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Posted By Nan

Matthew 21:12-13 Isaiah 56:7

I live on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. This is an area known for ancient volcanic activity with many prominent and beautiful volcanic cones, now called mountains, that litter the landscape. These old volcanic cones occupy the coastal strip to the east of the Great Dividing Range. 

I love looking at the mountains on the horizon as go about my day. They hold a beautiful and powerful energy.

To the first nations people of this unceded land, the Gubbi Gubbi people, these mountains are sacred. Only certain people could climb the mountains and only at certain times.

Yet these mountains are very popular bushwalking destinations.

Just as the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara people of Uluru asked people to stop climbing their sacred place, the Gubbi Gubbi people are not happy for people to climb their sacred places.

People come to the Sunshine Coast to tick off another mountain from their bucket list. 

In the same way people climb Mount Everest. Despite it being sacred to the Sherpas.

Western people, western values, no respect for anything sacred.

If we put it in a context more people will understand, it is like visiting the great Cathedrals of Europe. People have a list and they visit each Cathedral. They see it as a building to tick off on their list. They photograph and look for the stalls selling souvenirs and even café’s for a bit to drink and eat. They compare it to the previous Cathedral they visited. There is no sense of the sacred in these buildings built for people to worship God in.

Yes God is found wherever we seek Him. But some places are considered more special places to seek God. 

I look at these mountains around me and I see the sacredness of Holy Ground. God’s Holy Ground. God’s creation. And I respect those who wish to preserve that reverence for the sacred.

I look at these great Cathedrals and hate the money making activities that go on in them. Just as Jesus overturned the commercial tables in the temple, declaring the Temple a place of prayer, we need to have the same reverence for these sacred places of prayer and connection.

Have the stalls outside if you must. But these building were built as sacred places. Holy Ground. Places to worship God in. 

If people cannot respect the sacred places, how can they respect God? I don’t worship in a church, but I still respect those who see their church buildings as sacred. And when I enter one of these buildings I acknowledge God is there and honour the sacredness of the place.

I respect the first nations people who see their mountains as sacred. I will never climb them.

I look at the mountains and feel the sacredness too. God created them and they are sacred. I understand why they are sacred to the Gubbi Gubbi people.

Even those who profess to believe in God and follow Jesus can forget the importance of sacredness.

Do you ever stop and gaze in awe at a magnificent sunset? Do you praise God for His creation?

Do you ever notice the majesty of a stately tree and stop and praise God for His creation?

Do you ever look at the infinite depth of the sky when there are multiple layers of clouds floating past, sometimes in different directions? Do you praise God for His creation?

How can you follow Jesus if you do have the sense of awe at God’s creation? The same creation Jesus spoke into being?

Reverence and worship of God starts with paying attention to the sacred.

That may mean looking at the horizon to spot a powerful mountain, or stopping to feel the beauty of a beautiful sky, or hugging a tree and marvelling at the energy it gives off (an energy that comes from creation).

It does not mean focusing on a list and ticking off the items on that list as you do them, without stopping to consider what ground you stand on. And if it is Holy Ground to stop and feel the sacredness of the place and consider whether continuing or going back is what God wants you to do.

Our relationship with God doesn’t just exist in the place you may congregate once a week to praise God. The relationship doesn’t end once you walk out the door. It doesn’t involve you going about your week with only an occasional thought of God.

God gives us the sacred places to remind us that He is there and He is for every moment of every day.

Can you notice the Holy Ground?

 
Posted By Nan

WHEN YOU ARE IN PAIN (PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL)

Suppress this thought. Think only of what is pure, lovely and so on. Cast your thoughts on up above. Don’t worry. Ignore your emotional pain just hand it to God.

Ignore your emotional pain. We can’t handle it. We feel uncomfortable. We push it away because we don’t know how to handle discomfort.

In society, out there in the world, there is a tendency to shut down people in emotional pain.

In the same way, within churches there is a tendency to shut down people in emotional pain.

I have lost count of the times I have been personally told and seen others told to “hand it over to the Lord” … and then forget about it. 

If only it were that easy.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SHOW ABOUT LIVING WITH PAIN?

But reading the Psalms tell a different story.

David honestly and openly told God about his misery, about feeling abandoned, about being tired of fighting all the time.

