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Friday, October 21, 2011

The problem of those first time prayers and how we do it
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"You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."
- C.S. Lewis

    

Praying!

Foolishness!




That’s one emotion a person can first experience when asked to pray for the first time if they have not been self-motivated to attempt this rather strange way of communicating.

People can feel embarrassed as they try to talk to this unseen person “God”. They can feel they are talking to themselves. This can be a horrible and unpleasant feeling.

Pressured prayer of this nature not true prayer, and this is why that poor individual subjected to this craziness has difficulty performing and feels cheated afterwards.

Prayer needs to be a response within a human heart to God. It should not be a pressure, but a thankful or urgent response to the grace of God.

Ritualistic prayer, written out and repeated, is likely to bridge this gap somewhat. This is because ritualistic prayer sometimes enables us to express in words things we want to say, but don’t know how to do it. We identify with these words of others, as our own. This gives us opportunity to connect with God in a true way.

However, often repeated, it is easy for this to settle into a dull meaningless ritual. The words are prayer, but the reality is, it is not! It is no more than an empty incantation if our mind, emotions and will are not connecting our spirits with God.

Like the sun peaking through clouds and highlighting a grassy meadow in a forest clearing, is that simple prayer, expressed from the heart in mumbled almost incoherent words, as a person, understanding God’s grace for the first time, has to respond in a way we human always respond to other when given the chance. By speaking! 

This is motivated from within and is a deep pure purpose. Perhaps others will encourage this, but it is always an individual’s response. Even when it is part of what others could call a ritualistic prayer.

There are so many types of prayer. Prayer where we chat to God as we consider his amazing attributes and truths is called contemplative prayer. This is perhaps a higher form of prayer than the one where we plead and cajole God to do something for us. The reason is, that this second type (give the term petitionary prayer) can easily be incorrectly motivated.

So many people see this petitionary prayer as manipulating or at least being the continual noise in God’s ear that gets him to listen and do things.

Craziness again! God already is aware of all things.

He put this world with its laws together. Man chose to distort the design and so generates pain for himself and others.

The pleading of man must be done with an understanding that the reason for the situation is not somehow God’s mis-management or lack of attention to detail, but that man’s free will cannot be overwhelmed and the consequences are great. Petitionary prayer in its best form is also somewhat contemplative and while we can pour our hearts out to God expressing our pain and hurt while asking for some lifting of the situation, we need to understand that this prayer is more about us changing , than God doing.

As we connect with God and see the pain and horror that would really result without his love, we understand in more detail how he has balanced life to obtain the best, while not removing the free will of men and the sin they have introduced into everyones lives.

Prayer can occur without words, it can be a yearning of the heart for God, with God’s purpose, and for God’s intervention in this world.

In future blogs I will talk about the response side of prayer, the way God communicates with us, but one of these forms is within prayer itself. It occurs as our spirit aligns with God’s and through pouring our hearts out to Him, we gain insights switching our attitudes and minds into healthier and more fruitful paths.

This said, there is another form of prayer that is less well considered but equally as important. Spontaneous prayer! This is a fast reactionary response of the heart.

Let me give an example. I was drilling a hole into a thick piece of timber when my drill suddenly escaped out the other side. As I had been pressing in hard and  was bent over low down, I fell forward. Directly in front of me was a sharp metal bar with a small cross piece (about 3mm) that was part of a clamp. The bar and cross piece came towards my eye faster than I could do anything to avoid it!

Before words could be spoken (this took place in a split second) my heart reached out to God as I realized I was about to loose my sight in that eye.

A wordless spontaneous prayer acknowledging God was the one in control of this universe, and I was about to undergo one of the greatest challenges of my life, blindness! In those milliseconds, my mind registered that God’s will is his and that I would accept whatever he was to allow, but I would prefer not to be blind.

This is spontaneous, non-verbal prayer.

Next thing, pain erupted as the bar and cross piece ploughed into the eye socket. Redness blocked vision and yet, God’s peace was already with me!

