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.

If you found this article useful, informative, inspiring or interesting, please share it.

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’”.

If you find this article interesting, informative, inspiring or useful, please share it.

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 

flowers sky woman joy

How to Realize Spiritual Joy. Don’t Miss Out/Spiritual Meditations

 

Joy is almost a mystery, isn’t it?  Sometimes we struggle to grasp the biblical view of the elusive “joy” because of the way it is defined and described in Western culture today.

What’s the Difference Between Joy and Happiness?

In particular, we often confuse joy with happiness. Happiness may be momentary, as it is a result of short-term contentment; but joy, being related to the inner self, is long lasting. It is a deep-seated sense of what God has done and what He is doing. Happiness simply pleases a person, while joy brings warmth to the heart, and contentment to the soul. Probably the easiest distinction to understand is that happiness is dependent on outward circumstances, whereas joy is a spiritual quality independent of outward circumstances.

That doesn’t mean that all worldly events are without joy. An appreciation of God’s creations, such as nature and music, can be a source of joy.  The “Kingdom of God” is the manifestation of the astonishing sovereignty and glory of God. Sometimes God displays His glory and power by healing (2 Kings 5:1-14). Sometimes He puts a believer in a position of power (Esther 8:1-2). And sometimes He blesses His children with material possessions (Job 42:10-17). The key is that it is God who blesses, and although we may appreciate the gift, we rejoice that He has chosen to pour out His love, sovereignty, and power on us. We rejoice in the Giver, not just in the gift.

The Sources of Christian Joy

Once you realize that joy is not the same as happiness, it becomes a more difficult feeling to recognize but I hope you will be able to identify it by considering your unique experiences in relationship to the following sources of joy.

Joy is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit

Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruits of the Spirit:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
“Fruit” here means “the result of labor.” The laborer is the Holy Spirit.  So, what Galatians 5:22-23 really describes are traits characteristic of a believer who has yielded to the Holy Spirit’s work in his or her life. One of these character traits is joy.

God’s Presence Brings Joy

In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Psalms 16:11).

“There is a joy which isn’t given to the ungodly, that of those who love thee for thine own sake, whose joy thou thyself art; and this is the happy life to rejoice in thee, and of thee. This is it and there is none other.” – Augustine

Joy is Found in a Personal Relationship With God.

The Holy Spirit is God’s spirit, so when you unlock the presence of God or the Holy Spirit you may be feeling joy. This is the source of joy that I identify with the most strongly.  As I write this, I feel my heart, my soul connected with the heart, the Spirit of God. It is an extraordinary contentment or heart happiness.

If you have not already done so, this is something you can experience, in time, by meditating on spiritual truths as described on my blog page entitled “How to Meditate to Reach Higher God Consciousness.  There is an expansion of this idea in my post entitled “A Clear Mind Improves God Awareness”.

The Knowledge that God Answers Prayer is a Source of Joy

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
We can feel assured, that all our needs shall be supplied from the fountain that is inexhaustible—and that “no good thing” will be withheld from us. We can trace every mercy, every blessing, to the hand of God, and know that God has sent them in all the kindness and tenderness of a loving Father.  Which brings us to the point that our answered prayers are those within God’s will.

Alignment with God’s Will Brings Joy

We are never filled with more joy than when we are in the center of God’s will. When God can’t be persuaded to do things our way or we can’t change our situation, we finally give ourselves over to the will of God. Let’s surrender to and commit ourselves to pursuing God’s will. In this there is true joy. Also read Acts 20:24 and James 1:22-25.

God’s Word Brings Joy

God’s Word can be a glorious source of joy for the believer. As you read the Bible you may come across passages that suddenly speak to you in the moment, touching your heart with the recognition that God has just spoken to or answered you.  What joy!

Serving God with Other Believers is Joyful

Philippians 2:2 tells us that “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”  If you have been inspired to work with other Christians to provide service to those in need, you know how the gratitude received and the goals accomplished bring you unbelievable joy and satisfaction.

The Joy of Hope During Difficulties.

Because joy resides in our soul, it may not prevent us from experiencing negative surface emotions. To the Christian, who is living near to the throne of grace, there are sources of joy unknown to all others. He or she can even “rejoice in tribulation,” and “be glad in the Lord,” while experiencing pain, suffering, and distress. Not that we are insensible to trial and affliction, or that we steel ourselves to their endurance; not that we can gaze unmoved on the wreck of all our hopes, or see, without a tear of agony, beloved ones laid in their silent grave.

No! our affections are warmer and more tender; our sympathies deeper and stronger; our sensibilities more acute and lively, than those devoid of joy. We can feel and feel intensely the robbing of earthly joys. But then, we know where we can go for comfort, peace, satisfaction and hope and we remember the words of the Savior, “Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).
Given that the Bible tells us it is perfectly legitimate to experience mourning, sorrow, and grief, these feelings do not separate us from God. For we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:3-4). The key is knowing. If we are to stand up under trials and experience joy, we must have a vision toward hope.  Remembering Jesus’ care for us and our ultimate victory in Him, we can experience joy even in our hidden hardships.

Jesus told His followers:

Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!” — Luke 6:22-23

The writers of the epistles followed Jesus’ lead:

You received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. — 1 Thessalonians 1:6

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials. — James 1:2

One of my favorite Bible stories is the story of Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail. They were beaten; they were imprisoned; and who knew what would happen to them the next day? But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. — Acts 16:25

The kind of joy that gets you singing in jail at midnight with your back bleeding and your life hanging by a thread — that’s joy worth cultivating!

In our culture of instant gratification and constant amusement, it’s hard to understand the suffering the apostles endured for the sake of the gospel. We’ll do anything to avoid trials and tribulations. But often, in an attempt to keep anything uncomfortable from touching us, we miss the very thing God wants to use to lead us to the joy in Him. We can’t avoid difficulties, but amid all our troubles — there is God and His effervescent love.

This doesn’t mean we deny or disguise our feelings. It doesn’t mean we can or should shrug off pain or disappointment or try not to feel sorrow when we have good cause. It means we place our trust in God, and He opens the door to a joy beyond anything we can know on our own: the joy of knowing we are in His hands forever.

Gratitude for Our Salvation Brings Joy

The moment of salvation is inexpressibly joyous. This is our eternal, spiritual delivery from separation from God and our entry into heaven. Jesus came so that we might be saved, and the New Testament testifies that this experience is an occasion for priceless joy; for those converted and for those involved in the process. Many tears of joy have been shed when someone estranged from God, or who has been an enemy of God, has become His adopted son or daughter.

In Luke 15, Jesus told three stories of precious things that were lost and then found, and each was an occasion for joy: the shepherd who left ninety-nine sheep to search for and find one lost lamb; the woman who lost a valuable coin and found it; and the prodigal son, who was lost but found his way home.
In each story Jesus spoke of the rejoicing that surrounds the saving of one soul, and He described the joy that results:
I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. — Luke 15:7
After the Ethiopian eunuch was saved, he went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:39). Luke recorded the conversion of the Gentiles “caused great joy to all the brethren” (Acts 15:3). The Philippian jailer and his family were filled with joy when they became believers in God (Acts 16:34). Never doubt that salvation, the most profound of new beginnings, is also infused with joy beyond description.

The Joy of Helping Another to Heaven

Soul winning is one of the greatest sources of joy a believer will ever experience both now and in the life to come.  Imagine the Apostle Paul in heaven. A great multitude walks by and the Lord says to him, “These are here because you cared, sacrificed and remained faithful to your call (Acts 20:24). Wow, what joy!

The Joy of Knowing Christ and His Love for Us.

The Christian rejoices because he has found Christ, “the Friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  Jesus lived, and suffered, and died that “all that great debt” we owed to law and justice, was washed away.

The Christian rejoices in the thought, that Christ not only “appears in the presence of God for us,” but also that He is ever present with His Church and people on earth. “I am with you always, even unto the end of the ages.” “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.” And He prepares us for the enjoyment of His heavenly kingdom.

How to Attain More Joy in Your Life

That brings us back to this matter of how we can be joyful as a matter of discipline or of the will. How is it possible to remain joyful all the time? Paul gives us the key: “Rejoice in the Lord always”. We all can certainly enjoy and appreciate God’s creation but the key to Christian’s joy is its source, which is the Lord. If Christ is in me and I am in Him, that relationship is not a sometimes experience. All our attempts to find joy will be futile if we do not abide in Jesus, because we cannot make ourselves joyful by our own power. But as we live in Christ, His perfect joy will dwell in us and make our experience of joy ever more consistent and full (John 15:10–11).

Even if Christians cannot rejoice in the circumstances, if we find ourselves passing through pain, sorrow, or grief, we still can rejoice in God. We rejoice in the Lord, and since He never leaves us or forsakes us, we can rejoice always.

You who have not discovered your personal relationship with God, have been overwhelmed with sorrow and grief at some time. But when you give your heart to God, He will turn your sorrow into joy. And nothing will be able to steal that joy from you.

When we voice our concerns to God and allow ourselves to be reminded of His goodness, we release our burdens. Jesus said,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
But it doesn’t stop there. Paul goes on to say,
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8).
After we have given our requests to God, we keep a proper perspective. We think on things that are pure, full of splendor, excellent, right, and praiseworthy. We do not dwell on our heartache but on the goodness of God and the beauty He infuses into our lives. This is important to remember when circumstances are less than joyful. James 1:2 says,
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.
In trials, joy is not found in the immediate situation but in the promise that God’s Kingdom will be revealed through the situation. 1 Peter 1:7-9 says that current trials bring an assurance of faith, making the future joy even greater when Jesus returns. Similarly, James 1:3-4 says that trials will strengthen our character. We can rejoice in that trials point to a future gift.

