How God Speaks to the Brokenhearted / Spiritual Meditations

Admit it.  Sometimes you think God is unaware of what is happening with you.  You imagine He has big things in the world to contend with and your difficulties are small by comparison.  You are told that God loves you and knows every hair on your head, but it doesn’t always feel like it. This story will give you hope.

The following recounts an experience of my friend Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich, excerpted from his book The Long Road to Eternity.  He tells of Gods immediate reply to his hurt and frustration.


I doubt it has changed much, but when I lived in Sherburne a friend of mine used to say that there are more pigeons on the feed store roof than there are people in the town. The town is a cute little upstate New York town that came into existence in the 1820s as a stop on the former Chenango canal which connected the Erie Canal with the Hudson River in the days before the railroad reached central New York. Sherburne’s claim to fame in the region is its annual pageant of bands parade in the summer, which attracts marching bands and fire departments from upwards of forty surrounding towns and counties.

While the Sherburne church was built around 1820 the parsonage at Sherburne was built in 1872. It looked pretty on the outside, but it had been cheaply made: if you slammed the front door the whole house shook. Since it was built before electricity, when the house was electrified all the wires for the outlets and fixtures were laid on top of the walls. If the Sherburne congregation had ever been wealthy in the past, that time ended many decades before I got there. The parsonage was furnished with tables, couches and chairs that were decades old discards from congregation members. Each room’s walls were covered with whatever wallpaper happened to be on sale at that time, so each room had a different pattern, and all of it was ugly.

When we got there the house was in bad repair: the laundry room / half bathroom on the first floor had a six-foot-long gap along the wall behind the toilet where the floor and the wall should have met. The gap was caused by the wood rotting away from many years of a leaky toilet I suppose, and it was wide enough that you could look down into the basement through it. I was only able to convince the church trustees to repair the floor by telling them that our district superintendent (who was a very large man) was planning to visit the parsonage, and that if he used the potty there was a good chance he and the toilet would wind up in the basement. The carpets were all a generation old; there was asbestos covering the hot water pipes in the basement and the roof leaked.

The parsonage was pretty humble accommodations, but the town was really beautiful, and we were happy and our children found it to be a good place to grow up.

One Thanksgiving Day it was time to start getting ready for the meal. Our dining room table was covered with the week’s mail and with other papers related to the running of our household. Anna, my wife,  asked me to clear the table so that it could be set for the Thanksgiving meal. As I was clearing the table, I found a letter from the Norwich office of the New York Department of Social Services; it was addressed, “to the Pastor of the Sherburne United Methodist Church.”

The letter said they were writing to every pastor in the county asking us to pass on to our congregation information about a government food help program that was available to low-income families. They said they thought the county’s pastors would have knowledge of which families might benefit from the program. The letter said something to the effect that they knew how hard it was for low-income families in our area to make ends meet, and the county government was sponsoring a food assistance program for families whose income was low enough to qualify depending on the number of children they had.

As I read the letter, I realized that with my income and our three children our family qualified for government food assistance. This news hit me hard. All I could think of was, “I graduated with a Master’s degree from Duke University that had required a total of 7 years of college. I have been serving God as a full-time pastor for nearly four years, and my income is still so low I qualify for government aid!” I was embarrassed, I was humiliated, I even felt a little sick to my stomach. I thought, “How can I possibly be thankful on Thanksgiving when I feel like a failure and a fool?”

So, I just stopped what I was doing and began to pray. I poured out my heart to God, I said, “God, I am sorry that I am so sad on Thanksgiving Day! I know that I should be thankful, but I am feeling depressed and so sad. I wish serving you was not so difficult.” I ended my prayer, “Please Lord, help me with this terrible sadness because I want to feel thankful on this day. Never-the-less, I trust in you and I am putting all of this in Your hands.” And so, I gave it up to God and went back to clearing the table, but I was still hurting.

Just as I finished clearing the table the phone rang. A young woman was on the line; she said, “I would like to speak with the pastor please.” I said, “This is the pastor,” she asked me, “Are you the pastor of the Sherburne United Methodist Church?” I said I was. She said, “This might sound funny; this has never happened to me before, but I was just in my room praying, and I heard God speak to me. He said, ‘Call the pastor of the Sherburne United Methodist Church and tell him, “I am watching you and everything will be fine.’ So, I am calling you. I know this sounds strange, but that is what happened. Does that message make sense to you?” I thanked her and told her that was just what I needed to hear at that time. I asked her where she was calling from. She lived in a town about 15 miles away.

Do I need to say that my sadness was immediately turned to thankfulness?! This was the second time, and last time so far, that God spoke to someone on my behalf, the first telling Anna to marry me and now telling this woman to tell me to trust in Him. This experience is another reminder that God is always watching us, really hears our prayers, and is as concerned with our feelings and what is going on with us as any loving father is.

Conclusion

This experience also helped me to realize the accuracy of Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” I have found again and again that God responds to us when our hearts are broken for any reason and we turn to God with faith. The Lord truly is close to the sorrowful!

Relevant Scripture

You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.(Psalms 139:4)

 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.  (2 Corinthians 6)

womans eye with tear

How We Endure Persistent Pain / Spiritual Meditations

Being physically ill and in pain is no small trial. It is a heavy burden that we must bear as long as we live on this planet.

The Emotional Impact of Pain

People who suffer from chronic pain carry an extra burden that healthy people may not fully comprehend. For many, pain is a life sentence. Whether the pain is due to arthritis, fibromyalgia, a car accident, or an old football injury, those who suffer can find the simplest tasks overwhelmingly difficult.

As a result, pain can produce  self-centeredness. When you are enduring a sickness, it so easy to only think about yourself and allow your world to be consumed only with your own personal feelings and struggles.

As you can see, pain is influenced by emotions, and the cycle of pain and emotions are interrelated. Some common emotional responses to pain can include anxiety, depression, anger, feeling misunderstood, and demoralization.

Our bodies are fading, and we can expect suffering, but we must not let our internal joy be governed by our external circumstances.  Believing that you have control over your life and can continue to function despite the pain or subsequent life changes has been shown to decrease depression.

Several studies have shown that spiritual belief can help reduce pain. We have a powerful resource in Christ and he is ever-present, in control,  loves us and will help us endure.

Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain - Robert Gary Lee  

God created everything that goes into medicine and healthcare has made huge strides toward alleviating pain. 

”Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” – Khalil Gibran

What Scripture Tells Us About Pain

God created everything that goes into medicine and healthcare has made huge strides toward alleviating pain.  Although you must continue to look for remedies, there are some levels of suffering that medicine has yet to reach. Sufferers may wonder if God even cares, so let’s investigate what scripture says about pain.

The briefest glance at the Bible reveals that God is aware of our suffering and is eager to help us (Psalm 50:15Numbers 21:8–9). He made us from dust and knows how our bodies function Psalm 103:14; 139:13–16). He created the nerve endings that communicate pain to our brains, so He well knows how they affect us. We know that God is ultimately in charge of everything, even chronic pain (Isaiah 45:7). Those who know, love, and trust Him need never worry that God is unaware of their suffering or that their requests for relief are being ignored (Matthew 6:31–33Luke 12:6–7).

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He gained renown for healing the crippled and the ill (Matthew 4:23). He sometimes went out of His way to alleviate the pain of an individual, revealing His compassion for the suffering (Luke 13:10–12Matthew 9:20–22). Jesus said that He did nothing of His own accord, but only what He saw His Father doing (John 5:19; 14:10), so from this we learn that the Father also has great compassion on those who suffer and can heal them.

But pain relief was not Jesus’ main mission; nor is it the Father’s. Sometimes pain is the result of sin or foolishness. Sometimes it is merely the fallout from living in mortal, imperfect body. Whatever the case, our suffering is not wasted. God has a purpose in it. This link is to a related post:

Why Did God Make Me ____?

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him about a man born blind, Jesus replied,

It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him (John 9:1–7).

He then healed the man, but only after the man had suffered from blindness his whole life up to that point. So, Jesus’ attention to the chronically ill shows us that God knows about our pain and cares that we suffer. However, for reasons known only to Him, He often allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.

Many times God brings good from our pain by teaching us to rely more on Him. The more acutely we see our need, the more likely we are to seek His face.

Also, God may use pain to help us learn endurance and patience. James describes a life of perseverance as one “not lacking anything.” With patience, endurance and perseverance, our perspective changes because we have matured. We develop a resiliency born from the discovery of our inner strength.

We then can help other sufferers with what God taught us:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (1 Corinthians 1:3–4).

Yet chronic pain can be an opportunity to learn to suffer well before the eyes of the world. When those with no hope watch the patient endurance of a child of God, they may yearn for that kind of strength. By their silent testimony, chronic pain sufferers may be storing up mountains of treasure in heaven as they refuse to doubt God’s goodness (see Matthew 5:166:6).

Sometimes God miraculously heals people from pain; other times He does not. Neither instance is an indication of God’s love or the worth of the person. God states clearly that He is sovereign over everything and His plan will stand (Isaiah 46:9–11). Sometimes that plan includes suffering, even for those who love Him and serve Him faithfully (Acts 9:161 Peter 4:13).This link provides an example of a miraculous healing:

An Astonishing & Undeniable Spiritual Healing

The apostle Paul was an example of someone totally devoted to Christ, yet he had to suffer many things in order to remain obedient to God’s will for his life (2 Corinthians 11:23–27). It goes without saying that Paul must have lived with chronic pain from his many beatings and imprisonments. We are not told what his “thorn in the flesh” may have been, but it is entirely possible that it was chronic pain of some sort. He pleaded with the Lord to take it from him, and God’s response has become a source of strength for many sufferers of chronic pain: “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Paul’s strength, no doubt, came from his years of prayer and meditation while in prison.  Recent studies have shown that mindful meditation helps decrease stress and pain. It involves focusing the mind to increase awareness of the present moment. This method, to help cope with pain, can be easily done anywhere, even on the bus.

