Posted By Nan

Isaiah 6:1-8.

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”(Isaiah 6:8)

It is generally accepted in Western Existential Philosophy that we humans have a need to find meaning. That is true. There always has to be a cause for something. We struggle to understand things that have happened. We question how God can allow suffering.

But balancing that is the need to accept uncertainty. Because life is uncertain. This is a base philosophy of Buddhism. And the Buddha was right, life is uncertain and we need to learn to accept that.

This is what God taught us in the Bible. If you read it you will find no shortage of references throughout the Old and New Testaments that support that view.

FAILING TO ACCEPT GOD AS SPIRIT

When we fail to accept uncertainty, we struggle to accept the Spirit World. We fail to accept God as He is.

There is a great spiritual hunger today amongst people, particularly those of Western culture. Yet people do not see the answer to that hunger in Christianity. More on that later.

SPIRITUAL HUNGER AND THE SEARCH TO FILL IT IN THE WRONG PLACES

The spiritual hunger that people feel today is expressed in the popularity of many alternative practices, the prevalence of recognised “spiritual” symbols to give a pseudo spirituality such as Buddha statues, Prayer flags, Dream catchers. 

People embrace these symbols but not the meaning that they represent. The consequence is they still feel empty. How many people fill their lives with excessive consumption, the hoarding of wealth, the hatred of those who are “different”, and the latest trendy practice. They drink to excess, they take recreational drugs, they partake in malicious gossip. All this is an attempt to fill the emptiness and cover over the pain of that emptiness.

WE ONCE HAD RICH SPIRITUAL CULTURES

Yet western cultures were rich and deeply spiritual. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

Our way of being in the world had all the richness of spirituality taken out of it, particularly over the 19th century. Our “God shaped hole” we often talk about is spiritual. When everything is turned into evidence based and analytical our God shaped hole doesn’t fill up. 

HOW ARE YOU IN THE WORLD?

Many modern Christian writers, such as John O’Donohue, seek to challenge the way we are in the world. Instead of the rabid phobia so many are being taught to have around spirituality and human cultures steeped in spirituality, we should be evaluating how we are in the world. 

We should be seeking the richness of our past cultural observances. 

In our rush to become modern a century ago, we threw too much away. Throwing away what gave our lives richness and meaning. 

WHAT JESUS TAUGHT

When Jesus taught people, He taught from a place of long history of ancestors of the Jews. He taught from a richness and spirituality that many in his time struggled to understand. 

There has always been a tendency to try to contain God. To put Him in a box that we have control over. Because God is not certain. And we see uncertainty as unsafe. As the Beaver said in ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ “He’s not safe, but He is good.”

There has always been a tendency to fear the uncertainty in life, preferring instead to seek out a meaning that we find palatable.

MEANING AND UNDERSTANDING

But meaning doesn’t mean understanding. It means accepting who we are in the world with all the uncertainty of life. It means knowing who we are with that uncertainty.

Meaning and Uncertainty co-exist very well when we accept uncertainty. The best way to do that is to hand it over to God.

In our efforts to contain God we deny the spiritual because we have no control over the spiritual world. Instead we try to box God into legalistic frameworks based on fear of “losing our salvation”.

We don’t trust God to hold us in the uncertainty of life. And when we can’t accept that uncertainty, we can’t find meaning.

When we can’t find meaning, our God shaped hole empties.

It is time to stop running away from God. 

It is time to stop and accept the uncertainty of life.

It is time to trust God.

It is time to fill your God shaped hole with the Spirit that is God.

 
Posted By Nan

“My kingdom,” said Jesus, “doesn’t consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But I’m not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king.” (John 18:36 The Message)

As Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Thursday before the Passover, He prayed for those who believed in Him and would come to believe in Him. He knew that we did not belong to the world, anymore than His Kingdom was an earthly kingdom.

