What Did Jesus Look Like? / Spiritual Meditation

Jesus Christ is one of the most painted figures in Western art. But what do we really know about his appearance?

Visions of Jesus

Two friends have seen visions of Jesus, one during a coma, the other in an awakened state.  Their descriptions indicate that Jesus was surrounded by a very bright light and had white shining hair and clothing.  He was seen to smile and have compassionate eyes.  One friend, Matthew, said Jesus was much like what is described in the book of Revelation with bronze feet and hands.  You can watch his full testimony at

A Testimony – Witnessing Jesus Face to Face – YouTube.

A description of my friend Timothy’s vision is described in

India Pilgrimage Yields Vision of Jesus.       

Although, most of us will not see Jesus until we enter the pearly gates, Sarah Pruitt shares with us how history and archeology portray Jesus.

For centuries, the most common Western image of Jesus has been that of a bearded, fair-skinned man with long, wavy, light brown or blond hair and (often) blue eyes. But the Bible doesn’t describe Jesus physically, and all the evidence we have indicates he probably looked very different from this portrayal.

What Does the Bible Say About Jesus’ appearance?

The Bible says little about Christ’s physical appearance. Most of what we know about Jesus comes from the first four books of the New Testament, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Because Jesus was a Jewish man born in Bethlehem and raised in the town of Nazareth during the first century A.D., we can assume that he looked like a Jewish Galilean of that time.

We know Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his ministry (Luke 3:23), but the Bible tells us virtually nothing about what he looked like―except that he didn’t stand out in any particular way. When Jesus was apprehended in the garden of Gethsemane before the Crucifixion (Matthew 26:47-56), Judas Iscariot had to point him out to the arresting soldiers, as he was indistinguishable from the disciples―presumably because they all appeared similar to each other.

For some scholars, Revelation 1:14-15 offers a clue that Jesus’s skin was a darker hue and that his hair was woolly in texture. The hairs of his head, it says, “were white as white wool, white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace.”

How Have Depictions of Jesus Changed Over the Centuries?

Some of the earliest known artistic representations of Jesus date to the mid-third century A.D., more than two centuries after his death. These are the paintings in the ancient catacombs of St. Domitilla in Rome, first discovered some 400 years ago. Reflecting one of the most common images of Jesus at the time, the paintings depict Jesus as the Good Shepherd, a young, short-haired, beardless man with a lamb around his shoulders.

The restored fresco depicting Jesus and his apostles in the Roman catacomb of Santa Domitilla. (Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)

Another early portrait of Jesus was discovered in 2018 on the walls of a ruined church in southern Israel. Painted in the sixth century A.D., it is the earliest known image of Christ found in Israel, Though exposure to the sun over centuries has reduced the image found in the ancient village of Shivta to little more than faint outlines and smudges of color, discoverer and art historian Maayan-Fanar describe the image as a young man with “short curly hair, a prolonged face, large eyes and an elongated nose.” a depiction that was common to the eastern region of the Byzantine empire―especially in Egypt and the Syria-Palestine region―but disappeared from later Byzantine art.

The long-haired, bearded image of Jesus that emerged beginning in the fourth century A.D. was influenced heavily by representations of Greek and Roman gods, particularly the all-powerful Greek god Zeus. At that point, Jesus started to appear in a long robe, seated on a throne (such as in the fifth-century mosaic on the altar of the Santa Pudenziana church in Rome), sometimes with a halo surrounding his head.

“The point of these images was never to show Jesus as a man, but to make theological points about who Jesus was as Christ (King, Judge) and divine Son,” Joan Taylor, professor of Christian origins and second temple Judaism at King’s College London, wrote in The Irish Times. “They have evolved over time to the standard ‘Jesus’ we recognize.”

Of course, not all images of Jesus conform to the dominant image of him portrayed in Western art. In fact, many different cultures around the world have depicted him, visually at least, as one of their own. “Cultures tend to portray prominent religious figures to look like the dominant racial identity,” explains Robert Cargill, assistant professor of classics and religious studies at the University of Iowa and editor of Biblical Archaeology Review.

What Is the Shroud of Turin?

Of the many possible relics related to Jesus that have surfaced over the centuries, one of the most well-known is the Shroud of Turin, which surfaced in 1354. Believers argued that Jesus was wrapped in the piece of linen after he was crucified, and that the shroud bears the clear image of his face. But many experts have dismissed the shroud as a fake, and the Vatican itself refers to it as an “icon” rather than a relic.

A negative image of the Shroud of Turin.  (Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

“The Shroud of Turin has been debunked on a couple of occasions as a medieval forgery,” says Cargill, “It’s part of a larger phenomenon that has been around since Jesus himself, of attempting to acquire and, if they can’t be acquired, to produce, objects that are part of Jesus’ body, life and ministry—for the purposes of either legitimizing his existence and the claims made about him, or in some cases, harnessing his miraculous powers.”

What Research and Science Tell Us About What Jesus Looked Like

In 2001, the retired medical artist Richard Neave led a team of Israeli and British forensic anthropologists and computer programmers in creating a new image of Jesus, based on an Israeli skull dating to the first century A.D., computer modeling and their knowledge of what Jewish people looked like at the time. Though no one claims it’s an exact reconstruction of what Jesus himself actually looked like, scholars consider this image—around five feet tall, with darker skin, dark eyes, and shorter, curlier hair—to be more accurate than many artistic depictions of the son of God.

In her 2018 book What Did Jesus Look Like?, Taylor used archaeological remains, historical texts and ancient Egyptian funerary art to conclude that, like most people in Judea and Egypt around the time, Jesus most likely had brown eyes, dark brown to black hair and olive-brown skin. He may have stood about 5-ft.-5-in. (166 cm) tall, the average man’s height at the time.

Conclusion

While Cargill agrees that these more recent images of Jesus—including darker, perhaps curlier hair, darker skin and dark eyes—probably come closer to the truth, he stresses that we can never really know exactly what Jesus looked like.

“What did Jewish Galileans look like 2,000 years ago?” he asks. “That’s the question. They probably didn’t have blue eyes and blond hair.”

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Relevant Scripture

The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. (Rev 1:14-15)

References

The Ongoing Mystery of Jesus’s Face by Sarah Pruitt What Did Jesus Look Like? – HISTORY

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

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.

If you found this post interesting, inspiring, informative, or useful, please follow us and share.  Many more posts to feed your soul can be found on the Navigation Menu.  God bless you.

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.

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

Jesus in clouds

India Pilgrimage Yields Vision of Jesus /Spiritual Meditations

Have you ever had a spiritual experience that confirmed for you the existence of God?  In the ‘Spiritual Experiences’ category on the Navigation Menu you will find several firsthand accounts from people who have experienced God’s presence. One of them is entitled “A Miraculous Intervention by Accident”. It reveals a young man’s promise to turn his life over to God in exchange for God’s miraculous healing of the young man’s critically injured sister.  The following account is the sequel to that post and reveals the young man’s unconventional search for God in India.


Timmy writes:

After God had healed my sister and baptized me with the Holy Spirit, my senior year at Barlow High School was focused on trying to get answers to these questions:

  • What was the meaning of what had happened to me?
  • What did God want me to do with the life of service that I had committed to Him?
  • How could I learn more about God?

I spent time reading and re-reading two books: The Bible and Be Here Now, a book by the former Dr. Richard Alpert, (now Ram Dass). The story line of Be Here Now is that Alpert had gone to India to meet a holy man, the guru Neem Karoli Baba, who he had read could perform miracles like Christ. His encounter with the holy man convinced him of the guru’s miraculous abilities and their encounter so transformed him that he gave up his job as a professor at Harvard to become a disciple of the holy man. The main point of his book was that all of us can achieve Christ consciousness and amazing spiritual power if we will follow the Buddhist Eightfold Path (right effort, right thought, right employment etc.) and use spiritual disciplines and practices outlined in the book, such as meditation.

