How do we stop life drifting by?

longer version

Some people drift aimlessly through life reacting to events and never making things happen for themselves. spiritually adrift However, whatever the personal problem, it is often necessary for us to take the initiative in doing something about it, rather than letting things drift. Otherwise, it is only when some crisis occurs that eventually the situation forces us to make decisions about say a job, home, or even a close relationship. Better to prevent difficulties getting out of hand than allow circumstances no longer under our control to push us into a corner.
Often and in various ways we may slide into letting life around us govern how we think and behave – in a way that enables us to blame ‘it’ if ever we feel criticised.  So it tends to be “someone else’s fault – not mine!” But spiritual healing may be needed.
Perhaps we are willing to be of help to others even when it is an inconvenience. It is good to be selfless and charitable. However, do we sometimes allow others to exploit our better nature? One sign of this is if we were to feel fed up with the way others take advantage of us or feel quietly resentful when sidelined, or put on.
It is not necessarily the fault of the other person. We may be adding to our troubles by the way we regularly give in to what someone wants. At times perhaps even acting like a doormat for them to wipe their feet on. Like when we find ourselves meekly submitting to what our family and friends demand; limply agreeing to go where someone asks us to go and doing whatever they suggest. We do not have a sense of our true selves because we are too busy meeting others expectations. Without thinking we fall in with what they say.
Adolf Hitler once said:

“What luck for the rulers that men do not think.”

Why would anyone be so daft as constantly to do things that another person wants instead of thinking through their own views? It may be because we value ourselves less than we value others. This might show in conversation: “I’m sure you’re right.” “I’ll leave that up to you.” Some of us believe ourselves to be happy if we relate to others in this way but without our realising there is an inner assumption that what we want does not count, or that we do not really matter. Thinking so little of ourselves, the idea that we have any choice does not occur to us; in other words, tamely trying to please for fear of someone disliking us. We keep striving for the unobtainable, not realising that we can never gain everybody’s approval.

Inner Freedom
Just as we may need to be less passive with other people, so we also may need to learn to take the initiative in relation to ourselves. Having a healthy relationship with others also means having a healthy relationship with oneself.
In psychotherapy it is generally accepted that if patients persist in blaming some other person or thing for their problems of living, then no real therapy is possible. A therapist may ask such an individual whose partner keeps running him or her down or using violence why not do something about it like insisting on a trial separation to bring the other person to their senses. In not accepting the responsibility for the way they live their lives, they cannot start to take hold of their own self and destiny. Thus for such people any personal growth is delayed.
The trouble is that many people are told that they are not at liberty to change their ways and that human freedom is questionable. For example, psychoanalysis – a branch of psychotherapy that follows the writings of Sigmund Freud – says we are not free because we are unaware of our unconscious complexes. Moreover, many behaviourists argue that our freedom is illusory because we are conditioned by the world around us e.g. the rewards and punishments in the family or the workplace, that shape our attitudes and life choices.
There is some – albeit – limited truth in these viewpoints. None of us is free to change our inherited disposition and the home environment when we were young. Because of differences in for example types of temperament and parental attitudes, we need to individually travel on our own unique spiritual journey. How the individual develops will be limited according to his or her makeup and life circumstances. We start at different places. The role models to whom we happen to be exposed affect how we mature.

Both nature and nurture will both influence our development and affect in what ways we need to change and the opportunities for so doing. They will affect what lessons in life we may learn. You cannot so easily learn French without a foreign language teacher. However, you do not need special learning if French is your native tongue. In one sense, the whole of the explanatory findings of psychology studied as a science demonstrate the restrictions on, and handicaps to, our individual freedom. These could be for example from:
· Our beliefs and attitudes acquired conforming to the cultural norms of home and society
· Our levels of self-esteem and self-confidence due to the behaviour of others
· Our levels of talent and ability, emotional stability and physical strength, due to inherited constitution.

Our social, financial and physical circumstances affect the opportunities around us for personal growth. According to the situations they find themselves in, people vary in what they are obliged to do and thus what social roles others expect of them. The need for earned income, family home-making, care for sick and elderly, supervision of children, etc. will vary from one person and circumstance to another.
These are clear physical, economic, legal, social and moral limits as well as psychological restrictions on our freedom to do certain things and act in certain ways. There may be very real boundaries to what we can do in any set of circumstances.
Despite all these factors apparently determining our behaviour, we actually feel individually free to choose what we do and make up our own minds about things – including whether to believe that we are free to make up our own minds! In other words, we all tend to believe in our own free will.
Isaac Bashevis Singer once said:

“You must believe in free will; there is no choice”
This may seem like a paradox! However, unless we are free to reflect on things our thinking would lack any discernment. Many people recognize that being human, we do have many private choices in life; whether to try to read this book or give up thinking about what it says; whether to go along with the crowd or to do our own thing; whether to choose worldly or spiritual values. We may make decisions using so-called `enlightened self-interest’ or alternatively ethical ideas like what is fair or sincere. We can choose to travel on one road or on another.

