Friday, January 18, 2019

Why Don’t I Feel Like I Am Saved? If I Am Saved Why Don’t I Feel Like It?

By Reverend Mark Hunnemann

Continued from:

Imagine you have a very rich uncle, and when he died you are informed by his attorney that he left you 100 million dollars. Suppose this happened but when you heard the news you refused to believe it; it seemed unreal—too good to be true. So, for several months the full amount of the money was in your bank account but you made no withdrawals on it; it just sat there unused. That would be sad and unfortunate wouldn’t it, especially if you are struggling mightily just to make ends meet? You are a millionaire many time over but it has not made a bit of difference in your life; indeed you live as if you were a pauper when you are incredibly rich!

Similarly, by virtue of our union with Christ, we have NOW at our disposal all the spiritual riches imaginable, including the firm assurance of our eternal salvation; look at this verse in Ephesians.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (Eph.1:3)  He HAS blessed us…with every spiritual blessing. Pretty amazing deposit in our spiritual bank account! But how many of us live in light of this blessed truth? Lack of assurance will certainly make one feel like a spiritual pauper, but having assurance is heaven on earth!

In his lovely prayer which begins at v.15 Paul basically prays that we would deeply understand the fullness of the riches we have received in Christ. He knew that it was easy for Christians to live as if they were spiritual paupers, when we have no idea of how spiritual wealthy we are now. Like the rich uncle who died and left his inheritance, we have been left an incalculable inheritance in Christ but most Christians devalue or are unaware of how blessed we are in Christ. This ‘richness’ would certainly include the full assurance of faith; a deep sense that our faith is real and that God will not let us go. I said last time, that Christians with a robust assurance live as if they were experiencing heaven on earth!

How can we grow in our assurance? I touched on this last time but there are more issues to address.

First, we must not confuse the foundation of our salvation with its superstructure. Justification (foundation) is an eschatological reality; it is the verdict of the last day brought forward into our present experience. It is complete and nothing can be added to it. Justification is complete and perfect the moment we believe, and cannot be augmented or diminished. Sanctification is the superstructure built on top of this and sanctification IS progressive. But justification is final, complete and irreversible.  Justification is the Last Day declaration of ‘not guilty’ as well as the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to me. Please see the first segment which argues for the perseverance of the saints—without this foundation, it is impossible to attain to full and robust assurance.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)  Where does your faith come from? God.

We are justified by faith alone but our faith contributes nothing to our justification—it is 100% God’s gift to us—that could not be more clearly stated in above text. Faith is the instrument by which we lay hold of Christ. Yet the very folks who quote those verses all the time to show that we are not saved by good works, often do not see that it also indubitably affirms that we did not generate that faith; it was a grace gift from God. Faith is the empty mouth that feeds on Christ, or the empty hands that receive God’s free gift. The faith you express to receive justification is given to you by God; it is not self-generated from your flesh. Please listen: as long as we think that WE generated faith and it contributes to our justification/salvation, then instead of: experiencing weak faith which should lead to rejoicing in a strong Christ…when we experience weak faith it leads to loss of assurance of our salvation. So, when we experience bouts of weak faith, let that lead us to the object of our faith—an omnipotent Christ! We are not saved by faith in faith but faith in Jesus Christ. No matter how weak our faith may be, does not diminish one iota the strength of the object of our weak faith—King Jesus! Our assurance lies in the strength of our Savior and not the strength of our faith.

In some circles there is such a strong emphasis on remembering your conversion, that those who are uncertain about the timing of their salvation are then led to doubt the reality of their salvation. But as with physical birth where it is not important that we remember our birth, but the important thing is that we are alive now, and that entails that we most certainly were born physically! Similarly, you may not remember the moment of your conversion (I don’t) but the important issue is this: am I spiritually alive now? That is all that is needed for assurance of salvation.

Second, inconsistent obedience will lead to lack of assurance. Do we think that the indwelling Holy Spirit will give us inner comfortings regarding our salvation, when we are living in unholiness and grieving Him? A sweet and robust assurance is connected to striving for holiness. We are certainly not speaking of perfection, but a passion to please God in all areas of life. Low levels of personal holiness will lead to low levels of assurance of salvation.