The religious philosophy of Be Here Now is that of Zen Buddhism that God is an impersonal power in all and through all, which we can tap into through carefully following Buddha’s Eightfold Path. I already knew that God was not an impersonal God because God heard my prayer and healed my sister, but I was interested in Zen Buddhism because of their spiritual disciplines and the practices they promoted to help one attain Christ consciousness.

Alpert reported that practitioners of the spiritual techniques of Zen Buddhism were able to achieve real spiritual power and obtain amazing spiritual experiences. In contrast, Christianity does not offer an Eight-fold path or any systematic plan to attain Christ consciousness or having the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). The key point was that Neem Karoli Baba could allegedly perform miracles like Christ; that was fascinating to me and I hoped it was true.

The weight of my experience and my commitment to God was continually pressing on my mind; it pressed so hard that by the time I graduated from high school everything else seemed trivial in comparison. I knew that I must, for the sake of my sanity, my peace of mind, and my personal integrity find proof that God is real so that I could get on with the process of giving the rest of my life to God in whatever form that was going to take.

When I graduated from high school in June of 1974 my only goal was saving enough money to enable me to go to India, meet the holy man, and if I was convinced that he actually could perform miracles like Christ then I would know that he would be able tell me if God was real, and thus I could put my mind at ease about serving God for the rest of my life.

I immediately started working at a job my father got me, as a dishwasher in a pub on Fire Island NY, working 6-8 hours a day for minimum wage. Fortunately, within two weeks, due to a happy set of circumstances, I was promoted to bartender. The pub I was working in, the Schooner Inn was at that time a transplanted British pub. It had about six tables and the bar itself could seat only about a dozen. It had a limited menu, and the bartender was also the cook and the waiter.

I opened the bar every day at noon and I closed it at midnight on the weekdays and 4:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Working those long hours, six days a week I was able to save enough money so that by the time the beach season ended in early October I had enough saved for a round trip ticket and living expenses for, at least, a three month stay in India. I will never forget Peter’s typical English reaction when I told him my plans; he announced to everyone in the bar, “Bloody Timmy’s going to bloody India to see the bloody guru!”

I flew to New Delhi in October 1974. My plan was to spend a few days getting my bearings, then get a train ticket and set off for the mountains in search of the guru. Alpert (Dass) didn’t want to turn the guru into a tourist attraction so only vague information was given as to his location; the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in the north of the country. True pilgrims would find their way to him. I had his name and photo, a rough idea where he was, and he was famous; I figured it would not be too difficult to find him.

India however was a giant culture shock to me; within a day or two I realized that I was never going to get my bearings; I was in way over my head. I didn’t have the life skills, knowledge, or experience to cope with or take on a solo journey from New Delhi to the Himalayan Mountains and from the end of the train line to who knows where else. My dad had an idea of what I was in for; he tried to talk me out of going, and failing that he gave me his Air Force dog tags to wear saying, “that way when they find your body they will know where to send it.” Once I was in India and saw how difficult it would be to make this journey alone, I thought, “If I go off into the mountains, not only will I likely be robbed and killed, but my body will probably be thrown off a cliff and they will never even find my body or the dog tags to send it back home.”

I didn’t realize until my first day in India what a sheltered and relatively privileged life I had led up to this point. I was shocked by what I saw, from the moment I walked into the arrivals terminal; it was obvious that I was definitely in a third world country, and in a culture that did not value human life the way it is valued in Western nations. Over a million people still to this day live on the streets in New Delhi. I saw homeless people all over the city and almost everywhere I was besieged by beggars of all ages. I had to keep a sharp eye out for the con artists and criminals who mingled where tourists might be found and quickly went after likely targets like me.

I would have given up and gone home after two or three days, but the airline ticket I had purchased had a variable return date: I could stay in India as long as three months, but I had to stay at least two weeks.  So, I decided to make the best of it and get to know the city of New Delhi. I walked around, took in the sights and did some shopping.  Always foremost in my thought was my prayer – “God if you are real, would you please give me a sign? God if you are really God, please give me a sign?”

Each day in New Delhi brought its own adventure. Every morning, as I stepped outside my hotel, little children in rags crowded around begging for money. One day I found a man dying on the sidewalk, ignored by passersby and I spent the day trying to help him. Another day I was eating a banana while standing on a crowded sidewalk in a working-class neighborhood. I put my hand to my side for a moment and something warm and wet took the banana right out of my hand. I turned around and was face to face with a holy cow that snuck up behind me to grab the banana with her tongue. One evening there was a huge commotion on the street outside my hotel, a religious parade was going by, complete with an elephant and many musicians. I decided to go down to the sidewalk and check it out, but I was grabbed by some young men, told to “dance rock and roll” and pushed into the middle of the parade and had to be rescued by a policeman.

On one of my days around New Delhi I took a motorcycle taxi (a three wheel vehicle where the driver sits on a motorcycle up front and the passengers sat in a covered two person cab on the back) to visit a jewelry shop to buy a present for my mom. My cab was traveling through a poorer section of the city down a busy major road that had three lanes in each direction. All the traffic suddenly slowed way down; I could see up ahead.  

Four large cows were crossing the road a few cars ahead of us and traffic came to a stop to allow them to cross. But instead of strolling across the road, they laid down blocking all lanes. We could not back up because of the traffic behind us; we could not go around them because there were tall concrete curbs.  We were stuck.  I discovered that while cows are considered holy in India, and no one would kick, poke, or hit them, apparently yelling at them and beeping one’s horn is allowed.

But the cows were not going anywhere so, accepting the situation, I started looking around. I sat in the tiny motorcycle taxicab looking out to my right side. There were some two-story buildings set back about 50 feet from the curb. It was an incredibly beautiful day; above the row of buildings the sky was deep blue and there was not a cloud anywhere. I looked around the driver to see if there was any movement on the part of the cows and there was not, they were laying there on the road and seemed to be enjoying the sun as unconcerned by the many horns blowing, as if they were in some bucolic pasture in the country.

I looked back to my right and there was Jesus standing in the air only seven or eight feet away from me, and he was looking right into my eyes. I quickly took in the whole picture: He had long dark brown hair, brown eyes, a beard, and mustache and was dressed in a full-length beige tunic or robe with a rope belt around his waist.

He was standing inside a door sized and shaped area that started about three feet off the ground; it had a bright white background that was completely opaque and blocked out my view of the buildings and sky behind him. His sandaled feet stood on the same white as the background. I looked into his eyes and he was looking deeply into mine; His gaze was piercing yet compassionate.

I wish I could tell you that my immediate reaction to seeing Jesus was to exclaim, “Thank you God for this amazing miracle!” but I was being the scientific observer. I said to myself, “How is he doing that?” I leaned out of the cab to get a closer look. It was literally as if a door to heaven had opened in front of me, three feet up from the pavement.

I looked down at the bottom edge of the doorway, the closest part to me, trying to understand what was going on. There was no frame around the door, but I could see that at the edges the opaque white faded into amazingly bright rectangular blocks of the primary colors. They looked to be about ½”high and 1/5” wide and were staggered like bricks in a wall. Those tiny blocks of light were intensely bright and the most beautiful and perfect colors of blue, yellow, and red that I have ever seen. They formed a boarder around the door around an inch wide with six rows of blocks. The blocks closest to the door were the brightest and the outer two lines of blocks the colors were not as bright or intense, the fifth line being somewhat transparent and the sixth line fading into invisibility.

