19.9.22: The state of our world

  • Whilst praying this morning, I reflected on the severely unsettled, and unsettling, state of our world:

Those who hold power are taking their stand, gathering their forces against YHWH (Psalm 2:1; TIB).

  • But then I saw that God is just as unchanging, powerful and loving as ever:

I am the LORD, and I do not change (Malachi 3:6; NLT).

Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all (1 Chronicles 29:11; KJV).

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

  • God waits for us to repent, so we can be forgiven, and start to change:

The LORD must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion (Isaiah 30:18; NLT). 

Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; NLT).

  • So I prayed that we will all repent, turn to God, and start changing our lives before it’s too late: before we destroy the earth, our only home, and all her plants, creatures and people, through our foolish wars, hatred, selfishness, greed and ignorance:

Perhaps even yet they will turn from their evil ways and ask the LORD’s forgiveness before it is too late. For the LORD has threatened them with his terrible anger (Jeremiah 36:7; NLT).


Reading: Psalm 2, The Inclusive Bible 

Why are the nations creating such an uproar?  Why all this commotion among the peoples? 

Those who hold power are taking their stand, gathering their forces against YHWH, against God’s Anointed One. “Let’s break their chains!” they say. “Let’s throw off their shackles!” 

But the One who sits enthroned in the heavens laughs; the Sovereign One derides them, then rebukes them in anger and, enraged, terrifies them: “It is I who installed my ruler on Zion, on the mountain of my holiness!” 

I will proclaim God’s decree – YHWH said to me: “You are my own; I’ve given birth to you today. Just ask – I’ll give you the nations as your inheritance! I’ll give you the ends of the earth as your possession! You’ll break them with an iron scepter; you’ll shatter them as easily as a clay pot.” 

So, you rulers, be wise! And you who hold power, stand warned! Serve YHWH and rejoice – but do so with fear and trembling. Pay homage to God’s Own lest you be destroyed on your way in a blaze of anger – for God’s passion can flare up without warning. 

Happiness comes to those who make God their refuge! 

Desert

Context: Continuing my recent theme of the inner shadow-self (unconscious mind), as the seat of temptation, this blog took shape today whilst I was having a Sunday lie-in.

Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.
(Luke 4:1-2; NLT).  

A wolf from the desert will pounce on them.
(Jeremiah 5:6; NLT). 

Forty long days
In the desert, alone:
Thirsty, tormented,
You faced the unknown.

Nightmare temptations
Arose in your heart:
Heat, cold and weariness
All played their part.

Though hungry for bread
And for proof of God’s love,
For power, and rescue
From heaven above,

Lord, you won through,
Overcoming them all,
And that’s why you’re able
To help when I call.

So, I keep going
Though dogged here by sin,
Lord, as I wander
The desert within.

We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are –
yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15; NLT ).

Remember how YHWH, your God, led you on a wandering path through the desert for forty years, humbling and testing you, to learn what was in your heart; whether you would keep God’s commands or not.
(Deuteronomy 8:2; TIB).

My inner wolf

Context: Following the recent blog about my shadow-self (see https://wp.me/p45bCr-bXF), this related, rather strange, exploratory and deeply metaphorical prayer surfaced yesterday, soon after I woke up. It was very hard to write!

It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within.
(Mark 7:20-3; NLT). 

A wolf from the desert will pounce on them (Jeremiah 5:6; NLT). 

I’m sensing my inner wolf,
Hearing it howl,
Glimpsing my shadow-self,
Watching it prowl;

Dreading my temper, Lord,
Hiding my fear,
Loathing my shameful greed:
Always so near.

Yet, in my heart, Lord,
I’m seeing your face,
Asking forgiveness
And seeking your grace.

Mingle my shadow-self
With your pure light,
For I face temptation
All day, and all night.

You are my Shepherd,
My staff and my rod;
You are my All-In-All:
Jesus, my God.

You are my chosen way:
Though I still sin,
You are eternal life –
Jesus, within.

We live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.
(1 John 5:20; NLT). 


Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
(Colossians 3:11; NLT).

You forgive and forget

Context: Today I’m writing an article I was given this morning to work on. I’m very tired, and have had a small eye surgery, so it’s not finished yet. Accordingly, I have brought out of my “storeroom” a blog I got ready a little while ago (see Matthew 13:52, for the allusion).


You must love the Lord your God with all your heart,
all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.
(Luke 10:27; NLT).

I will forgive their sins and forget the evil things
they have done (Jeremiah 31:34; CEV).  

I love you, Lord, with all my mind,
And honour you within,
Because you pardon me each day,
Forgetting all my sin.

I love you, Lord, with all my heart,
And glory in your name,
Because you pardon me each day,
Forgetting all my shame.

I love you, Lord, with all my soul,
And follow you, my Guide,
Because you pardon me each day,
Forgetting all my pride. 

I love you, Lord, with all my strength,
And put my trust in you –
Please help me, Lord, to show my love
In everything I do. 

Do everything with love (1 Corinthians 16:14; NLT).

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers
and sisters of mine, you did for me.
(Matthew 25:40; NIV).