Conclusion

True joy can be found in Jesus (John 15:11). If you look for God’s work and gifts in your life, you will always have joy. Even in hardship, your joy remains, because it depends on God and His promises, which do not change.  If you get caught up in temporary hardships and worldly desires, your joy will be fleeting and weak.

Joy comes when you make peace with who you are, where you are and why you are. The joy of the believer is not bestowed by any man and, therefore, cannot be taken away.  When you need nothing more than truth and the love of a good God to bring you peace, then you have settled into the abiding joy that is not rocked by anything.

Love of God is an essential ingredient of joy, I think, something not necessarily true of happiness.

Relevant Scripture

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Romans 15:13)

Break forth into joy, sing together, For the Lord has comforted His people. (Isaiah 52:9)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.  The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We write this to make our joy complete. (1 John 1:1-4)

May those who delight in my vindication
shout for joy and gladness;
may they always say, “The LORD be exalted,
who delights in the well-being of his servant.”
My tongue will proclaim your righteousness,
your praises all day long.  (Psalm 35:27–28)

I encourage you to save this post to be reread on unhappy days, thereby realigning your perspective and reminding you of all you have to be joyful about.

If you found this article useful, interesting, inspiring or informative, please share it using the social media buttons.

References

“Difference Between Joy & Happiness” on DifferenceBetween.net

“Christian Joy” Grace Gems

“Sources of Joy” by Dr Gary Linton

“The Source of Joy” on Ligonier Ministries

“Joy vs. Happiness” by Sandra L. Brown M.A.
night sky milky way cross

Stunning Vision Reveals Heavens Lobby/Spiritual Meditations

Is a revelation during a coma, a dream, a vision or something else?
 
Throughout the Bible, God spoke to people in many ways, each unique and wonderful, including visions and dreams. Many people use these two words interchangeably, and they are similar. Both involve our Lord giving direct revelation. However, one of the main differences is that dreams come to us during sleep, while visions occur when we are awake. But what if a revelation comes to someone during a coma?  Is this a dream, a vision or something unique?
 
Some will say that God uses dreams primarily to speak to us, reveal His plans, enable Spirit-directed communication, warn of impending trouble, and establish prophetic revelation.  And that He uses visions to reveal Himself and His glory.  If these are the only two options, then my friend Matthew experienced both or perhaps a combination of the two.  He will tell you his experience and you can ponder the answer.  But first a little more depth on visions and how we should respond to them.

Characteristics of a God-given Vision

Each of us goes through life-changing moments when a new vision is given, but questions often arise. Before the interpretation or meaning of a vision is provided, the receiver can experience confusion and begins to seek God’s interpretation of what was seen.  These are the primary ways a believer can accept that the vision is from God:
 
• A God-given vision reveals His holiness, glory, and power
 
• A God-given vision exposes your own humanness and frailty.
 
• A God-given vision will leave you astonished and sometimes even numb for days.
 
• A God-given vision will always be followed by its interpretation.
 

Four Steps to Turning a Vision into Reality

It’s one thing to receive a vision. It’s another thing when you don’t understand it or know what to do with what you’ve received. Thankfully, the prophet Habakkuk revealed what you must do to bring your “waking dream” to fruition:
 
1. Pray
Prayer is the key to dreams, visions, revelations, interpretation, and knowledge. Pray and ask God to reveal the meaning of your “waking dream” to you.
 
2. Write the vision down
Time can dim your memory.
 
3. Act upon the vision
Step out in faith and act upon what God has shown you. The instant you begin to act upon what you have seen, you begin cooperating with God to bring it into being.
 
4. Wait for it
This may sound contradictory to acting upon the vision but waiting is an important part of making the vision a reality. In the videos and conversation below, Mathew will tell you how parts of his vision have been revealed but not all at this point.  Even as you step out in faith, we must realize that God’s timing is crucial: For the vision is set for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it delays, wait for it. (Habakkuk 2:3) It will always be fulfilled.
 
Let’s look at a few select visions mentioned in the New Testament.

Jesus’ Vision(s)

Jesus may have had numerous visions.  Was it a vision that told Him where the colt was that He was to ride into Jerusalem before His final Passover there?  Was it a vision that showed him the man the disciples were to follow to discover the location for the last supper?  Perhaps, or maybe, being fully anointed with God’s Spirit, He just knew.  However, the Bible clearly says that He saw Nathaniel under a fig tree before He met him.
 
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
 
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
 
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
 
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
 
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
 
Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
 
Jesus said, “You believe[ because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you,  you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on  the Son of Man.”   (John 1:45-51)

Peter’s Vision

Through his vision, God told Peter that the Gentiles were to be accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Represented as food that was forbidden under Jewish law, he was told that they were not to be considered unclean.
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.
 
Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
 
“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
 
The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
 
This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
 
While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.
 
While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
 
Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”
 
The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.”
 
Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.
 
The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along.  (Acts 10:9-23)
 

Paul’s Visions

Paul experienced many visions in his lifetime. (2Corinthians 12:1)  He had a vision of Ananias coming to him to restore his eyesight (Acts 9:12) and a vision or a dream of a Macedonian man beseeching him to come to his region with the Gospel. (Acts 16:9,10)  Following is another example of a vision he had.
“When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’
 
“‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’
 
“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”  (Acts 22:17-21)
You will find an extensive list of Biblical visions in the Relevant Scripture section below.

Visions Today

In many parts of the world, God seems to be using visions and dreams extensively. In areas where there is little or no gospel message available, and where people do not have Bibles, God is taking His message to people directly through dreams and visions. This is entirely consistent with the biblical example of visions frequently used by God to reveal His truth to people in the early days of Christianity. If God desires to communicate His message to a person, He can use whatever means He finds necessary—a missionary, an angel, a vision, or a dream. Of course, God also can give visions in areas where the gospel message is already readily available. There is no limit to what God can do.

Matthew’s Spellbinding Vision

Matthew was 26 when he suddenly became seriously ill.  To allow his body to have a better chance of survival, doctors put him into a coma, during which he nearly died.  The doctors were unable to safely bring Matthew out of his unconsciousness after one to two weeks as initially planned.
 
He remained in the coma for 28 days during which he experienced a nonstop vision that continued each time he fell asleep after he  came out of the coma.  What he saw was truly amazing and the lengthiest vision I have ever heard or read about outside of Revelation.
 
Many near-death experiences include the soul walking toward a bright light and this is included in one part of Matthews vision, not regarding himself, but watching someone else walk toward that light.   He describes this in the second video below.
 
Matthew’s vision elevated his soul into a starry universe, sometimes referred to as the Second Heaven,  where he saw other souls moving along a pathway of stars that led into infinity.  And Jesus was his tutor.
 
In this home video Matthew provides an excellently detailed description of what he experienced.  You will be mesmerized.
 
 
After watching Matthew’s video, I had a couple of questions for him.

Me: Have you ever wondered if your illness/coma was INTENDED to provide the vision?

Matthew: “YES!  I tell everyone that God brought it upon me on purpose. I was in a place in my “salvation” where God could not really speak to me. (Prideful and focused on earthly things.) He had to slap me out of it. I call the experience “my walk in the wilderness”.

I believe we experience tribulation and hard times to refine us in Christ. They are sometimes out of chastisement to correct us, and sometimes to just open our eyes. ALWAYS for correction of some type. (Or in some cases as example to others also). But I don’t think I would have payed as much attention if it was just a dream. This experience got my attention BIG TIME and still has my attention 20 years later.

 
Daniel 11:35 And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed.”
 
Me: What do you think was God’s purpose for your vision?  What was He trying to tell you? Is this something you have discovered or is it still to be discovered?
 
Matthew: ”I grew tremendously closer to the Lord through that event. I no longer fear tribulation and death. (I still don’t like them though… LOL) But I also believe God was preparing me for the end times ministry he has set up for me, whatever that should be. Much of what I was shown 20 years ago is starting to happen now… Soooo… It really has me looking back at what I was shown and re-looking at it.
 
I have been shown answers to some, but other parts are still being revealed. I was shown a lot. We’re talking near a month of a continuous vision, then continued visions for weeks after I awoke. That’s a lot of information to process.”

As an example of something that has been revealed to him, Matthew sent to me this video regarding death and the importance of intercessory prayer.

 
 

Conclusion

According to Catholic documents, most people have their visions early in life and move into greater spiritual communion with God after that. In that sense the vision achieved its purpose, boosting one along the spiritual path to something richer.
 
However, we must be careful when it comes to visions and the interpretation of visions. We shouldn’t measure ourselves against these experiences or pursue them as they are clearly not prerequisites to grace and are meant only for those God chooses.
 
We must keep in mind that the Bible is finished, and it tells us everything we need to know. The key truth is that if God were to give a vision, it would agree completely with what He has already revealed in His Word. Visions should never be given equal or greater authority than the Word of God. God’s Word is our ultimate authority for Christian faith and practice.
 
If you believe you have had a vision and feel that perhaps God gave it to you, prayerfully examine the Word of God and make sure your vision agrees with Scripture. Then prayerfully consider what God would have you do in response to the vision (James 1:5). God would not give a vision to a person and then keep the meaning of the vision hidden. In Scripture, whenever a person asked God for the meaning of a vision, God made sure it was explained to the them. (Daniel 8:15-17).

