Forge forward in hope, faith, and love and find a new way of living.
I love Psalm 23 has been such strength since I came to faith in Christ well over 30 years ago.
The Psalm is commonly believed to be just about death; however, it’s a lot more than just a cute funeral poem. Although the context is often misunderstood, I use the Psalm as a template for coping with everyday problems.
Psalm 23 is a metaphoric story of our journey through life and a guide to comfort and strengthen us in our dark valleys. This wonderful Psalm assures us that God is our friend who is shepherding us through our pain. In the middle of suffering, God promises to be always there.
David wrote this Psalm, which appears to be his own personal experience of God as his Shepherd. He declares that God provides, and he paints a beautiful picture of the excellent care that God gives amid suffering.
When David was a shepherd, his job was to look after the pregnant ewes (Ps 78:70,71). He knew first-hand of the care and tender warmth of a good shepherd towards his flock. One day David risked his life to rescue a lamb, illustrating God’s respect for every individual.
Jesus Christ, our Saviour, seems to refer to this when He says, ‘I am the shepherd of the sheep the good shepherd’ John 10:11. We know the familiar story of when Jesus left the ninety-nine sheep to search for that lost one. A good shepherd guides his sheep into the fold and then cares, protects, and provides for them because they are his. The sheep knows Shepherd’s voice, and they follow him.
When looking into Psalm 23 to use at a funeral that I was leading, I noticed that the process of going through the valley is like journeying through grief. Since then, I often refer to it at funeral serves and worship meetings, and at times, people say they feel really helped.
I really like and appreciate this Psalm because it allows us to understand how much God loves us. Father God is omnipresent, which means God is present everywhere at once. This is possible through the work of the Holy Trinity.
I have never been rich; however, I have lacked nothing from the time I committed my life to Christ, even during the dark valley of grief. In the middle of grieving, God has enabled me to lie down in green pastures, not striving or worrying, but lying down, chilling out in the greenness of God’s love.
Often, I feel his guidance, albeit a still small voice, impression, or wise advice. Even though I have often strayed from the designated path, as we all do from time to time, I have been gently guided back. Sometimes I have been returned kicking and screaming, realising much later that the momentary discipline from God saved me. Through it all, God is there. You may feel in despair right now, but don’t worry; you will come through this because your Shepherd is walking with you through all the grief and pain.
Each of us has a choice, to either deal with bereavement and the grief it brings, or crawl under a rock somewhere and hide from it, and even worse, we could pretend it is not there.
I read psychology and counselling at the University of Derby, UK, on a master’s level. It was an excellent course because I became better equipped to help those I ministered to and counselled. The spin-off was that it helped me in my personal life immensely. It was one of the ways God restored and healed me from past emotional trauma.
Through the course, I experienced many cathartic moments- green pastures. I must admit that I have no unique gifts on walking through grief, but I have God in Christ. I give thanks from the depths of my being because Creator God has held my hand all the way and guided me through that dark valley, showing me how to live in it, emerging victorious. As I sojourned with God through the darkness, I had peace in my heart because I knew that God was with me. And you know what? God is with you as well and can bring you through the darkest of valleys.
I discovered that God heals is not the way I would expect; his ways are higher than ours. God did not just magically wave the sorrow away as if it did not exist. He did not rescue me from it but taught me how to get through it, and to journey through the valley. As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him (Psalm 18.30). But, Gods ways are certainly a lot different from ours.
Father God taught me how to say goodbye to many relationships and people in all circumstances. Eventually, I learned how to grieve appropriately, how to move on. I do not boast that I have cracked it because each situation is unique.
Each experience of grief is different from your previous experience. I am sure there will be new challenges ahead and victories to be won. So, let’s forge forward in hope, faith, and love and find a new way of living, a new normal.
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Suffering and loss are hard to bear. As believers, when we go through these times, it is natural to question God. The patriarchs of the Bible certainly did. King David wrote many of the Psalms full of questions about what God is doing and why. However, it is worthy to note that David did not leave it there. He just did not complain and complain. No, when David complained, but ALWAYS ended in a statement of faith or praise.
It is not a sin to question. On the contrary, it is healthy to do so. God has not called us to unquestioning slavery but to living faith and freedom. If we are free, we can question. However, having said that, we cannot or should not ‘demand’ answers. God in his mercy may give us the answers but may not. When we love God and give our lives to him, we put him in control and make that choice. So, we choose for God to decide to answer us or not. After all, our Creator knows what is best for us, and maybe the silence of God in the short term may be precisely what is needed at the time. Maybe we need to learn to persevere or stay faithful even when we think God is not here.
You see, our growth as Christians is so significant to God. When my children were babies, I did everything to help them thrive because to keep them as babies would be a selfish and heinous act. So, it is with God our Father. It would be a heinous crime if God kept us as babies; we would never grow up in the faith if he did.
God calls us to ‘give’ our mind, body, and soul to him to have the throne of our heart. We ask him to rule our emotions, thoughts, and overthrow anything that is not pleasing to him. This is the love of God- who gives us a choice.
As for me- me and my household will serve the Lord.