An example of mindful meditation would be to sit up straight, close your eyes, and put aside all thoughts of the future and past. Stay present and focus on your breathing.

This exercise could be done for just a couple of minutes, letting your thoughts come and go while being aware of your current state. Through performing this kind of exercise, you can create a sense of control, which is crucial in making your pain experience more manageable.

This link provides full information on how to meditate:

How to Meditate to Reach Higher God Consciousness

Paul also wrote that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17, ESV). If Paul could call the abuse he suffered “light momentary affliction,” then we can all take heart and follow suit. He seemed to be saying that those who learn to suffer well will be rewarded grandly for all eternity. God is not standing idly by while His children suffer. He promises to draw near and comfort us when we call to Him (Psalm 34:18; Hosea 6:1). Although chronic pain is exhausting and disheartening, we have God’s promise that it will be worth it when we see Him face to face (Philippians 3:8–111 Corinthians 13:12). Our pain is not pointless when our lives are devoted to God’s will. We can rest in the confidence that He is allowing it for His greater purposes (Romans 8:28) and that soon we will be with Him and free from pain forever (Revelation 21:4).

”Pain has its own noble joy, when it starts a strong consciousness of life, from a stagnant one.” – John Sterling
No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.” – William Penn

Conclusion

The solution for your pain may be waiting for you to discover it, so don’t give up.  Continually pray for relief while putting yourself in God’s hands and accepting His will.  Your pain may be meant to strengthen or teach you something that you can use for yourself, for others or that God can use for His purposes.  If you are healed miraculously, it will certainly strengthen your faith. The following link discusses how and when God performs miracles.

Why Doesn’t God Perform More Miracles?

To get everything you need for life, pain, both physical and emotional, is an absolute necessity. Without pain, you would never truly appreciate what hope is. Without pain, you would too easily forget your need for God. Without pain, you would neglect your need for saving and salvation. Pain heightens your senses and gives you a greater awareness of the more important things in life: love, God, family, hope. If you lived a life completely without pain, there would be a void in your life, a void only filled through the experience that pain gives you.

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Relevant Scripture

If we are not joyful in God, we will be weak. But even if we our physically weak because of a sickness, when our joy is in the Lord, we will be strong (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4, NIV).

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:16-17, NIV).

References

What Does the Bible Say About Enduring Pain by Mark Ballenger

10 Powerful Principles to Endure Suffering by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

What does the Bible say about dealing with chronic pain?

6 Ways Your Pain Has a Purpose By Josh Daffern

The Emotional Impact of the Pain Experience (hss.edu) by Maris Pasquale, LMSW

2 intersecting hearts like puzzle

God’s Love-A Rhapsody of Particulars/Spiritual Meditations

How many ways does God love you? There are so many, is it possible for you to count them?  In Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous poem, “How do I Love Thee?.”  she speaks of a deep and everlasting love.  Much of her sonnet could be written by God to us or by us to God.  Yet it only scratches the surface of God’s love for you.

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

 How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. 
 I love thee to the depth and breadth and height 
 My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight 
 For the ends of being and ideal grace. 
 I love thee to the level of every day’s 
 Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. 
 I love thee freely, as men strive for right. 
 I love thee purely, as they turn from praise. 
 I love thee with the passion put to use 
 In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith. 
 I love thee with a love I seemed to lose 
 With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath, 
 Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose, 
 I shall but love thee better after death. 

My friend Dr. Frank Leeds III shares an enlightening explanation of the multitude of ways that God loves us as unveiled in the Old Testament. You may never have realized what he reveals but you will surely recognize it.


The Universal Elohim & the Particular Hashem

We have all heard the admonition to love. To love one another. To love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. We have all heard definitions of love. What I wish to share with you is what I have learned about God’s love from the Hebrew Scriptures in general and the Torah in particular. It is Rabbinic thinking at its best and most profound to my understanding of the Scriptures.

I wish to use two words that are common in philosophy and are not new to us. They are ‘Universals’ and ‘Particulars’. Please bear with me. When the Bible speaks of the Hebrew word ‘God’ it uses a variety of terms which have different conditions. For example, is uses the term ‘Elohim’ when it refers to the understanding of the Lord as universal. A universal is something that applies to everyone, and equally. An example might be that “The sun shines on the Just and the Unjust alike.” Another example would be Justice. Justice is a Universal. It needs to be applied equally to all people. Whatever your age, sex, nationally, race, etc. “Justice is justice”. Getting a good deal because you are friends with the judge is not justice. It is a perversion of justice.

Hebrew uses another word to refer to God – Hashem. This is God of the particular. It is God being selective. Here we will apply these two concepts, the universal and the particular, to God’s love for us.

Princess Diana Received Only One Kind of Love

Let me give you an example of Universal and Particular love. My wife and I recently watched the TV series entitled “The Crown.” It was about the Royal Family of Great Britain. A great show. I loved it. When it got to Princess Diana, the word ‘love’ can be split into two different kinds. One is universal, the other is particular. Wherever she went in the world, and she did travel extensively, she was universally loved. Everyone in the world seemed to love the princess and at her funeral service she was known as the ‘People’s Princess’.

But she was void of being loved in the ‘particular’ sense of the word. The father of her children did not love her. When she was home, besides her young children, no one cared how she felt. No one appreciated her. No one seemed to care. She was an object to be used, not a person to love. Do you see the difference in these two kinds of love?

Particular Love is Selective

Let me give you another example. Are you married or have ever been married? If you are, or were, you were either chosen or selected by someone to be the special person in their life. Or you were the one who chose or selected someone else to be the special person in your life. Marriage in not universal. One does not marry everyone [although I have some friends that seem to be trying that]. Marriage is particular. It is by design a limiting process. One narrows the choice down in order to love.

Look at the biblical story of Jacob, we see he had two wives. One he chose to marry but his first wife was forced on him by his father-in-law. He second wife, was the first wife’s younger sister. As per the father, it was important that the older sister marry first, therefore Jacob ended up with two wives. The older one Leah and the younger one Rachel. The story also makes it clear that he loved both of them…but…he loved Rachel more. He married Leah out of a ‘universal’ ethical standard. He married Rachel out of the ‘particular of love’.

People tell me the same about being on Facebook. A person has a 1,000 Facebook Friends, but may have no one that really cares one way or the other about them. It is one thing to have a thousand friends, it is another to be blessed with one good friend.

As Jacob’s story develops, he fathers a dozen sons but only one, Joseph, is Rachel’s child. Jacob loves his sons, but Joseph is his favorite. People are often quick to say, “one should not have a favorite child” but that is a distraction to the story. The fact remains, Joseph was his favorite son. He was the favorite for two reasons: He was the son of his old age and he was the son of the wife Rachel whom he loved the most.

Now, if we look at the Song of Solomon, you will notice that the lover notices everything about his loved one. He notices her hair, her eyes, her ears, her neck, etc. Because the lover loves, he notices all things about his loved one. He can recite a Rhapsody of Particulars about his her.

Many years ago, when I was managing a large hospital, one of my elderly board members after a meeting said it was time to go home and “to look his wife over”. That made absolutely no sense to me so I said to him “what does that mean, is she ill?” “Oh no” he said, “I thought I told you the story. When I was a young man about your age, one night a week I played poker with my friends. After one night of playing, poker and having a little too much to drink, I walked into our apartment and said to my wife, who was sitting in a chair, that I was tired and going straight to bed. Shortly thereafter, I received a woman’s scorn that I never want to go through again.

While I was out with the boys, she had fallen and broken her leg. After a visit to the hospital, an ambulance brought her home and she was sitting in a chair with a big cast on her leg, which I failed to notice. So, after that event, as soon as I get home, the first think I do is to check her out! I suggest you do likewise.” I tell you that story because particular love ‘checks her out.’

Our Relationship With God is Particular Love

Our relation to the Lord, and the Lord’s relation to us, is not universal, it is particular. The Lord is interested in “YOU” not merely mankind. How interested in you is the Lord? How checked out are you? The Bible tells us that even the ‘hairs on your head are numbered” which is a metaphor saying God knows all about you. What I am trying to explain in all this is that the love of God is not a floating fog, but a very focused laser that is focused on you.

Appreciating God’s Universal Love

Likewise, our love for the Lord needs to take notice of all that we see and to notice the Lord’s handiwork in all of life, the sunrise in the morning, the food that we eat, the medical experiences that enrich our lives,  etc., etc., and etc., to the sunsets that kiss us goodnight.

Lives Full of God’s Universal and Particular Love

My wife and I have recently moved. It was a move just around the corner. In the first home we saw the sun sets, and now we see the sun rises. And in-between these two universals, we carry with us God’s Rhapsody of Particulars. I now carry my blessings like a bouquet of flowers, ever increasing in gratitude for the way my life has been blessed and that list gets longer and longer, wider and wider, deeper and deeper…and I hope your life is that way too. My hair may have turned gray. My ears do not hear as well. I just had eye surgery to help me see better. The body is falling apart. But the Rhapsody of my blessing is stronger every day.