When He was arrested and interrogated He spoke of His Kingdom not being of this world. As He stated in verse 36 above, His kingdom is not of this world. As subjects of His kingdom we are not of this world either.

FAILURE TO WITNESS

So often the church fails to witness to the world of Jesus and His Gospel. The reasons are the belonging to this earthly world of many who profess to speak for the followers of Jesus. Pride, greed, division, grasping for power, lack of character or integrity are all worldly reasons the church does little to truly demonstrate Jesus to the world.

Jesus was a man of character and integrity. He was humble, all embracing and allowed himself to be arrested, tortured, shamed, humiliated, beaten and hung on a cross naked in front of anyone walking into and out of Jerusalem that day.

HUMILITY

If you read the gospels, you will see that Jesus was known for His humility, embracing all who came to Him and allowing Himself to be vulnerable. He was known for His inclusivess.

We need to be like Jesus. We need to be humble, embracing others and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. We need to be known by those we do include not by those we seek to exclude.

JESUS THE RADICAL

Jesus was a radical. That is why He was so hated and there were so many attempts to get rid of Him. He challenged the order of things. He was radical because he challenged the legalism of the Pharisees. He challenged the exclusion of those the leaders considered too sinful. He was known only for condemning the legalism of the spiritual leaders who pulled people away from God instead of towards Him. Even those leaders were included if they sought Jesus.

Jesus was also radical because He spoke of the spiritual world that God belonged to. The Spiritual world Jesus came from. The spiritual world that we have citizenship in when we believe in God.

ACCEPT ALL OTHERS

As followers of Jesus we should be known as ones who accept and welcome all people. We should be known as ones who seek love and unity. That love and unity is not of this world, rather it is the love and unity as expressed in the spirit world we truly belong to. We should be ones who eschew division, antagonism and hostility.

We should be ones who love rather than judge.

THE DISCIPLES WERE CONFUSED AND FEARFUL

This is important to remember today as we remember how those who followed Jesus hid in confusion and fear on the day between Jesus’ death and Jesus’ resurrection. 

The disciples then were confused and frightened. We can wait, understanding their feelings but knowing that tomorrow there is a celebration.

The waiting was a time of humility and vulnerability. The disciples hid together and prayed. Those with a home welcomed others into their midst.

All were equal in their experience that day.

HUMILITY

I love that picture of humility. 

The word humility is often bandied about. It reminds me of the way the word respect is used often with little understanding of what it means and what putting respect into practice looks like. 

Humility is an aspect of respect. Like respect, it is practical. It is seen in how we behave. 

Humility is something that costs us. It involves sometimes choosing to put another person first and sacrificing what we want for the good of another. It is saying that I respect you and today I choose to put you first. I make this choice because I love Jesus and want to be like Him. I know that Jesus humbled Himself for the weak, the poor, the broken, the marginalised, the despised, those without a voice, the oppressed and the refugee among us. That includes all of us.

Jesus always saw the humble as those who earned God’s favour. He humbled Himself by choosing to live among us. We honour Him by choosing to be humble too.

CHOOSING TO LOVE 

Jesus walked among us. He used God’s strength to serve. He didn’t just walk among the wealthy and the rulers. He came among those who were poor and those seen as sinners. He reached out to the marginalised. He chose humility but did not hesitate to speak out when it was needed. He always submitted to God. We see the greatest example of that in the Garden of Gethsemane when He made the choice to do as God willed, not as He may have preferred to do.

OUR TRUE HOME IS THE SPIRIT WORLD

Our path in life is to serve. To be like the vulnerable disciples of the day in between. To be dependent on what God brings to us. To remember that God is spirit and our true home is with God in the Spirit world.

To truly relate to God and serve Him we must embrace the spiritual aspect of our faith in all its frightening uncertainty.

 
Posted By Nan

On this, Palm Sunday, the day we remember Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem, only for the adoring crowds to turn against Him days later, it is appropriate to talk about Jesus as a spiritual being.