The Problem of Suffering
If you’re not taught to endure Suffering, failures, losses when young, you may never learn it. Those who don’t learn it check out of life, addictions etc., etc. We need to accept that Suffering is part of life, and it’s not God who causes it. Yet, our culture does not embrace Suffering but rails against it. We develop a worldview that is primarily for our comfort.
Philippians 3:10 King James Version (KJV) That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.
The person who trusts the Creator no matter what an absolute assault on the worldview is that culture imposes upon us. Because it is a different way of thinking and living. Liberalism is called the calculative mind and does not liberate us but binds us to our senses. The Bible calls it the ‘mind of the flesh, and the apostle Paul calls it the ‘old man’. The egocentric mind interprets everything in the sense of personal advantage, which usually has a short-term effect. It says what’s in it for me,how would this situation be to my advantage what can I get out of it. In contrast, the person who trusts in the Lord says- what is in this for those I need to help- how can I do for others.
If you read everything from the small secular worldview and read everything methodically, you will not see things in a new way. Jesus teaches us a different way of seeing, perspective, advantage points, and a different starting point. Einstein said that the problem cannot be solved by the same mind/ or consciousness that caused it. It reads everything about personal advantage and cause and effect -we need to be bigger than that.
The Power of Contemplative Prayer
The word contemplation became popular through the works of Thomas Merton, which is reasonably recent. In the fifth 50s and 60s. A lot of people use the word meditation which is more or less the same thing. The word that most Christians are familiar with is the word prayer. But the word prayer has a different connotation to us here in the West than in the East where it originated from. In the West, prayer became something functional, something that produced an effect. It became – what’s in it for me! This is due to the idea that the ego is the centre of their universe. For example-
It’s all about me.
If I get offended, I’ll sue somebody.
If someone hurts me, I’ll take revenge.
If I don’t get what I want, I only react in some way.
If I can’t resolve the conflict ill just cut the people off.
If someone has something that I want, I go out and get myself in debt to better it.
Western culture has taught us that – it’s All about me, the egocentric me.
Sadly, this attitude has overlapped Christianity in a big way. So, when giving the Lord our all, we don’t know how to or even desire to.
Individualism rules and reigns in Christianity in the West, but this is not what Jesus intended, and it’s certainly not what he taught. As soon as you make prayer an exercise to get something, it puts you in charge. However, Jesus does say ask, and it will be given. We must be aware that this is from a humble and obedient submissive attitude towards Jesus Christ in the first place. This is nothing new it’s the same overall old mind or consciousness. How can I get God to do what I want him to do?
In their thinking, most people approach prayer with the attitude of- I will try to get what I want from God.
However, this is not the way of faith- It is the way of the world. Worldly values have always been there but just manifests themselves differently according to popular culture at the time. In this way, instead of being a transformed mind or consciousness, we remain egocentric and try to manipulate God and everyone else and think we did okay.
That’s why Christianity is in dire straits today because it’s not transforming people as the Bible clearly states that it should and does. It’s just giving people a form of religiosity to be in charge and control. It is still the ego/natural/fleshly/false self. Change begins with our choice- if we choose to allow God to change us- it will happen.
Transforming not Conforming
What Jesus always talked about was the transformed self (John 3). The apostle Paul uses that beautiful phrase, it’s no longer their lives; Christ lives in me. It’s a different I; it’s a different sense of self. So, saying it’s not my ego-self or my false self that lives but Christ who lives in my true self. It is not my egocentric self that lives Christ that lives within my true redeemed self. As long as you’re operating from the egocentric will, you’ll never be free, and meditation/ contemplation would be almost impossible to maintain.
The Problem with Religion
The ego-self can be pious, religious, theologically sound, and may even be a church leader somehow, but never totally free because operating in the small self. The result? Religion has always performed two very important but two very different functions. I am not talking about being a follower of Christ- but I am pointing out the problem with ‘religion’, which is very different.
1) Religion creates meaning by offering mixed tales, stories, narratives, questionable truths, laborious rituals, and revivals used together, gives some sort of meaning and purpose.
That’s okay, that’s how you get started; you’ve got to have an ego to get rid of one, and you have to have the self to move beyond the self.
2) Religion puts you on the hamster wheel of ritual and approval- a never-ending cycle.
There are many religious, moral, dedicated people with good upright values – however- most people do not go beyond that. There is no transformation of self.
This kind of religion does not raise or transform a person’s consciousness; it does not deliver true freedom where one can let go and let God. This type of religion does not transform or fully satisfy the true self. On the contrary, it fortifies the self, comforts the self, and even deceives this true self into thinking, you are okay – I’m okay.
Whereas underneath, there is this innate dissatisfaction, unrest and yearning for something more and not knowing what it is. Christianity is the best thing in the world and the worst in the world. Why? Religious people think they are always correct, and they start from that vantage point. When one thinks one is right, they become narrow-minded, intolerant of others and egocentric.
With egocentric people, it is difficult to get to know them because the ego is so sure that they are correct and will protect their point of view at any cost, even the cost of hurting others, and that’s where spiritual abuse occurs, and that is why I wrote a Master of Art Thesis on that subject as it’s so common in the churches- but that’s another subject.