Without panic, I stopped and considered my predicament not moving quickly at all. With immense care, not moving my eye and trying not to cause any further damage, I felt the bar and around my eye and found it had penetrated between the eyeball and the socket. Very, very, carefully and slowly I pulled it out. Then I tried to see something with that eye!

Nothing except red!


Now the second type of non-verbal prayer erupted from my heart. In my mind, I petitioned God that if it was his will I would not loose my sight. Thoughts of how I would not be able to help my family and other people as much without an eye as with an eye flew through my mind.

As each one occurred I handed them to God asking for a miracle of sight, but accepting He is supreme and if it was not to be, that would be okay. Now I was praying with words in my mind, not a wordless prayer, but not verbally.

It turns out that other than cutting my eyelid, the inside of the eye socket and scratching the eyeball, there was no damage. I have fully recovered!

Prayer! To some it is foolishness, to some what happened to me is all coincidence.

To me, Gods presence and my responses with Him, allowed me to deal with a horrible situation in a super stabilizing and calm way. The result could have been horrible and was not. A miracle? Some say no! I on the other hand say yes! I saw my doom and there was no avoiding it according to my assessment. Yet, it was avoided!

So friend, prayer for the first time may be foolishness, but as we develop a deep loving relationship with almighty God, that is life changing.

Let’s not forget that today!
Fri, October 21, 2011 | link          Comments

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Forgiveness is not enough is it?
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"Impossible situations can become possible miracles."
Robert H. Schuller





    Ever got yourself into a situation that seems impossible to overcome, where every path seems to lead to trouble?

We get tired don’t we?

Yet, it is in times like these were really need reserves we need to turn t,o the place where power and joy comes from and we need to tap into it fully.

There was this guy who was as high up in the political and power echelons as you could go. Autocratic ruler who had everyone around him agreeing with his every whim because if they didn’t he could exact nasty punishment.

Then he walks out onto his balcony and sees his neighbours wife taking a sud filled bath, totally naked and the sexual urges start. He finds out who she is married to and chats to the high ups in the army in which this guy serves getting him put into the center of the battle zone hot spot.

The guy is killed and the neighbours wife is his! Yay! At least that’s what he thought!

Turns out he wasn’t at the top of the political and power echelons, God was!

God sends a guy to tell him he has screwed up and abused the power and authority that GOD had given him and that he was in for a tough time because he now had GOD against him.

Can you imaging how he felt? The guys name was David. King David to be exact.

Now he knew he was in trouble! If you annoy someone who can’t do you too much damage, you may get away with it. Annoy God and you are totally screwed!

David is a song writer and when song writers get all emotional they put their words into a song. Here are some things he says…

He starts by pleading his case in psalm 51. . .

God, show me your favor
      in keeping with your faithful love.
   Because your love is so tender and kind,
      wipe out my lawless acts.
 Wash away all of the evil things I've done.
      Make me pure from my sin.

Notice he doesn’t waste time try to say what he will do to get things right, he goes to the source, God, and looks at God’s attributes, finding those attributes God values highly which are “love” and “forgiveness” and appealing to these.

He doesn’t bother trying to deny what he has done, he knows God knows exactly what this is so he acknowledges this.

I know the lawless acts I've committed.
      I can't forget my sin.
You are the one I've really sinned against.
      I've done what is evil in your sight.
   So you are right when you sentence me.
      You are fair when you judge me.
I know I've been a sinner ever since I was born.
      I've been a sinner ever since my mother became pregnant with me.

He does however admit to more than just the one thing he has done wrong he admits to all he has ever done wrong. How do we respond to God in times like this? Admitting to one failing or that we are basically evil and continually do the wrong things?

He looks for things he know God wants and asks for them. . .

I know that you want truth to be in my heart.
      You teach me wisdom deep down inside me.


Then he gets to the central requests. Even then he starts softly. . .

