In several Muslim countries, embattled Christian minorities say they cannot practice their faith freely and are, in fact, subject to discrimination and physical attacks.

The survey produced mixed results on questions relating to the relationship between politics and Islam.

Democracy wins slight majorities in key Middle Eastern states — 54 percent in Iraq, 55 percent in Egypt — and falls to 29 percent in Pakistan. By contrast, it stands at 81 percent in Lebanon, 75 percent in Tunisia, and 70 percent in Bangladesh.

In most countries surveyed, Muslims were more worried about Islamist extremism than any other form of religious violence.

Suicide bombing was mostly rejected, although it won 40 percent support in the Palestinian territories, 39 percent in Afghanistan, 29 percent in Eygpt and 26 percent in Bangladesh.

Three-quarters say abortion is morally wrong and 80 percent or more rejected homosexuality and sex outside of marriage.

Views on whether women should decide themselves if they should wear a headscarf vary greatly, from 89 percent in Tunisia and 79 percent in Indonesia saying yes, and 45 percent in Iraq and 30 percent in Afghanistan saying no.

Majorities from 74 percent in Lebanon to 96 percent in Malaysia said wives should always obey their husbands.

Only a minority saw Sunni-Shi’ite tensions as a very big problem, ranging from 38 percent in Lebanon and 34 percent in Pakistan to 23 percent in Iraq and 14 percent in Turkey.

Conflict with other religions loomed larger, with 68 percent in Lebanon saying it was a big problem, 65 percent in Tunisia, 60 percent in Nigeria and 57 percent in Pakistan.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Coptic Monks

Coptic Monks at St. Makarios Monastery in Egypt.

Photo: Andrea Pistolesi / Getty Images

What Is Asceticism?


Asceticism is the practice of self-denial in an attempt to draw closer to God. It may include such disciplines as fasting, celibacy, wearing simple or uncomfortable clothing, poverty, sleep deprivation, and in extreme forms, flagellation and self-mutilation.The term comes from the Greek word askḗsis, which means training, practice, or bodily exercise.

Asceticism’s Roots in Church History:

Asceticism was common in the early Church, when Christians pooled their money and practiced a simple, humble lifestyle. It took on more severe forms in the lives of the desert fathersanchorite hermits who lived apart from others in the north African desert in the third and fourth centuries. They modeled their lives on John the Baptist, who lived in the wilderness, wore a camel hair garment and subsisted on locusts and wild honey.This practice of strict self-denial received an endorsement from the early church father Augustine (354-430 AD), bishop of Hippo in north Africa, who wrote a rule, or set of instructions for monks and nuns in his diocese.

Before he converted to Christianity, Augustine spent nine years as a Manichee, a religion that practiced poverty and celibacy. He was also influenced by the deprivations of the desert fathers.

Arguments For and Against Asceticism:

In theory, asceticism is supposed to remove worldly obstacles between the believer and God. Doing away with greedambition, pride, sex, and pleasurable food are intended to help subdue the animal nature and develop the spiritual nature.

However, many Christians made the leap that the human body is evil and must be violently controlled. They drew on Romans 7:18-25:

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. ‎So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”(ESV)

And 1 Peter 2:11:

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (ESV)

Contradicting this belief is the fact that Jesus Christwas incarnated in a human body. When people in the early church tried to promote the idea of fleshly corruption, it spawned a variety of heresies that Christ was not fully man and fully God.

Besides the proof of Jesus’ incarnation, the Apostle Paul set the record straight in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (NIV)

Through the centuries, asceticism became a staple of monasticism, the practice of isolating one’s self from society to focus on God. Even today, many Eastern Orthodox monks andRoman Catholic monks and nuns practice obedience, celibacy, eat plain food, and wear simple robes. Some even take a vow of silence.Many Amish communities also practice a form of asceticism, denying themselves such things as electricity, cars, and modern clothing to discourage pride and worldly desires.


uh SET ih siz um


Asceticism is intended to remove distractions between the believer and God.(Sources:,



Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack’s Bio Page.


Franciscan Monks

Franciscan monks at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Israel.

Photo: Getty Images

What Is Monasticism?


Monasticism is the religious practice of living apart from the world, usually secluded in a community of like-minded people, to avoid sinand grow closer to God.The term comes from the Greek word monachos, which means a solitary person. Monks are of two types: eremitical, or solitary figures; and cenobitic, those who live in a family or community arrangement.

Early Monasticism:

Christian monasticism got its start in Egypt and North Africa about 270 AD, with the desert fathers, hermits who went into the wilderness and gave up food and water to avoid temptation. One of the earliest recorded solitary monks was Abba Antony (251-356), who retreated to a ruined fort to pray and meditate. Abba Pacomias (292-346) of Egypt is regarded as the founder of the cenobitic or community monasteries.

In early monastic communities, each monk prayed,fasted, and worked on his own, but that began to change when Augustine (354-430), bishop of Hippo in North Africa, wrote a rule, or set of directions for the monks and nuns in his jurisdiction. In it, he stressed poverty and prayer as the foundations of monastic life. Augustine also included fasting and labor as Christian virtues. His rule was less detailed than others that would follow, but Benedict of Nursia (480-547), who also wrote a rule for monks and nuns, relied heavily on Augustine’s ideas.

