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Don’t let noise distract you from God’s love

Don’t let noise distract you from God’s love

BY DANIEL GRISWOLD

danielgriswold@gmail.com

Originally Published in the Bluffton Ed. of The Island Packet, on February 18, 2014 

20111216 No talker

Thomas Merton, a somewhat mystical Catholic monk I’ve been prone to read, has impressed me with his strong commitment to silence. In an age of action and commotion, is this a call worth heeding? Can we be quiet in the storms of life?

Like nervous electrons, we like to keep moving in constant circles, only thinking of our being in terms of action and what we have been doing recently. This constant motion and outside analysis cannot bring peace with one’s self, and we become distanced from what we truly are (whatever that might be). I love this quote in a book of his essential writings: “When we are quiet, not just for a few minutes, but for an hour or several hours, we may become uneasily aware of the presence within us of a disturbing stranger, the self that is both ‘I’ and someone else.” Merton’s concept of the stranger is an eerie ghost to most of us who have taken too little time to seek inward, into the center of our being, where silence is the only communication and the key to self-discovery.

This silence is not easy for a generation that has put action and outer self-satisfaction above all else. We prize our rewards for hard work as our homes fill with items of our conquests here and there. We’re not used to quiet stillness. It is scary, like a horror movie, we might accidentally reflect, accidentally be silent for a minute, and we become disturbed by the stirrings of what is within us, perhaps lying dormant until that time when we’re listening and processing what it might be.

I’ve been reminded by Merton that the actions we must take before we help the world are the actions that are, as he says, “non-actions” and “the quiet of worship, the reverent peace of prayer, the adoration in which the entire ego-self silences and abases itself in the presence of the Invisible God,” this way we would receive “his one word of love.” And if we lived without this “one word,” we would be cursed to live within a life of illusion, like the electron, the ever-spinning slave promoting the goals of a world that is hell-bent on action, instead of the heavenward non-actions of contemplation and prayer.

So, as the world spins (and it does not stop for anyone), when will we make time to disengage and hear what heaven is really calling out to us? There is a real danger that even the best and most righteous follower of God, whose entire life has been devoted to doing good works, and whose energy has been poured outward, may find that the superhuman effort didn’t bring the rewards they’d hoped for — something was missing. If we just take the time listening, whispering, contemplating the word of God, and seeking the will of our creator, we may find ourselves rejuvenated and more alive.

Don’t let busyness take hold of you. Say “no” to some good things, say “no” to all evil things, and say “yes” to being enveloped by God’s love. Be continually transformed by the moments of grace and appreciate that God is everywhere; you are never alone. This moment is your moment: Close your eyes, be still, listen and know, “You are loved.”

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog atwww.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.


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Mobile Ministry: Bringing God’s word to the people of the Community

Mobile ministry brings word of God to the people of the community

20091022 Churchgoers

By DANIEL GRISWOLD — danielgriswold@gmail.com

Published: June 21, 2013

The Bluffton Packet, supplement to The Island Packet

 

I’ve been thinking about what it means to be “mobile” as a person with a ministry.

I’ve found that so much of my time ministering to young people has been spent on the road in my little Toyota, on the various winding roads and highways around Hilton Head Island and Bluffton.

At the beginning of my ministry, I spent hours at a desk doing administrative work and getting little things done here and there, but the more I built relationships with the various communities our church serves, I cut down desktime and have learned to do much more on the road. My desk is sometimes replaced by rented tables paid for by my cup of coffee, or by spending a few moments at Saint Andrew’s new Bluffton Ministry Center near Dairy Queen — there is free Wifi there. Wherever my laptop sits, I become a hub of relationships, communications and learning.

A Google search for “Mobile Ministry” brings up articles about ministers preaching on circuits, trucker ministries and various other long-distance traveling ministries. The kind of ministry I’m talking about is not long distance. I am talking about the kind that develops around a “regional” church.

