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Posted By Nan

Psalm 1
During the course of this blog series, I have explored many passages in the Bible and read a lot of books about following Jesus. Books written about historical people who were great followers in their time. One of the most inspiring has been Hildegard of Bingen. Reading her works has been inspirational and has transformed the way I follow Jesus.
One thing that really struck me was her instruction that we see creation around us as being full of God, because all creation was created through the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit was present in all creation. It reminded me of my own relationship with God as a small child.
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. 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 has a full soul. The child naturally worships God. And that child seeks God. But organised religion that has become about creed, discipline, habit, authority, the past and has forgotten God, takes the wonder away from the child and strips away its soul. Then in the emptiness the child walks away from God because all the child knows of God is religious institutions and the child wants to worship that which it has been worshipping all its life. The determined child will continue to worship God but that worship will be termed New Age movement or some anti God worship. The child seeks what it felt in childhood, that wonder in all the glory of creation. The child is looking for God and finds echoes of Him in all the wrong places. The child is worshipping God. Because God is about faith, worship, life, today, and the voice of compassion. But the child cannot reach God because it does not know how to find Him.
That is the sadness of so many people’s lives. My small child had a throne room experience of God as a jaded teenager and continues to follow Him today. But I learned that God is not only and often in organised religion. There are those in organised religion who know and follow God, but that is often lost in the bureaucracy of the organisation. In short, much of Christianity has become enfeebled.
Enfeebled religion is not sufficiently moved and exalted by the greatest gifts of God: human compassion and passionate admiration of the universe. So often, those who profess faith in God are too busy championing the strong to remember that God requires us to stand for the weak. We should give more offence and take a stronger stand for the weak rather than considering the possible right of the strong.
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 that would allow her to become a truly great counsellor. Sadly that is what many people who attend religious institutions encounter. They buy the books rather than learning to listen to God. And those who mentor them frequently buy the books as well.
People need to be educated. Education is about cultivating wisdom through cultivating creativity not about knowledge for powers sake. Do not be like the newly graduated curate who sermonised on how we can only speak when we have the authority earned by years of study! Yet this man never demonstrated a great love for God or a great knowledge of God. He had a great knowledge of the Bible and Biblical commentaries, but little insight into what God was saying through the Bible.
Life is preferable to religion. Never forget that God is the God of life not religion.
Those who become adherents of religion become lukewarm, experience inertia, sadness, depression, boredom, cynicism, couchpotatoitis and passivity. That is not the vibrancy of faith in God.
The converse of this, true faith in God, is zeal. In true faith there is an intense experience of the beauty of things and that gives birth to the zeal and true faith in God.
In one of the books on Hildegard of Bingen that I read, one by Matthew Fox, he explores spiritual practices that we can adopt to be able to see God and follow Him the way Hildegard did. The first practice is in keeping with the practice of the Benedectine Nuns, of whom Hildegard was one. They would daily chant the psalms. He suggested we form the habit of sitting with one psalm at a time, daily reading through that psalm. Reading it slowly, preferably out loud and stopping whenever something in that psalm struck us. Then to meditate on that part. In the Hildegard way, we dwell on the insight and allow what has stopped us to work its power on us. To learn what God wants us to learn from it.
So start with Psalm1 and read about what God teaches about the one who follows Him.
 

 
Posted By Nan

1 Peter 2:13-25
This section contains a strong message of how to live as Jesus did. In other words, how to follow Jesus.
Jesus chose to put God’s will ahead of His own needs as a human. He chose the path of destruction of his fragile human body, extreme pain, humiliation, unjust punishment, separation from God and death.
When Jesus spoke of our need to deny ourselves and pick up our crosses daily this is what He meant (Matthew 16:24-26). When John the Baptist spoke of becoming less and Jesus becoming more this is what he meant (John3:30).
In following Jesus, we need to do as Jesus did and put our selves in God’s hands. Just as Jesus did.
We need to die to self. This means that sometimes we do not insist on our rights, because God has other plans. It means that sometimes we have to endure situations we could walk away from because God wants us there for that moment. It DOES NOT mean we have to stay in abusive situations. It is not virtuous to suffer Domestic or Family Abuse. That is an abomination to God.
To understand this section, we need to understand its context. During the time that Peter wrote his letters, there was great persecution of followers of The Way. He instructed people to live as good citizens, in contradiction to what they were being accused of. He did not ask the people to defend themselves, or start an insurrection against the government of the day. He asked the people to be good citizens so that others could see that Jesus’ followers were not a danger to society. This does not mean that in all cases of abuse people are to not resist, but in this situation they were.
The message is that we are to put God first and self last. We are to ask God for His instructions. We are to do as Jesus did and put God’s will ahead of our own desires.
 

 
Posted By Nan

1 Timothy 1:18
In this passage Paul prepares to hand over his ministry to Timothy. Paul acknowledged he was only able to follow God because Jesus made him adequate for this work. He had no training, deeds, or reputation to commend him for this work. Imagine how that would have gone in this world where you have to have a certificate for everything! Paul was the worse sinner, a persecutor of those who followed Jesus. Yet he was given this powerful and important ministry. And he was the proof that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Without Jesus’ endless mercy he would never have become a follower of God, a man of faith. He attributed his work as being necessary to demonstrate the greatness of God and of Jesus’ work on earth. To provide those on the edge of accepting faith in Jesus that God could be trusted.
Then Paul handed the work over to Timothy. There had been prophesies spoken about Timothy and Paul had been praying for Timothy to grow into the prophesies. All Timothy needed to do was to stand firm in his faith and to be careful to respond to life’s situations. Respond with Jesus guiding him. Not stepping onto another path of reaction. As far as Paul was concerned, this was the fight we as followers have. The fight to stay on the path and not wander off it. To remain true to what God wants for us. To see God in all His majesty and not be sidetracked away from Him. That does not mean legalism, boxing God into narrow dimensions through fear of encountering the uncertainty of faith in Him. It means stepping out into that uncertainty and trusting God.
 