I hope I have conveyed to you a little of the difference between God’s love as universal and God’s love as a particular. How does our Lord love you? Even the hairs of your head are numbered.

Relevant Scripture

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? (Matt 5:44-46)

The story of Jacob and his wives and children (Gen 29-30)

Solomon’s Song of Songs

man praying

Why Doesn’t God Perform More Miracles?

The recent pandemic has surfaced a theological question that many of us have at least considered.  Will God protect us if we don’t protect ourselves? Are we testing God or trusting God when we ignore recommended precautions and treatments against CoVid19 or other illnesses?  The following is written by my friend Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich in his recent book The Long Road to Eternity. In it he lays out the reasoning and experience behind his answer to these questions.


Behold! The Old George Is Gone.

In the summer of 1989, I was invited to provide a communion service at a large nursing home in the nearby town of Norwich. I was to meet with the administrator of the facility at 11:30, get a tour of the facility, and then have time for lunch and come back and perform the service at 1:30. This was to be another amazing mystical day; I woke up that morning feeling spiritually buoyant. Feeling very close to God, I wrote in my morning diary, “I’m ready for another miracle.”

After arriving at the facility and speaking with the administrator, his assistant followed me out of the office to talk about a problem. I counseled her and her husband for an hour and they both thanked me multiple times for relieving their minds. I was happy to be used by God so effectively and marveled at the set of circumstances that brought the three of us together at that time on that day.

The nursing home was located on top of a hill overlooking the city of Norwich. Since I had half an hour before the start of the service and it was a sunny afternoon, I decided to sit outside in front of the nursing home on the side of the hill facing the sun and the city of Norwich to pray and to think about the message I was about to deliver. As I began to pray, I thought about how low my spirituality had been over the previous month and it caused me to begin to cry. I had been so busy moving and doing the Lord’s work over the last month that I neglected the number one job of a pastor – stay close to the Almighty. My tears were because of my failure to pray regularly, and because of my gratitude for the amazing contrast between that low point of the previous month and how buoyant I now felt. I could feel God with me so powerfully at that moment.

As I prayed, I was also praying for my friend George who was the Lay Leader of one of the churches I pastored; he was battling kidney cancer. He also was a saintly person, a salt-of-the-earth, wonderful guy, full of the fruits of the Spirit. Some months earlier he had a small amount of blood in his urine, but instead of getting it checked out, or even telling anyone about it, he decided that faith required him to let God take care of it. Then one day in the end of May there was suddenly a tremendous amount of blood in his urine. He told me what was going on with him as I was packing to move to a new church. I was upset that he waited to seek medical attention, but I was relieved that at least now he was seeing a doctor.

Unfortunately, the blood in his urine was there because George had an aggressive form of kidney cancer in both kidneys and it was spreading rapidly. George was in the hospital and, as I sat overlooked Norwich, I prayed for George and his wife Olive.  “My prayer for George, Lord, is that he recovers if it is your will.” Suddenly, the sun seemed to be extra bright and time froze just for a moment. I had my head bowed in prayer and, looking up, saw the same beautiful transparent golden substance I had seen in my attic room in Fire Island. It rapidly approaching me until it was right in front of me. This time it did not settle on me or pass over and through me. It was like a curtain – about six feet high and six feet wide and a foot thick, transparent yet like a golden shimmering fog. I heard God’s voice speak from the square, “Behold, the old George is gone; the new George is!” and then the golden substance faded away. I looked at my watch; it was 1:10 p.m. I prayed some more and went in and led the communion service for the retirees.

Coincidently my sermon for that service was entitled, “Holy Fire.” When I arrived to preach and serve communion, the altar candles were not lit. No one there was a smoker so I told the group we could not light the candles. A woman in the service said, “You will have to be our fire today.” Little did she know I was filled with holy fire.

That afternoon at about 3:00 I called Olive.  She said, “George died today.” I asked her what time he passed, she said it was about 1:10 in the afternoon. I told Olive what I had seen and heard that afternoon, but she was only minimally comforted as she was already convinced George was going to heaven.

George had been the main income earner in the household and Olive was confronting both the loss of her husband and the economic turmoil she was going to have to deal with. The rapidity of the progression of the cancer caught everyone by surprise – George went from healthy and seeming fine to gone in a little over two months. Heaven’s joy was Olive’s great loss.

The Theological Lessons

God Happily Awaits Our Arrival in Heaven

The theological lesson in this experience is to realize how happy God is about us having and receiving eternal life. God’s choice of words and the way it was proclaimed, “Behold!” showed how happy He is to receive us into His eternal home.

God Will Not do for Us What We Can do for Ourselves.

George’s flawed decision to not seek medical help until it was too late, based on the belief that God would take care of it, is also a lesson. It is a reminder of one of God’s operating principles – God does not do for us those things which we can do for ourselves. So, if we have blood in our urine, or some other ailment we need to get medical attention. God gives us brains and he wants us to use them, both to obtain healing or to get anything else we need.

It is not a part of God’s plan to be a cosmic lifeguard, jumping into action to miraculously save every believer from every situation, especially when He has already made a way for us to be saved through science, medicine, or technology. God will not save us if we can save ourselves from whatever situation we are in and God will not save us if we have chosen to reject an already established path to safety from whatever calamity is facing us.

When We Can’t Do It, How Much Does God Do?

That goes together with another one of God’s operating principles – God always does the minimum possible to bring about His desired results. He will not send an angel to save you if He can motivate a person to save you. He will not motivate a person to save you if He can reach you through other means like your prayers, Bible readings or the words of another person.  These may cause you to alter your path, so you don’t need saving in the first place.

Why Doesn’t God Perform More Miracles?

It is clear that God loves us, cares deeply about each of us and especially appreciates those who truly love Him. Considering the miracles God is performing, why does He not just do a few more and do all the things that I ask Him to? Why does God not save all His people all the time? It doesn’t seem very loving of God at first glance. The answer is somewhat paradoxical: God limits the use of His power precisely because God loves us and wants to allow us maximum freedom to choose to love Him in return. (See Longing to Reciprocating God’s Astonishing Love)  Stick with me here for a moment; it is a complex answer, but I will make it as clear as I can.

  • God wants us to have faith, to trust and believe in God.
  • If we knew that God would always save us or always give us what we want, then our need for faith would be removed.
  • Doubt and faith live in the same place inside us. How do we know? You can’t have faith if you are filled with doubt and you can’t doubt if you are filled with faith.
  • God wants us to love Him, and love is not real love if it is not given in freedom. True love cannot be compelled.
  • If we could not doubt or question the existence of God, if we knew for absolute certain the reality of God, including fully recognizing His omnipotence and omniscience, then it would take away our freedom to choose to love God: we would be terrified not to obey God. And love is not real love if it is not given freely.
  • Faith itself is a choice. We choose to either give in to doubt or to push doubt aside and trust “where we cannot see.” Thus, faith allows us the freedom to choose to love God or not to love God. So, when we love God in faith our love is not coming from a place of fear or compulsion but out of appreciation, respect, and admiration.
  • God creates the freedom we need to be able to love God freely by creating a space or distance between us. This space inside us is where both doubt and faith live. The separation or distance between God and us reflects the reality that God is Spirit and we are matter. There is a natural divide between these two.
  • Sometimes the freedom to choose God means God needs to keep His hands off things and allow stuff to happen to us that we perceive as negative. If He didn’t keep His hands off, if he saved us every time,  we would know for sure with no doubt that He exists in all His godliness, and again that would remove our ability to love God freely. The things that we perceive as negative that God allows to happen  includes allowing us to receive and experience the consequences of our bad decisions, the consequences of the bad decisions of others, the impact of natural disasters, and the weakness or fragility of our humanity.
  • But God allows these bad things because they are of a small significance compared to the blessing of knowing, experiencing, and loving God in this life, and to the promise of eternity with God in heaven in our life to come.

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Relevant Scripture

Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. (Deut 6:16)

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matt 4:7)

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. (Matt 9:12)

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Heb 11:1)

seedlings in pots

How to Grow Your Faith / Spiritual Meditations

We read that ‘faith can move mountains, yet many of us find we are unable to move anything at all.  How do we increase our faith to the point where we can confidently call on God for the good of others, as well as ourselves, and see results?  How do we develop enough faith to trust and follow God’s direction in our lives?

I wanted to find the Greek meaning of the word we translate as ‘faith’, so I turned to Greek scholar,  W. E. Vine.  He writes that:

The main elements in ‘faith’ in its relation to the invisible God, as distinct from faith in man, are especially brought out in the use of this Greek noun. The elements are (1) a firm conviction providing a full acknowledgement of God’s revelation or truth (2) a personal surrender to him (3) the conduct inspired by such surrender. Emphasis is given to one or other of these elements according to the Biblical context. All this stands in contrast to ‘belief’ in its purely natural exercise, which consists of an opinion held in good faith without necessarily reference to its proof.

In the Old Testament the word ‘faith’ occurs only twice.  It is never just acceptance of a set of doctrines or outward acceptance of the law but is utter confidence in the faithfulness of God and a loving obedience to his will.

