door representing the coice of life and free will

God’s Unsung Gift to You-Free Will/ Spiritual Meditations

The agony we feel when we see loved ones or friends ruining their lives, or, at least, making bad choices, often brings us to our knees before God. At times we worry about the unknown and fear the worst. Even years of ceaseless prayer may appear to prove useless. What does this say about God? My friend, Lisa, describes just such an experience.

Separation

My family lived in a small town where everyone went to church. My mother was the church organist so we were the first family to arrive and the last family to leave on Sunday. We were a typical Midwest American family. There were 4 children in my family; 1 boy and 3 girls. My father was a farmer and my mother was a stay at home mom.

As I was starting high school, my older brother, Kevin, left to join the Navy. I expected he would do a lot of cool things and see interesting places, but I was also sad because I knew I would rarely see him. I knew the importance and power of prayer and I prayed for him often.

As the years went by, my parents seldom mentioned my brother. After I left home for college, I was busy with my own life and made fewer inquiries about how he was doing. Did he have a wife, kids etc. My mom would say “Oh you know your brother; he’s married to his job.”

The truth was that 6 or 7 years had passed and I no longer knew my brother. Every time I would drive to my parent’s house for dinner or a holiday, I would see his photos on the wall, but nothing recent. I was told he frequently traveled to different countries and my mother sometimes wasn’t clear on where he lived. I thought this was just how the military was but also thought it odd that he was in the navy for so long. There weren’t cell phones then and I was told he had no home phone to call.

I finished school, began my career, got married, had children, bought a home and never spoke to my brother. My mother’s conversations with Kevin were always repeated at holidays. I can remember the phone ringing at Christmas one year and I prayed it was him. My heart stopped for a moment at the thought of hearing his voice again. But it wasn’t him. What if he just walked in the door? That would be a glorious day for my family.

In later years, my dad told us that Kevin was working in Alaska on a new pipeline and would be out in the uninhabited free land zones. I felt my family had lost him.   The distance and lack of communication had taken its toll and I had stopped praying for him every day. The days of praying with my parents and siblings sitting around a table holding hands was becoming a very distant memory for me. I missed that and I missed my brother.

My husband and I taught 1st and 2nd grade Sunday school. As the children talked of their brothers and sisters, I would get a glimpse of Kevin again in my own life as we grew up. That ache in my heart and the hope that my brother was OK would come rushing back.

When the family gathered at my parents’ house, my sisters and I would express concern that my mother’s only comments regarding Kevin were “Haven’t heard from him in a while”.  We heard the same comment many times.

Frustrated, I asked my mother for the name of the company Kevin worked for…. or was he still in the military. She said it was a private company and gave me the name. I called the human resource department to get an office phone number or a supervisor name. The lady I spoke to was very kind to me and understood how anxious I was to speak to Kevin. She said she would look up his contact information and call me back later that afternoon. When she did, she simply stated that he was unreachable. This made no sense to me but she had no details. The ache I had was very palpable now. My prayers to hear his voice were not going to be fulfilled. I prayed that afternoon for his happiness, and his mental and physical health wondering if he still prayed or missed us.

On a busy Monday morning at my hospital. I received a page that my mother was trying to reach me. Initially she asked me to just listen. She explained that my brother had become homeless and had been addicted to heroin for the last 2 years. He had been found in a shelter, very ill, and had been sent to a hospital. That was all she knew that morning. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I didn’t want to believe that our God had forgotten about Kevin and left him this way.

I left work, went to my car and cried harder than I ever had in my life. I remembered my scripture in Deu. 31:6; “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.”    I prayed out loud asking God ‘why?’. How did I not know that Kevin needed help? I was so mad at myself for being so involved with my own family that I didn’t try harder to find him. I could fix all my patients at work, but not my own brother. I was also mad at God. “Lord, why did you leave him?” How could this happen to an educated man from the Midwest with a good family?

The next day I received another call from my mother letting me that Kevin had passed. I learned much more of my brother’s life after his death; not much of it good. Throughout my life, the power of pray was amazing and worked. I’d seen it many times with my church family. My only hope is that now God is holding him close so Kevin feels his addiction was not the heart and soul of his being. Addiction had taken over his life and my hopes to see him again, to hear his voice, to hug him, dissolved.

This is a scenario repeated in far too many families. But as stated in Romans 8:28, for those who are God-conscious and listening to His Spirit, some good will develop from it. In this case, Lisa was drawn to take on the organization of a large street ministry at her church, feeding hundreds of people each month.

The street ministry from Oakhurst United Methodist Church is the perfect way for me to lift up my brother by feeding the homeless. I think of him while I’m there. The faces of those being served each have a story. They may be there due to addiction, health reasons that prevent work or a financial crisis in their life. I see my brother’s face in them. When I pray with them, I feel I’m praying with my brother standing next to me.

Free Will

Due to the lack of communication with his family, it isn’t possible to know what Kevin’s relationship was with God during his adult life. The choice to take drugs, which then turned into an addiction, doesn’t mean Kevin turned his back on God. The addiction may have been a battle for him that he lost.

However, if Kevin did give up the faith of his youth, this is the option that God provides which we call Free Will. God wants us to have communion with Him by our own choice. He is not going to force anyone to value their life more, to act in a certain way, or to use their resources reasonably, even if many others pray that He will.

A thorough discussion of Free Will delves deeply into philosophy and there are many well developed as well as vague views on the subject. Below are abridgements of a few of them that may give you some insight.

The Catholic View of Free Will

The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church asserts that “Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will”. It goes on to say that “God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. God willed that man should be ‘left in the hand of his own counsel, so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.” It concludes with the role that grace plays, “By the working of grace the Holy Spirit educates us in spiritual freedom in order to make us free collaborators in his work in the Church and in the world.”

Catholic Christianity’s views on free will and grace are often contrasted with predestination in Reformed Protestant Christianity, especially after the Counter-Reformation, but in understanding differing conceptions of free will it is just as important to understand the differing conceptions of the nature of God, focusing on the idea that God can be all-powerful and all-knowing even while people continue to exercise free will.

Oriental Orthodox View of Free Will

The Oriental Orthodox church explains that the more one follows one’s conscience, the more it brings one good results, and the more one follows one’s arrogance, the more it brings one bad results. Following only one’s arrogance is sometimes likened to the dangers of falling into a pit while walking in pitch darkness, without the light of conscience to illuminate the path.

Eastern Orthodox View of Free Will

Some Eastern Orthodox Christians use the parable of a drowning man to plainly illustrate their teaching regarding free will; God from the ship throws a rope to a drowning man, pulls him up, saving him, and the man, if he wants to be saved, must hold on tightly to the rope; explaining both that salvation is a gift from God and man cannot save himself, and that man must co-work with God in the process of salvation.

The Methodist View of Free Will

Christians who were influenced by the teachings of Jacobus Arminius (such as Methodists) believe that while God is all-knowing and always knows what choices each person will make, He still gives them the ability to choose or not choose everything, regardless of whether there are any internal or external factors contributing to that choice.

The Lutheran View of Free Will

Lutherans adhere to the teaching that Humanity is free to choose and act in every regard except for the choice of salvation. Luther used Jesus’ image of “a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:18). Like the bad tree that can only produce bad fruit, before a rebirth through faith, people are in bondage to the sinful desires of their hearts. They only want to do bad. Luther concluded that, without a spiritual rebirth, the “free choice” that all humans possess is “not free at all” because it cannot of itself free itself from its inherent bondage to sin.

The Anabaptist View of Free Will

The Anabaptist movement was characterized by the fundamental belief in the free will of man. Denominations today representing this view include Old Order Mennonites, Amish, and Conservative Mennonites.

The New Church View of Free will

As an example of one of the deeper philosophical views, Emanuel Swedenborg, upon whose writings the New Church is founded, argued that if God is love itself, people must have free will. If God is love itself, then He desires no harm to come to anyone: and so, it is impossible that he would predestine anyone to hell. On the other hand, if God is love itself, then He must love things outside of Himself; and if people do not have the freedom to choose evil, they are simply extensions of God, and He cannot love them as something outside of Himself. In addition, Swedenborg argues that if a person does not have free will to choose goodness and faith, then all of the commandments in the Bible to love God and our neighbors are worthless, since no one can choose to do them – and it is impossible that a God, who is love itself and wisdom itself, would give impossible commandments.

The Islamic View of Free Will

Disputes about free will in Islam began with the Mu’tazili vs Hanbali disputes, with the Mu’tazili arguing that humans had qadar, the capacity to do right or wrong, and thus deserved the reward or punishment they received, whereas Hanbali insisted on God’s jabr, or total power and initiative in managing all events. Schools that developed around earlier thinkers searched for ways to explain how both human qadar and divine jabr could be asserted at the same time. Ash’ari develops a “dual agency” or “acquisition” account of free will in which every human action has two distinct agents; God creates the possibility of a human action with his divine jabr, but then the human follows through and “acquires” the act, making it theirs and taking responsibility for it using their human qadar

The Hindu View of Free will

In Hinduism the Advaita (monistic) schools generally believe in a fate-based approach, and the Dvaita (dualistic) schools are proponents for the theory of free will. The Bhagavad Gita also states: “Nor does the Supreme Lord assume anyone’s sinful or pious activities (Bhagavad Gita 5.15).  From wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the self (Bhagavad Gita 6.26)”, indicating that God does not control anyone’s will, and that it is possible to control the mind.

The Judaic View of Free will

In Judaism, the belief in free will is closely linked with the concept of reward and punishment, based on the Torah itself: “I [God] have set before you life and death, blessing and curse: therefore, choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19). God exists outside of time, and therefore, his knowledge of the future is exactly the same as his knowledge of the past and present. Just as his knowledge of the past does not interfere with man’s free will, neither does his knowledge of the future.

Conclusion

If you so choose, there is much to ponder and study regarding free will  and you may even develop your own thought.

Relevant Scripture

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!”  Luke 13:34 (NKJV)

One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord,
And He will repay him for his good deed. Proverbs 19:17  (NASB)

He who]is generous will be blessed,
For he gives some of his food to the poor.  Proverbs 22:9 (NASB)

And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 Berean Study Bible

References

http://www.theopedia.com/free-will

https://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/Free-Will?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI-Ijlg-7L4wIVC5-fCh2mMwmdEAAYAyAAEgIfyPD_BwE

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will_in_theology

 

2 people holding hands over scripture

Why Doesn’t God Answer My Prayers | Spiritual Meditations

Fear, suffering, hope and empathy are some of the reasons we turn to God in prayer for ourselves or for others.  We’ve done all we can without the results we hoped for.  So we turn to God, usually as our last resort, and ask Him to do what we couldn’t….wondering if He has even heard us or will do what we’ve asked.  Some times we hear nothing.

The most unfortunate thing about “unanswered prayer” is that since you don’t know God’s mind, you may turn away from God because He didn’t do what you asked Him to do.

After I went away to college, I came home to visit friends and family when possible. During one visit, I stopped to see my friend, Tammy, with whom I had attended high school (secondary school).  Tammy was also a regular at my church.  Tammy’s mother had recently died and Tammy was mad at God for not stepping in to prevent it….she turned her back on Him.  I never saw her again, but would get occasional updates from mutual acquaintances.  Tammy became the president of an agency for handicapped individuals but then died in a car accident when she was in her 30s.  I’ve always wondered if she reconciled with God.

Even if many people pray for something, it doesn’t mean that God is going to respond in the way that seems obvious to us.  Jesus said “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I also”.  But He doesn’t say He will answer prayer as we outline it.

Hyperbole, the Art of Exaggeration

Part of our misunderstanding about God’s response to prayer is because of our literal interpretation of Biblical scripture.

 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, …. even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matthew 21:21-22)

We read this and are confused when our prayers aren’t answered.  Some will say that the failure lies with you.  You were not trying to please the Lord, or you had unconfessed sins, or you didn’t have enough faith.  Read the miracles that Jesus performed and you will see that those who received those miracles had not always asked for them or confessed their sins.

Adam Hamilton says, in his book Why, that he doesn’t suggest that living for God and seeking to please God is not important. But to explain that God does not answer our prayers because we are not holy enough seems odd for a faith built on Grace, whose Savior gave his life for us “while we were still sinners“ (Romans 5:8), and which teachers that we are saved by God’s grace and not by our works.

Jesus said, “truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain “move from here to there “, and it will move. “A mustard seed is smaller than a grain of salt, Jesus’ point was that the smallest impulse of faith would touch the heart of God.”

So lack of response to your prayers isn’t because you have unconfessed sins or lack of faith.  But what is the reason?  Adam Hamilton suggests that the answer lies not in how we pray but how we understand what Jesus said.  When Jesus spoke, he frequently used hyperbole, an overstatement or exaggeration, used by prophets and first-century teachers, to make a point.  However, when we read the Bible, we take it too literally.