Infinite love

Context: Yesterday, after the briefest of waking-up prayers, I wrote solidly from 6-8.30am. By then I had more or less completed “Golden light” (https://wp.me/p45bCr-bR3), which later became the day’s blog. It was time to get up, but I decided to take a moment to pray before going downstairs. However, I had barely begun to collect my thoughts when I was hit by a series of revelations.

By the time they came to an end, I was shaken, tearful, joyful, reeling and awed, because I had just been given a glimpse of God’s infinite love and omnipresence. I had made some notes, but have no idea whether I wrote them during, or just after, what happened.

The experience was like watching slow-motion ripples spreading out wider and wider after a single drop of water had fallen into a vast, motionless sea. What I saw is very difficult to express in words, but I will do my best to describe each ripple in turn.

1. All love comes from God
I perceived that whenever I receive love, whether from a person or an animal, that love always comes from God, who is present within the one who is loving me.

2. God is in everything
Next, I grasped that God’s loving presence is in all that exists on earth, including everything made by people, as well as by God.

3. God is in good and bad
Then, I understood that God’s loving presence is not restricted to good people, creatures and things. Rather, divine love is equally present in difficult people, creatures, circumstances and events, including accidents, sickness, suffering, fear, grief and disaster – that is: all life and death.

4. God is in the cosmos
After this, I realised that everything in the cosmos also contains God’s loving presence, including the planets, suns, stars, comets, galaxies and even the dust of space.

Comment
Thus, I learned that divine love is present in everything, here and now, without exception. It has always been so, and always will be so, yet, like Jacob on his journey to Harran, I had not recognised this (see Genesis 28:16-17; NIV). As I write, I’m still shaking my head in wonderment at what I saw, yet there was more to come.

5. God is in all
Following this, I glimpsed that God’s loving presence can also be found in ugliness, destruction, abuse, violence and sin, though this is very hard to put into words. However much human beings damage and despoil the divine image in people, creatures, objects and creation, God’s love is still present in all things. Seeing this helped me to understand a little more about how God is able to bring good out of bad (see Romans 8:28; NLT).

Furthermore, I saw that there are no exceptions to God’s loving omnipresence. This means that there is nothing I can…

See, hear, smell, taste, or touch;
Use, waste, neglect, ignore, break, or discard;
Feel, think, say, or do;
Judge, hate, or destroy,

…that isn’t filled to overflowing with God’s loving presence.

6. Living in heaven
Lastly, I saw that when I consciously and fully recognise God’s constant, loving presence everywhere, and in all things, I live in God, which means living in heaven on earth. Similarly, after death, I will live in God, in heaven. Thus, I perceived that whether I live or die, oneness with God is the same.

Conclusion
God is present
in all people, creatures, things, experiences and events, everywhere and forever, and God is love (1 John 4:16; NIV).

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever (Psalm 23:6; NLT).


References 

There is one Lord …who is over all and in all and living through all (Ephesians 4:5-6; NLT).

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

Wherever I go

Context: After yesterday’s very concentrated writing effort, today I’m posting a much shorter blog I prepared a little while ago. At present, my energy for writing is in very short supply. However, since I started this website in 2013, I have always had some unpublished pieces set aside, ready to use during the periods when I can’t write. Here is one I’m glad to have the opportunity to share with you:

Be sure of this: I am with you always.
(Matthew 28:20; NLT).

Wherever I go, we go there together.
However I feel, we share it, as one.
Whenever I fail, we mourn it together,
For you never leave me,
My Saviour, God’s Son.

Whatever I lose, we face it together.
Wherever I am, you’re close by my side.
Whatever I bear, we bear it together,
For you never leave me,
Good Shepherd, my Guide.

Whatever you ask, we face it together.
Whatever you take, *I give with a smile.
Whenever I fear, I turn to you swiftly,
For you never leave me
Throughout every trial.

*Give whatever he takes, with a big smile.
(Mother Theresa).

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
(Psalm 23:4; NLT).

Jesus

Context: As soon as I woke up in my own familiar bedroom yesterday morning, I received today’s prayer with an indescribable sense of peace, gratitude and joy:

I am with you at all times, even to the end of the world.
(Matthew 28:20; HNT). 

Jesus Christ is here today,
Tomorrow and for evermore,

Bringing liberty for captives,
Giving good news to the poor;

Forgiving sins and healing blindness,
Setting free the long-oppressed, 

Crowning us with love and mercy,
Saving all from sin and death.

Thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:57; NLT).


References

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8; NLT).

The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come (Luke 4:18-19; NLT). 

He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things (Psalm 103:3-5; NLT). 

Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us (Colossians 3:11; NLT). 

The flood

Context: Recently, I’ve been thinking about the flood narrative in Genesis, which illustrates the disastrous consequences of sinful, human behaviour:

YHWH saw the great wickedness of the people of the earth, that the thoughts in their hearts fashioned nothing but evil. YHWH was sorry that humankind had been created on earth; it pained God’s heart. YHWH said, “I will wipe this human race that I have created from the face of the earth – not only the humans, but also the animals, the reptiles, and the birds of the heavens. I am sorry I ever made them” (Genesis 6:5-7; TIB). 