The New Testament tells us that the promised Messiah had come, and that Jesus of Nazareth was that Messiah. To believe him meant to become a Christian and was pivotal in the experience of the individual.  Jesus offered himself as the object of faith and made plain that faith in him was necessary for eternal life. He promised to send faith as a “fruit of the Holy Spirit” after he went to the Father. This may be seen in the reborn person’s spirit even at difficult times, not just on their best days.

‘Faith’ may also refer to the body of truth which constitutes the whole of the Christian message, such as in Jude 3:3.

Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed

Like us, the disciples wanted more faith to be able to forgive as they should. Jesus responded by saying that the faith the size of a mustard seed was enough to move a tree into the sea. His response made it clear that only a small increase in faith was required to forgive as He commanded. (Luke 17:1-4)

The same is often true in our own desire to grow in faith. We think we need a giant increase in faith to obey God, but He indicates that simply obeying Him with small steps of increasing faith is more than sufficient.

How Do We Increase Our Faith?

Read the Word

We receive a measure of faith from God, through receiving the Word of God — by studying the Bible.

So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. (Rom 10:17)

Reading or hearing God’s Word is like planting a garden. God’s Word is the seed that grows our garden of faith. Knowing His promises, what God says about you, about life, and about Jesus’ plan for eternal life are the Biblical basis for your faith.  Meditating on its contents will give you the groundwork for growing your faith.

Practice the Word

If we fail to implement our Bible teachings and ignore what God is telling us, then our faith grows stagnant. It took faith for us to become children of God in the first place. Therefore, to grow and increase our faith, we need to use that “measure” of faith, the Bible, which God gives to everyone, and apply it.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22)
What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food,and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James 2:14-17 NIV)

We increase our faith by how we serve God. In Hebrews 11 we read of many great biblical leaders who were known for their faith. In each case, they faithfully served God. Abraham was willing to leave his homeland for a place he did not know. Moses returned to Egypt to free the Israelite slaves. To increase our faith, we are called to serve God in both large and small acts.

Look for practical ways in which you can increase your faith by applying what you know is true.

Associate with Other Christians

Being surrounded by others who are also seeking to grow in faith and recalling examples such as the people mentioned in Hebrews 11, can be of great help to increasing our own faith. Hebrews 12:1-2 says,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Earlier, the writer of Hebrews exhorted, 

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Pray to Increase Your Faith

Prayer is a great way to increase our faith as it helps us maintain an active relationship with God. In prayer we can also ask God to increase our faith. God knows our heart and longs to answer according to His will. Our growth in faith is certainly His will for our lives and a prayer He will grant.

Martin Luther shared some very useful insights on how prayer is more effective when supported by faith and how prayer increases faith:

Prayer is a special exercise of faith. Faith makes the prayer acceptable because it believes that either the prayer will be answered, or that something better will be given instead. This is why James said, “let him who asks of God not waver in faith, for if he wavers, let him not think that he shall receive anything from the Lord.” This is a clear statement which says directly; He who does not trust will receive nothing, neither that for which he asks nor anything better. 

Jesus himself has said, “therefore I say unto you. What things so ever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them.” (Mark 11 )

James said ”you ask and you do not receive because you ask amiss“ (James 4: 3). For when this faith and confidence is not in the prayer, the prayer is dead.

Refer to post on unanswered prayer & waiting on God.

No one can believe how powerful prayer is and what it can affect, except those who have learned it by experience. It is important that we have a need to go to God in prayer. I know, whenever I have prayed earnestly, that I have been heard and have obtained more than I prayed for. God sometimes delays, but he always comes. 

There is no Christian who does not have time to pray without ceasing. But I mean the spiritual praying, that is no one is so heavily burdened with his labor, but that if he will, he can, while working, speak with God in the heart, lay before him his need and that of other men, ask for help, make petition, and in all this exercise and strengthen his faith.

Praying to God with humble, sincere and heartfelt words and thoughts;  Praying throughout your day as you have reasons for praise, guidance or help.  This is when you will see your prayers answered and thus experience a great boost to your faith. The following 2 posts will be help you deepen your connection with God.

Why Doesn’t God Answer My Prayers

3 Steps to Successful Prayer.

I like to keep a journal of the times God has directed me or answered prayer.  If you do the same, you can look back and see the tracks of God’s faithfulness. He truly keeps His Word.  Trusting Him with smaller problems builds our faith and gives us confidence in Him for the harder issues.

Conclusion

As believers, our desire to grow in faith should be accompanied by actions that match this desire. We can grow through applying what we do know, growing in God’s Word, serving God, surrounding ourselves with others who are growing in faith, and prayer. Even a small increase in faith is significant and worth the effort in our walk with God.

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Relevant Scripture

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Heb 11:1)

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. (Luke 17 5-6)

Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. (Matt 15:28)

Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, (2 Cor 10:15)

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. (Heb 4:14)

References

Three Ways to Increase Your Faith (crosswalk.com) by Rebecca Barlow Jordan

What should I do to increase my faith? (compellingtruth.org)

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.

young man and baby girl

Your Joy in Loving A Little Girl! /Spiritual Meditations

You love our children, but what was your first thought when you heard you were going to have one…or another?  It may not fit into your life as you planned it; adjustments need be made; it may not be convenient.  My friend, Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich describes this struggle with God in his book The Long Road to Eternity, now available on Amazon.  Here is that excerpt:


Anna waited to break the news until halftime of the Superbowl when the Giants, my favorite team, were winning. She hoped I would be in a good mood for what she knew I didn’t want to hear. “Tim,” she said, “I have something to tell you.” I took one look at her and somehow, I knew. I said, “You’re pregnant!” She said, “Yes, how did you know?” I didn’t know how I knew, but I did know that hearing that news made me angry; the football game was forgotten.

I was angry for several reasons: this was the third time Anna had gotten pregnant faster than I wanted. I had wanted to wait two full years after we were married to make our first child, but Anna got pregnant 5 months ahead of schedule; then I wanted to wait a full two years before she got pregnant a second time, but she got pregnant 9 months ahead of schedule. This time I had not wanted another child for a long time, if at all.

These were some reasons, but the main reason was that I was convinced we would have another boy. I dearly loved our boys, but it is a vast understatement to say that they were ‘very active’. They never stopped moving, and they were strong willed, which is a polite way of saying they were frequently a giant pain in the posterior.

So, I was really angry. I was angry at Anna, and at myself, because I had something to do with it; but mostly I was angry with God. I felt very strongly that this was His doing because we were using two kinds of birth control and this pregnancy had defeated them both. So, I got up, left the Super Bowl in the living room, and went into the spare bedroom of the house to pray.

I gave God an earful. I said, “God I am really upset, why did you do this to me? I only wanted to have two kids, and now I won’t be able to sleep past 6:30 for the next five years. Now I have to worry about college for three kids! I am so angry; I know you were behind this. It had to be you. Why did you do this to me?”

I continued to complain to God about the same things but in different order. Finally, after at least half an hour of pouring out the reasons for my anger and concern, I stopped. Knowing I should not be angry with God and remembering to accept whatever He had in store for me,  I apologized to God, but was still hurt and upset. However, with acceptance my tone changed; instead of asking God, “Why did you do this?!” I reverted to trusting God and asked with genuine curiosity, “Why did you do this?”   

As soon as my question was asked not with anger but with humility, I heard His clear deep voice speak clearly to answer me. He said, sounding slightly angry or impatient with me, “Because I wanted you know the joy of loving a little girl.” Instantly I went from hurt and upset to thankful and overjoyed. I said, “Wow, I’m going to have a daughter!” As funny as it sounds, it had not occurred to me that the baby could be a girl.

As soon as I heard that we were having a little girl my mood underwent the kind of miraculously rapid and thorough transformation that only a direct intervention from God can do for you. In an instant I went from angry to joy filled, and from unhappy to thrilled. I was caught up in the great good news that I was going to have a daughter, and in the amazing miracle of being spoken to by God again. The passing of time has not decreased my appreciation for the experience of being spoken to by God, and for the good news that he had chosen to bless my life by giving me a daughter. My daughter Hansie has been and continues to be a huge blessing in my life; and I thank God daily both for speaking to me and for the gift that Hansie has been and continues to be for me.

I did not realize it at the time, but God speaking to me was also equipping me to face a huge challenge in my life. As Anna’s pregnancy progressed, she developed preeclampsia, but her doctor somehow didn’t catch it. Anna delivered Hansie by caesarean and while we were still in the delivery room, as soon as the baby was born and before they stitched her up, Anna’s blood pressure began to shoot up until it hit 240. I was watching the monitor; the doctor was not. I said to the anesthetist – “Look her blood pressure is spiking!” He said, “The machine is broken.” I said, “No its not, I have been watching the monitor, it has gone up and up and up!” He gave Anna a shot of something and her blood pressure came down quickly.

A little over two hours later we were in her room, they brought in the baby for her to nurse, and Anna said, “I don’t feel good.” She started nursing anyway; it seemed to be going well. This was the third time we had been through this and a baby breastfeeding was not new to me, so I started reading the newspaper. Just two or three minutes later I heard something hitting the metal side railings of the bed; I looked up and saw that the noise was made by our baby. Anna had dropped the baby because she was having a grand mal seizure.  Scooped up the baby, I quickly pressed the nurse call button about 10 times, and then put my finger in the back of Anna’s jaw to keep her from swallowing her tongue.