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
(Matt 6:24)

“One is the road to wealth, another the road that leads to Nirvana.”
(Dhammapada, 75. Buddhist tradition)

Psychotherapists who take an existential approach to therapy tend to believe that whatever the particular types of theoretical formulation, techniques employed and therapist’s personal style of conducting treatment, the client will only benefit if also the therapy influences the person’s will. The therapist can neither create nor infuse the individual  with a new will, but the therapist can help the patient to liberate will – to remove encumbrances from the bound, stifled will.
Although our choices may sometimes need to remain hidden until outward circumstances change, inwardly we are in a state of balance between for example  optimism and pessimism or honesty and self-deception, Which we turn to is our own choice.
Swedenborg’s view is that this balance is a state of equilibrium between good and bad influences on us from inside our minds. We have the option of directing ourselves towards higher or lower things. By deciding between two different ideas, or plans of action, we express our essential awareness of ourselves as an individual.
Yet, in so far as some of our attitudes are unconscious or conditioned then we are not free to tackle them. With increasing frequency, patients seek professional help with vague, ill-defined complaints. A first session may be finished with no clear picture of the patient’s problem. The fact that the patient cannot define the problem is the actual problem.
Psychotherapy and personal counselling can help throw light on these hidden processes. For example, the overweight person may feel anxious about leaving food on the plate because of parental disapproval concerning waste when the individual was a child. Arguably, clearer self-insight actually increases our inner freedom.

And in my experience if I asked patients about the aspects of therapy that they found particularly useful, they often cite the discovery and assumption of personal responsibility. However, readiness to accept responsibility varies considerably. For some individuals it is extraordinarily difficult and this issue is the main task of psychotherapy; once they assume responsibility they give spiritual healing a chance, and therapeutic change almost happens automatically without much further effort for the therapist.

Rationality and Freedom
I am suggesting we each have two spiritual faculties, which make us human. The first of these is the ability to think for ourselves; being able to see things in a rational way from a higher perspective. This could mean for example seeing some family squabble in a rational way without one side or the other unduly swaying us emotionally.
With reasoning comes increased freedom – the second faculty. Only when we are able to see things from a rational perspective do we become free to choose between more than one viewpoint.
It is when we appreciate what a newspaper article is really about, that we can then freely choose whether to read it to the end. We use our head to think about what the writer is saying and our hands to turn the pages. However, we also need a heartfelt interest in the truth about the subject if we are to really learn anything from the printed words. Otherwise, our response to it is just going through the motions based on a reflex habit. Then we may go to the shop, buy the newspaper and return home, settling down in the chair and reading whatever is written because this is what we do everyday.
Likewise, only when we really think about the consequences of a crowd’s behaviour, can we then freely decide whether to join in. The emotion of the moment may capture us. Everybody is shouting the same thing and focusing their attention on the same place. Therefore, we feel ourselves drawn to conform to what everybody is doing and saying. Yet, we are rational human beings. We can transcend the social pressure by using our ability to think about what is right in the situation. Is the crowd doing something in accord with what we value? What is the truth of the matter? In other words as Christ says “the truth will set you free.” Otherwise, we are simply reacting to the pressure of habit or social conformity.
Humanistic psychology is an approach in psychology that focuses on how people fulfil their individual potentials as a way of overcoming personal problems. Human freedom is said to be real, and must be consciously acknowledged, exercised and experienced for any authentic human existence. In other words a person within certain limits, may become whatever he wills to become. We can all choose to develop any aspect of our makeup that we please. The explorer has opted to develop his or her curious and adventurous spirit. Couples, in deciding on parenthood, have decided to focus on their caring and nurturing side. Conscientious objectors and protestors have chosen to act on principles and ideals learned in youth despite the risks involved. To my way of thinking, the opening up of the higher mind widens our inner freedom. This means seeing things from a higher perspective and acting on these insights. Until this happens I would argue, we will simply follow our natural tendencies and conditioning along the lines the psychoanalysts and behaviourists have indicated.
We can also point to the importance of wise teaching by parents in the formation of the higher mind in the child. They brought us up with good ideas that initially develop this level of mind. The spiritually minded think of those early beginnings as the foundation for the building of conscience – through which an inner light can allow us to see when we are going wrong. I believe it is divinely inspired into the hearts and minds of those who want to follow what is right and good.
It is for instance when we believe that people should keep to the civil and criminal law because it is based on principles of justice and social order. Another example is the belief that doctors, architects and other occupational groups should follow their codes of practice and professional ethics because these derive from the value of high standards of work done for the benefit of clients. Essentially a true conscience includes a caring attitude to others, tolerance of their imperfections and following what is right in life.
I believe a higher self within us is our link with the bright light of divine inspiration. This is the source of our understanding of rational considerations and spiritual principles. These create new horizons and new ways forward. All of us can actually hope to achieve this. If we do not pursue this path, our bodily-centred illusions will limit us. Such an illusion for example is the fallacy that the route to happiness is to `eat, drink and be merry’.  Actually, experience teaches us that such activities, of themselves, can bring no lasting contentment beyond the pleasure of the moment unless life also consists of things of the spirit – such as quality time with others or the deeper satisfaction that comes from being part of useful activity. Bodily-centred illusions come from the mere appearance of things according to the senses of the body uninspired by higher meaning.