When people find a church they are willing to drive 35 minutes or so to reach, you have a “regional” church. These churches have families from wide and varying communities from urban to countryside, and so the ministers (lay and clergy) quickly learn to live beyond their own hamlet, and see the varying contexts interacting all over.

Here in our area, we have unique culture in each plantation and neighborhood. Our people have all sorts of ways of life and perspectives, so we become more creative to connect and serve, unify and challenge wisely. It would be easy to use the church as a hub and never leave it, because so many people come to this beacon set in the proverbial waters of the communities, like an academic who never leaves the seminary and finds oneself trapped in an ivory tower. The light on the outside of the church walls is just a fable to that person, and eventually the sermons and the advice of the one caring for the community makes little sense to those who live on the outside of the cave.

No, we must go out and be in the community.

Look at Jesus: He did not spend much time in one place, and it seems to have been a reality of the Jewish culture that his family traveled for various reasons. When Jesus was born, a census forced him to be born in a stable (Luke 2:7). After his birth, his family went to Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous attempt to stop the future claim to Kingship (Matthew 2:13). As a youth, he ended up at the temple asking questions of the teachers (Luke 2:46). After his ministry began, he then set out traveling, spanning the heights of Samaria to the depths of the Dead Sea toward the mountains around Jerusalem.

Jesus and his disciples were on the move, an urgency of mission moved them, and Paul and successive generations have moved with little time to remain static, and if so, only to teach for a time. So if Jesus was on the move, we as his followers must consider and act on the power and energy of that movement.

The nice thing about being mobile is that you become a central command for the community. Like a plant reaching out and connecting to new plots of soil and spreading life, you become the shoot that seeds love and hope in many different pots full of fertile soil.

After many years of being a “runner,” or a mobile minister, you begin to see the harvest come to bloom in various ways. God begins to bless the work, and you may see others becoming ministers to the community themselves. It truly is a blessing to see people you’ve cared about care for others and begin to bloom. Here’s to the hubs and nodes — keep connecting, keep moving and bring the Good News to your multicommunity community.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog atwww.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

 

Praying for Boston – The Revolution of Mankind against Evil

A Few Words on Boston

 

 A lot of people are having a hard time with the terrorist event at yesterday’s Boston Marathon.  I know this because I see status after status asking “How could someone or group of people do something so evil?”  I think that people are still in shock, especially considering that the victims look like us.  They were wearing clothes that we wear.  The streets of Boston look like ours and the people look just like our friends.  Isn’t this only supposed to happen overseas?  Shouldn’t these events be more distant?  Boston is such a great city?  Why would anyone want to hurt anyone else?

Like in 9/11, when people full of hate hit the twin towers in NY, we are once again faced with the evil, which in this case is really just another word for “sin”.  It is our very human tendency to harm others rather than care for one another like Christ calls every person of the earth to make an ideal: “Love God, Love others” (ALL others – everyone on the face of the globe).

Some good news is that these terrorists have already lost and failed in all their goals.  The second that the bombs blasted, emergency workers, police and ordinary citizens ran towards the destruction and were immediately proving that violence and evil are not the final word in our world.  If there is something that I’m proud of in being American, is that we believe in the dignity of all people and the wellbeing of God’s creation.  It didn’t matter what creed, religion, race, party or philosophy the hurt had – everyone came together to make things right.

Though there have been many injuries, and three people have lost their lives in a senseless act, those who have acted on behalf of others have shown us a parable of God’s deep concern for us.  It was Jesus Christ who gave his life and died on the cross, and only weeks ago we remembered that dark day.  The greatest news is that death ultimately does not win.  The people of God and the good done in His name is victorious.

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever.”

 Galatians 1:3-5

Christ has already conquered evil in the long haul.  Let’s wrap ourselves in His goodness and press onwards in faith. Though these moments test our resolve and can shake our foundations.  Take some time to press into God with prayer for Boston; pray also for our world that continues to deal with the consequences of our Sinful Nature, and personally call out to God in repentance for what each one of us has done to harm others.