Putting my finger back there turned out not to be the right thing to do, both because there was a newer procedure, and because I had a nasty bite mark on my finger for about 2 weeks. Anyway, they called a code on her and the room filled with doctors and nurses. They took the baby from my arms and issued me out the door. Within a few minutes Anna stopped convulsing, but she was unconscious and she remained in a coma for three days. During that time, her kidneys and liver shut down.

At one point I asked the doctor if she would recover and he told me he didn’t know if she would pull through or not, but he said, “she is young and was very healthy before this so her chances of recovery are very good.” I guess if there is anything worse than hearing the doctor say your wife might die, it might be hearing this just after she has given birth. So, I was potentially a widower with three children under 5. But I was completely calm and at peace. The experience of having heard God speak to me so clearly just a few months before and knowing that God had sent me this daughter because he wanted to bless me made me trust in him completely. Whatever he had in store I was going to trust him. I prayed  that God would heal Anna, and said that I was trusting in Him and putting Anna and everything going on with her in His hands.

Fortunately, after three days Anna’s kidneys and liver started working again. First the catheter that had not produced anything for three days suddenly came to life, and soon Anna came out of her coma and became oriented again. Anna quickly recovered from that point. I was so grateful that God blessed me with the wonderful experience of speaking to me which helped me so much in that terrible time. Our baby Hansie is living a wonderful life and we are so proud of her. 

Conclusion

The theological lessons from this experience were:

  • God desires to bless even his most imperfect servants if they are fully committed to giving their life to Him.
  • Trust God especially when we don’t understand what He is doing.

How ironic that not only did I not trust where I did not understand, my first response was anger in the face of this huge blessing that God was giving to me. As I sat in the hospital room with my unconscious wife, whose prognosis was uncertain, I was completely at peace because God had spoken to me, and what a great gift it was.


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Relevant Scripture

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sar′ai your wife, you shall not call her name Sar′ai, but Sarah shall be her name.  I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her; I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “O that Ish′mael might live in thy sight!”  God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. As for Ish′mael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year.” (Gen 17: 15-21)

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechari′ah,[b] of the division of Abi′jah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechari′ah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechari′ah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John….

And Zechari′ah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” (Luke 1:5-20)

You Can Be God’s Called Chosen Elected Faithful Saint /Spiritual Meditations

Have you been called to be a Christian?  Are you one of the Chosen, Elected, Saints or one of the Faithful?  If you don’t know, this post is for you.

One of the largest groups to which many of us belong is that of Christian.  There are more than 2.5 billion Christians in the world.  Yet when we look through the Bible, we find mention of the Called, the Chosen, the Elected, the Saints and the Faithful.  Who exactly are these people and how do they fit into overall Christianity?  Some groups duplicate each other, while others line up in a spiritual progression.

Who are the Called?

In the Greek language of the New Testament, the word for “called” is kletos. It is related to the noun klesis, which means “a calling” and is used “especially to God’s invitation to people to accept the benefits of salvation” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, “Call, Called, Calling”).

It is important to understand that one’s calling is an act of God. Only He calls (invites) someone. That is quite evident in John 6:44 when Jesus told the crowds, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” So, the Called are those who are invited by God to understand His plan, to repent of their sins and to receive His Holy Spirit.

There are several scriptures that speak of a Christian’s calling.

When the apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans, he referred to his audience as “the called of Jesus Christ,” and the “beloved of God, called to be saints” (Romans 1:6-7).
Later, when writing to the Corinthian brethren, Paul wrote: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9).

How were the Disciples Taught about Their Calling?

As you know, Jesus often taught in parables.  Jesus taught about God’s calling in the parable of the sower.

Behold, a sower [a farmer] went out to sow [plant seed]. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear [who can understand] let him hear! (Matthew 13:3-9).

How to Interpret the Parable of the Sower

Like the disciples, not everyone who heard this parable understood what Jesus was talking about. Although the entire multitude heard the same words, different reactions were taking place in those who heard the message.

In the parable, a farmer planting seed is likened to the work done by Jesus Christ and His Church. The seed is the gospel of the Kingdom.

Notice how Jesus explained it:

When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path. (Matt 13:19)

Some people hear the gospel message  and receive it joyfully but without conviction, only to let go of it as soon as it creates a conflict in their lives. Others hear it but neglect to give it the time and attention it needs to thrive.

In other words, not everyone hears the gospel of the Kingdom. And of those who hear it, not everyone understands it. And of those who understand it, not everyone accepts it.

You Can Know if God is Calling You

If you understand what you are learning from the Bible and you see the need to change your life, God is beginning to work with you. If you see a need to obey His Commandments while you see how hard it is for you to do so, God is working with you.

If you do not respond, God will eventually stop working with you. If you respond, God will open your mind even more, and you will begin to build a stronger and stronger connection with Him.  Choosing to respond to God’s calling means embarking on a life of personal spiritual growth. 

The seed only grows in those God is calling and who choose to follow His way of life. 

Who are the Chosen / Elected and how did They Make the Cut?

The word for “chosen” in the Greek language is eklektos, meaning “chosen out, select.” It can also be translated as “elect” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, “Choice, Choose, Chosen”).  This tells us that the Chosen and the Elected are the same people.

Election refers to the concept of how people are chosen for salvation.  Election is based on God’s foreknowledge of those who would believe in Him through faith. In other words, God elected those who would choose Him of their own free will. Conditional election is based on a person’s response to God’s offer of salvation.  You become the Chosen by choosing God; it is a reciprocal relationship.

This is what Christ was telling us when He said,

Many are called, but few are chosen. (Matt 22:2-3).

This may be understood as ‘many are called, but few choose to follow the teachings of Jesus’.  God will not force anyone to respond to His calling against his or her will. It is up to you whether you will respond to His invitation.

This is further explained in Ephesians 1:13:

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.

Of all the people who hear God’s calling, only those who respond with belief, repentance, baptism and receive the Holy Spirit become His Chosen people—His Elect. Then they embark on the Christian life in which they are changed to become more and more like Jesus—being converted.

Responding to God’s Calling is a Lifelong Commitment for the Faithful

Being faithful comes from the Greek word pistos. There are two senses in which this word can be understood. It means “to be trusted, reliable” and, secondly, “active, signifying believing, trusting, relying” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p. 402).

The chosen must be faithful. They must continue to actively believe, obey and rely on God.  The spiritual life is truly a process that requires time, prayer, study, effort, change—and more.   The chosen will need to faithfully endure, both in good and in bad times. But every step taken is greatly rewarding!

Once chosen of God, you may still receive a calling for a particular ministry.  I have friends who have made huge commitments to which God called them.  One lives in Kenya, building a dormitory and school for disabled children.  Another will be going to Sierra Leon to improve the living conditions, including clean water access, for a community.  Another is fostering children.  And another became a minister. Not everyone is urged in such life-changing directions, but everyone has a part in God’s overall plan and their response may play a greater part than they can imagine or will ever know.

As Peter implied, one’s calling must not be neglected. Since the called and chosen have “exceedingly great and precious promises”, it is “for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, … knowledge, … self-control, … perseverance, … godliness, … brotherly kindness, … love” Peter continued, “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:4-8).

The hope of the chosen and faithful is to receive eternal life. It is a belief and trust that is deep within each one of us. Paul reminded Timothy to

lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called (1 Timothy 6:12).

All Christian Believers are Saints.

Saint originates from the Greek word meaning “holy” or “set apart.”  Christians are referred to as saints because, as believers,  they are set apart from the corruption of the world and they are called to be holy.

The New Testament uses the word saint or saints 67 times. In every instance, the reference is to all believers. Never is the word used for a special group of believers who serve God better than others.

And I did so in Jerusalem; I not only shut up many of the saints in prison, by authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. (Acts 26:10)
To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom !:7)
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: (I Cor 1:2)

Conclusion

If you are not sure if you have been called, pray to God continually for clarification until you know.  If you are not sure if you have received the Holy Spirit, pray to God to send the Comforter to you. “Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened” and continue to knock until you know the Counselor has arrived. Once you have received the Holy Spirit you can be assured that you are Chosen/Elected. Then your connection with God begins and will be for you to nurture.  By continuing Bible study, prayer, meditation and listening for God in your daily life, you will gradually have peace, joy and the experience of being one of God’s beloved. You are a saint.

Relevant Scripture

But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions you were taught, whether by word or our epistle (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15).

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful (Colossians 3:12-15).

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you (1 Peter 5:10).

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11).

He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).

 but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”(1 Peter 1:15-16)

References

Many Are Called, but Few are Chosen by Harold Rhodes

Called and Chosen by John Foster 

 What does the Bible say about Christian saints? What are saints? by Compelling Truth

Family Astonished by Son’s Faith Healing /Spiritual Meditations

Have you or someone you know experienced a healing miracle?  Have you known someone who performed a healing miracle?  Many healings can be rationalized as coincidental, but then there is this one.

At the end of “Her Rejection Forced My Forgiveness”, I promised to reveal how Tim and Anna’s relationship resolved.  Since this isn’t a romance novel, I will only say that God brought Anna and Tim back together.  They married and after a couple of years in Hong Kong for Anna’s job, they returned to the USA. 

In the following excerpt from his book The Long Road to Eternity, Pastor Tim describes a miraculous healing during his first year of seminary.


Anna and I moved to Durham North Carolina in the summer of 1984 so that I could attend Duke Divinity School. Within a week of starting school, I was hired as a student associate pastor at Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church. It was my first job as a pastor, and I was completely inexperienced: I had never read a responsive reading in church or led a public prayer. I had read the Bible cover to cover twice but knew virtually nothing substantive about it. I only knew that God had supernaturally confirmed to me that I was supposed to be a pastor, and that gave me all the confidence I needed.

