faith, worry, doubt, where attention goes energy flows, Divine Presence, Great Creator, creative solutions, perfect peace, anxiety, impacts of anxiety, fear, focus, safety, decision-making, Divine help, God Box, personal responsibility, accountability, be anxious for nothing, gratitude, aligned action, blind faith, patience, trust, confidence

The challenge of Faith: Worry Worships the Problem

I recently saw an image posted on social media: “Worry is worshipping the problem”. And without a doubt, I believe that where attention goes, energy flows. I have to regularly stop myself and ask: “Where are you focussing your attention – on the problem or the solution?” 

More than this, however, I bring myself back to the reminder that I live in the presence of the Divine. And if I claim to be practising Divine Presence in my life, how is it expressed when faced with problems or challenges?  

Am I keeping my attention and focus on the Great Creator, allowing creative solutions to flow to me? 

When my mind is focused and stayed on the Divine, perfect peace holds me. I trust in both the process and the outcome.

When my mind is focused and stayed on the Divine, perfect peace holds me. I trust in both the process and the outcome. Isaiah 26:3

The effects of worry 

When we stay worried – in a stressed state – this impacts us on several levels. One of the primary organs hit by stress and worry is your heart, including your arteries and blood vessels. Consequently, your heart beats faster and harder, resulting in inflamed arterial walls. This inflammation impacts your health: 

  • hardening of the arteries 
  • unhealthy cholesterol levels 
  • high blood pressure 
  • heart attacks 
  • stroke. 

Even in the Bible, we read:  

Anxiety weighs down the heart

Proverbs 12:25

And again: 

So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body 

Ecclesiastes 11:10

Other impacts of anxiety:

When we are anxious and worrying, it’s more than just our heart that gets hit. Blood sugar levels also rise, with the need for more energy caused by adrenaline and then cortisol. We don’t burn off this extra energy; we have passive worry and anxiety. So, those high blood sugar levels, intended to help us escape danger, stay in the body without being burned up for energy.  

Our worry also impacts our immune system, weakening it. Our bodies struggle to defend against illness and disease. Additionally, we contend with gut and digestive issues. That knot in your stomach becomes an ulcer or indigestion. Your worries might even impact bowel motility. 

We hold this worry and anxiety in our bodies, as well as impacting the central nervous system. To cope, we create: 

  • eating disorders – not eating or over-eating; 
  • bad habits & addictions, and 
  • insomnia and disturbed sleep patterns.  

Worry also impacts our relationships, job performance and the ability to make decisions.  

Despite knowing all this: we continue to worry and focus on the problem, not the solutions.  

let go and let God, the God Box

The problem with staying anxious & worried: 

Anxiety is a state of distraction and prolonged suffering. Our worrying creates a physical and emotional response, in the present moment, regarding a future possibility. It is not an inevitable future outcome but uncertain. You are trying to predict the future and possibly are catastrophising. It may not turn out as you create it in your imagination. And it is indeed not happening right now.  

Worry stems from fear. Typically, this is our fear of not being enough or having enough talent, resources, or abilities to face life’s challenges.  

This anxiety creates less focus, where you can no longer concentrate on the task at hand. You might become irritable and easily thrown off balance. It’s easy to become disengaged, showing up either as fight and flight or being withdrawn. 

Worry reduces your ability to weed out distractions, making it easy to fall into: 

  • social media 
  • news
  • a train of worrying thoughts 
  • meaningless tasks & chores that could wait 

All of this comes together to impair decision-making.  

Chasing safety 

Unfortunately, part of your brain got unplugged and disengaged by worry! Worry and anxiety lead you towards what might seem (from a limited perspective) the safest choice. But the safest option is not always the best solution.  

Good decision-making requires flexibility in your thinking and looking at the problem and solutions from various perspectives. Do you have the ability to look above and beyond the present moment and conditions? 

  • Weigh up the consequences 
  • Plan for the future 
  • Use logical processing  

Another challenge when you are worried is that you might not talk about your fears. It’s more than asking for Divine help and guidance. Sometimes you need to talk to people. Perhaps you ask the Divine to get the right people to show up for you. 