Playing Life’s Cards
As we gain a reasonable appreciation of our own character, we then become free to choose whether to leave behind our personal hang-ups and instead develop our natural talents and personal potential. Such self-insight usually happens in counselling and psychotherapy.
A form of psychotherapy known as Reality Therapy, assumes that people develop psychiatric problems because of an inability to fulfil their needs and that fulfilling needs means taking on an attitude of responsibility for others as well as self. If a cure is to be effected the patient must be involved with other people or at least with one other person. Therefore, one cannot completely lock up oneself in oneself and one’s own needs if therapy is to make any progress.
Yet, most of us do not need professional help. We can all choose to make better use of the opportunities that life presents to us. The more we put into the things we do the more we are likely to get back – whether it is an occupational training course, a friendship, or a business.
Personal responsibility comes from our freedom to react to what life throws at us in the way we choose. In other words, it is not the hand of cards that life deals us that determine our destiny but rather the way we play those cards. We are responsible for whether we take hold of life or not.
A man sat in a bar in New York. He was homeless, friendless and penniless having pawned or sold everything he owned for alcohol. He had not eaten for four days. He sat there thinking. He had often said that he would never let himself be cornered and when the time came, he would find a home at the bottom of the river. However, he was too ill to walk even a quarter of the way to the river. As he sat there thinking, he seemed to feel some uplifting presence. He did not know what it was. He walked up to the bar and pounded it with his fist making the glasses rattle. Those who stood by drinking looked on with scornful curiosity. He said he would never take another drink. However, the thought immediately came that if he wanted to keep this promise he had better go and get himself locked up. Therefore, that is exactly what he did. He went to the nearest police station and the officer placed him in a narrow cell. He said it seemed as though all the demons that could find room came in that place with him. However, he prayed to his God and, although he did not feel any great help, carried on praying. When finally released he found his way to his brother’s house where he was looked after. The next day he went to a local outdoor religious meeting and with great difficulty made his way to the space near the platform. There was a huge conflict going on within him but as he listened to the testimony of other alcoholics, he made up his mind that he would grasp the nettle and completely give up drink with help from a higher power. He promised God that if he were to take away his appetite for strong drink he would work for him all his life. The man’s name was S. H. Hadley who became an active and useful helper of alcoholics in America.

Taking the Bull by the Horns
Not all of us get ourselves into such dire straights but at some point in our lives, we all need to change something important. Human nature being what it is – a mixture of positive and negative traits – there are things in all of us that we need to face up to. The bad habits, attitudes and desires that we have confirmed in our daily living for which we are culpable. For no one else but us has chosen to remain in our negative patterns of behaviour. These elements of our heart, head and hands need reversing if we are to grow in maturity and spirituality. It is not enough to acknowledge our difficulties and opportunities; not sufficient to see things in rational light. We also need to accept in our hearts that personal amendment is necessary if we are to find personal growth. This means paying attention to the issues and making a conscious effort with clear intention to change.
In other words, an act of will freely made is required. The spirit of truth will hold us responsible for how we act. When we better understand the problems we are causing ourselves and our families, we may then either do nothing about it or we may actually then resolve to change for example, our addiction to work, our avoidance of some personal issue or our emotional dependence on some particular person etc. We need to make a decision to take hold of our life rather than drift on as before. If psychotherapy is about anything, it is about personal change and spiritual healing. The same goes for religious affiliation. It applies to all of us. It means acknowledging the truth about something, resolving to do something about it and then acting. Our destiny is in our own hands – whether we stay sober, put our financial affairs into good order, are fair and honest in our dealings with others, or change our passive attitude to life. Reaping as one sows is the law of karma.
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows”
(Galatians 6:7)

“Whoever has qualities is the doer of deeds that bring recompense; and of such action surely he experiences the consequence.”
(Svetasvatara Upanishad, v, 7. – Hindu tradition)

Transpersonal psychology is a new approach in psychology that is interested in aspects of people that go beyond ordinary experience to matters of ultimate meaning studying for example meditative and mystical experiences. Man books by writers in this field echo the idea of a mature stage of human growth when we start to take responsibility for our own development. Just a few or many may achieve this but, although individual transformation is necessary, it is an opportunity open to all. They say it involves pain and discomfort. This is because it means questioning all the roles one has been playing. Yet, there is more to us than just the roles we play. We are not just a spouse, member of an occupational group, or sportsperson. If we identify solely with our role, we risk an identity crisis if we are compelled to lose it for example when our circumstances change and our role is no longer needed or viable.
Many therapists, who are concerned with their clients’ well-being, try to help them to explore and work through any inner conflicts between different roles or feelings about which they were often not fully aware e.g. between being a parent and a worker, or between a fear of, and desire for, an intimate close relationship. In this way, the various parts of the personality can start to work in greater harmony together.
Psychologists often mention the notion of integration as a help to understanding personal growth. The various diverse desires, fears, ideas, hopes and aspirations become compatible with each other as the individual starts to resolve conflicts, choose priorities and find over-arching values. However to find this level of integration of the various sides to our makeup requires not just our hearts and minds but also bodily actions to be in harmony.
Taking the bull by the horns seems scary at first. After all it is easy to imagine the bull may turn round and gore us to death. But if we take courage we find that it is not so dangerous as we thought. We may have had no suspicion that there was any courage within us to be found. Yet my experience with many anxious clients shows that courage arises within when they started to take responsibility for their own development; rather than passively allowing themselves to be swayed this way and that by the events of our lives; rather than complacently drifting through life. Having the deeply human faculties of reason and freedom, we can all take the initiative in creating our own world; not the world that society has tried to pre-ordain for us but rather the unique world of experience that we want for ourselves. That way we find our true self.

“Everyone has what is truly human from rationality, in that he can see and know, if he will, what is true and what is good, and also that he can from liberty will, think, speak and do it.”
(Swedenborg. Divine Providence section 227:5)

Extracted from the book Heart, Head & Hands

Say to yourself something different.

say to yourselfWe have private thoughts at the back of the mind all the time. Often these are unnoticed yet they have a profound affect on our feelings. Cognitive therapy shows that negative and fear-laden laden thoughts add to depression and anxiety.

The trouble with this approach is that often our inner thoughts are so well hidden that it is only through careful self-reflection that we can begin to identify them. Sometimes we remain unaware of them even if we are outwardly affected by them and behave as if they were true. That’s where the cognitive therapist comes in to help.

