Daily inspiration

“The knowledges of faith exist for no other purpose than that through them people may receive from the Lord love to him and love towards the neighbor. This is the faith which saves.”
Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia 1176

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Copyright 2017, The New Church/General Church of the New Jerusalem. All rights reserved

Use is The Neighbor

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose

Selection from Apocalypse Explained ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

The uses through which men and angels have wisdom

To love uses is nothing else than to love the neighbor, for use in the spiritual sense is the neighbor. This can be seen from the fact that everyone loves another not because of his face and body, but from his will and understanding; he loves one who has a good will and a good understanding, and does not love one with a good will and a bad understanding, or with a good understanding and a bad will.  And as a man is loved or not loved for these reasons, it follows that the neighbor is that from which everyone is a man, and that is his spiritual.  Place ten men before your eyes that you may choose one of them to be your associate in any duty or business; will you first find out about them and choose the one who comes nearest to your use?  Therefore he is your neighbor, and is loved more than the others.  Or become acquainted with ten maidens with the purpose of choosing one of them for your wife; do you not at first ascertain the character of each one, and if she consents betroth to you the one that you love?  That one is more your neighbor than the others.  If you should say to yourself, “Every man is my neighbor, and is therefore to be loved without distinction,” a devil-man and an angel-man or a harlot and a virgin might be equally loved. Use is the neighbor, because every man is valued and loved not for his will and understanding alone, but for the uses he performs or is able to perform from these. Therefore a man of use is a man according to his use; and a man not of use is a man not a man, for of such a man it is said that he is not useful for anything; and although in this world he may be tolerated in a community so long as he lives from what is his own, after death when he becomes a spirit he is cast out into a desert.

Man, therefore, is such as his use is. But uses are manifold; in general they are heavenly or infernal.

Heavenly uses are those that are serviceable more or less, or more nearly or remotely, to the church, to the country, to society, and to a fellow-citizen, for the sake of these as ends;

…but infernal uses are those that are serviceable only to the man himself and those dependent on him; and if serviceable to the church, to the country, to society, or to a fellow citizen, it is not for the sake of these as ends, but for the sake of self as the end.

And yet everyone ought from love, though not from self-love, to provide the necessaries and requisites of life for himself and those dependent on him.

When man loves uses by doing them in the first place, and loves the world and self in the second place, the former constitutes his spiritual and the latter his natural; and the spiritual rules, and the natural serves. This makes evident what the spiritual is, and what the natural is. This is the meaning of the Lord’s words in Matthew:

Seek ye first the kingdom of the heavens* and its justice, and all things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33).

“The kingdom of the heavens” means the Lord and His church, and “justice” means spiritual, moral, and civil good; and every good that is done from the love of these is a use. Then “all things shall be added,” because when use is in the first place, the Lord, from whom is all good, is in the first place and rules, and gives whatever contributes to eternal life and happiness; for, as has been said, all things of the Lord’s Divine providence pertaining to man look to what is eternal. “All things that shall be added” refer to food and raiment, because food means everything internal that nourishes the soul, and raiment everything external that like the body clothes it. Everything internal has reference to love and wisdom, and everything external to wealth and eminence. All this makes clear what is meant by loving uses for the sake of uses, and what the uses are from which man has wisdom, from which and according to which wisdom everyone has eminence and wealth in heaven.

(Apocalypse Explained 1193)
May 24, 2017
* Photolithograph has “kingdom of the heavens.” Schmidius also has it. The Greek is “Kingdom of God.”

To Live in the Lord

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose

From Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
Blessed be God Most High.

In the Ancient Church, Jehovah was called “God Most High” for the reason that “height” represented and therefore signified what is internal, and thus “the Most High” signified what is inmost. Hence the worship of the Ancient Church was upon high places, mountains, and hills. The inmost also has the same relation to the exterior and the outermost, as the highest bears to the lower and the lowest. The Most High or the Inmost is the Celestial of Love, or Love, itself. Jehovah, or the Lord’s internal man, was the very Celestial of Love, that is, Love itself, to which no other attributes are fitting than those of pure Love, thus of pure Mercy toward the whole human race which is such that it wills to save all and make them happy to eternity, and to bestow on them all that it has; thus out of pure mercy to draw all who are willing to follow, to heaven, that is, to itself, by the strong force of love. This Love itself is Jehovah.