Finally, when we are worried and overwhelmed, we respond in two opposing ways: 

  1. We consider too few options and become fixated. 
  2. We overthink all the available options under the sun, a scattered mind that is unable to focus. Because there are too many options, we get overwhelmed.  

In both cases, we procrastinate. Then, as we run out of time, we pick the first solution because we want to escape the overwhelming feelings. Of course, if we had proactively studied the options earlier, a different outcome would emerge. 

Where are you focused when times are hard? 

The Divine invites us to trust: to set a divine intention and then hold that intention as being true. Perhaps the intention is as simple as: 

I am capable of making good decisions, guided by Spirit.  

We challenge the worry and anxiety and get present in this moment – here and now. Right now, I am safe and secure.  

The purpose of doing this is to focus our energy and attention on the direction we should go. Worry tricks us into avoiding what we don’t want: any direction is a good direction, as long as it takes me away from ____. A good decision, on the other hand, takes us in the bearing we want to go. We have a purpose, and we turn towards our goal. 

Watch your heart with all diligence: from your heart flows the spring of life. 

Watch your heart with all diligence: from your heart flows the spring of life. Proverbs 4:3

It’s easy to get caught up worrying about all the things that are beyond our control. But it is when we focus our attention on what we can control that we get anything done. 

Things I can control: 

  • my attitude 
  • my choice to get organised 
  • where to spend and invest my time and energy 
  • time management 
  • how I respond to the challenge before me 
  • how I communicate with others 
  • whether or not I choose to share with others and ask for help 

You control whether or not you make a plan, getting specific about which steps to take in the coming days. You put time and energy into this and what you can do and who you can talk to.  

Alternatively, sometimes the best choice is to take a break: 

  • meditate 
  • pray 
  • exercise.  

The God Box

Everything else – beyond your control – where do you put that?

I put those things in my “God Box”. The God Box is a little cardboard box, hand painted and decorated on the shelf above my desk. All my worries get written on a bit of paper, folded up, and placed in the box.

I place those worries out of sight and mind. At the end of the year, as part of my end of year routine, I’ll paint a new one for 2022 with little miss and we’ll burn the 2021 box and say farewell to the worries we put away.

The power of holding an intention with faith 

As a child, my prayers to God were much like asking Santa Claus at Christmas. There was wishing as well as negotiation. As an adult, however, I believe in personal responsibility and accountability for an outcome. And yet, I believe in miracles. 

I believe in “be anxious for nothing”. And so, in every situation, I hold an intention and gratitude in my heart. I present every request for my highest good to the Divine Creator. And as a result, my heart is flooded with a peace that I cannot begin to comprehend.

I believe in "be anxious for nothing". And so, in every situation, I hold an intention and gratitude in my heart. I present every request for my highest good to the Divine Creator. And as a result, my heart is flooded with a peace that I cannot begin to comprehend.

It’s more than a helpless prayer. 

It is a proactive prayer, one in which I believe that what I have asked for will come to pass, and therefore it is safe to take steps forward on that path! 

Believe that you have received it and it will be yours!  

But it is asking with single-mindedness, without a shadow of a doubt. Can you believe that Divine Love cradles you? Are you confident that when you hold an intention for the highest good and possible outcome – daring to pour your time and energy into achieving this – it will come to pass?  

It’s more than just faith: aligned action. 

They say that if you want to walk on water, you’ve got to start by hopping out of the boat! While that might take the example to an extreme, for me, that is the definition of faith and believing: your actions fully align with what you profess to believe.  

My biggest mistakes have been made in blind faith: the faith of sitting waiting without any corresponding action.

My definition of blind faith: I expect a perfect crop without having planted any seeds, watered or weeded. Unless I have grounds to believe that someone else actually planted, watered and weeded, that’s merely blindness. It’s not faith.

Faith is stepping out and putting my plan into effect. 