Third, a misunderstanding of affliction or suffering will lead to problems with assurance. If you ask people how they know if God loves them, many will refer to His blessings as the evidence of His love. But what happens when God’s providence becomes hard and difficult? What happens when there is a ‘crook in the lot’? Do we base our apprehension of God’s love on our circumstances? If so, then we are in trouble because we live in a fallen world in which the godliest are promised by Jesus that we WILL experience suffering in this life. Circumstances neither indicate one's character (as Job’s wretched counselors assumed) nor are they indicators of God’s attitude towards us. God’s providence is mostly a mystery to us, and it often has harsh realities—we live in a terribly broken world in which we (and our loved ones) get sick and die. If you live long enough, you will experience suffering of some kind. The cross, and not our circumstances, is God’s evidence of His love for us.

In fact, many people will attest that their lives got more complicated and more painful after they believed in Christ. When the Holy Spirit indwells us, then that is when the warfare begins between indwelling sin and the indwelling Christ. The Lord promised peace IN the problems, not a guarantee of a route around the problems.

Lastly, the devil will throw up hindrances to assurance. He is a better theologian than most people. He knows that a true believer cannot be damned, so he will do all he can to make them doubt their salvation and drive them to despair. The Holy Spirit will convict you to lead you to repentance, but the devil ‘convicts’ to accuse—“You cannot be a Christian if you act or talk like that.” To which we reply: look to Jesus—He is my righteousness.

Building your assurance. In addition to things said in previous message, let me say this: make it your first priority of the day to GET YOUR HEART HAPPY IN THE LORD (George Mueller said this). What I mean is:  read your bible every day and ask God to touch your affections and to apply it to your life, with the expectation of coming away with your heart happy, assured and energized by the Holy Spirit. This is a general rule of thumb because there are valleys when darkness abounds and it is difficult to find happiness.

There are 3 areas that we should apply the bible in order to maximize its effectiveness in assurance: orthodoxy (right belief), orthopraxy (right action) and orhtopathos (right affections or feelings). Different denominations tend to be strong in one area but weak in the others, but biblical faith that leads to full assurance will need to be applied to all three. Reformed folks (like myself) tend to focus on orthodoxy but often neglect orthopathos. If you read the psalms or Philippians (e.g.) then one can see a strong focus on right belief and actions leading to proper feelings (e.g. joy—depending on what emotion the text calls for), and vice versa. There is a web of mutual reciprocity; they mutually influence each other.

Please be aware of the close connection between the physical, emotional and spiritual. If one is suffering chronic and acute physical pain, then it often affects the emotional and spiritual, and vice versa. Depression can make assurance a difficulty.

Lastly, let me mention meditation, which is a lost art. Biblical meditation is a way of abiding in Christ moment by moment. We take a verse or thought and think about it during the day and maybe even mutter to yourself about it. Unlike eastern meditation which is content-less and focuses on nothing or some placid scene, biblical meditation turns over and over in the mind some particular thought you gleaned from your daily reading of God’s Word. This helps immensely in bringing all 3 foci together (orthodoxy, orthopraxis, and orthpathos). By meditating on God’s Word we abide in Christ and the Holy Spirit assures us supernaturally of our status as God’s children, as He delights to work in conjunction with the written Word.

Next: how to deal with depression, loss and suffering.

Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook forma

Friday, January 11, 2019

Assurance of Faith: Its Importance, Hindrances and How to Increase it

By Reverend Mark Hunnemann

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Cor 13) Here and elsewhere the Lord urges us to test ourselves to make sure that our faith is real and sincere. The stakes are too high to make a mistake about this as the consequences are eternal. It breaks my heart to say this, but millions will die thinking they are saved but will wake up to their unspeakable horror in hell.

