21.9.22: God’s presence

Context: I woke, began to pray, and saw afresh that God is constantly present in us all.

I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth! (Psalm 116:9; NLT).

Practicing awareness

Once we recognise this, we can begin to practice remaining consciously aware of God’s presence, until our awareness becomes continuous. This is easy to say, but extremely difficult to put into practice. In fact, it can seem like an impossible task, for we have many distractions each day. Attempting it quickly reveals how easy it is to forget about God’s presence altogether for hours at a time.

Tangible reminders
However, tangible, meaningful reminders of God’s presence can be a useful aid. Those chosen will be different for everyone, depending on our faith and circumstances. Personally, I like to wear an olive-wood cross day and night, always available for me to kiss and hold. There are also a few pictures, icons and wall-crosses strategically placed around my home. Plus, as soon as I open my iPad, my favourite icon is there on the screen, as well.

Living in God’s presence
Slowly, usually through many years of practice, we can learn not just to remember God’s presence all the time, but to live in it. This means communing with God, whilst expressing God’s love as best we can, in all we think, say and do.

Becoming more Christ-like
Through constant contact with God, we become increasingly aware of our oneness with the Divine. This helps us to become more Christ-like, and even, astonishingly, a little more like God.

Constant oneness
In fact, of course, our oneness with God is unchanging, whether or not we are aware of it. This applies before birth, during our time on earth, and after death. So, if we want to live in the joy of God’s presence, all we have to do is to consciously practice remaining aware of, and communicating with, God, who lives within us.

13.9.22: Call me

Context: At the end of an eventful day, I was thanking God for all I had experienced, when suddenly this little prayer began to rise in my mind. Each line led to the next, until it was finished almost before I knew it. I’m so grateful to God for offering me a fresh start every day, bringing new opportunities for prayer, praise, thanks, rejoicing, comfort, repentance, forgiveness and service.

I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name (Isaiah 45:3; NLT). 

Call me to your path each day, Lord,
Draw me to your side.

Take me in your arms each day,
Forgive my foolish pride.

Bind me to your heart each day, Lord, 
Keep me close to you.

Merge my soul with yours each day, 
Then help me start anew.

His mercies begin afresh each morning (Lamentations 3:23; NLT).


References 

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:15-18; NIV).

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23; NLT).

Writing blogs

Context: Today’s blog arose from two lines which came to me recently:

Out of my darkness
Comes radiant light…

This phrase describes the sudden upwelling of inspiration which generates my writing. I have never been able to put it into words before.

Because of its rhythm, I expected the couplet to become the start of a poem. However, this task soon proved to be beyond me, so instead I resorted to making notes about what I needed to express. To my surprise, these jottings became a short article outlining five distinct stages through which most of my blogs come into being. After some prayer and reflection, I feel fairly comfortable about sharing it:

In Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate, there is a pool with five porticoes; its Hebrew name is Bethesda. The place was crowded with sick people – those who were blind, lame or paralyzed – lying there waiting for the water to move. An angel of God would come down to the pool from time to time, to stir up the water; the first one to step into the water after it had been stirred up would be completely healed  (John 5:2-4; TIB). 

1. Worshipping without words
When worshipping without words, I rest in a womb-like space at the threshold between my conscious and unconscious minds. It’s warm, still, peaceful and dimly-lit, so I feel safe and comfortable there.

2. Light and movement 
Then, without warning, a brilliant light bubbles up from the total darkness of my unconscious mind, stirring the previously still surface of my consciousness. Intense brightness, warmth and love overwhelm me. I don’t know how long this moment lasts, because I’m not aware of anything beyond it, though I suspect it’s just a few seconds.

3. Inspiration, insight and words
This light brings a spiritual insight that is new to me, though it wouldn’t necessarily be new to others. I experience a moment of intense personal learning and inner healing. Discernible words quickly follow, rising up out of the darkness, though I neither hear nor see them. They simply take shape in my mind. Usually these words form the opening lines of a prayer; occasionally, an ending. They nearly always set the theme and rhythm for the whole piece.

4. Starting to write
Revelling in God’s light and warmth, I’m often reluctant to break off in order to catch hold of what I’ve been shown. However, long experience has taught me that if I don’t write it down immediately, it will disappear from my memory. The moment for seeing and grasping each insight comes only once.

