The Tempter Within

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The Lord’s Prayer: part 4 of 6

And leave us not in temptation, but deliver us from evil.

There are a number of versions of this line in the Lord’s Prayer. The traditional version is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. The Aramaic version reads, And let us not enter into temptation, but deliver us from evil. The version I’m using is suggested by Charles Fillmore who argued that the Lord would never lead us into temptation. Likewise, it is a bit awkward to think that if we succumbed to temptation, we could blame the Lord. I asked you to make sure I didn’t enter temptation, and here I am. Do you mind explaining why you let me do this?

Again, if we take the affirmative approach to this line, we will find it a helpful reminder that our strength is always present even in our weakest moments.

There are times when you feel flush with strength and optimism, when you know that you can move forward with confidence regardless of what the obstacles appear to be. Then there are those times when the appearances get the best of you. You look out and survey the landscape of your life and you wonder why you ever thought you could succeed. At such moments it is important to remember that God, your unfailing source of strength, power and wisdom, can never leave you.

The tempter within is not an entity that is trying to snare your soul and lead you to a path of self destruction. It is that lesser self in you, that region of consciousness that does not grasp the fuller truth of the omnipresence of God. The word evil can be understood as error or erroneous thinking, thinking that is based on appearances and half truths rather than on the truth of your wholeness and the potential for wholeness that your life holds perpetually. So, our conceptual translation of this line would go something like this: In my moments of weakness, your limitless love, power and wisdom lift me above all erroneous appearances … Making this inner shift connects you with your point of strength and you again move forward in confidence and in peace. 

 

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The Prospering Act of Forgiveness

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Part 3 of 6

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

It’s interesting to note in this line that the fulfillment of our daily bread, our daily needs, is tied to the act of forgiveness. If, as I suggested in the previous lesson, you assume for this prayer the affirmative point of view, you see this line as saying, My needs for today are met and all blocks to my greater good are removed as I release all resentments of the past. These words depict both receptive and releasing attitudes of mind.

The receptive attitude is substantiated by the idea that God is a loving provider, a willing source of good. An attitude of release indicates that the key to a greater flow of good is your act of letting go of anything that blocks the flow. When you hold resentment for even the smallest offense, your thought and emotional energies accumulate around that offense creating a blockage that hinders the free flow of the divine. It is like dropping a large rock in an irrigation ditch. Soon other debris catches on the rock, hampering the free-flow of water. Forgiveness is the equivalent of removing the rock and restoring the natural flow of life-giving water.

In another place, Jesus speaks of this dynamic in this slightly different way: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24). It’s all about keeping your mind an open channel through which the infinite life of God may manifest in continually expansive ways.

Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity, pointed out that mind is the “common meeting ground of God and man.” When our mind is locked in resentment, our creativity and receptivity become restricted to a very narrow level of operation. This line in the Lord’s Prayer reminds us to keep the avenue of mind open and fluid.

 

 

The Expansive Action of God

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Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Like the first line in the Lord’s Prayer, this second line also expresses three ideas that are important to a prayerfully receptive state. It is generally believed that this prayer is petitionary, that it makes requests of God. However, many modern biblical scholars tell us we should think of this prayer as affirmative in nature, that it should be spoken in a manner similar to this: Thy kingdom is here, thy will is being done on earth as it is in heaven.

This attitude aligns our thinking with the truth that the fullness of God (kingdom of God) is here and the will of God (absolute good) is unfolding right now. In relation to a challenge you may be undergoing, you are to think of God’s help as already present and that only absolute good is unfolding through your life, that what is already true at the unseen level (heaven) is also manifesting at the level of the visible (earth).

This attitude allows you to take your focus off the limitations of the apparent problem and turn it to the limitless possibilities of Spirit. Spirit is unformed intelligent energy and it is always looking for ways to express through specific channels. A seed you hold in your hand is endowed with this life, but it must be planted in a growing environment to begin its transformative process. Then this unseen life and intelligence, the kingdom of God, becomes evident. The expansive will of the Creative Life Force manifests.

When you pray, always remember that you are not attempting to get God to act; you are agreeing to open yourself to the action of God.

 

Open Your Mind

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Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name …

In this first line of the Lord’s Prayer, we are exposed to three important ideas. We can think of these ideas as a preparatory mindset that opens us to receive.

Our Father suggests a loving relationship with God. Jesus was raised in a culture that taught God was punishing. He taught that God would not give you a serpent if you ask for a fish, or a stone if you ask for bread. This form of address carries the idea of God as a supportive parent. How different this is to the thought that we may not be deserving or worthy of the good we ask for. We are to approach God as if God were a loving parent.