One day I came into work at Trinity and Flo, the office manager, told me the son of a family who attended the church had been in a terrible car accident three days before and they were desperate for a Pastor to visit with them in the hospital. Their son had crashed his car going over 110 mph through downtown Durham and was in a coma. I drove to the hospital past the site of the wreck. It must have been a spectacular collision; his car had hit three or four telephone poles and a brick wall on the side of the road, and his car had been ripped to shreds. I drove slowly past and there were pieces of car scattered all around the accident site: an engine block here, an axel there, a fender somewhere else.

I didn’t see how he could have possibly survived that amazing destruction; it seemed completely miraculous. Getting to the hospital, I found his family in the waiting room. His parents described the accident and the extent of his injuries: his back, arms, and legs were all broken, but the main problem was that his skull was not fractured. Had it been his shaken and bruised brain would have had room to swell. The doctors called it a closed skull injury and said the pressure was causing him to be in a semi-coma.

The situation for the family was brutal and made worse by the agony their son was suffering. His every breath was accompanied by a deep groan. It was unbearable for them, knowing that he was in constant excruciating pain.  They told me, “We have been praying for God to heal him for the last three days, but we can’t bare to see him like this anymore, so we are praying now for God to take him. Will you please pray for God to take him quickly?” No one had ever asked me to pray for someone to die before. I said, “First, let me pray over him and see if God will heal him.” 

The nurses issued me in to see him alone; it was my first ever solo pastoral hospital visit. As I saw the broken telephone pole and the pieces of his car along the side of the road it had certainly seemed like a miracle that he had survived, but when I saw him in his bed, the price of the miracle was plain to see. His face had cuts, scrapes, and bruises all over it; his chest, both arms and legs were in casts. His arms and legs were suspended from poles that ran the length of the bed and his back was also in traction. He was indeed breathing in and letting out a loud heart-wrenching moan with each exhale that could be heard around the whole ICU. I spent a few moments taking in the scene and centering myself for prayer. It was sickening to see the extent of his injuries, and troubling to hear him moan. I could understand why his parents were asking the most horrible thing a parent could ask of God – to take their child.

I walked around his bed praying and taking it all in, and finally I stood at the head of the bed behind his head. I prayed to be worthy of the responsibility of ministering to this young man and his family; I prayed for wisdom, and I prayed for the healing power of Christ to be with me. Then I prayed, “God, you hear the torment this young man is going through, you know the pain it is causing his parents. So, I am asking Father that you cure him or take him, but either way please take this young man and his parents out of their misery.” I prayed that twice and then I felt very strongly that I should do a laying on of hands to pray for his healing. I put my hands one on either side of his head, and I prayed for God to allow me to be a vessel of his healing power, that he would let his healing power flow through me. Then I concentrated on letting the healing power of God flow into me and through me into the young man’s head.

I prayed in this way for about 10 minutes, and as I prayed, I felt strongly that something was happening. I could feel God’s healing power flowing through me into him. I felt it so strongly that I was surprised that when I stopped praying, I could see and hear no change. I shrugged, saddened, and turned to walk out towards the waiting room. I was resigned that since there was no change, I would pray with the family for God to take him. But before I reached the family, a nurse came running out behind me, “He’s stopped! He’s stopped” she told me as she rushed past to tell the family. Finally, the horrible moaning ceased after 72 hours. The family rushed in and I followed behind them. He was still, resting peacefully. He went on to make a full recovery though it took 9 months.

Theological Implications of Healing

The theological implications of this experience are clear; God is a God who responds to the prayers of His people and has the power to heal. Today, I think about our ability to access the healing power of God in this way:

  • There is a door between us and God, the barrier between the spiritual and the physical.
  • There is a lock on the door and our prayer is the key that opens the lock.
  • To release the lock, that key (our prayers) must hit a multitude of tumblers in the lock.

I have identified in the scriptures the bumps on the key;  essentials that must be met to open the door.

  • One of the bumps on the key that is our prayer is for someone that God want to see healed and healed at this time.
  • Another bump: our prayer must be for what is best for the person or situation we are praying for or about.
  • Another bump is that God must want the person who is praying to be the instrument of His grace.
  • Another bump is that the person who is praying must have his or her heart right with God so that when he or she prays they can live into being what Paul called us: temples of the Holy Spirit.

You can refer to “The Key to Effective Prayer” for a discussion of all the bumps on the key.  In this case all the tumblers lined up for this young man; the lock turned, and he was healed.

Conclusion

I would like to point out that it was not Pastor Tim’s extensive Biblical knowledge or pastoral experience that allowed him to be an instrument of God’s healing.  It was his personal connection with God that was the conduit for this miracle.  If you would like to develop a closer relationship with God a good place to start is by reading and practicing what you will find in:

How to Meditate to Reach Higher God Consciousness 

A Clear Mind Improves God Awareness

Demystifying Spiritual Growth

Are You Listening to God’s Messages?

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Relevant Scripture

There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days.  His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. (Acts 28:7-9)

Reference

The Long Road to Eternity by Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich
Hands holding bubbled tree

10 Ways to Save God’s Priceless Creation / Spiritual Meditations

Whether you take the Creation Story literally, believe God created the Big Bang or have another theory, Genesis tells us that God created all that is. And one does not have to look far to realize the amazing intricacies and magnificence of nature as a confirmation of this.

The earth is full of the glory of God. It is given to us to see, to hear, to taste, to touch, to smell and to enjoy. Thus, when you see the glorious sunsets, it is not just a thing of beauty, it is the Lords way of seducing us or calling us to himself. Likewise, the cool breeze stirring the trees, the birds that we see coasting on the air and the music they bring to us. The color and taste of food is all about seduction; it is the Lord calling to us and is part of what it means for God to be one with us, Emmanuel.  The more we recognizes the presence of the Lord via our senses, the greater is the context of the gospel understood.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Gen 1:24)
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food…. everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. (Gen 1:29-30)

All of it is ours, not only for our enjoyment but for our sustenance which means we need to maintain it to survive.  This is something that we have increasingly neglected to do, either through ignorance or greed, until we are on the brink of world-wide food deprivation as you will see later in this article.  And renewable energy alone isn’t going to solve the problem; in fact, it may create new problems as will be explained shortly.


What Have We Done to God’s Garden?

According to David Attenburrough  in his film “A Life on Our Planet”, our impact is global. Our assault on the planet has come to alter the fundamentals of the living world.

  • We are experiencing the fastest warming of the earth in the last 10,000 years. The oceans can’t absorb the excess heat caused by our activities. Sea ice in the Arctic has reduced by 40% in 40 years. Carbon that we’ve already put into the atmosphere will take decades to centuries to reduce. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution in 1750 we have put 1000 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Reducing emissions alone will do little to remove it.
  • We’ve overfished 30% of fish stocks to critical levels.
  • We cut down 15 billion trees each year. 
  • By damming, polluting, and over extracting rivers and lakes we’ve reduced the size of freshwater populations by over 80%. 
  • 1/2 of fertile land on earth is farmland, which typically eliminates biodiversity.
  • 70% of birds on the planet our domestic birds – mostly chickens.
  • 60% of the animals on earth we raise to eat.
  • Since the 1950s our wild animal population has been more than cut in half. We replace the wild with the tame.

The planet is run by humans for humans – there is little left for the rest of the living world. We have nearly destroyed the nonhuman world. If we continue our current trajectory:

  • The Amazon rainforest will become a dry savanna, resulting in a loss of species and the water that is contributed to the global water cycle.  60% of our rain come from the oceans, 40% from smaller inland water cycles.  We are losing these microclimates.
  • The Arctic will become ice free in the summer, therefore less of the sun’s energy will be reflected out to space. Without the reflection from the polar caps global warming will increase. In the North, frozen soils will thaw releasing methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide, exacerbating climate change dramatically.
  • As oceans heat and become more acidic, coral reefs will die and fish populations will crash.
  • Global food production will enter a crisis as soils are overused. Pesticides are causing pollinating insects to disappear.  According to the UN the world’s remaining topsoil will be gone within 60 years. So, in other words, we have 60 harvests left. As fertile farmland turns to dirt, the disappearing water evaporation produced by plants will cause weather to become more and more unpredictable. 
  • The earth will become 4C degrees (39F) warmer resulting in regions becoming uninhabitable. 2/3 of the earth is turning to dessert with 40,000,000 people every year being pushed off their land as a result. Poor land leads to poor people, increased flooding and droughts, mass migration across borders and into cities and ideal conditions for recruitment. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be 1 billion refugees due to soil desertification. This is the beginning of a 6th mass extinction.

The Important Role of Soil

Erosion is caused by plowing and tilling the soil. Historically, civilizations have died because they’ve overworked the land around them. In the 1930s the United States experienced the worst environmental disaster in history (the Dust Bowl), as 200 million acres of cropland was permanently damaged. President Franklin D Roosevelt started the soil conservation service, now part of the Department of Agriculture. The division is called the National Resources Conservation Services (NRCS).

As the NRCS teaches farmers, carbon is pulled out of the atmosphere by plants. 40% of that carbon goes to the roots which feed the microorganisms and goes into the soil where a universe of life exists. In every handful of soil there are more organisms than the number of people who were ever lived on earth.  And this healthier soil holds and uses the  greenhouse gases creating healthy plants without chemicals. With healthier plants you have healthier animals and humans.  The plants also increase the rainfall cycles which creates a more consistent climate.