Here are nine harmful assumptions that can lie on the fringe of consciousness. Knowing about them can help identify any of them that might be active in yourself. If you are open to a religious perspective, you may also be interested in my  comments on each one based on the sayings and behaviour of Christ as recorded in the Gospels.

 1. If you were to say to yourself:  “To be happy one must be approved of by most people.”

then you are likely to be filled with social anxiety over-concerned about the impression you give others.

Christ associated with certain people knowing he would be disapproved of by others for his actions. Those he associated with included Pharisees, tax collectors and social outcasts.

Perhaps you need to be able to approve of yourself as someone who tries to follow your conscience even though others may disapprove of what you do or believe.

2. Similarly if you were you say to yourself: “To be happy, what I think and believe must be approved of by most people.”

then you will be anxious about how people respond to everything you say.

Christ’ followers commented that his teaching was hard to accept. In many cases Christ  stated his thoughts and left others to make their decisions even if a decision was rejection of himself.

3. If you were to say to yourself: “It is important to have my own way”

then there is a danger you will start to either bully or manipulate others into giving into your demands.

Christ taught a prayer to God which included the line ‘Thy will be done’ in contrast to doing what we want to do.

4. If you were to say to yourself: “It is intolerable when things go wrong”

then you will never try to live with personal setbacks.

Christ never said “I can’t stand it”, or “I can’t take it anymore”. Instead he accepted reality as it was, even when reality meant death if he were to fulfil his mission. In other words he was saying acceptance of hardship and trouble is a gift and an important thing to learn.

5. If you were to say to yourself: “I and others deserve condemnation when bad”

then, in the strict Jewish religious culture of two thousand years ago, you might have been stoned to death for sexual infidelity. A sexually unfaithful wife was brought to Christ but he did not condemn her but merely said ‘sin no more’. His message being it is bad behaviour that deserves condemnation not the person behaving badly. All of us need love and tolerance.

6. If you were to say to yourself: “I should be thoroughly competent, to consider myself worthwhile” 

then you will have low self-esteem because none of us have perfect skills.

Christ did not base a person’s worth on his or her competence but regarded all as valuable in their own right deserving love and support.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matt 6:26)

7. If you were to say to yourself:  “Happiness comes from what happens to me”

then your mood will depend on everything around you rather than on yourself: things external to yourself such as social events, what other people say and do, even the weather.  However as the Greek philosopher Epictetus said

“People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.”

In line with this, Christ worked to get people to change their ways of thinking. His spiritual view was that happiness comes from the spirit of the divine when listened to within our inner being.

8. If you were to say to yourself: “Worry about the future can make a difference”

then you will end up being full of anxious worry. Yet no amount of worrying will change a jot anything beyond your control.

Christ said :

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt 6:34)

9. If you were to say to yourself:  “Problems need to be avoided”

then you will never learn to deal with the difficulties life throws up. You can’t respond to a problem unless you face it.

Christ had many difficulties which he could have avoided for example speaking to his critics. Yet he faced them and dealt with them.

Finding out what you say to yourself and correcting unreasonable assumptions can be crucially important in personal growth and happiness.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Self-esteem – How to find it?

self-esteemPsychologists have found that self-esteem goes along with being confident and assertive, having good physical health, and pleasing relationships. Yet some people have low self-esteem. They feel bad about themselves. What do you think of yourself? Are you pleased with who you are or ashamed? When someone makes critical remarks about you, is it water off a duck’s back or do you fold inwardly?

How can one feel better about oneself? The answer depends on who you are.

A way for those feeling low self-esteem

Many people with low self-esteem may not necessarily think they are `worthless’ but nevertheless they do feel as if they do not matter much and have little to offer. As a child you may have had somewhat critical parents and taken on board their repeated judgments about you. Perhaps you rushed home from school proudly telling mum or dad `I came second in class’ only to be asked about who came first. How crushed a child would feel — especially if the parents found it hard to express warmth and affection.

If we have a poor sense of self-worth, we often experience an inner voice unfairly criticising our thoughts and actions.

This voice makes snap judgments and jumps to conclusions merely on the basis of superficial information. It prevents us from trying new things and puts us down. It compares us unfavourably with other people and attributes any success we may have merely to chance. Our failures are only to be expected. If we interpret what we do as a failure, then it is a short jump to saying `I am a failure’.

Cognitive-behavioural counselling might help those who are able to learn to recognise this unhelpful voice,  challenge it and find more realistic habits of thought.

A way for those feeling low self-esteem

Repeated abuse, whether verbal, emotional, physical or sexual, drums in a message that the child is inherently bad, and deserving of punishment. If this was your experience of childhood why not try to get some in-depth psychodynamic counselling to explore the roots of your problem?  You can be helped to see past experience through the eyes of an adult and find a more realistic and coherent narrative about yourself. You can’t change the past but you might be able with professional help to come to terms with it and learn to move on.

Self-esteem for Christians

If you are a Christian and do not feel good about yourself, you may be wary of self-esteem as promoting too much self-centredness or disguising the need for God. The trouble is a punitive idea of God is still around and some Christians have felt what they believe to be their basic sinful human nature deserves his condemnation.

If your relationship with God is undermining you then perhaps you could ask whether your image of God is at fault and needs ditching in favour of one that makes more sense. Why not replace him with a God who is not harsh like the one depicted in the Old Testament, and not one with anger appeased by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

An alternative religious view sees us as being neither inherently good nor bad, instead, being born with both positive and negative inclinations. We recognise in the baby’s ignorance of right and wrong an innocence of all blame. We are surrounded by a complex interweaving of problematic situations, interpersonal difficulties and social wrongs that influence our behaviour. We cannot be personally responsible for everything that is wrong in life. We need to distinguish between unrealistic and realistic guilt.