I looked back up at Jesus’ face and He was still looking into my eyes. I could feel the full weight of his presence, Christ was standing here in front of me, but I felt no fear or even shock – it somehow seemed natural. It looked from his expression that he had complete knowledge of my every thought, including my recent “How is he doing that?” but there was no condemnation in His eyes, just compassion. I felt immediately unworthy to meet his gaze and I turned my eyes to the inside of the cab. Instantly the thought flashed through my mind, “This is Jesus and as long as he is here, I need to be looking!” I looked back but he was gone. The whole vision had lasted no more than 10 seconds.

I settled back in my seat. The cows stood up and began to move off the road and we were rolling again. I was stunned; what had seemed so normal when it was happening now hit me and I tried to take it in. It is now forty-seven years later but as I think about it, I sigh, and my heart still beats faster. I saw the living savior with my own eyes! He came to me in the middle of a clear blue-sky day. He didn’t say a word, but he didn’t have to, I got the message: He is alive and of course God is real, and He knows and cares about everything that is going on in our hearts and minds all the time.

It was such a relief to get the answer to the question I had been seeking for so many years. God is definitely real! I could not ask for more powerful proof. Since that time I have reflected on how cool it was that God answered my request for a sign of His reality by sending Jesus because the next deep religious question I was going to have was, “God, now that I know you are real, is Jesus really your son?” How amazing it is that God would answer my prayer in such a spectacular way as a vision of Christ which answered both of my most important spiritual questions at once.

It is a great advantage for me as a pastor to have seen the risen Christ; I don’t have to take it on faith that He is the risen savior alive forever, I have looked Him in the eye. To this day I thank God for that experience every day. It remains a most important moment of my spiritual life because that experience confirmed that my path was set; the rest of my life was to be spent serving God. Now that I have the benefit of education and experience, two things stand out to me about that vision:

  • the shocking realization that God has an amazing knowledge of what is going on in our hearts and minds.
  • God’s compassion for us exemplified by giving a vision like that to an eighteen-year-old who was nobody special in the eyes of the world.

When I was begging him for a sign, I never would have expected such a powerful and perfect answer to my prayers.

Finally, it was my last day in India. I went to the American Express office to cash a Travelers Check for the trip back. As I walked towards the office, I saw a group of attractive looking young women standing at the end of the block talking. I walked in their direction to get a closer look when I saw a bundle on the sidewalk which they were ignoring. The bundle was the general size and shape of an infant. It was wrapped in a dirty light-colored cotton blanket.

I walked towards it; I had to look; and as I knelt on the sidewalk I said, “Please don’t let it be!” but it was. I gently pulled back the blanket: and it was a dead baby! I gently touched its face, but the baby’s skin was cold, I checked it several times but no pulse. If the baby had been alive, I would have taken care of it, even if it meant missing my flight. Dead, it was India’s problem. I covered its face again with the blanket, stood up and walked slowly away; it was I thought a symbol of how I found India to be: overwhelming poverty everywhere and a resignation to the plight of the poor.

On the plane that evening, I thought about all that had happened in the two weeks I was in India: the several other narrow escapes (I haven’t bored you with), the amazing things I’d seen; the few friends I’d made, and of course the miraculous vision of Christ that answered my prayers. My disappointment at not seeing the Guru was forgotten.

About an hour into the flight I began to pray, and I finalized my agreement with God. I gave God my complete and eternal loyalty to the agreement with God that I made on the day of my sister’s accident. I simply said, “Okay God, I will serve you for the rest of my life!” I was relieved to be on the plane and exhausted; my mission was accomplished – I had a clear and undeniable sign of the reality of God. I slept almost the whole flight back.

Conclusion

About a year ago I did a Google search for Neem Karoli Baba; I was shocked to discover he had died on September 11, 1973, over a year before I got to India. I would have loved to have met him, but it would not have altered my path which obviously was not with gurus, but with Christ.

In India God gave me the answer I had been seeking, proving Christ’s words to be true, “seek and you will find.” God also gave me a second demonstration of His knowledge of us and compassion for us. Each subsequent miracle I have seen or been a part of has shown that to me more and more – God truly knows what is in each of our hearts, and He truly loves each of us. Still to this day God’s omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence thrill and amaze me.


This post is an excerpt from Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich’s book entitled The Long Road to Eternity available at Amazon.

Pastor Ehrlich has consented to publication of more posts describing his spiritual experiences. Watch for them in the next few months.

If you found this post interesting, inspiring, informative or helpful, please follow us and share using the social media buttons.   Many more articles written to feed your soul can be found on the Navigation Menu.

Relevant Scripture

Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.  1 Corinthians 15: 8 (NLT)

man holding crutches over head

Miracle Recipient Reveals God’s Memos /Spiritual Meditations

How many times have you watched the rising or setting sun over a beautiful landscape and appreciated the magnificence of God’s creation?  How many times has the Bible addressed  your need?  There are many ways in which God speaks to us, but I know one person to whom God has spoken loudly and he is going to tell us what he’s learned.

How God Speaks to Us

The pyramid below not only represents the ways in which God speaks to us, but also how frequently He does so. (Relevant Bible verses can be found at the end of this post for each level of the pyramid with links to example accounts)

ways God speaks to us pyramid

The top level of the pyramid falls into the realm of miracles; when God speaks to us directly through word or action.  This is what I want to explore today.

What are Miracles?

In its most basic sense, a miracle is an unusual, unexpected, observable event brought about by direct divine intervention. Because they are rare, I want to share with you the insights of my friend Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich who has experienced 46 divine interventions. 

But let’s start with a Biblical example; notice that the lame man did not request a miracle.

One day Peter and John went to the Temple at three o’clock in the afternoon, the hour for prayer.  There at the Beautiful Gate, as it was called, was a man who had been lame all his life. Every day he was carried to the gate to beg for money from the people who were going into the Temple.  When he saw Peter and John going in, he begged them to give him something.  They looked straight at him, and Peter said, “Look at us!”  So he looked at them, expecting to get something from them. But Peter said to him, “I have no money at all, but I give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I order you to get up and walk!”  Then he took him by his right hand and helped him up. At once the man’s feet and ankles became strong; he jumped up, stood on his feet, and started walking around. Then he went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.  People there saw him walking and praising God, and when they recognized him as the beggar who had sat at the Beautiful Gate, they were all surprised and amazed at what had happened to him.(Acts 3:1-10 TEV)

Pastor Ehrlich sees a pattern in when and how God acts in our world.  The following are conclusions he has reached and outlined in his book The Long Road to Eternity available on Amazon.

Miracles range in intensity from low intensity things which could be considered fortuitous coincidences or God-incidences, to high intensity things or events which are undeniable manifestations of God’s power and/or presence, such as the healing described in the passage above.

The good news is that the miraculous power of God, that was clearly present in the miracles and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is still available to God’s people today. 

God’s Three General Rules for Miracles

God’s first rule is that God always uses the smallest amount of miraculous power, and on the fewest possible number of occasions, to accomplish His goals.

God limits the use of His power because He wants to preserve our free will and our ability to choose God freely. As we go through life, we unintentionally provide God many opportunities to save us or help us, or to comfort or encourage us. God responds to our needs in varied ways, but in general God’s response is always as limited and small scale as possible in order to bring about the needed result. This hiddenness or unprovability of God was a part of God’s plan because if we could prove God, it would take away our need to have faith, and it is important to God that we have faith.