So I reach for my iPad or notebook, quickly scribbling the words, then sketching out the shape of the whole piece. Sometimes, as I’m writing down each line, the next appears from nowhere, then the next, and I simply write them down. This takes just a few minutes. Once the bare bones of the piece are safely on the page, I begin the much longer process of working to express exactly what I learned as clearly and briefly as possible.

Gradually, the whole piece takes shape. If possible, I prefer to finalise it on the day it arrives. However, this stage can sometimes takes longer, depending on how difficult it is to put what I experienced into words. 

5. Finishing
There is always a strong sense of relief and fulfilment when I finish encapsulating each experience securely, in writing. Along the way I will have searched out numerous Biblical quotations, so all that remains is to select a few of the most helpful, tag some key words, and choose an illustration. This completes the process of preparing to share the light which comes out of my inner darkness.

I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, Yahweh, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name (Isiah 45:3; LSB). 


References

He uncovers deep things out of darkness (Job 12:22; NKJV).

Darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2; KJV).

Beautiful words stir my heart (Psalm 45:1; NLT). 

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14; NLT). 

Like a lion

Context: This poem arrived after I watched a TV programme about a man who brings up rescued sun-bear cubs in his home. He does this in order to save them from the cruel bear-bile industry.

Giving them all the loving care they need, he slowly, painstakingly rehabilitates each cub, introducing them to the world, just as their mother would have done. Eventually, the young bears graduate to a Wildlife Centre, where they have lots of space to express their natural behaviours and instincts, and to interact with other bears. The man’s constant purpose is to give these traumatised, motherless creatures a rich and satisfying life, which is exactly the same as Christ’s aim for us all (John 10:10; NLT).

Whilst praying without words, I saw that this man is like a mother-bear to the cubs, just as Jesus is like a mother to us all. No matter what damage we have sustained in life, Christ’s purpose is to heal and rehabilitate us, just like the man caring for the orphaned cubs:

I won’t leave you orphaned; I will come back to you. A little while now and the world will see me no more; but you’ll see me; because I live, and you will live as well. On that day you’ll know that I am in God, and you are in me, and I am in you (John 14:18-20; TIB). 

We can’t see God, but the Bible is packed with vivid images, metaphors, similes, poems and parables which illustrate different aspects of what God is like. Here is just one example:

Go, inspect the city of Jerusalem. Walk around and count the many towers. Take note of the fortified walls, and tour all the citadels, that you may describe them to future generations. For that is what God is like (Psalm 48:12-14; NLT; my emphasis).

This verse is particularly useful, as it demonstrates the limitations of figurative language, as well as its richness. Such images are not meant to be taken literally. Rather, they are an invitation to meditate on the qualities of God they can reveal.

Then, when I had seen all this, these verses arrived:

God is love (1 John 4:8; NLT).

God is like a lion,
Like a tiger,
Like a bear.

God is like an eagle,
Like a raven,
Like a dove.

God is like a keening,
Like a murmur,
Like a plea.

God is like a father,
Like a mother:
God is love.

God is like a mountain,
Like an ocean,
Like a storm.

God is like a day-star,
Like a comet,
Like a sun.

God is like a heartbeat,
Like a whisper,
Like a sigh.

God is like a father,
Like a mother:
God is One.

God is one (Mark 12:32; NIV).


References 

There is …one God and Creator of all, who is over all, who works through all and is within all (Ephesians 4:5-6; TIB).

The Spirit, too, comes to help us in our weakness. For we don’t know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit expresses our plea with groanings too deep for words. And God, who knows everything in our hearts, knows perfectly well what the Spirit is saying, because her intercessions for God’s holy people are made according to the mind of God (Romans 8:26-7; TIB). 

I honour you

Context: I woke, began to pray, and saw again, with awe, and more vividly than ever before, that God lives in everything, and that God is everything. In fact, there is nothing that isn’t one with God.

I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works (Psalm 145:5; NKJV). 

I honour you in all,
For you’re the energy, the light,
The pulse, the cells, the atoms, Lord,
The substance, and the life

In all that breathes, and grows and dies,
In all that fruits and fades,
In all that rises, all that falls,
And all, Lord, that degrades.

In earth and water, wind and fire,
In every star and sun:
By living over, in and through
All things, You make us one.

There is …one God and Creator of all, who is over all, who works through all and is within all (Ephesians 4:5-6; TIB).


References 

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me (John 17:21-3; NLT). 

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread (1 Corinthians 10:16-17; KJV). 

A crash course on suffering (for J.C.)

