Asking for help – Is it that difficult?.

asking for helpIs life giving us too many headaches? Or have our circumstances dramatically changed for the worse? We say that we are “fine” and that we are in control. But deep down we know we are not. The first step is to admit to ourselves when we actually do need help. So why not try asking for it? If we do not ask, how can we expect to get any advice or assistance?

Why asking for help can be difficult.

There may be embarrassment discussing a personal matter with someone we know. “I really ought to be able to manage my own life without troubling others with my difficulties.” “What will they think of me if I tell them my problems?”

We may assume we don’t matter enough for anyone to want to bother to do anything for us. “No-one will want to help me.”

Or we might think that no one would understand the problem or that there can be no solution possible. “My life is in far too great a mess to be saved.”

Asking for help is dangerous because actually accepting help is likely to involve our changing something — scary stuff if that sounds uncomfortable. No longer can we pursue easy solutions to the problem like for example engaging in comfort eating or retail therapy.

How to start asking for help 

If we do get round to asking for help, it is first useful to be clear what we think we need. Whether we need advice, encouragement, or practical help, we need to ask for it specifically.

At the same time, it is sensible to be flexible. What someone offers may be unexpected. Therefore, we need to be ready to explore alternatives. People tend to feel uncomfortable about helping the unprepared or the narrow-minded. This means being willing to listen carefully to what they suggest.

Asking who?

I saw a woman walking into a council refuse tip to get rid of a long florescent light tube. She unfortunately tripped over and dropped the tube that exploded in a puff of smoke. It looked and sounded dramatic. Her elderly friend was following on behind and at that moment seeing the prostrate woman and hearing the explosion, she exclaimed `Oh God, God’ and rushed forward. This friend may not have been religious but was she not asking for God’s help without even realising it? Perhaps he did answer her prayer for although she was a bit shocked, the fallen woman got up and dusted herself down. It turned out that she had suffered no injury.

If the help needed is beyond the capability of loved ones or friends, we may decide to ask God for assistance. When desperate, agnostics and even atheists have admitted to trying prayer. After all what had they got to lose?

Of course the religious and unreligious alike are all capable of trying to use God like some Father Christmas figure. We can even try bargaining with him. Give me what I want and I will always do this or that for you.

Motivation behind asking God for help

The psychologist William James reported on a man called David.  This fellow was someone with many problems. His religious worship and pleas for help were in vain. Then it came to him that it was self-interest behind his devotions rather than any respect for the wisdom of God. It was his own happiness and not the will of God that had pre-occupied his heart. He saw he had never done anything for God, only for himself. If we pray only for ourselves how can a God of love for all, hear such prayers?

When praying with a sincere heart it is useful to speak specifically about the issues that we require help with. We could then ask God to give us new purpose, a healthier frame of mind in facing our troubles, or more light on how we can better serve our family and community.

Perhaps praying is something we have rarely done before. So how can one go about this? Like David, we may feel that God is not answering our prayers. True, we may not be hearing a voice answering but I would suggest there will always be a response. Sometimes we may be unaware of an answer because it is not what we have expected. As we try to pray for help we may realise something about our own attitude e.g. like David that it is too orientated towards self rather than any concern for anyone else. Already the prayer is being responded to without our noticing.

If we do ask then we might well get an answer we understand – but this answer may not be what we would have wanted! Actually, many inwardly religious people believe that divine power can spiritually help all people, no matter into what terrible state they have got themselves into.

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

The Centurion’s Confession

A Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper


Now when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” MAR. 15:39

It is usual on Easter morning to focus on a text that speaks of the joy of discovery when the disciples and others came to the tomb and found that the Lord was not there as He said He would not be. We might think of this as the fully developed dawn of the Christian church: that beautiful moment when the truth of His ministry first dawned in the minds of His disciples. But today, instead of the full dawn, we would instead focus on the “morning star” of the Christian church (TCR 379:e), the most fundamental and basic thing that the Lord taught while in the world, that idea first recognized and expressed by the Centurion who witnessed the crucifixion, that Jesus Christ was not a man, but He was the Son of God. Without this most fundamental and basic doctrine there is no Christian faith.

Each of the gospels tells the story of the Lord’s life on earth in a slightly different way, in much the same manner as several witnesses to an event will each remember the things that particularly stood out for them, but not necessarily exactly the same things as the others saw. However, we must also remember that the authors of the gospels were inspired to choose to write the way they did so that each gospel contains in its internal sense the story of the Lord’s life for a different spiritual state, or from a different spiritual point of view. Let us then briefly review the main historical events as recorded in Mark.

After His trial, Jesus was brought to Golgatha, or the place of the skull, a hill outside the gates of Jerusalem. There He was offered wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He refused it. He did this, we are told, because wine mixed with myrrh represented the truth from the Word mixed with falsities of evil. This represented the spiritual state of the Jewish Church and was not acceptable to Him, and He represented His rejection of the Jewish Church by not drinking it. They stripped Him, crucified Him, and cast lots for His garments. A sign was placed over Him, saying, “The King of the Jews.” Each gospel reports that two robbers were crucified with Him. John says nothing more about them. Luke says that one robber reviled Him, while the other spoke well of Him, and the Lord promised that he would be with Him in paradise that same day. Both Matthew and Mark report that both the robbers reviled Him.

All the gospels record that there was darkness over the earth from the 6th hour to the 9th. In Mark, it is reported that at about the 9th hour of the day, He cried out, saying, “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34) Obviously, the end was near, and someone filled a sponge with vinegar, lifted it up to Him with a hyssop reed, and He drank from it. We are told that He accepted this drink because it represented the falsity of the Gentiles, in which there is something useful and good, that is, false ideas from ignorance held for the sake of good to the neighbor. This kind of falsity can be accepted by the Lord because it looks to the good of others as an end. The hyssop represents that the false idease are cleansed by good intentions. The Lord is able to replace such falsity with genuine truth from the Word without difficulty. This is why the Lord accepted the vinegar on the sponge.

After this final symbolic act, the Lord cried with a loud voice and breathed His last. The gospels record that at that moment the veil of the temple in Jerusalem split from top to bottom, and that there were earthquakes. It was at this point that the Centurion is recorded in Luke as saying that there was no doubt that this was a “righteous man”, while in both Matthew and Mark he is recorded as proclaiming Jesus Christ as “the Son of God”. And although there was darkness over the land, the gentile centurion saw the “morning star.”

The first principle of faith in the Lord is the acknowledgment that He is the Son of God. We know this because it is repeatedly taught by Him in the Word of the New Testament, and it was repeatedly taught because unless men had first acknowledged that He was the Son of God, and thus God from God, the work that He and His disciples set out to do would have been in vain. (See TCR 342)

The Heavenly Doctrines define the Son of God by saying that “there is no Son from eternity; but that the Lord is from eternity…. The Human conceived of God, and born of the virgin Mary, is what is called the Son of God” (Lord 19). They further explain that Jehovah Himself “put on the Divine Human, from which He called Himself the ‘Son of Man,’ and also the ‘Son of God’; and by the ‘Son of Man’ He signified the truth itself, and by the ‘Son of God’ the good itself which belonged to His Human essence when made Divine” (AC 2159:2)

Here reference has been made to both the “Son of Man” and the “Son of God.” Jesus used both terms to describe Himself many times in the Word. Names signify qualities, and these names were used to describe the different qualities of the Lord that were dominant at various times and in various states.