So God sent a great flood to wipe out all living things:

For forty days the flood continued… The waters rose so high over the earth that all the high mountains under heaven were covered… All life on the earth perished – birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures, and all humankind (Genesis 7:17-21; TIB).

The TIB translation includes an interesting scholarly footnote for this passage:

“Some commentators feel the story of the Flood speaks of the ending of the last ice age, when the melt from the receding glaciers raised the sea level high enough to submerge much of what had before been dry land.”

The Biblical flood story is usually seen as being safely in the past, but it recently occurred to me that it can also be understood as a prophecy, for as global warming melts the polar ice-caps, similarly catastrophic flooding is becoming inevitable.

Of course, some readers may rightly point out that after the flood God promised never to cause such terrible destruction again (Genesis 8:21; TIB). However, modern climate change is not an act of God. Rather, it is caused by human over-exploitation of finite earthly resources. The causes and consequences of global warming are therefore ours alone, as we move ever further from our original commission to, “cultivate and care for the land” (Genesis 2:15; TIB). 

So, flowing from these reflections, here is today’s prayer:

From the least to the greatest, their lives are ruled by greed.
(Jeremiah 6:13; NLT). 

Lord,

How can you bear our wastefulness?
How can you bear our greed?
How can you bear our selfishness?
How can you bear our hate?

How can you bear our ignorance?
How can you bear our pride?
How can you bear our foolishness?
You weep in us all, and wait. 

How can you bear our bitterness?
How can you bear our strife?
How can you bear our wickedness?
How can you bear our sin?

How can you bear our cruelty?
How can you bear our wars?
How can you bear our lovelessness?
You weep, Lord, and wait within. 

The LORD must wait for you to come to him
so he can show you his love and compassion.
(Isaiah 30:18; NLT).

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

Thine, the kingdom

Context: I woke at 6am, began to pray, and immediately had to catch hold of today’s prayer. To my delight, it flowed easily, and wasn’t too exhausting to write. After that I slept and woke, slept and woke, until 10am.

My first morning in Ely meant buying some food at the outdoor market. Life here in the Fens is very different from my quiet days on the island. There were hundreds of people crowding around the stalls, talking, laughing, eating and shopping, ready to help strangers and to chat. One lovely man even told me his life-story.

By the time I got back to my flat for lunch and a rest, I was quite shaky, completely overwhelmed by all the sounds, sights, smells and colours of creation so lavishly displayed in this busy, lively town. This fitted with a theme seems to be emerging from my trip: “I will make all my goodness pass before you” (Exodus 33:19; NLT), as illustrated by today’s blog:

Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.
(Matthew 6:13; KJV). 

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God,
and God in them (1 John 4:16; TIV). 

Thine, the kingdom,
Thine, the power,
Thine, the glory,
Thine, the love,

Thine, the mercy,
Thine, the giving,
Thine, the saving:
God above.

Mine, the weakness,
Mine, the failure;
Mine, the darkness,
Mine, the sin,

Mine, the longing,
Mine, the searching,
Mine, the finding:
God within.

You will seek me and find me,
when you search for me with all your heart.
(Jeremiah 29:13; NKJV). 

You are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
(2 Corinthians 6:16; NKJV). 

Inner conflict

Context: As soon as I start to pray, I often see what I have to write, yet, having scribbled it down and started to sort it out (which can take several hours), I then feel I should still be praying. This is a daily conflict. I’ve thought about asking for help with it, but didn’t expect anyone to understand. 

Yesterday, I suddenly realised that this inner conflict comes from my childhood. Whatever I was doing, my mother never hesitated to criticise me, telling me what I should be doing instead. I lived in fear of her anger, and I could never relax, or lose myself in what I was doing.

Thus, I began to glimpse the possibility that it’s okay to do whatever I’m doing, without feeling I should actually be doing something else.

At the time of writing the above, I thought how helpful it would be to link it with a relevant prayer, but a rare, brief attempt to write one on my own came to nothing, as is always the case.

However, today, when I had just woken up, and wasn’t even thinking about this issue, the following mirror-image prayers suddenly came to me, encapsulating all I needed to learn:

1. I love you 

I love you, Lord (Psalm 18:1; NLT). 

I love you when I’m praying,
And I love you when I write.
I love you when I’m wrong, Lord,
And I love you when I’m right.

I love you when I’m busy,
And I love you when I’m still.
I love you when I’m well, Lord,
And I love you when I’m ill.

I love you when I’m serving,
And I love you when I sin.
No matter what I’m doing, Lord,
I love you, God within.


2. You love me

God’s love toward us is great (Psalm 117:2; TIV). 

You love me when I’m praying,
And you love me when I write.
You love me when I’m wrong, Lord,
And you love me when I’m right.

You love me when I’m busy,
And you love me when I’m still.
You love me when I’m well, Lord,
And you love me when I’m ill.

You love me when I’m serving,
And you love me when I sin.
No matter what I’m doing, Lord,
You love me, God within.

We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.
Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
(1 John 4:16; NIV).