Finding Hope

4 Types of Hope
1. Realistic Hope is hope for an outcome that is reasonable or probable. In this sense, someone with chronic pain might hope for a reduction in pain, knowing that complete eradication is unrealistic.
2. Utopian Hope is a collectively oriented hope that collaborative action can lead to a better future for all. The utopian hoper denies the present and is driven by hope to assert a better alternative.
3. Chosen Hope is critical to the management of despair and its accompanying paralysis of action. Think of someone receiving a diagnosis of a terminal illness choosing to hope.
4. Transcendent Hope encompasses three types of hope, namely:
1. Patient Hope – a hope that everything will work out well in the end.
2. Generalized Hope – hope not directed toward a specific outcome.
3. Universal Hope – a general belief in the future and a defense against despair in the face of challenges.
Christian hope is transcendent hope. It is categorically different than the first three kinds of hope. It is based on promises from God as recorded in the Bible.
Read Romans 8:18-25
Teresa of Avila, a 16th century saint, said “In light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.”
In Genesis, human rebellion against God disrupted the relationships between God, humanity and creation. The ensuing separation between God and creation led to the gradual decay of the natural order and the introduction of death.
The promise of future glory sets our present-day struggles into a very hopeful perspective, much like labor pains.
When God’s purposes come to pass, God will renovate the universe. The hope for the Christian’s future is for a redeemed people inhabiting a new creation.
The groaning for glory aches after 2 things: adoption and redemption. While these are realities in a believer’s life here and now, they are in part until the day of resurrection.
Christian hope looks forward with confidence in God’s promise. This passage is only one of many that shares promises of glory from God to humanity – while we groan.
Wesley said in the movie The Princess Bride: “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
What are some things we groan about in our day-to-day?
When people in the Bible “groan to God”, it is called a lament. It is a good practice. It is good to lament to God because this God can heal our brokenness and raise us up out of despair.
In order to be happy and whole, we need hope. Agree or disagree?
Hope has come to us in the person of Jesus, the promises of the gospel, the gift of the Spirit, and the anticipation of heaven.
Hope is not optimism; rather hope is the audacity of faith under adversity. It is the grace to face our fears, knowing that there is someone greater than the sum of all fears.
The gospel is the story of the invasion of hope into a world that knows only despair and doubt.
The hope of glory refers to the end of the often painful pilgrimage of oneself toward God. Glory is the place where groanings are no more, where groanings are only a faint memory of what came before, a wrinkle in time in the midst of peace, praise and joy with God.
Hope overcomes the inertia of despair and energizes people with a vision that the future might be better than what things are like in the present.

Anxiety!!! Help!!!

November 28, 2022
Let’s set the stage with what the Bible has to say about anxiety.
Read Proverbs 12:25
We ought to speak good words to each other.
Read Matthew 6:28-34
Reality seems to negate these words. People starve, have inadequate clothing and shelter – what about that? Is Jesus ignorant of reality?
No. Jesus is addressing his followers, who have enough to meet their needs. Not everything in the Bible can be applied to every situation. Here, Jesus is not addressing injustice and oppression. He is addressing his followers.
What Jesus might be saying to us is that his teachings assume the reality and availability of provisions, in which case we are to set out and trust God for what we need. Being sensitive to stop and see the hand of God at work in this world gives us the understanding that God loves and cares for us. Following Jesus reshapes what we value most – our central yearning.
Read John 14:25-27
God provides us with the Holy Spirit so we can be care-free and at peace. With that, the relationship with God is open. We can pray freely.
Read Philippians 4:6

