I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances, contentment, happy, satisfied, thoughts, thinking

Contentment or the pursuit of happiness?

A few weeks ago, Kain Ramsay – a coach and trainer that I follow online – asked this question:

What do you think might happen if everyone in the world stopped defining themselves by their vocational roles, how they feel, what they believe or their personal preferences?
Also, if pursuing happiness was no longer an option, what might many people devote their lives to instead (and how might this be even better than happiness)?
Let’s get this week off to a reflective start…

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Why does the Spirit feel so far away?

A couple of days ago, I read this by Madisyn Taylor

We all experience periods where we feel separated from the loving ebb and flow of the universe. These times of feeling disconnected from the source may occur for many reasons, but self-sabotage is the most common cause for us choosing to cut ourselves off from the flow of the universe. We purposefully, though often unconsciously, cut ourselves off from this flow and from the embrace of humanity so we can avoid dealing with painful issues, shun the necessary steps for growth, or prevent the success that we are afraid of achieving from ever happening.
When you choose to disconnect from the source, you block the flow of the universe’s energy from passing through you. You become like a sleepwalker who is not fully awake to life, and your hopes, plans, and dreams begin to appear as distant blurs on a faraway horizon.
Universal support has never left you, but if you can remember that you became disconnected from source by choice, you can choose to reconnect.

And I couldn’t agree more – how often do we distance ourselves from God & our Source?

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“A noble cedar or a humble mustard seed?”

A few months ago I threw some avocado seeds into my compost bin, and now I’ve discovered I have a beautiful avocado seedling growing in my compost.  I’ve very happy about that – but all I did was throw it away! I was expecting to make compost, but now I am very pleased that I need to ask Alexis to locate a great place to plant an avocado tree.  And we all know how big an avocado tree can get.  So, I’m not sure where that avocado tree will get planted, but I am pretty sure that it will produce some great avocados!Read More »

For God so loved the world…

Readings:

  • John 3: 16-21
  • Ephesians 2: 4-10

For God so loved the world… that over two thousand years ago, Jesus came to this earth in human form to show us what this love truly means. Through his life, his teachings and his example, we find a new way, a better way. He gave what we may consider to be the ultimate sacrifice, his earthly body, in a painful and excruciating death, so that we might receive the gift of Oneness of our spiritual bodies with God, no longer separated but as Children of God. Through this, we might fully understand the meaning of eternal life, as spiritual beings living continually in the presence of God.  Not waiting for our earthly death for eternity to start, but recognising that we are already living eternity.

Jesus came and taught us humility, as he lived as a refugee in Egypt as a child, much like Syrian refugees live today in Jordan and Lebanon. Do we treat our refugees any better than we have treated Jesus?  How do we treat the refugees from Venezuela? The refugees from Haiti, from Africa? If we imagine that each of these refugees was Jesus, how are we doing?

‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25: 40)

In Matthew 18: 1 we find the disciples discussing “Who really is the greatest in the Kingdom of the heavens?” He calls a child, stands the child in the midst of the disciples and tells them:

“Unless you turn around and become as young children, you will by no means enter into the Kingdom of the heavens. Therefore, whoever will humble himself like this young child is the one who is the greatest in the Kingdom of the heavens; and whoever receives one such young child on the basis of my name receives me also.”​—Matthew 18:3-5.

As we consider how we are treating the sojourners and refugees among us, then we known how great we are in the Kingdom! Before the last supper, we find Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.

Because God so loved us… Jesus showed us the importance of reading the Word, as a twelve year old when he read and discussed in the temple the scriptures. Luke 2: 47 says that “all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.” At twelve years old. He not only was willing to read the Bible allowed in the temple, but to answer questions and explain it. And yet, we seem to struggle each week for participants to read the scriptures aloud in church each Sunday.

Jesus showed us dedication and patience, as he worked as a carpenter, under his father’s tutelage. And yet we reject the authority of our parents, failing to honor our mother and father as we are called to do.  We push our way forward for honor and rewards, seeking the limelight, rather than being willing to work in the background.