Context: While I was praying for a friend who recently asked me some significant questions about suffering, I was given the inspiration for the following article:

Introduction 

This crash course addresses ten questions about suffering. Immediately below each answer there is a series of Biblical quotes. These are offered as an aid to reflection, perhaps over a period of several days.

1. Where do we come from?

All human beings are part of God, who makes us, breathes life into us, cares for us, and loves us unfailingly. 

YHWH fashioned an earth creature out of the clay of the earth, and blew into its nostrils the breath of life. And the earth creature became a living being (Genesis 2:7; TIB). 

The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4; NLT). 

I will be your God throughout your lifetime – until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you (Isaiah 46:4; NLT). 

He loves us with unfailing love. (Psalm 117:2; NLT).

2. What is life?

Life is the period during which we are exiled from heaven, though not from God’s constant, invisible, loving presence. We come from God, spend time on earth, then return to God.

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5; NLT).

You will soon return from exile (Lamentations 4:22; NLT).

3. Why are we here?

Our task is to get to know God. We do this by seeking God, and by praying constantly, thanking God in all circumstances, and rejoicing, no matter what we face.

His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him – though he is not far from any one of us (Acts 17:27; NLT).

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NIV). 

4. What does life offer us?

Life offers us the chance to learn how to live in God, to grow more like Christ, and, astonishingly, even to become more like God.

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ (Ephesians 4:13; NLT).

Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:24; NLT).

The Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18; NLT).

5. Why do we suffer?

Trials and sorrows are an inevitable part of our time on earth because our bodies, minds and hearts are fragile and mortal, though our souls are immortal. Life here is essentially a training-ground. It offers us the opportunity to make our own choices, reach out to God and grow in faith. This developmental process helps us to love God, all people and the world, until we eventually discover our oneness with God, and with all. 

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33; NLT).

How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble! (Job 14:1; NLT). 

If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me (Jeremiah 29:13; NLT). 

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV). 

Love your neighbour as yourself (Leviticus 19:18; NLT).

Love the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19; NKJV).

Show love to foreigners (Deuteronomy 10:19; NLT).

Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44; NLT). 

6. Where does suffering come from?

Everything comes from God, both good and bad, though some people would prefer to see good things as coming from God, and suffering as being inflicted by “the devil”. However, the concept of the devil as an external being arises from a combination of mistranslation and the human desire to disown the temptations and terrible impulses which well up spontaneously from our unconscious minds (see https://wp.me/p45bCr-bPK). When we act these out, evil occurs in truly shocking and horrific ways, but the impulse, the decision and the action always come from within.

Learning to accept suffering as God’s will, and to make the best of it whilst still loving and serving God in others, is one of the major challenges and opportunities of our lives.

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other (Ecclesiastes 7:14; NIV).

Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realise that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life (Ecclesiastes 7:14; NLT).

Should we accept only good things from the hand of God, and never anything bad? (Job 2:10; NLT).

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21; CSB). 

7. Why does suffering exist?

Suffering has much to teach us. Without it, we might not grow in trust and faith. Christ’s example is particularly helpful here, for even as he begged God to spare him from extreme suffering, he maintained his resolution to accept God’s will rather than his own. God suffers with us and helps us to learn through all we face. This is how we grow in endurance, patience, inner strength, hope and love.

Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Luke 22:42; NLT).

In all their suffering he also suffered (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).

Blessed be the Lord! Day after day he bears our burdens (Psalm 68:19; CSB).

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you (Isaiah 30:20; NLT).

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever (Psalm 73:26; NLT).

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Romans 5:3-5; NLT). 

8. How can good come out of suffering? 

As we grow in love and trust by facing and sharing our suffering with God, God brings good from it all. This is something we can ask for when we pray for others, as well as for ourselves.

We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28; NLT). 

Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan (Ephesians 1:11; NLT). 

9. What is the purpose of life?

The purpose of life is to recognise, love and serve God in ourselves, in others, and in all things. This means becoming aware of our constant oneness with the Divine. To live like this, no matter what happens, is to live joyfully in heaven on earth.

You are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16; NKJV). 

There is one Lord …who is over all and in all and living through all (Ephesians 4:5; NLT). 

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV). 

So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God (Romans 7:4; NLT). 

10. Where do we go when we die?

As mentioned briefly in #2 above, when we die, we return immediately to God, who welcomes, kisses and embraces us. Completely healed, forgiven and restored, we are absorbed back into God’s infinite peace, bliss and love – and this time, it’s forever.

