Christ, Our Fellowship, Part 12
Being “in the moment” requires the Christian to accept graciously the things that God sends our way. When we accept those things, we become “one” with God in purpose. We also enter into fellowship with Him. One of the best ways – in my opinion – to accomplish this is to learn the art of praising God for everything that comes our way, both good and bad. It is not what Paul “suggests” to us, but something he declares to us (1 Thessalonians 5:17-19).
Praise is the best way to get beyond self and to appreciate God and His sovereignty. It is also extremely difficult to praise God when we don’t feel like praising Him, but this is why it is called a “sacrifice” of praise (Hebrews 13:15). It’s so easy to praise God when we are happy or filled with joy over something, isn’t it? The true mark of a growing, dedicated Christian is seen in their ability to praise God when they don’t feel like it, when they’re not happy or filled with joy about something. I believe this is also the quickest way to enter into fellowship with God because when we praise Him in all circumstances, we are acknowledging His sovereignty over our lives. We are agreeing with Him that we want exactly what He wants in spite of the discomfort or frustration His will may initially cause for us. In comparison to what Jesus sacrificed for us, our submission to His will is really nothing.
But there is something else that has come over the horizon and is being accepted by the masses today, even in some church settings that is nothing more than a self-centered way of looking at life. It is variously called Mindfulness of Purpose or simply Mindfulness. Mindfulness is little more than Buddhism and has, unfortunately, found its way into the mainstream classroom as an official part of the elementary curriculum. The goal of course, is to get students when they are young, to help them tame their inner beast as it were, so that they can become productive citizens in society.
Mindfulness is a form of Transcendental Meditation or Eastern Mysticism.
In essence, a good definition for Mindfulness is found here:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
Whereas the Christian’s goal should be to become “one” in purpose with God the Father, so that His plans, His purposes occur in and through us as we live our lives here on earth (in order that He would be glorified willingly in and through us as open channels for Him to work through), Mindfulness does something different.
Here is an example of how Mindfulness works as provided in the article, “What is Mindfulness?”
Let’s take that example of eating and look at it a bit further. When we are purposefully aware of eating, we are consciously being aware of the process of eating. We’re deliberately noticing the sensations and our responses to those sensations. We’re noticing the mind wandering, and when it does wander we purposefully bring our attention back.
The article goes onto break the art of Mindfulness down even further.
Left to itself the mind wanders through all kinds of thoughts — including thoughts expressing anger, craving, depression, revenge, self-pity, etc. As we indulge in these kinds of thoughts we reinforce those emotions in our hearts and cause ourselves to suffer. Mostly these thoughts are about the past or future. The past no longer exists. The future is just a fantasy until it happens. The one moment we actually can experience — the present moment — is the one we seem most to avoid.
Summarizing it, the author of the article notes…
So in mindfulness we’re concerned with noticing what’s going on right now. That doesn’t mean we can no longer think about the past or future, but when we do so we do so mindfully, so that we’re aware that right now we’re thinking about the past or future.
For the uninitiated or new Christian, this might even sound “Christian.” It certainly has a religious ring to it though practitioners would argue that Mindfulness is not part of a religion. In fact, it is Buddhist-based and whether people consider that to be a religion or simply an ideology, Christians should be aware that it is most definitely a religious system designed to take the practitioners eyes off of God and onto self.
Mindfulness teaches young minds how to be thoroughly aware of their surroundings on purpose so that they can rise above situations by not reacting to them. The ultimate goal of Mindfulness is to not automatically react emotionally to situations, but to simply be aware of situations and not react.
Cognitively, mindfulness is aware that certain experiences are pleasant and some are unpleasant, but on an emotional level we simply don’t react. We call this “equanimity” — stillness and balance of mind.
It’s not difficult to see how such a system actually increases the focus on self. Its goal is to aggrandize self by teaching individuals to constantly look to self as they experience their environment. Conversely, the goal of the Christian’s fellowship with God is to move away from self (and toward God in fellowship), so that our focus becomes God and His will for our lives. It should be asy to see why Mindfulness and Christianity are diametrically opposed to one another.
Yet, how many people would like to walk through life, experiencing each moment and doing so in a way that is considered nonjudgmental? Most people actually want that and would do what they could to be able to achieve those results. God wants us to direct our attention to Him in all things. The Bible – throughout – tells us that praising Him is one of the best ways to place and keep our minds on God.