Why does God want us to have faith? Faith is the overcoming of doubt, hopefully substantiated by reason. Faith, the Bible tells us, is the activating agent of worshipping in the Spirit (James 5:15). God is all around us all the time (Acts 17:28) in the form of the spiritual energy that holds us and all things together (Colossians 1:17), and faith is what opens the door to the Spirit to come into and intervene in the physical world. (Matthew 21:21-22). Because frequent, large, splashy displays of God’s power would take away our need for faith, God uses the least amount of His power and the smallest level of intervention to accomplish His purposes.

God’s second general rule of miracles is that miracles are always for the benefit of God’s people.

God reaches into the lives of those who trust in Him, those who earnestly seek Him, and those who love Him wholeheartedly, and generally, but not always, in response to our prayers.

Sometimes God uses a non-believer to bring about a miracle to save a believer; and God sometimes gives a miracle to a non-believer to reach that person or to reach others who witness the miracle to help them become believers or to comfort or encourage them in their faith.

God’s knowledge of each person is complete and entire, and His wisdom, power, knowledge, and abilities are without limit. God knows what is going on in each of our lives, minute by minute, and God really cares about what we are going through.

God’s third rule of miracles is that His miracles are a gift of his grace: we cannot earn them with good deeds or buy them with a donation to a ministry or other good cause.

Unfortunately, some preachers I have heard twist Paul’s statement that “a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.” They say giving money to their ministry is just like planting a seed, that it will always produce an abundant plant of blessing – expect up to a one-hundred-fold return for every dollar you give.

Others who claim to be Christians try to convince people that X number of prayers for X number of days will get a guaranteed result. These beliefs trivialize God and would have you believe He behaves like a cosmic vending machine: put in the dollar and out pops your hundred. All we can do is ask God for a miracle or make ourselves available to be used by God.

What Inspires a Miracle?

Miracles come in two varieties;

  • the first type of miracle are those that occur as we reach up to God in prayer making a request and God responds.
  • The second type of miracle are those that occurs because God intervened without our asking; that is why I said miracles happen generally but not always in response to our prayers. [There are times, as you can see in the scripture regarding the lame man in Acts 3, where God knows what is needed and provides.  Though the man may have hopelessly wished for health he did not ask for or expect it.  In this case Peter and John were the conveyors of the miracle.]

Barriers to Miracles

Anyone can ask God for a miracle at any time, and God may grant one; but for a number of reasons that you and I may never understand, what we ask for may not be granted by God. Among the reasons we don’t receive the answers we are looking for are lack of faith, and improper motives. James writes: “You do not have what you want because you do not ask God for it. And when you ask, you do not receive it, because your motives are bad; you ask for things to use for your own pleasures” (James 4:2-3 TEV). Miracles are rare and hard to come by, that is why they are so special.

Miracles are More than Just the Miracle Itself

Miracles are just one of the ways that God speaks to us.  His love for the recipient of the miracle and those witnessing the miracle is introduced into our everyday life.  And these manifestations make a big impact on us internally, externally or both.

Miracles are a bit like fishing with dynamite – they blow you out of the water. They change lives, not just by physically rescuing a person, but by opening people’s eyes to the reality of God and to the nature of God, thus inspiring us to learn more about God and to obey God.

I spent many hours speaking with an atheist who was genuinely curious about what I believe and why. At the end of our talk I convinced him to at least keep an open mind to the reality of God. A few weeks later he told me that he had really been praying intently and God baptized him in the Holy Spirit. He said, “This changes everything!” He wanted to become a pastor and tell everyone what he had discovered.  When we are confronted with the reality of God that knowledge has the effect of causing us to reevaluate our priorities and behavior, and even, for some, to reevaluate our understanding of the universe.

Conclusion

To experience the miraculous, we cannot elicit it from God by using some magical incantation, neither is a life of study required. All that is required to move into miraculous levels of interaction with God is to have enough faith to seek God with all of your heart, and to have a willingness to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength until you find that God is real and knows and cares about you.

You will find several accounts of miracles experienced by Pastor Ehrlich, myself and others in the ‘Spiritual Experiences’ category on the Navigation Menu.

If you found this article interesting, inspiring, informative or helpful, please follow us and share by clicking on one of the social media icons.  Many more soul-feeding posts can be found on the Navigation Menu.

Relevant Scripture

God speaks to us:
Through Nature  


(Romans 1:20)  For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.  

(Psalms 19:1 – 4)  The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.  Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.  They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.  Yet their message has gone throughout the earth and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.

Through Scripture
What to Know About the Bible

(2 Peter 1:20 – 21)  Above all, you must realize that “no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.”   

(Hebrews 4:12 NLT)  For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.   

(2 Timothy 3:16-17)  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.   

Through Signs

(Matthew 16:1 – 4 NLT)  One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority. He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times!  

Through Dreams and Visions
What No One Tells You About Your Dreams
Stunning Vision Reveals Heaven’s Lobby

(Job 33:14 – 16)   For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds. He whispers in their ears and terrifies them with warnings.

Through Angels
Angels in Our Lives…Literally  

(Luke 1:26 – 27 NRSV)  In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 

Directly and through Jesus
God’s Faithfulness Changed My Life
An Astonishing & Undeniable Spiritual Healing 

(Hebrews 1:1 – 2 NLT) Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.  

(Exodus 3:4-6) When the LORD saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” “Here I am!” Moses replied. “Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.   

stick figures

Reversing the Little Known Causes of Prejudice/Spiritual Meditations

“If he’s fat, he’s a glutton.” “Anyone with that accent is uneducated.” “As a woman, she’s a push over.” Prejudice can target anyone different than us and includes stereotypes of women, men, the rich, the poor, the LGBTQ community, ethnicity, bikers, conservatives, liberals and anyone that comes to mind when asked “who do you consider lesser, avoid or fear?” 

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

Why a tax collector? Because they were despised by the Jewish population, which was who Jesus was talking to.  Yet this man humbly recognized himself as a sinner and sought God’s mercy and Jesus declared him exalted and justified.

We don’t have to look far to find our “tax collectors” of today: people who are part of a group despised by someone, people who don’t get the credit they deserve.  We make assumptions about individuals without knowing their heart or mind or their situation.  Whereas Jesus may declare them justified before God.  How do we develop such strong feelings about people we don’t know?

The Development of Social Categories

All people have a need to make sense of the world and we do that from infancy and across our lifetimes by creating categories to help interpret our environment. We create constructs like “fruit” and “vegetable” to categorize types of food. We create constructs about gender, age and other attributes of people.

Most of our constructs are based upon our socialization and the concepts we learn from the people around us, as well as our exposure to books and media. No one is born prejudiced, but as we are exposed to others’ biases, inaccuracies, and stereotypes, we develop beliefs that are discriminatory. Let’s admit it – It is nearly impossible to grow up without some.

Confirmation of Our Biases

Once constructs have been formed, we have a natural tendency to selectively attend to information that agrees with or confirms our existing categorizations. So, biases such as Asian men are good at math and science, black men are good at basketball, or white men are entitled and insensitive to others are reinforced as we selectively attend to any information that reinforces our existing biases. We then have well-entrenched stereotypes that can guide our actions.

Implicit Bias

Once a stereotype is entrenched, it can become unconscious and automatic. We find ourselves just reacting without stopping to think. We may believe that we are truly not prejudiced or racist, while not consciously aware of our automatic thoughts and attitudes. There are generally two parts to this:

  • Conscious, deeply held thoughts and
  • Unconscious thoughts and beliefs that sometimes guide our behavior.

