7. Awareness (3)

Short Meds in the Goodness of Life: 7. Awareness (3)

Mk 8:17  Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: ‘Why are you talking about having no bread?

So, we have been considering the fact that we sentient beings have awareness and we have considered so far the awareness we have of the world around us, and then the fact that we can have awareness of God. But perhaps our greatest area of awareness is in respect of one another; we are designed for relationships and for the majority of us, a relationship is what we yearn for most and value most.

We start in life with parental awareness. I believe we start life off with a mind that is almost a blank slate and every moment is a moment of learning. The majority of our initial learning is to do with figures who dominate my waking time. We grow in awareness of them and without being aware that it is a learning process, we learn to relate to them. Relationships are always learning processes.

And as time passes and our learning increases we approach a level of maturity that is aware of the opposite sex. The modern western world is in confusion over this, partly because of the confusion and pain that there so often is in so-called dysfunctional families, but in a normal healthy family, family relationships enable maturity to come about and part of that involves developing relationships that bring about a couple committed to each other in which children are produced and raised and human life is able to continue: “a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Gen 2:24) As some have put it in the past, there has to be a leaving before there can be a cleaving. But this ‘cleaving’ (as the older versions had it) is more than just physical, it is bringing about a oneness that does not depend on the surrounding circumstances, or on our state of health, it is a oneness that creates a security that can survive those things.

But while all this is going on through the passing of time, there is also an awareness of others around us and we learn that not everyone is to be trusted and some can be trusted more than others, and those things affect how we perceive relationships. Throughout however many years we have of our life, we learn to be aware of and interact with other people and maturity in this respect determines that we will be there for other people as much as they let us. Some relationships are transitory, some produce friendships for life, some are daily or weekly or monthly while others remain with the passing of time so even when we only meet every couple of years they are still strong. “Father, thank  you for the wonder of relationships that can bring so much blessing into our lives. We are sad that sometimes they bring pain and for those times we ask for your grace. Amen.”  

(We will focus on the Advent for the next month and may come back to consider our senses in the New Year)

6. Awareness (2)

Short Meds in the Goodness of Life: 6. Awareness (2)

Gen 28:16  When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’

We are considering what it means to be a sentient being but we need to take it a step further on because as human beings we appear to have an element that animals don’t have, the awareness of God that leads to worship. This is such a big thing that all of our Christian experience hinges on this. The Bible seems to indicate that each person has a spirit but when we turn to the Lord and His Holy Spirit comes to indwell us, He brings alive our spirit so we have this two-way communication link with the Lord. The trouble is most of us are either unaware of this or we doubt what we sense within us as coming from the Lord. Rather than trying to explain this in detail I would give a simple testimony that the sceptical will say was coincidence but, hey, that’s their loss.  

Recently on my birthday, my wife and I were praying together and I happened to be praying with my eyes open, focusing on a small windowpane that revealed the perfect blue sky outside. I was just thanking the Lord for all His wonderful provision for us when suddenly and unexpectedly, across this small window I saw what we think must have been a buzzard with massive wings just soaring across that little area of vision and there it was, God’s reply to my praying, His birthday gift to me, a reminder that “those who hope in the Lord… will soar on wings like eagles.” (Isa 40:31) Half an hour later an old friend Face-booked me that verse in greeting. Coincidence? It was an amazing sight and my heart soared as well.

God-awareness? Interestingly, a little while before, my wife had commented, “You know, I believe, one thing Christians need to be doing in these pandemic days, is looking for the Lord, looking for the signs of His presence, His speaking in the midst of all that is going on.”

You don’t have to be prophetic, you simply need to have childlike, naïve faith, to be aware of God, hear God, be blessed by God, and have your life changed by God. That morning my heart was released in a wave of worship with a birthday gift from God. Jacob was a twister on a literal and spiritual journey and God turned up in his dreams. Still in twister-mode he acknowledged it must be God. The Lord doesn’t wait until we’ve got it all sorted before He reaches out to us: because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” (Eph 2:4,5) But now we’re born again, His children, how much more will His love be poured out to us, in simple ways, complex and profound ways – wonderful ways. “Thank you Lord so much. Amen” 

5. Awareness (1)

Short Meds in the Goodness of Life: 5. Awareness (1)

Mt 16:2 He replied, ‘When evening comes, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,”

We have been considering, in fairly general terms, what it means to be a sentient being. We are alive and active; we are sensitive to the things around us… STOP! We must focus on this thought. There are very basic creatures that do not have a nervous system. They can react to external stimuli, but it is just that, purely reaction. We speak of ourselves as ‘conscious’, meaning we have awareness of ourselves and the things around us. We don’t merely react to what is around us (although we do this sometimes) but our consciousness means that not only do we see things, and sense things around us, but we have a sense of meaning in respect of those things.  