The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV).

I came from Abba God and have come into the world, and now I leave the world to go to Abba God (John 16:28; TIB). 

So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.” But his father said to the servants, “Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found” (Luke 15:20-24; TIB).

Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (Psalm 23:66; KJV).

Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Romans 14:8; NLT).


Conclusion

In this article I’ve addressed ten questions about suffering. I hope very much that you have found something here that interests or helps you. Remember that I pray for you all every day.

We keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do (2 Thessalonians 1:11; NLT).

✝️ With love from Ruth.
14.8.22.

Equality

Introduction 

Some Christians believe that women are, and should be, subordinate to men, and that wives should submit to their husbands. Having researched and reflected on this issue for many years, I want to examine it in some detail, beginning with a question:

Did Jesus ever teach, state, claim, suggest, imply, or show by his behaviour that he considered women to be subordinate to men?

Jesus’ attitude to women 

The Gospels illustrate how Jesus went out of his way to include and relate to women in ways which were revolutionary for a man in a highly patriarchal society. He talked with them, listened to them, taught them, touched them, healed them and ate with them. He had close women friends and cared about women’s spiritual development. He depended on his female followers’ financial backing, and received their emotional support to the very end of his life, when all his male disciples except John had fled. Women were also the first witnesses of his resurrection. 

Jesus’ male disciples were sometimes shocked  by how closely and equally he related to women, as seen when they found him talking to the woman at the well (John 4:26; NLT).

Perhaps most significantly of all, there is no suggestion in the Gospels that Jesus excluded women from becoming his disciples:

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34; NLT). 

Saint Paul’s attitude to women 

So, given Jesus’ egalitarian example, where did the belief that Christian women should be subservient to men originate? Here I turn to the letters of Saint Paul. A tough, educated and opinionated man, Paul did not question the culture of his day with regard to the sexes:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord (Colossians 3:18; NLT).

Going even further, he instructed churches to silence women members, regardless of their spiritual gifts:

Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says. If they have any questions, they should ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings (1 Colossians 14:34-5; NLT). 

In saying this, Paul presumably felt he was adhering to the Gospel, even though Jesus said nothing of the kind. 

It’s interesting to note that in his letter to the Galatians, Paul once stated the exact opposite of what he wrote to the Colossians. Experiencing a moment of sublime insight into the essential equality and oneness not just of the sexes, but of all people, he was able to write:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28; NKJV). 

Historical context

I don’t know how Paul managed to square his contradictory views on women, but I take care to bear in mind how strongly his writing was influenced by his historical context. Although he was an extraordinary, sometimes inspired, speaker and writer, he was also a fallible man of his times, whose views were shaped by widely-held beliefs and prejudices, some of which unfortunately crept into his letters.

Unfortunately, these non-Gospel aspects of his teaching have continued to influence others ever since. Thus, when powerful men spent years arguing about which books should be included in the Biblical Canon, most of those by, for, and about women were ruthlessly excluded. The selections they made still influence Christian belief and practice over 2,000 years later.

Conclusion

It’s hard to understand why Paul’s conventionally patriarchal attitude to women came to be so thoroughly embraced throughout history, whilst Jesus’ consistently loving, egalitarian approach has been largely ignored. Even as I write, I’m shaking my head in disbelief that Paul’s first-century beliefs about the roles and status of women and men continue to influence so many individuals, families, congregations and denominations right up to the present day.

A journey

Context: Yesterday, as soon as I woke up, I was taken on a journey around and beyond the world. There was no time to pray. Whilst it was happening, I was able to write down what I saw and understood, which has never happened to me before. I had no sense of time passing or of movement, and no awareness of my body or its surroundings.

The experience ended as soon as I had written down the last few words. I don’t know how long it lasted – perhaps an hour or two. Then I became aware of my body, and was very surprised to find myself in bed in my holiday flat, feeling truly awed and astonished by all I had seen. I might easily have thought I had simply been dreaming, except for all I had written down during my journey. Here is the essence of what I wrote:

I am God, and not a man –
the Holy One among you 
(Hosea 11:9; NIV). 