  The Revolution of Mankind against evil and destruction continues.  The inbreaking of God’s Kingdom continues onward.  Let’s make sure that we are filled with the Light of God and can give hope to those who are just barely hanging on!  Let’s make Love and even Forgiveness rule over our hearts so we do not harden and let chaos take any ground in this battle.

  “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

God is always with us!

Passion of the Cat – Woman Really Loves Cats (Meme Video)

I saw this today and couldn’t help but pass it on.  This woman made an EHarmony video, and couldn’t help but delve into the depths of her need to love, hug, and adopt every cat that has ever lived.  Its soooo catchy it hurts, and the clips of cats with auto tune catchiness is impossible to walk away from.  Enjoy this video and smile:

Ingredients to a Happy Marriage Might Include Bacon (Pastor’s Corner)

Ingredients to a Happy Marriage Might Include Bacon

By DANIEL GRISWOLD
danielgriswold@gmail.com
Published Monday, June 4, 2012
As I write this article, I am celebrating nine years of marriage to my wife. To mark the occasion we took a few moments this morning to enjoy a raspberry white chocolate latte at The Corner Perk and then went next door to The Sugaree, where I saw something marvelous: the Homer.It is an enormous doughnut covered in maple frosting and sprinkled with thick chunks of bacon. Yes, bacon. It was truly amazing. I was nearly in a sugar coma when I went to work for a meeting. I even wrote a blog about the doughnut and cited it as a symbol of the goodness of the nine years of marriage we have shared. I’ve gotten a lot of “likes” on this blog — especially from guys who like bacon and totally understand.It may be a silly way to say it, but my marriage has been sweet and fulfilling. So much so that we have developed our own inside jokes. Every anniversary, my wife and I laugh about the short-lived MTV show “Newlyweds,” which starred Jessica Simpson and her then-husband Nick Lachey. At the end of their first season, which was also their first year of marriage, they were eating a meal together at a restaurant. Jessica candidly said, “We’ve been married one year? Feels like seven years.” Amanda and I feel the exact opposite. It has been nine years? It feels like three minutes.

It actually came up this morning as an affirmation of how fast time flies when you are having fun — and working hard.

In contrast to the fleeting nature of celebrity weddings and relationships, I recall the romance and love in the Scriptures: “How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume more than any spice!” (Song of Songs 4:10).

There is a deep appreciation for the “other” in the relationship and a delight that can last throughout the years. I see those who have been together 50 years or more as the heroes and heroines of marriage. Often they say that they had some “best years,” but there were also some very hard years. They continued to invest in their love through the years, though, and found deep happiness in each other’s presence. That is the everlasting love, a love we can emulate. It continues to ride strong through the storms of life and builds a stronger unity.

As a husband, I hope to live out the biblical ideal that Paul spoke of: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:25-28).

To fall deeper and deeper in love each and every day is not a fairy tale, but rather a choice, an honor and a great adventure. Christ gave himself for the church and gave it all, certainly, so we can emulate that great and sacrificial love that gives and gives and gives in our marriages.

A heart filled with the love of the spirit will always overflow.

Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church.  Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at http://www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.

Just Like My First Year at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary – Just Paste My Face On This Video

A Day In The Life of a Gordon Conwell Seminarian

Probably the most stretching period of my life was while I was living on campus at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, working at Grace Chapel in Lexington, and taking Greek my freshman year.  I remember sitting at my desk at 12:30 am, exhausted, and my mind literally stopped working.  It just didn’t want to go any further.  I had to juggle quite a bit to make ministry and seminary work simultaneously, all while keeping up with Amanda (which is hard to do!).  Three and a half years later (total of four years), I graduated, and felt the cool satisfaction of a hard season of life, but which has rewarded me in every other area and aspect of my life.  Check out this video, and pretty much paste my face onto the main dude:

