Living in the light of eternity

Selwyn now looks at ‘the fourth aspect of the spiritual journey – learning to live life in the light of eternity.’

I think the following captures the theme well: “Our courage for the journey so often falters because we have lost our hope of heaven – our journey’s destination. Take away the hope of arrival in heaven at the end of our journey and our journey becomes no more than a death march.”

To state the obvious – without heaven, life is meaningless – what are your views?

The art of loving

Sewlyn spends one more day on his third aspect of our spiritual journey – interpersonal relationships.

His introductory remarks, I think,  contain the essential element of his discussion on this aspect: “Relationships … are more easily talked about than entered into. In my early years on the Christian pathway I regarded other people as the cause of many of my problems. But then I realised that relationships do not so much cause problems as reveal problems. The problems in my relationships were caused not so much by the way others treated me but by the way I reacted to them.The major problem was not other people, but myself. One of the greatest challenges of my life has been to consider others as more important than myself. Nowhere do I have a greater opportunity to demonstrate other-centredness than in my relationships, in moving to love those I might even dislike. ”

The way we react to what others, do or say, often depends on our background – what we consider to be ‘the right thing to do’, which is often based on our race, culture or creed. Our reaction, is often grounded in our own self-centred values. Some of our core Christian beliefs and values cannot be compromised. However, many difficulties in our everyday relationships arise because of our strong views on minor, disputable matters.

In Romans 14:1-18 (NIV), Paul gives us some excellent advice on how we should handle disputable matters [Note: When Paul uses the word ‘judgment’ – it’s in the context of condemnation – ‘looking down upon’, and righteousness ‘considering yourself better than another’; and, does not refer to spiritual discernment about right and wrong actions (non-disputable matters)]: “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  …

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s or sister’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men and women.”

If we go through a difficult time with a disagreeable person, the matter is best handled by taking the issue to God in prayer and I feel we should honestly ask the question – ‘Why am I reacting to these actions or words, in this way?’ Is it a disputable matter which we can, for the sake of our love for our brothers and sisters, let the matter pass and not cause them to stumble.

In some cases it is a serious matter which must be taken, in prayer; first to God, then our spiritual director or elders of our church community. Let the community handle the matter under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

At other times, after a lot of honest prayer, we may just have to walk away from the situation, with the issue unresolved, because the people involved do not have the spiritual maturity to understand what actions are required, at that point in time. Let God, in His perfect way, handle the matter. By giving it over entirely to God, including our feelings of hurt or injustice, we can move on in our journey without carrying a load of bitterness and resentment. Jesus loves you and will work in these cases to bring about resolution and peace – as the years go by,  you will (I’m sure) look back in amazement at the wonderful ways He has restored the broken pieces of your life experiences.

Do you agree?

The essence of reality

I don’t think we know enough about the Trinity to make the sort of observations which we read about today.

However, the quotation from D. Broughton Knox re the phrase ‘relationship is of the essence of reality’ does confront the popular view that ‘truth is of the essence of reality’.

In an abstract, scientific form – the ‘truth’ about a physical entity is often expressed in terms of its relationships to other entities – for example,  an attribute of an entity is ‘x’ under specific, standard (defined) conditions. The value of ‘x’ may change if these standardised conditions (pressure, temperature etc) change.

Yet, the truth about God never changes – and, the reality of God in our lives, is demonstrated by our relationships with other people. What’s your view?

Sandpaper people

I liked today’s study but the one question I have, is – why do we need so many ‘sandpaper people’? Do we have so many rough edges that we require a lot of sanding to smooth us into usable people? I suppose, based on my own experience, that the answer to the last question is, ‘yes’. What are your thoughts on this topic?

As Selwyn says: “Some people are downright difficult. Yet God tells us that we are to love them because this is the way in which He intends us to relate to one another.”  Another way of looking at this area of relating to difficult people is that Christ died, on the cross, for them  – they are worth dying for – and, that, is how we should also value these ‘difficult’ people.