The Lord referred to Himself as the Son of God when the main subject was of Good; when He was teaching, healing, or leading the disciples; thus when He was feeling the power of Jehovah within Him. He referred to Himself as the Son of God when He was in a state of Glorification, or unity with the Divine. When He was in this state He was expressing the Divine Love of God towards the human race, and since the Divine Love is pure and above any fault, the Lord was never tempted or tested as the Son of God. He could never be tempted as to His love, for His ruling love is the salvation, that is bringing into heaven, of the universal human race.

On the other hand, when He refers to Himself as the Son of Man, it reflects those states where truth was dominant, where falsity and indecision in the human from Mary could enter in, where He could be tempted as to how He must go about expressing His love for the human race. The love itself could not be tempted, but there were options, different paths that could have been taken, and the Lord agonized over these. These were the times when He prayed to the Father as if to another, when He felt the burden He had taken upon Himself, when He felt unequal to the task of saving the human race while at the same time preserving their freedom of choice in spiritual things.

When the Lord allowed the Human from Mary to die, when He refused to come down off the cross, as the hells, His enemies, His friends and even the angels of heaven all implored Him to do, when He let go of the human body, He won. His love of the Human race was conjoined with His Divine plan for their salvation. The hells were forced back into order. He could no longer be tempted or tested in any way for His victory was complete. He was no longer the Son of Man, because truly he was fully the Son of God, one with Jehovah.

We might ask ourselves why, at the moment of the Lord’s final victory, it was a gentile, a Roman soldier who proclaimed the truth that the Lord had in fact won the battle, who expressed the fundamental truth for all Christianity, that Jesus Christ was not a man, not the Son of Man any longer, but that He was truly the Son of God?

For our answer, we must look to the internal sense of the Word for only in the Word will we find the answer this question. First, consider the other place where a centurion is mentioned in the Word, the centurion who asked the Lord to cure his sick child, but who told the Lord that it was not necessary for Him to travel to his home, that it was enough for Him to merely say the word, and it would be done. That centurion was used to giving orders to those in his command, and having them done immediately. It was his simple belief that the Lord commanded the spiritual world in the same way, that His physical presence was not needed to heal the boy: all He need do was say the word. The officer’s faith was well founded, and the boy was healed.

Centurions, being Roman officers, were not Jews, and therefore by definition they were gentiles. We are taught that except for a small faithful remnant from the former church, the Lord always raises up a new church among the gentiles; those who have not been blinded by the false doctrines and corrupted by evils. And so, the centurion of our text then stands for all those people who want to believe in the Lord, but for one reason or another have not yet found Him.

A centurion has this representation in the Word because he is a commander over a hundred men, and the Latin root of “centurion” means “one hundred.” If we look at the Abraham series in the Old Testament, we can see that many important things happened to Abraham in his 100th year. These things represent in the internal sense the “unition of the Human of the Lord with the Divine and of the Divine with the Human” (AC 2213). In other places, one hundred represents “a full state of unition” (AC 2636). And finally, one hundred is ten times ten, and since ten represent remains, or those affectional states that remain with everyone from earliest infancy to eternity, one hundred represents a fullness of remains.

This further teaches us that all gentiles, all those who seek to do good no matter what their doctrinal background, can reach out and accept the doctrine of the Lord’s Divine Humanity, that in fact the Lord has provided each one of us from birth with the ability to receive this doctrine with joy.

It was often said by the Lord, when the sick were healed, that they should “have faith,” and it would be done unto them “according to their faith”. The reason for this is that the most important thing of all is to acknowledge that the Lord is the Savior of the world. Without this basic, fundamental idea, no one can receive anything of good and truth from heaven. The reason why you cannot receive any good and truth from the Lord if you don’t believe He is the Savior of the world, is that you won’t ask for it. Why would you ask Him for help if you did not believe that He could help? This is why, when the Lord came into the world and healed the sick that He questioned them about their faith before He healed them. Only those were healed who believed that He was the Son of God who was to come into the world, and that He had the power to heal and save. This “acknowledgment of the Lord is the first of all things of spiritual life, and the most essential thing of the church, because without it no one can receive from heaven anything of the truth of faith and the good of love” (AC 10083:5).

The Centurion, a gentile, not blinded by the falsities of the Jewish church, was the first to understand the true meaning of the Lord’s crucifixion. He knew that Jesus had healed the sick. He knew that Jesus had cast out demons. He had heard of all the signs and miracles that He had performed in the course of His ministry. He, like many others had suspected that Jesus would have miraculously saved Himself–perhaps he and many others had come to the crucifixion hoping to see just such a miracle. But when Jesus passively allowed these things to be done to Him and awaited death, it caused the Centurion to wonder, to think to himself, “What man would let this happen to Himself?” And by asking that question he opened himself up to the truth that this was not a man. Jesus Christ was willing to die because it was true that His kingdom was not of this world. Like a morning star, that bright beacon of light on the horizon that foretells the coming dawn, the Centurion gave voice to the first characteristic mark of faith: that the Lord is the Son of the Living God, and on this faith all else of heaven and the church rests. So on this Easter morning, as we think of the joyful discovery of the empty tomb, as we think of the Lord in His Glorified Human ruling as King of the heavens today, let us not let our faith be distracted by complicated doctrines, but remember this simple truth that was first seen by the Roman Centurion: “truly, this Man was the Son of God” (text).

Lessons: PSA 22; MAR 15:33-39, 16:1-8; AC 2405e

a3 2405e. As in the proper sense the “morning” signifies the Lord, His advent, and thus the approach of His kingdom, it is evident what it signifies besides, namely, the rise of a new church (for this is the Lord’s kingdom on earth), and this both in general and in particular, and even in the least particular; in general, when any church on the globe is being raised up anew; in particular, when a man is being regenerated, and being made new (for then the Lord’s kingdom is arising in him, and he is becoming a church); and in the least particular, whenever the good of love and faith is working in him; for in this consists the advent of the Lord. Hence the Lord’s resurrection on the third day in the morning involves all these things (even in the particular and the least particular) in regard to His rising again in the minds of the regenerate every day, and even every moment.

The Lord’s Presence and Conjunction with Man

 

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing (JOH 15:4,5).

