REST – Part 2

I wonder if you have ever noticed that no biblical poet or prophet sets the thought of God’s greatness over against the thought of man’s littleness in order to make man feel insignificant and of no consequence. On the contrary, all the great biblical writers set the thought of God’s greatness over against the need of man. They magnify God not to make man feel small, but to make man feel that the resources of this mighty Being are at his disposal. We are not to argue, “If he is so great, I must be of no account at all,” but rather, “How great he is, and therefore how able to take care of me and look after my interests.”

…in Psalm 8, which might seem to dispute my claim: The psalmist says: “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him! and the son of man that thou visitest him?” But don’t stop there! For the poet goes on to say: “Thou hast made him a little lower than God”–in the original we have the word God (elohim), not angels–“and hast crowned him with glory and honor… Thou hast put all things under his feet.” In other words, the poet is rejoicing in the glory of God in order that he may rest the minds of men in God’s infinity.

And remember that when the psalmist cries out, as he so often does, “O magnify the Lord,” he does not mean, “Let us tell God what a wonderful person he is, and let us in our insignificance crawl at his feet.” He means, “Let us realize how big God is and how adequate for all our needs, and let us rest our minds and hearts, our worries, our concern for our loved ones, our whole nation’s troubles, on his breast.”

Let us magnify the Lord together! Let us have a great God… For all science and all poetry and all music and all drama are but revelations of his nature and his ways with men. Our God, vast and infinite, stands behind them all, greater than man’s power to imagine, better than man’s loveliest thoughts.

– So you can relax your body
and hush your mind
and quiet your heart
and rest
in the infinity of God.

When you pray, God gives himself in loving attention to you as if you were the only person in the universe.

Our only mental rest is in the infinity of God, with whom is no detail, no chance, no unimportant event, no past, no present, no future. All exist in his life, which, being infinite, is beyond our comprehension.

Do you realize that when you know a person you are content to wait for an explanation of the things he does and allows? “He who hath heard the Word of God,” said Ignatius, “can bear his silences.”

We cannot comprehend the infinity of God. God will always be beyond the compass of our little, finite minds, and he will both do and allow things that puzzle, bewilder, and affright us; but, although we don’t know much about God, we know God in Jesus and, knowing, can rest our minds in his infinity.

“Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God.”
[from “The Marshes of Glynn”, by Sidney Lanier]

“And I smiled to think God’s greatness flowed around our incompleteness,–
Round our restlessness,
his rest.”
[from “The Rhyme of the Duchess May” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning]

 – Leslie Weatherhead (1893-1976), minister at City Temple, London.
Excerpts from the sermon “Resting in God’s Infinity,” The Significance of Silence, 1945.


The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not lack.
He makes me to lie down in pastures of tender grass;
He leads me beside waters of rest.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
 For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
To the end of my days.

Psalm 23
The New King James Bible

Posted in Comfort, Eternity, Freedom, Infinity, Jesus, Prayer, Psalm 23, Rest, Silence, Trust

REST – Part 1

BACKGROUND

In this season of honoring military veterans, and of Thanksgiving, it is the right time to present a stunning example of the personal strength generated by reliance on God through Christ Jesus. It concerns the courage and persistence of civilians in a war zone: London during the WWII “blitz.”
This blog topic is being written in two parts – the 2nd to follow soon. It is taken from a book of sermons titled The Significance of Silence by Dr. Leslie Weatherhead, minister at City Temple, London, 1936-1960, and a prolific writer. He prefaced his sermon collection with the background “of the work of which preaching is only a part and a picture of the people to whom (the) messages were proclaimed.”

Part 1 of this blog topic quotes excerpts from Weatherhead’s preface:


In the spring of 1941 the City Temple was set on fire by incendiary bombs dropped from German airplanes and, except for the facade, the tower, and the lower part of the walls, totally destroyed. The famous marble pulpit, gift to my predecessor, Joseph Parker, from the City of London, was an unrecognizable heap of stones. Not one of the stained-glass windows remained. The great organ vanished in a night. The vast auditorium, seating over two thousand people, was a jumble of burned beams, twisted girders, and broken rubble. A score of firemen lived on the premises from the outbreak of war, but unfortunately the first fireman on the roof fell and was injured. By the time he was carried to safety the roof was alight in three places. Pieces of burning roof fell on the wooden pews, and in a few minutes the place was a roaring inferno.

… On the one hand, the sadness, the unutterable sadness of our loss. On the other, the unconquerable sense of triumph; a great thankfulness that no power of hate or aggression or evil can ever dominate the church, the living entity, made, not of stones, however venerable, or stained glass, however lovely, but of loyal, loving human hearts.

I have come to admire those stout hearts.