Who art in heaven, carries a meaning that is not readily apparent to one who thinks of heaven as a place in the sky. Jesus compared heaven to yeast in bread dough and a mustard see that expands into a tree. Heaven carries the idea of expansion. When you pray, open your mind to new possibilities. Let go of your old perceptions. Allow your level of expectation to expand into the realm of infinite possibility.

Hallowed be thy name is an affirmation of God as wholeness. The wholeness you seek, whether it is in the form of health, a solution to a problem or a prosperity challenge is present right now. Wholeness is the nature of God. In other words, act as if that which you seek, that which is for your highest good is already present. You become receptive and expectant of this good.

Become conscious of these three ideas. Practice them all even if you do not use this exact prayer. They will help open your mind to the good you desire.

Asking God for Help

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Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9

This gem of truth could be stated like this: God doesn’t give us things we do not ask for. So why is it that we sometimes pray for one thing and get its apparent opposite? Is God playing games, testing us like Job to see how we hold up under pressure? Or, is there something to the observation of James who suggests that prayers are not answered because the one praying is praying amiss?

A standard guitar has six strings. When all six strings are in tune, a strummed chord will produce a pleasant sound. If even one string is out of tune, you can hold the right chord and strum correctly, but the sound will be unpleasant. The sound you get is based on a predictable set of principles that will always give you the same result when you comply with the governing rules.

If we assume that Jesus is articulating a spiritual principle, then we also have to assume that our mixed results stem from our mixed asking. If you pray for a solution then rack your brain trying to come up with the answer, you have a string out of tune. If you pray for a solution expecting it to unfold in perfect order, all your strings are tuned and you synchronize yourself with the creative manifestation process.

The whole state of mind from which you ask, like the six strings of a guitar, produces a vibration that is either in tune or out of tune with the manifestation process. If you pray from a consciousness of doubt and fear, you will tend to create material conditions that support your doubts and fears. This is why Jesus said we must believe in our heart when we pray.

God does not give us things we do not ask for. Tune your whole being to the solution you seek, and it will come forth.

The Value of Letting Go

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No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved” (Matthew 9:16-17).

In these two parables, Jesus furnishes us with a graphic illustration of a very important, freeing dynamic: the action of letting go. It is one thing to retain information for present and future use. It would be cumbersome if we had to relearn to drive our car every time we slipped into the driver’s seat. However, if we dredged up the memory of a past auto accident every time we took the wheel, our paranoia may hinder our present driving performance.

If you carry old wounds into a new day, you prevent yourself from seeing and experiencing the potential for new avenues of creative opportunity. Jesus said to let the dead bury the dead and let the challenges of this day be the ones we give our full attention. How much of our creative energy is drained away replaying old hurts and dredging up old things we should or should not have done?

The full action of God is present in each new moment. Created in the image and after the likeness of God, each one of us is intended to bring the full force of our creative energy to bear on the things we have to do each day. We say we do not have enough time or energy to do what we would really like to do? How does God attend the minutest detail of this vast universe? By being fully present in each new moment.

Fortunately, you and I do not have the responsibility of running the universe. All we are expected to do is live our lives successfully. We can learn from God by being fully present in this now moment, by giving our attention to the tasks at hand, and to let go of the problems of the past we can do nothing about. New wine, new wineskins is a thought worth holding each time we are tempted to pick up the old.

 

Where is Your Heart?

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Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

An important key to understanding the kingdom that Jesus spoke of is that it is spiritual in nature, not material. The material is the effect of an underlying spiritual cause. “ … what is seen was made out of things which do not appear” (Heb. 11:3).

To “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” is an instruction to build a consciousness of God as your invisible, ever-abundant source of all good, knowing this consciousness draws to us a material counterpart in the form of conditions and things.

When you pray for healing, for example, seek to envision the reality of your present spiritual wholeness. Affirm that your wholeness is your reality, that it is now interacting with the atoms and cells of your physical body in ways that demonstrate wholeness. If you feel stuck in your life, quietly open your mind to the borderless reality of spirit within you, that inner energy that is even now building and sustaining worlds that have not entered your mind. Focus on putting your being in motion in new directions. Open the floodgates of new inspiration. Don’t struggle toward a new external condition. Affirm a new inner condition by seeing and feeling where you want to go emotionally.

Scriptures like this one have caused people to denounce the material realm as an interference to their spiritual life. This scripture does not denounce materiality, it simply puts it in perspective. According to the gospels Jesus manifested loaves and fishes and initiated many physical healings. He was a master of the material domain because his heart was in the all-encompassing reality of his unfailing spiritual resource.