  1. The Lord is present with all men, spirits, and angels.
    1. Every living being in the created universe has its life from the continual and universal presence of the Lord.
    2. And at the same time, the universal presence of the Lord gives to humans the faculties of understanding what is true, willing what is good, and free choice in spiritual things.
    3. These three faculties of understanding, willing, and choosing, are gifts from the Lord that are given to every one at birth, and are never taken away.
    4. Life from the Lord flows from Him like light and heat from the sun, radiating equally on the wise and the simple, the evil and the good.
    5. From its source, all life from the Lord is the same, it contains the same power.
      1. However, when it is received it turns into an infinite variety of expressions, for the human minds are each of a different character and receive life from the Lord according to their character.
      2. So we can say that while the Lord’s presence with mankind is universal, because His life flows into every human soul, we can at the same time say that His presence is particular, for each human mind receives life from Him according to its own form, and its own peculiarities. (TCR 580, AC 9594)
  2. The Lord’s presence with mankind is both universal and particular, external and internal.
    1. While the Lord is present with everyone, good and evil, universally and to eternity, He is only conjoined with those who work to approach Him in the particulars of their life, who live the life of religion by seeking truth from the Word and living according to it.
    2. When we deliberately and freely choose to live according to Divine order, we actually change the form of our mind, our receiving vessel, and the Lord can be particularly, or internally present with us.
      1. When the Lord is present with the particulars of a person’s life, there is conjunction with Him.
    3. Our minds are formed in the image and likeness of God’s .They are also in the image of the form and structure of the heavens:
      1. There are three degrees of height, and two distinct kinds of activity.
        1. The three degrees of height are the natural, the spiritual, and the celestial.
        2. The two distinct forms of activity are willing and thinking.
      2. The Lord’s presence descends through the three heavens, and then through the corresponding degrees of the mind.
        1. His presence is received and felt as consciousness in the natural world.
      3. However, those who struggle to shun evils as sins, and who seek to learn truth for the sake of life will have the spiritual degree of their mind opened by the Lord, and their understanding will be correspondingly elevated.
      4. Those who continue the process, and become angels of heaven will be able to have even the celestial degree opened, and will be able to feel life from the Lord in that interior degree, they will feel His love and His wisdom as a conscious presence in their lives.
      5. On the other hand, those who turn away from the Lord will remain in the natural degree to eternity, they will never have the interior degree of their minds opened to the Lord’s presence, for such an intimate presence would kill them.
        1. The Lord’s general, or external presence must then remain in the natural degree of the mind, for that is the degree of the mind that remains open in everyone, whether good or evil, whether on earth or in the spiritual world.
    4. We are taught in the True Christian Religion (no. 787) that conjunction with the Lord must be in the thought, and so in affection.
      1. This means that each of us must first learn truth by means of the faculties that are given to us by the Lord through His universal presence, and then apply them to our own lives from a desire to shun evils as sins against God, and a desire to do what is good because it is from God.
      2. Then the Lord can give us a new will which then can be filled with good affections and their related delights.
        1. The harder we try to bring ourselves into the Lord’s order by learning His truth and doing it, the more He reaches down to lift us up from His own power. The effort and intention are ours: the power and will are from Him.
  3. We are taught in the Writings that we will find our place in heaven according to the concept of God that we learn while in the world.
    1. We are further taught that no one can understand an invisible God, and this was one of the reasons why the Lord came on earth and took on the Divine Human: so that everyone might understand the invisible God by means of the visible manifestation, Jesus Christ.
      1. It is necessary for us to understand God as He is in His glorified Human, because this is the means by which He is present with us. (See TCR 728, AC 9594)
    2. In regeneration, we will to follow the Lord while He wills us to follow Him.
      1. When we and the Lord together look to the same end, the end of the subjugation of self for the sake of good ends, it brings the Lord’s particular presence with us;
        1. for when we receive love from the Lord after having first learned the truth, we make that love our own.
        2. Then, since the origin of that love is the Lord, and our mind has been organically changed into a receptacle perfectly suited to hold it, we are conjoined with the Lord by the bond of a common affection.
          1. We see this illustrated in the way we regard other people who share our loves and delights. Depending on the nature of the bond, we may join a club, form a business partnership, join a church, or even marry – but the point is that the thing that brings people together, that conjoins them, is their common affections.
          2. Common affections bring the Lord close to us, too.
    3. This law of human relationships is even more clearly seen when illustrated by the way angelic societies are ordered.
      1. Heaven is distinguished into innumerable societies, and the differences between them are in accord with the differences between their affections and delights.
      2. It is the law of spiritual space and time that those who are of similar affections, such as a husband and wife, are close to each other, while those of dissimilar affections are separated.
        1. In heaven, you become actually present with another person when you are in a similar sphere of affection.
          1. We often speak of this phenomenon by referring to good friends who are many miles away as being “close.”
          2. In heaven, those with similar affections live together in a home; and since a conjugial pair have the most similar affections possible, they live in a constant representation of the affinity of their love, for it is love alone which conjoins people. (See AR 883)
    4. While our main focus is on the conjunction that takes places between an individual and the Lord, we need to take a moment to reflect on the fact that this relation ship applies in many other areas, such as the relationship between a husband and wife.
      1. It is absolutely essential to the growth of our marriage relationships that we realize that knowledge does not bring us together, but similar loves conjoin.
      2. The same thing holds true for a church: doctrine alone will not bind a congregation together, but similar loves for the uses of the church.
      3. A husband and wife can express their mutual love and their conjunction by producing and raising children.
      4. A church is conjoined with the Lord by correspondence when it, like a bride, receives truth from the Lord and uses it to produce goods in the world.
      5. The key is that in every case it is similar loves that conjoin.
    5. It is an important doctrinal point to note that when we speak of conjunction with the Lord, what is actually meant is conjunction of the Lord with the things in our minds that are from Him, good loves and affections.
      1. The Lord is not actually ever conjoined, or one with a person, for such a union of the finite with the in finite would destroy a finite human.
      2. In order to protect us, He adjoins Himself to us by conjoining Himself to those things in us that are actually His own.
  4. In summary, we can say that Divine presence is both universal and particular, or external and internal.
    1. The particular or internal Divine presence is also called conjunction.
    2. Presence is with all humans, but as one is regenerated, he changes the organic vessel of his life and in this way it receives influx from the Lord in a new way, opening the Lord’s presence into new, higher levels of awareness.
    3. As one is regenerated, genuine goods are given to him from the Lord, and it is with these goods that are from the Lord that the Lord conjoins Himself so that what is Divine does not destroy what is human by attempting union.
    4. In regeneration, a person wills to follow the Lord, and this mutual desire to do the same thing brings the Lord’s presence, much as people of common interests band together in clubs, churches, and marriages.
    5. This is the effort of a man as-from-self that brings conjunction with the Lord in His Divine Human, and eternal conjunction with the Lord is the blessedness and peace of eternal life in heaven.

      A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you (JOH 14:19,20). AMEN.

    Hear now from the Word of the Lord as it is written.…

    1st Lesson:

    (Josh 24:13-18) ‘I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.’ {14} “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! {15} “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” {16} So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; {17} “for the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed. {18} “And the LORD drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God.” Amen.

