Posted By Nan

1 Corinthians 1:10-17
One thing I am learning while writing this blog is that God’s timing does not necessarily involve me writing a blog twice a week as I have been doing. Sometimes, He gives  me a passage to ponder for longer. This one has certainly challenged me. It seemed so simple, yet I have found my self unable to write anything about it until today.
It seems simple. Be careful to be united with fellow believers and not fall into the ivory towers of Christian denominations. But that is not so simple. Looking back at the history of following Jesus, we can see a time when the group of believers grew into a church, centred on Rome. Then that church split into two factions, with the second faction centred on Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). Then, much later, anger at the secular nature of the Roman based church led to the Reformation. The protestant movement was born and the fallout from that caused much pain and suffering. As a child I remember my mother mentioning a friend who couldn’t attend a wedding because she was Catholic and the wedding was in a Protestant church. Her punishment for attending would have been excommunication. This was a service of fellow believers!
How did things get to that? When verse 10 of this reading is an admonition by Paul for unity of believers? How did we forget those words and fall into separate factions within the followers of Jesus?
Do we think things are any better today? It is true that we will not be excommunicated for attending a service in a different church, but I have encountered many people who look down on other denominations and question their faith, even question whether they are actually ‘saved’ or not. In this current day, churches are more likely to increase numbers by poaching people from other churches than by people coming to know Jesus as their saviour. And if that isn’t disunity, I don’t know what is.
And what of the increasing numbers of people who profess to be Christians but do not attend a church? In the last Australian census, people were asked their “religion” and giving a choice of a number of Christian denominations, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other. As analysis of the census information started, it was noted that a lot of people had ticked “other” and, when asked what their religion was, written “Christian”. There are more followers of Jesus following Him from outside a denomination than are popularly believed to be. I was one who filled in the census form as “Other” and said I was “Christian”. I don’t identify with any denomination. I identify with God.
In this reading, Paul speaks of his serious concern that people were dividing themselves into groups. “I follow Paul.” “I follow Apollos.” “I follow Peter.” “I follow Jesus.” Paul asked if He had been crucified for the people of Corinth. He asked if Jesus had been chopped into little pieces so each group could have its own relic. He reminded the people that God had sent him out to preach the good news about Jesus Christ, not to gain a personal following. He was sent by God to teach people to follow Jesus.
Do the leaders and members of today’s churches believe they are there to preach the good news about Jesus and rejoice at a fellow believer? Or do they only rejoice if that believer attends their church?
God sent Paul out to speak the truth about Jesus who was crucified for our sins. He did not want the fact of Jesus’ sacrifice to be trivialised by becoming flowery words spoken in disagreement to other flowery words.
Be careful who you follow. May it be Jesus. May you never fall into the trap of trivialising what Jesus has done for you by becoming caught up in denominational ivory tower.
 

 
Posted By Nan

John 21:15-25
I have read this passage so many times. I once walked a prayer walk meditating on this passage. My focus has always been on Jesus asking Peter if he loved Him and if he would feed His lambs. For the past few days I have been meditating on this verse focusing on the Follow Me aspect. That has been a challenge. As I prepared to write this verse I realised I needed to forget all the thoughts I have on this verse and see it with fresh eyes. There are many passages like that. The ones we read at Christmas, the ones we read at Easter, to name a few. There is always a requirement to clear our assumptions about the passages and listen to God. So today I have listened to God and this is what the message I have received.
Jesus asked Peter to follow Him. Before asking Peter to follow Him, He told Peter things about the type of death he would suffer. Then He asked Peter to follow Him. But Peter turned back and noticed that John was following them. He wanted to know what would happen to John and Jesus told Him that was not his business. What happened to John was up to Jesus.
Jesus wants us to follow Him. He wants us to follow Him without question. Following Jesus does not involve looking around and judging the other people who follow Jesus. It does not involve making assumptions about what is going to happen to them, or even asking Jesus for information. Your walk with Jesus is your business. The walk of others is not your business. Certainly, if you are concerned about someone you care about you can pray for their walk to be strong, but you do not have the right to know what their walk will be. Sometimes Jesus may tell you about another person, but you do not have the right to ask and expect an answer. As can be seen from this passage, when Peter asked about John, he turned away from Jesus. We are meant to turn towards Jesus, not away.
It is easy to get caught up in legalism and judging whether another person is “Christian” enough. It is easy then to question whether that person is truly following Jesus, even to feel superior because you believe you are following better. But in doing that, you have to take your eyes off Jesus. Don’t do that. That is not what Jesus wants.
Following Jesus involves trust, steadfastly following Him despite the temptation to look around, not comparing yourself to other followers and keeping your eyes on Jesus.
To do that effectively we need to leave our need to be important, receive favourable treatment, be given all the honour behind and trust Jesus to give us what we need.
 