Faith believes that the Divine accompanies me on every step of my path. It allows me to trust that I can listen to the still, small voice of Spirit, make a plan, and then take action.  

Keeping the faith that what you’ve planted will grow 

Sometimes, faith shows up in patience. Trust is waiting for results without growing anxious. It is confidence in the results that I hope for, resting in the assurance of what I cannot yet see.  

Faith is confidence in the results that I hope for, resting in the assurance of what I cannot yet see.

Having faith means I am filled with joy and peace as I sit trusting in the Divine. It is overflowing with hope, knowing that the power of Spirit fuels me. 

My attention, time, and energy focus on doing what I can. I let go of all aspects beyond my control. I focus on the peace that passes understanding because I place my attention on Divine Love.  

God is enriching every aspect of your lives, grace of God, will of God, called to be saints, thanksgiving, enriched in speech, knowing what to say, knowledge, lacking, having all the gifts, waiting, revealed, sustain you till the end, God is faithful, set apart for service, called into community, grace and peace, the right words to say, everything you need to know, necessary gifts, faithfulness

God is enriching every aspect of your lives

Lectionary reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 1-9

In this first letter from Paul to the Corinthians, he reminds them that not only is he designated by the will of God, but rather that all of them are also called.

Leaving aside my personal bones to pick with Paul, I cannot ignore the deep learnings that are available to us from reading this passage. Each of us, even today, has a calling. These verses remind us that we are up to this task – the task of fulfilling our purpose – because the Divine enriches every aspect of our lives.

I want to explore:

  • What we are invited into?
  • Consider the tools and gifts we are each given to fulfil our life mission.

Your Divine purpose

Every tree, every blade of grass, each bird fulfils a purpose on this planet. When we take the time to simply sit and notice, we see how each living being on earth, whether plant, animal or human, fits into the bigger scheme of life.

Nonetheless, we also see a lot of confusion – internally and in society – about our purpose and callings. Many of us are merely “staying alive” and struggling to survive.

Growing up in a very evangelical church, I was brought up to believe that my purpose would be “a cross to carry”. I was terrified of discovering my purpose, hoping it would not be a calling to go to Africa as a missionary. In churches, we talk about “knowing the will of God in your life”, but most of the time it’s put on us as “you’re called into missions” or “you’re called to preach the word of God”.

But if we take a look at most of the “heroes” of the Bible, we find that they were ordinary people with ordinary jobs. They simply happened to be in the right place at the right time. And when they were asked to step into doing something “big”, their lives had already prepared them for this.

Consider Deborah, for example. While she was considered a prophet, she was busy doing her day-to-day responsibilities of being the local “judge”. I’m pretty sure that she didn’t see her job, most days, as anything out of the ordinary. Especially if you watch any episodes of traffic courts or have ever spent a couple of hours in your local magistrate’s court, you will see the everyday complaints that people bring. There was nothing remarkable about her calling — until there was.

Knowing your Divine purpose starts with recognising that we were already given the necessary gifts to fulfil our mission. Paul reminds the Corinthians of this:

“you are not ill-equipped or slighted on any necessary gifts”.

If you are unsure what your purpose and mission are, a great place to start is looking at your talents and natural gifts and abilities. You have everything you need to fulfil your purpose in life. Because a bird has wings, it flies (or if it’s a chicken, it tries to).

I doubt cherry trees complain to each other that they wish they were able to produce oranges, and yet we waste so much of our time lamenting the gifts and talents that we don’t have.

cherry trees, enriched, loved, divine love, loved by the divine, purpose in life

Today I want to invite you to do an inventory of your natural gifts and talents, and consider your calling and purpose in this light.

Set apart for service

Think for a moment of when you are arranging a table for dinner: you go to the cupboard, and you pick up the plates. If there are four of you for dinner, you don’t choose six plates, but only four. You set them aside for service: the ones that you need when you need them.  The rest of the dishes sit in the cupboard, waiting to be shown when they will be required.