Of nothing can Am or Is be predicated except of Love. From this Love – because in Love, or of Love itself – is the very Being [Esse] of all life, that is, Life itself; and because Jehovah alone is Being of life, or Life itself, as He alone is Love, each and all things have thence their being and their life; nor can anyone be and live of himself except Jehovah alone, that is, the Lord alone; and as no one can be and live of himself except the Lord alone, it is a fallacy of sense that men seem to themselves to live of themselves. The angels plainly perceive that they do not live of themselves, but from the Lord, since they live in the very being of the Lord’s life, because in His love. But yet to them above all others there is given the appearance as of living from themselves, together with ineffable happiness. This therefore is to live in the Lord, which is never possible unless we live in His love, that is, in charity toward the neighbor.

(Arcana Coelestia 1735)
May 10, 2017

Living from love

Train up a child in the way he should go: even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Train up a child in the way he should go: even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Jesus exemplified love in action. He showed gentleness and humility, but also spoke up courageously for the poor, the oppressed, the lepers, the adulterers, the sinners, and the outcasts. He not only spoke up for them, but he touched them, sat with them, ate with them, loved them, was one of them and didn’t put himself above them. He said, “I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27)

This is a call to service; we need to treat others well because our actions (and inactions) have a big impact. What Would Love Do offers a curriculum for putting love into action. What kind of love are we talking about? The kind that is not blind, but wise. The kind of love that can survey a challenging circumstance, and offer what is needed. This kind of wise love can be gentle, leading us to admit our faults and ask for forgiveness, or it can be firm, calling us to resist injustice. It is about developing an open-hearted, open-minded attitude so that our actions naturally flow from our love for others.The foundation on which the latest seven-week Journey program, What Would Love Do? is built is a biblical parable told by Jesus found in Matthew 25: 31-45. In this parable, a mighty king appears on a throne. This king gathers all the nations together, and says, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” The people are surprised and ask when the king had needed help. Then the king replies, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

With this kind of attitude, we don’t have to work so hard to do good. Good things will certainly happen if we choose to act from love, and if we have a willingness to be loved by others along the way.

This seven-week program explores each of the ways the king in Matthew 25 tells us to.

Love Serves: “I was hungry and you gave me food.” In a loving environment where we know that our presence makes a positive impact, we gain emotional nourishment. We are surrounded by goodness; this is spiritual food. Feeding the hungry can mean anything from handing a bowl of soup to a homeless person on the street, to helping a friend use her talents.

Love Brings Truth: “I was thirsty and you gave me drink.” Water is essential for life. Just as hunger and thirst are closely related, so are the desire for goodness (hunger) and the desire to know what is true (thirst). The deepest, most urgent questions we ask represent our thirst on an emotional level. Getting good “water” is essential for our mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Love Welcomes: “I was a stranger and you took me in.” We are social beings. We thrive on touch, communication, friendship. Without enough genuine connection we may find ourselves feeling lonely, anxious or depressed. Just as our bodies move from place to place, we are also on an inner journey. This week we have an opportunity to welcome the stranger, both physically and spiritually, by offering the kind of instruction that helps them feel included, known and loved.

Love Comforts: “I was naked and you clothed me.” Clothes keep us dry and warm, and protect us from harsh environments. Beyond that, they represent a freedom of expression, a sense of pride, confidence and identity. Nakedness can represent feelings of self-doubt or shame. Offering spiritual clothing is reaffirming the truth about the person.

Love Visits: “I was sick and you visited me.” Being sick feels awful. Nothing helps us appreciate health more than having to lie in bed with fever and chills. Some people may not have any outward signs of illness, yet they are struggling internally and could use some kindness and compassion in their lives. Maybe we know someone who cheats. Maybe we know someone who treats others like dirt. Can we visit those who are sick in this way?

Love is Present: “I was in prison and you came to me.” Someone who sits behind bars often ranks high on the list of people to shun. Being present for someone who is stuck is yet another way to be a force of love in the world. Jesus tells us to find ways to be there for others who are in prison, either spiritually or physically, and to recognize our own internal messages that keep us trapped.