We must find a middle ground between being too shallowly self-assured on the one hand, and engaging in morbid introspection on the other—what the Puritans called having ‘an ingrown eyeball.’ Periodic self-examination is not only healthy, but it is commanded in scripture. However, I wonder how many professing Christians take the time to reexamine their faith to make sure it is genuine? On the other hand, there are many sincere believers who are tormented with lack of assurance, but it is rarely discussed in much detail these days.

Many sincere believers will die with a lack of salvation and this is sad. Having assurance of salvation is not necessary to be saved as some believe; but assurance is necessary to enjoy ones salvation and be most productive. By the way, John Calvin did not teach that assurance was of the essence of saving faith as some have asserted for centuries. There has been an extended dispute that he differed from the Westminster Confession on this matter but he didn’t. He defines faith, but then spends the rest of the chapter saying that nobody has this kind of faith! In fact, they are dealing with 2 different issues: Calvin was defining saving faith, and chapter 18 of WCF is about assurance of salvation. I only mention this because academics debate this and say: see they cannot even agree on this central issue. I am amazed at how many godly men I admire who misunderstand Calvin at this vital point. Whether assurance is of the essence of saving faith or is simply to be strongly preferred is of immense practical import.

Nor does assurance lead to presumption as others believe because all of our hope and confidence is based in Christ and the gospel as we shall see. How can those clinging to Christ be either proud or lax in their obedience? It is unthinkable.

What is the assurance of faith? It is the belief that I believe; faith that I have faith. It is a robust, deep and joyful conviction that I truly am united to Christ by faith. It has rightly been said that a deep sense of assurance leads to a sense of heaven on earth, amidst our frailties and attacks. It is the joy unspeakable of which the NT speaks. Do you enjoy this assurance or is it intermittent or even lacking then I pray you attain this precious pearl.

Some folks know all the cognitive facts of the gospel, and have truly rested in Him, but cant seem to get assurance that they have faith in their hearts. And this torments them.

Just as we should avoid the marriage guru who says that “if you only follow the 5-steps that my wife and I follow then you can have a wonderful marriage”, so too, we need to not be an ‘assurance guru’ because there is no cookie-cutter approach that equally works for everyone. We are individuals.

The gospel comes to every person the same way but it finds different hurdles or obstacles in every person. I think that we underestimate how deep people are psychologically and how that factors in their quest for assurance of salvation. Some have been so psychologically abused that they hardly have the emotional framework to fathom that God really loves them and that they really love Him. These issues have to be factored in and sometimes need counseling to process the pain. Otherwise, there will remain some blockage which will prevent the full flow of salvations joy. Some of you have experienced horrendous pain and that needs to be addressed as well.

It is an individual quest. John Doe’s assurance is fine for him but it won’t help me—I need assurance for me. And the same is true for YOU.

Have you ever heard of ‘referred pain’ in medicine? It is where one feels pain in one area of the body but the source of the pain is elsewhere. The complicated network of muscles and nerves cause the pain to ‘show up’ far from its true origin. Similarly, I have found that problems with assurance rarely have to do assurance itself but with something else. That is, the problem with assurance is ‘referred pain’—symptoms of an ailment whose origin lies elsewhere, and a good physician of the soul will enable them to isolate the true source. In the meantime, the problems with assurance are very real and terribly painful.

Let us briefly look at a few hindrances to assurance of salvation and how to deepen it; they are connected.

1. Let me first mention those who have false assurance and how that can be unmasked. Many think that if they made a ‘decision’ early in life but then live and believe any way they want for 50 years, will not inherit salvation, as only those who pursue after holiness and persevere to the end will be saved. Likewise, a lack of the Fruit of the Spirit is an indicator that one’s profession is empty. We are not talking about perfection but there must be some reality of the Spirit moving and changing a persons life for them to be truly saved. As Luther said: we are saved by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone. Only a lively trust in Christ is saving faith. Easy believism leads to easy assurancism, which is deadly.