According to this view, the justice of God can only hold us accountable for the things we intentionally do believing them to be wrong.

Self-esteem for the spiritual sensitive person

I would say to the spiritually sensitive person that feeling good about what you do is very different from feeling you are good. We can humbly acknowledge that all that we achieve that is good in our lives is due to a spiritual force which is greater than we ourselves.

Paradoxically the result of this is that we would experience a greater sense of worth. We would see that all the worthwhile things we do is a result of being a willing channel for the power of divine love and wisdom.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper

When they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, (they) took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!’ (John 12:12-13)

For two thousand years, the prophets had promised the children of Israel that the Messiah would come to save them. Jehovah had established a covenant with Abraham that if he and his family would worship Jehovah, then Jehovah would make him the father of a great nation. The Historical books of the Old Testament tell the story of how Jehovah fulfilled His promise to Abraham; how through Isaac, Jacob and Jacob’s twelve sons they became a great nation; and how through Moses and Joshua He gave them their own land to rule. Under David they reached their spiritual height, and under Solomon they achieved their greatest wealth.

The Prophetic books of the Old Testament describe how easily the children of Israel fell into disobedience, how they continually turned away from Jehovah to worship idols, and how He allowed the other nations to punish them for their sins. And when they were being punished, when they were in slavery to the nations, Jehovah sent prophets to give them a message of hope. He promised a savior, a Messiah to come to lift them up once again, to save them from their oppression, to return them to the days of power and glory like those when David and Solomon ruled.

The dream of the coming of the Messiah burned in the heart of every true son and daughter of Abraham, for it meant freedom from their oppressors, and the righting of ancient wrongs. The coming of the Messiah meant (as they understood it) that they would finally be restored to their rightful position as rulers over the nations of the world, fulfilling the original promise made to Abraham and reaffirmed so many times to his descendants.

And then, at a time in history when what was left of the Jewish nation was chafing under the total control of the rich, powerful, and idolatrous Romans, there began to be rumors of a particularly powerful prophet. We must remember that even though Israel is a very small nation (even smaller than Delaware), news still traveled very slowly in those days. Very few people living at the time of the Lord’s ministry would have known very much about Him at first. Of course, this was part of the reason He spent three years traveling around Israel, so that as many people as possible could hear His teachings for themselves. He spoke as a prophet. He did miracles, healed the sick, raised the dead.

The name “Christ” itself meant “the Anointed One,” “the King,” “the Messiah.” What else were a simple, uninformed, and enslaved people to think except that the Lord had come to use His great power to drive the Romans out and become the ruler of the New Kingdom of Israel. What else could all those parables about the heavenly kingdom be but a promise of the kind of life they would expect when the Messiah was king? After all, nothing in the Old Testament or in Jewish tradition had prepared them for the idea of a life after death, so for them there could be no other idea of a kingdom for the Messiah than an earthly one. Both the Gospels and the Heavenly Doctrines tell us that even the disciples themselves didn’t really begin to understand the nature of the Lord’s Divinity until He appeared to them after the Resurrection and the concept of a life after death began to dawn in them (See AC2553).

So why did the Lord let them continue to believe in a false idea? Why didn’t He tell them in plain words who He was and what He was about? Because they simply would not have believed Him if He had told them about heaven in plain words. It would be like trying to explain a nuclear power station to a 5 year old child. You might be able to do it using only the few simple words in the child’s vocabulary, but the idea would not get through, there would not be a foundation of concepts to build on.

During His earthly ministry, the Lord was laying the foundation for all those who were to come after. Everything He did in the world was for the sake of the correspondence. He rode into Jerusalem that day so many years ago not because He wanted those people to believe that He was going to be their earthly king, but so that we would know that He was to be our spiritual king. He was doing things so that we could use internal sense to understand His mission and life on earth more deeply and more fully than even His own disciples did.

Remembering that everything He did was for the sake of the spiritual sense and so that all people might know about His Divinity and His Heavenly Kingdom, let us look at some of the things He did on that Palm Sunday to teach us about Himself and Heaven.

Our text tells us that when the multitude saw the Lord approaching Jerusalem, they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!’ (text). “Hosanna” means “save, we pray thee!”, and it only occurs 5 times in scripture, all in conjunction with Palm Sunday. The Heavenly Doctrines teach that “the children’s crying ‘Hosanna to the son of David’ was to represent that only innocence acknowledges and receives the Lord, that is, they in whom there is innocence” (AC52364). So by derivation, Hosanna means the acknowledgment and reception of the Lord by those who are innocent through repentance and amendment of life.

Even though many people thought of Him as a teacher (or Rabbi) or as a prophet, yet, as He approached the city, they all called Him “Lord.” Among the hidden causes of their calling Jehovah “the Lord,” were the following

If at that time it had been said that the Lord was the Jehovah so often named in the Old testament, men would not have accepted it, for they would not have believed it. . Also the Lord did not become Jehovah as to the Human also until He had completely united the Divine Essence to the Human Essence, and the Human to the Divine. The full unition was only accomplished after the last temptation, which was that of the cross. He is called “Christ” as the Messiah, the Anointed, King; and “Lord” as Jehovah; “Christ” in respect to truth, and “Lord” in respect to good. Many who have not studied the Word closely believe that Jesus was called “Lord” by His disciples and others out of common reverence. But this is not the case He is called “Lord” for the sake of the internal sense known to the angles, for when they called Him “Lord” it signified the acknowledgment that He was actually Jehovah Himself. (SeeAC29216)

The Lord was willing to be tempted, even to the passion of the cross, because He was The Prophet; and prophets formerly signified the doctrine of the church from the Word, and therefore they represented the state of the Church by various means, even by some that were unjust, hard, and also vile, which were enjoined upon them by God. But because the Lord was the Word itself, He, as The Prophet, represented, by the passion of the cross, how the Jewish Church profaned the Word (TCR 129).

