Peace Like an avenging angel from the east, bright blue light streaks across the evening sky. It comes unanounced unforseen and discreet to spread a blanket of comforting signs. No place is too far, deep, high or wide that it cannot reach, it must tear down diseased despair, Peace: my peace I give to you. So no fear can reach from anxieties you are released, just believe that you have received this gift so precious so vital to your increase.
Have you ever said something to the effect, “If I were God, they would all be destroyed”, (simply because someone lied or more seriously, committed a crime), or “they should be thankful I am not God”? Yes, if many of us were God or had the power of God what destruction and chaos would we cause! But thank God we do not have that kind of power. Yet there are many in powerful positions who act god-like and do create a world where there is a constant haemorrhaging of peace, joy and hope. This is because many who have power abuse it and oftentimes are so enamoured with this power that when faced with a decision that affected the vulnerable and those of questionable character, they often
hrow out the baby with the bathwater.
I was reading Daniel chapter 2 and this became obvious to me: if God was like one of us where would we be? Numbers 23 verse 19 gives a clue when it states, God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? God is unlike man because God does not lie, has no faults, whatever He says shall be done and makes all things good. Now, I return to Daniel chapter 2. In this chapter, we are told that Nebuchadnezzar’s had a dream and he not only wanted it interpreted but first, revealed by the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans. The only problem was they could not do so. It is clear that they tried to buy some time, begging the king to be reasonable and tell them the dream so they could interpret it, as was the normal order of things. But, Nebuchadnezzar did not trust them not to make something up on the fly, once they got the dream and he had a point here, because how would he know their interpretation was truthful or made up! So, he gave them an ultimatum, which probably sounded something like this “either tell me my dream and interpret it or I will kill every single one of you in Babylon”, even those who were not present or had not been given a shot at attempting his request. They all would die because he was angry at those present. I felt this was a bit harsh. What do you think?
So with the threat of certain death for all who fell under one of these categories, Daniel steps up and says, “wait, not so fast, give me some time to speak to my God and I know He will reveal all to me, so, I can give the king the answers he needs and he can save the lives of all those who now face certain death.” In the end, God comes through and Daniel is able to give the dream to Nebuchadnezzar and the interpretation as given to him by God. This leads to all being saved and Daniel acquires so much power and authority within Babylonia. However, if Daniel had failed like the others we would be reading a different story, but for God.
Now, I compare the decree made in the kingdom of Babylon, by its ruler Nebuchadnezzar, and that of God’s Kingdom in the parable spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 13. Now according to Matthew 13:24-48, in the Kingdom of God, good seeds planted by the owner of the land, are compromised by weeds planted by his enemy. The servants eventually realise what has been done, weeds growing with wheat! With this new knowledge, they ask, “should we yank out those weeds?” In his wisdom, the owner (God) says no. Why does he say this, after all this is a good solution, right? The wheat may be mistaken for weeds at this stage and vice versa which would be disastrous for the harvest. So his solution, let them both grow till the harvest. Now if we compare Nebuchadnezzar with God’s foresight, we realise how far apart they are in wisdom. Nebuchadnezzar suspected or even knew his Chaldeans, wizards, astrologers etc were charlatans but he could not discern if all supposed wise men in his kingdom were real or fake. His solution was to “cut off all their heads!” However, in the parable in Matthew 13, God was not willing to lose even one good seed planted because of a few undesirables that had found their way into his field. “Let them grow together until it is time for the separation”. So grow together they would, until the day of harvest. On the day of harvest, the weeds would be gathered and burned and the wheat gathered and stored in the barn. A much better solution to a tricky situation!
Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, God does not need to discern because he knows all, God in all His wisdom shows that His thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). He does not act out of frustration but is measured in His judgement. Therefore we should all be thankful God is not like us.
Glory Bridge Do you see me? Can you feel me? Don't despair I am always here. Crafted from your tears I will appear to colour your world when the end seems near. Do not look to me to light your way. For I bring life and promise to rainy days - as sure as an olive branch. To reach you I have to bend separate and come back together again. The light does come through but this is what is true: I must come to chase away the grey keep hopelessness at bay and bring a promise your way. I will carry you across the byways all the highways, through each maze. woven into each colour is a gift of grace. You shall never be alone.
Today I have a burning desire to consider two terms: Self-actualization and self-denial. So what does each of them mean?
Self-actualization is the complete realization of one’s potential, and the full development of one’s abilities and appreciation for life. This concept is at the top of Maslow’s’s hierarchy of needs, so not every human being reaches it.