Yes, David also acknowledged his faith in God, but he didn’t hold back from expressing the negative things he was feeling as well.

WHAT DID GOD DO TO DAVID WHEN HE COMPLAINED?

God never struck David down for being negative and upset.

Instead God comforted him.

God saw David as being a man of faith. A man who He gave the eternal throne on which the Messiah would sit.

GOD DOES NOT CONDEMN OR SHUT DOWN OUR PAIN

There is a strong message here.

God does not condemn us for being miserable. He does not condemn us for being in pain.

God wants our honesty. He knows how we are feeling anyway. But being honest with Him allows an open discussion with Him about what is hurting us. 

He won’t always intervene to make things easier. Well, He does, but in His time which may be years from now.

God will give us comfort and sometimes He will send a messenger to give us a word of encouragement.

Sure, don’t wallow in misery, discussing this with God is proactive, not stationary. You are allowed to be miserable and to seek comfort and guidance.

THE ANSWER TO MISERY

The answer to misery is not to pretend everything is okay. It is to be able to sit with the pain and then walk with God as He guides you where to go next. 

If sitting with the pain is something that takes months to move on from, then so be it. God knows how long you need.

This is not to say you shouldn’t try to move on. But don’t whip yourself about now moving on in other people’s time frame. 

ELIJAH’S STORY

Remember 1 Kings 19 when Elijah had finished praying all day while the prophets of Baal tried to prove Baal was as great as God? At the end of that tense day Elijah then prayed again to God to light His altar. God did this despite the altar being soaked with water. This great moment of God’s glory wasn’t enough for Jezebel. Elizah ran to Jerusalem, running ahead of drought breaking rain. No doubt he was elated at God’s glory being so wonderfully shown.

But when he arrived at Jerusalem he heard that Jezebel was out to get him and kill him.

What a terrifying moment. 

Elijah was exhausted and overwhelmed at all that had happened in the previous 24 hours. He was only human. He loved God but he was exhausted.

WHAT ELIJAH DID NEXT

So Elijah ran. He felt a failure for running. He felt he was no better than his ancestors. He felt he had failed God. Despairing he fell asleep under a tree.

WHAT GOD DID

Some time later he was woken up by an angel sent by God who gave him food to eat.

Later he was woken up again by the angel. The angel again gave him food to eat, telling him that the journey was too much for him. What beautiful words of comfort and compassion!

When he had eaten he then travelled 40 days and nights until he reached the Mountain of God, Horeb.

There God rewarded him by bringing him into His presence. And He sent helpers to assist Elijah so he was never alone.

WHAT GOD DOES WITH OUR PAIN

Elijah’s story is one of a man who worked hard and with zeal for God. He found himself in a place of being physically and emotionally overwhelmed and exhausted.

God did not condemn him.

God did not tell him to hand it over to Him or think about only wonderful things.

God listened. God offered compassion. God acted.

GOD KNOWS WE ARE HUMAN

Never forget that God is fully aware of your humanness. 

He knows you can’t do it all.

He knows there are times when you are broken, overwhelmed and exhausted.

At those times He listens, is compassionate and acts in His way, in His time.

GOD WANTS TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR PAIN

Never be afraid to tell God how you are feeling. To ask Him to help you make sense of your jumbled thoughts. To help you.

He may help you with directed intervention. Or he may send someone across your path to comfort and help you. Or he may direct you to counselling. 

God’s help comes in many forms.

WHAT GOD WANTS YOU TO DO … TODAY

Today, tell God what is really happening for you. Tell Him your pain, your disappointments, your hurts. Allow Him to listen and minister to you.

Allow God to be God.

 
Posted By Nan

2 Peter 1:3-11, Galatians 5:19-26 and Proverbs 16:32

I was watching a television show this weekend that spoke of the “Temperance Movement” in Victorian Britain. This was actually about abstinence of alcohol, not temperance in its true meaning. It set me thinking about how the Bible is misinterpreted and the way to follow Jesus is corrupted.

Many denominations use abstention from alcohol as a measure of faith.

The question is, what does the Bible actually say about “temperance”?

For this discussion I am referring to three Bible verses. These are in the NIV translation, where moderation is often translated as “self control” but I will also be looking at the root Greek words used to form this translation and what they mean.