THE INVISIBLE WIND

In ancient times it was believed the wind was related to the spirit realm. People could feel it, they could see its effects, but they could not actually see the wind.

Of course electricity is another invisible thing. We can feel it and see its impacts, but we cannot actually see it.

Magnetism is also invisible. As is gravity. We also cannot see the power that exists in atoms, but we can see their effects when the atom is split.

Einstein was the one who theorised about many of these things. It was he who proved that time exists only where there is matter and that space is interrelated with time.

MATTER AS A CONCEPT

Matter can be converted to energy and energy to matter.

These are staggering concepts. To us used to an understanding of all these things it may not seem to unusual, but to the people of Jesus’ time, even the people a few hundred years ago, much of this was astonishing.

Matter is not static. It had a beginning. All scientists agree to that. How that beginning came about is contentious.

JESUS AND CREATION

The Bible tells us that in the beginning God decreed, Jesus spoke and the Holy Spirit acted to create matter. We see this in Genesis (1:1) and in John (1:1-5). We also learn in the Bible that it is Jesus who holds all things together (Colossians 1:15-17). Without Jesus all matter would disintegrate. All this has taken place in the Spiritual Realm.

Another thing to remember is that the Bible contains references of spirit beings manifesting to people. Sometimes they are good, other times bad. Genesis 18 and 19 relate how good beings manifested themselves to Abraham at Mamre and then visited Sodom, which they later destroyed.

We also know that Jesus returned after the resurrection and became spirit. He was able to appear and disappear at will. We also know that in Acts 8:224-40 Phillip was taken away by the spirit after ministering to an Ethiopian.

INVISIBLE THINGS EXIST

We cannot see the spirit world, just as we cannot see the wind, electricity, magnetism and gravity. Yes they exist, even the spirit world. The spirit world is the place where the energy that permeates the universe is. It is also where we find God. 

The energy of the spirit world is why we can hug a tree and feel its energy. It is why we can put our bare feet on the ground and feel the energy of the ground entering our feet. It is why we can place our hands on a rock and feel a surge of energy. The spirit world is where we can feel God’s presence. 

BELIEF IN THE SPIRIT WORLD

We fear the spirit world because we have been taught in church doctrine that the spirit world is a place of demonic influence. But the spirit world is where we find God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As followers of Jesus we are under His protection. The proof of this can be found in Job 1:9-10 where satan argues that God is protecting Job.

There are many who do not believe in the spirit world. This is seen even in Jesus’ time with the Sadducees not believing in the spirit world. But there has been a lot of research and a lot of proof into the existence of the spirit world. 

There has been a lot of fear of the spirit world because of the belief that spiritual things are demonic. As with the false prophets we encounter on earth, we can know if something is of God because it will honour God and acknowledge Jesus as our saviour. 

If we deny the existence of the Spirit World, we deny the existence of our Triune God.

Believing in the spirit world is scary, but it is essential in order to accept the existence of God and Jesus as our Saviour

 
Posted By Nan

John 5:31-47

My apologies for not posting a blog last week. My entire household became ill and I was not in a position to write anything. All are better this week so here is the next blog.

The two week gap gave me plenty of time to seek guidance on what to write.

For the past several months, I have been reading through the gospels. I read a small amount each day and reflect on it until the next day’s reading. Sometimes I read a sentence and have to stop to consider it. Other times I read a section.

All told this is a long but educational process to read the gospels. 

I have only just started John and it is a passage from John 5 that has been brought to my attention over the past two weeks. So much so, that I spent several days reading and re-reading the same passage and searching God for His understanding of Jesus’ words in this passage.

There were several sentences from this passage that stood out as ones God wanted me to focus on.

FIRST FOCUS: CHOOSING TO ENJOY THE LIGHT BURNING (35)

This passage relates a conversation Jesus had with “the Jews”. These would have been the temple leaders: the Pharisees, Sadducees, teachers of the law and other officials.