Relevant Scripture

In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.  (Acts 2:17)
 
The Most High God covenanted with Abraham in a vision. (Genesis 15:1-21)
 
God spoke to Jacob in either a dream or a night vision. (Genesis 46:2-4)
 
Balaam experienced a vision of the Almighty. (Numbers 24:1-19)
 
Samuel experienced a vision as a child. (1Samuel 3:1-21)
 
Nathan experienced a night vision concerning King David. (2Samuel 7:4-17; 1Chronicles 17:1-15)
 
Iddo, the seer, received multiple visions concerning Jeroboam.  Exactly what his visions and writings were concerning is not stated in the Bible.  He did write genealogies and kept records of some of Israel’s Kings. (2Chronicles 9:29; 12:15)
 
Job experienced both visions and dreams. (Job 7:14)
 
Isaiah experienced a vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem. (Isaiah 1:1)
 
Isaiah also saw the Lord sitting upon a Throne in His Temple. (Isaiah 6:1-4)
 
Ezekiel experienced multiple visions. (Ezekiel 7:13; 8:1-4; 11:24)
 
Daniel apparently received both dreams and visions of the Lord. (Daniel 2:19; 8:1-27; 9:21-24)
 
Obadiah received a vision concerning Edom. (Obadiah 1:1-21)
 
Nahum received a vision of the destruction of Ninevah approximately one hundred years after Jonah preached there.  Apparently, they had backslidden again, and it was “time to pay the piper.” (Nahum 1:1-3:19)
 
Peter, James and John had a vision (The Transfiguration) of Moses and Elisha while on the Mountain with Jesus. (Matthew 17:1-13)
 
Zacharias had a vision of the Angel of the Lord. (Luke 1:11-22)
 
Ananias had a vision of the Lord concerning Saul of Tarsus. (Acts 9:10-12)
 
Saul of Tarsus had a vision of Ananias coming to him to restore his eyesight. (Acts 9:12)
 
Cornelius had a vision of an Angel coming to him to reveal how he could hear the Gospel preached. (Acts 10:1-48)
 
Peter had a symbolic vision of the Gentiles being accepted into the Kingdom of God. (Acts 10:9-48)
 
Paul had either a vision or a dream of a Macedonian man beseeching him to come with the Gospel. (Acts 16:9,10)
 
The Lord appeared to Paul in either a dream or a vision bringing him encouragement and guidance. (Acts 18:9,10)
 
Paul experienced many visions in his lifetime. (2Corinthians 12:1)

References

How to Recognize God-Given Visions” by Benny Hinn Ministries
 
“Prophecy Visions And Dreams” by OpenBible.info
 
Supernatural Biblical Guidance” by Paster John Hamel
 
What are Visions” by Alice L. Camille
 
 
 
 
Jesus' glowing hand reching out

Saved From Destruction: A Testimony|Spiritual Meditations

By the age of 12, I was smoking a pack a day of cigarettes, using drugs & alcohol, was very racist and had my first tattoo (the Nazi “SS”) on my forearm. I had been arrested for drunkenness in public and spent a month in juvenile hall. Also, during that year I drank so much whiskey one day I was home puking in the toilet and lost consciousness. My head fell into the bowl and I would have drowned in my vomit if my little brother had not found me and pulled me out.

I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance with alcohol poisoning and my heart stopped a couple times and I had to be resuscitated. I can still see the EMT over me fading in and out and saying, “Don’t leave me Bobby . . . don’t leave me Bobby!”

I had a father who was physically abusive when he was not in prison. He tried to kill my mother in front of my brother and I. You know, all the standard stuff. As time went by things continued to get worse.

By 17 I had “WHITE POWER” tattooed across my shoulders and a big swastika on my back and I was running around with the Hell’s Angels and using meth every single day. That went on for 25 years with all the crime and things that go with it. As I look back there are several times that I thought I got “lucky” and should have died from overdoses, near motorcycle wrecks at 120 mph+, and violence including armed robbery. Now, I know my Savior wrapped His loving hands around me to spare my life.

How I Was Saved

I have a daughter who went into the Teen Challenge recovery program with a pill addiction. I was so happy for her because I did not want her to live a life in bondage, as I had all those years, and wanted to support her in every way possible. The girls in the program have a choir and go to a different church each Sunday and sing and give testimonies to raise money. I was at every single one. I had an extremely hard heart because my dad would have beaten me if I cried, even as a little boy, so I was not the crying type. But every week I would hear those girls sing and tell their stories and I would sit and sob (while trying to not draw attention).

My daughter wanted me to go into the program, but I would not. At one point she was going to leave the program (she was there voluntarily by the way) and I told her if she stayed and I was not clean by the time she graduated, I would go in. She stayed in and on October 21, 2012, I showed up for a choir outing at a local church. I had an incredible panic come over me like I had to get out of there, but I knew my daughter was counting on me to be there, so I stayed.

God delivered me that night. I knew something happened but wasn’t sure what. I felt different somehow. I used meth for a few more days and then one day just threw it away. I went through hell physically and it was a rough road, but He took away any desire to use meth. My girlfriend got saved also.

My Recovery From Addiction

I slept the majority of the time for nearly 5 months because my body had to adjust to coming off of 25 years of daily use. My now-wife Coleen would stop by on her way to work and wake me up to feed me. On her way home she would wake me up to feed me again and she would go home. The only other times I would get up was to shower occasionally and go to church and watch a little TV.

Because it might help somebody who has stumbled, I want to tell you that after I had been sober for 9 months (although I was awake more, I was hardly able to function), I started using again. I didn’t start because I had a desire to use, but rather because I was so frustrated after 9 months of being helpless and unable to function. I picked up right where I left off and thought “well, that’s it. God delivered me, changed my life, and I failed Him. He will never want me back”. That was a lie from Satan. A year and a half later, God delivered me again and I have been serving Him ever since (5 years clean this month). It is really amazing that it happened like that because, when I do jail and homeless ministry, I witness to people who have fallen and who also think God does not want them back now and have no hope. I AM ABLE TO DEBUNK THAT LIE OF THE ENEMY WITH MY STORY. God has been so good to me.

My Ministry

God changed my heart overnight too. When I was able to get up and around, I started going to the parks to witness to the homeless and pass out food gift cards my church supplied. I have a huge love for the people that are still in the bondage and it is only by the grace of God I didn’t end up homeless too.

I have a heart for people going down that road (especially kids). I have been there and can identify with them. (I went to a bunch of counselors as a kid as part of probation and would never talk to them because they were from a different world than mine.) I would love to find a way to take what the enemy intended for my destruction and use it for the glory of my Savior. These kids have no idea that they are robbing themselves of their future here on earth as well as what God wants for them in eternity. As the saying goes, “Jails, institutions, and death are the three destinations of abuse.”

Coleen and I were married shortly after we got saved as we didn’t want to live in a sinful relationship any longer. We began to pray for unsaved family members and as of today 9 family members have gotten saved and are faithful church members! All of those people were saved, and I was miraculously delivered because my daughter was in a Christ-based recovery program and they were all praying. Only God could do that.

About a month ago I felt the urge to go sit by the side of a very busy road here in town and hold up a big sign that said, “Drive Thru Prayer”. I finally did it. I sat there praying “Lord please send me somebody who is hurting”. After two hours, I was ready to leave when a truck pulled up in the vacant lot next to where I was. A man got out and was kind of wandering around and glancing at me. He finally came up and made small talk. He ended up asking for prayer. It turns out he had been saved and delivered from meth also. He had just recently gone back to using and lost his job and was having problems at home because of it. I was able to share that I had also stumbled and been set free again years ago. I put my arm around him as we sat on the curb and prayed. I believe God sent me there for that one man.

Sorry to go on so long. I just love to tell anybody who will listen what Jesus, the eternal Lover of my soul, has done for me! We are to tell everybody and never be ashamed. “For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He shall come in His glory, and in His Fathers, and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:26

Robert

[If you feel that God wouldn’t want somebody like you, you will find more encouragement and Biblical support in this companion post.]

If you found Robert’s testimony interesting, informative, inspiring or useful, please use the social media buttons below.  Thanks.

Relevant Scripture

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, (2 Cor 5:17-18)

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:7)

The Lord favors those who fear Him,
Those who wait for His lovingkindness. (Psalm 147:11)

 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. (John 14:23)

Photo Attribution

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Jesus praying

Jesus’ Prayers: a Feast for the Soul /Spiritual Meditations

If there is one word to describe the way Jesus prayed, it would be ‘intense”. Before He named the 12 disciples, He prayed all night. While in the Garden of Gethsemane, near the end of His human walk, He spent hours in prayer.

He spoke to God as His Father or “Abba”, a term a child would use for their own father and would go to God really trusting Him to be the divine love and the divine wisdom of this world. He prayed for guidance in where to preach and teach, who to choose, in healing and resurrection and to cast out demons. His prayers were from deep within where there was a hunger, a desire, or a need that was beyond words. When in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus said to the disciples, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death”. There was His connection with God, for God is not found on the surface of a person’s mind or their intellect but in their soul.

With a few exceptions, Jesus prayed in solitude; in the wilderness, in a secluded place, on the mountain. There were reasons Jesus wanted those exceptions heard.

The Raising of Lazarus

In John 11, Jesus spoke to God within the hearing of many as He called Lazarus from his tomb of 4 days. He told God “so that they believe that You sent Me”.

Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”  So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” (John 11:40-42)

Jesus Foretells His Death

In John 12, Jesus spoke His prayer for all to hear so that God would be glorified in His response.