The Escalation of Prejudice

Initially, if a person feels insecure or lacking in identity, they may have a desire to affiliate themselves with a group in order to strengthen their sense of self and find a feeling of belonging.  Being part of something bigger than themselves and sharing a common cause with the other members of their group makes them feel more complete and significant.

There is nothing wrong with this in and of itself.  However, this group identity may lead to a second stage. In order to further strengthen their sense of significance, members of a group may develop hostile feelings toward other groups.  Here we begin to judge others whom we don’t even know.

The third aspect is when members of a group take the step of withdrawing empathy from members of other groups, limiting their concern and compassion to their fellows.  For example, as political tensions polarize us, we become unquestioningly zealous about our party affiliation and feel momentarily justified not empathizing with members of the opposing party – we dismiss them as other.

This is closely related to a fourth aspect, in which individuals belonging to other groups are no longer perceived in terms of their individual personalities or behavior, but in terms of generalized prejudices and assumptions about the group as a whole. 

And finally — moving into the most dangerous and destructive extreme of prejudice — people may project their own psychological flaws and their own personal failings onto another group, as a strategy of avoiding responsibility and blame. Other groups become scapegoats, and consequently can justifiably be attacked or murdered, in revenge for their alleged crimes. Individuals with strong narcissistic and paranoid personality traits are especially prone to this strategy, since they are unable to admit to any personal faults, and are especially likely to demonize others.

Changing Our Minds

Changing our individual unjust social concepts takes conscious effort and practice. Dr Sherry Benton has 3 suggestions on how to do this:

  1. We all have prejudicial beliefs and we need to begin by acknowledging them if we are going to grow.  If we tell ourselves, “I’m not prejudice,” we are likely burying and ignoring the truth.
  2. We need to actively seek out objective facts that do not support our beliefs. Easy enough to do with the internet.  Find those objective sources.
  3. We need to focus on making our stereotypical, deeply ingrained beliefs conscious and reflect on their impact on others. At this point we generally know the right thing to do and we can act without prejudice while recognizing that we do have prejudice.

The Good Samaritan parable is an excellent reminder of how we should act toward others. I you’re wondering who merits such compassion from us, you may find an answer in this article entitled “Who are Your Neighbors?

Conclusion

As social animals we require a healthy balance between a sense of individuality (our own and that of others) and a sense of belonging; prejudice is the loss of that healthy balance.

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Relevant Scripture

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)

Therefore, judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (1 Cor 4:5)

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. (Act 10:34-35)

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. (James 2:1)

References

The Psychology of Racism; Racism is a sign of a lack of psychological maturity and integration.” by Steve Taylor Ph.D.

A Surprising Cause of Prejudice; The real problem might be how we relate to people like us”  by Ron B. Aviram, Ph.D.

“Understanding Prejudice, Stereotypes, and Racism; Why we develop social constructs—and how we identify and change them. by Sherry Benton Ph.D.

holding scrabble tiles spelling encourage

Encouragement-So Little Yet So Much /Spiritual Meditations

Julie Exline recounts her experience of learning to surf.  Not an easy task for anyone, Julie had the extra difficulty of having to work around some physical limitations.   She, however, had an exceptional teacher who provided, not only technical training, but patient encouragement.

Given my limited upper body strength and a decided lack of flexibility in my neck and back, I found it very hard to maintain the surfer position required for paddling. When my instructor saw this obvious problem, she quietly offered me a gift of grace: She gently but firmly hooked her foot on my board and began to tow me out into the waves. 

OK, I’ll admit that this was humbling for me. It was so painfully apparent that I needed the help. I couldn’t do it on my own. I came so close to being overtaken by a dark storm cloud of shame, which would have tainted the whole experience. But instead, I was presented with a lifeline for my emotions, a balm that soothed me and my bruised ego: It was my instructor’s positive attitude.

Although she would have been perfectly justified in grumbling, rolling her eyes, or at least giving me a heavy sigh, she did none of these things. Instead, she presented the situation as though towing me around was just exactly what she wanted to do. Although I don’t remember her specific words, this is the message that she conveyed to me: “This is great! I need some more practice doing this. And I’ll get a good workout.”

Because of the grace that my instructor offered me, I didn’t have to struggle through the waves alone. I was able to put my head down periodically and rest. I didn’t have to hold my body up in an uncomfortable position for too long, and I didn’t have to waste precious time and energy with laborious, inefficient paddling.

My instructor’s consistent encouragement and support steadied me throughout my surfing adventure. When I missed a wave or wiped out, she was gentle and patient in response. She didn’t berate me for my errors, nor did she show a trace of frustration with me or my screw-ups. She would simply watch for the next decent wave, give my board a little push, and then coach me through the steps to stand up.

All that I had in my glass were a few drops of accomplishment. But she chose to focus on the sweetness of those drops, not on how comically small they were or how much of the glass remained empty. And because of her emphasis on what I had achieved, I was able to join her in celebrating my successes, modest as they were.”  

Julie J. Exline Ph.D.

The Purpose of Encouragement

As you can see encouragement can turn an embarrassing situation into a cause to celebrate. An expression of affirmation through language or other symbolic representations can give strength to another person who feels limited, justifiably or not. Courage reduces fear, perseverance combats a desire to give up, confidence addresses low self-efficacy, inspiration resolves a lack of motivation or creativity, and hope decreases pessimism about the future;  all goals that the Apostles would have been striving for with their letters and visits to the first Christian churches who often struggled with the rejection of their former synagogues, friends and business associates.  This article speculates on where the first disciples traveled to spread the Good News.

Alfred Adler (1956), arguably the first psychologist to theorize on encouragement, considered encouragement a core feature of human development.  A broad definition commonly cited by Adlerian scholars says, “encouragement is the process of facilitating the development of a persons’ inner resources and courage toward positive movement”. (Think spiritual faith and Holy Spirit as two of those inner resources.)

Dreikurs (1971) considered the ability to encourage others as the single most important attribute in getting along with other people.

Grounded in humanistic psychology, the purpose of encouragement embraced by Adlerian scholars was to enhance the core features of a fully functioning person: a positive view of oneself,  a positive view of others,  being open to experiences, and a sense of belonging to others.  A measure for children was also developed that focused on three areas of encouragement: a positive view of the self, a sense of belonging, and the courage to be imperfect.  Are these not characteristics strongly supported by Jesus’ words and actions?  Once again Christianity and science coincide. See (Cosmos + Life + Science) = God for other areas of commonality.

Also, useful, our encouragement to others can include a suggestion to replace negative self-talk (inner dialogue) with a positive focus on accomplishments.  In their book Words Can Change Your Life, Newberg and Waldman tell us that positive self-talk improves attentiveness, autonomy, confidence, and work performance.  On the other hand,  negative self-talk can stimulate eating disorders, passivity, insomnia, agoraphobia, compulsive gambling, sexual dysfunction, low self-esteem and depression.  It can make you quite your job in a self-destructive way, and it can drive you to treating your family with disdain.

The importance of our inner thoughts is significant.

The Greater Impact of Your Words

The Apostle Paul exhorts Christians to encourage one another, particularly those who are disheartened (1 Thessalonians 5:11-15). Encouragement is more beneficial and necessary for some people than for others.

There is some preliminary evidence suggesting that encouragement might be relatively more important to the success and well-being of women, minority groups, and some non-Western cultures. Women, racial minority and impoverished individuals who routinely face discrimination might rely more on positive social messages from significant others to build their self-confidence.

individuals from non-Western collectivistic cultures such as in Eastern Asia, might define themselves more strongly in terms of their relationships with others and may, therefore, be more open to the influence of encouragement provided from significant others.