These people who had the most to lose from Jesus coming to earth.

They have been threatened by Jesus and challenge Him whenever they can. 

Jesus refuses to “prove” to them He is the Messiah. He tells them that His actions are testimony enough.

Because of their refusal to accept His actions, He reminds them that John the Baptist testified of Him and the Jews choose to enjoy the light John burned for God for a time.

That is important.

There was no deep spiritual connection to what John proclaimed. There was just the playing with the warmth of the fire he burned without the commitment.

I wonder how many people in today’s church choose to enjoy the light of Jesus for a time without ever committing spiritually to Jesus.

SECOND FOCUS: STUDYING THE SCRIPTURES DOES NOT GIVE ETERNAL LIFE (39-40)

Jesus continues His discussion by pointing out that His testimony is weightier than John’s. He is doing the work that God, His Father, set Him to do. This work is well documented in the Old Testament scriptures that the Jews were studying. Yet they chose not to see the truth.

Jesus told them they diligently study the scriptures because they think that will give them eternal life. These are the scriptures that testify about Jesus. But the Jews refuse to see Him and come to Him. It is coming to Him that gives them life, yet they don’t come.

How many people in today’s church study the scriptures diligently and discuss all manner of obscure theological arguments, yet never come to Jesus?

THIRD FOCUS: NOT ACCEPTING THE ONE WHO COMES IN GOD’S NAME (43)

The Jews lacked God’s love. Jesus told them this plainly. They didn’t have God’s love in their hearts and refused to accept the one who has come in God’s name. Yet they are willing to accept someone else who comes in their own name.

They also sought praise from other people. Jesus made them uncomfortable. He did not praise their empty actions. Instead He told them what they were doing wrong. Yet they did not listen or change their behaviour. They preferred instead to get the praise and confirmation of men rather than praise from God.

Jesus’ argument was to ask them how they can believe if they do not listen to God.

READ ANYTHING BUT THE BIBLE: CHRISTIAN MARKETING GONE MADE

Over the years I have observed many Christians who read books others have written about faith in God. These people write extraordinary things that have no biblical basis. Yet people read them and follow them. They don’t read the Bible and meet God there. They read what other people have written and don’t meet God there.

Like the Jews they are not interested in what God wants, only what fellow humans tell them.

There is a massive, very lucrative market in Christian books. I have read some. There are some that are useful, but most of them are people’s opinions that are not backed by scripture. Yet people believe what is written in them without doing their own research and seeking God.

If you are reading this blog, I am hoping that you are reading the passage I have noted at the start and searching the passage with God’s guidance to form your own opinion.

FOURTH FOCUS: NOT EVEN BELIEVING MOSES (45-47)

This last focus is on the Jews and their choice not to believe.

Jewish belief centred on Moses. He was seen as the great lawgiver.

Despite this adherence to the importance of Moses, the Jews did not even believe Moses. 

They took what Moses had written and corrupted it to form this bizarre, uncaring, totally lacking in compassion, legalism of the Jewish faith of Jesus’ time.

Jesus pointed out that even Moses would condemn them for what they were doing.

This was a sticking point for them believing Jesus. They did not believe what Moses had written. Given that, how could they believe in Jesus?

The point to take from this?

What do we actually believe from the Bible?

If you read Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy you will see a great emphasis on love, care for others, care for foreigners, care for widows and so on. The underlying theme of God’s instructions to Moses is social justice.

How is it social justice to discriminate against people based on their skin colour, cultural identity, language, even religious faith?

How is it social justice to fail to adequately provide for the needs of those in society who are poor? To fail to provide for the needs of the unemployed, the refugee, the elderly who have given much to society, the children too young to fend for themselves, the disabled who cannot provide for themselves.

How is it social justice to fail to support the pregnant woman with nowhere to turn? Support for that woman does not involve standing outside an abortion clinic hurling abuse at the women entering. Support does not involve taking her baby away from her and failing to support her in her efforts to care for her child. Support is about compassion and actual physical help. 