Mindfulness directs our attention inward, toward self and focuses on how self reacts in various situations. The goal in Mindfulness is to empower self so that it controls how we act and react, instead of acting and reacting based on our emotions. Ultimately, with Mindfulness, self is still in charge and directs the way a person thinks and acts. It’s a very deceptive way of keeping self fully enthroned in a person’s life. The person who practices Mindfulness simply increases their reliance on self.
It should be easy to see how such a system is completely opposed to God and His purposes. What He wants for us is what Jesus accomplished in the Garden of Gethsemane. Though not every decision we are faced with will cause our knees to give way underneath us (thank God), the truth remains that learning and accepting God’s will for our life is something that should be practiced by the Christian until it becomes second nature. Even then, mistakes can be made by the Christian and Moses is a perfect example of this when he failed to obey God’s revealed will and instead of simply speaking to the rock, Moses struck it (cf. Numbers 20:1-13).
One of the best ways to bring ourselves into God’s presence and fellowship is through the venue of praise. There are probably many times we will not feel like praising Him at all, but we need to do it. We will likely feel hypocritical about praising Him because we won’t feel like it. In those cases, we need only recall Job’s response to God and how he praised God with purpose even after learning everything he had just lost, including his own flesh and blood children. I cannot imagine how that must have felt, though losing my sister was difficult enough. At the time, though I begged Him to heal her (she was in a coma for about a week prior to her death), He chose instead to fulfill His specific will for her. I learned to praise Him for His wisdom and for His strength in getting me through a very difficult time.
If anyone reading this has a better idea about how to enter into fellowship with God, rather than though praise, please feel free to share. The Psalms are filled with commands to praise God, to continually have praise for Him on our lips (Psalm 34:11; Hebrews 13:15, etc.). How can we argue with that, especially when the commands to do so come from King David, the writer of Hebrews, the apostle Paul, or even as we clearly see in the life of Jesus Himself?
The Bible tells us that just prior to his murder, the very first Christian martyr – Stephen – had the wherewithal to keep his mind focused on God, but I fully believe it was because of that focus that Stephen was actually enabled to pray for those who persecuted him.
Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep, (Acts 7:60).
That is absolutely amazing to me. Here was a man who – because of his faith in Jesus – was being harassed to the point where those persecuting and judging him dragged him outside the city and stoned him to death. So aligned with Satan’s purposes (not God’s even though they were the “religious” leaders of Israel), that they were blind to the heinous act they were committing. I’m sure they imagined they were doing God a favor, like what radicalized Muslims do today. Yet, in spite of their abject hatred of Stephen and the truth he preached, Stephen was so in line with God’s purposes that he stepped in for these men – on their behalf – and as his final request, asked God not to count this sin against them.
Imagine them as they will stand before God at the Great White Throne judgment to learn that what they did that day was not only wicked, but something for which God forgave them all because Stephen was focused on God so much so that he had no time to consider being selfish. Stephen had turned away from self and enjoyed the radiance of the God of glory.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55-56)
Stephen was in full fellowship mode with God even before his own stoning and God was the One who prompted Stephen to ask for forgiveness on their behalf. That desire for forgiveness only developed within Stephen because of his focus on the Son of Man!
This is the goal for all of us. We are to fellowship with God to the point that His will becomes our will and we join in with Him completing His will joyfully. In that final hour of his life, Stephen had partnered with God to fulfill God’s will.
Folks, we cannot live the Christian life from the heart without God. We can put it on and we may even appear as though we are living it from the heart (from outward appearances), but if we are not in fellowship with God, we are not partnered with Him. If we are not partnered with Him, we are not living a life of obedience from a heart that overflows with gratitude to God and mercy toward others. We can try to imitate that in our own strength and we may fool people and even ourselves. The problem though is if it is done from self, it will burn up as either wood, hay, or stubble when we stand before Him (1 Corinthians 3:12).
Only those things done by us as a result of being in true fellowship with God, partnering with Him to accomplish His purposes count for gain. Stephen could have put on a bold face, but instead, he praised God (v. 56). This so enraged those who were not in God’s will, that all they could think about was murder.
I really want to do God’s will and I want to do it voluntarily, from the heart. The only way – at this point – that I can understand how to do this consistently is through praising God for all things.
Now, if only I could remember to do this at all times and in response to every situation God sends my way, I would likely be able to create a habit of continual praise. Would you please pray for me in this regard? I would really appreciate it.
Entry filed under: christianity, Eastern Mysticism, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: buddhism, in all things give thanks, mindfulness, mindfulness of purpose, praise the lord.