Praise vs. Encouragement

Although encouragement can be expressed through praise and persuasion, it is not the same. Praise refers to communicating positive evaluations of another person’s characteristics, performance, or products.  Although, like encouragement, praise involves the expression of affirmation, praise may not necessarily be intended to instill courage, perseverance, confidence, inspiration, or hope in another person.

For example, praise that is only offered as a form of congratulations would not be considered encouragement. Moreover, praise can be offered merely as feedback for something done in the past (e.g., “Good job on the presentation!”), whereas encouragement always has a present or future orientation. Even when a statement of encouragement refers to a past achievement, the ultimate goal of encouragement is to serve as a stimulus that either strengthens or develops positive motivation, cognitions, emotions, or behavior.

To make it easy to remember, think of praise as for past actions and encouragement as for future actions.

Conclusion

We are to follow the examples of Christ and the apostles to encourage others, especially in their faith.  It costs us nothing to speak a few words of support and what an amazing gift it is. 

As Dr. Julie Exline tells us, “When we ‘en-courage,’ it’s as though we actually infuse courage into another person. It can provide people with strength to look ahead, move forward, and reach for the next goal. The whole emotional tone of a tough situation can be transformed through encouragement. Somehow things seem a little brighter.”

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Relevant Scripture

So, when they were sent off, they came to Antioch. Having gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter.When they had read it, they rejoiced over the encouragement. (Acts 15:30-31)

In the day that I called, you answered me. You encouraged me with strength in my soul. (Psalm 138:3)

Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged the brothers with many words and strengthened them. (Acts 15:32)

When he had gone through those parts, and had encouraged them with many words, he came into Greece. (Acts 20:2)

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that through perseverance and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now the God of perseverance and of encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 15:4-6)

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord an  encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. (Acts 9:31)  This is after Paul’s conversion

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak  be patient with everyone. (1 Thes 5:14)

References

Words can Change Your Brain by Andrew Newberg MD & Mark Robert Waldman – available for Kindle

“The Psychology of Encouragement: Theory, Research, and Applications”  by Y. Joel Wong1

“The Quiet Power of Encouragement” by Julie J. Exline Ph.D.

person comtemplatin cross with bay and city in background

Are You Listening for God’s Messages?/Spiritual Meditations

Because you are a follower of Spiritual Meditations, I believe your faith is, at least, partially based on your own experience with the Holy Spirit.  As such, the following content is especially being sent to you to enhance that experience.  The process of becoming Spiritually Conscious may be new to you or you may practice it regularly. You may be on the first steps of your spiritual path or you may be fully aware of God’s daily presence in your life.  If the following content seems foreign to you, I encourage you to ask God to help you absorb and utilize it to form a greater connection with Him. 

Before getting to the heart of Consciousness, I want to avoid any confusion. 

Conscience is an inner feeling viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior. It includes a sensitive regard for fairness or justice. Although a desirable trait resulting from care and nurturing, that conforms to spiritual consciousness, this is not what will be discussed here.

The medical community will define consciousness as being fully alert, aware, oriented, and responsive to the environment.  It is the worldly perspective but by substituting the word “God” for the words “the environment” we have a good working definition of Spiritual Consciousness.

Those who try to understand the inner life intellectually will meet with failure. The life for which they are looking will vanish in the analysis. S. S. Singh

Spiritual Consciousness Provides Fulfillment

The secret of harmonious living is in the development of spiritual consciousness. Fear and anxiety disappear, and life becomes meaningful with fulfillment as its keynote. The degree of spiritual consciousness which we attain can be measured by the extent to which we relinquish our dependence on the external world of form and place our faith and confidence in something greater than ourselves, in the Infinite Invisible, which can surmount any and every obstacle. It is an awareness of the presence and the grace of God.

Our work may require greater strength, greater knowledge, greater ability then we seem to possess, or there may be greater demands on our finances then we can meet. The human belief may be that there is a physical, mental, or moral demand made upon us that is too great. Instead of accepting this apparent lack, let us remember, “He performs the thing that is appointed for me…. The Lord will perfect that which concerns me,“ or some other scriptural passage. The very moment we turn to God’s spirit, recognizing that He performs that which is given us to do, a weight drops off our shoulders, and the sense of personal responsibility lifts. Suddenly, we are given the necessary ability, which we discover is not our ability at all; it is His ability being expressed through us. Out of our weakness comes strength, but not our strength; it is His strength, and we perform the work through His strength.

We are Not of This World

There is a specific practice which will aid in the attainment of this spiritual consciousness. It is a practice which can be carried out throughout the day as the world crowds in upon us. To every insistent desire proposed by the world, let our answer be “No, no. This is not what I need or want. Thy grace is sufficient, nothing else, only Thy grace“. Let us learn to hold to this resolutely.

Gradually, as over and over the temptation comes to say, “I need; I want; I haven’t enough; I am insufficient “; we remember that our sufficiency is in the Infinite Invisible. This practice deepens spiritual consciousness. Brother Lawrence called it practicing the presence of God. The Hebrews called is keeping the mind stayed on God and acknowledging God and all ways. Jesus called it abiding in the Word. It is a practice that ultimately leads to a complete reliance on the Infinite Invisible, which in its turn brings the visible into our awareness as we need it.

As consciousness becomes more spiritual, confidence in the Infinite Invisible increases, and our love, hate, or fear of the external world diminishes. We see the Infinite Invisible as the law, cause, and activity of all that is and drop our concern for the form, whether it be personal, thing, or condition.

Material living puts its faith in forms of good. Spiritual living makes use of that which is in the world; it enjoys the form, but its reliance is on that which is the substance of the form, that which has created the form, the Invisible God.

The Kingdom of God is Within Us

All spiritual revelation has shown that the substance of this universe is in us. Every issue of life is determined, not by external conditions and things, but by our consciousness. For example, the body, in and of itself, has no power, no intelligence, and is not responsible for its actions. A hand, left to itself, would remain right where it is, forever and ever. There must be something to move it, and that something is called “I”. That “I “determines how this hand will be used; the hand cannot determine that in and of itself. The hand exists as an effect or as a form, and it responds to direction. As a vehicle or tool, it is obedient to us, and we impart to it whatever usefulness it has. This idea can be applied to other parts of the body.

Once we understand this principle, we will have grasped the entire principle of life. Literally, the “I” is the Kingdom of God within us; the law of life – the substance, the activity, the intelligent direction of life – is within us. If we can prove this to ourselves in one single way, that the life, activity, substance, and harmony of our being is determined by the law of God within us, we shall have no difficulty in proving this in every phase of our life, in the health of our body, and in all the relationships. The audio lecture entitled the Inner Kingdom will provide further explanation.  

The whole secret lies in the word “consciousness.“ And intellectual knowledge of the fact that ‘God is all’ is of no value. The only value any truth has is in the degree of its realization. Truth realized is spiritual consciousness. If we are conscious of the presence of the Lord (some will recognize this as the Holy Spirit) we are conscious of the activity of God

God is Omnipresent

In most religious teachings, we are told that the Spirit of God is everywhere just as electricity is everywhere. That is true. Electricity, however, is of no value to us, unless it is connected in some way for our particular use. So it is with the Spirit of God. It is everywhere, in an absolute, spiritual sense. But it is only effective in our experience to the extent we connect to It.