Pass It On: Copehagen Philharmonic Flashmob – brilliant

I remember going on a field trip to Concord, NH to see the Orchestra.  My eyes were not immediately opened to the beauty (I was in Middle School), but once I heard the Star Wars theme song, my heart opened up, and I felt a whole new world opening up.  Sometimes there are barriers that even beauty has to build bridges to cross.  A friend of mine just posted this brilliant Copenhagen Flash Mob, and I am transported to my seat, and my eyes are opened once again.  I simply love this, and perhaps it will awaken you as well:

Grace Chapel’s Easter Video – Greater Than (Speaks about God’s Overwhelming Love)

I once worked at Grace Chapel in Lexington, MA and they made this Great Video about God’s Overwhelming Love!

Well done ;D

On Liturgical Worship (A Personal Experience)

(Image is of Christ Church United Methodist )

After graduating seminary at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, I felt called to minister at Saint Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church.  The search committee was welcoming but discerning, the pastor was warm and incredibly intelligent, the congregants warm and welcoming, and the families were engaged.  I knew that when I received the call, and was asked, “Would you come to Saint Andrew,” my answer was “Yes, I will.”  God has greatly blessed me at this church the last three years, but I did have a bit of acclimation, particularly in the realm of Worship Style.

Very quickly, I discovered that SABTS worshipped by singing hymns, they said The Apostles Creed and prayed “Our Father” nearly every Sunday.  A vigorous choir accompanies a talented organist – so the style is what some would call “Traditional” or “Liturgical”.

My background in the Pentecostal, Baptist and Non-Denominational churches would definitely be considered a “Contemporary” experience.  Contemporary merely meaning that guitars, drums, bass and microphones are the main tools of worship.  The songs have been written (mainly from the Psalms) by Contemporary Christian Musicians in the last 30 years or so.  Hymns were more the exception, but were still sung from time to time.  I had been used to the bright colors of lighting rigs, textured displays and projectors displaying the outlines of the talks.  Pastor’s generally did not wear their suit jackets, and I had never been in a church where the pastor wore robes or a stole (a word I had never heard).

I had to ask myself if I was capable or worship in the new setting, so I began to write in my mind a list of priorities (values) that would guide me in this decision.  In other words, what was most important to me about a worship service?

First, I had grown up in a tradition of good preaching.  Pentecostal preachers are known for their passionate sermons, and Biblical Study is important to me.  If I am inspired, I also need to learn something.  Also, if I am not stretched as a person as a result of the preaching, I feel that there was no point.  The application is as key as the main idea.  And has the Gospel been faithfully represented?  Is the preacher being faithful to God’s word.  I checked SABTS’s website and listened to sermon audio recordings to get a feel for the head pastor’s preaching.  I listened to three recent sermons and determined that this church had an excellent preacher who met all my expectations.  Would I have come had the preaching not been so excellent?  Perhaps.  But it helps that our lead faithfully speaks the Gospel to us, and we are challenged each and every week.

Second, I asked myself about music style, “If things are going to change, what are the non-negotiables?”  In other words, could I worship if I never heard a guitar again?  I thought about this a lot, not just for myself, but my wife Amanda also prefers the more contemporary sound.  I discussed this with her, and I communicated that I felt that so long as we were glorifying God in music, that I would be able to step into the context of my church (like a missionary would on another continent) and respect the styles of worship honored in the community where I would serve.  I made a conscious decision to respect the community and allow myself to be transformed by their valued music.  In the last three years, I have come to love certain hymns for their messages and their tunes.  I don’t pretend to understand the notes in the hymnal (though I do try to look to see whether to go up or down in voice), but this congregation sings these hymns with vigor and reverence.  They sing about God’s love, Repentance, Hope, Christ’s Sacrifice, Challenge and Tribulation, Happiness in Spirit and it all points towards the work of Jesus Christ. I cannot argue that we should never worship like this, in fact, those who refuse to worship this way are missing out on a way of communicating God’s love that is deep, rich, and full of passion.  Americans are in love with what is “New” but we easily forget that hymns were once the “New” music as well.  Concerning music, perhaps one day I’ll worship with guitars again (I am learning to play myself), but I am content to sing this way for the rest of my life.  It is a good thing, regardless of my preferences.