Making God more real to others

In a sense, I don’t agree with one possible implication of what Selwyn has written today. It could be taken from his words that because God is ‘intangible and invisible’ we cannot relate to Him in the same way that we can relate with ‘tangible and visible’ physical beings. [Intangible: 1, incapable of being perceived by the sense of touch, as incorporeal or immaterial things; 2, not definite or clear to the mind; 3, existing only in connection with something else … ]

Jesus is as real and spiritually visible to me as any person. I can ‘feel’ His presence – I can ‘see’ His love at work – I can ‘talk’ to Him – I can ‘hear’ His voice. I know He is always with me – He is never far from me – He holds my existence in His hand. I might drift off and become absorbed in my own difficulties but He will never abandon me. He will shake me out of my sleep when I am needed in the harvest field.  I don’t think you can have this sort of a relationship with a spiritually ‘invisible and intangible’ God!

I know that Selwyn is not directly addressing this aspect – but I do feel that we should be very clear about this point. Our God, is not a distant, unfeeling power. The main verse for today brings home the truth of our closeness to God (1 John 4:12, NIV): “No-one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” 

Spiritually, GOD LIVES IN US and that is whywe can bring about in each other’s lives a experiential awareness of what it means to be deeply loved by Him. Seeing this clearly and entering into it fully makes the task of rightly relating to others not a mere duty but a delight.”

It is ‘God within us’ that is one of the great mysteries of our Christian walk – without God’s love within us, we could never truly love another person – we would not be able to have a good and productive relationship with anyone, at anytime. Looked at from another angle – we relate to the spiritual aspects of other people - by relating to God ‘within them’, which in the main, is invisible and intangible, to the people of this world. Do you agree?

Vertical and horizontal

The main verse for reading and meditation is worth thinking about, (1 Thessalonians 3:12, NIV): “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other … ” For me, it again shows that it by God’s help that we are able to love the ‘difficult’ people in our lives. It is not something we can manage by depending on our own skills, talents or strength.

In regard, to this section in today’s study: “It is my belief that God has so arranged our lives that as we relate to one another in our horizontal relationships, our experience of Him deepens. I have found that the better I relate to others in the Church, the better I relate to God. Human relationships brought God closer to me.”

My experience has been the exact opposite – the stronger my relationship with God has become, then (and only then) – my relationships with other Christians have grow stronger. What’s your thoughts on this point?

However, I agree with Selwyn’s conclusion: “God intends our relationships to be the means by which we give each other a much clearer picture of His own love for us.” There are a number of verses from the Bible which support this statement – by our love for each other, the world will know that we are His disciples.

Coming back to the start of this post – this is something we can ask Jesus, in prayer, to help us with – because He has the power to increase our love to the point that it will overflow from us, to those around us. Do you agree?

We are not alone

I liked the following in today’s study: ” …I had a great surprise when I discovered that by receiving Jesus into my life I inherited His family also, and that I was to relate to the members of His family in he same way that I was to relate to Him. The difficulty was that some of them were awkward, some irritating, and some downright obnoxious. However, the interesting thing was that the more I related to them, the more real God became to me. How does that work?”

What’s your answer to Selwyn’s question?

I’m not sure that I fully understand Selwyn’s explanation. Another aspect to consider is that there are many people in ‘Church’ who are not followers of Jesus.  It’s this latter group, which I often have difficulties with - there are fundamental differences in the way we each view the world; and, I have to keep reminding myself that I was once in their position. Obviously, it’s not one of my strengths to minister to people who are religious but who are not Spirit-filled Christians – there is an inescapable act of discernment which these people view, in general, as being too judgmental. To a very large extent I hand this issue over to God, to manage.

I would have to  say this would be my main prayer point, for this year – to develop with God’s help, a better class of ‘patience’, so that I can relate to this group of people in a more loving way!