Remove the Fog
Do you know the danger sign of a stagnant spiritual journey? Do you know the danger signs that could seriously damage the church? Our journey stagnates for a number of reasons as we get caught up in a fast-paced life and changing environment. It happens when we leave “our first charity.” It happens when we take our eye off what the church is all about. Spiritually healthy individuals and churches are constantly asking questions of themselves to search out what the Lord is calling them to, and if they are meeting the needs around them. We read from Apocalypse Revealed n.82 (Emanuel Swedenborg) about the importance of searching out what we hold as most important:
For to the extent that a person is engaged in good endeavours in his life, to the same extent he is in possession of doctrinal truths really, but not the reverse. The reason is that goods of life open the inner recesses of the mind, and when these have been opened, truths appear in their own light, causing them to be not only understood, but also loved. Not so when doctrinal teachings are regarded primarily or in first place.
From the passage above we see that a life of good, or a life of care and thoughtfulness, or a useful life is the first or primary focus of a spiritual life and therefore of the church. It also points out that a life of care and thoughtfulness opens our minds to truly understanding what the Lord is teaching. When doctrinal teaching is in first place, however, ideas enter only as far as our memory knowledge and are not really understood or loved.
It is important to have a clear idea of what is of primary importance for our spiritual journey as this will guide and direct all that we do. The danger for any individual or any church organisation is when we lose sight of what is of primary importance. When we don’t have a clear idea, our minds become foggy and clouded over. We stop asking questions like, “What is my/our purpose, and how am I/the church doing?”
We see the importance of asking questions when we consider the process of repentance. The first step is asking some difficult and uncomfortable questions of ourselves. We have to be courageous and ask the Lord to show us where we are falling short. If we ignore this teaching from the Lord, we head for danger. Spiritual danger has a way of creeping up on us slowly until we are suddenly surprised by the state we are in.
No one and no church needs to be surprised. There are always signs of trouble if we are willing to look. Those signs come in the form of negative feelings and thoughts that rise up within us as we engage with others at work, home, or around church life. The warning signs within us are feelings of anger, fear, frustration, criticism, judgment, control, defensiveness, division, etc…
Remember, our spiritual purpose is to focus on charity, which is a life of care and thoughtfulness. When negative feelings and their related thoughts rise up inside us, we should be able to recognise the danger and turn to the Lord for help. We become better at doing this the more we are willing to examine ourselves honestly, to ask deeper questions of ourselves to uncover the dangers within, and committing to turn away from them and renew our walk with the Lord.
When negative feelings and their related thoughts go unchecked by not questioning ourselves, we slowly allow them to become more acceptable. The result being we see anger and judgement as normal. We see control and divisiveness as acceptable. Our minds become filled with fog and we can’t see that we are involved in hurting others.
Similarly, the spiritual purpose of the church is to focus on charity. The troubles for a church organisation result from the rising up and spilling out of our individual negative thoughts and feelings into the whole. This negatively affects interactions with others while we engage in church activities and acts of service.
Here are some symptoms of the spilling out of our negative inner life. These are from a book “There’s Hope for Your Church” (Gary Mcintosh). He lists some signs of trouble as; Low morale, downward momentum in attendance, defensive attitudes, passive attitude, consolidation of power, lack of vision, tolerance of known sin and unproductive ministries.
Some questions to consider; Do you see any of those warning signs in our church? When you reflect on yourself, ask the questions, “Am I focused on the New Church idea of charity? Where am I falling short? How can I do better?”
When you reflect on the church, ask yourself, “Are we, as a whole, focused on the New Church idea of charity? Where are we falling short? How can we do better?”
Reflecting on yourself or what is near and dear to you is very difficult (see TCR n.535 below). It can fill you with fear or even despair. Remember, the Lord is with you, He wants to guide you to look deeper. He is always with you, pressing and urging to bring you into safety through personal spiritual growth.
To come into the Lord’s safety means we must first remove the fog that clouds our minds, to first see and admit to the problems that exist.
Examining ourselves and judging ourselves as guilty are spiritual skills that need constant work until they become spiritual habits, whether we are talking about ourselves as individuals or as a church. There are many passages and plain sayings of the Lord which establish the act of repentance, which is the removing of the fog that prevents us from really seeing ourselves. This is the first step in moving forward and in growing, and salvation depends upon it.
John preached the baptism of repentance and said, Produce fruit worthy of repentance.Luke 3:3, 8; Mark 1:4.
Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent.Matthew 4:17.
And He said, Repent, because the kingdom of God is at hand.Mark 1:14-15.
Here are some more teachings for a new church in you:
To the extent that we turn our backs on evil deeds we are with the Lord and in the Lord; and to the extent that we are in the Lord the good deeds we do come not from ourselves but from the Lord.Life n.21 – Emanuel Swedenborg
It is amazing but true that it is easy for any of us to rebuke someone else who is intending to do something evil and say, “Don’t do that – that’s a sin!” And yet it is difficult for us to say the same thing to ourselves. The reason is that saying it to ourselves requires a movement of the will, but saying it to someone else requires only a low level of thought based on things we have heard.
There was an investigation in the spiritual world to see which people were capable of doing this second type of repentance (movement of the will). It was discovered that there are as few of such people as there are doves in a vast desert. Some people indicated that they were indeed capable of this second type of repentance, but that they were incapable of examining themselves and confessing their sins before God.True Christian Religion n.535 – Emanuel Swedenborg
My core mission: To support everyone’s focus on igniting a love for all. ~Pastor Mark