Let me hear you say, "Your sins are forgiven."
      That will bring me joy and gladness.
      Let the body you have broken be glad.
Take away all of my sins.
      Wipe away all of the evil things I've done.

When we screw up we so want to hear these words don’t we? We think it will all be okay if we hear them, but David knew better, he knew even if this occurred, even if his sins were forgiven THIS WAS NOT ENOUGH!

Do we get this? Do we get that forgiveness from evil we have done, IS NOT ENOUGH!

I know I often forget this most important aspect in life and I am glad David did not. Being free from the evil and repercussions of what we have done leaves a vacuum. An emptiness that will need to be filled, or joy will not return.

That’s why the next words are so important. . .

God, create a pure heart in me.
      Give me a new spirit that is faithful to you.
Don't send me away from you.
      Don't take your Holy Spirit away from me.
 Give me back the joy that comes from being saved by you.
      Give me a spirit that obeys you. That will keep me going.

Being in the presence of God day and night is the critical aspect. If we do not have this, we do not fully live. To have the joy of life we need the joy of God’s spirit within us guiding and working us into the right paths of life.

David knew this!

 Now he is ready to explain what he will do if this occurs! Now once he has positioned himself as he is, the sinner, totally dependent on God’s love, forgiveness and mercy, needing gracious handling, and once forgiven, being kept alongside God by having his Holy Spirit with him.

Only now, does he explain what he plans to do once in this situation. . .

Then I will teach your ways to those who commit lawless acts.
      And sinners will turn back to you.
You are the God who saves me.
      I have committed murder.
      Take away my guilt.
   Then my tongue will sing about how right you are
      no matter what you do.
 Lord, open my lips so that I can speak.
      Then my mouth will praise you.

Who can explain Gods grace better than those who have done terrible things and received it? David knew this and offers to use this to God’s advantage.

 Then he points out that he knows what God really wants. . .

 You don't take delight in sacrifice.
      If you did, I would bring it.
      You don't take pleasure in burnt offerings.
  The greatest sacrifice you want is a broken spirit.
      God, you will gladly accept a heart
      that is broken because of sadness over sin.

 A brokenness due to what we do wrong is central! Only God can change our situation and being in God’s presence, being alongside our only true loving Father is our true purpose.

Let me crystallize this in another analogy. A husband and wife split up and live separately angry and blaming each other. Let’s say they agree to truly forgive each other, is that enough. Has true healing occurred? Id there joy?

Not really, forgiveness needs to be accompanied by coming back together with the intimacy and love of true relationship. Only then is life worth living!

Intimacy with God is where we find joy in life! Forgiveness is not enough is it?

I need to remember this sometimes, don’t we all?
Thu, October 20, 2011 | link          Comments

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Greed and grabbing evil for evil purposes- cancer gene patenting
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"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed"
Mahatma Gandhi



   Maybe you don’t know about this series of court cases about whether companies can patent cancer genes but it is happening in the USA right now!

Do we even care?

An article "Battle Over Gene Patenting Rages On" [1]by Cristina Luiggi | October 18, 2011 says;

“The case challenging the right of a healthcare company to patent cancer genes may make it all the way to the US Supreme Court”

and continues quoting the Public Patent Foundation as explaining that

 “Myriad’s monopoly on the BRCA genes makes it impossible for women to use other tests or get a second opinion about their results, and allows Myriad to charge a high rate for their tests—over $3,000, which is too expensive for some women to afford”

This is what I see as corporate greed attempting to limit public freedom!

It’s about taking something that should be used to help everyone, information on gene’s and in this case cancer genes, and making sure nobody else does anything else with it so that they can produce drugs and treatments and charge people huge amounts because they have to pay or die!

Greed is evil!


This makes me think of what that Christian, Paul, said to another bunch of people, the Ephesians, many years ago. He said;



“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.” Eph 4:17

 I know our courts are not Christian and so this argument holds no interest for them.