By the disciples putting their garments on the ass and her colt, was represented that truths in the whole complex were submitted to the Lord as the Highest Judge and King; for the disciples represented the church of the Lord in respect to its truths and goods, and their garments represented the truths themselves. . The same thing was represented by the multitude putting their garments in the way, and also branches of palm trees. The reason why they put them in the way was that by “a way” is signified the truth whereby the man of the church is led. The reason why they put branches of trees, was that trees signified the perceptions and also the knowledges of truth and good, consequently “the branches” signify the truths themselves. This was done according to a customary rite; for when the highest judges and kings rode in their solemn procession, the princes of the people then put their garments on the asses and mules, and the people themselves put their garments on the way, or in their place the branches of trees; for the judicial function in heaven is the Divine truth from the Divine good, and the regal one is the Divine truth (AC92126)

As we can see, everything the Lord did while He was in the world was done for many reasons on many levels. He did things for the sakes of those who were with Him in the world, those who believed that He was the promised earthly Messiah, to lead them to a new understanding of their world. He did them also for the sake of what the gospels would record and what those who came after the disciples would be able to learn from the record, knowing, as they did, that He was not just a man or a prophet in the usual sense. Those who were to form the Christian Church would be able to build from a knowledge and a confidence that there was a life after death. These men could look back on all the things that Jesus taught, and seeing them from the totally new perspective of the resurrection, build the first coherent doctrine concerning spiritual life as a reward for obedience to God’s laws in this world.

He also did all these things for the sake of the internal sense which was written for the angels in heaven, and for those men who have the science of correspondences. By entering Jerusalem as a king, He showed all men for all time who seek to truly understand Him that He was not just an influential man, not just a prophet, but actually God with us!

What is our part in this? It is for us to see that Jerusalem, because it is a city, represents our mind. That the Lord is approaching Jerusalem stands for the fact that the Lord is constantly approaching us through His influx, constantly reaching out to us. It remains for us to decide how we are going to respond to His approach. Will we lay palms in the way? Will we put our garments in the path? To do this is to say that we will submit the material and natural pleasures of our lives to His Divine rule. Will we receive Him with joy and gladness? Will we accept Him as our God and King? Will we accept Him for a time, but when the hard times come and He doesn’t respond to our prayers as we think He should, will we turn on Him and shout for His crucifixion?

The Lord has done His part by offering Himself to us as the king of our lives. Now it is up to us to decide if we are willing to give up our natural, worldly values and happiness and replace them with the eternal values and eternal happiness that will come if we receive the Lord as our king. He is making this offer to each of us, today, this moment. Each of us must search our hearts and minds for the answer. It is up to us. No one will make these decisions for us. These few days before the sacrament of the Holy Supper on Good Friday would be a good time to reflect deeply and honestly about how we receive the Lord in our own lives, and how His presence with us is shown by the things we do to our fellow men. When they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, (they) took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!’ (John 1212-13) AMEN.

1st Lesson Psa 11819-26

Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, And I will praise the LORD. {20} This is the gate of the LORD, Through which the righteous shall enter. {21} I will praise You, For You have answered me, And have become my salvation. {22} The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. {23} This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. {24} This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. {25} Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity. {26} Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD. Amen.

2nd Lesson John 1212-19

The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, {13} took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out “Hosanna !’Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!” {14} Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written {15} “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.” {16} His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him. {17} Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. {18} For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. {19} The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!” Amen.

3rd Lesson AC 29216

Among the hidden reasons why people called Jehovah the Lord were the following If when the Lord was in the world they had been told that He was the Jehovah mentioned so many times in the Old Testament, . they would not have accepted it because they would not have believed it. And there is the further reason that as regards the Human the Lord did not become Jehovah until He had in every respect united the Divine Essence to the Human Essence, and the Human Essence to the Divine Essence. . These became fully united after the final temptation, which was that of the Cross; and it was for this reason that after the Resurrection the disciples always called Him Lord, . and Thomas said, My Lord and my God. (John 2028)

And as the Lord was the Jehovah mentioned so many times in the Old Testament, therefore He also told the disciples, You call Me Master and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If therefore I your Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. (John 1313, 14, 16)

These words mean that He was Jehovah God, for in this instance He is called ‘Lord’ as regards good, but ‘Master’ as regards truth. That the Lord was Jehovah is also meant by the angel’s words to the shepherds, To you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 211)

‘Christ’ is used instead of ‘Messiah’, ‘Anointed One’, and ‘King’, ‘the Lord, instead of ‘Jehovah’ – ‘Christ’ having regard to truth, ‘the Lord’ to good. Anyone who does not examine the Word carefully cannot know this, for he believes that our Savior was called Lord because this was an everyday expression that was used to offer respect to Him, as to others, when in reality He was so called by virtue of His being Jehovah. Amen.

Jesus and Being Nice

Jesus and Being Nice

Jesus casting out the money changers at the temple

Jesus casting out the money changers at the temple (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus and Being Nice.

If your goal is to be nice all the time you must look away from injustice.

If your goal is to be popular in the social network, don’t take an unpopular stand or make an unpopular statement.