 
Posted By Nan

Philippians 3:12-4:1
The world we live in is big on goals. There is the weekly plan, the monthly plan, the three monthly plan, the yearly plan, the five year plan. All aimed at getting us, under our own steam, to achieve goals. But there is one goal she should be aiming for. This is the important goal. The one we should be focusing on. This is the goal God wants for us. And He does not expect us to make it on our own.
What is the goal?
God wants us to follow Him. That is what we should be striving for. Follow Him. He has given us Jesus to follow to reach Him. If we don’t follow Jesus, we will not reach God.
We need to be wary of those who do not follow God. Who want to lead us away from Him.
Do not fall into the trap of thinking it is people who do not believe in God who will lead us astray. There are many who will lead you away from God with religious doctrine and legalism dressed up as following God that does not lead you to God.
How do you know the people to avoid?
Always read your Bible and develop a relationship with God. Pray to Him, talk to Him, walk with Him. Get to know God so that you can discern who to listen to and who to ignore.
Never forget that God is in all nature. In all creation. He created everything in this world through the Holy Spirit and the Spirit is in everything. In following God never forget to honour His creation. Honour the natural world. Honour the water, the rocks, the trees, the animals. Be good custodians of the natural world as God intended you to be. Be wary of those who lack respect for God’s creation.
As you walk through your daily life walk with God in everything around you. Walk with the spirit He has placed in every human being. Walk with the spirit He has placed in all animals. Walk with the spirit He has placed in every inanimate object. Walk with the spirit in nature. Walk with the wildness and uncertainty of creation. Sit with the spirit. Sit with nature and commune with God. Embrace the aspects of God that you do not understand. The ones that frighten you. God is God. He is not a tame being for you to fit into a nice ordered box. He is God and He is not predictable to us. Forget the planning. Make your goal to follow God.


“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.” C.S. Lewis “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.”

Follow your unsafe but good King and do not be afraid.
 

 
Posted By Nan

1 Corinthians 14:1
“Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it – because it does.” The Message
“Eagerly pursue and seek to acquire (this) love [make it your aim, your greatest quest]: and earnestly desire and cultivate the spiritual endowments (gifts), especially that you may prophesy.” Amplified Bible.
When Jesus lived on the earth, He inspired a movement of people whose lives were centred on Jesus Christ and committed to living the way of God's unconditional, unselfish, sacrificial, and redemptive love. They called themselves “the way". They were not caught up in bureaucracy or rigid adherence to a religious doctrine. They were seekers of Love. They sought to follow Jesus’s love. That was their aim in life. Jesus was the centre of their lives and they bore witness to His love in and for the world. During the early years of the way, people locked themselves away in devotion to Jesus and His love. Many formed monastic communities to support them as they sought to devote their lives to the way.
One such person was Hildegard of Bingen. She wrote about love and prophets. She spoke about the hypocrisy of the church hierarchy that had forsaken the way and sought instead to follow human desires and goals. Much of what she taught is summed up beautifully in a poem by the Sufi Mystic Hafiz. This reference is found in the book “Hildegard of Bingen” by Matthew Fox.
Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God…
The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favour:
Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.
But when we hear
He is in such a "playful drunken mood"
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.
We have become too caught up in the ways of the bureaucracy of church hierarchy and religious doctrine. When Jesus instructed people in ‘the way’, He never intended it to become corrupted by organisations and doctrine. He wanted us to live our lives truly devoted to Jesus and His love. He wanted to turn us upside down and shake us until there was nothing left to come out. He wanted us to face the harsh reality of this world and do something about it. He didn’t want the ‘teacup talk’ that so many indulge in.
Teacup talk is the nice talk that does not mention the hard and chaotic, uncertain things of the world such as destruction of the environment (God’s creation), genocide ignored for monetary and political gain, militarism and sexual trafficking as well as numerous other injustices. Injustices such as the large number of people who are homeless, the large number of people living in poverty, unable to earn a living wage because greedy corporations care more about how much their CEOs earn than the people who make the money for the CEO.
God is creative and we need to be creative. We need to stop pretending to be ‘nice’ and get down to action as Jesus did. He did not think the money changers in the Temple were ‘nice’. He had no time for those who abused the poor and paraded in the Temple as though they were the holiest. He honoured the widow who had only a tiny amount of money to put into the collection plate because she put in everything she owned. He had no time for people who lived life without cost. Who put comfortable sums in the collection plate and sat smugly thinking about how wonderful they were. He did not honour those people because their hearts were empty. He honoured those who were prepared to fight. He honoured those who desperately needed Him and were willing to give themselves completely to Him. He honoured those who stood up for the underdog.
Jesus called for prophets. True prophets. Those who are prepared to speak openly, without fear of ruffling feathers. Those who speak out courageously, despite the cost. Those who speak God’s word knowing that, just as God’s word spoken through His Son was rejected, so God’s word spoken through them will also be rejected. But they still have to speak and do so willingly. People may not listen, but they have the opportunity to do so.
For those who refuse to listen to the prophets there will be consequences. Hildegard of Bingen wrote to a prominent leader of her time warning him “The justice of God will raise itself up somewhat and the injustice of the clergy and religious will be recognised as thoroughly despicable. And yet no one will dare to raise a sharp and insistent call for repentance.”
But God will act. Just as throughout the Bible we see examples of Him acting. He will act. When that day comes will you be on the side of the sheep following the way or the goats following the ‘tea cup talk’, religious doctrine and church bureaucracy?
 

 


 
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Nan
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