Lastly, concerning prayer, I had been used to an extemporaneous style of praying in past churches.  Pastors full of the Holy Spirit would call out to God, and the people of the congregation would pray out loud together.  It was sometimes cacophonous, and I think it would scare some folks who are more used to order.  I had seen at a non-denominational church where I had served, people praying from written notes during services, and it had fascinated me, but some were from notes and others weren’t.  Here at SABTS, each portion of the service was carefully prepared, pulled from liturgy, and steeped in tradition pulled from the Church Fathers, Liturgies of the church carefully written, and from John Wesley’s (the founder of Methodism) hands himself at times.  I discovered the Methodist “Book of Worship” and amazing prayers for every occasion, and found a deep wellspring of spirituality in the faith of saints long gone.  They had written their lives with God down on paper, and their communities of saints spoke to us today.  It was deep, and as spirit filled as the extemporaneous prayers of my upbringing.  God opened my eyes, though I felt at home, considering how much I love to write and read.  This became a new avenue I had never considered.  The liturgy was also freeing to me, because in those times when I did not know how to pray, there were words that could express my spirit even when I could not.  I saw the hand of the Holy Spirit across the millennia recorded for the future.  I am likely to have a prayer book the rest of my life regardless of where I minister, and I am thankful for this liturgical experience.  If simply to have the “Doxology” memorized and to sing it when I am thankful is such a treasure.  Again, my eyes have been open.

The apostle Paul, walking on a line between the traditional Jewish faith, and the new and developing traditions of the Gentile believers in the Roman Empire, always held onto the roots of his Jewish heritage, while simultaneously celebrating the new work among the new people who were coming to faith in Christ.  He said in a trial that, “I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.  So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (The Book of Acts).  He is part of the Way, which is a new thing in Christ, as many Jews believed in Jesus as the culmination of their messianic heritage, yet he held to the Law and its teachings simultaneously.

I feel like I am walking a line as well, between the music of my peers (which has its own pros and cons) and the worship of Christian tradition, which has been proved in the past to encourage believers in faith.  I honestly find myself comfortable in both settings, and can see services where both are used wisely for the edification of believers and for promoting God’s glory.  The fact is, God is amazing, and there are not enough styles of worship that can completely capture that glory for us.  We have to continue to innovate while preserving the past for future believers.  If we only worship in the style in which we are comfortable, we are becoming less Christian, because these values – diversity, unity, and even perseverance through discomfort for the “other”, must be lived out if we are to believe that Jesus calls us to be “one” in His body.

We are a diverse people across a globe with many people, with various liturgies and forms of worship, but if a church preaches Christ, challenges us to action in our faith, and stretches us beyond our comfort and leads us to love others, we have found a good place.  I encourage you, if you have a qualm with the style of worship (either way), to try to re-engage in a spirit of unity, putting Christ and the promotion of His Good News and His Good Kingdom above our own personal preferences.  I believe that this is something all Christians can and one day will have to do. The world is getting smaller, and our divisions blur the vision for the future of the church.  Let’s put on the heart of the optimist.  Christ has already won.  Let’s live out the values of the Kingdom today.

Being Human: If You Do All Things in Love, You Will Have Perfect Freedom

As a youth minister, I often hear young people talking about how annoyed they are with their parents rules.  These rules are seen as oppressive to some, while others just dislike the constraints and are waiting until they are older to come out from under them.  These rules usually are communal rules based on teaching responsibility or a value that the parents think is important for the family to live out.