In Matthew 5:29-30, Jesus said that if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  Jesus wasn’t encouraging self-mutilation, he was saying that we should do everything we can to avoid sin.

In Luke 18:25, Jesus said ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God’.  Taken literally, compared to the world at large, anyone with a roof over their head and adequate food for the day isn’t going to get in.  That isn’t what he meant.  What Jesus was saying is that wealth can have a destructive impact on your soul, so handle I carefully.

We use hyperbole in some of our modern expressions and we all know not to take them literally.

  •               It’s raining cats and dogs
  •               It’s hotter than hell
  •               I have a million things to do today

And we can’t take some of Jesus’ word literally either.  We want to ask God to do something, we ask in Jesus’ name in faith (we “claim” it) and then it should happen. Right?  What if we prayed for something that would hurt someone else, even though we may not know it?  Perhaps what we prayed for limited another person’s choices.  Would God force them to do as we asked?  God will not suspend another person’s free will to satisfy our request.

If we take these words of Jesus literally, we human beings don’t have to work, do research or do anything.  We pray for food and it appears.  We pray for money and our pocket is filled. We pray for health and we are instantly well.  We have no need for other people, there is no opportunity to build character,  we don’t need to exercise or eat healthily, and initiative is pointless.

God Works Through People….Miracles are Rare

God knows far more than we do and what we pray for may not be the best for us or for others.

Rather than suspending the laws of nature, that God created, and bypassing the human beings that God created to do God’s work, God typically works through natural law and through people. In the Bible this is how God most often worked, and it is how God typically works today. I believe that miracles can happen but by definition a miracle is rare. The miraculous is not God’s ordinary way. Miracles occur for reasons we cannot always see at the time, and they are the exception, not the rule. Most often God works through people, calling us and nudging us into action, working in our hearts and lives to be the instruments God uses to answer the prayers of others.

I have also learned over the years of that, in the face of suffering or adversity, Gods answer to my prayers is often not to deliver me or others from the suffering, but to walk with me or them through it, and then to transform it and use it to change my life, their lives, or the world.

Adam Hamilton

Here are a couple of examples of how God is using people to change the lives of abused women and children in Malawi and the lives of abandoned and orphaned children.

Pray With Your Heart….Quality is Better Than Quantity

“But when you pray, don’t use vain repetitions like the pagans do, for they think they will be heard for their much speaking.” (Matthew 6:7)

No one experiences answered prayer when he prays merely with his mind, relying fully on words and thoughts, because there is no opportunity for the spirit to break through into our consciousness. The absence of the fruitage in prayer merely bears witness to our failure to go deep enough into our inner being to make contact with God’s presence which is always there and available.

The prayers that are answered are those deep within a person. No words or thoughts are needed, but the hunger, desire, or longing for God makes the connection.  Here is more detail about how to talk to God.

Prayer must be a desire for spiritual fulfillment. Through seeking first the kingdom of God, giving up hope of gaining anything, and being satisfied to let God provide for us, we open ourselves to fulfillment. In prayer, it is important that we leave behind all our preconceive notions or ideas of what we want -our hopes and ambitions and desires -because there is no assurance that God will fulfill them on our terms.  He is not our servant.

As long as we are advising, suggesting, or outlining to God, or even hoping that God will act according to our personal wishes, we are not praying or going to God, but to our own limited mind.

God Can be Trusted to Provide for Us

It is not the nature of God to withhold from you and then give you things when you pray for them because you have been good. The more you realize that God is not a rewarding God or a punishing God, but that the nature of God is infinite love and infinite wisdom, the clearer you will see that there is no need to tell God of your needs or ask Him to for fulfill them.  Joel Goldsmith

“Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him”.

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9).  In other words, those who love God cannot even imagine the great things that He has in mind for them.

Let us go to God as if we really trust Him as the divine Love and the divine Wisdom of this world, which in truth He is.

“Not my will, but Thy will be done”.  God is the all-knowing intelligence of the universe. When we pray, we must surrender ourselves – our hopes and desires, our fears, our aims and ambitions– into His hands.

If we hope to see the fruitage of answered prayer, let our prayers be an inner stillness in which God‘s words flow into us reminding us “Son, all that I have is thine”.

We need to learn how to release the whole situation to God, willingly admitting, “I certainly have messed up my life so far. Let me give it to You and You take over.“ Then we may be amazed at how the miracle begins to work in us and how quickly what, we have thought of as our destiny, changes.

Conclusion

If we interpret scripture literally, we are confused when God doesn’t answer our prayer in the way we ask Him to.  We tend to tell God what to do when it comes to the things we care about the most.  But is God NOT our servant.  He knows everything about us and loves us anyway.  And because God loves us, we can trust Him to take care of us without telling him how to do it. After all, He is all-knowing.  God may not give you the answer you are hoping for, but He will be with you through bad times and good times.

 

 

 

 

statues of Christian Apostles on Roan building

15 Elusive Apostles Unlocked|Spiritual Meditations

More than historical names, the Apostles were real people with strengths and weaknesses, like you and me.

We often lump the first followers of Jesus into a group with few distinguishing characteristics. The Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles present the facts and it takes some deduction to find the story behind the faces. These were real people, who made up a tiny, vulnerable group, often persecuted, and on fire with the Holy Spirit, making missionary efforts in major city centers. “The Apostles were the cutting edge, spreading the message across the vast trade networks of the ancient world and leaving small Christian communities in their path. The reach of science is limited, so much remains inconclusive. We must rely largely on legend and historical accounts” (National Geographic March 2012).

Jesus chose 12 Apostles, possibly paying homage to the 12 tribes of Israel. On this list of great original evangelists, I am including Mark, Paul and Luke, who, although not part of the 12, made huge contributions to spreading Christ’s good news to all parts of the world.

Theologians, Bible scholars and historians can tell us a little about them as people. Unfortunately, there is very little documentation available about some of these inspired men. We must assume that those who are not fully represented had similar experiences to those whose activities are better documented.

Inquisitive Andrew

Andrew was the first disciple. Because he had an enquiring mind, he was actively looking for the truth.

He was a fisherman, like his brother Peter, with whom he lived in the area of Bethsaida and Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. The two brothers were followers of John the Baptist and it was Andrew who introduced Peter to Jesus. They became Jesus’ first followers.

Andrew had a very different personality from his brother. He was less impulsive, more approachable, a man who thought quite deeply. He had educated Greek friends who respected his opinion. Some of them asked to meet Jesus, and Andrew introduced them to Jesus and his ideas. He may have been something of a quiet intellectual among the group of people who formed Jesus’ core supporters. Every time Andrew is mentioned as an individual, it is because he is bringing someone to Jesus.

After the events described in the book of Acts, he is never mentioned again. According to tradition, Andrew spread the teachings of Jesus Christ in Greece and perhaps the area adjacent to the Red Sea, now Georgia, Bulgaria and Ukraine. He suffered martyrdom in Achaia (Greece), and was there crucified on the X shaped cross, now called St Andrew cross.

Outspoken Peter

Jesus gave some of his disciples a second name – Simon the fisherman was also Peter, the rock. No other man in the New Testament bears the name Peter.

Peter was a married man with children.  Andrew, his brother, and Peter’s mother-in-law, as well as his children lived with him.  It as possible the Mark the Evangelist (author of the book of Mark) also lived with him for a time.

Most of us find Peter to be likable – he was outgoing, gregarious, transparent and enthusiastic. Most important of all, he loved Christ. And Simon could be anything but a rock. He wasn’t dependable. Without God’s Spirit, he often spoke or acted in a way that would be inappropriate. His actions belied an underlying insecurity in spite of his outward confidence. He could be audacious, presumptuous and foolish.

Because he was impulsive and strong-willed, his faults were obvious. That’s what enables us to clearly see the contrast in his personality after he received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Because of this, Peter’s example and writings are a great inspiration. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter was no longer self-centered and vain. He sought to do all to the glory of God.

Peter’s first recorded sermon is related in Acts 1:15-22. Already we see an added dimension of sobriety, maturity, wisdom and knowledge of Scripture. With his second sermon in Acts 2, we see a mighty preacher of the gospel giving a focused and powerful masterpiece of a sermon.

When Peter and John were arrested, they were inspired and fearless in their testimony because they were “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:8). The officers “saw the boldness of Peter and John” and marveled (verse 13).

Peter’s humility and loving-kindness are evident all through his two epistles, I Peter and II Peter.

He was the first to invite non-Jews to join the early church. With John, he went to Samaria where, with laying on of hands, the Holy Spirit fell on the Samarian believers. He also toured in Judea.

With the opening of the door to the Gentiles and the spread of Christianity, Peter receded in the Biblical narrative and was last mentioned in connection with the Jerusalem conference where he championed the liberty of the Gentiles. It appears that Peter traveled widely, taking his wife with him, doubtless in Jewish evangelism. Tradition uniformly asserts that Peter went to Rome, that he labored there, and then in his old age suffered martyrdom under Nero. New Testament reference to the closing years of Peters life is found in John 21:18-19. Tradition says that he was crucified on an upside down cross at his request, as he felt unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as Christ.

Peter spread the good news to modern-day Turkey, Betania on the West Bank, Italy and Asia

Practical Phillip

Like nearly all of the apostles, Philip came from Bethsaida in Galilee, the region in the northern Israel were Jesus‘ ministry was centered. He was a good friend of Andrew and Peter who lived in the same fishing village. It is almost certain that he was first a disciple of John the Baptist, because Jesus called him near Bethany on the Jordan River where John was preaching.

It appears from the Apostle John’s account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, that Philip may have been in charge of the supplies and food, the road manager of sorts. He was the kind of guy who was practical, always thinking about the bottom line. And on this occasion, Jesus, trying to stretch Philip’s faith, posed a question to him as the crowd gathered:

“Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” (John 6:5). Philip responded, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little” (verse 7).

Philip didn’t do so well on that test. He didn’t have the most faith, but he was a follower of Jesus who was used by God.

Philip is known for bringing Gentiles to Jesus. His days after receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost are shrouded in legend and mystery, but the best tradition says that he did mission work in Asia Minor. The historian Eusebius says that he was a “great light of Asia” and that he was murdered, possibly by crucifixion, and buried in Hierapolis, which is in what is now South-Central Turkey.

Skeptical Bartholomew

Some believe he was also called Nathanael.

The one and only opportunity for Bartholomew to shine in scripture, comes in a very curious and intriguing passage found in John 1:43-51.

The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me” Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses told in the law, and also the prophets wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit.” Nathanael said to Him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

This passage is interesting for a variety of reasons. It reveals at least two important aspects of the apostle’s character–his relationships with other apostles, and his honest and sincere personality.

There is no further reference to him in the New Testament and the traditions concerning him are not trustworthy. He may have gone to Turkey, India and Armenia.

Ambitious James the Greater

It is thought that this James was called “the Greater”, to distinguish him from the other James, being either taller or older. His home was in Galilee, probably Bethsaida.

James he was a fisherman with his brother John and they may have been in partnership with Peter and Andrew early in the ministry of Jesus. They were the sons of Zebedee and Salome. Salome may have been Mary’s sister, making the sons cousins of Jesus.

From the reference to “hired servants” in the employee of Zebedee and the mention that Salome was one of the women who ministered to the needs of Jesus and his company, it may be inferred that the family was one of some means.

The Apostle James and his brother John were, in the beginning, hotheads. They received from Christ the name “Boanerges,” meaning “sons of thunder,” for their impetuosity. When they went with Jesus to a Samaritan city, they were spurned by the local residents and this angered James and John. They asked Jesus “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven and consume them” (Luke 9:54)? Jesus rebuked them for their attitude (Luke 9:55) and said “the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:56). This was not likely the only time that they lost their tempers.

Because of the ambitious self-seeking of James and John, they asking Jesus for a special place in his coming Kingdom, calling forth the wrath of the other apostles.

James occupied a prominent place among the apostles, and, with Peter and John, became a special confidant of Jesus. Only these three are present at the Transfiguration, at the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, and when the daughter of Jairus was raised from the dead. He was also present when Jesus appeared to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias after His ascension.

James was the first of the disciples to die.  In the year 44, the zealous temper of James and his leading part in the Jewish Christian communities, probably led King Herod Agrippa to choose him as his first Christian victim in his attempt to please the Jewish community. James preached in Judea and was beheaded in Jerusalem, although, some believe that he preached in Spain and was buried there.

The book of James is not attributed to him.

John, Transformed

John was a fisherman and the son of Zebedee and Salome and brother to James the Apostle.

The fact that John knew the high priest well enough to gain entrance to the court where Jesus was tried and could also get permission for Peter to enter, further reinforces the thinking that the family made a comfortable living.