Anxiety is like a car’s “check engine” light. Anxiety is not the problem, but it alerts us to a problem – something requires our attention.
Avoiding, ignoring or “accepting” anxiety, just like avoiding a “check engine” light, is not going to be helpful. [“Accepting” is in quotes because it suggests the mindset “this is just the way I am” and I can’t/won’t do anything about it. Validating is different and important – noticing one’s anxiety with appropriate responses.]
Compassionate self-talk is the fastest way through anxiety. Being kind to yourself brings balance to your system.
Processing grief is the path towards finding your whole self.
We began this fall’s series with death and a discussion about grief. There is much more that needs to be grieved than death. Name some things that need grieving:
Anytime anything changes, there is a degree of grief, even if the change is a positive change. Name a few changes that need grieving:
Suppressing grief takes a lot of emotional energy. We avoid processing grief because we find it difficult to come to terms with life after the change. Anxieties work to keep grief away – not helpful.
Grief work is like organizing a messy closet: everything is organized into tote bins and stacked neatly inside. That way, nothing falls on your head when you open the closet doors.
To the degree that you are willing to grieve is the degree you’re able to heal and find joy. The tasks of grieving are this:
1. Admit that that thing has happened.
2. Feel all the feelings of that thing that has happened.
3. Determine what needs to change now that this thing has happened: what boundaries need to change, what relationship changes need to happen, etc.
4. What do you want to do now, in the new reality?
We can’t always trust what our mind and bodies are telling us because anxiety distorts our thinking and our nervous system. We can’t always trust our feelings. We need to learn to trust other resources: God, friends, checking facts, and challenging our assumptions.
We tend to know what anxiety feels like in our bodies. Do we know what safety feels like in our bodies?
Lord, go with us into this week and grant us the favour of your presence, a sensitivity to the promptings of your Holy Spirit, and gratitude for the provisions you have given us to live in hope. The Lord bless you and keep you. Receive his peace. Amen.

Not War But Peace – But How?

Why is there war?

From last time: Jesus practiced peace even to the point of going so far as to pray for his persecutors from the cross. (Lk. 23:34)

God’s Kingdom is and will be established not through intimidation and/or domination but through self-sacrificial love, as modeled by Jesus Christ.

In the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7), Jesus commanded us to be peacemakers and to love our enemies. (Matthew 5:9; 5:38–39; 5:43–45). In these teachings, Jesus says that God is a peacemaker, and since followers of Jesus are God’s children, we are peacemakers too, not warmakers. There are no exceptions, and no justifications for warfare ever. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, states: [Romans 12:1-2]

Many would consider these teachings as naïve, impractical, and idealistic. But as Martin Luther King Jr. wrote so well about this call to love our enemies, “Jesus is not an impractical idealist: he is the practical realist.” King also stated: “Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love one’s enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival.”

How would you respond to King’s statement above?

Paul continues in his letter with these instructions: [Romans 12:17-21]

Goodness can reverse evil. Thoughts? How is this the same/different from your experience?

Paul is calling upon Christians to not do anything that would lead to conflict with others, though others might still create conflict with them. Paul is simply saying that while Christian peacefulness is essential, it still does not guarantee a peaceful existence. Christians have no promise of peace in this world, same as anyone.

Jesus told his friends this: [Matthew 10:28]

Jesus insists that death should not be avoided at all costs (like by selling your soul). The death of the body is not the ultimate loss. The death of body and soul together in hell is the ultimate loss. Holding one’s life on earth loosely while holding one’s eternal life tightly is what that is about.

How did Jesus show this at his own death? How could you live more like this?

God equips their followers. Paul explains how in his letter to the Ephesians in Ephesians 6:10-18

This passage is referred to as “The Whole Armour of God.” What are the pieces of armour Paul mentions?

In Paul’s days, what would armour for real, physical war look like?

What does “armour” for our (individual) relational battles often look like?

Considering Paul’s “Armour of God” and Jesus’ statement in Matthew 10, how might we choose to live differently?

What results might we experience if we live according to these Bible teachings? Are you willing to risk it? Why or why not?