    2nd Lesson:

    (John 14:8-21) Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” {9} Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? {10} “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. {11} “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. {12} “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. {13} “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. {14} “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. {15} “If you love Me, keep My commandments. {16} “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever; {17} “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. {18} “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. {19} “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. {20} “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. {21} “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

    Amen.

    3rd Lesson:

    [2] The Lord’s … universal or external presence is what causes a man to live as a man, to enjoy the ability to know, to understand, and to speak rationally from the understanding; for man is born for heaven, and is therefore not merely natural, like a beast, but also spiritual. He also enjoys the ability to will and to do the things that from his understanding he is able to know about, to understand, and thereby rationally speak about. But if the will rejects the truly rational things of the understanding, which are also intrinsically spiritual, the man becomes external.

    [3] Consequently with those who only understand what is true, and good, the Lord’s presence is universal or external, while with those who also will and do what is true and good, the Lord’s presence is both universal and individual, or both internal and external. Those who merely understand and talk about what is true and good are like the foolish virgins who had lamps but no oil; while those who not only understand and talk about what is true and good, but also will and do it, are the wise virgins who were admitted to the wedding while the former stood at the door and knocked, but were not admitted (Matt. 25:1-12).

    Here end the lessons. Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it. Amen.

 

DIVINE PROVIDENCE AND TRAGEDY

DIVINE PROVIDENCE AND TRAGEDY

A Sermon by Rev Lawson M. Smith Preached in Westville, South AfricaMarch 10, 1996

“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And not one of them shall fall to the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:29-31).

We are grateful to the Lord for all the good things that take place in our lives. Religious people often say of good luck that it’s really the Lord’s providence. But it’s much harder to see how the Lord is taking care of us when misfortune or tragedy strikes someone we love.

We think of natural disasters, such as an earthquake or a volcano. We think of manmade disasters, such as terrorists’ bombs, the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, or the slaughter in Bosnia. We have friends whose spouse or child was killed or maimed in a car accident, or struck down by cancer or some other terrible disease. A person loses his job, and battles to find another, and meanwhile his family suffers great hardship.

Wicked people get away with murder and other terrible injustices. In society, even in families, people are spiteful to each other and hurt each other badly.

We cannot help but ask ourselves sometimes, “Why does God let such things happen?”

In ancient times, people often simply believed that God rules all things, and that they could not expect to know why certain things happened. Many believed that all things, good and bad, came from God.

In the book of Job, for example, we see Job’s terrible suffering as he lost his loved ones, all his wealth, and finally his health. Job saw these tragedies as Divine judgment for his sins and a test of his faith. His comment was, “The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

It is so important for us to believe in God, and to believe that He has all power, that the Lord permitted this appearance to be written into the Old Testament: namely, that tragedy and disaster as well as blessings come from Him.

The ancient Israelites needed to believe that Jehovah punished their sins. Otherwise He would have seemed a wimp, not God. They would have felt it didn’t matter whether or not they kept His commandments. But then God came into the world in Person. He revealed Himself to us as our Lord, Jesus Christ. He showed us that He is a God of love, our Heavenly Father, who even feeds the ravens and clothes the grass of the field, and forgives our sins.

God does not send punishments or misfortunes into our lives. But if misfortunes are not Divine punishments, how can we understand them? Besides, what about birth defects and other tragedies that strike infants? Who sinned?

In modern times a rabbi wrote a best-selling book, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. He said, We know tragedies strike good people. We also have the two ideas of God, 1) that He has all power, and 2) that He is loving. But one cannot reconcile both of these ideas with the reality of tragedy. Therefore he chose to give up the idea that God has all power, rather than the idea that God is loving. He suggested that God cares for us, but does not have complete control of events. Things get out of hand, and tragedies occur.

But what is a god who does not have all power? What does that mean? Evil and suffering have been a stumbling-block to many people’s faith. Some people feel driven away from belief in God by bitter experiences, into accepting a godless universe that operates by random chance. In effect, they choose the rabbi’s other option: a god – call it nature – that has all power but does not care or know of individual human lives.

Rather than give up our belief in the Lord, we can try to understand the laws according to which God acts. It may seem strange to think of God acting according to laws. Can’t He do as He chooses? Who could make laws for Him? But we would not think of God acting erratically, doing one thing one day and the opposite another day, merely on whim.

God is the Source of all the wonderful order that we see in the universe. He enables our minds to discover laws of nature, and to work out just laws to govern human society. He is orderliness itself, justice and truth itself, mercy itself. To say that the Lord operates according to laws means that He has a certain purpose or goal in all His actions. Because of His goal, there are certain ways and means which He always follows. Thus there are reasons for what He does which we can understand in some measure, at least in general, if not in particular cases.

The Lord has explained to us the most basic laws according to which He acts so that we can understand and love Him deeply, and defend ourselves against unbelief in times of grief. This book, Divine Providence, includes chapters on five laws of providence, a chapter on the Lord’s goal in creation and in His work with us, and a chapter on His permission of evil and hurtful things. If we believe in God, in this book we can find Him helping us to understand Him.

The Lord’s goal for us is heaven. Heaven is the state in which we love the Lord above all things and we love our neighbors as ourselves. Love must be given freely.

The Lord could force us to behave, out of fear, or He could have created us as robots. But His goal is that we may love Him freely, and choose and want Him to be close to us. Then He can make us happier and happier forever, because we are willing to receive His blessings.

The first law of the Lord’s providence, then, is that human beings must act in freedom, according to what makes sense to them. This implies that people must be allowed not to love but to hate and to hurt. If we are not free to choose evil, neither are we free to choose good. So the Lord always preserves human freedom, even allowing us to do stupid things, to hurt others and to be hurt – but within certain limits.

One of the limits is that we cannot take away another person’s freedom to believe in the Lord and to love Him. One person cannot destroy another’s opportunity to go to heaven. The Lord always guards the spiritual freedom of each one of us. We can help other people believe in the Lord, or we can make it harder for them, but ultimately the choice will be their own.

So the Lord allows no hardship, evil or misfortune which cannot be turned to good. Listen to this passage: “In the other life the Lord permits hellish spirits to lead the good into temptation, consequently to pour in evils and falsities, which they also do as hard as they can. But the Lord is then present with people in temptation, both directly and by means of angels. He resists the hellish spirits by rebutting their falsities and by dissipating their evil, thus giving refreshment, hope, and victory. Thus with people who are in the truths of good, the truths of faith and the goods of charity are implanted more deeply and are confirmed more strongly [as a result of their trials]. This is the means by which spiritual life is bestowed … It must be known that … not one whit [of evil] is permitted [hellish spirits] by the Lord, except to the end that good may come of it, namely, that truth and good may be brought into shape and be strengthened with those who are in temptation. In the universal spiritual world the Lord’s purpose reigns, which is that nothing whatever, not even the least thing, shall arise except that good may come of it” (AC 6574:2,3).

