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?
 

 
Posted By Nan

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1
This section starts with Paul instructing the believers in an area of life that was the centre of a lot of disagreement at the time. Was it permissible to eat the meat of sacrificed animals? Paul said to the people what God had shown Peter in Acts 10, when He called Peter to go to the gentile Cornelius’s house. That is that all things are permissible.
All things may be permissible but not everything is good for us. Some things instead of building us up, drag us down. The things God wants us to do are those that build our characters and develop our spiritual life. He also wants us to consider the impact our behaviour has on others. For the Corinthian Christian given a meal at a non-believer’s house, the meal was something to praise God for. The meal was provided by God. But, if the non-believer told the Corinthian Christian the meat was from a sacrificed animal then the Corinthian needed to consider the impact eating that meat would have on the non-believer. It was still permissible to eat the meat but what message would it send to the non-believer? It may be the Corinthian decided to share with the non-believer about God’s provision for us and that all food is permissible for eating. The Corinthian may have shared that sacrificed meat is still permissible for eating because it is provided by God. The Corinthian may have felt that eating the meat may send a mixed message about faith to the Host and decided not to eat it. There is no hard and fast rule. In all things seek God and consider the effect your actions have on others.
The Message says we should live well. We should do everything with enthusiasm and joy in order to glorify God. We should also determine to help others live well. God gives us freedom to live our lives, but do not misuse that freedom by thoughtlessly harming others. Be considerate of the feelings of others.
We need to follow Jesus as our example. Reading the gospels is important to observe how Jesus behaved towards others. Note His concern for others. Note his compassion. Note the only times he spoke harshly were to the legalists in the Synagogue. This is how we are to follow Jesus. Paul suggests in 11:1 that we follow his example as He follows Jesus. He is not telling us to follow him, but to follow his example of living life by following Jesus.
 

 
Posted By Nan

1 Corinthians 2:1-5
This section does not include the word follow but it is an important section for considering following Jesus.
Paul was a great orator and writer. His following of Jesus is a great inspiration for all of us. It is interesting to note his humility. He came as an ordinary person to proclaim God’s message. He was an ordinary person, but the message he proclaimed gave him authority others were able to recognise. Jesus carried an air of authority because of who He was and Paul, in following Jesus, carried an air of authority because of who Jesus was.
I once heard a very new graduate of a theology degree speak of how people have authority in church because of the years they have spent studying theology. He then went on to say that is the only authority on God. I was astonished at his ignorance. You can study theology to PhD level and still not know God or follow Him.
Many with authority, true God given authority, are ignored by others. Jesus is the classic example. The simple people had great faith in Him. But those who considered they had to spend years studying the scriptures and were the only ones who could speak with authority did not hear Jesus.
Think about it. Paul said our faith rests on God’s power, not on men’s wisdom.
Never fall into the trap of thinking that to follow God you have to have studied the Bible and learned all the correct doctrine around it.
Never fall into the trap of thinking you cannot know God unless you have all that learning.
Never fall into the trap of thinking you need to rely on someone with all that learning to teach you about God. But also do not shun learning about God.
The input of others is helpful, but it is God who will teach you and He will do that through following Jesus. You follow Jesus and learn from Him. Read the Bible yourself and ask God for the insight He wants you to have of those passages you have read.
Get to know God.
Get to know Him well.
That is the authority with which you follow God.
 

 
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.
 

 

 

 
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