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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 …. Content

Recently I have been going back over my Prayer Journal.  Each day I am to fill in a section entitled “Today I Will Be ….”  Often, my answer is found within the Scripture I have just read or from the writings of Oswald Chambers whose Devotional Bible I read daily.  Recently I felt urged to write blogs about some of the words that I chose “to be”.  The first is Content.

Today I will be content.  This word came to me as I pondered over John 8:11 “She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”  In this passage Jesus is speaking to a woman about to be stoned for her sin.  A previous verse contains the very well known, “… Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”, John 8:7.  This got me thinking about how our sin eats away at us unnecessarily because we are forgiven.  Whether Christian or otherwise, at some stage we feel guilt, and for many, guilt is a constant unshakable burden.  Scripture tells us this is unnecessary because Jesus is willing to take it from us. He wants so much to bear our sin for us that He went to the cross, voluntarily, in order to make this possible.  I am quite sure He did not suffer so, in order that we should continue grasping at our sin, desperately trying to hang on to it!  1 Peter 2:24 “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed.”

What does it mean to be content?

Being content is being happy with the little things.  Luke 12:22-23 “He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”  Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  Riches and material objects will come and go.  If we strive for the material, we will only desire more and more as the Dalai Lama points out “When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more.  Your desire can never be satisfied.  But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself “Oh yes – I already have everything that I really need.””  There are many sad tales of extremely rich people, who have more than most could ever dream of and yet are discontented, never having enough to make themselves content.  This is a very real danger in our society of social media, where riches are constantly flaunted in our faces and more worryingly in that of our children’s.  It is important to consider the happiness that the little things bring and soon you will discover that the little things are actually the big things and the big things the little!!  When you wake in the morning to bird song, and look out of your window to the flowers, this is precious beauty that money cannot buy.  Or when you look out to the ocean or across the hillside, this is beauty, and this is a big thing!!

Paul is a fantastic example of someone who was content, 2 Cor 12:10 “Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”   We need not be reminded that Paul suffered horrific beatings, banishment, loneliness, shipwreck, persecution, imprisonment, rejection and yet through all of this he was content.  He understood the purpose of his suffering and he understood that laying in the midst of all this horror was the light of Jesus and he knew that by these very experiences he was serving Christ and in this way he found ultimate contentment!    

Mother Angelica perfectly sums this up “The Christian experiences and lives a paradox.  He possesses joy in sorrow, fulfilment in exile, light in darkness, peace in turmoil, consolation in dryness, contentment in pain and hope in desolation.”  To be firmly rooted in Christ is not for us merely to endure all the hardships of life but to endure them with perfect contentment as though both blessing and persecution are one and the same.  

How do we go about obtaining contentment?

This seems such a daunting task and it is unlikely that many of us will reach the contentment that Paul experienced or the contentment that Mother Angelica describes, however, this is our goal and there are ways to achieve this.

First, we are not to worry and fret, Matthew 6:25-26 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” 

Secondly, we must not concern ourselves with the past or the future more than is absolutely necessary.  Of course, there are times in our lives where we must rehash the past, when we are discussing events with friends or family, perhaps you are dealing with an issue you have had with someone.  There are also times when we must consider the future, for example we must ask ourselves, “Should we move to a new house?”  “Should we have a family?”  “Will this vocation suit me?”.  However, where possible we must leave our past and our future in God’s hands, Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Luke reiterates this in chapter 9, verse 62 “Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Thirdly, we must hand our worries over to Jesus.  We must remove our yoke which is heavily laden with our regret, sin, worry, fear, etc. and we must put on the yoke of Jesus which is light.  Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  1 Peter 5:6-7 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

Next, we must understand that this is a learning process.  This is not something bestowed on us upon our salvation but something that we must work on throughout our lives, Paul, himself says in Philippians 4:11-13  “Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.”

We must trust in God and seek Christ, Isaiah 26:3 “Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace — in peace because they trust in you.”  Proverbs, 19:23 “The fear of the Lord is life; indeed, filled with it one rests secure and suffers no harm. Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

We must understand that life is transient, what we are frantic about one day will be forgotten about the next, understand that things will pass, 2 Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Ecclesiastes  3:1-8

One way of finding contentment is to consider others before ourselves, this is true humility. when we give to others, we find contentment, what we gain for ourselves, can be destructive because we can find we are never satisfied but to give to others is a blessing,

We must let go of our earthly desires.  When Jesus sends the disciples on a mission he tells them to travel light, Mark 6:8-9 “These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.Wear sandals but not an extra shirt.”  Our treasure is not to be found here on earth, our treasure is in Christ, it awaits us in heaven.  Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  If we look to our earthly treasures then we overlook Christ, but when we look to our heavenly treasure then we look to Christ.  Jesus told a parable that teaches us of the dangers of earthly treasure in Luke 12:16-21 “And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.  “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.  And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’  “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’  “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

One way of grounding yourself is by keeping the Sabbath.  By resting on the Sabbath we are free to devote this time to God, we can read Scripture, attend church services, listen to worship songs, watch a nice movie, spend time with friends and family, walk in the countryside exploring God’s beautiful land, spend time in the garden, do craft work, the list is endless.  This is a good way to connect your heart and mind with Jesus.  If you are unable to sabbath on a Sunday, you can make it another day or perhaps do evening to evening rather than morning to morning.

Lastly, look to the Heroes of the faith for inspiration.  When I feel a little flat, I love to read books about missionaries, Christian leaders, Bible characters etc as it provides such impetus for me to try harder.  Examples are Paul, Peter, Stephen, Mary Slessor, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King Junior, Corrie Ten Boom.

I would recommend reading “Journey to Contentment” by Sally Welch which has many helpful exercises to help with finding contentment. 

I will leave you with two Scriptures which I hope will inspire and comfort you.  

Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Love and Blessings

Louise xx