John is introduced as a disciple of John the Baptist. One day as he stood with Andrew and John the Baptist, he heard John say as Jesus walked by “behold the Lamb of God“. The two disciples immediately followed Jesus. That day changed their lives and was so memorable, that many years later when John the Greater wrote his gospel, he still remembered that it was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

During the course of the Lord’s ministry the experiences of John were common to all the apostles. There are, however, a few scenes in which he takes in important part. The Gospels makes it clear that he was one of the most prominent of the disciples. With the other two in the inner circle of the apostles, James and Peter, John was also chosen by Jesus to be present at the Transfiguration. They were nearest to Jesus during the agony in Gethsemane and the raising of Jairus’ daughter.

John had an explosive or fiery personality and could be over zealous to protect Jesus interest. Further, John and his brother offended the other Apostles because they and their mother asked Jesus if they could sit at His right and left hand in glory (cf. Mk 10:35-41).

However, John is known as the “Apostle of Love.” He really loved the church and always encouraged the brethren to love each other. John was brave enough to stand at the foot of the cross where Jesus was nailed, while all the other Apostles were still in hiding. John could also be trusted; he received Jesus’ commissioned from the cross to look after his (Jesus’) mother.

Five books of the New Testament are attributed John; the fourth gospel, three epistles, and Revelation. The only one in which he his name actually appears is the last.

Very likely the seven churches of Asia enjoyed his ministry. The book of Revelation was written on the small Greek isle of Patmos, where he was exiled for preaching the word of God as the testament of Jesus. Tradition says that he wrote his gospel in Asia at the request of Christian friends, and that he agreed to do so only after the church had fasted and prayed about the matter of three days.

It is evident from his Biblical writings that John was very aggressive in dealing with heresies in the church, while at the same time remaining very loving and gentle. He was a man who studied and knew the scriptures. Throughout his gospel he tells how Jesus fulfilled certain scriptures. In fact, John was so knowledgeable that he was able to call Jesus the “Word and the Word was God” (cf. John 1:1).

John was described as the “disciple whom Jesus loved”, no doubt because of his understanding of and love of his Lord. The defects of character with which he began his career as an Apostle –intolerance, and selfishness – were in the course of time brought under control, until he became especially known for his gentleness and kindly love.

John was a man of prayer. In his golden years, the historian Eusebius reports that John was still a mighty intercessor and he was considered a sacred priest devoted to God (Eusebius, 106, 107, 116, Roberson, 2).

John was the last survivor and died peacefully in Ephesus about year 100.

Matthew was Scorned

Since double names were common among the Jews, there can be little doubt that Levi and Matthew (meaning “Gift of God”) were one in the same person. He was the son of Alphaeus and as a tax collector, he would have been literate in Aramaic and Greek and skilled in record keeping and writing.

Jesus met him at the tax office in Capernaum and called him to be one of his disciples. Society was shocked when Jesus dined with Levi because he was a  tax collector, and therefore, an outcast. Under the Roman Empire’s system, Levi would have paid all the taxes in advance, and then collected from the citizens and travelers to reimburse himself. Tax collectors were notoriously corrupt because they extorted far and above what was owed, to ensure their personal profit. Because Roman soldiers enforced their decisions, no one dared object.

The readiness with which Levi responded to Jesus’ call seems to indicate that he had previously encountered Jesus and his teachings and had already decided to dedicate his life to his cause.

In addition, he must have been a man of deep spiritual conviction. This is revealed by his concern for his former colleagues, whom he invited to a dinner at his home, Jesus being the honored guest. No doubt, his purpose was to win these men to Christ.

Matthew seems to have accompanied Jesus in his ministry up to the time of the Last Supper. After Jesus’ death, Matthew retreated to the Galilee (Matt. 28:16), where he became one of the witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Later, he was among the apostles in Jerusalem said to be present at the Ascension and the election of another “Matthew” (Matthias) to replace Judas Iscariot among the Twelve (Acts 1:10-14).

The Gospel ascribed to him does not claim to be written by “Matthew,” but he has been characterized as its author since the second century. Modern scholarship now doubts that he was in fact the writer of this work.

It is thought that Matthew preached the Gospel to the Jewish community in Judea, before going to other countries – possibly Ethiopia, Persia, Macedonia, and Syria.

There is wide disagreement in the sources as to the place of Matthew’s martyrdom and the manner of his death, which is variously reported as being by burning, stoning, stabbing, or beheading. According to the historian Hippolytus, Matthew died at Hierees, a town of Parthia (near modern day Tehran in Iran)

Mysterious James the Lesser

The Bible reveals very little about James the Lesser – only that he is a son of Alphaeus. He is usually identified as the brother of Joses and son of Mary. Since Matthew/Levi is also called the son of Alpheus, it is possible that he and James were brothers.

There are only a few Biblical verses about James the Lesser and what he did for the early church. He was one of the Apostles who witnessed Christ’s resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7), a confidante of Peter when he was on the run from Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:17), and later rose to prominence in the church along with the other apostles (Acts 15; 21:18; Galatians 2:9).

The writer of the epistle of James refers to himself only as “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” As many as six different men in the Bible are named James and there is little consensus as to who wrote the book.

According to Roman historian Eusebius and Hippolytus, James became the bishop of Jerusalem and was killed by a Jewish mob. He was thrown down from a parapet and clubbed to death after he refused to abandon the Christian faith – all the time praying for his attackers. He was possibly buried beside the temple.

Matthias the Replacement

Peter wanted to maintain 12 disciples after Judas’ death and developed two qualifications that were necessary in the replacement. First, the new Apostle must be someone who had been a follower of Jesus from his Baptism to his Ascension. Second, it had to be someone who had witnessed Christ’s Resurrection. The choice came down to two men: Joseph, who was sometimes called “Joseph the Just,” and Matthias. Both men were qualified, so the disciples drew lots. This means that they made their decision by drawing or pulling a marked piece of straw or cloth from a bundle. Matthias was the winner. The Bible does not give us any information about him after his selection to the Twelve.

Nothing certain is known of his career or subsequent to his appointment. Various traditions have developed to fill in the details of the future ministry of Matthias. One says that he evangelized in Ethiopia, where he was stoned to death. Another says that Matthias traveled to Damascus and later died in Judea. A third tradition says that he spent most of his time in Jerusalem, where he eventually died and was buried.

Paul, Inspired Traveler

Paul was born in the busy first century Greco Roman city of Tarsus, which is located on the northeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea, now Turkey. Paul’s Hebrew name was Saul. The change to the Greek name Paul, was timely as he entered upon this position of leadership in bringing the gospel to the Gentile world. Providentially, three elements of the world’s life of that day-Greek culture, Roman citizenship, and Hebrew religion-met in this Apostle of the Gentiles.

Tarsus was a trading center, known for its manufacture of goats’ hair, and here Paul learned the trade of tent making.

His Gentile connections greatly aided his ability to bridge the chasm between the Gentiles and the Jews, but of central significance was his strong Jewish heritage. His racial affinity with the Jews enabled Paul to begin his missionary labors, in each city, at the synagogue. Born of parents of Jewish blood, the son of a Pharisee, he was cradled in Orthodox Judaism.

He made his first appearance as a “young man “, probably at least 30 years old and already an acknowledged leader in Judaism. He actively opposed Christianity making him an enthusiastic leader of the persecution that arose upon the death of Stephen.

At Damascus the transforming crisis occurred. Repeatedly he refers to it as the work of divine grace, transforming him and commissioning him as Christ messenger. When the supernatural Being identify himself as “Jesus persecuted“, Paul at once saw the error of his ways and surrendered instantaneously and completely.

In assembling an approximate chronology of the apostle’s labor, Ramsay calculated that Paul was converted around A.D. 34, and likely was executed at Rome about A.D. 67. If this dating is accurate, the apostle’s earthly life and labors spanned some thirty-three years.

Paul was a skilled traveler. In the December 1956 issue of the National Geographic Magazine, there appeared an article entitled, “In the Steps of Paul.” The authors, who did  considerable research on Paul’s travels, estimated that his missionary endeavors consumed some twelve thousand miles, some by ship on the Mediterranean Sea, and across the Aegean and Adriatic Seas. In addition, hundreds of miles were traversed by land. He visited approximately fifty cities in his evangelistic endeavors (McRay 2003, 11).

Yet within the thirteen epistles known to have been written by Paul, and penned over an era of maybe just under twenty years, there is no complaint of fatigue, no whimpering at the hardships, no disappointment expressed of having been “crucified with Christ,” or of wasted years, or lack of family, wealth, or fame—just adulation. There was the simple joy in serving his Lord, and for the blessed hope of life to come. Paul could not be budged from his resolute course.

map of the journeys of the apostle Paul

“Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles par excellence, so much so that the church became predominantly Gentile by the end of the first century” (Ferguson 2005, 37).

Paul had a basic understanding of himself as a sinner with all other human beings, and he accepted responsibility for his sins. Yet he was extraordinarily confident in three things:

  1. the importance of the work he was called to do,
  2. the benefit of the gospel to all those he approached, and
  3. the authorization that he had from God for his message.

This confidence came from two sources – from the scriptures, in which he believed completely, and from his personal encounter with Jesus in the road to Damascus. In addition, he did not hesitate to express himself in strong language when he felt strongly about a particular issue.

He was executed at Rome in late AD 66 or early 67. Tradition says he was beheaded on the Ostien Way.

Obscure Simon the Zealot

The most obscure of the Apostles, Simon was the son of Clopas, and was also called Jude. His title may be a reference to his political affiliation, although there are some translations which indicate the meaning of Zealot to be ‘jealous’ or ‘zealous’. Later accounts depict him as a missionary to Persia, where he was murdered; either crucified or sawed in half, but this is not definitive.

According to the historian Hippolytus, Simon the Zealot became the second bishop of Jerusalem, after James the Just. He died in his sleep and was buried in Jerusalem at the age of 120 years.

Little-Known Thaddaeus

Thaddeus was also known as Labbaeus or Jude. His name is included in only 2 of the 4 gospels lists of disciples.

We know that Thaddeus, like other disciples, preached the gospel in the years following the death of Jesus. Tradition holds that he did so in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Libya, possibly alongside Simon the Zealot.

According to eastern tradition, he founded a church and converted the city of Edessa after healing its king. Church tradition holds that he was crucified there as a martyr. One legend suggests he died in Persia because he was executed by an ax or club and these weapons, typical in Persia at the time, are often shown in artworks depicting Thaddeus.

After his execution, his body may have been taken to Rome and placed in St. Peter’s Basilica, where his bones remain to this day, interred in the same tomb with the remains of Simon the Zealot.

Ancient historians agree that he died at Berytus (Lebanon, near Syria and Turkey), and was buried there. Armenians, however, for whom St. Jude is the patron saint, believe that Thaddeus’ remains are interred in an Armenian monastery.

Probing Thomas

The Apostle Thomas (Hebrew or Aramaic for “twin”) was also called “Didymus” (Greek for “twin”). Little is recorded of Thomas the Apostle. He was probably born in Galilee to a humble family, but there is no indication that he was a fisherman. He was a Jew, but there is no account of how he became an Apostle to Christ.

Thomas was courageous, willing to stand by Jesus in dangerous times. He also relentlessly sought the Truth; constantly asking questions. In addition, his wonderful profession, “My Lord and my God,” is the clearest declaration of Jesus’ divinity in Holy Scripture.

Famously, Thomas is remembered for being absent from the Upper Room the first time Jesus appeared to the disciples after His Resurrection. Thomas dismissed the accounts of the others by saying, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nail marks, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (Luke 20:25). Eight days later Thomas made his act of faith. He fell at the feet of Jesus and said, “My Lord and my God!” and Jesus replied, “Because you have seen me, Thomas, you believed. Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believe” (John 20:25-29). This incident gave rise to the expression “doubting Thomas.”

Thomas, Reluctant Missionary

According to the Acts of Thomas, one of the New Testament apocrypha written in the city of Edessa, the apostles divided the world for their missionary labors, and India fell to Thomas. However, Thomas claimed that he was not healthy enough and that a Hebrew could not teach Indians.  Even a vision of Christ could not change his mind. Therefore, Christ appeared to a merchant and sold Thomas to him as a slave for his master, a king who ruled over part of India.

One story suggests that Thomas offered to build a palace for the Indian king that would last forever. The king gave him money, which Thomas gave to the poor. Asked to show his progress, Thomas explained that the palace he was building was in heaven, not on earth.

Ultimately, after giving into God’s will, Thomas was freed from slavery and planted seeds for the new Church, forming many parishes and building many churches along the way.

Many historians believe that Thomas did indeed land on the palm-lined coast of Kerala on a site now called Cranganore. Here’s he is reported to have established seven churches – the first in AD 52.

Thomas is said to have raise the first cross in India and performed one of his earliest miracles when he encountered a group of Brahmins throwing water into the air as part of a ritual. He asked why the water fell back to earth if it was pleasing to their deity. “My God”, Thomas said, “would except such an offering”. He then flung a great spray into the air, and the droplets hung there in the form of glistening white blossoms. Most onlookers convert it on the spot, the rest fled.