We know some of the benefits that the Lord brings out of unhappy or tragic situations. People confront the nature of evil, and of mankind apart from the Lord. We realize the need to fight injustice in society. The Lord stirs us to act. We face the need for personal change and repentance. Setbacks, such as in business or in health, slow us down in our onward rush to gain material things and pleasures, and give us a chance to re-think our priorities. We gain direct experience of our dependence on the Lord as we realize that we cannot manage without Him. This in turn brings us into a closer relationship with Him than before, allowing us to receive more of His blessings.

The Lord is always thinking of our eternal happiness. While He wants us to be happy all the time, He would never sacrifice our eternal happiness to some short-term pleasure. There are lessons that we cannot learn except through grief because of the selfish and materialistic state of mankind today.

The Lord never causes grief. Hellish spirits are always eager to do that. And sometimes the Lord allows them to cause a limited amount of hurt, because He sees that He will be able,to turn it into a long-lasting strength for the good people going through that trial. In fact the Lord is always, always shielding us from harm, and filling us with good things. Otherwise life would be nothing but miseries from beginning to end.

In times of trouble it seems as though God has forgotten us, or as though He is standing back, waiting to see what we will do. The Writings say that actually the Lord is never closer to us. It’s just that the unhappy state brought on by the hellish spirits around us dims our eyes to the fact that the Lord is carrying us in His arms. He is a very present help in trouble. In the gift of freedom to choose what we love and to pursue our loves, and the ability to think rationally or irrationally, as we choose we see the depth of the Lord’s love for us, and His great wisdom in leading us.

The Lord respects our freedom, because He loves us. He respects it so much that He allows us to get into trouble, and then as far as we are willing, He brings us new strength out of our troubles. He is constantly, though quietly, working with us, encouraging and warning, providing us with circumstances and opportunities to make the spiritual, eternal choices we want to make.

A psalm says, “The footsteps of a [good] man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholds him with His hand” (Psalm 37:23,24) May we come to see the truth of this more and more in our lives. Amen.

Lessons: Matt. 6:25-34; Matt. 10:24-39; DP 70:1,3; 71:heading; 72


Divine Providence

70. It is well known that there is a Divine Providence, but it is not known what its nature is. This is not known because the laws of the Divine Providence are interior truths, hitherto concealed within the wisdom of the angels; but they are now to be revealed in order that what belongs to the Lord may be ascribed to Him, and what does not belong to man may not be ascribed to any man. For very many in the world attribute all things to themselves and their own prudence; and what they cannot so ascribe they call accidental or happening by chance, not knowing that human prudence is nothing and that accidental and happening by chance are empty words.

[3] Since it has been acknowledged in the church that man is unable from himself to do good that is in itself good, and is unable from himself to think truth that is in itself truth, and since these are one with the Divine Providence so that belief in one depends on belief in the other, therefore lest one be affirmed and the other be denied and thus both perish, it must be explicitly revealed what the Divine Providence is. This, however, cannot be revealed unless the laws are disclosed by which the Lord provides and rules the things of man’s will and understanding; for these laws enable man to know the nature of the Divine Providence; and only he who knows its nature can acknowledge it, for in this case he sees it. For this reason the laws of the Divine Providence, hitherto concealed within the wisdom of the angels, are now revealed.

71. (heading)

IT IS A LAW OF THE DIVINE PROVIDENCE THAT MAN SHOULD ACT FROM FREEDOM ACCORDING TO REASON.

72. But as few know that this can be a law of the Divine Providence, chiefly because man has thus freedom also to think evil and falsity, although the Divine Providence is continually leading man to think and to will what is good and true, therefore that this may be clearly perceived it will be set forth distinctly step by step in the following order:

I. A person has reason and freedom, or rationality and liberty, and these two faculties are from the Lord in the person.

II. Whatever a person does from freedom, whether it be of reason or not, provided it is according to his reason, appears to him to be his own.

III. Whatever a person does from freedom according to his thought is appropriated to him as his own, and remains with him.

IV. It is by means of these two faculties (rationality and liberty) that a person is reformed and regenerated by the Lord; and without them he cannot be reformed and regenerated.

V. By means of these two faculties a person can be so far reformed and regenerated as he can be led by means of them to acknowledge that everything true and good that he thinks and does is from the Lord and not from himself.

VI. The conjunction of the Lord with a person, and the reciprocal conjunction of the person with the Lord, are effected by means of these two faculties.

VII. The Lord preserves these two faculties in a person unimpaired and as sacred in every step of His Divine Providence.

VIII. Therefore it is of the Divine Providence that a person should act from freedom according to reason.

HOW GOOD ARE THY TENTS: DIVINE ORDER IN THE NATURAL PLANE OF LIFE

HOW GOOD ARE THY TENTS: DIVINE ORDER IN THE NATURAL PLANE OF LIFE

A Sermon by Rev. Lawson M. Smith Preached in Mitchellville, Maryland, December 20, 1987

“How good are thy tents, 0 Jacob! thy dwellings, 0 Israel!” (Numbers 24:5)

These words are a beautiful prophecy of the peaceful state of heaven. The pattern of the camp of the Children of Israel, Divinely ordained on Mount Sinai, is an image of the orderliness of heaven. This heavenly order is the basis for all peace and happiness and protection from the curse of the hells. The Lord was born into the world in order to secure this peaceful order for heaven, and to establish it for the human race on earth as well.

As beautiful as the literal sense is, from the spiritual sense we can appreciate even more deeply the Lord’s love and His purpose in coming into the world. We can therefore resolve more firmly to follow where He leads, so that He may fulfill this prophecy for us.

The Lord caused Balaam to utter these words as he stood on the mountains of Moab overlooking the Children of Israel encamped in the plains of Moab below. Each of the twelve tribes had its place around the tabernacle. The twelve tribes represent the whole church, as to every good of life and every truth of faith, and the marriage of doctrine and life. Each one of us has a somewhat different approach to living a useful life. We have various occupations and various groups of people who count on us in many ways. Each of us has a somewhat different idea of the Lord and what He expects of us in this life. But everyone who is sincere in trying to do what is right according to the Lord’s will is represented in the camp of Israel, and in heaven. The Lord makes the center, drawing all of us into a unity.

Within each person’s life a host of different loves and motives each seeks its place. Some loves are nearer to the Lord, some more remote, and some do not belong in the camp at all. We struggle with the question of how to fit in all the things we would like to do or feel we ought to do, and what to cut out. The Lord wants us to respond to these challenges as if from ourselves, yet only the Lord can teach us how to arrange our priorities and set our lives in order.

In general, He teaches us that eternal things should rule the temporary things of this life, and He guides us to see the greater and lesser degrees of the neighbor to whom we should exercise charity. Judah, or love to the Lord, must be straight ahead, to the east. Reuben, or faith and enlightenment from the Word, should be to the right or the south. Specific applications, represented by the camp of Ephraim, will always be spiritually behind, to the west, in relative obscurity compared to the goals and the principles; yet the more we apply the truth to life, the clearer the truth and the warmer our love will become. And to the north is the camp of Dan, representing the most basic foundation truths on which our whole life rests.