“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.  Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.  Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”  But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. (John 12:27-33)

This was an important moment. Jesus, in agony, made his final decision of obedience unto death, in servanthood and sonship. Such obedience is indeed the glorification of God. And God answered: I have glorified My name and I will glorify it again. It was judgement; it was the overthrow of Satan; it was salvation. Who comprehended it? Was it merely the sound of thunder or was it the voice of an angel: both material and spiritual perception of revelation were mixed, depending on whether one was in the light or in darkness.

The High Priestly Prayer

This intercessory prayer is the most extensive and profound prayer of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. Jesus prayed this for the benefit of those present, after He finished His final instructions to the disciples and before He was betrayed, arrested, and crucified. Justin Taylor writes that

Jesus’ “high priestly prayer” (John 17) is only about 650 words. It takes only 3 minutes and 30 seconds to read it aloud. But it will take all eternity for us to fully understand it!

One could easily give a full lecture on this chapter, but I will only touch here on points which I do not think are easily noticed. To learn more, I would encourage you to read a full commentary.

In this prayer, as Christ’s crucifixion approached, He told the disciples what was to come for Him and for them. John 17 is often called the “High Priestly Prayer”, as Jesus, the great High Priest, consecrates Himself to His coming death through which He will make atonement for the sin of the world. In the death of the Son, God’s love is revealed most profoundly, for love is the laying down of one’s life.

Yet there is a good deal more to the prayer than just this theme, for it deals with some of the great doctrines of the Gospel – the relationship of Father and Son, (v. 1-5), the relationship of the Son to the disciples and of the disciples to the world (v. 6-19), and the relationship of the Son to later generations of believers and their relationship to the world (v. 20-26)

At the beginning of the prayer, as Jesus turns to address the Father, His speech implies that He is taken up into the eternal presence. He speaks as if His work were already complete (for example, v. 4). Indeed, He even says, “I am no longer in this world” (v. 11, completely obscured in the NIV). But right after that He says, I say these things while I am still in the world (v. 13). He is right there with His disciples just before His death, but He is praying from the realm of eternity.

Jesus’ intercession for his disciples from within God’s presence anticipated His role after His ascension. The disciples’ relation to God had enabled them to recognize the Son and believe in Him. Their knowledge and faith were not as complete as they thought it is, but Jesus affirmed they have reached a decisive point. They had believed in Him and stayed with Him, even when most of His followers abandoned Him (6:60-69). There was still an enormous amount they do not know, and Jesus told them as much when He promised them the Holy Spirit to instruct them (14:26; 16:13).

Father and Son

Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh [sometimes translated ‘all Creation’], that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

Initially, it seems unfitting for Jesus to pray that He might receive glory for Himself. Looking more closely we find there are several observations concerning this request for glory which puts the matter in a different light.

  • Jesus requested the He be glorified in order to bring further glory to the Father
  • Jesus requested the glory which rightfully belonged to Him. When the second person of the Godhead left heaven to become God incarnate, He temporarily set aside His glory (Phil 2:5-8).
  • Christ’s glory was earned at the price of the cross

“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; 10 and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. 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. 12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition [Judas Iscariot] so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.

The Disciples in the World

13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 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.

Their Future Glory

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.

The value of this thought is that it gives solidity to our ideas of a future life. Our Lord said not only ‘that where I am, they also may be,’ but adds ‘with Me.’ That is not a superfluous addition, but emphasizes the thought of a communion which is intimate and blessed.

The crown of this utterance of Christ’s will is ‘that they may behold My glory.’ In an earlier part of this prayer our Lord had spoken of the ‘glory which I had with Thee before the world was.’ But probably the glory ‘given’ is not that of essential Divinity, but that of His future heavenly work. To His people ‘with Him where He is,’ are imparted fuller views of Christ as Savior, deeper notions of His work, clearer perception of His role in providence and nature. This is the loftiest employment of the spirits who are perfected and lapped in ‘pleasures for evermore’ by their union with the glorified Jesus.

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.”

Jesus Teaches How to Pray

Having highlighted the major prayers of Jesus, spoken for the good of those hearing them, I think it logical that we should consider His instruction on prayer. Here again, I will only address ideas that may not be easily noticed.

So many were the corruptions that had crept into the duty of prayer among the Jews, that Christ saw it needful to give a new directory for prayer. Because “we know not what to pray for as we ought”, He helped by giving a series of headings by which a time of prayer, long or short, may be guided. Not that we are tied to this form because we speak with God as we would to our own father or friend. Note how simple to remember and succinct each heading is, yet it should be prayed with understanding and without vain repetition

There are six petitions; the first three relating more immediately to God and his honor, the last three to our own concerns, both temporal and spiritual; as in the ten commandments, the four first teach us our duty toward God, and the last six our duty toward our neighbor. The method of this prayer teaches us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and then to hope that other things shall be added.

11 It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” And He said to them, “When you pray, say:

[Luke’s Version of the Lord’s Prayer]

‘Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come. [doing God’s will on earth]
‘Give us each day our daily bread.
‘And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”

[Matthew’s version of the Lord’s prayer in chapter 6]

9‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]

A note about “our daily bread”. Jesus refers here to basic sustenance for today without thought for tomorrow but relying on God’s provision. We pray, “Give it to us”; not to me only, but to others in common with me.

Note also that those that come to God for the forgiveness of their sins against Him, with a plea for grace, must have forgiven those who have offended them, else they curse themselves when they say the Lord’s prayer.

I you are interested in a closer look at the Lord’s Prayer, I would encourage you to watch this video Bible study by Pastor Nathan.

Back to Luke

Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children [e]and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

This is often interpreted as indicating a need to keep after God with repeated requests for the same thing. However, Jesus is indicating that if a reluctant man will answer the need, how much more will God do so since He is anxious to meet our needs.

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.

Here Jesus is referring to our request for the Holy Spirit to come into our lives as is seen in the following verses.

11 Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11:1-13

All Things Will be Granted You?

Because these verses are so frequently misunderstood, I will mention Mark 11:24-25.

24 Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. 25 Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.

It is a distortion of the intention of these verses to take them to mean that a person can be a powerful magician. God acts through us in accord with His will and not ours. However, even considering only these two verses, while noting that verse 24 is a vital principle in prayer, we must remember that there is a condition in verse 25 that must be fulfilled.

The Essence of Prayer

Prayer should be a desire for spiritual fulfillment.  It is at it’s foundation a contemplative soaking in the infinite love of God.

On our behalf, Jesus prayed “that they [meaning you and I] may all be one, even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us“.  One with God’s Kingdom.

By seeking first the Kingdom of God and being satisfied to let God add other things unto us as He sees is best for us, we open ourselves to fulfillment.  Let our prayers be an inner stillness in which God’s words flow into us reminding us Son all that I have is thine”.

God knows your needs before you do.  it is important that we leave behind all our preconceive notions or ideas of our material hopes, ambitions and desires, because there is no assurance that God will fulfill them on our terms. Trust our loving God to take care of you without telling Him how to do it. We tend to do this about the things we care the most about, when He is in a position to know what is best for us.

It is not the nature of God to withhold from you and then give you those very things because you pray for them and have been good.  The more you realize that God is not a rewarding God or a punishing God, but that the nature of God is infinite love and infinite wisdom, the more clearly you will see that there is little need to repeatedly tell God of your wishes or ask him to fill them. Recognizing His sovereignty and giving our cares to Him shows our trust in God’s hands and allows us to relax in His everlasting arms.  

Yet each heart-felt prayer is a renewal of our connection with God and our most desperate intersessions and thanksgivings are those that generate the hunger, desire, or need that is beyond words and heard the loudest by God.

As Jesus prayed, let us seek to be one with God and Christ and “perfected in unity”. Prayer is the vital breath, the heartbeat of divine energy without which we cannot truly live.

Relevant Scriptures

Then Jesus *came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and *said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Mark 14:36-39)

Additional Reference

Bible Gateway Commentary https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/John/Jesus-Concludes-Time-Alone

Bible Hub Commentaries-MacLaren Expositions https://biblehub.com/commentaries/maclaren/john/17.htm

Photo Attribution

Photo credit: <a href=”https://visualhunt.co/a5/4e073d2d”>ThiênLong</a&gt; on <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/re7/305fb8fa”>Visualhunt.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”&gt; CC BY-SA</a>

 

sketch of Jesus and Samaritan woman at well

Are We Smart Enough to Judge Others?/Spiritual Meditations

Many of us live in a society drowning in shallow judgments based on a people’s appearance, vocabulary, dialect, education, fashion, sexual preference, ethnic group, where they live, where they’re from, are they interracially married and other characteristics that are meaningless to God. We even judge ourselves based on how well we think we measure up to such standards. Often those standards are hoisted upon us during our developmental years by parents, teachers and peers, and now our mind accepts them.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

Of course, we know there are more important issues in life; loving others, humility, gratitude, patience, generosity and all the guidance we find in the ten commandments and the sermon on the mount among other texts. How do we prevent ourselves from criticizing those who have a speck in their eye?

In order to swim out of the riptide of biases, we need to focus on that which is meaningful to God; a person’s heart, their soul, their Inner Being. But are we so wise and discerning that we can see that deeply into a person? Do we know and understand all the pieces of their life that have come together to make them who they are? Their behavior may not be what God would wish for them, but is it up to us, with our limited knowledge, to correct them? Let’s explore.

Generally, Don’t Judge Others

It is easy to quote the Bible verses that support our position on any issue, but if we look at all the verses regarding judging others, we find that the list is more heavily weighted against it.