Pharisees and Sadducees came and asked Jesus for a sign and he replied in our starter verse above, and then added, You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” (v.3) Part of this consciousness that we have been speaking about involves ‘interpreting’ what we sense or see before us. This happens both physiologically (the working of the cells of our bodies) and psychologically (how our mind translates what we see).

So, for example, when light hits the retina (a light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye), cells called photoreceptors turn the light into electrical signals which then travel from the retina through the optic nerve to the brain. Then the brain turns the signals into the images that we ‘see’. So we ‘see’ an image of what is before us. Now, depending on what we have learnt in life, our mind reacts to this image. A massive heaving giant ant-heap shouts danger to us. A glass of our favourite drink speaks pleasure to us. Much of what we see doesn’t evoke emotions in us, so my computer screen before me neither creates fear or pleasure, but they do present opportunities to us, so my computer screen invites me to use the computer for a variety of actions, writing, searching for information etc.

Now here’s another twist in this consciousness-awareness consideration: we can choose how to respond to what is before us, so we don’t need to automatically react to something, we can choose to change our feelings about it I need to pray: “Father, thank you for the wonderful being that you have made me to be, a being with this consciousness, this awareness of life all around me. Please help me to be more aware of the wonder of the world you have given us and allow that wonder to be translated into thanks and praise. Help me to be appreciative and positive in respect of this world and this life you have given us. Amen.”

4. Impacting Lives?

Short Meds in the Goodness of Life: 4. Impacting Lives?

Esther 4:14 who knows but that you have come to your …position for such a time as this?”

We are pondering on appreciating life and for the moment, more specifically, the significance of our lives, the fact that we are sentient beings alert to the world around us and interacting with it, maybe even changing the world, perhaps even changing history. Rather than seeing ourselves as a nobody, we are in fact to see ourselves as children of God with a Father who has plans and purposes that He is working out for this world. He has entrusted these plans to His Son, Jesus, who sits at His right hand presiding over the kingdom or rule on earth that he is initiating, seeking to draw fallen mankind back to Himself. We are a part of all of that.

When Esther found herself, a simple Jewish girl, caught up in the whims and fancies of a powerful king, she perhaps never thought she could be his queen but that is what happened (see Esther 2). But then a powerful man next to the king plans to kill all the Jews, without realising that the queen was a Jew. But this king is an all-powerful despot  who doesn’t take kindly to people barging into his presence, even the queen, and so getting his ear to petition for her people is a difficult and dangerous task. He got rid of the previous queen in a bout of anger; the same could happen here. Perhaps for that reason she hesitated to do anything about her people and it was only at the prompting of her cousin, Mordecai, that she thought more of the situation. Basically he said, “Perhaps you become queen for just this time to save your people.”

Feeling inadequate, wondering what life is all about, wondering what your part is in the plans and purposes of God? Wonder no longer; just realise as a child of God you are His representative, part of Christ’s body, unique in calling, unique in placement and unique in opportunity. You have family connections, friendship connections that are different from mine. I can’t reach them or bless them, but you can, they are your contact group and you are God’s unique gift to them, His means of bringing His love and blessing to them. In a time of pandemic upheaval, they desperately need you; you are part of their lives, perhaps, for such a time as this. I need to pray: “Lord, please open my eyes to see my life circumstances, help me to see who you want to bless through me. Grant me your grace and your faith to be able to reach out to bring your blessing to them, for I realize this is a unique time, unlike anything I’ve known before. Help me to take the opportunities you place before me, even today. Amen.”  

3. Revealing Lives?

Short Meds in the Goodness of Life: 3. Revealing Lives?

Eph 3:10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms

In this first Part we are reflecting on ‘Appreciating Life’. I believe we need to do this for various reasons. First, it is very easy to lose perspective and simply get filled with worry and anxiety as we confront the issues of life in a Pandemic, and later, life coping with the long-term consequences of the Pandemic.  Second, simply as Christians we give out, we struggle to resist the enemy, we cope with the circumstances of the fallen world, we get worn down and when that happens we need to be restored in the presence of the Lord. Part of that restoration involves regaining perspective.

Yesterday we considered the fact that we are sentient beings which, we said, means we are able to interact meaningfully and with understanding, with the world round us, and we are even able to impact it. I suspect many of us often feel we are very limited in our ability to do that but there is one way that is a hidden way and yet a very significant way and it is shown in our starter verse today.

I know it speaks about ‘the church’ but that includes you and me and so what it is saying is that as the angels, the spiritual powers and principalities, look on, when they see your life and mine, they can see the wonder of what has taken place and they can acknowledge, praise and worship God and marvel at His wisdom that takes sentient beings living in darkness, living on the basis of their selfish, pleasure-seeking desires, beings that deserved the judgment of God, but instead received the mercy and grace of God and were transformed into God-aware, God-caring, outward looking caring and compassionate beings who, by becoming salt and light in the darkness and corruption of this fallen world, truly do have impact. This the angels see, and marvel.