If you want to be like Jesus, you have to give up on being nice all the time because we live in a fallen and corrupted world.

Part of your time will be spent stating the truth in a pleasant manner that is easy for others to receive.

Sometimes you will need to, “Be angry and sin not”.

Jesus knew the tables of the money changers in the temple needed to be overturned in a way that would dislodge greed that was rooted by those in power.

The guys making the money were there because the religious elite allowed it, who no doubt took their cut of the money too.

Our meek and mild Good Shepherd used a whip on the greedy money changers while He shouted, “My Father said my house shall be a place of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves! “

He wasn’t being very nice, was He?

Was it not because the Good Shepherd was busy driving off wolves?

Courage in the face of taking unpopular stand in an enormously risk laden situation is what made Jesus a Good Shepherd.

And He ultimately laid down His life for His sheep.

Still think you have what it takes to be like Jesus?

Or consider the Apostle Paul in Galatians when the pure truth of the Gospel was threatened by a group from James, the brother of Jesus .

These guys wanted to add a single work of the law to the finished work of Christ’s cross and told the Galatians this as well.

Paul said to the Galatians, “If anyone should bring another gospel than the one you have received, let him be accursed! “

He said a lot more colorful things than that as well, but you should really read it for yourself.

Take a challenge and just count the disproportionate amount of exclamation points and question marks contained in this small book of the Bible.

You will be left thinking the same thing I was.

Paul wasn’t being very nice either was he?

But Paul also wrote the famous Love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13.

Was he out of character?

Not at all.

Consider the precious blood of Christ and what it cost to buy us back from eternal judgement and separation from God.

Love isn’t always nice. But it is always right.



A Sermon by Rev. Donald L. Rose

Preached in Bryn Athyn April 30, 1995

“He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street” (Matt. 12:19, Isaiah 42:2).

These words are from the 12th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. They are quoting the prophecy of Isaiah and showing that it is about the Lord’s ministry. The prophetic sayings in Isaiah give us images of the Lord’s life in the world. For example, what do you picture when you hear this from Isaiah? “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

For every reader of the Word this presents one image, one facet of the Lord’s ministry. Our focus today is on Isaiah 42 as it is quoted in Matthew 12. This pictures the Lord as quiet and restrained, one who does not cry out loudly, does not break even a bruised reed or quench a smoking flax. The chapter has the Lord saying, “I have held my peace a long time; I have been still and restrained Myself” (verse 14).

The Lord had the power to do many things that He did not do. He was quiet at times when we would expect Him to speak loudly. When He was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane He could have resisted and He did not. When His disciples resisted He said, “Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53)

When, in the trials which followed, men accused Him with obvious lies, He did not even reply. They marvelled that He was silent. “Do you answer nothing?” (Matt. 26:62) When they put Him on the cross, instead of resisting He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And while He was on the cross, people called out to Him, “Come down from the cross.” What He had the power to do, He did not do. They said to Him, “You say You can destroy the temple and build it in three days … Save yourself … He cannot save Himself. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross and we will believe” (Matt 27:40-43).

There is a saying in the Spiritual Diary that when the Lord came into the world He “was able to compel men to receive His words and Himself but [yet] compelled no one” (SD 4422).

In Isaiah 53 it is said, “As a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (v. 7). In Isaiah 42 it is said that He is as one deaf and blind! (v. 19)

The prediction that the Lord would be as one blind and deaf implies that sometimes it would seem that He did not notice things (although we know that He did notice them). Note what the Writings say on this: “He is called `blind’ and `deaf’ because the Lord is as if He did not see and perceive the sins of men, for He leads men gently, bending and not breaking, thus leading away from evils and leading to good; therefore He does not chastise and punish like one who sees and perceives” (AE 409:2).

“As if He did not see.” Remember when people were ready to stone a woman. They urged Him to say something, “But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear” (John 8:6). It is said they continued to ask Him and He simply said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first,” and then He stooped down and wrote on the ground. There followed a long silence. The Lord did not speak or take action, but during that silence what happened? One by one people who were convicted by their own consciences walked away. He wasn’t confronting them. He wasn’t even looking at them. But what occurred for each individual was significant. They were not compelled.

When a woman washed his feet with her tears, a Pharisee said within Himself, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39). It seems that He did not know, that He did not notice. But the truth was that He knew all about both the woman and the Pharisee. He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven … Go in peace.”

In the Lord’s ministry sometimes it seemed that He withdrew to deserted places and did not want to be known. Indeed in Matthew 12, the focus of this sermon, it is said, “But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there,” and He warned people “not to make Him known that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet.” The Writings say that the Lord “appears to withdraw from the evil, but the evil withdraw from Him, while He from love still leads them” (DP 330:2). Yes, there are times in our lives when He seems to withdraw from us, just as there are times when He seems not to see or hear. But this is an appearance.

In our own lives or in the lives of individuals we know, it sometimes appears as if the Lord is passive and unaware. And on the world scene there are happenings that make us almost want to say, “Doesn’t the Lord see this going on?” Quoting the Writings again, “The Lord is as if He did not see” (AE 409:2).

Now, what truly was the nature of the Lord’s life in the world? What the Writings reveal about this might be surprising to people who think of Jesus born into the world, having a quiet childhood, a passive and meek ministry, and then going quietly to His death. No. That is not the case. There are people who point out that the Lord roughly cast the money changers out of the temple, and that He did that with so much spirit and zeal that the disciples remembered that it was prophesied that He would be consumed with zeal (see John 2:17, Psalm 69:9).

