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When Your Morality Squeezes All The Joy Out Of Life

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By Marshall Hoffman

Sometimes when I find myself wading in a river with nary a bite I think: ‘If I can’t even figure out where the wily trout is lurking, how can I solve the mysteries of life?’

Every respectable fly fisherman is supposed to be proficient in tying all the right knots. When I try to use my finger to tie the ‘nail knot’ it gets caught every time. The old reliable ‘clinch knot’ somehow becomes a slip knot. Even the so-called improved clinch knot fails me at times. Now what kind of knot do I use to tie the fly onto the tippet? Is it the overhand? No, that’s not secure enough. How about the Palomar? That should hold without weakening the line. Then there’s the surgeon’s knot. It’s all so confusing.

Pardon me, if I see a close parallel between fishing and moral dilemmas. Do you ever feel tied up in knots, by the thunderous negatives of your moral code? ‘THOU SHALT NOT….’ When I was a kid growing up in Sunday school, I often felt that God was a Big Bully who wanted to take all the fun out of life. Everything I wanted to do seemed like a no-no according to my moral code.   As we used to joke: ‘I can’t dance and I can’t chew and I can’t go with girls that do.’  So, I exhausted myself trying to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s. After awhile I gave up in discouragement.

Now that I have had more time to read the Fishing Manual, I have discovered that for every negative prohibition in the Bible there are several positive affirmations. For every ‘thou shalt not steal’ there is a ‘thou shalt honor your father and your mother.’

I have found the fishing better, when I have accentuated the positive. The bird nests and back lashes of life seem more manageable when I lubricate my line with a positive attitude. I know I can’t eliminate the negative, nor would I want to. There are times when a decisive ‘no’ is needed to shut the door on temptation; ‘I will not!’ But those uncompromising negatives need not tie us up in knots and squeeze all the joy out of life. The next time you tie your shoes remember they can be snug without binding. I like that figure eight knot, symbol of eternity which holds tight but leaves some breathing room.

The Master Fisherman showed us the way when he summarized the 10 Commandments into two; ‘thou shalt love God with all your heart’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ If we concentrate on those two things, all the rest will fall into place and take care of itself.

Is that good fish philosophy?

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/christianity-articles/when-your-morality-squeezes-all-the-joy-out-of-life-6810174.html

About the Author

Marshall Hoffman Is a retired pastor whose mission is to motivate and inspire believers to love God more and serve him better.  His bible based insights come from a half century of pastoral service.

Since this article’s initial publication articlesbase.com has undergone some changes. We have left the original links intact. 

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Is the Devil God’s Agent?

Illustration of the Devil in the Codex Gigas, ...

Illustration of the Devil in the Codex Gigas, folio 270 recto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Family Foundation

If God is in Control, Then Why…?
By Craig Hill; 295 pages
Regular Price: $15.00

Excerpt from Craig Hill’s Blog ‘Is the Devil God’s Agent?’ published on September 17, 2013.

When you listen to some Christians speak about the tragedies of life, you might conclude that God uses the devil for our own good.  And even if they don’t believe God authors tragedy, they believe He is complacent and allows the devil to do what he will so God can teach us something.

After all, doesn’t Romans 8:28 say this? ‘And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.’

Most Christians want to comfort people who are suffering in the midst of tragedy and devastation.  Optimistically, they look for the good things that God has worked in the midst of the tragedy.  And when they find one, they use it to explain why God allowed or caused the destruction in the first place.

Therefore, it may seem like Romans 8:28 is an appropriate scripture to use when bringing comfort to those who are suffering, and it is.  But not for the purpose of explaining why God ‘allowed’ the tragedy. If you subscribe to that line of thinking, your heart will ultimately blame God for devastation and destruction on the earth.  Why, because this type of thinking takes Romans 8:28 out of context and then contradicts other key principles in the Bible.

Saint Michael and the fall of angels – painting by Johann Georg Unruhe ( 1793 ) – detail: Fallen angel via Wikipedia

For example, 1 John 3:8 says, ‘For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.’  Destroy is a very different concept from use or teach.  If God were using the devil to teach us something, then He would be in conflict with His own purpose for the life of Jesus.

Craig Hill calls this kind of thinking, backwards theology.  Just because you see firemen on the scene of every fire, does not mean that firemen cause fires. Likewise, God is never the author of the works of the devil, and He never uses the devil to teach us anything.  He sent Jesus to destroy the works of the devil and the Holy Spirit to be our comforter and teacher.

To further gain a true biblical understanding of the interaction of God, Satan, circumstances, and their impact on your life, Craig Hill encourages you to read his book on just this topic entitled, If God Is In Control, Then Why? It will change the way you view God and tragedy on the earth.