Although, accounts of Thomas’ missionary activities are unreliable, the most widely accepted report holds that though he was reluctant to start the mission. he went east through what is now Syria then Iran. Historians believe he then traveled to Southern India. He traveled further than any of the other 12 Apostles and represents, most profoundly the missionary zeal associated with the rise of Christianity.

To this day,  Thomas is venerated as the Apostle of India. In fact, there exists a population of Christians on the western coast of India, who lay claim to conversion by Thomas. Their tradition holds that he was martyred during prayer by a spearing on the “Big Hill” near Madras, and was buried in Mylapore, on the east coast of India. Thomas’ remains may have been transported to Ortona, Italy, although some say he is still buried in Inda.

The following two famous authors, although not generally considered to be Apostles,  were disciples of Christ, and instrumental in broadcasting the Good News.  They cannot be omitted from any list of original Christian evangelists.

Mark, First Gospel Author

One of Christ’s 70 disciples, his original name was John and his surname was Mark. He was mentored by Peter, who was his likely source for writing the second gospel-the Book of Mark.

Mark was born in Cyrene of Jewish parents, near the western border of Egypt and his date of birth is unknown.  His parents, Aristopolos his father and Mary his mother, migrated to Palestine shortly after his birth because of the Berber attacks on their town and property. They settled in Cana of Galilee not far from Jerusalem.

A few years later Mark’s father died and Simon Peter, who was married to a relative of Mark’s father took care of Mark and considered him a son. Peter saw to it that St. Mark got a good education, studying law and the classics.

Church Traditions state that Mary, Mark’s mother, was an admirer of Jesus Christ and followed Him everywhere and that Mark was one of the attendants who served at the feast in Cana of Galilee where Jesus turned the water into wine.

Mark traveled with Barnabas and Paul on many religious missions, during which he founded the Church of Alexandria Egypt and established the Coptic faith. He died circa 68 A.D. in Alexandria. In the 9th century, some of his relics were relocated to Venice Italy where he had been adopted as their patron saint.

Luke, Loyal Companion

Many scholars believe that Luke was a Greek physician who lived in the Greek city of Antioch, Turkey. Other believe that, based on Colossians 4:10–11, 14, Luke may have been a Gentile.

A gentle physician who joined Paul‘s mission, Luke chronicled the development of the early church in the third gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. He, therefore, contributed over a quarter of the text of the New Testament.

In Acts, Luke wrote in both the first and third person, indicating that he may have lived in Troas and was in the company of Paul when Paul was in Troas. The composition of the writings, as well as the range of vocabulary used, indicate that the author was an educated man

Based on his accurate description of towns, cities and islands, as well as correctly naming various official titles, archaeologist Sir William Ramsay wrote that “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy… [he] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.” Professor of Classics at Auckland University, E.M. Blaiklock,

Luke followed Paul until his [Paul’s] martyrdom. In II Timothy 4, Paul wrote that Luke alone remains with him as he sat in prison awaiting his execution.

Luke was an evangelist, a historian, a physician, a pastor, a missionary, a companion, a brother, and a theologian. Christian tradition, starting from the 8th century, states that he was also the first icon painter. He did not write a gospel for fame or recognition, which is why he does not mention his own name in either of the books he wrote. His goal in writing a gospel was to document the exact truth concerning Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation.

Luke died at age 84 in Boeotia Greece. His tomb was located in Thebes Greece, from which his relics were transferred to Constantinople, modern day Istanbul Turkey, in the year 357.

map of mediterranean Click here to see how Christianity spread during the first 1000 years.

IT IS SO COOL.  There is a second video that covers the 2nd 1000 years at the same site.  FASCINATING.

You can skip the ad.

Conclusion

The original Christian evangelists were a brave group, each with his unique set of strength and weaknesses. Although God assisted them in their endeavors, most endured arduous travel conditions and they all endured constant persecution. They would have missed their families, due to travel that could last for years. The dangers of the road required that they evangelize in pairs so their travel companions and converts became the closest thing they had to family. Although, inspired and motivated with the joy of the Holy Spirit, they deserve our greatest admiration and gratitude for the sacrifices they made.

If you are aware of additional information regarding the personal lives of the Apostles, please let me know and refer me to your reference.  I’m interested.

References:

The Coptic Orthodox Church Network (http://www.copticchurch.net/topics/synexarion/mark.html)

St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church (http://www.stapostle.org/st-thomas-church-parish-history/saint-thomas-biography/)

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/)

Crosswalk.com (https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/5-things-to-know-about-luke-from-the-bible.html)

National Geographic March 2012 edition

Pictorial Bible Dictionary, Southwestern Company

The Bible

St Paul by Litsa Hadjifoti, Michael Toubis Publications

See no Evil

Blame God or Improve Your Karma | Spiritual Meditations

For many, God has become the whipping boy for all the world’s ills.

But all the suffering that the world experience today, whether it be on a personal level or a national level, is because of a sense of separation from God.  The world has not accepted a God who is “closer than breath and nearer then hands and feet“. In other words, the Spirit within each of us is being ignored.

The Gods of Reward and Punishment

In the many centuries that have passed since human beings first experienced a sense of separation from God, we have sought something greater than ourselves that would meet our needs.  The pagan gods were looked upon to supply humans with larger crops, larger herds, larger catches of fish, more rain, less rain, happiness, peace, etc.

Then we come to the Hebrew concept of one God. But we notice that the Hebrews looked to the one God for the very same things that the pagans expected from their many gods….they sacrificed and they tried to be good people in order to obtain what they wanted from God. Again, this was a paganistic concept of god, a two-sided god. They thought He was both a punishing God, and  a rewarding God. If they were good, He rewarded them. If they were evil, He punished them.

Jesus’  Words on Karmic Law

But then John revealed that “the law was given by Moses, but Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ.” Throughout the New Testament you will not find that Jesus ever condemned anyone for sinning. “Neither do I condemn thee. go and sin no more lest a worst thing come upon you.”  He was telling them that their own sins would come back to haunt them…what goes around, comes around.

There is a great difference between the Grace and Truth of Jesus Christ and the karmic law of Moses.  While it is necessary for everyone to know and understand karmic law it is also vitally necessary that we go beyond this age old law into the realm of Grace. We cannot accomplish this if we are violating karmic law.  We must first understand its meaning and apply it to our life. The Ten Commandments, which we are all familiar with, constitute a very basic part of that law.

Consider the first commandment, for example.  Is there anyone who would ever dream of having the presumption to tell Jesus Christ, Buddha, or Lao-tse to honor his mother and father? Would anyone who had been touched by the Spirit of God have to be told to love their neighbor and not to be bigoted, biased, or prejudiced against races and religions?

Such laws are for people who have not developed spiritually, who are in such a low state of consciousness that they still need to be reminded that they must not envy their neighbors property, spouse, or wealth. True, there is a time in our lives during our very early stages of spiritual development when we need the law, when we need to be told how to act towards one another. But if we remain in that state we will not advance very rapidly towards spiritual freedom.

You will not find a God of punishment or a God of reward in the teachings of the Master, Jesus Christ. He taught, “as you sow, so shall you reap“. He did not say that God would reward us if you were good, or that God would punish us if you were evil. He just warns us that when we do the right or the wrong kind of sowing, we do the right or the wrong kind of reaping.  Surely, it must be clear, that God has nothing to do with either the sowing or the reaping. Someone who hurts another will eventually be hurt in return.  It is karmic law being fulfilled.

God Has Given Us Freedom of Choice

“God could have taken our freedom, but He didn’t.” says Rick Warren.  “All of the suffering and all of the death that we see in the world today are because man has chosen to make wrong choices.”

The person who touches an electrified wire will be burned, but he cannot blame the electricity for this. The electricity did not punish him: he brought about his own punishment by acting foolishly. The person who goes into the water, becomes frightened, flounders around, and almost drowns cannot blame the water.  It is his ignorance on how to behave in the water that threatens him. No one can violate law and not be punished for such violation; but no one should blame God for the ensuing punishment. It is not God’s fault if individuals or nations conduct themselves contrary to karmic law. It is not God’s fault if individuals or nations have a misconception of the nature of the law. Once we understand that there is a karmic law and that human beings are subject to that law, our task is to bring ourselves into harmony with it. The Ten commandments are a good place to start.

Taking the Next Step in Your Spiritual Journey

Only by losing our carnal desires, our mortal, selfish, human desires, do we prove that we are making advances toward a higher state of spirituality. Ultimately, there comes a day when we actually attain a realization of the Spirit of God within us, when we come face-to-face with It, when It touches us on the shoulder, on the head, or in the heart, when in someway or other, It announces It’s presence. From then on, we are no longer simply good men or women; from then on we are no longer under the law of punishment or reward: from that time till the end of our days on earth and throughout eternity, we are under Grace.

In their book, If God is Love, Philip Gulley and James Mulholland say that:

  • Fear-based theology justifies a God who can be abusive. 
  • Reward-earning theology creates religious golddiggers – people in relationship for the wrong reasons.
  • Believing in God’s desire to save every person challenges a persons need to compete with others for some heavenly prize. It allows you to approach God with gratitude rather than greed. Grace allows you to move beyond punishment and reward.

You cannot learn about the nature of God by merely reading about it or hearing about it. But by pondering or meditating on the message, you can learn the nature of God from within your own being. The words or the messages are the truth about Truth, but Truth reveals itself to you from within. The message must be taken into your consciousness and nurtured until, like a seed, it develops into a spiritual crop you can reap.

Conclusion

Some of the people, who have not taken the first step in an understanding of spirituality, say that they cannot believe in or worship a God that allows so much suffering in the world.  Yet each person is able to contribute to suffering or reduce suffering to the extent that they are able to control their own selfish human desires.  We all reap what they sow, but some choose to blame God for what they have sown.  Mortal weakness, multiplied, results in regional, national and global distress.  Whether a government is ruled by a few uninspired individuals or elected by many uninspired individuals, the result is the same….international strife and suffering.

 

Some of the thoughts and words in this post are attributed to Joel S Goldsmith

Holy Spirit Dove

Become an Insider on the Holy Spirit Controversy | Spiritual Meditations

If you have reached this article because of your search criteria, you are one of thousands of people who ask the questions every month:

 Who or What is the Holy Spirit

And it is no wonder there is uncertainly when there are so many possible interpretations of scripture.  Even people, who have experienced the Holy Spirit first hand, would have difficulty providing a satisfactory answer to someone who has not experienced the Spirit. 

In my attempt to provide some understanding, I’ll tell you that the references to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament are generally related to the words and actions of the prophets. In the New Testament, Jesus is the prime example of someone totally filled by God’s Holy Spirit as is evidenced by the many miracles he performed and wisdom he conveyed. 

The big event that made the Holy Spirit available for the rest of us took place as follows:

Jesus prepares His followers to Receive the Holy Spirit  

In A.D. 31, Jesus told His disciples what was soon to occur. At the Passover ceremony, which took place on the evening before His crucifixion, Jesus explained that He would ask God to give His followers another “Helper, … the Spirit of truth,” to dwell with them and be in them (John 14:16-17).

After spending three days and three nights in the grave, just as He had predicted (Matthew 12:40), Jesus miraculously rose from the dead and met with His disciples in Jerusalem and Galilee (Matthew 26:32; 28:7) before the Jewish holiday of Pentecost.

“And being assembled together with them, He [Jesus] commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’” (Acts 1:4-5).

He went on to tell them something they could not have fully comprehended at the time: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”

As instructed, the disciples went to Jerusalem to wait for this promised power that would give them the courage and commitment to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the world (Matthew 24:14). Within a matter of days, the gift of the Holy Spirit arrived

The Holy Spirit Comes to the Jesus’ Followers

The way the Holy Spirit came was spectacular and stunning! Along with the sound of a mighty wind, flames of fire appeared on the heads of all the believers who then, inexplicably, started speaking in other languages (Acts 2:2-4).

As multitudes of people from many countries began flowing to this scene, they, too, were caught up in the miracle—everyone understanding in his or her own native language the words being spoken. Who could deny this proof that the Holy Spirit now resided within the followers of Christ? They truly had received a power they had never previously possessed.  Their understanding of the Holy Spirit was exactly what Christ had said—it was indeed the power of God that would be used to tell the world His true nature.

Thank you to David Treybig for such a succinct rundown of the events.

The Holy Spirit Today

The Holy Spirit today is still the motivating force behind telling others what Jesus Christ taught us about God.  However, there are many other benefits that provide a better life to those who live with God’s infinite and invisible spirit.  We feel God’s love for us and want to share it with others.  His spirit opens our heart and minds so that He can work through us, speaking directly to our hearts and giving us courage to follow his guidance.  God’s spirit directs our prayers and shows us how to meet the needs of others as well as ourselves.  It is our teacher and reminds us of Jesus’ teachings.  It is our comforting counselor and gives us peace.