Our health and the health of our planet are connected. We humans are made up of 99% organisms. Taking care of organisms in soil, the source of our nourishment, is connected to human health. Toxic chemicals put on soil causes them to be almost devoid of microorganisms. Makes you wonder what our food is putting into our bodies.  Since chemical agriculture ramped up in the 1970s there has been a worldwide loss of 1/3 of the earth’s topsoil. As soil is turned into dirt, carbon dioxide goes back to the atmosphere, especially in the spring when fields are tilled  as evidenced by NASA photographs from space.  Desertification is the result – when fertile land is turned into desert.

Some say we will never be able to remove the CO2 that we have already caused.  But through drawdown agriculture, it is possible.  Project Drawdown estimates that regenerative agricultural practices such as the NRCS teaches, could be practiced on up to 332 million hectares by 2050 (from 11.84 million hectares today), which would result in a reduction of up to 22.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide, with an enormous return of financial investments.

If we can achieve drawdown (pulling  CO2 back into the soil through regeneration) by planting farms and trees without pesticides and nitrates we can grow more food per acre and expect the beginning of climate cooling in 20 years. And farmers can make more money without government subsidies.

What Else Can We Do to Restore God’s Garden?

We can restore biodiversity everywhere.

The world cannot function without a healthy ocean. it’s a critical ally in reducing carbon in the atmosphere and the more diversity the better it does that job. The ocean is important as a source of food. If we do fishing right, it will continue to be. Coral reefs are important for fish populations so they must be protected. No fishing zones over 1/3 of the world’s coasts will allow fish to increase and spillover to fishing zones thereby providing all the fish we will need.

As nations develop, people choose to have fewer children as can be seen in Japan during the second half of the 20th century.  By raising people out of poverty, giving everyone access to health care and keeping girls in school longer, we can make the world-wide population peak sooner and at a lower level. This improves the global standard of living without increasing human impact on the earth.

We can reduce areas needed for farming by changing our diet. When we choose meat, we are demanding a huge expanse of space to raise the animals. If we had a plant-based diet, we would only need half of the land  used today and we could increase the yield through education. The Netherlands have multiplied food production by 10 while using less water, fertilizer, and pesticides. They are now the world’s second largest exporter of food while using less land.

We can reverse the land grab. Forests are necessary for locking carbon and are centers for biodiversity.  100 years ago, Costa Rica consisted of 3/4 forest. In the 1980s logging reduce that to ¼.  The government offered grants to plant native trees and it only took 25 years for forests to cover 1/2 of Costa Rica. Imagine if this were done on a  global scale. Some say that the planet would absorb 2/3 of the CO2 that we have created by our activities to date.

We can phase out fossil fuels and move to solar, wind, geothermal and waterpower. Morocco now generates 40% of their power from renewable power plants – in the 1900s the country solely used oil and gas energy. They now have the world’s largest solar farm. With renewable energy we will never run out and cities will be quieter and cleaner. But there are some concerns.

Are Renewable Energy Sources the Best We Can Do?

Problems with renewable wind and solar energy include environmental issues related to the transmission lines running from the solar & turbine fields to the cities and the amount of land needed for the fields. Renewables have been resisted by conservation biologists concerned about the large birds, bats, and other animals. To build a solar farm you must clear whole areas of any animals. It is estimated that 6000 birds are killed every year over solar fields because their catch on fire.

Wind and solar energy can only provide electricity for 20- 30% of the year.  The variability of solar and wind production will require a supplement of natural gas, which increases carbon emissions, or hydroelectric.

Solar and wind electricity is more expensive than nuclear as noted by the 4x increase in cost to California residents as compared to the rest of the US and Germany. France, on the other hand, uses 75% nuclear power, which is more reliable.

But are nuclear plants safe and what do we do with the waste? You may remember the nuclear power plant fiascos at Chernobyl and Japan. However, with technological improvements  scientific studies that have been conducted over the past 40 years now say that nuclear energy is the safest. According to the WHO, 7 million people die each year from air pollution. Nuclear plants do not emit any pollution. Uranium fuel is energy dense and therefore more efficient and takes up less space. You don’t need much land for a nuclear plant. Solar energy fields require 17 times the space and 17 times the materials to generate the same power as a  nuclear plant.   According to Michael Shellenberger in his Ted Talk, the waste from nuclear power only fills a room the size of an auditorium. 

Another concern is that when solar panels reach the end of their life it is expected that they will end up being shipped to poor countries as are expired electronics. There are toxic elements in the solar panels that will be difficult to get rid of.

What Can You Do?

  1. Compost to enrich the soil
  2. Plant trees
  3. Recycle
  4. Don’t overfish
  5. If you are a farmer, stop tilling / plowing the soil but use regenerative techniques instead 
  6. Conserve biodiversity
  7. Don’t pollute water
  8. Reduce poverty and provide health care to reduce the population stress on the planet
  9. Convert to a plant-based diet
  10. Buy organically grown wherever possible (for the health of your body & planet)

Just choose 1 or 2 that you feel you can work toward and share this post with your friends so they can do the same. Together we can make a difference.

Conclusion

Nature is our biggest ally in the fight against global warming and food deprivation. If we take care of nature, it will take care of us. We need to live not apart from nature but to be a part of nature. This is about saving ourselves. God gave us all that we need to do so.  It is up to us to be good stewards of those gifts.

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Relevant Scripture

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was chaos and waste, darkness was on the surface of the deep, and the Ruach Elohim was hovering upon the surface of the water.

Then God said, “Let there be light!” and there was light. God saw that the light was good. So God distinguished the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness He called “night.” So there was evening and there was morning—one day.

Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the water! Let it be for separating water from water.” So God made the expanse and it separated the water that was below the expanse from the water that was over the expanse. And it happened so. God called the expanse “sky.” So there was evening and there was morning—a second day. Then God said, “Let the water below the sky be gathered to one place. Let the dry ground appear.” And it happened so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the collection of the water He called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

14 Then God said, “Let lights in the expanse of the sky be for separating the day from the night. They will be for signs and for seasons and for days and years. 15 They will be for lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the land.” And it happened so. 16 Then God made the two great lights—the greater light for dominion over the day, and the lesser light as well as the stars for dominion over the night. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to shine on the land 18 and to have dominion over the day and over the night and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 So there was evening and there was morning—a fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. (Gen 1)

References

Honest, revealing, and urgent, DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: A LIFE ON OUR PLANET (2020) is a powerful first-hand account of humanity’s impact on nature and a message of hope for future generations. Created by award-winning natural history filmmakers Silverback Films and global conservation organization WWF.   As of Dec 2020, this movie was available on Netflix.  https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11989890

Narrated and featuring Woody Harrelson, Kiss the Ground is an inspiring and groundbreaking film that reveals the first viable solution to our climate crisis. Kiss the Ground reveals that, by regenerating the world’s soils, we can completely and rapidly stabilize Earth’s climate, restore lost ecosystems and create abundant food supplies. As of Dec 2020, this movie was available on Netflix.  https://kissthegroundmovie.com

Why Renewables Can’t Save the Planet – (Ted Talk) by Michael Shellenberger https://youtu.be/N-yALPEpV4w

Her Rejection Forced My Forgiveness / Spiritual Meditations

As we approach the end of 2020, many of us will formulate new year resolutions.  An overabundance of these will relate to our physical improvement.  Although our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, let’s also take a serious look at improving our inner Being as well. 

The following experience, as related by my friend Timothy W. Ehrlich in his book The Long Road to Eternity, shows us how important it is to God that we forgive others and the joy it will give us to do so.

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.  Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. (Acts 2:2-3)

I flew back to New York practically not needing a plane: the vows we exchanged on the Peak went through my head again and again. I felt that we were truly married in the eyes of God, if not in the laws of man. I was so head over heels in love with Anna; she was so incredibly beautiful, so intelligent, and so talented. I was amazed that her talents as a banker were getting us both over to Hong Kong, to live in a huge apartment paid for by her bank. I began working extra hours as a bartender in addition to being the bouncer, so I could save up some extra money for the move.

Bartenders got a lot of quarters in tips in those days, and I saved the quarters I got from tips to use in the Schooner’s payphone (this being the era before cell phones when almost every business had a coin operated payphone). It cost $12 for an initial few minutes to call Hong Kong, and a dollar or two every minute after that. I accumulated enough quarters to speak with her every few days. 

One morning in August I called Anna at 10 a.m. my time, 10 p.m. her time; twelve dollars in quarters into the pay phone. There was no answer when I knew she should be home. The same thing happened the next morning when I called. Finally, the third day I reached her. Somehow, I knew what she was going to tell me, but it was still a shock to hear it: “I have decided I don’t want to be married to you.” I was stunned. I managed to ask why. She said, “I don’t want to be married to anybody right now, the opportunity here is too big and the job is too demanding, and I don’t want to be married.” I asked, “Is that it? Are we done? You are breaking up with me for good?” She said, “We can still be friends, I’m sorry if I hurt you but I need to do what is best for me.” She said she would be staying in Hong Kong for at least the next three years.