About the Book

IF GOD IS IN CONTROL THEN WHY..? deals with that difficult question about the nature of God that plagues the minds of most people. Whether you are a lifetime believer in Christ or you have just begun looking for answers, the question, ‘If God is in control, then why…?’ has probably been one you have heard or asked many times in your life. Craig Hill has gifted insight into God’s Word and an ability to teach through riveting real-life stories. This book brings understanding to the issue of God’s sovereignty and will set your heart at peace, allowing you to trust a just God in an unjust world.

E-book versions for Kindle and Nook for this book are now available. Audio Book is also available.

About the Author

Having a specific interest in ministering to marriages and families, Craig Hill pursued an internship and later a volunteer staff position at the New Life Counseling Center in Denver. He subsequently taught counseling and missions on the faculty of the Marilyn Hickey Bible College. In 1987, the Lord raised up Craig as Senior Pastor of a local church where he and Jan served for seven and a half years, until he was called by God to devote his full-time energy to the ministry of Family Foundations International.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/christianity-articles/is-the-devil-gods-agent-6848818.html

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Living the Serenity Prayer

By Dr Kevin Ross Emery

Several months ago, a friend approached me with a question. If I were to get up in front of a large audience and speak about something I thought would make their lives better, what would that subject be? For the last several years of my teaching and speaking career, my first response would have been to say, ‘Empowerment.’ This time however, I looked at my friend and without missing a beat said, ‘The Serenity Prayer.’

Photo credit: Abby Lanes via Flickr

Abby Lanes via Flickr

When he asked me why I would choose this subject, I told him that I had used the Serenity Prayer for almost 20 years in my spiritual coaching and counseling practice to help my clients.

In this article, I would like to explore the serenity aspect of the prayer. As often times is the case, when I begin to talk or write about something, I like to see what Webster’s Dictionary has to say about it.

One definition I found for the word ‘serenity’ was, ‘A place of calmness and tranquility.’ The question that brought up for me was, ‘Is serenity a place where we go, or a state that we live within?’

Rather than just answering this question on my own, I decided to see what other people had to say. Many of the people I asked said that serenity is associated with acceptance, as in The Serenity Prayer: ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.’ However when asked where they found the calmness and tranquility that defines serenity, some replied that when they did find it, it was when they meditated or chanted; or did yoga or T’ai Chi. For others, it came by listening to certain kinds of music. Some said that playing or singing music could also create that state of serenity. And then there are those that find serenity while cooking, knitting, or even shooting hoops.

Embed from Getty Images

Did you notice that all these things required the effort of setting aside a period of time and doing something? It was a place they went to or an activity they participated in. It was clearly not a state of being they experienced in their ordinary day-to-day activities.

Another definition I found for serenity referred to being free from stress or emotion; the absence of mental stress and anxiety. Again, a question arose in my mind. ‘Does that mean that serenity is only achievable when we are empty of emotions and thoughts?’

Even the possibility of eliminating emotions and thoughts made no sense to me.  So I did what I do best and allowed my soul to take me to the place where the answer might lie, at least where it might lie for me. As often happens when I go to my intuitive self for guidance, I flashed onto something from my past that guided me to an answer.

For close to twenty years when people ask me what I do for work, I tell them that I don’t do work, I do joy. I do joy because about 90% of the time, I am in joy, and part of that joy comes from what I do that some people may call work. I can tell them this because I realized that joy, in and of itself, is not an emotion, but how fully you live, learn, and move through the emotions that you have at the time that you are experiencing them.

Embed from Getty Images

Now why would I bring up joy when I am speaking about serenity? Simple — because to be in joy is all about acceptance; accepting exactly where you are, and doing so fully and without judgment. This is the first thing that one prays for in the Serenity Prayer. Serenity is clearly tied to acceptance. So what then is acceptance? Often, we associate acceptance with giving up on something, turning the other cheek.

However, when I hear that, I think of a statement that Simon Peter (St Peter), one of the beings who sometimes comes through me when I trance channel, made through me: ‘Sometimes you turn the other cheek, and sometimes you stomp down on their foot so they don’t do it again.’

Acceptance is about clearly seeing and being in the reality of any situation; not just thinking about how you would like for it to be, or fear it might be. It also means dealing with the situation from that place of acceptance. We can accept something and still have unhappy emotions or thoughts about it. Frustration, anger or sadness don’t change our acceptance of a situation, they just are, and they make us feel a certain way, which we in turn also accept.