The more carefully we reflect and the more earnestly we pray and try to obey, the more clearly we will perceive how the Lord would have us order our lives, and the greater sense of peace and security we will feel. In this way the Lord sets all the loves of our lives in their proper places, in relation to Himself and in relation to all others (see AR 349, AE 341:1,11- 12, AC 3858, AC 3703).

The camp of Israel was an army, though it included the women and children. The reason Balak, King of Moab, was so frightened of the sons of Israel was that they had just completed a successful campaign against two mighty kings of the Amorites, Sihon and Og, and had utterly destroyed them and taken possession of their land. This display of military power was what induced Balak to call Balaam so urgently to come and curse the Children of Israel.

But the camp of Israel represented the order of heaven itself, the Grand Man. This order comes from the influx of the Lord’s Divine Human with the angels, for the Lord’s Divine, inflowing and received by the angels, is what makes heaven, just as the Lord makes peace and order in our lives. The camp of Israel thus represented the order of creation, the pattern of the universe, reality itself. In the pattern of the camp was an image of the intrinsic, necessary relationships between love and truth, and between higher and lower loves, between the Creator and creation. The spiritual gravity of the Divine love that draws all together toward itself, the source of life, yet allows each one of us to find his own distance from the Creator in freedom, is represented in the arrangement of the various tribes and families around the tabernacle, from the Levites at the center to the last families in the circumferences of the camp.

In such order there is all power, for it is the way things really are. The Lord’s commandments are another expression of such power. They are not arbitrary rules to test our obedience. They are the laws by which men and women become happy or sad, by drawing nearer or withdrawing from the Source of life and happiness. So Balaam described the camp as being like a lion: “There is no sorcery against Jacob, nor is there any divination against Israel. Now it must be said of Jacob and of Israel, ‘Oh, what God has done!’ Look, a people rises like a lioness, and lifts itself up like a lion; it shall not lie down until it devours the prey, and drinks the blood of the slain” (Numbers 23:23,24; cf. Num. 24:8,9; AC 6367:6).

Describing the camp, the Arcana Caelestia comments, “This camp, or this order, is such that it cannot possibly be broken by hell, although hell is in a constant endeavor to break it. Hence also this order, or heaven, is called a [military] ‘camp,’ and the truths and goods, that is, the angels, who are arranged according to this order, are called ‘armies’ [or ‘hosts’] … It is this very order, and thus heaven itself, which was represented by the encampment of the sons of Israel in the wilderness, and the dwelling together itself in them according to tribes was called the ‘camp'” (AC 4236:1).

Such an army or heavenly host announced the Lord’s birth to the shepherds on the night the Lord was born. They knew how much they depended on the Savior who had been born to preserve the order and peace among them, which makes the heavenly state. We too depend on the Lord’s order to provide peace and freedom in our lives. The Lord enables us to see when and to what degree we must subordinate our interests and ambitions to the greater neighbor, when to assert our knowledge and skill, and when to defer to someone else. The Lord’s order provides for the greatest usefulness and happiness possible for each person in His kingdom, that is, for everyone willing to be guided by His laws.

Against this order the powers of hell cannot prevail. Think of the example of a man who dedicates himself to living an active, useful life. His mind is thereby limited and circumscribed as within the walls of a camp, and within this focus his mind is progressively coordinated into a form that is truly human. He does not have time or interest for the insanities of scortatory lust, because his mind is focused on the uses of his life. The orderliness of his life is like a wall, protecting him from the hells, whereas people who are idle and slothful have no such restraints and protections (see CL 249, TCR 423).

The tents of Jacob and the dwellings of Israel have a special, celestial connotation. A tent stands for all the doctrine of the church and worship from it. A life according to doctrine is true worship. In particular, tents stand for the holiness of love to the Lord. The reason is that in most ancient times, all who belonged to the church dwelt in tents, which they also took on their journeys. We read, “for at that time, they were mostly feeders of sheep, and the father of the family taught those who were born of his house the precepts of charity, and thence the life of love, in tents, as they later did in temples … And because such was the quality of the church among the most ancient people, and the doctrine of love to the Lord was taught in their tents, … therefore tents were loved by the Lord more than temples. And so by command of the Lord on Mount Sinai, a tabernacle was built in which the Israelitish nation might perform holy worship. And afterwards, [when they had settled in the land of Canaan,] the feast of tabernacles was instituted in memory of the most holy worship in the tabernacles [of the most ancients]” (AE 799:1,2).

In another passage we read, “Because the Most Ancient Church was the Lord’s beloved more than the churches following, and because in those times people used to dwell alone or in their own families, each celebrating holy worship in his own tent, tents were considered more holy than the temple, which had been profaned” (AC 414:4). So Balaam, by the spirit of the Lord, spoke these words: “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced? From the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him; there! a people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations” (Numbers 23:8,9).

Here is an ideal for us today. While we live in the world and serve others as well as we can, nevertheless each family should look to the Lord as of itself, celebrating holy worship at home, with as little regard for the ways of the world as possible. Church societies should not be regarded as a crutch, taking over the place of the family, but as a support for each family in turning to the Lord as a family, strengthening each one’s sense of responsibility, freedom, and love to the Lord. Each family can have a unique, precious way of looking to the Lord and a love for the uses of life that is different from every other family’s. This vision and love are a gift from the Lord to them and to all their neighbors. Let’s encourage each family to cultivate its own special life and worship. Let our fathers be strong in teaching their children the precepts of charity and the life of love, and never allow others to usurp that privilege. The strength of our church, our school, and our country depends on the strength of our homes in looking to the Lord, each one by itself.

The peaceful picture of the tents of Jacob, the dwellings of Israel, the good of life according to truth, is completed by the image of gardens planted in the valleys, with aloes and cedars, well watered. The valleys represent the natural man, the lowest part of our nature, while the gardens represent the intelligence and wisdom of the celestial man, like the garden of Eden, and like the trees of life in the holy city. Gardens have this meaning because a tree corresponds to a man, growing from seed, putting forth limbs, adorning itself with leaves and flowers as a man does with natural and spiritual truths, and finally bearing fruits, as a man does the goods of use (see Coro. 27). Spiritual heat and light make us grow, as natural warmth and light give life to plants (see AR 90). And as trees need water, so too our spiritual life withers away without the understanding of truth. The aloes or sandal trees stand for the life of the natural man, while the lofty cedars stand for rational perceptions, both of which are fed by the streams of Divine truth (see AE 518:12,13).