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God…. Therefore, let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (Rom 14:10-13)

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. (John 12:46-48)

For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” (Heb 10:30)

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:37-38)

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12)

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. (Rom 14:1-13)

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. (Rom 12:16)

Judgment pollutes our heart as we often intend malice, while slandering another person (Mark 7:20-23). It also makes us vulnerable to hatred as we plant seeds of unforgiveness and condemnation that take root in our hearts and minds (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Judge With Understanding

In John 7:7 Jesus told his disciples that the world hates him “because I testify about it that its works are evil.” He also repeatedly criticized the Pharisees. So, he couldn’t have meant that we’re all supposed to just throw up our hands and say, “Hey, to each his own. Who am I to judge?”

We are blessed to have words of guidance and direction from Jesus. Unfortunately, we do not have his inspired understanding of a person as he demonstrated in his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. After speaking with Jesus, she announced to her neighbors “see a man who told me all the things that I have done”

When Jesus told us the harsh truth about our sin, he brought us close. He made us his friends, even as sinners.

The ultimate goal of confronting a person, with the way they are separating themselves from God, is to bring repentance. We are called to judge sin—always with the goal of repentance and reconciliation.

The following two verses support judgment, but in a spirit of teaching.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Tim 2:24-26)

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. (Gal 6:1-6)

John 7:24 says “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” which speaks to the necessity of being wise enough and discerning enough to know what ‘right judgment’ is. Who can make this claim?

Proverbs 31:9 comes right out and says it “Open your mouth, judge righteously” but then goes on to qualify what we should be judging “defend the rights of the poor and needy. “

The Apostle Paul, however, came up against gross immorality in one of his fledgling churches. Not only did he point out the offending individual, but he identified the characteristics of persons that the church should shun. Although there certainly was/is merit in eliminating bad influences within the church, influences that could hinder spiritual growth in others, it is difficult to apply first century descriptions to twenty-first century society. If one covets the car of his rich neighbor or idolizes a celebrity should they be shunned? What we consider to be immoral today is also significantly different than 2000 years ago; just compare the typical attire of a first-century middle eastern woman with the norm of today. Yes, we should use these verses as guidelines, but we must be very careful in how we apply them, keeping in mind that Christians already have a reputation for being ‘judgmental’. Here’s what Paul said:

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you…. that someone has his father’s wife…. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present….Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?  Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened….But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:1-11)

When are You Being Judgmental?

  • When you are more enraged at someone else’s sin than you are embarrassed by your own.
  • When you gossip. What makes gossip so dangerous is that you are judging someone without giving them the chance to change. At least if you judged someone to their face, they could do something about it.
  • When you refuse to forgive – To refuse to forgive someone is to be almost entirely ignorant of the enormity of what God has forgiven you.
  • When you think the other person is hopeless and assume they won’t change and won’t listen to your fully considered guidance. You’re consigning them to their sin without ever giving them the chance to receive grace.
  • When you “cut off” those who disagree with you. This is the essence of judging.

Being Judgmental Says Something About You

We usually judge others in the areas where we feel the weakest. We expose our own insecurities when we criticize someone else.

Although it is an admirable goal, I don’t think that it’s possible to live a life where we never judge anyone, ever. So, I’d like to offer a practice that may help.

Stay out of judgment and be in curiosity.

Judgment shuts us down and keeps us from understanding the full situation. If we’re being honest, most judgments about people are based on incomplete information.

Curiosity, on the other hand, keeps us open to the possibility that there is something about the situation that we don’t fully understand.

Conclusion

John tells us in I John 4:20 “If a man says ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar. for if he doesn’t love his brother, who he can see, how can he love God , who he can’t see”.

We must realize the balance between grace and truth. Don’t judge others by withholding the truth. But don’t judge them by speaking the truth without grace. Instead, give them the grace and truth of the gospel. Truth without grace is judgmental fundamentalism; grace without truth is liberal sentimentality. The gospel combines both.  But if there is any question in your mind as to whether you should criticize someone, don’t.

References

Shola at “The Positivity Solution”

“Judging Others” by All About God

“7 Signs that You are Judging Others” by J.D. Greear

 

 

2 small boys, one has caused the 2nd to cry, ball solic background

Are You Creating Your Own Guilt? / Spiritual Meditations

I’m still regretting a couple of things I said / did while in high school. I’m sure you can think of a couple as well. It is surprising how often we have feelings of guilt. Some say that the moments of guilt add up to about 5 hours a week. With our constant striving for perfection, whether we are Christian, Jewish, Muslin, Buddhist, or Hindu, it is no wonder we don’t always live up to our own standards and moral codes. The guilt can be beneficial or unhealthy depending on the situation.

Just to be clear on what’s being discussed here, let me point out the difference between guilt and shame. They are frequently used interchangeably, but there is a difference.

How are Guilt and Shame Different?

Shame involves feelings about yourself, generally reflecting early psychological damage that impedes positive personality growth. It could be your feelings about who you are or who you aren’t, projected by society, which can become ingrained into your own self-evaluation, whether they are legitimate or not.

Guilt is a common feeling of emotional distress that tells us when our actions or inactions have caused, might cause or we imagine will cause harm to another person—physical, emotional, or otherwise. Because guilt hinges on empathy for others, the capacity to feel guilt could be seen as emotional progress.

When is Guilt a Good Thing?

Healthy feelings of guilt motivate you to live according to your authentic values, which, in turn, can improve your relationships with others, since you are more likely to treat them with respect and do your fair share. Guilt protects our relationships.

In small doses, guilt can benefit us. But when it runs free, it can cause havoc.

When is Guilt Harmful?

Unnecessary or excessive feelings of guilt, even mild guilt, can be a psychological burden that interferes with your emotions and quality of life.

If you feel guilty too easily your guilt alarm goes off when it shouldn’t. As a result, you end up feeling guilty about impacting others adversely, when you haven’t. This is no minor issue; by over-interpreting people’s disapproval when it’s not there, you’re exposing yourself to constant and unnecessary stress and impacting your own quality of life.

On the more serious end of the spectrum, excessive or inappropriate guilt can be a symptom of clinical depression, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Unwarranted guilt has also been associated with a history of childhood trauma with critical, neglecting, or abusive parents. These feelings of guilt can instill a sense of unworthiness and can result in self-punishment.

Unresolved guilt is like having a snooze alarm in your head that won’t shut off. Your attention is constantly monopolized by bursts of guilty feelings which compete for your attention to work, school, and life in general. Guilt usually wins. Studies have found that concentration, productivity, creativity, and efficiency are all significantly lower when you’re feeling actively guilty.

What are Some Causes of Guilt?

Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. suggests that guilt may occur when “a person believes or realizes—accurately or not—that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a universal moral standard and bears significant responsibility for that violation.” This would include stealing, lying or cheating and much more.

Yet much of the unhappiness we experience is due to our own irrational thoughts about situations. We know that our memory of past events is highly unreliable. It’s possible for you to have done nothing wrong at all but misremember and think that you did, particularly when there are highly charged feelings involved.

One typical mental source of guilt is the magical belief that you can jinx people by thinking about them in a negative or hurtful way. Perhaps you’ve wished that a romantic rival would experience some evil twist of fate. Should that evil twist of fate happen, you may, at some level, believe that it was due to your own vengeful wish.  At some level you “know” that you’re being illogical, but it’s hard to rid yourself completely of this belief.

Then there are the accidental social blunders. Perhaps you didn’t realize how much you hurt your friend’s feelings with what you thought was a humorous remark. You wonder how many other people you have offended unintentionally. Beware; it is possible to unwittingly make matters worse by distancing yourself from the person who is the focus of your guilt.

People with eating disorders often feel excessive guilt about eating, putting on weight, or not exercising enough. This guilt often co-exists with a distorted, negative body image.

Women, in particular, are prone to feeling guilty, according to research. A 2009 study by Etxebarria, published in the Spanish Journal of Psychology, surveyed women and men from three age groups (156 teenagers, 96 young adults, and 108 older adults) about which situations most often caused them to feel guilt. The researchers found that habitual guilt was higher for women than men in all three age groups, with the biggest gap in the 40 to 50 year-old range. This age corresponds to the “sandwich generation” years, in which many people juggle taking care of teenagers as well as aging parents.

Especially during those stressful years, you may feel you haven’t done enough to help someone. You’ve given hours of your free time to them, but now you have other obligations or are getting burnt out. You feel guilty because you are pursuing your own life when they are suffering, dysfunctional, or need a lot of emotional care. Adding to the overall emotional drain of the situation, your guilt overlaid on the fatigue, ultimately makes you a less effective helper.

Another study found that women report more guilt than men, overall, when they take work calls or answer work emails in the evening. Finally, research shows that millennial women—and millennials in general—feel guilty about taking vacations.

A more deeply disturbing experience is that of survivor guilt which is addressed by professionals who work with combat veterans who outlive their fellow troops. Survivor guilt also occurs when people who lose families, friends, or neighbors in disasters while remaining untouched, or at least alive, themselves.

Additionally, this kind of guilt characterizes those who make a better life for themselves than do their family or friends. First-generation college students, for example, may feel guilty that they are getting opportunities that their parents or siblings did not. To “protect” their family members, they might engage in self-destructive behaviors that ensure they won’t make it in school.  Logic would dictate that the family truly wants the student to succeed (and thus bring honor to the family), but this logic is lost on the student.

How do I Deal With My Guilt?

Before you start accusing yourself of wrongdoing, make sure that the wrongdoing took place. If you’re distorting your recollection of events to make yourself seem more at fault than you are, it’s time for a reality check. “We assume that others place far more importance on our thoughts and actions than they actually do”, Dr. Whitbourne adds

In the case of excessive guilt, it is important to realize that everyone errs and that occasionally behaving in a hurtful way doesn’t make someone a bad person; it just makes them human.