Monasticism spread throughout the Mediterranean and Europe, largely due to the work of Irish monks. By the Middle Ages, the Benedictine Rule, based on common sense and efficiency, had become widespread in Europe.

Communal monks worked hard to support their monastery. Often the land for the monastery was given to them because it was remote or thought to be poor for farming. With trial and error, monks perfected many agricultural innovations. They were also involved in such tasks as copying manuscripts of both the Bible and classical literature, providing education, and perfecting architecture and metal work. They cared for the sick and poor, and during the Dark Ages, preserved many books that would have been lost. The peaceful, cooperative fellowship inside the monastery often became an example for the society outside it.

By the 12th and 13th centuries, abuses began to set in. As politics dominated the Roman Catholic Church, kings and local rulers used monasteries as hotels while traveling, and expected to be fed and housed in royal fashion. Demanding rules were imposed on young monks and novice nuns; infractions were often punished with floggings.

Some monasteries became wealthy while others could not support themselves. As the political and economic landscape changed over the centuries, monasteries held less influence. Church reforms eventually moved monasteries back to their original intent as houses of prayer and meditation.

Present-Day Monasticism:

Today, many Roman Catholic and Orthodox monasteries survive throughout the world, varying from cloistered communities where monks or nuns take a vow of silence, to teaching and charitable organizations that serve the sick and poor. Everyday life usually consists of several regularly scheduled prayer periods, meditation, and work projects to pay the community’s bills.

Monasticism is often criticized as being unbiblical. Opponents say the Great Commissioncommands Christians to go into the world and evangelize. However, Augustine, Benedict, Basil and others insisted that separation from society, fasting, labor, and self-denial were only means to an end, and that end was to love God. The point of obeying the monastic rule was not performing works to gain merit from God, they said, but rather was done to remove worldly obstacles between the monk or nun and God.

Supporters of Christian monasticism stress Jesus Christ‘s teachings about wealth being a stumbling block for people. They claim John the Baptist‘s strict lifestyle as an example of self-denial and cite Jesus’ fasting in the desert to defend fasting and a simple, restricted diet. Finally, they quote Matthew 16:24 as a reason for monastic humility and obedience: Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (NIV)


muh NAS tuh siz um


Monasticism helped spread Christianity through a pagan world.(Sources:, and A History of Christianity, Paul Johnson, Borders Books, 1976.)


Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack’s Bio Page.


The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.
Psalm 53:1

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Psalm 53 ( )

People with no religious affiliation — atheists and agnostics — now make up the third-largest “religious” group in the world. According to the Pew Forum, 2.2 billion people call themselves Christian; 1.6 billion identify themselves as Muslims; and roughly a billion consider themselves “Nones,” unaffiliated with any religion.

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But everyone has a god, a controlling power in life. Everyone has a religion, a belief about matters of time and eternity. How we think about our “god” determines who we are. We inevitably become like the god we serve. If we reject the God of heaven, we unavoidably create lesser gods for ourselves, whether idols of wood or stone, or idols of the heart like egotism and greed. Atheism is as inferior to Christianity as falsehood is to the truth, both in its intellectual integrity and in its psychological implications.

If you’re going to be a “None,” be the kind that says: “No one is holy like the LORD, for there is none besides You. Nor is there any rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2).

If there were no God, there would be no atheists.
G. K. Chesterton

1 Kings 16-18

By David Jeremiah.


What is Universalism?.

Definition: Universalism is a doctrine that teaches all people will be saved.

The main argument for universalism is that a good and loving God would not condemn people to eternal torment in hell. Some universalists believe that after a certain cleansing period, God will free the inhabitants of hell and reconcile them to himself. Others say that after death, people will have another opportunity to choose God. Universalism also implies that there are many ways to get into heaven.

These views run counter to the BibleJesus Christ taught that those who reject him as Saviorwill spend eternity in hell after they die:

Universalism focuses exclusively on God’s love and mercy and ignores his justice and wrath. It also assumes that God’s love depends on what he does for humanity, rather than being a self-existingattribute of God present from eternity, before man was created.

James Fowler, president of Christ in You Ministries, notes, “Desiring to focus on the rosy optimism of the universal perfection of man, sin is, for the most part, an irrelevancy…Sin is minimized and trivialized in all universalistic teaching.”

Universalism was taught by Origen (185-254 A.D.) but was declared heresy by the Council of Constantinople in 543 A.D. It became popular again in the 19th century and is gaining traction in many Christian circles today.

Fowler adds that one reason for the resurgence of universalism is the current attitude that we should not be judgmental of any religion, idea, or person. By refusing to call anything right or wrong, universalists not only cancel the need for Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, but also ignore the consequences of unrepented sin.

As a doctrine, universalism does not describe one certain denomination or faith group. The universalist camp includes members of varying doctrinal categories with differing and sometimes contradictory beliefs.

Pronunciation: yu ni VER sul iz um

Also Known As: universal restoration, universal reconciliation, universal restitution, universal salvation.

(Sources:, and Christ in You Ministries.)


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