The Lord was born into the world in order to bring celestial love and wisdom down into even the natural plane of life, and to make the natural plane capable of becoming celestial. In the highest sense the valleys planted with gardens by the river represent the Divine Love and Wisdom in the Lord’s Natural Human nature when it had been glorified. The Lord, by coming into the world, gave us rivers of water, streams of knowledge accommodated to the perception of our natural and rational minds, yet capable of being filled with infinite love and wisdom. Such paradises of peaceful, heavenly life can flourish even in this natural world, as far as we stay within the camp of the Divine order which He teaches us. There we are safe, beyond the reach of the curse of hell.

We sense the peaceful, calm sphere of the Lord’s omnipotent order in the Christmas stories, and we know it even more clearly in the Writings of His second advent. Let us invite the Lord to dwell with us in our homes so that His prophecy may be fulfilled for us: “How good are thy tents, 0 Jacob! thy dwellings, 0 Israel! As the valleys are they planted, as gardens by the river, as the sandal trees which the Lord hath planted, as cedar trees beside the waters” (Numbers 24:5,6) Amen.

Lessons: Numbers 24:1,2,5,6,9b, 10- 17, 25; AC 4236


Arcana Coelestia 4236

And Jacob said when he saw them, This is the camp of God. That this signifies heaven is because the “camp of God” signifies heaven, for the reason that an “army” signifies truths and goods (n. 3448), and truths and goods are marshalled by the Lord in heavenly order; hence an “encamping” denotes a marshalling by armies; and the heavenly order itself which is heaven is the “camp.” This “camp” or order is of such a nature that hell cannot possibly break in upon it, although it is in the constant endeavor to do so. Hence also this order, or heaven, is called a “camp,” and the truths and goods (that is, the angels) who are marshalled in this order are called 44 armies. ” This shows whence it is that the “camp of God” signifies heaven. It is this very order, and thus heaven itself, which was represented by the encampments of the sons of Israel in the wilderness; and their dwelling together in the wilderness according to their tribes was called the dicamp. ” The tabernacle in the midst and around which they encamped represented the Lord Himself. That the sons of Israel encamped in this manner may be seen in Numbers 1: 1-54; 33:2-56 as also that they encamped around the tabernacle by their tribes – toward the east Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun; toward the south Reuben, Simeon, and Gad; toward the west Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin; toward the north Dan, Asher, and Naphtali; and the Levites in the middle near the tabernacle (Numbers 2:2-34).

The tribes signified all goods and truths in the complex (n. 3858, 3862, 3926, 3939, 4060). It was for this reason that when Balaam saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes, and the spirit of God came upon him, he uttered his enunciation, saying: “How good are thy tabernacles, 0 Jacob, thy dwelling places, 0 Israel; as the valleys are they planted, as gardens by the river” (Num. 26:5, 6).

That by this prophecy was not meant the people named Jacob and Israel but that it was the heaven of the Lord that was represented is very manifest. For the same reason their marshallings in the wilderness, that is, their encampings by tribes, are called “camps” in other passages of the Word; and by a “camp” is there signified in the internal sense heavenly order; and by “encamping” a marshalling in accordance with this order, namely, the order in which goods and truths are disposed in heaven.

That the “camp of God” denotes heaven may also be seen in Joel: “The earth quaked before Him, the heavens trembled, the sun and the moon were blackened, and the stars withdrew their brightness, and Jehovah uttered His voice before His army, for His camp is exceeding many, for numerous is he that doeth His word” (Joel 2: 10,1 1). In Zechariah: “I will encamp at my house from the army, on account of him who passeth by, and on account of him who goeth away, lest the extortioner should pass over them” (Zech. 9:8). In John: “Gog and Magog went up over the plain of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about and the beloved city; but fire came up from God and consumed them” (Rev. 20:9)

Spiritual Frontier – Emanuel Swedenborg

SETTLE IN YOUR HEARTS

SETTLE IN YOUR HEARTS

A Sermon by Rev. Donald L. Rose

Preached in Bryn Athyn June 25, 1995

“Settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist” (Luke 21:14,15).

The Lord said these things to followers who were later persecuted and brought before councils. Their accusers thought by confronting them they could weaken the cause of Christianity. But it turned out differently. Those confrontations became opportunities for the strengthening and growth of Christianity.

The boldness and eloquence of the disciples, although they were just fishermen, was nothing short of astonishing. Of one outspoken disciple it is said, “And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke” (Acts 6: 10). In the 4th chapter of Acts we read of two disciples who were confronted: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marvelled” (Acts 4:13). (King James Version says “unlearned and ignorant men.”) They had a boldness and assurance, and their answers were powerful.

They were somehow triumphant even when they were beaten and imprisoned, and in some cases put to death (see Luke 21:16). We will mention one example of that in a moment.

The text applies of course to us and, we might say, in a much less dramatic fashion. We will not likely be brought before courts and kings nor openly challenged and assailed by enemies.

But we do stand to be attacked by the enemies of our spiritual life. And the more we learn about the assaults of evil spirits on followers of the Lord, the more do we see that it too is dramatic and momentous. Falsities from hell itself assail the person who is being tempted, and the Writings say that to every falsity the hells inject, there is an answer from the Divine.

What we experience in temptation is anxiety, discouragement even to despair. We do not know that evil spirits from hell are fighting against us, nor do we know that the Lord is fighting for us, and the answers from the Divine to the false accusations and undermining thoughts do not come clearly to our consciousness. Here is what the Writings say: “As regards temptations … the hells fight against man, and the Lord for man; to every falsity the hells inject, there is an answer from the Divine …. The answer from the Divine flows into the internal or spiritual man … and in such a manner that it scarcely comes to the perception otherwise than as hope and consequent consolation, in which there are nevertheless innumerable things of which the man is ignorant” (AC 8159:3). (In that answer which we feel only as hope and comfort there are countless blessings that the person has no knowledge of” – new translation.)

Here is the context of the words of the text: “… they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. … [N]ot a hair of your head shall be lost. In your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:12-19).

The very first Christian to die for his beliefs found that the confrontation was indeed an occasion for testimony. He was falsely accused and brought before a council to answer. His eloquent speech takes up the whole of the 7th chapter of the book of Acts. It is said, “When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. … [T]hey cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord and they cast them out of the city and stoned him” (Acts 7:54,57).

That speech which so affected them had begun thus: “… brethren … listen: the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham” and he told the story through Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Solomon, and when he was finished he gazed up into heaven and saw the glory of God. And as they rained stones on him he said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’ and ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this he fell asleep” (Acts 7:2,59,60). It is said that those who looked at him “saw his face as the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15).

A radiant peace surrounded him. The Lord had promised that nothing would harm them. They were at peace even in death.

“Settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer.” Think deliberately about the future, and think of how not to think of the future. In one of the Lord’s parables a man is called foolish because he did not think ahead intelligently. “Foolish one, tonight your soul will be required of you, and then whose will those things be which you have provided?”

Oh, he had thought and meditated within himself about the future. But what was the level of his thinking? To quote the Gospel: “And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do? … I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater … And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years …” (Luke 12:17-21).