I will make my Thesis available on this website at a small cost- you can download it. It will be available here on this site by December 2021.
The danger is that the egocentric self is warm and fed and thinks it is correct, so they are convinced they are saved. But what does save mean?
Most people think that being saved is a ticket to heaven. Something that is not here now but will come one day. It’s always in the future. It’s by the sweet by and by. If I am religious enough, good enough, say the sinner’s prayer, and I do the right thing, then I’ll get to heaven, and that means that I’ll be saved. Does it?
This point of view comes from a punishment and reward system. If I play the game right, I will be rewarded. It is about the works that I can do, and God will be pleased, and I’ll get into heaven. And that point of view has absolutely nothing to do with transformation, absolutely nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ. This, unfortunately, is most Christians point of view, but Jesus had something completely different in his mind when he spoke to Nicodemus, and we read in John chapter 3. So please turn to it and read the whole chapter.
Through contemplative prayer/meditation, we come into fellowship with God and not in fellowship with our own ego. We learn to be patient, wait upon the Lord to renew our strength, mount up with wings of eagles, and then and only then will we run and not be weary and then only then will we walk and not be faint. So, waiting upon the Lord, confessing our sins, and repenting (turning away from sin) is the basis of our contemplation and transformation.
God is in the business of transforming you because he loves you. It starts with the renewing of your mind in Christ Jesus. Mindful contemplation is a life’s style that will help with this, and therefore this website exists.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing, and perfect will.
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Just to Update You–
25 years ago, I wrote 2 books when I lived in the USA. In 2021 I wrote 2 more which are available in Amazon. I am working on another about Holistic Living, which features Mindfulness and Faith which will be published and made available to you in 2022– – so keep a lookout for that!
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Have you ever had one of those days where everything goes wrong? What about one of those weeks, where every day is one big blur and nothing seems to work out? You may look back over the last 12 months and just see disaster after disaster happening and all is totally out of your control? I think most of us can relate to one or two of these at least. So, what can we do when things like this happen, and how do we react? How do we develop a coping strategy to get us through rather than allowing it to defeat or destroy us?
I can honestly say the last two weeks for me has been one difficulty after another. It seems that whatever I put my hand to has not gone right. Then I looked to Psalm 1 that says that if we follow the Lord we will have success.
I felt that I’ve been following the Lord, however, I haven’t prospered over the last two weeks. So whats is going on? Then I think to myself, well perhaps Gods’ level of success and prospering isn’t the same as mine. Maybe I’m measuring success on a totally different scale and I come up with a distorted view of the circumstances of the last two weeks. And then I read in the Bible about how testing produces good character. And how God disciplines those he loves. looking at my circumstances – I think wow- I must have a lot more good character to produce! But don’t we all? when I prayed ‘Lord make me like Jesus’ God who is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit took me seriously! If we pray those kind of prayers they will be answered and God sets to work on our character- what else can we expect?
New Living T. James 1:3 – For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
Proverbs 3:12– For whom the Lord loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.
From that point of view, when I look over the last two weeks, I can see the guidance of God because I slipped off of the path – oh so very slightly and did not notice it. It was so subtle, but significant and difficult circumstances brought me to my knees before God which got me back on track. I realise now, that I was disciplined by my heavenly Father who loves me by allowing adverse situations in my life that made me seek God to even deeper him to reveal to me where things have gone wrong. But I didn’t like it at the time.
So firstly , when things go wrong, look to the word of God to try to get the right perspective of your situation. Like me, you may have found that is a time of testing or discipline. Or just bad luck or something else entirely. You need to discern the situation rightly and not just assume it Gods testing you’re under. However, with the guidance of the Scriptures you will see your way through. You will see your circumstances from the right perspective as you ask the Lord to open your eyes the truth of the event.
Secondly, Philippians 4: 13 says I can do all things through him who strengthens me. But that’s no good if all things you are pursuing are not what you are supposed to be doing. Sometimes you get burnt out because your pushing in the wrong direction. This is when you can get confused, and want to give up trusting in God, thinking hes not on your side. Not that following Jesus always goes smoothly, because it certainly doesn’t. You will be persecuted for your faith in Christ. There are many trials and tribulations if we seriously and faithfully follow Jesus . But God will supply you with an inner strength so you feel like there is wind underneath your wings and you know that we will reach your goal in God’s power.
New Living Translation Matthew 10:22– And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.
Thirdly and lastly, we need to measure our success and prosperity on the same level as God measures success and prosperity. God succeeded eradicating sins power through the death of Jesus. On the outside it looked like a colossal defeat, and people at the time of its happening thought so. However, when the resurrection and ascension happened, they knew that Jesus death brought life for all, so God had succeeded after all. So don’t measure your success by cultural or worldly success or perhaps your own personal estimation. Study the Bible and see how God does things, find how God succeeds and how God sees, so you can see the same way.
I pray that you will prosper and succeed even as your soul prospers. If you are experiencing persecution at this time, I pray that Father God will give you wisdom and the grace to endure and win though in the love of Jesus .
If you are going through a difficult time, email your prayer request, and I will pray for you.
Remember, Live Life on Purpose in Faith, Hope & Love !