The Gifts of the Spirit

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are diversities of ministrations, and the same Lord.  And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all.  But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal. [As an example] For to one is given the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit:  to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit;  and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits: to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues:  but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will.  (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)  Brackets are mine for clarification based on the following verses. 

What does it Mean to Receive the Holy Spirit

Jesus taught that we must be born again to enter into the kingdom of heaven.  He clarified this by saying that we must be born of the water (Baptism) and the Spiriit.

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)

The first step to receiving the Holy Spirit is to make sure that your motives are right and pure with the Lord.  You have to really want this gift because you want to be able to enter into a much deeper, personal relationship with God – and you will need His power and anointing to flow through you so that you can fully accomplish whatever His divine destiny is going to be for your life.

God will be able to read  your thoughts and motives. If you are not sincere with Him as to why you really wanting this gift, or you are seeking after this gift for all of the wrong reasons, God will know and withhold this gift from you until you can come to Him with the right reasons and the right motives.

Once you realize what this gift entails and that you will have to be willing to fully surrender to whatever God’s perfect plan and destiny is going to be for your life – then the next step is to take that big leap of faith and fully surrender body, mind and soul to God the Father.

Then just ask God.  “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13)

Controversies Regarding the Holy Spirit

Is the Holy Spirit a Person?

Holy Spirit as a Separate Entity

There is some controversy as to whether the Holy Spirit is a separate entity from God.  Those who believe so, generally site the anthropomorphic qualities described in the Bible as proof of this. 

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association points out that In John chapters 14, 15, and 16, Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as “He”.  They also state that the Holy Spirit, as the third Person of the Holy Trinity, is made clear by His inclusion with the Father and the Son in such Bible passages as Matthew 28:19.  Here the apostles are commanded to baptize those who receive the Gospel “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

However, other Biblical verses indicate that the Holy Spirit is God’s power in the world.  Still other verses can be interpreted either way.

Holy Spirit as the Power of God

Jesus began His ministry “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).  Peter relates that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10).   Likewise, Jesus worked through the apostle Paul “in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God” (Romans 15)

Again and again the Scriptures depict the Holy Spirit as the power of God, the mind or spirit of God and the very essence and the life force through which the Father begets human beings as His spiritual children.

Paul wrote that God’s plan for humanity had been “revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3) and that his own teachings were inspired by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13 ). Paul further explains that it is through His Spirit that God has revealed to true Christians the things He has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2). Working through the Spirit, God the Father is the revealer of truth to those who serve Him.

Jesus told His followers that the Holy Spirit, which the Father would send, “will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14) It is through God’s Spirit within us that we gain spiritual insight and understanding. Indeed, we come to receive the very “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2), also referred to as the “mind of the Spirit” (Romans 8).

The Father imparts the same Spirit to true Christians through Jesus Christ (John 14), leading and enabling them to be His children and “partakers of the divine nature” (Romans 8).

Impersonal Attributes of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is spoken of in many ways that demonstrate that it is not a divine person. For example, it is referred to as a gift (Acts 10) that God gives without limit (John 3). We are told that the Holy Spirit can be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5), that it can be poured out on people (Acts 2:17), and that we are baptized with it (Matthew 3).

People can drink of it (John 7:37), partake of it (Hebrews 6) and be filled with it (Acts 2).  The Holy Spirit also renews us (Titus 3) and must be stirred up within us (2 Timothy 1). These impersonal characteristics are certainly not attributes of a person.

The Spirit is also described by other designations—”the Holy Spirit of promise,” “the guarantee of our inheritance” and “the spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Ephesians 1:13)-that show it is not a person.

In contrast to God the Father and Jesus Christ, who are consistently compared to human beings in Their form and shape, the Holy Spirit is frequently represented, by various symbols and manifestations, in a completely different manner—such as breath (John 20), wind (Acts 2),  water (John 4), oil (Psalms 45), a dove (Matthew 3) and an “earnest,” or down payment, on eternal life (2 Corinthians 1).

These depictions are difficult to understand if the Holy Spirit is a person. 

[includes excerpts from Bible Study Tools.]

The Development of the Trinity

One can hardly discuss the Holy Spirit without discussing it’s inclusion in the Trinity.   Why question whether the Holy Spirit is a person unless possibly to justify a trinity?  Where did this concept originate?

There is no trinitarian doctrine explicitly taught in the Old or New Testament. However, many Christian theologians, apologists, and philosophers hold that the doctrine can be inferred from what the New Testament does teach about God.

David Treybig tell us that “In the centuries that followed the Pentacostal experience, most people discarded the earliest Christians’ clear understanding of the Holy Spirit in favor of an evolving, humanly devised definition of the Godhead.

According to that new theory, now well-known as “the Trinity,” the Holy Spirit was elevated to be a coequal member of the Godhead….the Holy Spirit, God the Father, and Jesus Christ were now seen as three distinct entities that together comprised one triune God.

[It is theorized that] theologians had devised the idea of the Trinity to combat polytheism—the belief in many gods—and after long debate had finally come to a general agreement that this explanation of God should be a central tenet of Christianity.”  Brackets are mine

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy indicates that “the many thinkers influential in the development of trinitarian doctrines were steeped in the thought of Greek philosophy (Hanson 1988, 856–869). Those developing the doctrine saw themselves as trying to build a systematic Christian theology on the Bible while remaining faithful to earlier post-biblical tradition. Many also aimed to show Christianity as consistent with the best of Greek philosophy” where the number three is seen again and again.

Paul J. Pastor suggests that Christians are forced to retain two equal and (seemingly) opposing truths; the God that is utterly and infinitely beyond creation with blazing uncovered glory; and the God that indwells our souls and sustains our lives. He suggests that a separate Holy Spirit entity helps us more clearly define and understand this dichotomy.    

Biblical Definition Discarded

David Treybig goes on to say that “In spite of the theory’s nonbiblical and mysterious, logic-defying elements (how can three individual beings be only one being?), this man-made philosophy is today firmly entrenched in mainstream Christianity. In fact, most churches now consider adherence to the Trinity doctrine the litmus test for determining whether or not one is indeed a Christian.

But bothersome questions arise from this. For example, did theologians have the right to reject the understanding of the Holy Spirit that was held by first-century Christians—the people who actually experienced the miracle of that special Pentecost? And why don’t we give greater consideration to the understanding God gave those with the firsthand experience?”

The Biblical Definition

The Biblical teaching only shows a Godhead consisting of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is described and respected as the power of God, but is nowhere defined as a separate being.

Toward the end of the first century, Jude admonished the Church to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). “This faith, including its explanation of the Holy Spirit,” Treybig says, “provides the only biblically defensible definition of the Holy Spirit.

The first-century Christians clearly understood the Holy Spirit was the power of God. Through the power of His Spirit, God comforted them through trials, assisted them in learning the truth, identified them as Christians and offered them the promise of eternal life. But we find no evidence that the Christians considered the Holy Spirit to be a separate member of the Godhead.”

As for the Godhead, Paul succinctly noted the teaching that God had given him and his first-century brethren: “For us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live” (1 Corinthians 8:6). No mention of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

Whether you believe the Holy Spirit is a separate entity from God or God’s spirit existing in the world, it makes little difference in how you build your relationship with God.  Different people may explain the Holy Spirit in different terms depending on their view point as discussed above.  However, no matter what their belief on the subject, the Holy Spirit is always there guiding us, comforting us, protecting us and pushing us into Christian action. 

Paul J. Pastor expressed it beautifully when he said “Without the Holy Spirit we lose the capacity for seeing the wonder and wisdom of God in places where we commonly overlook it. We lose the chance for God’s closeness in the world to give holy quiet shape to our inner lives.”

How the Holy Ghost Became the Holy Spirit?

I’ve been asked about this and whether it had any spiritual implications, so as an interesting aside, this is the explanation given by the Zenit Daily Dispatch – a Catholic publication.

Both Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit were used well before the 20th century,

The word ghost is of Germanic origin and comes from Old English gast, meaning soul, life, breath, good or bad spirit, angel or demon. Christian texts in Old English use gast to translate the Latin Spiritus from where we get Holy Ghost. The more modern sense of a disembodied dead person is first attested in the late 14th century but remained quite rare

Spirit comes to English from Latin through French and also means souls, courage, vigor, breath.  Spirit, in the sense of a supernatural being, is found from the 13th century.

Practically all recent translations of the Bible, both Protestant and Catholic, have preferred Holy Spirit in most instances. The reason is probably because the meaning of the word ghost has gradually shifted over the last 300 years and now predominantly refers to the vision of the specter of a deceased person or a demonic apparition.

It must also be remembered that in literature the popularity of the “ghost story” had enjoyed an enormous boom from the mid-19th century on, a popularity compounded by the advent of the cinema and television.

All of this probably led translators to the conclusion that the meaning of the word Ghost had been so transformed and stereotyped that continuing to apply it to refer to the Divine Person was more likely to lead to confusion than would the alternative expression Holy Spirit.

Relevant Scripture

Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. (1 Cor 12:3)

 

 

womans face with many thoughts circling her

Transcending Mind | Spiritual Meditations

A revelation from God always comes as somewhat of a shock, not only to the person who receives the revelation, but also to those with whom it is shared. It is the nature of revelation to be shocking and startling because when it hits up against our cherished beliefs, we become conscious of the degree to which our minds have been conditioned by the opinions and theories current in human thinking, and suddenly realize the extent of our unenlightenment.

The Strength of God Consciousness

It is not long ago that the majority of people lived a wholly materialistic life, believing that the only real things of life were the material ones and the only real power a physical power. Into that world was introduced the idea that there is a world of mind and mind power, and this so permeated consciousness that the focus of attention was shifted from the material to the mental.

Had it not been for God’s revelation, I, too, would have lived out my life in the world of mind, never realizing that the world of mind power is as illusory as that of material power. But one day a message came to me that mind is not power, that thought is not power. This was a shock to me, steeped as I had been in the teaching that “right thinking“ could solve all my problems.

What was revealed to me was that the only strength there is, is in union with God, and that is an infinity of strength. Union of the human variety changes with the change in an unstable world. If we have learned nothing else through the centuries of wars, we have learned how fleeting is power. And with all the covenants that have been made – all the treaties and other international agreements – there has been no lasting strength.

Strength is in conscious union with God and in a realization of the true nature of spiritual power. When we have that realization, one with God becomes a majority. One individual having the spiritual understanding of the nature of God can becomes a law of harmony, health, and supply for thousands and thousands of people all over the world. That is where the strength is – in union with God.

The Freedom of God Consciousness

The only way that you can be free is to know God — mentally and spiritually free. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty“ – that is where liberty is; that is where real freedom is, where strength is.
For centuries country after country has been seeking its freedom. Many a country has temporarily found what it thought was freedom only to find itself enslaved later on by something more powerful than that from which it had broken away.

It is not possible to get free from anything. This is a hard saying, bitter in the mouth and even more bitter in the belly. There are thousands of people trying to free themselves from husbands or wives, thinking that when that particular freedom is gained, their lot is going to be a better one. Sometimes it is, temporarily. But even if it is, it is only a human solution, not permanent and real, because no one ever gets free from anything. To become free from one thing is to become attached to another thing. The only complete freedom is a freedom in Christ.

The Harmony of God Consciousness

Peace, happiness, safety, and security can only be found in the realization of God, which brings a release from fear of what man can do, or from circumstances or conditions.

Harmony is found, not by exchanging one condition of bondage for another, but by coming out from under the law and living under that Grace which is the gift of God. For a while, unfortunately, there remains the thousand on our left and the 10,000 on our right who will not accept the grace of God [Psalm 91:7-16 see below] and who brought forth from the Master [Jesus Christ] his sorrowful, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not “ [Matthew 23:37 see below].

This is the one remaining sorrow after we have attained our own freedom, the sorrow of looking at our parents, children, sisters, or brothers, or husband or wife, or fellow countrymen, and thinking, “why can’t you except the thing that I have found?”. But the longer we are on this spiritual path the easier it will be for us to understand that it is not possible for anyone to embrace Truth except in proportion to his readiness for it.

Your Readiness for God Consciousness

Sometimes the readiness comes only because of the futility and frustration that has gone before. Every sin, every disease, and every lack that has ever touched our lives has been a necessary part of our entire experience without which we would not have been made ready or prepared to receive the unfoldment of a truly spiritual message.

I say this knowing that some of us have been down into the very depths where sin, disease, and lack are greatest, while others have had very little with which to contend. Yet whatever the degree or the severity of the problem each one has had, it is perhaps the degree that each one has needed. Some cannot go up to the heights of spiritual vision until they have gone all the way down physically, mentally, morally, or financially. Some have had to go only halfway down, and some probably much less than that; but whatever depths you and I have known, that was the experience necessary for us to reach the heights.