(After some descriptions of these “stout hearts” and the devastating effects of war in their lives comes the following account of their commitment to faith and church – their inspiration and hope.)

A month after the great disaster, the City Temple suffered again, although there was little more that could be destroyed. At that time we had been graciously allowed by Dr. Sidney Berry to meet in the Memorial Hall, the headquarters of the Congregational Union. One Sunday morning in May, 1941, I set off to conduct worship with a heavy heart. All night the bombs had been dropping, the guns roaring, the shrapnel falling. I should think no one in London had had any sleep, and many hundreds had suffered. In the suburb where I live we had been fortunate this time, though my own home had been damaged by earlier raids. Yet I felt sad on this bright morning, and apprehensive of the stories of suffering my people would tell me.

Before we had gone a mile, the bright sky had disappeared and given place to rolling clouds of smoke that covered the heavens and made the streets look as though it were a November evening. How we escaped punctures I have never understood. We drove continually over broken glass and parked at last near Smithfield Market, three quarters of a mile from the Memorial Hall, but as near as the police would allow us to take the car. Then we walked.

Down one side of bomb craters we went, and up the other. Skirting piles of debris, including part of the famous Old Bailey Courts of Justice, which I saw come down into the street, clambering over timber and massive lumps of masonry, threading our way between and over fire hose, we came at last to Farringdon Street, which was blazing all down one side as far as one could see. Fortunately the Memorial Hall was safe, though all approaches to it were dangerous, either from flames or from falling buildings. One could not pass up Ludgate Hill toward St. Paul’s Cathedral, for the flames from both sides met in the middle of the street. Yet the small hall in which we met to worship was crowded with people, and many stood in the corridors outside. I took for my subject “The Power of God” and read part of that glorious letter of Peter to a church suffering the agony of persecution under the monster Nero. We felt gloriously close to the infant church of the first century as we prayed and sang, with London burning all around us.
In the sermon I had to raise my voice to be heard above the hiss of the firemen’s hose and the roar of the flames devouring the buildings on the opposite side of the street.

I shall never forget that service. In the middle of it a gas main exploded with a roar. The flames lit up the faces of the congregation…

(We wondered if) we should give up the idea of an evening service. I then announced that the second service would be held as usual. And again the people crowded the hall. I spoke on the inner serenity of spirit which Christ promised to those who trusted him. We felt the Master was indeed in our midst and that no outward horror and destruction could invade our hearts.

I have described in detail that Sunday, the worst day I have ever lived through, because it tries to paint a picture of what my people are facing and the spirit in which they are facing it.

Not one of us is in despair.


Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,
shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7

Posted in Christ, Comfort, Faith, Fear, Jesus, Life, Peace, Protection, Psalm 23

CONVERSION

The most fundamental change (in life) is the change called conversion. Conversion is the gradual or sudden changing from the Kingdom of Self to the Kingdom of God through the grace and power of Christ. (The soul) stands up under the pressures of life and is able to live and to live victoriously.

According to (William) James: “Conversion produces these four fruits:
1. A sense of a higher and friendly Power.
2. Charity and brotherly love.
3. A paradise of inward tranquillity.
4. Purity of life.”
and, we may add, a new sense of the value of ourselves. An inner, royal dignity comes into the human breast. The human heart has found itself and its way to live.

A man can never despise himself again, for God does not.
He is reconciled with God and hence with himself.

 – E. Stanley Jones, Is the Kingdom of God Realism?, 1940.


Then one of (the Pharisees), a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said to him,
‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.’
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like it:
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 22: 35-39


And do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:2
The Bible, New King James version

Posted in Atonement, Conversion, God, Growth, Heaven, Jesus, Love, Mind, Peace, Perfection, Reality, Thought

FINDING GOD

Whatever your concept and whatever your attitude toward God at present, I want to give you the positive assurance that you can re-establish a personal feeling for God in a much more intimate and understanding and demonstrable way than ever before. You can find God as I and millions of others have found Him–within your own mind and heart. You can become aware of this God Presence when you have learned how to free your consciousness from fears and doubts and other disturbed thoughts, so that you can make contact with your real inner self and realize the miraculous fact that you actually are a part of God!

Once having bestowed upon mankind the priceless gift of free will, God is helpless to assist man until and unless man attunes himself voluntarily to God’s Will, in obedience to His law.
So start now in preparation for the good things which will be set before your soul when you have illumined the path of your life by the light of Love!

 – Harold Sherman, How to Use the Power of Prayer, 1958.


Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:

TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.

Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

Acts 17: 22-28
The Bible, New King James Version

Posted in Creation, Fear, God, Inner Life, Light, Love, Mind, Receiving

REALISM

When (Jesus) finished the Sermon on the Mount, which has been looked on as the very essence of idealism, what was the impression He left upon His hearers? That of an impossible idealist announcing an impossible program? Hardly.