How is it social justice to destroy the environment to support the greed of a few wealthy individuals at the top of a large corporation?

How is it social justice to deny people access to clean drinking water or basic medical care?

I could go on, but I hope I have made my point.

Love for God means opening our spirits to His spirit. It means being like minded and passionate about social justice. It means caring as Jesus cared.

It does not mean being legalistic and studying the scriptures with a closed heart, looking for justification rather than teaching. 

It means loving and caring. It means delighting to read the Bible to hear God’s message. It means spending time in prayer listening to God.

It means seeking a relationship with God that is spiritual, not legalistic.

 
Posted By Nan

In researching this series of blogs, I have read the writings of many followers of Jesus, both in present times and in the past. People like Hildegard of Bingen, John O’Donohue and Brother David have been particularly inspiring. These are people who know/knew God intimately and follow/ed Him with passion, but hold views that are not mainstream. 

BEING LED OUT INTO THE WILDERNESS

When my Father God led me out of the established Church I wondered what He was doing. I didn’t feel strong enough to survive without a church congregation. This was despite the fact that I had been betrayed, lied about, and offered no compassion or help when I needed it. I still clung to the idea of church. Why? Because I didn’t know any better. I was raised to believe going to church was a prerequisite to salvation.

Salvation is completely dependent on accepting Jesus as my Saviour. That is the door we enter in. We then follow Him along the path. So we accept Jesus and continue to believe in Him and follow Him as best we can.

We are not required to go to church to do that. Churches are corrupt organisations that have been responsible for much harm to people and for turning many away from faith in God. 

THE SECULAR SINS OF CHURCHES

Only yesterday there were news reports of a prominent leader of a large church who had been dismissed because of sexually inappropriate behaviour to women. One was so severe the woman left the employment of this church and has never darkened the door of the church again.

Then there are the countless children sexually abused by church leaders. Rather than protect these children, the church blamed them for what happened. Those sexual abusers were moved on or just allowed to continue where they were without penalty. Covering up and protecting the reputation of the church was more important than God’s justice.

I have heard so many stories of people who went to the church for help over abuse both as children and as adults and who were misquoted scriptures that said they were to “honour” their abuser. These people were frequently vilified while their abuser was supported by the church and the congregations.

So many people have been subjected to abuse by church members intent on following their own ambitions. The ambitious church members are the ones supported by the church hierarchy, not the people subjected to abuse.

BELIEVERS ARE IN CHURCHES AND OUTSIDE CHURCHES

The church is a corrupt secular organisation that happens to contain people who profess to believe in Jesus. But society is full of people who profess to believe in Jesus but never attend a church service. Statistics show that increasingly more people who identify as Christian do not attend church.

So we have established that accepting Jesus as Saviour and following Him is a requirement for salvation. But what is this “church” mean?

THOSE SET ASIDE FOR JESUS

If you go back to the original texts the word that is commonly translated as “church” is actually more correctly translated as “congregation”. Congregation means taken out and set aside. It doesn’t mean church. Any group can be a congregation. If we are the group of ones who believe Jesus is our Saviour then we are a congregation that believes in Jesus as Saviour.

Looking at the history of Bible Translations, the word “church” was introduced in the King James Version. It was put there to convince the people that they should attend church. Pure and simple. There is no Biblical basis for a church attending requirement.

BUT YOU DON’T GO

The early believers in Jesus wanted to keep their Jewishness. They attended the sabbath in the temple and then worshipped Jesus on Sunday. It was only when the temple was destroyed in 70AD that they stopped that practice. Why was the temple destroyed? One reason is that God had called the followers of Jesus out of Judaism and they hadn’t obeyed. Destroying the temple was a great way of stopping that practice.

One question I am asked a lot is “how do you worship God if you don’t attend church?”.

