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Christianity

I have A Dream …. that the church will be as one

Uniting quotes by the mighty Christian civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr and the infamous musician John Lennon may make for a rather obscure and juxtaposed heading but one I feel works for this piece of writing.    

“I have a dream”, four simple words uttered randomly in place of a preprepared speech in 1963 which have gone down in history.    

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”  Luther’s dream was not merely a unity of like-minded individuals but a unity between opposing forces.

“You may say I’m a dreamer,

But I’m not the only one,

I hope someday you’ll join us,

And the world will be as one.”

“Imagine” named Song of the Century by the National Music Publishers Association and selling 21 million copies speaks of the same “oneness” of which Martin Luther dreams.  One coming from a Christian perspective, the other from an atheist perspective, both speak of unity.

Before going further, I would like to add a caveat … this is not an academic thesis, this blog consists only of one girl’s musings on her personal observance of the church and its place within the world.  Like Martin and John, I too am a “dreamer” and this dream I share with them, the dream that the world would unite in peace.  While I think we have some way to go with this vision generally, I believe that within the Christian community this should not be a dream but a reality. 

1 Corinthians 12:12 tells us “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” 

Further, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,” Ephesians 2:19-22.

A few years ago I happened upon an article on the Baha’i religion which accepts all religions as having true and valid origins and I loved this idea.  The central idea of this faith is unity, and they believe that people should work together for the common benefit of humanity.  This sounded perfect to me.  But what made me feel that this faith had something that mine did not.  Looking back, it was a lack of understanding on my part.  I did not understand the love of God and His desire for unity.

The Bible is a book of love and this shines from the first page where we read of God creating this perfect world for His people.  God, Jesus, and the Spirit were in existence before our world was created, and desiring companionship they created mankind.  Those of us who are parents know how it feels to seek to love another.  When we decide to have a baby, we do not desire a baby for what it can do for us rather, we have a child so that we can love it, and this is exactly what God did with us.  Yet His story is quite different.  What if before deciding to have a child you knew that this child would rebel against everything you stood for, and that despite this it was destined that you would lay down your life for your child.  Would you still go ahead?  God did.  Jesus knew his destiny lay on the cross and yet God gave us life.  This is the love God has for each and every person on earth.      

John 3.16:17 tells us “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 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.”

It is this “oneness” that I dream for the Christian Church, that God’s love would slice through denomination, colour, race, and culture.  That throughout the world, the church of the living God would stand shoulder to shoulder with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

1 Corinthians 1.10-13 “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarrelling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

The way that I see it, we all in the Christian community have something to offer the other, practically, and theologically and we can use these differences to grow in Christ. For example, some Christians will cross themselves as they enter a church building, others will cover their heads and still, others will kneel before an icon, from this can one not learn of respect, worship, and adoration of the Father?  Some Christians rock the walls of their church with the sound of drums and bass, others gaze to the heavens with arms raised in worship, some dance joyfully along the aisles, from this can one not learn how to express their love and gratitude to our maker?  Some Christians baptize babies, is this not simply an act of love and care for their child, others baptize only as adults, an informed decision and declaration of faith.  Some believe that Jesus becomes communion bread, others that He is around the bread, do these Christians not both take of this supper in faith?  Some wear hats in church, some wear head scarves, some no head coverings, some dress in suits, others in jeans, are these same individuals not each presenting themselves to a church building to worship their Father?  Are these division enough to break up the family of God?  Let us always remember that God loves each and every one of us and God knows the heart of every man.  Every person that we share this earth with is known to and special to God so let them be special to us.

Pope Frances has said “our lack of unity is in fact not only openly contrary to the will of Christ but is also a scandal to the world and harms the most holy of causes: the preaching of the Gospel to every creature”.

Can each one of us who dare to call ourselves children of God place our hands on our hearts and say we do the will of God?  That we fulfil the commandment to “love our neighbour” given to us by our Lord?  Jesus said, “by this people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35.  Do people know that we are disciples of Jesus?   

Pope Frances further voices “Our differences must not be excuses. Even now we can walk in the Spirit: We can pray, evangelize, and serve together. This is possible, and it is pleasing to God! Walking, praying, and working together: This is the great path that we are called to follow. And this path has a clear aim, that of unity. The opposite path, that of division, leads to conflict and breakup.”

Let us listen to Paul when he declares.

Let us unite so the angels can sing in the words of David, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”, Psalm 133:1.

Love and Blessings

Louise xx

Categories
Christianity

Today I Will Be Happy!

Following on from yesterday’s blog, the next word I wrote in my Prayer Journal that I would be is … Happy!