1. God is neither male nor female,
Black nor white, not straight or gay,

2. Not Orthodox, or Catholic,
Or Protestant: God is The Way.

3. God is not Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim,
Buddhist, Jain, or Sikh,

4. Nor any other great world faith,
For God is light, and love, and peace.

5. God is Spirit, here, within us all –
The grace that sets us free.

6. God’s truth, consuming fire, and strength
Are pearls beyond all price, to me.

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant’s search for fine pearls. When one pearl of great value was found, the merchant went back and sold everything else and bought it (Matthew 13:45-6; TIB).


References 

1. Humankind was created as God’s reflection: in the divine image God created them; female and male, God made them (Genesis 1:27; TIB).

2. Keep in mind that God’s greatness exceeds our knowledge; God’s vastness is a mystery (Job 36:26; TIB). 

I am the way (John 14:6; NIV).

God’s way is perfect (2 Samuel 22:31; NLT).

God is love (1 John 4:8; NLT).

Follow the way of love (1 Corinthians 14:1; NIV). 

3. God is greater than we can understand (Job 36:26; NLT). 

4. God is light (1 John 1:5; NLT).

The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24; NLT). 

5. God is Spirit (John 4:24; NLT). 

We are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16; NLT).

When we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin (Romans 6:7; NLT).

God’s grace has set us free from the law (Romans 6:15; NLT).

6. The Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6; NKJV).

God is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; NIV).

The Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength (Isaiah 26:4; KJV).

I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace (Acts 20:24; NIV). 

Heaven is now

Context: Just as I finished writing yesterday’s context, I saw how to express in writing the heaven I had experienced during prayer (https://wp.me/p45bCr-bwn), so I noted it down immediately, and began to work on it.

As I researched its references later in the day, it was fascinating to see, as always, the widely different ways in which individual Bible verses are translated. The relevant verse here is Luke 17:21, and I want to focus for a moment on just one word: ἐντὸς, which tells the reader where the kingdom of God is experienced. The multiple translations I consulted offered many different shades of meaning to express this single, original Greek preposition (some of these can be seen in the references below). NB: To my great surprise, today’s blog includes several of these different meanings, even though I didn’t write it with that aim.

Translation is such an important issue for me, because different translations can generate different beliefs. For example, here is the phrase from Luke 17:21, in which the word ἐντὸς is used, firstly in the KJV (the emphasis is mine):

The kingdom of God is within you.

Then here it is in the ABPI:

The Kingdom of God is within some of you.

Clearly, these two  translations have radically different meanings, with potentially major consequences for the thinking, speech and even behaviour of those whose Biblical access is usually limited to a single translation.

Finally, in the references for today’s prayer I use the terms kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God interchangeably. This follows the example of the gospels, where the term chosen by each writer depends on the target group for which each gospel was intended.

Anyway, after this rather long preamble, here is today’s blog:

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” (Genesis 28:16-17; NLT). 

1. Heaven on earth,
And heaven in prayer;
Heaven in worship:
Heaven is near.

2. Heaven within,
And heaven without;
Heaven in service:
Heaven is here.

3. Heaven in all,
And heaven in Thou;
Heaven in oneness:
Heaven is now!

The Kingdom of God is already among you
(Luke 17:21; NLT).


References 

1. The Kingdom of Heaven is near (Matthew 10:7; NLT).

2. The kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21; KJV). 

God’s kingdom is here with you (Luke 17:21; CEV). 

3. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all (Ephesians 4:5-6; NLT). 

Just a breath (for K. and R.)

You are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16; NLT).

1. Lord,
You’re just a breath away;
A pause, a stillness, every day;
A moment when I stop to say:
I love you. 

2. Lord,
You’re just a breath away;
A lull, a silence, every day;
A moment when my thoughts don’t stray:
You love me.

3. Lord,
You’re just a breath away;
A hush, a darkness, every day;
A moment when I cease to pray:
United. 

4. Lord,
You’re just a breath away;
A rest, a oneness, every day;
A moment, Father, come what may:
Completeness.

You are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10; BLB).


References 

1. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person (Genesis 2:7; NLT).

Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10; NIV).

I love you, Lord (Psalm 18:1; NLT). 

2. The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4; NLT).

Be silent before the Sovereign Lord (Zephaniah 1:7; NIV).

He loves us with unfailing love (Psalm 117:2; NLT).

3. He himself gives to all people life and breath (Acts 17:25; NASB20).

Clouds and thick darkness surround him (Psalm 97:2; NIV).

Whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17; NIV).

4. When you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust (Psalm 104:29; NIV).

The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV).

Jesus said, “Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30; NLT).

I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him (Philippians 3:8-9; NLT).