Living in serenity isn’t about having no emotions, no stress, or no thoughts but light and fluffy ones. It is all about acceptance. In the Serenity Prayer, we ask God to grant us the serenity to accept the things that we cannot change. Yet isn’t it the ability to accept that which you cannot change that leads to serenity?

The acceptance of what you are not willing to change, but know that you could change, can also bring serenity. It is possible to realize that we can change something, and at the same time decide that now is not the best time to change it. But sometimes, we tell ourselves that it is okay to leave things as they are, and then proceed to beat ourselves up over the choice.

Embed from Getty Images

If we cannot be in peace about living with something for the moment, then perhaps, we really can’t wait in serenity. Realizing this is the difference between timing and avoidance. If it is truly just timing, then you actually can be at peace with the choice, if you can’t than it is probably avoidance. In other words, one does not find serenity without acceptance, and acceptance brings serenity. One of the great spiritual paradoxes!

Acceptance in all forms is what brings one to live in the place of serenity. Some might even call it radical acceptance, and this is what makes it possible to not only ‘find’ serenity in certain activities, but to live in serenity.

So serenity is not about living without, or in emptiness, but it is about living fully within all that life brings you, fully embracing all of your emotions and each situation as it appears, so that at the end of the day, you can joyfully accept that you are just are as you are, living in each moment.

We began by discussing how some people can find moments of serenity for themselves, but the most important question is:  How can we bridge the gap between moments of serenity to a life of serenity? The answer to this question involves four steps:

  1. Doing the things we know bring us serenity as often as possible.
  2. Daily spiritual practices.
  3. Getting out of fear and staying out of fear.
  4. Living in the now.

It is as simple and easy as that, which is neither simple or easy, but can be accomplished.

Can we really live in serenity? Better yet, can we live in serenity when we are living in a world that is fearful, judgmental and full of unknowns? Absolutely, in fact it is the only way we can live fully in this world.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/spirituality-articles/living-the-serenity-prayer-1127788.html

About the Author

Dr. Kevin Ross Emery is a popular author, psychic, coach, consultant and teacher. Dr. Kevin travels internationally, offering lectures and workshops to empower people from all walks of life. He’s also available for phone (and Skype) consultations. Dr. Kevin’s primary practices are in Portland, Maine and Haverhill, Massachusetts. Visit his website for his radio show and additional articles at http://www.weboflight.com

Since this article’s initial publication articlesbase.com has undergone some changes. We have left the original links intact. 

 ‘4-Hour Work Week’ author Tim Ferriss is convinced New Year’s resolutions are a waste of time – so he does a simple annual ritual instead (businessinsider.com)

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Christian Meditation is Like a Shower of the Mind

Candlemas Day

Marianne Stokes (1855–1927) Candlemas Day – Wikipedia

By Rhonda Jones

Each morning, usually before day-break, I tread to my meditation spot, an overstuffed comfy green chair in the corner of my bedroom. Some mornings it’s cold and I just want to hide under my covers, but regardless of the conditions, eventually I make my way to my chair, light a candle, wrap myself in a blanket, set my timer, and close my eyes. For the next 30 minutes I become completely absorbed by God’s word and his presence.

For me, Christian meditation is like a daily shower of my mind. It’s where I can dissolve any fears, worries, stresses, or the onset of negative or toxic emotions lingering near by. During meditation, I cast all of my cares upon the Lord and allow them to diminish in his light, Spirit, and love. To forfeit my meditation practice any one day means that my flesh has gotten the victory over my spirit and now sits on the throne. It is said that how we begin our day is how we often finish our day.

My meditation practice consists of slowly meditating on passages of scripture or inspirational texts. I call this Scripture Meditation. I meditate on the 23rd Psalms, The Lord’s Prayer, The Love Chapter, The Beatitudes and other verses that I have memorized and God puts on my heart. I begin each meditation session with the following prayer that I slightly modified from Psalm 19 of Praying the Psalms by Nan Merrill. It read it as:

‘But who can discern their own weakness? Cleanse me, O Lord, from all my hidden faults? Keep me from boldly acting in error; let my fears and illusions not have dominion over me! Then shall I become a beneficial presence, Freely and fully surrendered to your Love. Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart find favor in your Heart. O my Beloved, my strength and my joy!’

During meditation, I slowly graze over the scriptures in my mind, and as I do I sink deeper and deeper into the peace, calm, and presence of God. Each time my mind wanders off in thought, fear, or anxiety, I turn my attention back to my scripture passage, keeping my mind on the Lord. The Bible says that ‘you will keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.’

English: A Discalced Carmelite nun sits in her...