The “Ten Commandments” for those seeking to live a life of nonviolence. Active nonviolence calls us:

  1. To learn to recognize and respect“the sacred” in every person, including in ourselves, and in every piece of Creation.
  2. To accept oneself deeply, “who I am” with all my gifts and richness, with all my limitations, errors, failings and weaknesses, and to realize that I am accepted by God.
  3. To recognize that what I resent, and perhaps even detest, in another, comes from my difficulty in admitting that this same reality lives also in me.
  4. To renounce dualism, the “us/them” mentality. This divides us into “good people/bad people” and allows us to demonize the adversary. It is the root of authoritarian and exclusivist behavior. It generates racism and makes conflicts and wars possible.
  5. To face fear and to deal with it not mainly with courage but with love.
  6. To understand and accept that theNew Creation, the building up of the Beloved Community is always carried forward with others. It is never a “solo act.”
  7. To see ourselves as a part of the whole creation to which we foster a relationship of love, not of mastery, remembering that the destruction of our planet is a profoundly spiritual problem, not simply a scientific or technological one.We are one.
  8. To be ready to suffer, perhaps even with joy, if we believe this will help liberate thedivine in others. This includes the acceptance of our place and moment in history with its trauma and its ambiguities.
  9. To be capable of celebration, of joy, when the presence of God has been accepted, and when it has not been to help discover and recognize this fact.
  10. To slow down, to be patient, planting the seeds of love and forgiveness in our own hearts and in the hearts of those around us. Slowly we will grow in love, compassion and the capacity to forgive.

 

War: The God of Wrath?

October 17, 2022

Some people view the God of the Old Testament as a God of wrath and the God of the New Testament as the God of love. Is it actually the same God? How come they appear so different?

They are one and the same God. The Bible is one continuous story, and people change, and God, though deemed “unchangeable” changes their tactics to accomplish their unchangeable purpose. By looking at little snippets of scripture from here and there, it appears that God is inconsistent.

God chose the people of Israel for a special purpose.

Read Genesis 12:1-6

In those days in history, a land, a people, their king and their god were all intimately connected. Each tribe had their own leader, their land, and their god. When God “gave” Canaan to the Israelites, it was therefore important to remove the previous inhabitants, the Canaanites, in order to remove the influence that their gods, their theology, their idols, would have on the Israelites. This is why God instructed them to wage war, but only after the locals had been given a chance to leave or turn their faith and trust to the one true God.

The God of the Old Testament had a reason for calling Israel to be their people, and it was this:

Read Isaiah 49:6

The people of Israel, God’s chosen people, were to be a “light to the nations” by living according to God’s rules, the Ten Commandments, by living in a way that brings harmony, the way God had intended at the outset. You can’t be a light to dark nations if you are the same as them. So Israel was called to live to God’s high standard. It was because “God so loved the world…” that God asked this of them – so that all people everywhere could see what it takes to live in harmony. To do this, they needed to get rid of other idols and worship only the Creator God. This proved to be too difficult for them to manage. They sinned in all sorts of ways, and the Old Testament records many of the failures of the people Israel.

In some ways, it seems like God gave up on them. There is a 400-year gap between the Old and New Testaments. In the meantime, Israel had been invaded, people had been dragged into exile, different factions had various ideas of what it meant to be God’s people.

Then Jesus was born as “God-in-the-flesh.” Because the Old Testament Israelites had not gotten the message on how to live from all the prophets sent by God, God came in person, to physically show people how to live by being a perfect example. Those Old Testament people were a bit like some Christians today who hear a sermon but continue to live sinful lives because it didn’t change them. But when they see someone living authentically with integrity, then they wake up and notice God in action.

God has always been love. God loved the world they made and therefore called Israel to be that model society for others to imitate. When Israel couldn’t achieve that, God came in person, in Jesus, to model how to live. Jesus was killed because he was too radically different and upset the leadership. He shook them down to their roots because I bet they realized they got it all wrong and they didn’t want to change:

Read Matthew 23:27

So they eliminated the one who shed light on their darkness. God’s consistency as God of love is stated quite plainly John 3:16:

Read John 3:16-18

And through the actions and teachings of Jesus, God also demonstrated what love looks like. The ultimate words to prove this are those of Jesus, though wrongly accused, tortured, and crucified:

Read Luke 23:33-38

God is a God of love and justice. Love without justice is not love, justice without love is harsh. God’s justice is not like ours. Where we like to exceed “an eye for an eye,” with punishment, Jesus said to turn the other cheek, and to love one’s enemies, to act with grace to enact restorative justice, to bring about “shalom,” which is again  God’s initial design for creation in the garden of Eden.