God is; there is a God – never doubt that. God is infinite in nature; eternal, universal, impartial and omnipresent. But how do we avail ourselves of that which God is? How do we bring this that we know about God into our individual experience? To illustrate, we can turn to the field of music. The principle of music is absolute. If, however, we fail to understand its principal and the sounds produced turn into a jumble of discordant noises, we do not fault the principle. We apply ourselves more diligently to practicing the principal until we become proficient in its applications. So it is in our God experience. God is, and God is here, and God is now, but God is available only in proportion to our realization and willingness to accept the discipline that is necessary for the attainment of that mind which was also in Christ Jesus.

There is a spirit in everyone. There actually is a spirit – the Spirit of God. No one is devoid of it, but most of us are unaware of it. God is with us. His presence fills our space; the Spirit of God dwells in us. But how many people have felt that presence? It is talked about, prayed about, theorized about, and sermonized about; but it is not experienced. It is the conscious awareness, the actual feeling or realization of the presence which is necessary.

How to Attain Spiritual Consciousness

Scriptural Immersion and Truth

Spiritual consciousness is attained through the activity of truth in consciousness. Dwelling on scriptural quotations or statements of truth helps to spiritualize thought. The more truth that we read and hear, the more active is truth in our consciousness. Thus, we learn to abide in the Word. This is the first step on the way.  It is important to learn all that we can about the correct letter of truth, to understand every principle, and then to practice these principles until we go from an intellectual knowledge to an inner awareness of them.

Take scriptural passages which embody spiritual principles and live with them. Take them apart, one by one, considering every implication and meaning, talk to God about them. Carry one of them with you day in and day out for a week or a month. Then take another and live with it, using it as a yardstick with which to measure every experience. Hold them up as a banner in the presence of any and every problem, until these principles become automatic.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • God is the only power
  • Love your neighbor as yourself
  • To him who has, more is given.
  • I can do all things through Christ
  • Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart
  • I and my Father are one.  He is always with me
  • My peace I give to you

If we solve enough problems and seek to understand the truth behind issues and situations, day in and day out for one, two, three, or more years, we shall have all the answers available for instant use. Years and years of contemplating God and the things of God, meditating/praying and communing with God, will have eliminated our worries about the things of this world. When a question arises, the right answer is immediately revealed.

Listening to the Holy Spirit

The second, and more important step, is to be able to receive truth from within, to be receptive and responsive to the truth that comes to us. At that point we do not think, read, or hear truth with the mind. We are becoming aware of the importation of the word of God from within because the inner ear and the inner eye have been developed through our knowing the letter of truth, dwelling on it and clearing our mind through meditation. Do not expect to hear from God whenever you meditate. For me, this practice enhances my ability to hear God when He has something to say.

How do we know when the Spirit of God dwells in us? If we are letting go of hate, envy, jealousy, malice, self-seeking, self-glorification, prejudice, and bigotry, we are making room for the Spirit of God, for God cannot dwell amid such qualities. As long as these qualities are present in our consciousness we have more work to do abiding in the truth and letting the truth abide in us, until such time as the Christ has come so alive that’s such mortal thoughts no longer touch us. Then the Spirit of God dwells in us, “which is Christ in you, The hope of glory… Behold I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him, and will stop with him and he with me. “

The listening attitude, the expected attitude, developed through meditation, creates a kind of vacuum into which God rushes with the things we need, whether it be wisdom, power, grace, or with whatever may be necessary.  For further info about meditation, you will find the audio entitled The Art of Meditation very useful.

Living with Spiritual Consciousness

The student of spiritual wisdom cannot go through his day, satisfied that he has read some truth in the morning, or that he is going to hear some truth in the afternoon or evening. There must be a conscious activity of truth going on all the time or a pause at frequent intervals for the practice of the presence (clearing our mind and listening for God). That does not mean that we neglect our human duties and activities; it means that we train ourselves to have some area in consciousness always active in truth. Whether we look out at forms of nature such as trees, flowers, or oceans, or we are meeting people, we find some measure of God in each experience. We train ourselves to behold the presence and activity of God in everything around us and remember that “My grace is sufficient”, that the spirit of the Lord God is upon me, and that His spirit of peace and joy is discernible to me and to all those who come within range of my consciousness.

The goal of God-awareness is very close to us, but nonetheless, as close as it seems, it is far away, because with every horizon reached, another beckons beyond. As we go forward in our quest or search, we can measure our progress in this way: We see the horizon before us and we have the feeling, “oh, I have just a short distance to go”. Sometimes, it takes only a few weeks or months to reach that horizon, then the whole world of spirit is opened before us. We believe we really have entered the kingdom of heaven, and we have – for a few days. Suddenly we become accustomed to this light and we are aware of another horizon that urges us forward, another advance that must be traveled step by step, and again, we press forward to even greater spiritual consciousness.

Conclusion

It is important that we let no hour of the day go by without some conscious reminder within us that the goal of life is to attain that mind which was also in Christ Jesus. The goal of the spiritual life is to attain God consciousness – to live and move and have our being in the eternal awareness of God‘s presence.

It is possible for anyone to change the trend of their life, not by hearing or reading truth, but by making it an active part of their consciousness and daily experience, until it becomes a habit every moment of the day, instead of an occasional thought. Make these principles operate in consciousness morning, noon, and night, until gradually the actual awareness comes. Then we make the transition from being hearers of the word to being doers of the word. Then we shall be abiding in the word and shall bear fruit richly.

A friend once asked me why some people experience God’s presence and others do not.  Only God can answer this definitively, but I can affirm that the practice described above created a stronger God-connection for me. Anyone with enough desire for a realization of God can achieve that realization – the grace of God will guarantee it.

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Relevant Scripture:

Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer regarding his disciples and all believers, was prayed as he was about to leave this world and was already mentally moving into the next.

11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are….

16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

20 I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

25 “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; 26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”  (John 17:11-26)

Reference:

Practicing the Presence: The Inspirational Guide to Regaining Meaning and a Sense of Purpose in Your Life by Joel S Goldsmith

Does Your Idol Speak Louder than Jesus /Spiritual Meditations

Why is there an intense fascination with celebrity?  29 million people in the United States watched the wedding pageantry of British Prince Harry to Megan Markle, an event which affects none of them personally.  Magazines like People and TV shows like TMZ or Entertainment Tonight provide details into celebrities’ comings and goings far beyond what is of any practical value to anyone.  Professional sports players and politicians are lifted as role models and heaped with praise while parents, teachers, godparents, and friends (whom are far more important to a person’s moral development) are hardly acknowledged. 

When we hear the word idol, we often think of statues and objects reminiscent of those worshiped by pagans in ancient cultures. However, the idols of the 21st century often bear no resemblance to the artifacts used thousands of years ago. Today, many have replaced the “golden calf” with an insatiable drive for money or prestige or “success”. Some pursue the high regard of others as their ultimate goal. Some seek after comfort or a myriad of other passionate, yet empty, pursuits. Sadly, our societies often admire those serving such idols.

We support politicians and self-professed leaders. We media-stalk and try to emulate celebrities.  We buy shirts displaying the names of our sports heroes. We behave as though these are infallible and worthy of our devotion. If only we were as wealthy, talented or beautiful as they are, we would receive more attention which appeals to our sense of vanity. Since those dreams are not likely to become reality, we settle for the next best thing – we consider ourselves a part of their ‘flock’. We mimic their rhetoric and make it our own and the more we repeat it the more we are emotionally bound to it.

They become our idols when they absorb our heart and imagination more than God; when we make then more important than God; when we follow their voice like sheep

Of course, we can make idols of possessions, careers, relationships, hobbies, sports, entertainment, goals, greed, addictions to alcohol/ drugs/ gambling/ pornography, etc., but today I’m just talking about people we admire…maybe admire a little too much.

Who are Our Models?