A Discalced Carmelite nun sits in her cell, praying, meditating on the Bible – Wikipedia

Jesus tells us in the Bible that we become what we think about or meditate on. Through meditation, we hide God’s word in our heart and that planted word begins to take root and grow a harvest of godly fruit. Each time we return our wandering mind back to the scripture passage, it’s the same as plucking up the weeds that want to invade out mental garden.

The benefits of meditation aren’t generally realized during the actual practice, though dwelling in God’s presence is definitely as added reward. The real benefits of Christian Meditation are realized throughout our day when we find that we are more loving, kind, patient, and compassionate or when we squash thoughts of fear or worry that come to steal our peace and joy. Just like we divert our attention from them in meditation, we do the same as we go about our daily tasks. Through meditation, we learn that we can choose what we allow in our minds. We can choose what we allow to rule over us. Meditation empowers us to ‘cast down every thought and imagination that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Paul said that we are a slave to whatever we allow to rule over us. Too many Christians are ruled by the whims of their thoughts. Just like watching a television commercial that tells us we want a Mrs. Smith’s Cherry Pie and we run out and buy one, our unregenerated mind rules most us of. It says stay in bed and stay in bed. It says you’re depressed and we become depressed. It says sin and we sin. It says don’t forgive and we hold grudges. Christian meditation gives us the opportunity to become slaves of righteousness as we continue to hide God’s in our heart and crowd out the voices of illusion and deception. Through Christ-centered meditation, we also experience a deeper connection with God. As our meditation practice deepens we gain a greater capacity to know God, hear his voice, and experience him in a new and real way.

James 4:8 declares, ‘Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.’ Christian meditation allows us to wash away the mental dirt and debris that we pick up each day. It helps us to break the conditioning, patterns, and falsehoods of the world and start each day clean, purified, and centered in Christ.

Teresa of Ávila, Ulm, Germany

Teresa of Ávila, Ulm, Germany – Wikipedia

Some people would never think to miss their morning shower or bath. I know people that spend at least 30 minutes in the shower or until the water turns cold. Then they spend another two hours doing their make up and hair. They wouldn’t dare leave the house until their outsides our fully together. But how much more important is it that we clean our insides from worldly contaminates. To miss this time in silence reverence to God means carrying around these mental and emotional weights for another 24 hours or until I decide to meditate again. I’d much rather wash them away, just like the water takes the dirt from my bodies and carries it down the drain. Starting my morning in meditation frees me from any encumbrances lingering in my unconscious mind. Through Christian meditation, my mind is swept clean and polished with the light of God’s word.

2 Corinthians 7:1 says, ‘Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement that contaminates either flesh or spirit.’ Through meditation, we become the observer of our thoughts and which gives us the power to eliminate those ideas that are contrary to our faith. Mastery of the mind is the only road to true freedom, for it is in the mind and thoughts that all things are created, ‘for as a man thinks in his heart, so is he,’ and ‘a good man out of the good treasure in his heart creates that which is good.’

Jesus said, ‘Come to me all who are weary and of a heavy heart and I will give you rest. Spending time with God in meditation, whether scripture, guided, or mantra, is that place of rest for me, for it is where I lay my burdens at the cross and then cloth myself with the Lord Jesus Christ. Each time I enter meditation I am covering myself in his Word, Presence, and Love. I am dwelling under the shadow of the Almighty. Each time I leave my green comfy chair, I leave cleansed, renewed, and restored and prepared to begin my day.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/religion-articles/christian-meditation-is-like-a-shower-of-the-mind-4053446.html

About the Author

If you would like to learn more about Scripture Meditation, see Free Scripture Meditation Online Course or get a copy of the Scripture Meditation Tutorial CD that contains a 75-minutes of detailed instructions and Scripture Meditation recording.

Since this article’s initial publication articlesbase.com has undergone some changes. We have left the original links intact. 

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Spirituality Advice – Are You Making Any of These 3 Deadly Mistakes in Your Search for Truth?

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By John

1 – A closed mind

A closed mind has been defined as one that is stubbornly unreceptive to new ideas and intolerant of the beliefs and opinions of others. A person may incur the handicap of a closed mind because of egoism, due to not having had a liberal education or because of low native intelligence.

In this condition, all incoming knowledge is filtered through a set of rigid beliefs and whatever does not fit is jettisoned. On the other hand, whatever fits in with the habitual belief is swallowed hook, line and sinker – no matter how irrational it may be. This makes the person prone to all kinds of superstition and fears.

It takes a lot of work for a person to become aware of, let alone take off, the blinders of a closed mind. However, reading extensively on many diverse subjects and traveling to experience different cultures and viewpoints would help remedy this mistake so that the person would be better able to apprehend spiritual truth.