People have often taken parts of the Bible to justify war, but today’s learning hopefully shows that war cannot be justified. God’s wars in the Old Testament were for that time and place to achieve God’s purpose of bringing peace and love to all people. Even then it was a last resort, after grace had been extended – but refused. We all have to choose God who always waits with open arms.

Good Grief!

Grief is:

  • ________________________________________________
  • ________________________________________________
  • ________________________________________________
  • ________________________________________________

[John 11:17, 33-37]

What emotions can you detect in this passage?

Which emotions are part of grief?

This story ends with Jesus calling Lazarus back to life and all the people are astounded at the miracle. According to the gospel accounts, Jesus brought several people back to life. Most people, however, once they die remain so. That is our experience with death.

Believers in Jesus do have hope, even though while in grief, someone else might have to hold that for them for a while. The hope that Christians have comes from several verses in scripture like this one: [Revelation 21:4]

Eternity will be a wholly different experience than life on earth. Life here can be hard. This promise provides hope for a better future in heaven. Also, not only is there hope in eternity, but in this life as well. Jesus said: [Matthew 5:4]

Mourning is part of grief. God has arranged comfort for those who mourn. Also: [Psalm 23:4]

This is the famous psalm that begins with “The Lord is my shepherd”, written by King David. David used to herd sheep when he was young and understands this metaphor much better than we do today. A shepherd keeps their sheep from all danger, and when tragedy does strike, they take care good of their injured or sick sheep. We might understand a mother/child metaphor better.

What is King David trying to assert through this metaphor?

Do you ever feel God’s rod and staff comforting you? Explain.

The apostle Paul, in the letter he wrote to the believers in the city of Corinth, wrote this: (He LOVES writing run-on sentences, so take your time with this one.) [2 Corinthians 1:3-4]

Who is the comforter of believers?

Who comforts others?

How do we comfort those who are “afflicted”?

(Affliction is 1. a cause of persistent pain or distress as in “a mysterious affliction”; 2. great suffering as in “felt empathy with their affliction” and 3. the state of being afflicted by something that causes suffering as in “her affliction with polio”.) Death of a loved one, severe illness, accidents etc. are therefore all afflictions.

There are (at least) six basic needs in the grief process.

  1. To have the pain witnessed and acknowledged.
    1. Their world has changed forever
    2. Just sit with them, accepting them where they are at.
    3. Do not try to cheer them up. That is dishonouring. No platitudes like, “At least…”!!
  2. To express feelings
    1. For them to find and identify their feelings
    2. Feel the feelings, don’t describe them intellectually.
    3. Take breaks through distractions whenever needed. Touch the feeling, then withdraw. Repeat. Accept grace.
  3. To release guilt
    1. Guilt is about control which was lost. We would much rather be guilty than helpless.
    2. Allow this feeling, talk about it. Run down and explore every “what if” rabbit hole.
  4. Work through old wounds.
    1. “Why me?” is a symptom of an old wound.
    2. Old wounds can be helpful in new afflictions that require grieving.
  5. Integrating the pain and the love
    1. Millions of baby steps towards acceptance of the new reality after the loss. Life will never be the same.
  6. Finding meaning after the loss
    1. Not to find meaning in the loss – it is often meaningless
    2. Meaning is not in the loss; it is in you.
    3. Finding meaning by working through the loss.
    4. Having meaning is a decision to live and honour the loss.

Grief is complex. All of these points are part of it, in no particular order or time-frame. When the world tells us we are “doing grief wrong,” we can rest assured that we are not. Grief is always a personal journey best done with support and without judgment. Lean on friends, family, and professionals as much as you can. It is a personal journey but not one to be taken alone.

Update

Please note that gatherings have moved to Monday evenings. One exception is the October 30 Sunday evening gathering because Halloween falls on the Monday: happy Trick + Treat, little goblins!