Know this: you have been set aside for service. Perhaps you feel like you are sitting in the cupboard – always on the shelf rather than in the game. I wonder if Deborah thought that she was on the shelf as she worked through listening to all the petty complaints that were brought before her.

But Paul reminds us that our purpose will be revealed.

General callings

There are two other callings, apart from our life purpose. We are called to be saints, and we are called into community.

Called to be saints

While Deborah might have been “a saint”, the first description of Deborah was that she was the wife of Lapidoth. I wonder if Lapidoth considered her to be “a saint”; probably not in the way that you and I imagine the word to mean.

So, today I invite you to rewrite your definition of what it means to be a saint!

The calling to be saints is about how we live our day-to-day lives. If I had to sum it up in one word, I would say it’s compassion: 

  • Love for the Divine, with a constant connection that we are overflowing with love and compassion
  • Love for our neighbour as ourself

Compassion allows us to be kind and patient. It will enable us to live with love in our lives, as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:

  • not envious, proud or boastful
  • not self-seeking or dishonouring others
  • it keeps no record of wrongs and is not easily angered
  • protects
  • trusts
  • hopes
  • perseveres

We are all called to live in this place of being fulling aligned with Divine Love. What is your personal definition of what it means to live as a saint? Make it realistic for you, rather than something so out of reach that you could not aspire to live each day in sainthood!

Called into community

You are also called into community: that we cannot live in isolation. Take a moment and consider what your community looks like:

  • family
  • friends
  • work colleagues
  • hobbies and activities that you participate in
  • volunteering & community activities
  • your neighbourhood where you live
  • your spiritual community

What does your community look like?

spiritual community, volunteering, charity, neighbourhood, family relationships, social life, professional relationships

God is enriching every aspect of your life

You are promised that nothing is lacking because you have all the gifts that you need. Paul describes this as

God is enriching every aspect of your lives.

He then goes on to explain what he means by this.

You are enriched in speech

This means, when you are in touch with the Divine and that deep inner knowing, you will have the right words to say. Enriched in speech is knowing what to say and when to say nothing.

Most of us want to think about what to say. We make up scenarios and speeches in our head, failing to listen to the still small voice of Spirit.

Consider silence and just going within to listen, confident that you are enriched in speech.

You are enriched in knowledge

Everything you need to know, you will know. Can you trust this?

My first “real job” at sixteen was working as a cashier at McDonald’s: “Would you like fries with that?”. Later in life, I have come to cherish what I learned from “would you like fries with that?” – because it is a lesson in upselling. McDonald’s sells millions of fries every year because of this simple phrase. The client is already there, and they have their wallet in their hand, ready to buy something. The cashier doesn’t know what the client wants, and often the result of the question is “no, but I will have…”. While they didn’t sell the fries, they got an additional sale from the client.

This mundane, everyday job taught me a skill that has served me well over the past thirty years. Am I always open to adding more value to someone else’s life?

You, too, are enriched with knowledge. You have life experiences, abilities and life lessons that you possibly haven’t tapped into. You might not be aware of everything you know.

But trust that you know everything that you need to know when you need it.  You are enriched with knowledge.

Enriched with God’s grace, peace & faithfulness

Today I want to remind you that you are enriched with grace, peace and faithfulness. I don’t mean that you show others mercy, but instead that you accept grace, be open to a peace that transcends your understanding, and that you experience Divine faithfulness towards you.

“Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.”(John Stott)

It is said that the grace of God is the opposite of karma – it’s receiving the good that you do not deserve because you are a child of God. You are loved and cherished. In my life, I can see where I have blocked grace, continuing to believe that I deserve punishment and the consequences of my decisions and actions. Nonetheless, we are enriched with grace. Are you willing to accept more grace?

enriched with grace, peace that passes understanding, peace that transforms, faithfulness

We are also enriched with peace: that peace that while we are waiting, we will be sustained emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. It’s the peace that we hold within us, even in the middle of the storm. This inner peace does not depend on what is happening in our environment. While we are aware of the situation and in touch with it – we are present – but we also connect with the Divine. It is that Divine that allows us to say

I am not overcome by the storm, because I am one with the storm.