 
Posted By Nan

John 10:22-42
This is a good tale of the perils of the unbeliever. Here were the “Jews”, presumably the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders, who placed rigid observance of the law as of greater importance than God. These leaders did not belong to God because they did not acknowledge Him, or seek to follow Him. As Jesus said to them in verse 26, they did not belong to Him. He was not their shepherd. The sheep that belong to Jesus hear and listen to Jesus’ voice. They are known by Jesus. And they follow Jesus. The sheep that truly belong to Jesus can never be wrested out of His hand because God is the most powerful and nothing, not even evil, can remove them from His hand. And those people are gods. This is taken from Psalm 82. Jesus used this psalm to highlight to the people God’s word stating that all who believed in Him are His children.
So we follow Jesus because we hear and listen to God and because of this we are His children. The religious leaders of Jesus day were so caught up in the legalism of their faith, they did not pay attention to God’s word. They did not listen.
As a counselling student, I was taught about the act of hearing and listening. Someone can talk to us, but we do not necessarily hear them. If we are distracted their words will be lost to our hearing. But hearing is only part of communication. We can hear but still not listen to what is being said. We need to hear and we need to pay attention to what is being said. That is listening. Most communication fails because listening does not happen. People are often too busy thinking about what they will say next, or about things unrelated to the current conversation, to hear what is being said.
We do the same with God. We fail to hear Him and we fail to listen to Him.
In these verses, the people did not hear because they did not belong to God. So that suggests that if we belong to God we can hear. Because they didn’t hear, they couldn’t listen. We who belong to God, can hear but may not listen because of distractions in our lives. We need to learn to put all that aside and listen. We don’t need to get caught up in the legalist’s view of how we listen. We just need to let go of all the thinking and busyness and pay attention. This is mindfulness. It is not just about some new age meditation. This is about being mindful, connecting to your spirit, and allowing yourself to hear the Holy Spirit talking to you. You won’t hear God if you don’t listen. You won’t hear Him if you don’t let go of legalism that tells you to mistrust any form of meditation. So you throw out God’s gift of stillness in the name of legalism. Walk away from legalism. You need to hear your Shepherd because you belong to Him. And when you hear Him, you can listen to Him, and then you can follow Him.
 

 
Posted By Nan

John 10:1-21
As a child I was amazed, overwhelmed, full of wonder at the natural world. When my children were little I tried to instil that wonder in them also and was delighted as they responded. I still catch my breath in awe at a magical sunset. At a full moon. At a majestic cloud. At a beautiful tree. At nature. When I am cut off from nature I lose my sense of self.
The child, full of the wonder of nature. Of what God has created. Of God’s life in all nature. That child has a full soul. The child naturally worships God. But organised religion that has become about creed, discipline, habit, authority, the past takes the wonder away from the child and strips away its soul. Then in the emptiness the child walks away from God because he sees God as being religious institutions. But the child knows the real God. He has just been deceived by a false shepherd into believing that a man-made institution with its rules and regulations devised by man is the true shepherd. The determined child will continue to worship God but will know that worship as “New Age movement” or some “anti God” worship. But in fact the child is worshipping God. Because God is about faith, worship, life, today, and the voice of compassion. It is just sad the child does not understand He is still worshipping God and does not understand the true joy of following the true shepherd. His wonder at God’s creation has been undermined by the lies of false shepherds who would have him believe God is in a church or a man-made institution.
Enfeebled religion is not sufficiently moved by human compassion and exalted by passionate admiration of the universe. That is what religious institutions become when they put their institution and its regulations ahead of God.
It is important to remember that as strong followers of God, we should give more offence and take a stronger stand for the weak rather than considering the possible right of the strong. This is the opposite of what many religious institutions say we should do. I love the Noel Richards song about Dangerous People.