Greed is not something that the law legislates against, but our moral code is based on the Christian guidelines and these do tell us not use greed as a motivator.

I am sure Myriad has sunk lots of money into defining these genes, but that should be used to get them going ahead of the rest of the crowd, and developing things more accurately and quicker. Perhaps people who use the genes information should be forced to refer to Myriad as the source in each usage so they get lots of publicity and marketing mileage, but withholding research and potential for new and better cures from the world is in my terms greedy and unChristian.

Cancer genes belong to the cancer, not to a company, like my genes belong to me.

Should I charge everyone who wants to do a DNA test on me, money, because they are looking into my genetic code. How ludicrous!

Corporates are made of people and greed ultimately tempts each of us.

This week I walked into a home of an elderly couple. One room home, stone walls, bed in one corner, stove in the opposite. A fire in a wood stove heats this little home. They have limited but sufficient water and little electricity (runs lights and a microwave).

I was forced to think of how much I have! As I use this computer, look at my breakfast, think of my car and how I will spend my day with college graduates discussing complex problems that are very abstract from reality, I realise I also have to think about how I do things. How greedy am I?

We all want to be “comfortable” and “have enough”. When is this at the expense of others? Individually when is this? Corporately when is this? Nationally when is this?

If Jesus were here, how would he speak out against the excesses in our lives?

It’s easy to speak out against Myriad without looking at ourselves, but that would be insincere.

In what ways can I curtail my greed today? In what ways can you curtail your greed?

That’s a thought to take with us today, isn’t it?



[1] http://the-scientist.com/2011/10/18/battle-over-gene-patenting-rages-on/

Wed, October 19, 2011 | link          Comments

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wow, what we eat can modify our genes!
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I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 
Psalm 139:14 NIV


    
 We are made of DNA but today I was reading a really interesting but complex article on how (Luiggi, 2011)[1] plant RNAs were found in humans.

This article explains how the food we eat has genetic material that can go through our gastrointestinal tract and enter into our blood and tissues and from there can regulate our gene expression.

MicroRNAs from plants accumulate into our bodies but come from plants such as rice, broccoli, cabbage.

These microRNA bind to messenger RNA’s and in so doing modify genes. Let me try and explain how this happens. . . .(A video showing some processes is found here)

The microRNA these researchers found, get into us through being eaten. Then they think these microRNA’s are being taken up by the cells in the intestine (epithelial cells) and from there get loaded into a transportation taxi type object called microvesicles where they go into the circulation and travel around the body looking for a destination.

One stop off spot is the liver and here they have been shown to interact with the location our body uses to remove bad cholesterol from our blood (the low-density lipoprotein receptor). In some ways, the food we eat thorough genes modifies how our body reacts to cholesterol.

Amazing isn’t it?

I find this type of information is fascinating as it shows the complexity of life.

While I know the amount of time to develop these system is supposed to be incredible large, I also know that humans like us have really only been in our current format for about 200 thousand years, and agriculture is way younger, perhaps a tenth of that time.

So how did our bodies adapt in this incredible way so quickly? How do we change with such rapidity in such a short time.

Random chance and selection may be the faith many have, but I feel that there is more direction to this randomness than chance.

Perhaps God gently nudges our development path preparing us for even more complex foods, viruses, and intruders in ways we do not as yet understand.

Perhaps God is daily intervening in the quantum level of life where the uncertainties we humans find complex are fully understood, being used by Him.

Perhaps we are still doing what he asked us to do and that is to name all these living components as we find them. The way the layers of beauty and complexity are revealed level by level as we strip outermost layers is incredible.

We worship an amazing God don’t we?

It is awe inspiring to have people discover these truths he knows and see the simplicity, yet complexity of creation.

So as we deal with people today, let's remember they are wonderfully made and being made by our incredible God!