Sometimes storms clear our path. Can you recognise this inner peace which sustains you while you wait?

Finally, the Divine is faithful, constant and true. When I say we are enriched with faithfulness, I am not referring to your faith in God, but rather how the Divine relates to you! It doesn’t matter how small your faith is, but rather that we know that Divine Love is faithful. We can trust that all things are working for our good and that we are enriched with all good things.


Our response to this is one of gratitude and thanksgiving.

If you are struggling to discover your purpose, consider a daily practice of gratitude, where you each day you focus your attention and thanksgiving on your talents, gifts, strengths and abilities. Start to notice the patterns and what you genuinely enjoy. Be grateful for the desires of your heart and the wisdom and insight that you gain from being present.

Take note of the times when you receive grace: when in spite of the natural consequences of your choices and decisions, you get a second chance! Practice thanksgiving for all those opportunities.

Start to notice when you are filled with peace, in spite of the situations and challenges you are facing. Be grateful for those moments.

Notice the presence of the Divine in your life in each moment of the day. Sit in silence and be thankful.

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Compassion: loved by the Divine

I’ve spent a lot of time, these last three weeks, in silence – being still with my thoughts. I also spent a lot of time binging on Netflix in between. I was trying to work through a particular pattern in my life that I was sick of repeating!

But, I also had to recognise that I couldn’t spend 8 hours a day just in inner work. I would reach a point where I was tired of thinking and contemplating, and wanted to be mindless and entertained. It felt like too much to try to work it all out.

Read More »
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The practice of gratitude

How do you practice gratitude?

“You say grace before meals. All right.
But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”  ― G.K. Chesterton

I’m 23 days through the 28 days of “The Magic”, by Rhonda Byrne. You can say what you like about “oh, it’s New Age” or whatever you want, but I have loved the practical application of gratitude in my life this month!Read More »

Leaving the walls in ruins

Lectionary Readings:

  1. 2 Samuel 7:1–14a
  2. Psalm 89:20–37
  3. Ephesians 2:11–22
  4. Mark 6:30–34, 53–56

What was the very first thing you did this morning when you woke up?
Think… for a moment:  How did you set the tone for your day?
Did you smile?
Did you groan?
Did you pull the covers over your head and think, just a couple more minutes, pleeeease God?
Did you say a small prayer: “Thank you God: This is the day that the Lord has made, I WILL rejoice and be glad in it!”?

How were those waking seconds?
Now… delve a little further: What is your morning routine?

  • Do you stretch and get all those toxins out of your muscles and moving through the lymphatic system?
  • Breathe deeply and get the toxins out of your lungs and fresh air to feed the cells of your body for this day?
  • Do you break your fast with water to cleanse your digestive system? Add a slice to lemon to it to improve the taste and the cleansing effect?
  • Do you go for a walk, get on the treadmill, use a rebounder, elliptic machine, body shaker – anything to wake all the cells and muscles of your body and make sure the blood and lymphatic system are truly flowing and cleansing the body?
  • How about your mind? What do you do first thing in the morning to rid your mind of the toxic thoughts and attitudes you may have suffered yesterday and ensure that today is filled with love?  Before you went to bed last night – did you let go of the toxins of the day? Or did you take them to bed with you?

As usually happens to me on the internet, I was searching for more information about the God gene and I went off on this tangent of how to renew your mind, find peace, and connect with God.  And that lead me to this webinar[1] about “how to start your day right”.

I’d never bothered to think about the first action I did when I woke up, until now that is!

Let me make a vivid comparison for you:
I’m pretty sure my first actions are groan and think: “OKAY, gotta get out of the bed and take the dogs for a walk”; stumble to the closet and get exercise gear and get dressed, make my way to the kitchen to fix a cup of tea, search the house for my keys, grab the leashes, find my mobile and earphones, and get out the door.