My answer is “how do you worship God when you attend church?”

I have sat in church services where I didn’t feel anyone was actually worshipping God. They were worshipping the wonderful band they had playing. They were worshipping the spectacularly ordered service with the lovely sequenced music designed to bring the audience to a crescendo mimicking the anointing of the Spirit. But worshipping God? Hmmm.

I have sat in too many of those types of service and begged God for evidence of true worship and only found it in my heart.

I know there are true followers of Jesus who do attend church and manage to truly worship Him. But it is easy to fall out of worship in many services.

Many admit that and go to church to be part of a group of believers. They find their time worshipping God when they are on their own.

Many have participated in online services during COVID and realised they never want to go back to that church, or any church.

Then there are the ones who worship God continually, day in and day out. These are true believers. But how many go to church on Sunday and then leave and carry on as if God is not part of their lives.

OUR SPIRITUALITY

This series is a reflection on spirituality. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit which enters our Spirit. Our Spirit is the I AM of us. It is who we are. Allowing the Holy Spirit to define our I AM is what it means when we read in the Bible about us diminishing and Jesus increasing. We give our Spirit over to the influence and connection with the Holy Spirit. We allow God to define our I AM.

The trouble arises when you don’t connect to your Spirit. When you can’t connect to the feelings within you. When you don’t connect to your body. If you can’t do that, how can you connect to the Holy Spirit in your own Spirit?

THE SENSE OF BELONGING

Have you had a personal encounter with Jesus?

Can you remember the feeling you had when that encounter occurred?

For me, it was one of being in the presence of one who totally and completely accepted me. One who accepted me as belonging, as being part of Him.

That is the essence of faith in God. That we belong. That we are considered children.

HOW TO RESPOND TO THE SENSE OF BELONGING

One of the negatives of applying “religion” to the sense of belonging is the traditions of religion, especially in the West. We turn belonging into a restrictive dogma that tells us we can only like certain people. 

In fact, the belonging of God is about belonging to the entire Creation. By entire I mean all life forms be they animal or plant. By entire I mean this planet in its entirety. By entire I mean the entire universe. All this is created by God.

HOW DO YOU INTERPRET BELONGING?

Belonging is interpreted by us as a whole person. That means we interpret it through our emotions. 

Belonging means we interpret it through our intellect, by making meaning of what we are experiencing.

Belonging, and making meaning of it, means we accept that meaning with our will.

The belonging we have to God is limitless. 

SO WHAT HAS GONE WRONG?

The problem with the established church, especially the western church, is that it has created a doctrine to give people guidelines to make sense of belonging. And a lot of this doctrine was devised by people who had never encountered God.

But belonging is an individual thing and each person must make their own sense of belonging to God.

Each person must have their own unique relationship to God.

Adopting the church doctrine locks you into the legalism that Jesus criticised in the Jewish faith of His time on earth.

So much of Western church doctrine is about what you can’t do and what you must do IN ORDER TO BE SAVED.

But you are already saved. You are on a path following Jesus, but it is not a path of you must do and you mustn’t do. It is a path of relationship with God.

HOW DO I FOLLOW JESUS?

Celebrate the love God has for you.

Be careful not to impose rituals on that celebration. Ritual has its place, but not if it becomes a straight-jacket for other believers or us.

Yes, you will express your belonging to God in some form of doctrine and moral code. And you will express your belonging in some form of ritual that you should be happy to use. But do not turn your belonging to God into some form of dogmatic straight-jacket.

Ultimately, it is how you relate to God in your heart that matters. Our hearts are the one part of us that can truly take in all of God’s love for us. Why? Because our hearts are our place of love.

Unless you can approach faith and belonging to God with love you will become caught up in dogmatic doctrines, morals and rituals.

Stand before God in the entirety of your being with love. See those around you are being as intricate a part of creation as you are. Always seek God in your heart with love and you will find following Jesus a lot easier and purer.

 

 

 
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