On Life After Death

Life Without End, part 1                               September 15, 2022

The Bible mentions life after death many times. This story is one of many. It is a story Jesus told to make a point, so it’s not to be taken literally, like a newspaper story.

Read The Rich Man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31

What is your initial reaction to this story?

Do you find it fair? – for both the rich man and for Lazarus? For God? For you?

Looking at the last part of the conversation between Abraham and the rich man, what do you think and how do you feel about Abraham’s final answer?

Then read Psalm 19:1-4

Recognizing that most psalms are written as poetry, which then loses its rhyme in translation, how do you understand these verses?

If God’s glory is displayed for all people to see, what reasons might people have for not seeing it, not understanding it, refusing it, etc…

Where do you stand with regard to eternity, belief in God, etc.?

There is truth in scripture, but it has to be understood in a contextual way. It is necessary to learn God’s ways from the stories in the Bible, and then read it all in light of how you have come to understand God – not an easy task. But: John 14:6-7 teaches us that by knowing Jesus, we know God

Observing Jesus’ life, listening to his teachings, understanding his motivation, getting to know his heart all help us to understand what God is like. God cares for the poor, the strangers, the lonely, the outcasts. God heals, restores, and calls people into their family by adoption.

God through scripture, through Jesus, gives us hope that our lives are worth more than is evident to the eye. We all matter. We are here because God made us and loves us, we are a piece of God’s creative genius. However, all of us get damaged in various ways because of the evil that exists. This leads to difficulties in life, requiring healing and restoration to wholeness. One way that happens is through our love of others and gratitude towards God.

Do you see that as being true? How?

Is it easy or difficult? Explain.

 

May the strength of God pilot us, the wisdom of God instruct us, the hand of God protect us, the word of God direct us. Go in peace.

Reframing Life

There is wisdom to be gained. You might think the Bible is an ancient book that has nothing to do with our modern day and age. But wisdom is wisdom. It applies to every age. How do we read the Bible in order to gain wisdom?  That is a good questions, especially when the Bible has been used so often to tell us “how we should live” without taking context into consideration. But throwing the Bible out as an ancient and useless book is not wise either – because there is much wisdom in it that really and truly helps us live more wisely today. For the first half of 2022, we will be exploring Biblical wisdom with regards to money, connection, health, home, and work.

Cornerstone gathers every other Thursday from 5:30-7:30 at Knox Presbyterian Church in Dunnville. Please check out Cornerstone’s Facebook page for up-to-date information on events, gatherings, etc…

We’re having an Easter bonfire on Thursday, April 14!! Mark your calendar and come out to have some down-on-the-farm fun. (Details on Facebook)

Forgive Like Jesus, part 1

  1. The world has much to say about forgiveness, from the Mayo clinic to Oprah. Forgiveness can happen in 6, 12, or 14 steps, depending on which website you look. Positive Psychology defines forgiveness as an individual, voluntary internal process of letting go of feelings and thoughts of resentment, bitterness, anger, and the need for vengeance and retribution toward someone who we believe has wronged us, including ourselves. Sounds pretty straight forward, so why can it be so hard?
  2. God is good. God desires us to be happy, healthy, joyful, and loving life. Forgiveness is God’s gift to us to help make this beautiful life possible. I am sure we all know those feeling of hurt, anger, sadness, or other negative emotions when someone wrongs us and we haven’t forgiven them (yet). That is normal, but it does not have to stay that way. Change is always hard. We are creatures of comfort, and change is not that. We may even be afraid of change, afraid of forgiving someone, thinking it might result in a negative outcome. That also is normal. Still, change is 100% normal, and part of life. To be afraid of change is akin to being afraid of being human. Fear not! Is one of Jesus’ frequent things to say.
  3. Jesus taught a lot about forgiveness, and it’s a little different than the definition from yesterday. We are going to explore what Jesus had to say about forgiveness in this series, and work through our own feelings towards those who have wronged us. Everyone needs to forgive someone at some time. (I found it easiest to practice on my kids when they were little, because they would so easily forgive me when I yelled at them.)