On the other hand, we have self-denial and here we have two days in which self-denial can be defined. From the Christian perspective self-denial is:
Self-denial can never be defined as some profusion – be it ever so great – of individual acts of self-torment or asceticism. It is not suicide, since there, too, a person’s self-will can yet assert itself. Self-denial means knowing only Christ, and no longer oneself. It means seeing only Christ, who goes ahead of us, and no longer the path that is too difficult for us. Again, self-denial is saying only: He goes ahead of us; hold fast to him…
However, from a psychological perspective, it is: when you distort or deny things that are really happeningg or how you really feel about something. You may minimise your (or other people’s) concerns, ignore the problem, or blame others.
Today, I want to focus on comparing self-actualization and the Christian perception of self-denial.So, as we go along I will be interchanging self-denial with denial of self to stay firmly grounded in the definitions that align with my focus.
Self-actualization comes from Maslow’s motivational theory called, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which indicates five (5) needs that human beings have. These include, psychological needs, safety needs, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. In order to reach the stage of self-actualization, which is the “highest level that one can attain or “peak of human flourishing”, one has to successfully attain the first four. The characteristics of self-actualization include, continued freshness of appreciation, acceptance, authenticity, equanimity, purpose, efficient acceptance of reality, humanitarianism, peak experiences, good moral intuition and creative spirit. Now these characteristics seem like things we should be aimming for and even work actively to achieve. However, in the drive for self-actualization I have a question. Where is God in these characteristics? One of the characteristics speaks to moral intuition, which psychology defines as, a spontaneous moral judgement, typically about a particular problem, a particular act, or a particular agent. The use of the word spontaneous, further distances moral intuition from morality based on God’s moral standing. So where are left as christians with this theory of self-actualization? We are left to consider if this is this teory we really should be ascribing to in our daily lives.
In Matthew 16:24, Jesus said to his disciples, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me (NIV). The key term here is “deny themselves”. Since then many have asked, myself included, this very vital question, “what does it mean to deny yourself?” There are many articles that address this and the gist of them all is the beleif that sef-denial or denial of self means total submission to the will of God. Total submission means in every situation the flesh is denied the pleasures of life in favour of doing what God would have us do as his children. It further means that all that we do must be based on the desires of God and not our desires. This is difficult for many of us to understand and fully actualise. As a matter of fact, many of us will spend our lives grappling with this command, as the world we live in has many distractions, many messages that invite us to always seek self-improvement and slef-gratification as a means of attaining success. The seld is at the centre of success, according to those messages. But slef-denial or denial of self is NOT easy, and this is why it is important that we choose this route instead of a route that invites us to be totally focused on self. It means saying no to our impulses, no to what we feel is right as opposed to what the command of God is. I can attest to the many Ls I have taken when I have done things souly based on feelings. When my intution does have a foundation grounded in discerning the will of God.
If we explore Matthew 16 further, Jesus did not stop at self-denial or denial of self but he went further in 25-26 to say: For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
You see I believe that those characteristics of self-actualization will be empty without God at the centre of all we do and achieve, if we feel we can go it alone and we get to this “peak”, what will happen to our resolve when and if we do not stay at this “peak”. If we find ourslves back in the trenches and valleys we ascended from then can we make it back to the “peak” without denying self and clinging to God.
To arrive at anything looking like self-actualization, we have to first desire to know God, follow him and place him at the centre of all things. Unlike the American Humanist, Abraham Maslow’s pyramid we have to have God as the fundamental need of all human beings. Not religion but God. While I can conceed that having God would not be in Masloe’s pyramid as an atheist, that does not invalidate the importance of making this distinction. Above all each person has to decide if attaining self-actualization really is important. May be it is and maybe it is not. However, we need to go to God at all stages of our lives, through our myriad of experiences we need constant connection with God. What direction will you take and can you achieve self-actualization while you seek first the Kingdom of God?
Foreigner in a Weary Land I am a foreigner, here on this dirt. I am but a stranger allowed to wander in the desert. among those who are no greater but no less. Love me for what I do not possess no fine things to dazzle and oppress. I misguided left my father's house and have experienced many a droughts. But here I am a stranger still trying to find out what is God's will. You all are mine and I am yours from this time till forever more. Here, I sit upon a rock, and dream and shift seemingly tossed about to drift. Yet all along as I go and come I never forget whence I am from, and to whom I belong.
Hope Hope lingers, expectantly. Cleaving valiantly, to the promise of cleansing rains. It moves gingerly, through the landmines of our minds. It rides the wave, of the sewage built up over the years. The Coming is soon, like the rising sun after the moon a harvest after the monsoon. Hope gives birth to redemption, to change the perception of the world's dire despair. Now it shines, to wakeup the weary somnambulist. When it falls like Manna, catch it. And plant it in your garden.
Think in Peace I sit in the garden, the garden of peace, and rest upon the Lord. Then a great rushing voice like a might wind spoke gently to my soul "Think in peace, and live in peace and know that you are blessed. Rest contented, be at ease, you know you are defended by the master and His elects. For here in this garden there is no burden only salvation of this you can be certain".