All the while, Susy and Mercedes are, on the other hand, bounding round the house! She woke up!  GREAT! Ah, fresh air! Scenery! Companionship!  I’m so excited. I can’t wait to go!  Yes, we’re going for a walk.  The day has begun!
They exude happiness and joy at the start of a new day.  They live in the moment.

The webinar about how to start your day right got me thinking:
What is it about the day that I groan about? Why do I “complain”?
Do I feel “obligated” to take the dogs for a walk and resent it?
In fact, I actually enjoy it.
For an hour and 10 minutes I can shut myself off from the entire world, live in the present moment and only think about walking, the scenery, the dogs, the street, the trees, and morning…
To me, it doesn’t matter what the weather is doing. I’ve gone out in the pouring rain to walk the dogs.

I have other options – I could train the dogs to get up at 6.45 instead of 5.45… I could get up and put the dogs out of the bedroom and go back to bed, and Yari would take the dogs for a walk.  I don’t actually have to take the dogs for a walk every morning.
But that hour and 10 minutes of being out, breathing deeply, listening to my affirmations and meditations, is an essential part of my morning ritual.

The affirmations go something like this:
I joyously release the past, I am at peace. I forgive others and I set myself free from them. I forgive, and I let go of the past. I am forgiven, I forgive, I forgive others. I forgive myself and I set myself free from the past. I accept others for how they are, and how they are not. I forgive myself completely, let go of the past, and choose to live in the present moment. … I love and accept myself, exactly as I am now. I love everything about myself: I am perfect, whole & complete. [2]
I am in harmony with God, … I am always connected to my source, to Spirit, to God. I am one with all that is, and with the Power that created me, with Source, with Spirit, with God. The love, power, and presence of God protects & surrounds me, wherever I am, God is. I am the manifestation and infinite possibility of God. I live life in the present moment, in the now, in Spirit. My power is in the present moment, in my Source, in Spirit, from God. Who I am is Spirit, Source, God. … God is always present in my life. [3]

So… I have made a conscious decision, from now on, when I wake up, the first thing I am going to do is SMILE, and say “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it”. I will stretch those muscles and let my body release the toxins; I will breathe deeply, while I’m waiting for the water to boil to make my tea, and drink that glass of water with lemon juice.  And THEN I’m going to put on my sneakers and go and enjoy that hour and ten minutes that I am so blessed to have that I can spend bonding with my two dogs, meditating and spending time with God; choosing to forgive and getting into the right frame of mind for the rest of the day.

I choose to leave the walls which God has broken down, as rubble; and more importantly, to clear away the rubble, rather than using it to build new walls.

Jesus, in Matthew 5:43-48 teaches us:

43-47“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. … When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

48“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

And so, in Ephesians 2:11-22 we read:

14-15The Messiah … tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. He repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped. Then he started over. Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, he created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody.

16-18Christ brought us together through his death on the cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. … He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father.

19-22That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. … You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, … God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

Think of these walls that existed at the moment that Christ died:

  1. There’s the wall that kept the Gentiles from approaching the temple – marked by signs in both Greek & Latin – warning foreigners that they would be killed if they tried to enter further…
  2. Then there’s the wall that separated the males from the females – a gender wall, INSIDE the temple… right in the middle of God’s house!
  3. And inside that wall, there’s another wall, beyond which no lay person could pass.  Priests only from hereon in!
  4. And then there’s another wall – a curtain – that separated the holy things from the unholy.  Setting apart the Holy of Holies.

And yet, here we read in Ephesians that Christ knocked ALL of these walls down.  Jesus told us, and Ephesian repeats to us – there is NO ROOM for “us and them” in this new kingdom.  Everyone is welcome to come to God, to become spiritual beings, to have that personal relationship.

It’s interesting to notice that in the original Greek text, it doesn’t actually say the “circumcised” and the “uncircumcised”.  That’s a very politically correct translation. What it actually says in Ephesians is the “circumcised” and the “foreskins” – you know, that little piece of useless flesh that you cut off and throw away!  That’s what they were calling the gentiles.  Foreskins.[4]  It wasn’t merely a description.  It was a hateful slur against the new Christians.  Used by Christians to refer to other Christians.