But if truly at fault, some people may attempt to stave off guilt by rationalizing or minimizing the harmful effect that their actions had on others. More helpful, however, is an acknowledgment of the offense, accompanied by an apology if appropriate.

In the case of survivor’s guilt, or a person who tends to blame themselves for circumstances that are beyond their control, help often involves the person letting go of a false sense of responsibility for what happened, refraining from negative self-talk, and developing greater self-compassion. If you change your thoughts, you can change your emotions

When guilt surfaces because you are doing better than those around you, remind yourself of how proud, glad, and invested those who care for you are. As hard as it might be, your own failure will not make others who love you feel better about themselves. You need to gain your inspiration from the knowledge that your efforts are a tribute to them. And don’t get down on yourself if you can’t reach your loftiest goals (or the ones they have or had for you) but at least know that you’re giving yourself the shot at success that they would want you to have.

If you are prone to feeling the unhealthy kind of guilt—in which you are always beating yourself up for not doing enough—use the tips and tools below, develop by Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D., to set yourself free. It takes a lot of practice and deliberate re-thinking to change an entrenched pattern of guilt, so be patient.

    1. Look for the evidence.

If you feel guilty because you’re “not doing enough” for your kids, partner, or family, list all the things that you regularly do for them. Then, keep the list in your purse or wallet to pull out when guilt rears its head.

    1. Be direct and get more information.

Ask the people you think you’re neglecting whether they feel neglected. Consider whether they have a tendency to expect too much and not take enough responsibility for themselves (e.g., teenagers who expect you to pick up after them). Then, think about how an outside observer would view the situation. If you conclude that you really aren’t doing enough, then come up with some solutions or compromises that balance everybody’s needs.

    1. Appreciate yourself and all that you do.

Write a “self-gratitude” diary at the end of every day, noting at least three things you did that day that furthered your goals or helped someone you care about. At the end of the week, read what you’ve written. Guilt and perfectionism have a negative bias. They make you pay attention to what you’re not doing right. By writing down what you did, you can overcome this bias and force yourself to focus on your accomplishments.

    1. Think how you would see things if the roles were reversed.

Would you think your friend or partner wasn’t doing enough, given all they had going on? We often find it easy to be compassionate and understanding with others but are too harsh on ourselves. By deliberately taking the other person’s perspective, you’ll likely see your situation in a more objective light

    1. Curb the “black and white” thinking.

Are you thinking about the situation in all-or-nothing terms? Do you think that if you’re not the perfect partner (or daughter, or parent) you must be the worst one on the planet? Try to find the gray amid all that black and white. Consider other ways of seeing the situation. Try to judge your efforts in context, rather than always expecting perfection.

    1. Look for the emotions underneath the guilt.

Might the guilt be masking other feelings like anger, intimidation, or resentment? If you’re in a relationship with a very needy person or a narcissist, you or your partner may convince you that you’re being selfish by setting limits and saying no. Over time, your guilt and inner conflict may be masking resentment.

    1. Decide how much you’re willing and able to do.

If you honestly feel that you haven’t done enough for your partner or family member, then make an authentic commitment to take specific caring or helpful actions going forward. If you can’t do all the housework in the evening, decide which pieces you can commit to doing. Then, communicate this willingness to your partner in a proactive way.

    1. Realize it’s okay to take care of your own needs.

Some of us were the family peacemakers who took care of others all the time. Perhaps you had an alcoholic parent who was incapable of properly taking care of you. As an adult, you may still silence your own needs or feel they are less valid than those of your partner, child, or friend. But you don’t have to let this reaction to past trauma shape your relationships in the present.

Guilt is a useless emotion—useless because we don’t need to feel bad about ourselves to take corrective actions. Guilt is useless for three basic reasons:

  1. You can’t change the past, no matter how long or how often you practice feeling guilty.
  2. Rehashing guilt-arousing thoughts in your mind keeps you locked in the past, rather than focused on the present.
  3. Feeling guilty does not help you correct troubling behavior because you expend your mental energies putting yourself down rather than learning to change your behavior.

In cases where guilt is driven by a mental health issue, it is important to seek professional help. Sometimes treating the underlying concern can alleviate strong feelings of guilt or shame.

The Spiritual Person Attempts a Greater Goal

Each person is at a different place in their spiritual journey and this can be seen in how seriously they attempt to fulfill the teachings of Jesus or their spiritual mentor.

The Ten Commandments alone are a challenge. How often do we hear someone exclaim “Oh my God”, or work on Sunday or wish we had a house as nice as so-and-so?

Additionally Jesus asked much more of us; to be humble, generous and merciful, to love our enemies and not resist insult, to not worry ourselves or judge others, and much more – traits we should strive for and the basis for the thinking that we are all sinners. But only Christ and spiritual icons can surpass this threshold.

So these values increase the number of things to possibly feel guilty about. Fortunately, with the help of the Holy Spirit (and possibly some of the helpful hints above) we can reduce our offenses and be forgiven for those for which we feel regret or remorse.

What Did Jesus Say About Guilt?

 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,  leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.  Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. (Mat 5:23-25)

Here Jesus shifts from the external meaning of the law against murder (6th commandments) to the inner attitude of the heart. Hatred and insult toward another are as serious violations of God’s will as the act of murder. It is God’s intention that people become reconciled. To support this, he introduces a parable indicating the wisdom of ingratiating oneself with one’s accuser while they are on their way to court. This could also be a metaphor suggesting how much more a follower should be reconciled with others before their time of judgement.

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?”  They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.  But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again, He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court.  Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” (John 8:1-11)

In this passage the Pharisees are attempting to trap Jesus into putting himself in conflict with either the Romans (who said only they could carry out a death sentence) or the Jews (because the law of Moses required stoning in this situation). Jesus’ answer avoids the trap by turning the question into a moral challenge to those who are willing to play politics with this woman’s sin and misery.

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, not to condemn them but to offer God’s forgiveness and acceptance. The story certainly does not mean that Jesus condoned sin. His clemency and compassion indicated his concern for the motives of the woman’s accusers.

Conclusion

We can imagine ourselves in the role of the woman and in the role of the Pharisees. As the woman we have received forgiveness but are told to “sin no more”. As the Pharisees we are reminded that we are no more perfect than the woman and should treat others as we would wish to be treated.

References:

Guy Winch in Psychology Today

Adapted from The Stress-Proof Brain: Master Your Emotional Response to Stress Using Mindfulness and Neuroplasticity by Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D.

“The Definitive Guide to Guilt” Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Psychology Today

Understanding the New Testament by F.F. Bruce

silhouette of people on globe

What is Your Purpose in Life? / Spiritual Meditations

One of the sure signs of our continued growth as followers of Christ is that we feel our hearts being broken by the things that break the heart of God. Growing into the likeness of Christ means being drawn more deeply into the compassion of God so that we hear the cries of injustice in our world, see the broken people along the way, and seek with a divine urgency a way to make a difference in places of suffering, injustice, and pain.

As you follow your passion and search for your place to serve, you will also discover that awakening to God‘s call is not a one-time experience but an ongoing process by which the Spirit of God continues to open our eyes in new ways of serving as we grow in our discipleship, as we face major transitions in our lives, and as we become more fully awake to the constantly changing needs of the world around us.

This process is a step along the spiritual journey that John Wesley called “Christian perfection“. It’s the lifelong process by which the Spirit of God shapes our lives into the likeness of Christ. It leads us more deeply into the love of God and guides us to new opportunities to love others the way we have been loved by God.

Service Inspired Joy

Shame our wanton selfish gladness, rich in things and poor in soul. Harry Emerson Fosdick

There are frustrated people who, by world standards, have more than they could ever need but live with a nagging dissatisfaction in their souls. The things they’ve acquired and the success they’ve achieved have not made the difference they were hoping for. They are haunted by a desire for something more valuable and more lasting than anything money can buy. They still feel gnawing desire for their life to make a more significant difference in the world.

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve. Albert Schweitzer

The people Schweitzer speaks of have found an unambiguous joy by discovering that their lives can make a difference. They are faithful disciples who have followed their passion, found their way to serve, and are making a real, tangible, transformative difference in the lives of others. They’ve seen small signs of the impact their witness is having on unjust systems and institutions. Seeing their lives, hearing their laughter, sharing their hopes, and listening to their stories confirms the truth in Schweitzer’s words and the difference it makes for a person to find his or her custom designed place to serve.

If you haven’t found yours, watch the faithful servants of Christ who are like mustard seeds, which, Jesus said, are the smallest of all seeds but which can grow into a flourishing bush. You will often find these “seeds’ in unexpected places where they have found their way to make a kingdom-shaped difference. Ask yourself if, perhaps, your spiritual gifts and desire to serve align with theirs.

God’s Servants are Everywhere

You will find God’s people in likely places doing the kinds of things you might expect: teaching children in Sunday school, serving in leadership to their congregation, singing in their church choirs and playing instruments in the worship band, facilitating small groups for spiritual growth, leading mission teams, visiting in hospitals and nursing homes, arranging flowers on the altar or counting the Sunday offering.

You will also find these difference-making people in unlikely places doing things that you might not expect. You will meet them in homeless shelters and in migrant farm worker camps. You will find them delivering meals on wheels in economically underprivileged neighborhoods; registering voters in neglected communities; tutoring children in low achieving public schools; organizing groups for economic justice and creating bridges for communication between Christians, Muslims, and Jews. You can stand with them in prayer vigils for non-violence and see them risk imprisonment because they refuse to participate in war. You can walk with them between the crowded tin shacks in the sprawling townships of South Africa. Their courageous witness for racial reconciliation is humbling. Wherever they are there is a persistent passion and an incorrigible joy.