[1] http://the-scientist.com/2011/09/20/plant-rnas-found-in-mammals/

Tue, October 18, 2011 | link          Comments

Monday, October 17, 2011

Opening the door on experience, means never going back! (Remember Dolly the sheep!)
Opening the door on experience, means never going back! (Remember Dolly the sheep!)  
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"Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn."
C.S. Lewis

 
Do you remember that time that all the newspapers were reporting on Dolly the cloned sheep?

People immediately got worried that humans would start to be cloned!

 
Should they have worried about this?
 
That was 1996, Dolly died in 2003 and this concern disappeared from the public eye. We are so fickle!

Dolly had three mothers at birth. One provided an egg that had its DNA stripped, the second DNA and a third carried the egg with the new DNA to term, giving birth to a cloned sheep.

Recently, I was reading a science article (that’s complicated but I will simplify it’s message) that said “Somatic cell nuclear transfer has shown limited success in animal studies, which have successfully isolated pluripotent cells.  Like Dolly the sheep, these microscopic embryos can also be implanted into a host uterus, where they develop into a fetus and grow into adult animals after birth.

In humans, somatic transfer has been less fruitful—the egg cell quits dividing and often dies after nuclear transfer.  In the best case, an early embryo consisting of a few cells may form, but these are not capable of giving rise to human life, nor hESCs for therapeutic purposes.”[1]

The highlighting is mine. Basically this article is saying they are finding a way to potentially make human stem cells that could produce a human clone but the part I really want to focus on is the words “In humans, somatic transfer has been less fruitful—the egg cell quits dividing and often dies after nuclear transfer.”

How do they know this?

They know this because they have been trying to DO human cloning!

 Despite all the ethics committees, government regulation and public placating measures, people went and did it anyhow!

That’s what happens when we as humans open ourselves to experience new things. Both as people and as the human race, we can never go back on experience. The atom once split inevitable led to nuclear power and bombs. The cell once cloned, led to human cloning being attempted.

Not being able to go back on experiences is the problem with many aspects of personal experiences as well;

That sex on prom night that opens us to new experiences perhaps before we need to have them,

that alcoholic drink that we laugh about but which comes back to drag us down when we are already depressed,

that gambled dollar because we are in a pinch that gets us a winning so that when we get back in that pinch, perhaps with more to loose, we loose it all and end off in despair,

and I’m sure we can think of others without my help!

We all know of experiences we would like to undo! There was even a TV series made that focused on this one regret called Erica where she goes back to undo the past mistakes (often not well).

This weekend I was chatting to young people and advised them to say to themselves :

“I need to understand it before I experience it!”

We all need this!

Understanding where we are heading before the Pandora’s box is opened to release the poisons of life into our souls.

For those that don’t know, Pandora’s box alludes to a Greek story where a Greek god had all the evils of the world put in a jar and given to Pandora who opened it, letting all out except hope.

I prefer the Christian story of how evil came into the world because it puts the blame firmly on human shoulders where it should be. Read up on Adam and Eve to find out about it if you don’t already know.

Opening up experiences in our lives is a firmly human decision!

We don’t need to experience everything!

Our media pushes us to do this as if it is utopia because they want us captive to experiences and then to make money from our addictions!

Think about it! How captive are we? How addicted are we? How much do we bow to those who suck our lives into their wallets!

Happiness is often really found in contentment!

Contentment is the opposite of pushing forward to experience new things.

While I am not saying we should stagnate, I am suggesting that to really bless ourselves in this world we understand what experiences may do to us before we experience them.

In Christian terms we must weight God’s word against what we plan to do, to ensure we don’t unleash a holocaust of evil into an unsuspecting world, or at least release evil into that small remaining innocent part of our lives.

SO, let’s remember that as we experience the day, God needs to be in control, not us, and that we need to understand what we are getting into before we step out with “blind” faith!

 Have a great day!


[1] http://the-scientist.com/2011/10/05/new-way-to-make-embryonic-stem-cells/

Mon, October 17, 2011 | link          Comments


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