Today I will be happy.  The definition of happy according to the Oxford Dictionary is contented (satisfied with what one has), pleased (showing or feeling pleasure or satisfaction) and fortunate (lucky).  When I thought about how I would define happy I found it hard to answer!  I felt that it was more than contentment.  To me to be content is to be satisfied but to be happy is more than this.

The Hebrew for happy, ashar, esher is used interchangeably with blessed.  We so commonly use the #blessed in today’s society to indicate that we are happy!  To be happy is to feel blessed.  

So, what makes us happy?

Life: An old Scottish motto states “Be happy while y’er leevin, For y’er a lang time deid.”  This tells us life itself should make us happy because that is all we have, when we die, we cease to exist.

Childhood: “Ah! Happy years! Once more who would not be a boy?” Lord Byron

Absence of Pain: “But all the happiness mankind can gain, is not in pleasure, but in the rest from pain.”, Dryden

Love: “Little deeds of kindness, little words of love, help to make the earth happy, like the heaven above.” Julia Carney

Morality: “Be in general virtuous, and you will be happy.” Benjamin Franklin

Books: “Dreams, books, are each a world; and books, we know, Are a substantial world, both pure and good.  Round these, with tendrils strong as flesh and blood.  Our pastime and our happiness will grow.” William Wordsworth

Worldly Things: “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Thoughts of Heaven: “There is a happy land, Far, far away, Where Saints in glory stand, Bright, bright as day.” Andrew Young, Hymn: There is a Happy Land

So, how can we obtain this happiness?

By gaining wisdom: “Happy are your wives!  Happy are these your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!” Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, 2 Chronicles 9:7

By pleasing God: “For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner He has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 2:26

By believing God: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

By trusting in God: “The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.” Proverbs 10:28

By having God as our Lord: “Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!” Psalm 144:15

By putting the Lord before you: “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being[a] rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.” Psalm 16:8-9

By keeping God’s law: Psalm 1:1-3 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers.

By looking to God: Psalm 34:5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

By dreaming God’s dreams: “When the dream in our heart is one that God has planted there, a strange happiness flows into us.  At that moment all of the spiritual resources of the universe are released to help us.  Our praying is then at one with the will of God and becomes a channel for the Creator’s always joyous, triumphant purposes for us and our world.” Catherine Marshall

By giving our hearts to God: “We are to give our heart to God that he may make it happy, with a happiness which stretches its capacity to the full” Gordon S Wakefield

By not looking for it: “Happiness is never found until we have the grace to stop looking for it” J I Packer

By obeying God: “Man still wishes to be happy even when he so lives as to make happiness impossible.” Augustine of Hippo

You may notice that all the quotes above on how to obtain happiness involve God.  That is because I believe that true, deep rooted happiness and contentment can only come from a convicted faith in the Lord Jesus.  Only then can we be at peace with our inevitable death and the fragility of life around us.  Only then can we find happiness in the toughest of times since we know that God is with us and all we do is for God’s glory and when we are obedient to Him, he smiles down upon us.  Perhaps this is the reason why Billy Graham said “Christians are the only people in the world who have anything to be happy about” and Bonaventure said “Since happiness is nothing but the enjoyment of the highest good, and since the highest good is above, then no one can be happy unless he rise above himself, not by a physical ascent, but by an ascent of the heart.”

I will admit I know a lot of incredibly happy non-Christians.  I believe this is because of general provision.  Matthew 5:45 “that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” 

God provides for all, regardless of faith, so undoubtedly, non-Christians will be blessed with happiness, but true, deep rooted contentment can only come from the assurance of Jesus and His salvific act.  Happiness, like all characteristics of God, are not merely traits that He manifests but that He is.  God is Happiness as C S Lewis explains “God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there.  There is no such thing.”

The additional provision for Christians is that God will be our strength in times of weakness.  As Christians, even amidst the pain we should look back at our happy times and smile because we are to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3.  We should not feel as others do that our past happiness increases our current pain.  “For truly in adverse fortune the worst sting of misery is to have been happy.” Boethius.  “There is no greater sorrow than to recall a time of happiness in misery”, Dante Alighieri.  “That is a sorrow’s crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.” Alfred Tennyson

I have used a lot of quotes here, the reason being I wanted to get a wide picture on what happiness is and how we are to obtain it.  The answer quite clearly is found only in Christ Jesus so pray with me:-

Lord, Jesus, Our Heavenly Father,

How great you are that you provide us with happiness and contentment for our earthly lives, that we have the hope that we will not cease to exist as others believe but that we will rise again to the highest heaven and live eternally at your side.

Lord, strengthen us to see our blessings even during our painful seasons,

Be with us as we grieve,

Be with us in our sorrow,

Be with us in our difficulties,

Be with us always,

We ask these things in your wonderful and precious name, 

Amen

Love and Blessings

Louise xx