He could look down the road years ahead. He could figure out what he was going to do, and what he was going to say, and God called him a fool. How does our future look to us? How much strength and endurance do you have for what lies in store for you? Can you handle what is yet to come? Do you have the wit? Will you have the wit to respond to what may come to pass?

We live in the illusion that our strength, our intelligence, our very life is from ourselves. How big is our reservoir of energy or endurance or prudence? Since it seems that life is our own, we think in terms of calling on our reserves. Once the disciples set off in a boat on a journey with the Lord. And it had slipped their mind that they should have stored some provision. To quote from the Gospel of Mark, “Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat” (8:14). That was what was on their mind, and the Lord said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? … do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up? How is it that you do not understand?”

He got them to answer the question, and He could ask them on a much later occasion, “When I sent you without money bag, sack and sandals, did you lack anything? So they answered, Nothing” (Luke 22:35). Think of the uncertain times of youth that you have passed through. You made it through your teens. Has the Lord kept you safe thus far? Has He provided?

It is too bad that some people have concluded that it is virtuous not to make provision for the future. It’s understandable. The Lord has given us the message that He will provide. Seek the kingdom of God, and these things will be added to you. But the Writings say this does not mean we should not provide ourselves with food, clothing, “and even resources for the time to come; for it is not contrary to order for anyone to be provident for himself and his own.” The new translation speaks of “resources for the future; for it is not contrary to order to make provision for oneself and one’s dependents” (J. Elliott’s translation).

But there is the matter of putting trust in the Divine. Notice the verb tribuo, something you do. It is translated to “attribute” or to “ascribe.” See how it is used in this teaching about charity in a person engaged in business. “He thinks of the morrow, and yet does not think of it. He thinks of what should be done on the morrow, and how it should be done; and yet does not think of the morrow, because he ascribes the future to the Divine Providence and not to his own prudence.” And then it adds, “Even his prudence he ascribes to the Divine Providence” (Charity 167).

Does that fortunate person who ascribes the future to the Divine just do this at one point in life? Or is it not something to be done deliberately through the progressing stages of life?

Settle it in your hearts. Deliberately ascribe the future to the Lord’s Providence, and do so, if you can, until you can feel a sense of relief as if someone had removed a false burden from you.

Do not think of this merely as “either/or,” as if to say, either you trust in Divine Providence or you do not. It can be a quantitative thing. Some attribute a little bit to the Divine Providence and a lot to themselves (see AC 2694:2). The Writings use the phrase “the more”: the more they ascribe, the stronger or wiser they are (see AC 4932). In our lives we gradually come to ascribe more to the Lord and less to ourselves (see TCR 610 and 105).

The disciples were to learn that peace, the wonderful prize of peace, is to be found in the Lord Himself. He said, “These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world” (Luke 16e). En to cosmo thlipsin exete alla tharsete – In the world you will have affliction, trouble, but take heart. Have courage. I have defeated. I have conquered. I have overcome the world.

Our picture of the future can become less a matter of speculation and worry and more and more a picture of the Lord as one in whom to confide and one who grants peace. Peace has in it confidence in the Lord that He will provide, and that He leads to a good end. “When someone is in this faith, he is in peace, for he then fears nothing and no solicitude about future things disquiets him” (AC 8455).

We sometimes say that the future looks dark. And the unknown is a kind of darkness. But when we ascribe the future to the Lord, we may say at any time in history or at any stage of our life, that the future has light in it, being in the hands of Him who is the light of the world.

Settle it in your hearts anew today. Ascribe the future to the Lord. And He will give you what to think and do, and He will give you peace. Amen.

Lessons: Matt. 10:16-31, DP 179, AC 2493


Divine Providence 179

As a foreknowledge of future events destroys the human itself, which is to act from freedom according to reason, therefore it is not granted to anyone to know the future; but everyone is permitted to form conclusions concerning future events from the reason; hence reason with all that pertains to it enters into man’s life. It is on this account that a man does not know his lot after death, or know of any event before he is involved in it. For if he knew this, he would no longer think from his interior self how he should act or how he should live in order to meet the event, but he would only think from his exterior self that he was meeting it. Now this state closes the interiors of his mind in which the two faculties of his life, liberty and rationality, especially reside. A longing to know the future is innate with most people, but this longing derives its origin from the love of evil. It is therefore taken away from those who believe in the Divine Providence, and there is given them a trust that the Lord is disposing their lot. Consequently they do not desire to know it beforehand lest they should in any way set themselves against the Divine Providence. This the Lord teaches by many passages in Luke (12:14-48).

That this is a law of the Divine Providence may be confirmed by many things from the spiritual world. Most persons when they enter that world after death desire to know their lot. They are told that if they have lived well their lot is in heaven, and if they have lived wickedly it is in hell. But as all, even the wicked, fear hell, they ask what they should do and what they should believe to enter heaven. They are told that they may do and believe as they will, but that they should know that in hell, good is not done and truth is not believed, but only in heaven. To each one the answer is: “Seek out what is good and what is true; then think the truth and do the good, if you are able.” So in the spiritual world as in the natural world all are left to act from freedom according to reason; but as they have acted in this world so do they act in the spiritual world. His own life awaits everyone and consequently his own lot, for the lot pertains to the life.

Arcana Coelestia 2493

1 have spoken with the angels concerning the memory of things past, and the consequent anxiety regarding things to come; and I have been instructed that the more interior and perfect the angels are, the less do they care for past things, and the less do they think of things to come; and also that from this comes their happiness. They say that the Lord gives them every moment what to think, and this with blessedness and happiness; and that they are thus free from cares and anxieties. Also, that this was meant in the internal sense by the manna being received daily from heaven; and by the daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer; and likewise by the instruction not to be solicitous about what they should eat and drink, and wherewithal they should be clothed. But although the angels do not care for past things, and are not solicitous about things to come, they nevertheless have the most perfect recollection of past things, and the most perfect mental view of things to come; because in all their present there are both the past and the future. Thus they have a more perfect memory than can ever be thought of or expressed.

THE HEART

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The heart opens when the mind lets go of fearful thoughts. An open heart, filled with love, is the conduit for manifestation. What would it take to open your heart? When was the last time you truly felt your heart wide open? Your heart, wide open to acceptance, is the place to create your dreams. Take a moment and open your heart. Feel the presence of the Divine. Feel the creation of your dreams. Feel the complete peace that is felt with an open heart…I love you all. im not a big fan of organized religion,there always hating someone for some reason or another… im ashamed to die until i have won some victory for humanity…-never explain-your friends don’t need it and your enemies will not belive you anyways… the greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own…treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they should be…share our similarities,celebrate our differences….THERE IS MORE IN US THEN WE KNOW,IF WE CAN BE MADE TO SEE IT,PERHAPS FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES WE WILL BE UNWILLING TO SETTLE FOR LESS.TAKE CARE AND GOD BLESS.