Because God so loved you… Jesus showed us how to handle the temptations that arise in our day to day lives. Through his temptations of hunger (lust of the body), egoism (misuse of our power) and materialism (kingdoms and wealth) we see what is means to be a child of God, holding fast to that identity, and still standing strong in the knowledge of what that really means. In these temptations, we see the challenge to Jesus: “If you are the Son of God” – are you really a child of God? Prove it.

Through these temptations, we see how the ego wants to use our spiritual power and gifts to satisfy human cravings. This is attempting to turn stones into bread, the attempt to find gratification in using spiritual power to satisfy human, personal desires.And yet, Jesus shows us the better and higher way. Are you fully secure in your identity as a child of God? Can you, like Jesus, respond: “It is written”?  Our human nature wants to demonstrate prosperity and success or healing and “prove” that it works. We think some outer achievement will make us happy and successful. But Jesus teaches us a higher way: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.”

Most importantly, Jesus showed us what it really means to have a relationship with God, to have the indwelling of the Spirit. Jesus showed us, in his every day living and loving, what it means to truly be One with God the Father.

John 14: 4-7 promise us:

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
…7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

We are reminded of this again in John 17: 21-23

As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 …  so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

For God so loved the World that he sent us Jesus… who taught us what it means to be a child of God (as each one of us has already been called to be). Paul says in Colossians 2:9 “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” The Message says “Everything of God gets expressed in him, so that you can see and hear God clearly”.”  Are you living out your life as a son or daughter of God?  Is every quality of God fully expressed in your life and living and loving?

Psalm 82: 6 says in a stunning way:

You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High.

The same calling to greatness and Oneness with God that Jesus had, each of us has.  To be the Son of God is to be of the same nature as God. The Son of God is “of God.” We were created by God, in God’s image, to do God’s will on this earth.  And God so loved each one of us, as sons and daughters, that God sent us Jesus to show us the way home.

Jesus reminds us of this in John 10: 33-38:

33 The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.”
34 Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’—and the scripture cannot be annulled— 36 can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. 38 … know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Like the Prodigal son, we have lived our lives without authority, power, belonging and sharing at the table of the feast: but God loved us. And so today we are reminded of this rich mercy, of the great love with which we are loved. We are made alive in Christ, seated with him, shown the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us! If we are living in separation from God, then we are throwing away the gift of love that was given to us.

And because of this great love that we have been shown, we are all challenged today to love each other! The test of how well we have overcome that which separates us from God is how well we love our brothers and sisters:

John 13: 35

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Rising up on wings like eagles

Readings: 

  • Isaiah 40: 21- 31
  • Mark 1: 29-39

Isaiah 40:21-31 (NRSV)

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
    Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to live in;
23 who brings princes to naught,
    and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
    scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows upon them, and they wither,
    and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

25 To whom then will you compare me,
    or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
    Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them,
    calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength,
    mighty in power,
    not one is missing.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
    and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
    and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.

If you’ve experienced a storm in your life, you know being patient and waiting for a resolution can be so hard. If right now you are passing through a hard time, “waiting on the Lord” can seem like a tall order. Like the Israelites, you may be feeling and saying:

“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And my just claim is passed over by my God”?

The Jewish people that had been taken into exile in Babylon were in a precarious position. Nebuchadnezzar had long since passed, and he had been replaced by Nabonidus. Now Nabonidus had left the city of Babylon to live in the Arabian desert and worship the moon god, leaving his young son Belshazzar (Belsharusur) as regent king in his place. And this young regent was all about partying and having fun with his friends. You may remember in Daniel 5, with the hand writing on the wall, when the young king is partying with all his friends, drinking wine from the sacred temple goblets.  Belshazzar was far from a good king.

Those who were taken into captivity were the old Judean aristrocracy. In Jerusalem, they had held positions of power, status and wealth. This was not the case in Babylon.  They were forced to live in ethnic enclaves, something like our 20th-Century concentration or force-labor camps.  Such a change would have created doubts in their mind as to whether they were truly the elected people of God on earth.

While the aristocracy was held in Babylon, society in Judah had disintegrated after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. The population was reduced by 90%, meaning only 10% of the population was left: death, exile and destruction of the temple gutted all the institutions that held the society together.  There was no hope in the past, there seemed to be no future and way forward.