Stay Connected

Desmond Tutu once said, “we are only the lightbulbs and our job is just to remain screwed in”. It could have been the archbishops paraphrase of Jesus’s words, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me won’t walk in darkness but will have the light of life”. (John 8:12)

But It’s frighteningly easy to fall asleep and miss out on the way God wants to use our lives to make a difference in the world. It happens when we are not fully awake to the voice of God‘s Spirit within us or the needs of the world around us.

God’s call usually comes to people who practice the spiritual discipline that enables them to hear and respond to God’s Spirit. They are consistent in their practice of worship. They soak themselves in the words of scripture. They develop patterns of prayer that keep them awake and responsive to the new things God is doing and through which they discern the guidance of the Spirit. They live in community with other faithful disciples.

The spiritual discipline of prayer that is grounded in scripture and nurtured in worship is the starting point for our discovery of a life that really makes a difference. It is the sustaining center of a relationship with God that continues to fuel our passion and leads us to our place to serve. It is the renewing source of our vision for the future.

 3 Steps to Successful Prayer

The World Needs You

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the worlds deep hunger meet. Frederick Buechner

The practical implication of a Biblical understanding of discipleship is that the Christian life is not primarily defined by sitting in the pew on Sunday morning but by the way we live and serve outside the church walls during the week. We live out of our discipleship in the world rather than inside the church. Our experience and worship are like the team gathering in the locker room before going onto the field where the real game will be played. What we do inside the church is intended to equip us to be the servants of God‘s love, grace, justice, and peace on the outside. Paul said that we are reconciled to God in Christ so that we can become the agents of God’s reconciliation of the world. (II Corinthians 5:19)

God can take the activity you love to do and use it to make a Christlike difference in somebody else’s life.

There are people who provide guitars and teach music to underprivileged kids: who like to bake for the homeless street ministry: who extended their love of scripture to prison mates: who like to shop and do so for homebound elderly.

We are sent from worship to become the people through whom God answers our prayer for God‘s kingdom to come and God‘s will to be done in our world. When we see the injustice and suffering of the world and ask, “God, why don’t you do something about this? “ we will probably hear God asking us the same question. God is already out there, and we are challenged to join him in the kingdom work of healing, peace, and redemption.

Listening for the Still Small Voice

Most of us need to stop what we are doing in order to hear God’s voice. The pressure of time and over-commitment is often a barrier to service. We, the church can begin by providing opportunities for faithful disciples to stop, take a deep breath, and be still in the presence of God. It’s the only way to be ready to hear the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The first work of the spirit in helping us find our calling is to open our eyes so that we begin to see the world around us through the eyes of Jesus. Searching for and finding our places to serve involves looking with spirit awakened eyes at the needs of the world and at the gifts, talents, and opportunities we’ve been given. If you have not discovered your spiritual gift, this link will help you to find it and provides a Spiritual Gifts Survey.

Determine your Spiritual Gifts here.

What Does Hinder You?

One of the unique challenges of our day is that it is frighteningly easy to live in a media defined bubble. Many of us get all our information about the world through the lens of a particular social, economic, and political perspective. We spend most of our time in racial and socioeconomic enclaves in which most of the people around us look, think, and act the way we do. We gravitate towards news sources that constantly reconfirm our preconceived assumptions. It’s not that we are insensitive, mean, or bad people but that we are blinded by our own reflection in the mirror-like glass bowl in which we live.

But disciples who hear God’s call to make a difference in this world intentionally look at the world in a new and different way. They see the world through the lens of the infinite compassion and love of God. They look at people who are struggling and in pain as their “own people”. With Christ like eyes open to the world around us, we look then for the place where our strengths, talents, and availability connect with that need.

Strength in Numbers

The good news is that we are not called to do this alone. Being “born again “means that we are born into the family of God with brothers and sisters in Christ, who share the same vision, burn with the same passion, and live by the same hope. Paul said that our unique talents, passions, and personalities are gifts of God’s grace that are drawn together in the body of Christ to accomplish Gods purpose in this world (I Cor 12:1- 12).

Moses father-in-law, Jethro, said to him “Moses, why are you doing all this by yourself? You will end up totally wearing yourself out. You can’t do it alone.“

The apostles needed to learn the same lesson. The early Christian movement was growing so quickly that the apostles couldn’t handle it. The result was that widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. So, the disciples appointed a team composed of Steven and six others to be responsible for the feeding ministry. As a result, “God‘s word continues to grow and the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased significantly“. (Acts 6:7)

When we set out to make a difference, we will soon discover that we cannot do it alone. We need to do it with a team of people who share the same passion and are finding their way to serve together. You can join a team or organize a team.

Focus on the Goal

When a group is centered on a clear, compelling, and commonly held mission, faithful disciples can handle diversity of conviction about practices that are on the circumference of their life together. The mission that unites them is stronger than the differences that would divide them.

John Wesley describe this pattern of life when he said, “though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without doubt, we may. Here all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding the small differences. These remaining as they are, they may forward one another in love and in good works“.

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

Being a servant means that we are not in charge here. We enter the lives of others as servants who know that our lives are under the undisputed authority and control of our Lord.

Making a difference in the lives of people who experience oppression, suffering, or injustice begins when we choose to enter their experience, listen to their story, and join them in their pain. In the same way God’s son became one of us to share our human life, we are drawn closer to Jesus by drawing closer to people in pain.

Get In On The Action

Stephen Kobe taught us to “begin with the end in mind“. He sounded like an old testament prophet when he defined imagination as “the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes“. He challenges us to “begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of the desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.“

God is inviting us to get in on the action. Eugene Peterson declares, “we are not spectators to a grand cosmic show. We are in the show. But we are not running it. “The coming of God‘s kingdom is only and always God’s work, but we can live now in ways that are consistent with the way thing will be then. By the power of the Holy Spirit, even small, apparently insignificant things can make an eternal difference.

We don’t necessarily need to be looking off in some distant horizon to find our calling. God only calls a few heroic souls to go to distant places. Most of God’s work in this world gets done in ordinary places by ordinary people like us who see our world through the extraordinary perspective of God‘s Kingdom  revealed in Jesus Christ. The task to which God calls us is often the task most closely at hand. At the same time, we remain open to the possibility that God may enlarge our vision and call us to make a difference in ways and means that stretch beyond our immediate boundaries. God has a surprising way of expanding our small efforts to touch the world in ways that go beyond anything we expect.

It’s what Jesus meant when he described the Kingdom of God saying that it is “like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through all the dough“ Matthew 13:33 This is us. We are the yeast. We are the mustard seed.

Your Service is the Beginning of the Kingdom on Earth

Disciples who serve the most passionately in the present are people who have a firm grasp of God’s future. The way they serve “now” is defined by the way they envision the world will be “then“.

We care about the environment NOW because THEN the renewed creation will be the place where God will be at home with God’s people. (Rev 21:3)

We work for peace NOW because we know that THEN swords will be turned into plowshares and spears into pruninghooks and people will not learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)

We work to overcome racism and ethnic conflict NOW because we know that THEN heaven will be filled with people from every race, tongue and nation. (Rev 7:9)

We invite others to become disciples of Jesus Christ NOW because we know that THEN every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Phil 2:10-11)

We care for one another in Christian community NOW because we know that THEN God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. (Rev 21:4)

We feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, and seek economic justice for the poor NOW because Jesus said that’s the way every nation will be judged THEN. (Mat 25:31-46)

Conclusion

To find your joy in God’s service, ask yourself these questions and explore your response.

What is my vision of the end towards which my discipleship is leading me?

Where have I seen tangible signs of God’s Kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven?

Considering the list above, where can I make a difference NOW that is in anticipation of the way things will be THEN?

Reference

Make a Difference: Following Your Passion and Finding Your Place to Serve by James A. Harnish

 

 

Living in the Kingdom of God /Spiritual Meditations

I find the Biblical references to the Kingdom of God puzzling. Is it the future ‘coming of age’ at Christ’s second coming or is it God’s people who are living now? Is it the earth transformed into Heaven or is it a separate heavenly realm? Does it include all those that God loves (meaning everyone) or is it the souls of those who have given their lives to Christ as believers?

Consider the following:

The Kingdom of God (KOG) is the realm in which God’s reign is experienced. This realm is sometimes something present, sometimes future. It is a realm introduced after the ministry of John the Baptist into which people entered with violent ‘determination’ (Luke 16:16). Jesus offered the Kingdom to Israel for they were its proper heirs (Matt 8:12), but the religious leaders, followed by most of the people, not only refused to enter its blessings but tried to prevent others from entering (Matt 23:13). Nevertheless, many tax-collectors and harlots did enter the kingdom (Matt 21:31 & Col 1:13). In these verses the KOG is a present realm where people may enjoy the blessings of God’s rule.

Elsewhere, the KOG is a future realm inaugurated by the return of Christ. The righteous will inherit this Kingdom (Matt 25:34) and will shine like the sun in God’s Kingdom (Matt 13:43).   Entrance into this future kingdom is synonymous with entering the eternal life of the Age to Come (Matt 19:28).

