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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.

Posted By Nan

Luke 18:35-43
There is a lot in this passage. There is the faith of the blind man that led to him having the confidence to call on Jesus and the trust to believe Jesus would restore his sight. There is also his gratitude and the fact that, having received his sight, he immediately followed Jesus singing praises to Him. This is all beautiful.
What I am focusing on from this passage is not beautiful. It is sad. It is about how people in the crowd, those who presumably shared a belief in Jesus, were keen to shut the man down as he called on Jesus. It led me to wonder about the difficulties Christians place in the path of those who are seeking Jesus.
I have observed people wanting to be the experts in front of those questioning. With the result that the questioner was made to feel small and totally inadequate, not worthy of Jesus’ love.
I have observed people holding those new in faith back from speaking out in prayer because they “don’t know the correct words to pray”. Huh? What correct words are there? God is not interested in fancy phrases. He wants what comes directly out of your heart. The simplest prayer is the most beautiful music to God because it is from the heart.
I have observed people instructing those enthusiastic in their new faith to be quiet and not speak out their joy, or ask their questions. Talk about smothering faith before it has been born!
I have observed people cringing at the embarrassment of an outward show of faith and rushing to remove the person from embarrassing public view. Where is the witness in hiding that person’s light under a bushel? Never forget if you are embarrassed to show your faith in Jesus, He will be embarrassed of you on Judgement Day.
Instead of shushing the happy new believer, we need to join them in praising God for His wonderful gifts. We need to praise Him for what He has given us. We need to be like the blind beggar, full of wonder, joy and praise at God’s greatness. We need to dance for joy, shout aloud our overwhelming happiness at God’s great gifts. We need to follow with no thought of self, or of how it may look. Because all that matters is how God sees our actions. And how He sees them is as the most beautiful picture ever taken.

Posted By Nan

Luke 9:18-27
In this passage the disciples discuss with Jesus who He is. Peter says Jesus is the Christ and Jesus warns the disciples to tell no-one about this. He then tells them about the death He must suffer. He follows this with teaching on what following Him involves.
Those who choose to follow Jesus must take up their cross. Not just once. They must take it up daily. There is to be no dramatic picking up of the cross with a falling away as time and complacency set in. The cross is to be taken up daily. A decision to follow every day.
What does taking up your cross mean?
The Amplified Bible tells us we must disown ourselves, forget about self, lose sight of self and of our own interests. We must refuse and give up our selves. We must do this in order to hold fast to Jesus and conform completely to His example of living, even to the point of being prepared to die also.
These words are lovely and poetic but what do these words look like in our daily lives?
The Message interprets the words as letting Jesus lead. Embracing suffering. Looking to Jesus for help rather than helping ourselves. We need to practice self-sacrifice. In this modern age of ME and putting ME first, while desperately seeking spiritual connections in life, it is good to note that Jesus tells us that self-sacrifice is the way to find your true self. Forget all the pilgrimages and travels to exotic places in search of true self. You will find true self bowing at the foot of the throne in self sacrifice. We all want things in life, and the modern world tells us we can have what we want. But this is not the way to follow Jesus and it is not the way to find the real you. The real you only exists following Jesus.
This does not mean you are to be a door mat to all other people. Jesus was certainly no door mat and He does not expect you to be one. It does not mean you should allow others to invade your boundaries and treat you badly. It means you need to defer to Jesus. If He tells you to step back from an activity, you are to do that. If He tells you to step out in faith then you are to do that. You are not to worry about the cost. He will deal with that. You are not to be hesitant to profess your faith if He calls you do that.
You will not get it right all the time and Jesus knows that. He will wait for you and welcome you back when you return, humbled by your sin, begging forgiveness. Following Jesus will give you such freedom and peace. Never let anyone tell you the life following Jesus is boring and restricted. Those people, living in the shadow of death, with their narrow, restricted lives, have eyes that are blind to true freedom.
Do your best to put Jesus first and self last. Endeavour to do as He instructs you to do. If you find it hard to obey because that is daunting, ask Him for help to do as He asks. Step out in the true freedom of following Jesus.

Posted By Nan

Matthew 26:57-68
I have included this reference because it shows a different type of following. This is the start of Peter’s famous three denials of Jesus. This is more of a how not to follow Jesus, but how you may well find yourself following Him. We need to be honest. Most of us would not have the courage to always stand up for Jesus. Perhaps it may be when your life is in danger. Or it may be when your friends are mocking those who believe and you don’t feel courageous enough to speak up. The reality is we will all fail Jesus at some stage in our walk following Him.
I know I sometimes don’t have the courage to speak up with people I don’t know well but I have often wondered whether I would be prepared to speak up if I risked being killed for my faith. Years ago, friends of mine were missionaries in Indonesia, at a time when there was a lot of anti Christian sentiment in the community in which they lived. There was an incident where a bus was stopped and those who professed to be Christian were pulled off the bus and killed. Would I have the courage to stand up and profess my faith under such circumstances?
Corrie ten Boom wrote about an argument she once had with her sister about telling the truth. The sister said you must always speak the truth and Corrie insisted that sometimes a lie was needed to protect people. At the time they were hiding Jewish people in their homes during the Nazi occupation of their homeland and the debate was whether to admit they housed Jewish people if asked by the Nazis. Some time after, German soldiers came to the sister’s house. They asked her if the woman living in the house with them was a Jew. The sister said yes. Although the young woman was arrested, she was later miraculously freed. Corrie’s sister had stuck to her faith in God that He would look after the woman and she was freed.
I remember reading about a hijacking many years ago when the Moslem hijackers insisted the people on the plane reject Jesus and profess faith in Allah. Some of the people did. I am not sure if I could have done that. To reject Jesus would be like rejecting my life, because He is my life. Without Jesus there is no life. Could I have the faith of Corrie ten Boom’s sister and answer honestly? If I did, would God preserve my life, or would He instead give me the strength to face death?
Jesus’ response to the Jewish council is in direct contrast with Peter’s denials. Jesus answered honestly that he was the Christ, the Son of God. The price He paid for his honesty was to be accused of blasphemy. Imagine accusing God of blasphemy! I would like to have seen these men when they reached the end of their lives and stood before God and saw Jesus there. They punished Jesus for honestly professing who He was. If Jesus could be honest, then we can ask Him for the strength to be honest too.



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