And so, in 550 B.C., Cyrus the Persian captured Ecbatana, the capital of the Median Empire. After this victory, he began to look south toward Babylon. Because of the way that Nabonidus and his son Belshazzar had been ruling, Cyrus  was very welcome in Babylon. When Cyrus finally arrived, in 539 BC, he was greeted with shouts of joy from the conquered.

Isaiah chapter 40 starts with “Comfort my people”, and it is the beginning of the second Isaiah (as it is believed that chapters 1 to 39 were written by Isaiah, and the second half were written by a disciple of Isaiah). Regardless of who wrote chapters 40 to 55, there is a distinct change of tone: chapters 1 to 39 speak of judgement and disaster. Chapters 40 to 55 speak to salvation, hope and restoration.  For 50 years, they have been “hidden from the Lord”, and so in chapter 40 we read “Comfort my people… Speak comfort to Jerusalem… her warfare is ended… her iniquity is pardoned”.

We find words of hope, “wait on the Lord”.

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
    Has it not been told you from the beginning?
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    23 who brings princes to naught,
    and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

25 To whom then will you compare me,
or who is my equal? says the Holy One.

What’s bigger? Your problem? or God? How often do we become so embroiled and caught up with our problems, that we make them into mountains? And even so, what is bigger: your mountain of problems, or God?  When you go through something awful or unexpected, you get the chance to see whether or not your faith in God is real. Do you really wait upon the Lord when you are faced with challenges?

Some key questions we might ask are:

  • What does it mean to wait? What’s involved?
  • How are we to wait?
  • Who and what are we waiting for?
  • Why should we wait?
  • How long do we wait?

Habakkuk 2:1 says,

I will stand at my watchpost,
    and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
    and what he will answer concerning my complaint.

Are you keeping watch, at your watchpost? Are you continuing at your station or on the rampart, to see what God has to say about your complaints?  I read somewhere:

“Hurry is the death of prayer. The reason why you don’t hear God is because you’re in too much of a hurry. ‘God, I want to hear from you. But hurry up! I’ve got to make it to my next appointment.’”

“Psalm 130:5-6: “I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord More than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning,” he was comparing waiting expectantly on the Lord to the night guards of the city who watched the passage of time in anticipation of the coming dawn when they would be released from duty. The coming of the dawn was certain, but not without the passage of time.”

Psalm 46:10 reminds us:

Be still and know that I am God.

There is a moment to simply wait on the Lord, in order to renew your strength.  Be still.

Psalm 62:5  (NRSV)

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.

Are you waiting in silence?

Psalm 27:14 (NRSV)

14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!

There are at least 29 verses in the Bible that speak of “wait on the Lord”. Psalm 23 speaks of waiting in rest: lie down in green pastures, restoring our souls.  Ours is a society that has grown accustomed to immediate gratification. Due to modern technology and all our conveniences—telephones, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, fast foods, airplanes, etc.—we have many things immediately at our fingertips. But yet we find a growing group of people that are learning mindfulness, breathing (“Just breathe”) and sitting quietly in silence. And we, as Christians, need to learn to wait upon the Lord.

But like the Jewish exiles, we are impatient for salvation. How long? How much longer? Are we nearly there yet?

In Mark 1, we read:

35 Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer.

We also read in Matthew 14: 23:

After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.

Mark 6:46

After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray.

Luke 5: 16 

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

Luke 6: 12 

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.

Luke 9: 18 

And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him,

Matthew 26 & Mark 14, in Gethsemane:  “Sit here while I go over there and pray. “And he went a little beyond them and fell on his face and prayed.” “He went away a second time and prayed.” “and he left them again, and went away and prayed a third time”

We are reminded in the Bible repeatedly to “wait on the Lord”, and we see the best example in the life of Jesus. Pulling away from the crowds, pulling away from the hustle and bustle of life, pulling away into the wilderness, or onto a hill, or up a mountain, to pray.  Before and after teaching and preaching, before and after healing the sick and throwing out demons – Jesus went aside to pray.  He knew where his strength and stamina truly came from.

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.