He did not use such words as “I hope so,” “I think so,” “perhaps,” “it may be,” but such words as “Verily, verily [in truth], I say unto you.” … He was declaring what is, and bade men to relate themselves to that reality. … He did not say, “Blessed will be the poor in spirit,” but “Blessed are”–He was announcing facts operative here and now.

The Sermon on the Mount breathes the air of realism in every line. In cutting the root of murder at the place of anger; the root of adultery at the place of looking; the root of false swearing by abolishing all swearing; the root of wars and clashes by forbidding all revenge and all hating of enemies; the root of all unrealism and play-acting in giving of alms, praying and fasting; the root of Mammon [greed, the promise of wealth] by repudiating its sway; by getting rid of anxiety about tomorrow and living for today; by ceasing to have critical attitudes toward others and judging them; by the application of the Golden Rule to human conduct; by insisting or the entering into life through discipline–entering a narrow gate; by emphasizing that good fruit can only be had from good trees; by summing up the whole thing in His insistence that the man who acts on His way will be a man whose house is on rock and will thus be able to stand up against life when floods and storms do their worst–in all these things there is stark realism. He lays it all down with an air of finality: take it or leave it, but this is the way to live.

And yet it was free from dogmatism and fanaticism. There was an air of quiet certainty that did not need to rave or pile adjective on adjective to enforce dubious statements: He seldom used adjectives–He stripped language of all verbiage and reduced it to fact. The language and the fact are so intertwined that they seem like the words and music of a song.

But that reality, He insisted, should be tested both in Himself and in them (his listeners and followers) by a simple realistic test: “By their fruits ye shall know them”–the outcome is the criterion. You cannot tell what life is except through its manifestations. Through the centuries no better test has been discovered.

 – E. Stanley Jones, Is the Kingdom of God Realism?, 1940


Sermon on the Mount: The Beatitudes

And seeing the multitudes, (Jesus) went up into a mountain:
and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

Blessed are the poor in spirit:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn:
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek:
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:
for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful:
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart:
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers:
for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you,
and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad:
for great is your reward in heaven:
for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Matthew 5:1-12

Posted in Comfort, Heaven, Honesty, Inner Life, Joy, Life, Mercy, Peace, Power, Reality, Receiving, Vision

FORGIVENESS – HEALING

We learn to give forth love in learning to forgive our enemies. Then we learn to give a forgiving and healing love to all who cross our paths and need our love. Finally love flows through us spontaneously and naturally to both man and beast–and completing the circuit, flows back to us again from God.

As we practice the work of forgiveness we discover more and more that forgiveness and healing are one. We find indeed that all forms of prayer fuse into a high consciousness of God. Thus the break in the pipe line that connects us with God who is Love is mended, and the Water of Life fills us to the brim and overflows into our homes and workshops and churches.

This inrush of God’s Holy Spirit heals us–naturally. But it does far more than that. Indeed, as we pursue the spiritual life we lose sight of physical benefits in our increasing vision of God Himself. We find after a while that we desire God more for His own sake than for ours.

And in the end we offer up ourselves, both flesh and spirit, to God for His purpose: the bringing in of the Kingdom of God on Earth.

 – Agnes Sanford, The Healing Light, 1947


… in my flesh shall I see God.
Job 19: 26b

Posted in Forgiveness, Giving, God, Healing, Spirit, Vision

DIVINE ENERGY

Religion is not a business by and for itself, which a man may practice apart from his other occupations, perhaps on certain fixed days and hours; but it is the inmost spirit, that penetrates, inspires, and pervades all our Thought and Action… That the Divine Life and Energy actually lives in us, is inseparable from Religion… But this does not depend upon the sphere in which we act…
Nothing more is essential than that we should recognise and love our vocation as the Will of God with us and in us.

(The true religious man) conceives of his World as Action, which, because it is his World, he alone creates, in which alone he can live, and find enjoyment of himself…

He wills it, because it is the Will of God in him, and his own peculiar portion in Being. And so does his Life flow onwards, simple and pure, knowing, willing, and desiring nothing else than this,–never wandering from this centre, neither moved nor troubled by aught external to itself.

Such is his Life.

 – Excerpts, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, The Way Towards the Blessed Life
Translated from German to English by William Smith, 1849.


He who examines into a perfect law
–that of Liberty and steadfastness–
becomes not a forgetful listener,
but an active worker;
he will be happy through his own activity.

James 1:25

Translation by Ferrar Fenton
The New Testament in Modern English, 1906.

Posted in Faith, Freedom, Giving, Inner Life, Receiving, Truth, Vocation, Work