What the Writings tell us is that the Lord’s life in the world was one of combat and victory. It was not a combat with a handful of people in the land of Canaan. It was a combat with the most terrible forces of all the hells which threatened the life of the human race. The Writings tell us that He was exercising tremendous power. By His own power He reduced the whole of hell into order (see AC 9486). “He fought alone with all the hells and subjugated them,” and is depicted as one “marching in the multitude of His strength, mighty to save” (AC 9715).

The Writings say that He had a burning love for the salvation of mankind. He was engaged in a blazing battle for mankind. And where do we find the hints of that? In Isaiah’s prophecy. “I looked but there was no one to help, and I wondered that there was no one to uphold. Therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me; and My own fury, it sustained Me” (Isaiah 63:5). “His own arm brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness it sustained Him. For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head” (Isaiah 59:16, 17).

Do we have here two opposite things? the quietness and the seeming inaction on the one hand and the continual battle on the other? No, they are both true. The Lord was engaged in a Divine work. Remember that the Lord as a child said, “I must be about My Father’s business” (Luke 2), and that He said to His disciples that He had food to eat that they knew nothing about. His food was to accomplish certain work (see John 4).

Now since He came into the world to give us freedom, He was most especially careful not to violate that freedom. Do you know of a passage that says that the angels who are with us are told that they must act gently with us? It is Arcana 5992. This is the passage which says that angels are with us, protecting us every moment. It reminds us of the saying that there is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. It tells us that if the angels see in us a new hell opening, they endeavor to close it. But the Lord enjoins them not to be violent with us but to lead us gently to preserve our freedom. They are enjoined not to break our loves, just as Isaiah prophesied: a bruised reed He will not break nor a smoking flax will He quench. On this the Writings say, “He neither shatters man’s illusions nor stifles his desire” (AC 25). He does not break fallacies “but bends them to what is true and good” (Ibid.).

There are times in life when the Lord seems so remote. People ignore Him or challenge Him by their attitude and behavior. Could He do anything about that? Could He force their attention and compel their allegiance? The Writings say that He could do that very easily. “Nothing would be easier for the Lord than to compel man to fear Him, to worship Him, and indeed as it were to love Him,” but that is something the Lord will not do (AC 2881). We are told that compelled worship is not worship and is not pleasing to the Lord (see AC 8588). But what is spontaneous is pleasing to the Lord (TCR 495).

What is the Lord doing in our lives right now? There are times when we sense His power and His Providence. There are times when He speaks to us, as it were, with a loud voice. There are such instances in the Gospel story. For example it is said that once Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let Him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37, 38).

So much of the time He treats us with what the Writings call “patience and tolerance” (Prophets and Psalms, Isaiah 42). We challenge Him and He is patient. We ignore Him and He is quiet. We think and act in shameful ways, and it is as if He withdraws into a desert place.

But He does not withdraw. He is working with us even at those times when He seems so far away. As our lesson (AC 2796) said, we do not realize that our states are changing, and that He is directing our states. Just as while He was on earth He was fighting for the salvation of the human race without anyone realizing it, He is fighting for us. He is acting with us. In fact He is “striving” with us even to the point of touching our freedom of choice without violating it (TCR 74).

The Writings say that whether we know it or not He is “pressing to be received” (TCR 498), continually soliciting us to open the door (see DP 119). How significant it is when we use that freedom that He is guarding so carefully, when we take initiatives against what is evil and selfish, when we take initiatives of love and new seeking of truth in our lives.

That is what we can do as He tells us in His Divine Human, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” Amen.

Lessons: Isaiah 53; Mark 15:1-11; AC 2796 and 9715 (portions)

Arcana Caelestia

2796. … [Man] never reflects on his changes of state, which are nevertheless going on continually, both as to what is of the understanding or the thoughts, and as to what is of the will or the affections. The reason of his not reflecting upon them is that he believes that all things in him follow in natural order, and that there is nothing higher which directs; whereas the case is that all things are disposed by means of the spirits and angels with him, and all his states and changes of states are therefrom, and are thus to eternity directed by the Lord to ends which the Lord alone foresees. That the reality is so has become most fully known to me now by the experience of many years. It has also been given to know and observe what spirits and angels were with me, and what states they induced; and this I can solemnly assert that all states, even to the least particulars, come from this source and are thereby directed by the Lord.

9715:3. In Isaiah: … “I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was no man with Me; therefore I have trodden them in Mine anger; whence their victory has been sprinkled upon My garments, and I have soiled all My raiment. For the day of vengeance was in Mine heart and the year of My redeemed had come. I looked around but there was none to help; and I was amazed but there was none to uphold; therefore Mine arm brought salvation to Me, and My wrath sustained Me. And I trampled the peoples in Mine anger, and I brought down their victory to the earth. Therefore He became the Savior” (43:1-8); that these things are said of the Lord is known; His combats with the hells are described by His “garments being sprinkled,” by His “being red in His garments,” by His “garments being like his that treadeth in the winepress,” and by “the days of vengeance.” His victories and subjugations of the hells are described by His “treading them in His anger,” whereby “their victory was sprinkled upon His garments,” by His “trampling the peoples in anger,” and “bringing down their victory to the earth.” That the Lord did these things from His own power is described by His “treading the winepress alone,” and by “there being of the peoples no man with Him”; also by His “looking around but there was none to help”; and by His “being amazed but there was none to uphold”; likewise by His “own arm bringing salvation unto Him.” That from this came salvation is described by His “marching in the multitude of His strength, mighty to save,” by “the year of His redeemed being come,” and by His “therefore becoming the Savior.”

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