One of the things we can learn from this passage of Ephesians is how our view of God and our relationship with God needs to be perfected.  Ephesians is about my identity in what God has done for me.  Paul calls me to be changed by Christ – but God Himself – to allow God’s spirit to work in me every day.  The debate about circumcision was about people changing themselves (physically) so that they could make themselves acceptable.  It contrasts our view: how God loves me just the way I am and God’s Spirit works to transform me; on the other hand: I must earn God’s love by changing myself to conform to man’s standard of what God wants of me.

Do I use hateful words, just as they were hateful in former centuries? Do I build walls?

Hostility, almost inevitably, goes both ways.  When a person is cruel and unjust, there is anger.  Cruel words lead to more cruel words, forgiveness is difficult.

We all know about walls.

  • The Great Wall of China – built to protect and to keep out the invaders.
  • The wall built in November 1940, by the Nazis, in Warsaw, Poland – to create a ghetto for hundreds of thousands of Jews to segregate them from the rest of the population of the city.
  • The wall built in August 1961, separating “East” and “West”, right down the middle of Berlin.  Separating families and friends.
  • A wall built in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to separate Protestants from Catholics

Yet, somehow, all of these walls are built on the foundations of fear, misunderstanding and hatred. We build these walls to protect us from being hurt, or being changed, or being vulnerable.  My wall feeds off your wall. When I come into contact with your wall, I build mine a little higher and little thicker.  Others learn not to be trusting or vulnerable when they run into my walls.[5]

So, Christ came into this world for the purpose of tearing down walls. It’s our job, however, to let go of the rubble.

Unfortunately, many of us see the pile of rubble that used to be the wall – we see that rock or stone that reminds us of the hurtful words spoken by another, and we use it as the cornerstone to rebuild a new wall. For cement, we’ve used the mortar of name-calling, labelling and prejudice.  Rather than understanding that we need to throw away all the rubble that is left from the wall, we hold onto it.  “I might need it later”.

This is not what we are called to do.  We all live in the same house – God’s house.

Ephesians 4: 31-32 call us to:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

1 Peter 3: 8-18 reminds us:

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and
see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.

We have been given the gift of peace from God – but it’s hard to receive a gift if you aren’t holding out open hands to receive it.  It’s especially hard when your hands are busy clutching the bricks for building personal walls, especially those bricks labelled prejudice, bias and judgement.

We are God’s masterpieces, created by God to do the good works for which we were predestined.  God Himself is our peace – peace in the full sense of “Shalom”.  Not just the absence of animosity and outright fighting, but “shalom” in the sense of true oneness, wholeness and healthiness.  All roads to peace begin with God.

And to be one with God, to commune with Him, there is no room for personal or group grudges.  There’s no room for self-righteousness or holding on to hate or malice.  To be in harmony with God, we cannot break fellowship with our fellow man over differences in doctrine, liturgy, politics or controversial moral issues.  This is a denial of our oneness with God, which we have from Christ.

Christ tears down the walls – who are we to rebuild them?  Jesus abolished bitterness, unforgiveness, and unresolved anger. It chokes our fruitfulness, keeps up from growing and hinders our ability to truly pray and be in communion with God.

I started this morning, asking “how do you start each day?” Each day we have to make sure that we clean away any rubble left from the ruins of the walls that God has torn down.

The same way that we take the time to cleanse our body of toxins, we need to clean our heart and mind of the toxic materials that we used to build those walls.  The same way that we hop in the shower and let the water wash away anything that stains us, we have to let God’s love wash away all the stains in our heart.

Because we have this promise from God:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.[6]

And so we cry out each morning to God for cleansing:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.[7]

[2] Dr. Harry Henshaw – Affirmations for Forgiveness
[3] Dr. Harry Henshaw – Affirmations for Spirituality
[5] Beth Richardson.  From
[6] Ezekiel 36:26
[7] Psalms 51:10