Here we are Lord more weak than strong
Still believing still pressing on
Make us ready with hearts that are brave
We will silence the lies of this age
For such a moment we have been born
We're gonna rise up take this world by storm
Let evil tremble we come in His name
Our God is with us we're dangerous people
All God's heroes failed as we do
Sometimes doubting all that is true
Yet He calls us great people of faith
Working through us as hist'ry is made


We may be weak, but we are stronger than we realise, than religious institutions want us to believe. We are strong in the wonder of the small child who accepts God’s creation without question.
These ideas were expressed in a book by Matthew Fox about Hildegard of Bingen. Studying Hildegard of Bingen has led me to a deeper understanding of these current scriptures I am exploring and a deeper understanding of following God. It is the difference between the trusting sheep, following its master’s voice or the lost sheep trying to do it on its own with rules and regulations.
I am reminded of a friend who started her counselling practice by buying books of frameworks to follow rather than listening to her clients and trusting God to give her the insights and words. In doing this, she failed to connect to the richness of God’s gifts in her that He intended her to use to bless others. The uncertainty of stepping out into the void of the unknown can be so overwhelming that people would rather cling to the rules and regulations rather than clinging to God. God takes us into the unknown. He gives us what we need to survive. We may be clinging on for dear life because we don’t trust God to guide us. Or we may, like a child, sit comfortably in God’s hand and delight at His guidance in our lives. This is the difference between following Jesus and trying to follow a path we have decided is the correct one to follow. In my life I have observed that when I step off the path to follow what I have decided is the correct one, I find myself facing disaster.
In our walk through life in this postmodern world it is important to remember that such lofty goals as education are about cultivating wisdom through cultivating creativity not what the current world tells us as knowledge for powers sake.
Remember that life is preferable to religion. God is the God of life not the God of religion.
Hildegard of Bingen spoke often of the lukewarmness of the religious institutions of her day. This lukewarmness still exists. Using the old meanings of the 12th century, lukewarmness is defined as inertia, sadness, depression, boredom, cynicism, couchpotatoitis and passivity. Those are things many of us can recognise in ourselves. It is challenging to consider honestly that definition and identify where you or I fall into lukewarmness.
The converse of lukewarmness is zeal. This word has its origin in the description of the intense experience of the beauty of things. This brings us back to the small child who is full of wonder at the presence of God in all creation around her.
As followers of Jesus we should be like the small child, full of wonder at all God has created through the Word and full of wonder at the Word in all creation. That is true following of Jesus. That is the voice the sheep who listens hears and follows. May we never, through our ignorance, switch off that wonder in others. But may we instead follow that wonder ourselves.
 

 
Posted By Nan

John 8:12
The more I study the writings of pre-reformation followers of Jesus, the more I realise that much of what people find attractive about other religions is right there in the following of Jesus. We just don’t know about it because years of religious differences have led to the these teachings being forgotten. Yet there is a deep hunger today in people for God. Not the religious observances of established churches, but the true God. The God the pre-reformation followers of Jesus knew intimately.
Hildegard of Bingen, writing in the 12th Century, taught about the Word of God that the Word is everywhere and in everything. Her reasoning was that “without the Word of God no creature has being. God’s Word is in all creation, visible and invisible.” This was her teaching on Jesus as a Cosmic Being who is the image of God in all things. She likened God to the light that is present in all things. She considered the word of God to be in all beings, both visible and invisible. She contended that even darkness contains light, which is God. The light is everywhere and sparks our creativity and generativity. To have being is to be a temple for the Word of God. Modern science has demonstrated that her words about light being in everything are true. She knew this because God told her. Sadly, we will be more likely to believe it because modern science has proven it.
Hildegard saw all creation as being active. She termed this ‘awakened’ and ‘called’. The Holy Spirit does the awakening and the calling. And everything around us that is natural is a manifestation of the divine Word, of Jesus.
So back to my comment about what people find attractive about other religions. At the core of Buddhist practice is the idea of being awakened. This is what Hildegard realised, back in the 12th Century, that faith in Jesus was all about. Being awakened by the light that is in all creation. The light that is God. The light that makes us one with God. Our identity is tied up with God. We are complete in God. We are one with all of creation because all are created by God. When we awaken, we identify with all of creation. We are one with God and we are called to be His warriors and prophets by His Word dwelling in us. This elusive oneness is what people seek in other religions, but it is here in the true faith of Christianity.
Here in John 8:12 Jesus tells the people that He is the light of the world. The light that is in all creation, even darkness. As Jesus said, we will never walk in darkness when we follow Jesus because we will have the light of life.
That is so amazing. When I first read that I sat for a long time just absorbing all that one verse teaches us. When looking at it through what Hildegard of Bingen taught it is truly amazing and awe inspiring. This is something I will continue to meditate on because it changes my understanding of following Jesus. In many ways it makes following Him easier. That understanding of His light in me as a created being. It also introduces a philosophy that is going to take a lot of reflection to comprehend fully.
In the meantime, we who follow Jesus will never walk in darkness. The world around us may seem dark, but we will never be in the dark because of Jesus in us. And if we follow Him in Truth we will walk with the awareness of our oneness with all His creation.
 

 

 

 
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Nan
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