Absorbing Principles to Reach God Consciousness

To reach greater God consciousness, you must realize what the principles are and then take them into your heart and mind and soul and body, living with them, moving and having your being in them, with them, and through them, until they become demonstratable principles within you.

Then you become the light of the world, a world which may be bound only by your immediate family or community, or which may be one so vast in it’s scope that it includes the entire globe. No two will be led in the same way; no two will evolve in the same manner. It all depends upon the degree of your individual unfoldment.

There is an inner grace that does not operate through, or by, physical might or mental powers. It is a grace of which most people are unaware. it is the God within that gives us understanding of the truth….the principles of which can be found in the New Testament.

The materialistic state of consciousness must yield and surrender itself to the transcendental consciousness and take over the mind, body, and every day experience of your life. This change of consciousness can take place in any person who abides in the Word. Such a change must take place within a person before he will find it possible to live by the I-say-unto-you of the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:21-48)

Transcending Mind to Reach God Consciousness

The body is an instrument used for the activity of life by the mind. The mind is an instrument of something higher than itself and that something is ones Inner Self or Soul. When we come to the point where the mind is governed by the Self, we will be embraced in a peace that passes understanding.

Then we do not control the body or the mind, but the activity of Truth in our consciousness, of which we become aware through the mind, keeps the mind clear, clean, harmonious, and vital; and it in its turn manages, controls, and governs the body, acting as the purifying agent of both mind and body.

A mind filled with evil thoughts – fear, hate, injustice, lust, or malice – must appear outwardly as inharmonious and in discord; whereas the mind filled with good thoughts – clarity, purity, benevolence, or cooperation – will appear outwardly as the good life. That is the karmic law as taught in Scripture: “whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap” [Galatians 6:7].

The mind in it’s unilluminated state, filled with materialistic beliefs, theories, opinions, doctrines, and creeds can only manifest it’s own state of chaos; but a mind freed of these beliefs becomes the instrument through which the creative Principle of life can flow as harmonious and eternal form.

We rarely see what is before us. Everything that we observe in the world, we see through the eyes of our background – our parents attitudes towards life, or racial and religious roots, our national heritage, our early environment, our education, and then later the experiences that we garner after leaving school.  This is the mind that must be transcended.

The Mind Aware of God’s Presence

In the human scene the mind is creative, It can create good and it can create evil – and does. In a spiritual sense, however, the mind is not a creative faculty but an avenue of awareness.

The whole secret lies in making the transition from a thinking, plotting, planning, scheming mind to a mind at rest in a state of awareness, through which divine ideas come flow.

If we dwell with spiritual truth in our consciousness, none of the evils of this world will come nigh our dwelling place because the truth entertained in consciousness takes over and begins to live our lives.

When living in an atmosphere of spiritual wisdom and feeding our consciousness with truth, there comes a moment when the Truth takes over the mind, and then no longer is it necessary to fill the mind with truth. From then on, the flow is the other way. It is not we who are thinking truth, remembering, declaring, or meditating on truth: it is Truth using our mind for its expression, always using us, always flowing through us. The mind is an instrument of awareness through which God communicates and acts.

Read examples in the category of Spiritual Experiences.

An awareness of God’s presence takes us time and dedication to study and internalization of Principles of Truth through prayer and meditation.

The thoughts and most of the words in this post are excerpts from Joel S Goldsmith’s book The Thunder of Silence. Years ago, I was urged by God to pick up and read one of Mr. Goldsmith’s books; Practicing the Presence. I was so captured and inspired by his experience that I have since read several of his books several times and have been rewarded with a closer relationship with God. This is why I want to share a small portion of his writing with you.  There are links to two of Goldsmith’s lectures in Videos.

As I practice the Presence, more and more of Mr. Goldsmith’s precepts have become understandable. Although a couple of them are still incomprehensible to me, I think that by continuing his suggested method of meditating on New Testament Principles and inspirational phrases, the obscure portions may someday become clear.

Relevant Scripture

A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look and see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord….your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you. Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling place. Psalm 91:7-10

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling!  Matthew 23:37

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  2 Corinthians 3:17

 

 

a question mark formed of clouds over the ocean and in a clear blue sky

What is Heaven? | Spiritual Meditations

80% of Americans believe in heaven and most expect to go there when they die. When considering your forever home it is important to know more about it. After all, if you’re wrong about heaven, you’re going to be wrong for a very long time.

Although there are well documented near-death experiences, we have only one known experience of someone being in heaven and then on earth.   His words are recorded in the New Testament Gospels of the Bible. The only information that we have about heaven is revealed in the Bible,  but it doesn’t tell us all that we are curious about.  Some questions require us to make deductions based on those words. Everything else is just speculation.

What Does Heaven Look Like?

What the Old Testament Says About Heaven

The Old Testament says very little about heaven. It says that God lives there, has a throne and that heaven it situated above the clouds.

The greatest Old Testament prophet, Isaiah  describes heaven as a place with many pastures, where hunger and thirst do not exist and the desert heat and sun will not beat upon us. This would be sheer heaven for the people of that time.

Although there are many societies today which would welcome these very things, the societies in first world countries are more likely to envision heaven as a place where they have time for hobbies, get daily food delivery, and have a swimming pool.

The point is;  Life (or afterlife) is good.

The New Testament says a bit more.

What the New Testament Say about Heaven

In the gospels of Matthew and Mark, Jesus tells the disciples that he will be in heaven, sitting at God’s right.  He tells them they will have a place to live in heaven.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:1-3).

Other New Testament books tell us that heaven is a paradise built by God in which an eternal residence has been prepared for the righteous. There will be better and more enduring goods than what we experience on earth. Heaven will be a place of rest, from which the wicked will be excluded. And there will be innumerable angels.

Heaven Will be Better Than We Can Imagine

I love the old story of the rich man who, on his death-bed, negotiated with God to allow him to bring his earthly treasures with him when he came to heaven. God’s reaction was that this was a most unusual request, but since this man had been exceptionally faithful, permission was granted to bring along just one suitcase. The time arrived, the man presented himself at the pearly gates, suitcase in hand…. BOTH hands, actually, since he had stuffed it with as many bars of gold bullion as would fit. St. Peter said, “Sorry, you know the rules-you can’t take it with you.” But the man protested, “God said I could … one suitcase.” St. Peter checked, found out that this man would be an exception, prepared to let the him enter, then said, “OK, but I will have to examine the contents before you pass.” He took the suitcase, opened it, saw the gold bars and asked quizzically, “You brought PAVEMENT?”  [Note: This story is from the sermon “Heaven” by Dr. David Leininger, March 30, 1997]

I couldn’t resist sharing that.  The idea of streets made of gold is written about in Revelation.

The Revelation

The Apostle John tells of his vision of an apocalypse while he was in a “mystical trance”.  Near the end, he gives a brief description of heaven.

He tells of a place where there is no sun or moon. There is no darkness as God’s glory provides light at all times. The city of God is made of gold, precious stones and pearls. There is a crystal clear river of water and the tree of life, which bears 12 kinds of fruit. The leaves of this tree have healing properties.

The gates to heaven are never closed. Heaven will be inhabited by the glorious and honorable people from every nation and they will all wear white robes. Heaven will contain no lies, abominations or anything that defiles it. John also says that God’s servants will see His face.

But think twice before formulating your image of heaven based on the book of Revelation alone.

Nearly every religion has it’s concept of an apocalypse and this was John’s from his perspective based on the political and religious situation at the time he wrote it.  His imagery was drawn from portions of Jewish writings in the Old Testament books of Amos, Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel and Zachariah, and occasionally from Persian pagan culture.

S. MacLean Gilmore, a Bible commentator, gives an example of how events current at the time of John’s writing found their way into the account of his vision:

“Every tribe, tongue, people and nation” is indicative of the multicultural church of John’s day and, in heaven, the church triumphant – those who remained loyal despite the pressures of persecution and threats of death. The white robes may indicate the martyrs.”

“As an apocalypse, Revelation is concerned with the events of it’s own time and with those that it’s author expects to take place in the immediate future. We can relate it to the historical and religious situation in the Roman Empire….toward the end of the 1st century. [It is] not written for people thousands of years later….but for people of his own generation” [who would have an understanding of the symbolism used.]

The symbolism and metaphor in Revelation is extensive and difficult to understand in modern history. It has been interpreted in many ways by many scholars and is far more than can be explored here. If you would like an in-depth study,  the Bible Gateway commentaries on Revelation is a good place to start.

Although Revelation does not satisfy our curiosity about the appearance of heaven, Gilmore says this about it:

“Revelation is a drama of a high order set on a cosmic stage….which rises again and again to heights of sublimity and grandeur that have inspired some of the worlds greatest literature, poetry and art. John created a work of singular vividness, power and intensity”.

What Will Life be Like in Heaven

What Happens to Us in the First Minute After We Die?

The Bible indicates that when we die we enter immediately into God’s presence if we belong to Christ. From our earthly point of view, death looks somewhat like sleep—but not from God’s point of view.

Paul declared, ‘We are confident (of eternal life), I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 5:8). Elsewhere he wrote, ‘I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far’ (Philippians 1:23).

However, I think the most definitive words regarding the swiftness with which we will  ascend to heaven are the words spoken by Christ to the repentant criminal from the cross.  The criminal asked “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” and Jesus replies “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise”. (Luke 23:42-43)

When We Die, does an Angel Accompany Us into Heaven?

The Bible indicates that when a believer dies, the angels will escort them safely into Heaven.  In A Glimpse Through the Thin Curtain Between Life and Afterlife a modern lady is prepared for ascension by her heavenly relatives.

In a parable, Jesus told about two different men. One was a wealthy man, who lived only for himself and ignored both God and others. The other was a beggar who had no earthly goods, but had faith in God and His promises. When the rich man died, he received what he deserved: a life of misery, separated from God forever. But “when the poor man died, the angels accompanied him safely into God’s presence. (You can read this parable in Luke 16:19-31.)

Will We Know Our Family and Friends?

There are many accounts of near-death experiences in which loved ones meet the temporarily deceased.  Too many to have any doubt.  Spend as much time as you have to read these fascinating accounts.

The writers of Bible Study Tools present some additional thoughts of interest on who we will know in heaven and how well we will know them:

God knows us completely, intimately, thoroughly, inside and out, with nothing hidden but everything seen as it really is (Psalms 139:1-4; Hebrews 4:12). When we get to heaven we’ll know each other, as God knows us because all the imperfections of this life will be removed.  We can be ourselves with no shame, no pain, no embarrassment, and no covering up. We will be individuals, each with our own memories and God-given gifts.

In heaven we will know every person and all of them will be friends and loved ones to us.  The essence of who we are will remain throughout eternity-yet vastly improved by God’s grace.

excerpt from Bible Study Tools

What Will Our Resurrected Bodies be Like?

Paul teaches us about our resurrected bodies in 1 Corinthians 15. They will not be like our current bodies which are subject to aging, disease, and death. Our resurrection bodies are incorruptible. You will never get old nor grow tired. You will never suffer disease or disability or death.

‘The dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed’” (1 Corinthians 15:52).

Will there be Animals and Pets in Heaven?

There is considerable evidence of animals in Heaven. Elijah was taken up to Heaven in a chariot pulled by horses (2 Kings 2:11), and the book of Revelation makes references to horses (6:2-8, 19:11) and eagles (4:7) in Heaven. Isaiah 65:25 describes wolves, lambs, and lions.

Billy Graham had a good answer when a little girl asked him, “Will my dog, who died this week, be in Heaven?” Because heaven is paradise for each individual, Dr. Graham replied, “If it would make you any happier, then yes, he will be.”

Will We Learn in Heaven?

Randy Alcorn points out that we will continue to learn based on  Ephesians 2:6-7. “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms…. in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace.” Alcorn instructs that the word “show” means “to reveal.” And the phrase “in the coming ages” clearly indicates this will be a progressive, ongoing revelation, in which we learn more and more about God’s grace.

We can expect an eternity of growing to be more and more like Christ.  We will be “transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

What we learn here carries over after death.  The relationship we build with God will continue.  We can begin this joyful process here and now, and there’s every indication it will endure forever.

If you have knowledge that will contribute to this topic, do not hesitate to leave it in the comments on this site.

 

 

 

 

two girls hug in forgiveness

How to Forgive | Spiritual Meditations

The Apostle Paul wrote “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.” Once again, Biblical wisdom is supported by modern health and mental health professionals. Our anger usually hurts us more than the person we are angry with and it is healthy for us to forgive.

Avoiding the Need for Forgiveness

We may be able to avoid the need for forgiveness if we take a close look at ourselves first.

Am I Too Sensitive?