I’m not a “fan”.  I don’t consider anyone more significant than another, but I believe admiration is appropriate when a person demonstrates characteristics consistent with the Golden Rule or as extoled in the Bible.   In my mind, the “A list” of desirable traits is produced by the fruits of the Spirit.  Think of someone famous today, someone that you support, and then compare them to the following:

Envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:21-23)

How did your celeb measure up?  No, nobody is perfect and thank God for His grace, but how many of these traits does your favorite politician, hero or celebrity exhibit?  What does their history and lifestyle say about them?  If they profess to be a follower of Christ, are the fruits of the Spirit evident in them?  Can they be a positive influence or model if they aren’t manifesting some of them?

In many cases we see both wealth and poverty as deserved: wealth as the reward for their virtuous behavior and poverty as the reward for their vicious behavior.  With this in mind you may confess that you think that “he / she would never have become great if the fruits of the Spirit were important to them.  They were justified in pushing a few people aside to get where they are.” 

But what is so great about where they are?  If you answered their money, their power or their talent, you are missing the point of Christ’s teaching or have compromised your beliefs to be part of their flock.  What do they have that is of value to the Kingdom of God?  

Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:26-28)

Are your celebs serving anyone besides themselves? Don’t know? Here are some examples of how they can use their fame.

God, as revealed through Christ, is the only One truly worthy of our devotion, our service, and our love.  Those earthly beings that we put on a pedestal are nothing compared to Him.  Although the Holy Spirit seeks each lost sheep, God rejoices in those who listen to His voice and work within His will.  Each person must decide if they want to be part of God’s Kingdom or a part of the world’s pollution.  One can’t be both.

“Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me. (Matt 12:30)

Wisdom as a Prerequisite to Leadership

Wisdom isn’t necessarily required for a rock star or actor, although it wouldn’t hurt, and some have delved into the spiritual. But for a political or military leader, wisdom is prized though, unfortunately, rare.  According to scripture, these are a few ways to determine if someone is wise.

  • They accept correction when they know they were wrong.
  • “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)
  • They have godly integrity.
  • They are not easily offended
  • They are not obsessed with being ‘right’. When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom. (Prov 11:2)

Again, in Proverbs, the wisdom book:

“For wisdom is better than jewels;
And all desirable things cannot compare with her.
“I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
And I find knowledge and discretion.
“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverted mouth, I hate. (Prov 8:11-13)

If We Aren’t Part of the Solution, We are Part of the Problem

Maybe I’m being too hard on our idols when it is we who are elevating them to this status.  The first commandment is clear.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me

We know this but don’t always realize it when we are creating our idols.  We are so easily led.  It is no wonder that God so often refers to us as sheep as in Psalm 23.  Regarding the jumble of lies and facts surrounding politicians, we know that we don’t know everything and, therefore, accept what our friends and the media tell us; it’s easier.  We usually have the resources to obtain our own answers, but we don’t take the time to do the research. Instead we acquire new opinions that augment or conform to what began as one idea or experience…a small sample of life and perhaps an insignificant one.  With the accumulation of the like thoughts we select, that initial idea grows into a mantra and manifesto.  Now it is hard to see truth; much easier to rationalize it away; more comforting to jump on the “band wagon” with our tribe; less threatening to our egos to continue in our chosen stance.

The Lord is My Shephard

When Jesus referred to us as sheep, He was talking about our vulnerability and His compassion for us. Jesus loved humanity so much that He pushed Peter to an emotional response, making it a point Peter could never forget.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" "Yes, LORD," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He answered, "Yes, LORD, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "LORD, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17)

But why this crazy metaphor of sheep of all animals?  Here are just a few of the characteristics we have in common: 

*Sheep can’t defend themselves. When a sheep is frightened, the only thing it knows to do is run.  People can “fight” as well as “flight” but both reactions are based in fear, something God tells us repeatedly is unnecessary. Politicians are notorious for creating fears and then trying to convince us that only they can resolve them. But God is the only defender we need. “The LORD is my defense; and my God is the rock of my refuge” (Psalm 94:22).

*Sheep aren’t intelligent. Sheep are not known to be smart or cunning animals when it comes to safety; rather, they are susceptible and tend to wander away from the protection of the shepherd.   Compared to the wisdom of God, which is all knowing and all loving, human intelligence is miniscule.  (1 Cor 3:19).  People tend to wander away from God and bestow their affection on their idols.

*Sheep are Directionless.  Not only are sheep wanderers, but they get lost easily. When even one sheep goes astray, the shepherd goes after it and restores it to the flock. As Isaiah 53:6 indicates, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way.”  If a sheep wanders off from the rest of the herd, it will have a hard, if not impossible time, finding its way back. They have no sense of direction. So it is with those outside the Lord, there is simply no sense of spiritual direction in their lives.

*Sheep follow the voice of their own Shepherd (no other shepherd). The Bible says the sheep know the voice of the shepherd. They follow the one whom they know. You may never have a complete understanding of your circumstances with all the answers to the questions of life, but you will understand the love of God and the importance of following the Lord to the green pastures and living water.  Likewise, the shepherd leads the sheep. The sheep know their shepherd, the sound of his voice and follow him. This is also the way that the sheep are separated into separate herds after grazing or sleeping together. The shepherd calls the sheep and they come. They need no markings to distinguish them – all they need is the sound of the shepherd’s voice.

*A Sheep is a Personal, a Prized and a Precious Possession. This sheep belonged to the shepherd, he paid a personal price to own it and won’t stand idly by while it is lost. (Ill. The price Jesus paid for the sheep – Ill. Calvary – 1 Cor. 6:19-20)- This sheep may have been no different from any other ordinary sheep, but it was special to the shepherd. Despite their differences every sheep was precious in his eyes. So it is with the Lord. He loves all His sheep equally.

*Sheep must be led to grass, just as the Holy Spirit leads us to what we need. If left to themselves sheep will graze in the same place until all the grass is gone. A good shepherd leads them to the best places to graze to keep them healthy. He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Conclusion

There are many people out there vying for our attention and hoping we will contribute to their income.  They want our political donations, votes, ticket buys, and endorsement purchases among other things.  Granted, a little entertainment gives us relief from a stressful world, but let’s consider the source of that entertainment before we count ourselves as a member of its flock.  No person should be made an idol or be blindly followed.  We must open our eyes to who they really are. Only God has our best interests at heart and deserves our devotion.

What do you think?  Are the celebrities, heroes and politicians who you endorse worthy of you? You – one of God’s children?  Whose sheep do you choose to be?  I’m hoping you will answer “Jesus’”.

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Relevant Scripture

You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Ex 20:4-6)

 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revelings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did ]forewarn you, that they who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.  Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned;  and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2 Peter 2:1-3)

 Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue;  for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. (John 12:42-43)

Like a roaring lion and a rushing bear
Is a wicked ruler over a poor people.
A leader who is a great oppressor lacks understanding,
But he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days. (Proverbs 24:15-16)

A fool always loses his temper,
But a wise man holds it back.
If a ruler pays attention to falsehood,
All his ministers become wicked. (Proverbs 29:11-12)

The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good. (Eccl 9:17-18)

Your rulers are rebels
And companions of thieves;
Everyone loves a bribe
And chases after rewards.
They do not defend the orphan,
Nor does the widow’s plea come before them. (Isaiah 1:23)

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

References

“Five Reasons Why God Calls His People “Sheep””  by Bethany Hayes 

“Why Does God Call Us Sheep? on For His Service

“Why is Idol Worship Such a Powerful Temptation?” on Got Questions

“Why Do We Admire Celebrities?” with Jon Murphy