Love Rejoices: “As you have done it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you have done it to me.” We reflect on how it is a blessing to be able to be there for each other, comfort each other, and meet each others’ needs. When it comes from love, we’re doing it with joy. No matter what situation we find ourselves in, the choice is ours. When deciding what step to take, we can simply ask, what would love do?

Join us as we explore serving the neighbor in concrete ways! Two world-wide launches, October 5th, 2014 and February 1st, 2015.

https://newchurch.org/

Full issue

DAILY INSPIRATION

“The ultimate purpose of creation is a heaven from the human race.”

Divine Providence 323

Goodness

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The Lord, in His essence, is love itself, perfect and infinite. From that love His entire focus and effort is on loving us and making us happy – which can only be done to its fullness if we freely choose to accept His love and be conjoined with Him.

To that end, we also have the capacity to love – we can allow that conjunction to happen by receiving the Lord’s love and returning it, and the way we do that is by aligning our loves with the Lord’s. Obviously the Lord is infinite and perfect and we are finite and imperfect, but we can work to love as He loves, and closer we get the more we are “good” – the more we will desire to be good, delight in what is good, actually do what is good, and live in peace, harmony and joy both in this life and in heaven.

Achieving that, of course, is not a matter of saying a little prayer and being changed, and it’s not a matter of simply deciding or force of will. As anyone who has mooned over an unrequited romance knows, our loves are simply not changed that easily, and indeed seem largely out of our control.

Consider, for instance: Say you are in desperate need of money, and see a man drop his wallet as he climbs into an expensive car and drives away. You pick up the wallet, and find several thousand dollars there. The fact is, at that moment you (unless you are a better person than 99.9 percent of us) really really want to keep that money. You might not do it. You know what’s right, and you may well make yourself do what’s right. But you can’t just change that “want” and make it go away. You don’t have that kind of control.

So how can we actually become good? The answer is what the Writings refer to generically as “truth.” From the time we are small children we are constantly learning what’s right and wrong and being forced to apply that knowledge. Over time those ideas get deeper – from “don’t hit other children!” to “you need to think about what makes other people happy” to “love your neighbor as yourself” – but they all to some extent run contrary to what we want. Consider that wallet: The reason most of us would call the guy and give him his money is that we know it’s the right thing to do, even though it’s not really what we want to do.

If you think about it, those truths – those ideas of right and wrong – come into use from the outside, and sort of work their way from outer layers of our minds (“don’t hit other children!”) to deeper, more thoughtful ones (“love your neighbor as yourself”). The Writings tell us that even as we are absorbing truth from the outside, the Lord is secretly planting desires for good in our souls, in the inmost levels that we’re not even aware of. Among the most important of these desires is, in fact, the desire for truth, which urges us to gather and accept that truth coming to us from the outside.

As we build that storehouse of knowledge, we come to the key decision point (or a lifelong series of decision points, really). We can decide to embrace that truth, to determine for ourselves that we want to do what’s right because it is right. Or we can ignore it and wallow in our base desires.

If we do the former – determine to follow what’s true – that truth crosses from the exterior parts of our mind to more interior ones. And in the more interior areas it can mix with the desires for good the Lord has hidden away there.

And then what happens? The Writings have some beautiful passages about how good loves truth, how it will seek it and embrace it, fill it with life and make it its own. This is a little hard to imagine, but consider falling in love with someone. Don’t you want to know everything about him or her? Don’t you want to know every little thing that makes him or her happy so you can provide it? Your desire to love embraces truth so it can put love into action. Much the same happens with the desires for good inside us and the attendent truths – the good desires seek the real truths, the ones that fit, and make them their own.

This does not, of course, happen all at once in every aspect of our being. It is the work of a lifetime and entails many battles with the evil desires that pollute our souls. But the process can be increasingly joyful, and the end result is spectacular – eventually the desires for good will be so empowered that they can actually take the lead role and extend out to the outermost parts of our minds. In that state we no longer even want what’s wrong; our joy of life is in doing what’s good. This, of course, is the state that angels enjoy in heaven.

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/