An easy example is “We respect others.” This is a huge concept that is not easy to grasp, but I believe that all teens wrestle with it at times.  There are teachers, peers and neighbors that young people just don’t “respect” because they feel they have been wronged for some reason.  Say a teacher reprimands a young girl for talking too much in class.  The young girl feels that she was not the only one talking, others should also have been reprimanded, and she was ultimately embarrassed to be called out.  The young girl also seems unable to comprehend that one teacher, in a class of 20 – 30 students cannot individually reprimand each person in a group.  A teacher looks for a leader among the talking tribe, or someone who is closest physically, or someone they know will listen, and calls that person out, hoping that one reprimand will bring the talking girls back to focus in order to continue teaching.   That young girl from that point forward says that she “hates” that teacher, that teacher is “Horrible” “Mean” or “Nasty”.

The young girl’s father eventually hears the young girl on a tirade against the teacher, and quickly realizes that the daughter is not “respecting” the teacher.  Certainly there must be another side to this, and so a conversation happens.  Feeling pressed, the young girl, not understanding why the parent is supposedly taking the teacher’s side in the issue, lashes out and disrespects the father, furthering her family “sin” and is pressed for remorse and repentance and a genuine change is required by the father.  Punishments, like taking away ipods or video games, becomes a way of enforcing family values, and if the young person is stubborn, eventually the young person starts decrying their loss of Freedom.

Isn’t this America?  Aren’t we free to do what we want?  My parents are dictators!  Everyone is out to get me.  

To the adult this is selfish, but this is not uncommon among young people who are yearning to grow out of the boundaries of their childhood, but still are not capable of having their fences completely removed.  Trust is hard for parents who want to protect their children, and are not sure of how far their children should be able to go while making mistakes.  Each situation is different and in my opinion, the parent has more or less leigh way in proportion to how much danger the youth is actually in.  Parents have to maintain fences so that the impulsiveness of youth does not destroy the child, yet there can be a lengthening of the boundaries, and the conversation needs to change from directives to a two way discussion where the teen has some input (but not authority).

“Because I said so” will no longer work.  The reasons must be discussed, weighed, and values need to be communicated, lived out and permeate the experience of the child.  And those things which a parent does not budge on become the framework with which the child builds their adult life.

But what about Freedom?  From the young person’s perspective, this is the ultimate aim.  To be free of constraints and able to do whatever they would like to do.  If only I could play Skyrim (a video game) for three days straight, drink nothing but energy drinks and eat nothing but candy and Pringles all day.  Or Why can’t I tear up my clothes, wear all the makeup I want and date as many boys as I like?

Obviously all these questions revolve around the natural yet selfish need to satisfy Number One.  Freedom to the young person is the ability to do whatever I want whenever I want to and go wherever I want to go as often as I want.  The world really is still new to them, whereas an adult has already “been there and done that” and so the appeal is not so great to drive the car downtown, or to take a first date to the movie theater.  These moments of great excitement within safe boundaries are wonderful.  But that lack of experience, and overvaluing of the rewards versus risk make for a dangerous mix.  For example, an adult would not  likely jump off a bridge to impress their wife if the place does not look safe.  A young man would be much more likely to take such a risk, if a girl he likes is present, even if she is scared of him doing it.  Even to impress the buds.  A parent who discovers this activity will likely shut it down.  Lockdown would ensue.  Long conversations and lectures would happen until the point is drilled.  And still the young man could sit there and think about how awesome it would have been to get those “cool points.”

It is in response to this ethos of youth that I’ve been pondering a simple tool for helping teens realize true freedom.  I discovered it recently while reading John Wesley’s early sermons and diary entries prior to visiting Savannah, GA.  In the sense that we are all sinful creatures, all burdened by our passions and desires of the self, and unable to stand up on our own to “lift our eyes toward Heaven”, we need a path to throw off that burden, to be free from that guilt which comes from harming ourself and others for our own desires, and essentially to be Truly Free.