If you find yourself being hurt on a regular basis by a number of different people, consider the possibility that you may be too sensitive.   Asking yourself this question may alleviate some of your discomfort.  You may also ask yourself if it really matters what the other person thinks about the subject.

It Is Just Part of Their Personality

Occasionally you’ll come across someone who rubs you the wrong way.  But maybe the way they act is part of their personality and isn’t meant to show disrespect or offend you. I know someone who never says ‘good bye’ at the end of a phone conversation…just hangs up. The first time I experienced it, I thought he was mad about something but later realized that, no, that’s just him.  Now it doesn’t bother me.

Am I Too Proud?

Excessive pride in yourself or your ‘stuff’ can also lead to anger in response to what you may consider a ‘rude’ comment. Try not to take yourself too seriously. Let it go and move on.  Don’t let someone else ruin your day.  (But you might want to work on being a little more humble.  Take a look at the phrases for meditation regarding humility)

Life Can Be Hard

In another scenario, the offender may be having a bad day or have problems that weigh them down or make them irritable. It may have nothing to do with you. You just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I worked with a woman who was always rude and unhelpful. After I’d ignored the offense several times, I finally confronted her regarding her attitude toward me. (Note that I was taking it personally.) She said that she was aware that she was ornery and explained that she was always in pain. From that day onward she was more pleasant and I was more understanding.

Stay Away

If  someone is consistently offensive or repeatedly hurts you, try to keep them at arms length. You don’t want to  put yourself in a position to be hurt any more than necessary. The two of you may not be compatible.  But, at least, you can still be civil.  Don’t let them set the tone.

Address It Now

And lastly, don’t let one offence be the beginning of long term tension or resentment. When a conflict has been going on for a long time, it can be difficult to sort out because you may not remember how it first started. Paul says ‘don’t let the sun set on your anger” in Ephesians 4.  We may not be able to resolve our conflicts in one day, but the sooner the better.

Sometimes the words and actions of others cannot be overlooked or so easily handled. Forgiveness involves a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge.

What forgiveness Isn’t

To learn how to forgive, you must first learn what forgiveness is not. Dr. Andrea Brandt tells us that most of us hold at least some misconceptions about forgiveness. Here are some things that forgiving someone doesn’t mean:

• Forgiveness doesn’t mean you are pardoning or excusing the other person’s actions.

• Forgiveness doesn’t mean you need to tell the person that he or she is forgiven.

• Forgiveness doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any more feelings about the situation.

• Forgiveness doesn’t mean there is nothing further to work out in the relationship or that everything is okay now.

• Forgiveness doesn’t mean you should forget the incident ever happened.

• Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to continue to include the person in your life.

• …. and forgiveness isn’t something you do for the other person.

Andrea Brandt Ph.D. M.F.T.  has 35 years of clinical experience with an emphasis in anger management and conflict resolution.  She has authored several book on these topics.

What are the benefits of forgiving someone?

According to the Mayo Clinic, letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for improved health and peace of mind. Forgiveness can lead to:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Improved mental health
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • A stronger immune system
  • Improved heart health
  • Improved self-esteem

Why is it so easy to hold a grudge?

Being hurt by someone, particularly someone you love and trust, can cause anger, sadness and confusion. The staff at Mayo Clinic staff tell us that if you dwell on hurtful events or situations or hold grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice.

Andrea Brandt adds “There are several reasons [forgiving is hard}:

  • You’re filled with thoughts of retribution or revenge;
  • you enjoy feeling superior;
  • you don’t know how to resolve the situation;
  • you’re addicted to the adrenaline that anger provides;
  • you self-identify as a “victim”; or
  • you’re afraid that by forgiving you have to re-connect—or lose your connection—with the other person.

These reasons not to forgive can be resolved by becoming more familiar with yourself, with your thoughts and feelings, and with your boundaries and needs.”

Some people are naturally more forgiving than others. But even if you are one to hold a grudge, nearly everyone can learn to be more forgiving.

How do I reach a state of forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a commitment to a personalized process of change. To move from suffering to forgiveness, you might:

• Recognize the value of forgiveness and how it can improve your life
• Identify what needs healing and who needs to be forgiven and for what
• Consider joining a support group or seeing a counselor
• Acknowledge your emotions about the harm done to you and how they affect your behavior, then work to release them
• Choose to forgive the person who’s offended you
• Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life

Mayo clinic

“By forgiving, you are accepting the reality of what happened and finding a way to live in a state of resolution with it.”  Dr. Brandt says “This can be a gradual process—and it doesn’t necessarily have to include the person you are forgiving. Forgiveness isn’t something you do for the person who wronged you; it’s something you do for you.”

What happens if I can’t forgive someone?

Forgiveness can be challenging, especially if the person who’s hurt you doesn’t admit wrong. If you find yourself stuck:

• Practice empathy. Try seeing the situation from the other person’s point of view.

• Ask yourself why he or she would behave in such a way. Perhaps you would have reacted similarly if you faced the same situation.

• Reflect on times you’ve hurt others and on those who’ve forgiven you.

• Write in a journal, pray or use guided meditation — or talk with a person you’ve found to be wise and compassionate, such as a spiritual leader, a mental health provider, or an impartial loved one or friend.

• Be aware that forgiveness is a process, and even small hurts may need to be revisited and forgiven over and over again.

Do You Want to Forgive?

Forgiveness requires feeling willing to forgive. Sometimes you won’t, because the hurt went too deep, or because the person was too abusive, or expressed no regret. Do not attempt to forgive someone before you have identified, fully felt, expressed, and released your anger and pain.

If you decide you are willing to forgive, Dr. Brandt suggests you find a good place and time to be alone with your thoughts. Then, try following these four steps to forgive even when it feels impossible:

1. Think about the incident that angered you. Accept that it happened. Accept how you felt about it and how it made you react. In order to forgive, you need to acknowledge the reality of what occurred and how you were affected.

2. Acknowledge the growth you experienced as a result of what happened. What did it make you learn about yourself, or about your needs and boundaries? Not only did you survive the incident, perhaps you grew from it.

3. Now think about the other person. He or she is flawed because all human beings are flawed. He or she acted from limited beliefs and a skewed frame of reference because sometimes we all act from our limited beliefs and skewed frames of reference. When you were hurt, the other person was trying to have a need met. What do you think this need was and why did the person go about it in such a hurtful way?

4. Finally, decide whether or not you want to tell the other person that you have forgiven him or her. If you decide not to express forgiveness directly, then do it on your own. Say the words, “I forgive you,” aloud and then add as much explanation as you feel is merited.

Does forgiveness guarantee reconciliation?

If the hurtful event involved someone whose relationship you otherwise value, forgiveness can lead to reconciliation. This isn’t always the case, however.  Reconciliation might be impossible if the offender has died or is unwilling to communicate with you. In other cases, reconciliation might not be appropriate. Still, forgiveness is possible — even if reconciliation isn’t.

What if the person I’m forgiving doesn’t change?

Getting another person to change his or her actions, behavior or words, isn’t the point of forgiveness. Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life — by bringing you peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness can take away the power the other person continues to wield in your life.

What if I’m the one who needs forgiveness?

The staff at Mayo Clinic indicate that the first step is to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs you’ve done and how they have affected others. Avoid judging yourself too harshly.

If you’re truly sorry for something you’ve said or done, consider admitting it to those you’ve harmed. Speak of your sincere sorrow or regret, and ask for forgiveness — without making excuses.

Remember, however, you can’t force someone to forgive you. Others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever happens, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.

Conclusion

Forgiveness puts the final seal on the event or events that hurt you. You will still remember, but you will no longer be bound by it. Having worked through the feelings, you are better able to take care of yourself in the future. Forgiving the other person is a good way to honor yourself.  You are declaring “I  deserve to be happy”.

More posts regarding Your Spiritual Life are here.

Relevant Scripture

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[a]
Mat 18:21-22

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:32-36

foggy cross suspended aboe water

Why Doesn’t God Show Himself? |Spiritual Meditations

According to Google, there are over 246,000 searches each month asking:

what does God look like.

The movie industry facetiously gives God the face of George Burns in Oh God. Even the Bible gives God anthropomorphic characteristics.  God is formless yet takes many forms.

God Appeared

In the Biblical old testament we are told that God appeared to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others. But these appearances are vague and have a variety of manifestations.

Some Forms God Takes

Jacob wrestled with a man, but did not recognize the man as God until God revealed Himself by saying

“Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And He blessed him there” (Genesis 32:28,29).

The important thing to observe here is that when God appeared to Jacob, His appearance was as a man. No mention is made of glowing white garments or brilliant light. Jacob did not and we would not have known it was God by mere appearance.

Another biblical example is the form God used to guide His people in the famous Exodus account.  As Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt, God took the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. (Exodus 13:21)

Vague Descriptions of God

Isaiah also saw God:

“In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1)

Then Isaiah goes on the describe the angels, but no further description of God. The angels did not proclaim what God looked like.  They proclaimed the character of God. They spoke of His holiness and of His glory.

God appeared to Solomon in a dream, but he makes no attempt to describe God’s appearance. 1 Kings 3:5

There are many more Biblical examples, some of which are referred to the excerpt below by Bob Deffinbaugh

To See God’s Face is Fatal

Bible scripture repeatedly says that to see God’s face would be fatal.  In the following Biblical examples, although people were said to have seen God, descriptions are vague or nonexistent.

In those instances where men are said to have seen God, surprise is expressed that they lived to tell about it.

Jacob marveled that his life had been preserved (Genesis 32:30).

Moses noted that God “did not stretch out His hand” against the 74 men who are said to have seen the God of Israel (Exodus 24:10-11).

God informed Moses that he could not see Him and live (Exodus 33:20).

When Gideon realized he had seen the “angel of the Lord face to face” (Judges 6:22), he was encouraged with the assurance that he would not die (verse 23).

Manoah and his wife, soon to become the parents of Samson, were amazed they did not die for having seen God as the “angel of the Lord” (Judges 13:21-23).

Paul seems to be saying that men cannot see God and live when he declares that God dwells in “unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16).

Getting close to God is like drawing near to a blast furnace. It is dangerous to one’s health (see also Exodus 33:2-5).

Bob Deffinbaugh write in his article Invisibility of God

Speaking to God Face-to-Face

The expression, “face to face” is a figure of speech. Consider the example of Moses, where, in the early portion of Exodus 33, Moses is said to have spoken to God “face to face:”

“And it came about, whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.”

God spoke with Moses. Moses could hear His voice but could not see Him in the cloud. Just as people today can hear God’s voice, but do not see Him.

The Nature of God is Not Visible

The Bible tells us God’s nature, but none of His qualities are physical qualities that we can see.   A few examples:

God is Infinite

“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” – Colossians 1:17
“Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure” – Psalm 147:5

God is Immutable

“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” Malachi 3:6

God is Omnipotent

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” – Psalm 33:6

God is Omnipresent

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.” Psalm 139:7-10

God is Wise

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” – Romans 11:33

God is Faithful

“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” – Deut 7:9

God is Good

“O, taste and see that the Lord is good” – Psalm 34:8

God is Gracious and Merciful

“The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in loving-kindness.” – Psalm 145:8

God is Loving

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:7-8

God does show Himself, but not so we can see Him. We may hear Him or feel His presence, but we will not see Him. We may see His angels, and people have seen His son, but we will not see Him. We can understand His qualities, but they are attributes, not physical characteristics.

Other posts on this site describe spiritual experiences when God has shown Himself through words or activities, but still, God is not seen.  God is far too big and all-encompassing to be seen.  Some say God is a spirit, but even this word, as we understand it, is too narrow.

God’s Touch and a Soul Ascended –  in which God touched Tim’s hand to reassure him

God’s Faithfulness Changed My Life-in which God restored my income through a chance meeting on an airplane.

A Miraculous Intervention by Accident-in which God saved the lives of Tim and Lisa

God is Within Us

Jesus summed it up when he said;

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him” (John 14:18-21). [italics are mine]

Nowhere does Jesus say we will physically see God while on earth, but we will be aware of God if we love Him. And we will recognize God’s disclosure to us through regular prayer and meditation as described in How to Meditate to Reach Higher God Consciousness.

For a more in-depth understanding of how to become aware of God’s activities in your life refer to Joel Goldsmith lecture on the Inner Kingdom and The Art of Meditation.

Conclusion

God does not have physical qualities and, therefore,  cannot be described regarding appearance.  However, God does show Himself through His many ‘personality’ qualities that are evidenced by experiences and interactions people have had with God.  Each individual can become more aware of God’s activities in their lives through meditation / prayer as described in How to Meditate to Reach Higher God Consciousness.

 

 

woman anxious caused by advertising created fears

Advertising Creates Fear – How Do You and Your Kids React? | Spiritual Meditations

“Fear can be uncomfortable and crippling”, says neuropsychologist Dr Theo Tsaousides. “But eliminating it would be the equivalent of taking down your home alarm system because it sometimes makes loud and irritating sounds.”