2 – Gullibility

This is very similar to the first mistake. It often occurs because of the human tendency to accept as true whatever we would prefer to be true or what we wish were true. Thus, without question, imaginative speculations are accepted as facts and claims that have no historical or other precedence are taken as valid.

A gullible person is a ready victim of personality cults, miracle claims and purported instant cures. Persons that have a confident, insistent manner of speaking or that are prestigious or who boldly repeat their claims over and over again pose a particular threat to gullible folks.

The remedy for gullibility is the cultivation of a healthy skepticism, so that every outrageous claim or postulation is taken with a pinch of salt. Surely, it is better to be called a doubting Thomas than be an easy victim.

3 – Mistaking religion for spirituality

Due to the fact that most of us first get introduced to the idea of spirituality through the medium of one religion or another, we associate the two concepts, sometimes to the point of mistaking one for the other.

Briefly, the difference between the two is that while spirituality refers to the quality or condition of showing great refinement and concern with the higher things in life ( in contrast to material things) religion is the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.

Some of the dangers of mistaking religion for spirituality are that you never see anyone who is not an adherent of your religion as spiritual; you never agree to eclectically take advantage of beneficial practices that may originate from other religions than yours; you begin to see the doctrines of your religion as facts of spirituality rather than opinions, albeit enlightened, of the leaders of your faith.

To those who mistake religion for spirituality please consider the wisdom contained in this quote from the late eminent Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung:

‘A belief proves to me only the phenomenon of belief, not the content of the belief. This I must see revealed empirically in order to accept it…’

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/spirituality-articles/spirituality-advice-are-you-making-any-of-these-3-deadly-mistakes-in-your-search-for-truth-6879227.html

About the Author

What is the ultimate approach to excellence? Of what relevance is spirituality in your quest for fulfillment and bliss? John D’Silva’s effective-spirituality.com offers insights that would surprise and refresh you. John is happily devoted to helping You unleash Your Spirit of Excellence. Intelligence directs the universe, not chance…

Since this article’s initial publication articlesbase.com has undergone some changes. Original links have been left intact. 

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Peter, Paul and Women – Another look at the Early Church

Peter and Paul by El Greco via Wikipedia

Among Christians, St. Peter is often compared to St. Paul.

Peter is seen as the rule man. Paul, the innovator. Together, they are usually cited as the two most important early Christians after Jesus Christ, himself.

Women in Early Christianity

Feminists say the primacy of Peter and Paul is a male take on early Christianity. A male take in a male world—in New Testament times and, to some degree, now.

Women, in fact, performed essential work among the early Christians. Food preparation, laundry and other domestic chores were not accomplished through miracles. And there’s no New Testament record of manna falling from heaven. No, women usually took up these necessary duties.

Scholars also realize that women played key inspirational, pastoral and organizational roles within the early Church.¹

Read More

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 Serve God diligently and obey the law (vanguardngr.com)


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Was Thomas Merton a great mystic?

Was Thomas Merton really a great mystic, as indicated above?

name lost in internet. Seems to be Mystic Marr...

“Seems to be Mystic Marriage of Christ and the Church” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I think of great Catholic mystics people like St. Faustina Kowalska come to mind. She was so busy suffering for others and having daily visions of Christ that she barely had time to write out her Diary.

Can bookish scholars/writers like Merton be mystics?

Maybe.

But I don’t think they can be great mystics. They might have an inkling of what the great mystics talk about.

Also, how do we know what a great mystic is? Need they be church approved and funded? Could there be other mystics who go unnoticed? Could the knowledge of these “wildflower” mystics, as I call them, surpass what the Church recognizes as a mystic or a saint?

I don’t know.

Ronald E. Powaski has written about the Trappi...

Ronald E. Powaski has written about the Trappist monk, peace activist, and writer, Thomas Merton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But my gut tells me that Merton, who was keen on study, talk and world travel, was not a great mystic. He might have been a great Catholic public figure. But that’s a totally different story.

I know everyone is different and it’s not a competition when it comes to serving God. But it seems there’s a sort of childish Catholic ‘cult’ mentality out there that I sometimes question.

Do some people need to believe in semi-mythical accounts for inspiration? Do they artificially elevate certain figures who really don’t deserve it? Are some religious people borderline fanatics?

Myself, I much prefer trying to get at the truth of things rather than following an overzealous, unthinking crowd.

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 Jacob Rees-Mogg: ‘I oppose same-sex marriage, but I’d go to a gay wedding’ (pinknews.co.uk)

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