After that I will be looking at the background of the “Temperance Movement”.

In this blog, I will be using the worlds self control when I mean both self control and temperance. Self control is the usual word used today.

BIBLICAL MEANING OF THE WORD TEMPERANCE

In the New Testament, the usual Greek word that has been interpreted as self-control is a word meaning “power over oneself” or “self mastery.

If you apply that meaning to the word self control it is usually interpreted as being able to control your emotions and behaviour. 

Another Greek word that is interpreted as self control covers the concept of self indulgence.

It is generally considered by most Biblical scholars that the use of these words in the Bible includes the concepts of good common sense, measured wisdom, moderation and careful reflection.

PROVERBS 16:32

In the above verse the person with self control is portrayed as one who is slow to anger and patient.

So a temperate person here will be patient, carefully weigh all the facts and not rush to get angry.

This is a major message of proverbs. Self control, coupled with the choice to deny and sacrifice the self when necessary is an important aspect of following Jesus. This is taking up our cross and allowing Jesus to become more and us less.

GALATIANS 5:19-26

In this section of the Bible, the fruit of the Spirit is listed in order from Love to Self Control. This is in line with 1 Corinthians 13, where love is listed as the most important. 

In my research, many writers consider that the attributes of the Fruit of the Spirit exist as a continuum. We first have love which leads to joy and on down to the end where we experience self control. I agree with that interpretation. It would be hard to have the later fruits of the spirit without love. It is God and our love for Him and His love that flows through us that allows us to practice self control.

In many ways, self control is the end result of love. When we love God our desire to walk in the footsteps of Jesus results in us desiring to control our behaviour. To be slow to anger and patient. To consider the full picture before rushing to judge the behaviour of others and take offense. To appreciate the good things God gives us, but not to overdo it. 

A good example is to enjoy money and comfort God gives us but not to become so obsessed with these things that we crave the increase of wealth.

2 PETER 1:3-11

In this section of 2 Peter we are reminded that God’s divine power gave us everything we need for a godly life through following Jesus. Jesus called us and made Himself known to us. We can become one with Him following Him on our path through life by escaping the corruption in the world caused by “evil desires”

In other words, we need to learn to resist the desires of the world where they conflict with the requirements of following Jesus. To do this we need faith. We must add goodness to that faith. Knowledge must be added to that goodness. We then add self control to goodness, then perseverance, godliness, concern for one another and love. 

It is interesting that Peter has put these in a different order. Reading 2 Peter it seems to me he is describing the way we often come to a practical understanding of how to follow God. This starts with belief and faith and grows.

Peter exhorts his readers to make an effort to confirm their calling by God by following this process. The reward is that they will not stumble.

This is an interesting contrast to Galatians 5 where not stumbling is more a fruit of the spirit. However I believe we need both the fruit of the spirit and to make the right choices in our lives following Jesus.

HOW DO WE INTERPRET TEMPERANCE?

Temperance is very much about self control. About living a life of moderation. Not seeking excess but being measured in what we do.

Because of the Victorian “Temperance Movement”, temperance is usually considered to mean not drinking alcohol.

HOW DID THE VICTORIAN VIEW OF TEMPERANCE AS ABSTINANCE COME ABOUT?

Life in Victorian England for the poor was extremely difficult. There was no security of employment. There was little money to feed a worker’s family. People were often forced to steal to get food for their families. Accommodation was basic, if at all. People were forced to live in expensive small rooms that leaked, were cold, had nowhere to cook or store food, were vermin infested and took most or all of their income. There were a lot of intemperate landlords making a lot of money out of the misery of others.

If you are living in such misery. If you watch your children starve to death or die because of illnesses you could not afford medical care for, life was pretty hopeless. If you were one illness away from total destitution and starvation for you and your family, then it could be hard to see anything positive in life. If children as young as 2 were sent out to work and often die it was hard to be hopeful.

Research on trauma, and this was a traumatic way to live, has shown that people will use many ways to cope with the difficulties of life. If we live in healthy, safe, comfortable surroundings we will probably be able to self regulate or reach out to others. But in difficult circumstances other ways are more likely to be available. One of those is alcohol.

The middle class with their zeal for converting these masses to God saw drunkenness as the reason they didn’t believe in God. Alcohol was the end result of their misery, but people then didn’t understand that. 