A Little About Human Fear

“Chronic stress, the low-intensity variety of fear expressed as free-floating anxiety, constant worry, and daily insecurity, can quietly but seriously harm your physical and mental health over time”, Tsaousides says.

Some neuroscientists claim that humans are the most fearful creatures on the planet because of our ability to learn, think, and create fear in our minds.

“Fear is partly imagined….our brains are so efficient, we begin to fear a range of stimuli that are not scary (conditioned fear) or not even present (anticipatory anxiety). We get scared because of what we imagine could happen” says Tsaousides in Psychology Today.

There is little that is more motivating than fear. Enter Advertisers.

Product and Political Advertising

There is a lot of advertising that tells us to change the way we think and act, or else.

High-fear appeals alert people to the dangers of drunk driving or depletion of natural resources. These ads can be effective because the advertisers message is congruent with the public good.

On the other end of the spectrum, we are constantly bombarded with low-fear advertising that, although less anxiety provoking, still creates anxiety in us, that can accumulate.

We are also more motivated by the fear of losing something than the good of gaining something. Consider these two examples:

Pioneers in Fear Based Advertising

The origins of low-fear appeals in consumer product advertising can be attributed to Listerine’s 1920s advertising campaign in which a market for mouthwash was essentially created from nothing. At the time of airing, the average person bathed once a week, never put on deodorant and body odors were accepted as part of life. The makers of Listerine did not make a mouthwash so much as they made halitosis. And the results were staggering; within seven years of the original campaign launch, Listerine’s revenues rose from $115,000 to $8 million.

Another example of the growth is the cleaning product industry. In the 1980s, your typical household cleaner advert centered around cleanliness and showed a relaxed approach to keeping ourselves and our homes clean.

But fast-forward 30 years and we are told that we are constantly at risk of infection. Fear appeals bombard consumers with messages that germs are the evil to be purged at all costs, using buzzwords such as “antibacterial”.

Tom Oakley, The Growth of Fear Appeals in Advertising

How do You React to Product and Political Advertising?

According to the theory, appeal to fear will only be effective if there is a strong perceived threat and a belief that the product or promise will effectively remove the threat. Let’s look at your possible responses to an appeal-to-fear message.

  • No response – You either don’t think the danger will happen or it won’t be that bad if it does happen.
  • Fear-control response – In this situation you may believe that you are susceptible to a threat and believe that it will have severe consequences, but you don’t believe that the recommended product or political promise will be effective in preventing the harm, or you don’t believe you have the ability to take effective action against the threat. You may decide to just ignore the threat or convince yourself the threat is not real.
  • Danger-control response – If you believe
    • the perceived threat is high
    • the recommended action will be effective
    • and you can effectively engage in the action

advertising will be successful in getting you to do what it wants you to do.

Fear Appeal in Advertising: Theory & Examples

And this is the advertisers’ goal. With many years of study in human behavior, they know how to make you believe what they are selling. Many advertisers are selling a remedy for the fear or fear of loss they have created in your mind.

Advertising scare tactics are not going to go away. As long as they drive customers, votes, orders and visits to the doctor, they will continue.

Your defense against unnecessary fear is to consider the true merit of advertising using your little gray cells. As you watch a commercial you can easily identify if it is a fear-based ad. For example, every prescription drug ad I saw this week was fear-based. Label it as such in your mind. Once you have done this, the advertiser can’t manipulate you. You are on to them.

Or if you feel you are particularly vulnerable to suggestion, fast forward through those commercials. Delayed streaming will reduce the total commercial minutes per hour and the result of increased streaming use has forced the networks to reduce their commercial minutes per hour. YEAH!!

Accept the Fact that You are Just as Good as Anyone Else and You Don’t Have to Keep Up with the Joneses

Another predicament that advertisers create for you and your children, is consumerism. The movie-inspired toy, the greatest new car, the latest fashion trend – last year’s is no longer interesting, is it?.

You may be able to resist…until friends start raving about their new acquisitions. Then the desire to ‘Keep up with the Jones’ strikes you or your kids with feelings of inferiority or the fear of being seen as inferior.

So you buy. Are you stretching your budget to do so? If you are, you are setting yourself up for the anxiety of unpaid or late bill payment and accumulating credit card interest.

If you are realistic enough to avoid the lure of the latest and greatest stuff, you may still feel awkward or anxious when hanging out with friends who have more money to spend than you do.

Ruth Hayden, author of For Richer, Not Poorer: The Money Book for Couples says “The key is to develop a firm sense of who you are, and then to use a few simple rules to socialize sometimes with them [wealthier friends] in ways that don’t hurt you financially.”

Here, Hayden suggests some strategies for doing that.

Barriers To Overcome

Feelings of inadequacy. Not being able to participate in social activities because of financial limitations can shake your self-confidence and self-esteem.
Feelings of deprivation. You may really want to see the football playoffs from a corporate box or eat at the hottest new haute-cuisine restaurant. Bowing out can leave you feeling sorry for yourself, or jealous and resentful of your wealthier friends.
Fear of abandonment. You may fear that if you keep saying no to outings with your better-off friends, you’ll be marginalized and pushed out of the tribe — invited less often or not at all.
Excuse anxiety. It can be stressful to explain why you are continually ducking out of certain social engagements, especially if you find yourself making up false excuses. Keeping track of your fibs can be confusing, shame inducing and exhausting.
Money-taboo discomfort. It’s tough for some people to admit — even to themselves — that they simply don’t have the resources to keep up with their more affluent friends. In this culture, we almost never talk about our fiscal realities or cash flow because of a basic insecurity about how we’ll be perceived by others. Our financial status is closely tied to our sense of self-worth.

Strategies For Success

Build self-acceptance. Establishing authentic relationships with any circle of friends starts with knowing who you are, where you are in life, and being OK with that. Realize that the main thing you bring to any social experience is the gift of your presence.
Choose thoughtfully. As with any expense, you can decide to budget for the pricey outings that really matter to you. Add money to your “entertainment fund” by saving in some other area, and then go to only those high-end events you can afford. And what if, on occasion, a wealthier friend genuinely wants to pick up the tab? If it doesn’t wound your pride or leave you feeling indebted, fine. Only you can know for sure.
Reach out. Proactively suggest options that are more in your price range. That way you build connections without breaking the bank.
Diversify. To fight feelings of isolation, connect with some friends at your own income level or who don’t have such expensive tastes.
Don’t fib. Instead of offering excuses or over-explaining, keep your answers short, straightforward and honest. Simply opt out: “I appreciate the invitation, but I won’t be able to go with you this time.” You don’t have to go any further than that.

Your Kids and the Little Joneses

Kids can be very persistent and will use every manipulative expression and emotion to convince you of their “need” for what they have seen advertised by manufacturers or friends.   Some adults are the same.  Stay strong against the onslaught and consider the following:

Nancy Colier LCSW, Rev. in and article entitled The Beauty in NOT Keeping Up With the Joneses explains how saying ‘no’ may be the best gift we can give our kids

Everyone who has kids or who has ever been a kid knows that there is enormous pressure for young people to keep up with the latest toys and gadgets. Sometimes, depending on whom our kids hang out with, the toys and gadgets can get pretty elaborate—and expensive.

One of the most important things that we can teach our children is gratitude and appreciation. Gratitude, as a concept, is hard to teach, however. It is not something that just talking about makes happen. Rather, it is more about providing a life that inspires a child to appreciate what she receives.

If a child is always getting everything she wants, it is unreasonable to expect her to be genuinely grateful. She may not know any other way is even possible.

Gratitude in children seems to arise from two main things.

First, being exposed to circumstances that are different and less than their own (for example, when my daughter meets orphans from Uganda, whose Christmas wish is for a pencil so that they can go to school).

Secondly, gratitude comes from sometimes NOT getting. The experience of NOT getting cannot be conceptual if it is going to truly teach appreciation. It is very basic: when we have to do without something that we want, we appreciate it more when we actually do get it.

NOT keeping up with the Joneses is also important for developing self-esteem. Getting everything their friends have won’t give them self-esteem, it is really just a recipe for insecurity. Children begin to believe that they will no longer be included in the group if they don’t have the same toys as their friends.

Not getting helps children develop the confidence that their value as a person is based on more than just owning what their friends own, and their friendships about sharing more than just products. Children who sometimes have to do without have to explain why they don’t have the thing that everyone else has, and that explaining builds character.

Finally, NOT keeping up with the Joneses, in the long run, helps children avoid depression. Each time we develop a craving for the next toy, the deep belief behind that craving, conscious or otherwise, is that the next toy will bring us happiness. We chase one thing after another, and each brings a few moments of pleasure.

But soon, each fails us in terms of providing any kind of lasting happiness. With each failure, we shift our craving onto the next item, and with it, our hope for lasting happiness.

Giving our children everything they want encourages the belief that happiness and satisfaction will be found externally—inside the next best thing.

When we have to do without a bit, however, we are forced to develop internal aspects of ourselves, to develop the skills that create a true sense of wellbeing. In so doing, not getting allows us to avoid the despair and emptiness that result from chasing external objects in search of internal wholeness.

Internal and External Needs Realized Through Your Connection with God

The above solid advice of Ruth Hayden will go a long way to alleviating some adult anxiety. Clinical social worker, Rev. Nancy Colier’s advice will ease your conscience when you have to say “no” to the kids while providing a valuable learning experience.  If you find their advice useful, I would like to hear your experience.  Please leave me a comment.

If you choose to follow the spiritual path and become acquainted with God, you will never again be enticed by advertising because you just don’t need what they have to sell.  The fear advertisers attempt to generate will seem ridiculous to you because you trust God to take care of you.  And you will value yourself, as you are and as you are becoming….there will be no need to compare yourself to others….you are the special child of God.

In our Oneness with God we already have all that the Father has. “I and the Father are one and all that the Father has is mine.” If we individually are experiencing a lack, it is not because we actually lack. It is because of our inability to make contact with [the Source of] our supply.

….throughout the Great Depression there was no lack in this country [USA}….there was a greater abundance of crops, of fish in the ocean, birds in the air, lumber in the forests, grains in warehouses, in barns and in fields and in gardens….If any of us suffered from a lack of sufficiency, it was not because there was an actual condition of lack. It was because we were not in tune with the source of supply, we did not have access to the infinite supply.

The world seeks it’s good in the external realm. It seeks to find peace, joy, satisfaction, home, companionship, or supply from the outer world of people and things. When you turn to the spiritual path, you learn that the world’s weapons will not do for us, the world’s manner of protecting itself will not do for us, the world’s way of seeking it’s good will not do for us. When you ponder the statement “The Kingdom of God is within you”, it immediately becomes clear that to go outside to find your good will not work. The place to seek it is within.

Spiritual living is based on the ability to contact God….Not only is there a God, but He is at hand….If we are not having the harmonies, peace and prosperity to which we are entitled as children of God, let us be fair about it and acknowledge that we have not made His acquaintance, we do not know Him aright….Knowing statements of truth about God and knowing God are different things.

You may say “But I do recognize God as the Source”. How often and how consistently do you? It must be more than an occasional thought. It must be a continuous activity, until your consciousness is so imbued with the realization of God as the Source that it becomes automatic and you no longer need to consciously think of it. Then the flow begins.

Supply is spirit and it is within you. It is never visible and it will never become visible. What you behold in the outer world is the forma that supply assumes. Outwardly, supply takes the form of money, food, clothing, housing, transportation, business capital and so forth.

Ideas, inspiration, intelligence, wisdom, service or love bring about the forms of supply, but they themselves are invisible. Only the results are visible.

So it is with all poets, authors, sculptures, painters, composers. Their invisible talents are the substance of what becomes visible as poems, books, paintings, teachings or other forms of art. Their supply is their inner light, their inspiration.

Supply is just as spiritual as such qualities. It too is not something that comes to us, it is embodied within us and we must express it. This we do by casting our “bread” upon the waters, and it comes back to us as our supply. This is the only supply to which we are spiritually entitled. We are not permitted to take someone else’s supply. Prisons are full of people who tried to take the bread that someone else had placed on the waters.

The Master [Jesus] gave us many examples of how we may cast our bread upon the waters: forgiving, praying for our enemies, sharing and tithing.

Joel S Goldsmith, Invisible Supply

A more complete discussion from Joel Goldsmiths on the Kingdom within can be found here.

Conclusion

When we are connected with our Inner Being, God, which provides for all our needs, we will see through the constant sales pitches meant to manipulate us into purchasing false hope, induced by fear and exaggerated promises.

Relevant Scripture

I have never seen a righteous man begging bread. Psalms 37:25

Son, thou art ever with me and all that I have is thine. Luke 15:31

My kingdom is not of this world. John 18:36

Acquaint now thyself with Him and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee. Job 22:21

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Psalm 24:1