I literally felt like she had died. The breakup was as sudden and terrible as a fatal car crash, but even a little worse, in that she had chosen it. This was a rejection with no second chances; her declaration that she was staying in Hong Kong for the next three years meant that realistically I would probably never see her again. We had been together two years, but in two minutes I had gone from a head-over-heels in love guy about to get married, to a head-over-heels in love guy, whose love had been rejected and whose lover was 12,000 miles away and never coming back.

I said goodbye to Anna believing it was the last time I would ever speak with her and went upstairs to my room in the attic of the Schooner, to lay down on my bed. It was the lowest moment of my entire life. I was in the greatest emotional pain I have ever experienced. It was all at the same time a sudden and unexpected death of a two-year relationship, a rejection of my love, and a cancellation of my plans for a fantastic future life in Hong Kong. I was a mess; tons of negative emotions swept over me. The one constant emotion was pain; I felt like I was in a world of pain that I could not escape; everywhere I looked all I could see was more darkness and pain. I began to pray to ask God to help me with my pain.

Getting the Heart Right With God

In several instances when I was in emotional pain, God had pretty quickly answered my prayers,  but not this time. For an hour I lay on my bed praying for relief from the pain of my broken heart, but after an hour I felt no better. I was surprised; usually I can count on feeling better after an hour of prayer, but I was absolutely no better off.  I prayed, “God, I have been praying for an hour and I feel no better. I don’t understand why you haven’t answered me, never-the-less, I trust in you.” Instantly, I could hear these words from the Lord’s Prayer echo in my head; 

“forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…’ for if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your father in heaven forgive you for yours.” 

This was not God speaking but it was God calling to my attention the thing that was blocking out His Holy Spirit from giving me the help I needed. For years I had been neglecting forgiving others.

Hearing the words of the Lord’s prayer and Jesus’ explanation at the end of the prayer in the  context of my current situation, made me realize my hypocrisy; here I was asking God for help, yet I had not obeyed one of the central teachings of Jesus – a teaching that I repeated in the Lord’s prayer almost every day for last five years: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In that moment I suddenly realized that there were many people, at least a dozen I had not forgiven, and against whom I was currently holding a grudge or otherwise was still angry at. In my mind I began to see the face after face of the people I had not forgiven. So, I set about forgiving each one.

One at a time I pictured the face of every person I was holding a grudge against. I was either deeply hurt by that person, or still very angry at that them and had not forgiven them.

I started with Anna and there were many things I was angry with or hurt by or both. Picturing Anna I thought about all the reasons why I was still angry at her. I thought of everything I thought she had done to me that I thought was wrong, and then I gave my hurt and my anger up to God by actually saying the words in my head, “God I am really angry at Anna for…., so I am letting go of that anger and giving it to you. Please take this burden from me.” Then I would think of the next thing I was angry about or hurt by that she had done, and I repeated that formula until I had forgiven her for every single thing I was hurt, sad or angry about. Then I thanked God and moved to the next person.

It was not as easy to forgive Anna as I just made it sound. Before moving on from one hurt to the next, I first would pause and try to feel in my heart if I had truly forgiven her for whatever it was and if I had truly let go of it, or if I still felt anger or hurt when I thought of it. Most of the time on my first try the forgiveness I was saying in my mind didn’t make it down into my heart. Did you know you can forgive someone with sincere effort but not have your forgiveness of that person make the trip between your mind (where you have decided to forgive the person) and your heart where the pain is?

I was not going to settle for that; some of the things I was so hurt by or angry about that I would have to go back and repeat the whole process three or four times until I could truly feel in my heart that I had forgiven her and truly had let go of it.

After I had truly forgiven Anna completely, I repeated that same process for every person I could think of that I was still angry at or hurt by. God helped me bring them to mind. I would say, I forgive you John or Jane or whatever that person’s name was. Then I would see how I was feeling in my heart. If I could feel in my heart that I had truly forgiven the person I would smile and go on to the next person. If I did not feel full forgiveness for that person in my heart I would start at the beginning with that person and go frame by frame picturing in my mind the event or events I was angry about or hurt by and forgiving and giving it up to God until I could feel peace in my heart towards that person.

Anna was the hardest to forgive, after forgiving her the others were easier; but it still took a long time because there were so many people I had not forgiven. The next up was the guy who pushed a chair into me in Sunday school and broke one of my front teeth when I was 12. I forgave him. Next was the across-the-street neighbor from my childhood home who I detested for regularly punishing his two children, my friends Lori and Skipper, with his thick leather belt; I forgave him. There were a few people in the Marine Corps I thought of with anger, so I forgave each of them.  I was surprised at how many people I was carrying bad feelings in my heart towards.

It took about an hour but finally I had dredged up every bit of buried anger and resentment I was holding onto against every person I could think of until I had forgiven every person attached to each of those memories.

I lay there on the bed feeling drained but so much lighter, realizing how heavy unresolved anger and hurt are when you carry them around!   I said, “Wow, I did it! I forgave them all!” I set down a huge burden I had been carrying in some cases for over a dozen years. The pain of losing Anna was still there, but I had forgiven her entirely. Even though I was still heartbroken, I felt I had really accomplished something very good and memorable:

Finishing all that forgiveness, my heart was right with God, and I didn’t know it but that was what God was waiting for. I said to God in prayer, “Well Father, I have forgiven everyone, but I still feel such pain.” Immediately I heard the wind begin to blow above the roof. The noise of the blowing wind increased getting louder and louder until it was roaring.

The Holy Spirit Descends

I was lying on my bed on my back looking up at the ceiling. The ceiling in my attic room was the underside of the roof and looked pretty flimsy compared to the volume of wind so, I was deeply afraid that the roof was going to blow off.  Suddenly, in an instant the wind completely died, and the room became silent.  At that same moment, a golden, glowing, translucent, shimmering substance started coming down through the roof across the whole ceiling.

It came into the room kind of like a flat cloud descending slowly across the whole attic at once. As the edge of the golden substance was slowly coming down towards me, I could see the roof beams and nails through it. Feeling no fear, I was amazed as the edge of the beautiful golden, shimmering substance moving steadily downwards passed over me as it moved down to the floor; and then the whole attic was filled with it, ceiling to floor and wall to wall, but I could still see through it.

As the front edge passed over me, I was filled with complete joy and peace. I realized – this is the Holy Spirit! I could feel it passing through me and staying in me. Then I was shocked and amazed as I realized I wasn’t in pain. I thought, “Where is the pain?!!” Just seconds before I had been in the worst emotional pain of my life, I felt like the whole world was pain and darkness and my heart was broken. Now I realized there was still a little pain, but it had shrunken to what felt like the size of a golf ball. It was amazing that the pain now seemed tiny compared to the amazing joy!

As soon as I realized that my pain was all but gone, the golden shimmering substance started to rise back up from the floor. I did not want it to leave, but at the same speed it came down into the room it now went back up passing my bed, then above me and slowly rose right up through the ceiling and was gone. The wind immediately began to blow loudly again for a few seconds, then it faded way and there was silence again. I found myself grinning from ear to ear.

I lay there staring at the ceiling for quite a few minutes enjoying the wonderful feelings sweeping over me: relief from the pain of loss, lightness from all the forgiveness, and joy from what I had just experienced: hearing, seeing and being immersed in the Holy Spirit. 

I sat up at the foot of my bed grinning and looked out the little attic window facing towards the ferry dock. I remember thinking, “Now what should I do?” What do you do at a moment like that? I was kind of in shock, I felt overpowering happiness, I could not stop smiling; I was trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I had just experienced the Holy Spirit coming to me to wipe away my pain. People go into shock from being suddenly wounded or injured so I suppose it is not surprising to go into shock from being suddenly healed.

I got up still in shock, went outside and walked over the ferry dock next-door to try and find someone to talk to. I was so happy and hoped to find a Christian person to share what just happened to me with but there was no one. Never-the-less, for three whole days afterwards I could not stop smiling.

I have had many wonderful spiritual and secular experiences in my life, but this was the best; that moment has given me strength for the rest of my life. It was years later before learning enough to realize that God had given me my own personal Pentecost: I heard the loud wind then something that kind of looked like tongues of flame descended, and I was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

Though emotionally destroyed when Anna broke up with me, I now know what a good thing it was. It took years to fully realize what an unhealthy place I was in at that time both spiritually and emotionally. Before she broke up with me, I was unbalanced spiritually in that I loved Anna more than I loved God. I know now that it is a form of idolatry to love a person more that you love God, but at the time it was great fun to feel that much love for someone – it was intoxicating.

When you love a person more than you love God it creates an emotional problem as well. A human being is not God; therefore, neither is any person (other than Jesus) worthy of worship. If you love a person more than you love God what you are doing is loving the creation more than the creator, and that is suspending reason and logic to such a degree as to make you emotionally unbalanced. I was so attached to Anna emotionally that when she distanced herself from me, my emotional attachment pulled and dragged me over and I fell flat on my face.

God’s number one commandment by volume in the Bible is not as you might think it would be: to love God, or to obey God. The most commonly given commandment is – the first of the ten commandments:

“I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. “You must not have any other god but me.(Exodus 20:2-3)

So, God used Anna breaking up with me, the worst pain I ever experienced, to help me rebalance myself spiritually and emotionally, and at the same time giving me the best spiritual experience of my life. That day I put God in the place in my heart where He should have been, and He has remained first in my heart ever since. To this day I thank God every day for giving me my own Pentecost experience, hearing and seeing and feeling the Holy Spirit.


The culmination of Tim and Anna’s relationship will be revealed in a future post.

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