They see that, “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,” (Eph 2:10) and they see us working these things out, yes, often hesitantly, often inadequately, but nevertheless persevering, and they marvel. I need to pray: “Lord, in the midst of the muckiness of life, I marvel as I come across these truths that I can be a cause for the angels to worship you, that my life that you are transforming can be a source of praise. Thank you Lord for what you have done, are doing, and will do in my life as you redeem me. Thank you that I am part of your plans and purposes to bless this world and as I allow your Holy Spirit to prompt and guide me, I can be salt and light to this world and genuinely have an impact on it. Thank you so much. Amen.” 

2. Sentient Life?

Short Meds in the Goodness of Life: 2. Sentient Life?

Gen 2:7 Then the Lord God formed a man.. and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

I started this series yesterday by suggesting that the things we take for granted are more than I could count on all my fingers and toes. No more true is this than in respect of ‘life’. We live, we breath, we think, we move – and we’ll consider all these in detail in the days to come – and we take all this for granted, and yet we are and we do because at some point in existence God decided this is how it would be. Life is not an accident; it is part of the plans and purposes of God.

We are sentient beings which means we are emotional, sensitive, responsive, have feeling – able to interact meaningfully and with understanding, with the world round us – and we take it for granted, until our lives are threatened or curtailed and then we start thinking about these things. We are self-aware and yet so often, not aware.

I have various regrets when I look back on my life but one of the greatest is that I took life for granted, I took my health and strength for granted. I used to go out into our garden on a Saturday morning in the Summer and start work, digging and planting and so on. I would take a lunch and tea break but would work from nine in the morning until nine at night.. I’m tired just thinking about it – but I did it and yet I was tired at the end of the day but today I do heavy work and sit for a rest every hour.  How I took it for granted.

But I suspect we’ve never thought about this when we open the Bible, this book which is filled with activity, human beings all doing their own things, some good, some not so good and some downright bad. And there’s another thing we take for granted – our conscience, that tells us, “This is not good.” Or there’s what we call common sense: ”That stove look hot. I must keep at a distance or I’ll burn myself.” We stay alive by awareness. Elephants, I am told, can hear the sound of approaching clouds.  I simply use my sight.

Self-awareness can be a bane and a blessing. David wrote at one point, “Why are you cast down, oh my soul?” (Psa 42:5) So many of the psalms are songs of awareness, awareness of the world, of God, of ourselves, and we take such things for granted. I need to pray: “Lord, please forgive me that I have taken my ‘life’ for granted, I took for granted my health, my energy, my activities. I took for granted my work and my play, my endeavours and my holidays, and most of all, your blessings in my life. Thank you for making me, me, the living being that I am, able to appreciate this world, interact with this world, impact this world and even change this world. I accept this is how YOU made me. Thank you so much. Amen”   

1. Stop & See

Short Meds in the Goodness of Life: 1. Stop & See

Part 1: Appreciating Life

Gen 2:7 Then the Lord God formed a man.. and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

The things we take for granted are more than I could count on all my fingers and toes! The apostle Paul chided godless mankind for failing to see God in His world, for failing to appreciate the world He has made. The truth is that it is easy to take your eyes off reality and focus on the superficial. Throughout 2020 mankind has been focusing on Covid-19 and even many Christians have been struggling with coping with the imposed limitations because of the virus.

But one thing, among a number of things, that has been coming through this year, is a new appreciation of life and aspects of it. In the week ahead I want us to stop, to slow up and see afresh who we are. Many are still too caught up in the worries of the Pandemic but I believe we who are Christians are called to wake up to the wonders of who we are, and that has to start with the fact that we are beings designed in the image of God (Gen 1:26), living beings because God breathed life into us.

Now without going into detail of what that means (because these are supposed to be  brief meditations) the one thing we can say is that we exist because of God. To Jeremiah the Lord said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” (Jer 1:5) The psalmist echoes the same thing: “Your hands made me and formed me.” (Psa 119:73) So used are we to thinking materially, that we struggle to think that God had a hand in bringing each and every one of us into being, yet the life that energises us is life granted by God as and when He wants He withdraw it. Moses understood this: the God who gives breath to all living things.” (Num 27:16). Americans serving in the White House have a saying, so I am led to believe: “I serve at the pleasure of the President.” We Christians ought, when no one else acknowledges it, declare, “I live by the pleasure of God.”

This series of short mediations will examine the wonder of what it means to be human, so that, just perhaps, we may appreciate these lives more and be more thankful to God.

A danger we have with Scripture is that we just read it and don’t let it sink in, we don’t let its truth permeate our very beings. If these things are true – and they are – then how about appreciating each new day in a new way as we pray: “Lord thank you for this new day, thank you for the gift of life, thank you for the person you have made me to be, thank you for the opportunities that lie before me in this day, to be the person you have designed me to be. Thank you for my life. Amen.”