There is also an abstract meaning of KOG evident in many passages. Only those who ‘receive the KOG’, (i.e. accepts God rule here and now), enter the realm of its blessings in the future (Mark 10:15). When we seek God’s kingdom and righteousness, we seek God’s rule in our lives (Matt 6:33). And “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

However, God’s Kingdom is not just an abstraction. The Kingdom is God’s rule dynamically active to defeat evil and redeem sinners. I Corinthians 15:14-16 says that Christ must reign as King until he has destroyed all enemies, the last of which is death. He will then deliver the KOG. From this passage we understand that the KOG is the dynamic rule of God manifested in Christ to destroy His spiritual enemies and bring to humanity the blessings of God’s reign.

The diversity of the New Testament data has led to diverse interpretations, but one thing seems to be clear; entrance into the kingdom is by the new birth (John 3:3-5), and that there are two stages of the KOG; present and future. Because the future KOG, synonymous with the Kingdom of Heaven, is only symbolically described in John’s Revelation and unknowable by us at this time, I want to explore the present KOG; the KOG that we can experience on earth.

Some of the most notable scripture verses related to our search for God’s Kingdom are:

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here that will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” (Mark 9:1)

For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Rom 14:17)

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)

At some point in our lives, with enough ‘seeking’, we can come to an actual experience of that Presence which Jesus called the Father within. Not only can we individually experience His presence, but we must contribute in every way possible to making it a part of our world experience.

Experiencing the Kingdom of God

There is no higher goal attainable on earth than an inner communication with this Presence that never leaves us or forsakes us.

To attain it, we have to lose all desire for the visible in the realization that we live not by that which is visible but by that which is invisible, and then we shall find that the Infinite Invisible will produce in our experience the persons, things, circumstances, and conditions necessary to our daily life.

Only by losing our carnal desires, our mortal, selfish human desires, do we prove that we are making advances towards a higher state of human hood and a realization of the Spirit of God that dwells in us.

It is our goal to come to a place where we do not pay lip service to the statement, “I can of my own self do nothing”, but where we demonstrate that it is actually true and let the power of God, assert itself and do the work. When the mind is open to receive the divine impulse, harmonious and perfect form flows out from it.

In the human sense, the mind is creative. It can create good and it can create evil. In the spiritual scene, however, the mind is not a creative faculty, but an avenue of awareness of God’s messages and divine ideas.

There is a spiritual kingdom and dwelling in it would make us completely indifferent even to the good things of life. Only at the beginning of our journey on the spiritual path do we think the goal is the improvement of our human experience. The true God experience that we are seeking is not merely the increase of dollars or an improvement in health, as desirable as these are, but rather it should it be a rebirth, an entrance into that state of consciousness which is My Kingdom not of this world.

The First Steps to Entering the Kingdom of God

We become the light of the world in proportion to our degree of illumination or connection with God. Some attain illumination quickly; and some wait and wait for the great experience to descend upon them. When it comes, however, it comes suddenly, although the preparation leading up to it may have taken many years of study and meditating, during which time we seem to have made little or no progress. From the first moment, however, that we seriously seek the KOG our progress is rapid even though, to our outward appearances, imperceptible.

When we come to the place of realizing that there is a son of God in us, but that the prodigal son of man is still struggling for survival, we begin to understand the warfare between the flesh and the Spirit.

God gave to Moses the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) and Jesus gave us the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  This is where we begin our contemplation and absorption of the principles that lead to God’s Kingdom.

Living in an atmosphere of spiritual wisdom and feeding your consciousness with Biblical truth, there will come a moment when the truth takes over the mind, and then it is no longer necessary to fill the mind with Truth. From then on, the flow is the other way. It is not we who are thinking truth, remembering, declaring, or meditating on truth: it is the Spirit using our mind for its expression, always using us, always flowing through us.

The Kingdom of God is Within You

When we become spiritually attuned and live in accordance with the law of God, we begin to realize that all that the Father has is embodied within us – the bread of life and the wine of inspiration – the whole KOG is established within us. Then, instead of living life with the idea of gaining, getting, or achieving, we reverse that, and our attitude is one of serving, giving, bestowing, sharing, and cooperating. The good things that come to us on the human sphere are the reflex action of our giving and sharing.

Right where we are is the very KOG. All that is in heaven is on earth; but whether we find earth a heaven or a hell depends on whether we are seeing the earth through spiritual or through material vision. The minds interpretation of experience determines whether it is a heaven or hell.

Indifference to Good and Bad

Let’s not take our finite views of what is good and what is bad to God, nor take our human hopes and ambitions to him, but let us go to God as if we really trust him more than we would trust our own mother, trust him as a divine Love and the divine Wisdom of this world, which in truth he is.

There is a spiritual kingdom and dwelling in it would make us completely indifferent even to the good things of life. We can determine how close we are to this kingdom by observing to what degree we still react to good and bad. How joyously do you react to the good and how much are you disturbed by the bad? And to what measure are you becoming indifferent to either the human good or the human evil, knowing that God will handle it.

Seeing God in Others

Any good human being can overlook the faults of others and even forgive them. but it takes spiritual vision to be able to say, “I cannot see anyone, only the face of God. The soul of God looks out through all eyes. “

Everyone has a soul – not a separate soul, but the same soul – and God is that soul. When this is understood a spiritual relationship of harmony, peace, and grace is established, and then the relationships in our lives are mutually beneficial; whereas, if we look to one another humanly, we shall be disappointed. Only in the realization that God is our soul and that that soul is the source of the good in our lives, can our freedom from bondage to the material way of life and material things of life be attained.

Love of the Worldly

Why do we seek for bread, wine, or water, for clothing, companionship, money, or capital when God promises that in His presence there is fullness of life and that it is His good pleasure for us to share His riches? There is no such thing as God and. It is for this reason that all we have to do is seek God‘s presence. And living with God‘s presence, we live life eternally, with an infinity of supply, brotherhood, peace, joy, protection, and safety. In His presence there is fullness of life – nothing is absent. But there is one requirement: to have His presence – not meaningless affirmations or the mouthing of the deep truths of Scripture – but His presence.

So, we learn that we no longer need to fight for the things of this world; we don’t need to fight either aggressively or protectively. We can stand still and think no thoughts – just be receptive and allow the Spirit to permeate our being. And then our work will be accomplished. But I must remind you that the Spirit is never working for us. It is working in and through us as we yield and surrender ourselves and even our thoughts – so that God can take over.

Judgement and Punishment

To be spiritually whole, harmonious, and complete, and enjoy the KOG on earth, it is necessary that, in addition to our knowing the truth for ourselves and those within our orbit, we branch out and know the truth of universal kinship so that we do not judge some people as separate and apart from God or as unworthy to be God’s people.

God does not accept our idea of what constitutes justice, love, and mercy, but if we listen, God imparts His idea of justice, love, and mercy to us. Instead of telling God what we think He should do, let us be so silent within ourselves that we can hear the still small voice.

The practice of true Christianity lifts us to a consciousness of grace and truth which reveals a God of love instead of a God of rewards and punishments. We should never return evil for evil, never pray or hope or wish or desire that another suffers for their offenses.

Jesus never taught that God punishes – no, not even the thief on the cross. Always it was, “go, and sin no more. “. Whatever evil we are experiencing we are bringing upon ourselves – it’s not God inflicting it on us. Whenever we have pushed or elbowed someone aside mentally or physically, we reached out for what was rightfully theirs. To that degree we have violated spiritual law.

Only when the Spirit of God touches us, can we feel spiritual love, and that love is not limited to our own family, but extends to our neighbor and enemy far and near.

Matthew 5:23, 24, 6:15  plainly states that if any malice, envy, jealousy, revenge, or hatred is in our hearts, there is a block in our consciousness which prevents our prayers from being answered. If you are finding this difficult, please read How to Forgive.

Prayer

When we are not thinking of food or money or climate or anything that constitutes our security and we realize that our real life is sustained by the word of God, we are living the spiritual life with no dependence on human beings, human investments, or human positions. Not throwing them away but realizing that they are the added things in life, part of God’s grace, and we have no fear that God will not provide for our needs.

Is asking God for things an indication that we understand God to be intelligence and love, or do such requests imply that we believe God is withholding something from us? Let us learn to sit quietly, resting in the realization that underneath us are “the everlasting arms”, and that no amount of praying will put those everlasting arms there: they are already underneath us.

When we pray in secret, our oneness with the Father and because of that oneness, all that the Father has is ours by divine inheritance. It is our Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. We then need no longer look to any man for reward, compensation, gratitude, cooperation, or affection.

Conclusion

As we come to this place in consciousness where we can relinquish human might and power, human opinion and judgment, a divine grace, invisible, yet perfectly tangible to the person experiencing it, takes over. We cannot see this transcendental Spirit, hear it, taste it, touch it, or smell it, yet it is here, and it is now – we feel it, and we know it. When we let go of our human rights, human will and human desires – even the good desires – and absolutely resign ourselves to God‘s will, the Spirit rushes in as if there were a vacuum, and then it takes over. We are one with the rhythm of the universe, and all is well. All that the Father has is now flowing through us into this world as a divine grace, bringing to us all that we need and bringing us to all those who need us. When we are touched by the Spirit, we become one with it and allow ourselves to be a channel for the mystical presence and power which we called God.

It is the ultimate yet lofty goal. When we look around at those who are God’s people, we see varying degrees of this utopia. We may be filled with the Holy Spirit, but we sometimes have lapses. It has been said that “God does not demand that I be successful. God demands that I be faithful.” So, we continue to do our best. We meditate on His truth and we progress.

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References

The Thunder of Silence by Joel S. Goldsmith

The Zondervan Topical Bible

Pictorial Bible Dictionary published by the Southwestern Company