The only path to freedom is to rid ourselves of the desires of the self.  Our rebellions all come from our nature, fallen since the time of Adam, to put ourselves before everything else.  A baby knows how to cry for its wants, a child knows how to make a scene in a toy store, a teen knows how to argue to pursue unhealthy relationships and adults know how to burn out friends, jobs and marriages.  It comes natural, and it takes a certain discipline to keep one’s “self” from taking over one’s whole universe.  We forget that the people of the universe outnumber our “one” vote, and that the needs of those people might be worth considering, even before our own.  The young person who has never been overseas, and who has never seen poverty, sits in their mansion, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich thinking of how his or her parent’s have abused him/her for not cooking steak for dinner.  It is a matter of perspective, and our perspective is skewed towards self satisfying and sinful behavior.

If one were to live life and make every decision according to the principles of Love, that person would suddenly find that they have been set free.  As Wesley spoke about in his early writings.  True freedom comes from putting others first. Primarily, putting God, our creator, as primary among all things.  Once we recognize that we are not a god, and all we do is not divine, we can begin to let God’s will to work in our lives. As we empty ourselves, and begin to ask God what we ought to do rather than what we want to do, we find ourselves in a refreshing stream, moving us forward, rather than using all our strength to push against the waves of God’s Holy Spirit.  Wesley several times quotes Jesus’ primary command, “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength.”  We learned this in Sunday School, but barely have put it into practice, because by putting God in a primary position, and recognizing that we are not the center of the universe, we threaten the most streamlined version of the universe that we could imagine.  No person would naturally want to see themselves as a secondary creature, but that is the truth.  God has placed us on a planet, it has the resources we need to live good lives, we are surrounded by people who we are to care about, and we have to decide how we will work within this system.  God has given mankind responsibility to govern this world as either good rulers, or as we often do, as tyrants.  If we live in sin, we dictate our own desires and plunder the earth.  When we push off the burdens of sin thanks to the guilt destroying power of Jesus Christ (and his great love for all people!), and the washing and cleansing we receive, our heads are enabled to look up towards heaven, realize our position in the universe (as a creature and not the creator), and we can finally be unleashed to do the greatest amount of good possible.  Not in the Mark Twain way, of doing good only to satisfy one’s own need to be recognized, but because we were originally made good, and we are being restored into living in the image of God – which is the perfect image of Love itself.

Yes – When one lives in love, one lives in perfect freedom.  If a person considers their neighbor as if that neighbor was oneself, and we realize that others deserve consideration, great things become possible.  When I was in college, I remember realizing that if everyone tended to the needs of three or more others, all our needs would be met.  Putting aside logistics of who would help who, if a need was seen, it could be met.  This is a good pattern for a marriage.  Often people go into a marriage thinking that the other person is going to satisfy that God sized hole in their being.  That person is merely a drug, used and consumed, until there is nothing left (because only God can fill that place – only he can eternally fill the human with love), and then the marriage falls apart.  The more selfish a society, the more hardship the institution of marriage will have.  Why? Because marriage requires that the man and the woman put God first, and find nourishment and sustenance from the Creator.  Then, the married person must put the other before one’s self.  If each person does this, even if one fails and repents and tries to make things right, they are still far beyond what two selfish people could ever accomplish.  God first, spouse second, and then everything else.  If both give of themselves all in all, the marriage has a greater ability to succeed, to be full of love, and to have two members who feel complete freedom – to love the other.

Being free, means being in love.  When individuals and societies fail to love, wars become reality, walls are built, words become venomous and full of poison.  Storage containers become filled with atomic weapons and militaries march to meet enemies who are no longer seen as human.  In our regular lives, we sit in separate rooms, we live within our gadgets and leave home to find fulfillment in other people in things (all of which cannot satisfy the heart, and the body will wither away as it is abused seeking happiness and satisfaction).

To find happiness, to be fully free, to hope for a better future, we will have to live our whole being in a state of love.  First for God, and because God made us all and loves us all, we will begin to see the people of the world as they were created – as children of God worthy of being brought into the family.  To love is to be completely free. 

(Top Image Source: here, Bottom Image Source: here)

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