Sometimes people were taught about God and believed but then would get drunk and be seen to fall away from God. Of course, the hopelessness of life and lack of healthy ways to cope were what kept them drinking. But that wasn’t understood then.

So the way to convert the masses was seen to be to get them to stop drinking. Great good was done for people by these Victorian evangelists. They set up soup kitchens, provided medical support, assisted with finding safer housing. But there was a dark side too.

WHAT WAS THE DARK SIDE OF THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT?

Where people became obsessed with the idea of drinking alcohol as being evil, instead of a symptom of coping with trauma, judgement and harsh legalism was quick to follow.

Instead of seeing people with love, there was a tendency to judge and use their alcohol consumption as a way to perceive people as being evil and unacceptable.

WHAT IS THE OTHER PROBLEM?

There was also another problem. People were taught that the Bible called them to abstain from alcohol. 

That was not the intention of the Bible. Yes, there are references to the dangers of drunkenness. These are because self control goes out the window when you are drunk. 

But that is not what the references in the Bible to drunkenness actually refer to. They refer to a lifestyle where God is not believed in or followed. That is a completely different meaning to that of self control where followers of Jesus are encouraged to use self control in every aspect of their lives. 

In teaching that the meaning of self control refers only to alcohol, people missed out on important teaching.

This is the danger of interpreting the Bible too narrowly. Remember the Bible teaches us to love God and instructs us on how to do that. If we are not taught properly and are instead taught meanings that are too narrow, then we do not learn how to live a life following Jesus. Instead we are more likely to learn a legalistic way of living rather than a Jesus way of living.

HOW DO YOU ENSURE YOU LEARN HOW TO FOLLOW JESUS?

I can’t say this enough. You need to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus.

You do not know God when you rely on an intermediary, such as a pastor, to tell you who God is. You need to know God yourself.

It is okay to listen to what others teach. They may know something you don’t know. But do not allow others to tell you what you should think. Paul particularly admonished people to study the scriptures and seek God themselves in order to know how to follow Jesus.

The misinterpretation of the word temperance is just one example of the many instances of misinterpretation in the Bible. Misinterpretations become cultural behaviours that in time are seen as the gospel truth, rather than one person’s interpretation of the Bible.

Make sure you know the Bible and you seek God. Don’t fall for the temptation to allow another person to interpret God for you. God will not reward you for that. 

God is more than happy to show you the way to be. It is not as hard as you think.

Today, listen to God and seek His guidance in your life.

 
Posted By Nan

Luke 5: 1-11

Over the past six months I have been reading through the Gospels. I am working my way through John at the moment. I have just read of Jesus being before Pilate. I have taken my time, sometimes stopping at a sentence to spend time meditating on that verse before moving on the next day. 

Much of what I have just read describes the relationship people had with Jesus. For some, especially the disciples, that relationship was a personal one on one relationship. For others such as the Sanhedrin and Pilate it was one based on teachings and personal desires. They did not know Jesus.

This is a subject that is vitally important in our walk with Jesus.

Today I read a blog by Chip Brogden and it gave the same message I had been reading.

This blog was based on Luke 5:5-6 when Jesus instructs Simon Peter to cast his net out of the boat. This instruction came after he had told Jesus he had been working all night and caught nothing. 

Having obeyed Jesus, the nets overflowed with fish.

Simon Peter realised this man standing before him was Jesus, the Christ. This was no mere man, this was the promised Messiah. Peter, having made that realisation, fell at Jesus’ feet and declared his sinfulness.

My impression of the meaning of those verses matches those expressed in the blog.

It is that Simon Peter saw Jesus. He didn’t see the teachings of Jesus, he saw Jesus the person.

I wonder if you see Jesus or the doctrine/traditions you are taught?

It is easy to get caught up in the teaching of a church and become so focused on that instead of on the person of Jesus. 

Our relationship with God is a personal one, directly with God. One where we see Him, not some doctrine we are told to follow.

If we treat the doctrine of a church as more important than our one on one relationship with God then we have failed to have what God wants for us. What God commands us to do. What God expects us to do.

We have failed to have a one on one relationship with God.

Today, ask yourself what matters more – God or the teachings of your church?

 

 

 
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Nan
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