2. The first hindrance to a robust salvation is setting the bar too high. Some think that unless they have some extraordinary revelation from God, some constantly intense feeling—then they cannot be saved. Surely a saved person will ‘feel like it.’ I am not downplaying the significance of feelings but our feelings can ebb and flow with our blood sugar or amount of sleep we get. One area that is often overlooked is ‘orthopathos’—right feelings that should flow from our reading of God’s Word and our love for Him. But the foundation for our salvation are God’s promises and not our feelings. True salvation will include: orthodoxy (right belief), orthopraxis (right behavior) and orthopathos (right feelings). To acquire and grow in assurance then we need to tend to all three.

If your feelings are lacking ask yourself this question: how consistent am I in reading God’s Word and prayer? There is no time when I feel more assured of my salvation than when I am immersed in God’s Word. The key to deep assurance is not extraordinary experiences but normal means of grace which would include the Lord’s Supper. But we need to take them seriously on a daily basis; bible study and prayer. These do not increase our salvation but they do increase the assurance of our salvation.

3. Perhaps the most common source of lack of assurance is fuzziness regarding justification. Justification is what theologians call an eschatological reality brought into the present. That is, the moment a person professes faith in Christ, the verdict of the Last Judgment is declared upon them—immediately and irreversibly. No amount of sanctification of 50 years of righteous living can add one iota or diminish one iota the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to me. When justified, two things occurred (a double exchange); my sins were imputed to Christ and His perfect righteousness is imputed to me.(2 Cor.5:21) Why didn’t Jesus just descend on Good Friday and die for our sins? Why the Incarnation and all the moment by moment perfect obedience to the Father and to the Law for 33 years?

Christ lived a life of perfect obedience to the Law for a reason. Most Christians think that salvation includes only the forgiveness of sins, but that is only half the blessing—half the gospel! Being forgiven would place us back in the garden but it would not give us a positive righteousness. Jesus was born and lived 33 years of perfect obedience to the Law so that He would then transfer that robe of righteousness to us the moment we believe. It cannot be augmented or diminished, nor can it be lost. We must not think that our sanctification will add anything to Christs righteousness because if we confuse our sanctification with our justification, then we will commit the same error as Rome. Justification will then become a process of growth or diminishment—that is terrible news. Justification is not a process but a declaration; the sentence of the last Day rendered in the present, which is so good that it is beyond words to describe how lovely that is! Looking at Christ as our righteousness is the only proper basis for assurance. We can sing for joy that we have assurance because of all Christ has done for us!

As Luther said, we are simul Justus et peccator—'at the same time righteous and sinful’. In ourselves we will have the remains of indwelling sin until we die and are glorified. But ‘in Christ’ the Father sees the perfection of His Son. He sees us as holy and righteous as Jesus is! For a Roman Catholic this is almost blasphemous but it is only the perfect righteousness of Christ that will stand up under the scrutiny of the thrice holy God on Judgment Day.

If you focus on yourself and forget about the imputation of Christs perfect righteousness then you are setting yourself (and sinfulness)up for problems with assurance of salvation. Satan will come along and accuse you that a true Christian would not still have so much sin remaining in them. Our assurance is based primarily on the gospel; the gospel of the dual imputation, which has largely been lost today by most pastors and preachers. In ourselves we are still sinful but we cling white-knuckled to the cross of Christ and His finished work…and HIS righteousness. Without that knowledge of double imputation the devil can make mince meat of your conscience; with it, we can be the more than conquerors that we are!

4.  If the beatitudes or the Fruit of the Spirit are being formed in you (not perfectly but some reality) then one can be assured that they have true faith. Or in 1 John, the apostle asks this very question: what are the marks of one who is truly saved, and he mentions several?  But my point here is simple: if you can see God slowly but surely changing your character then that should encourage you.

5. Then lastly, the Bible says that the Holy Spirit Himself bears witness with our inner self (Rom8) that we are God’s children. Some of you have forgotten what you felt like when you are unsaved, but on your lowest day of assurance as a believer, you have more assurance then a non-believer does on their best days. How can I say that? Because He changes our hearts—there is radical heart transplant in which He puts desires which were never there before. Notice how naturally we cry out “Father” when the unbeliever usually says ‘God.’

Service to God is influenced by assurance.

If a child is not assured that his parents love him then the motive for his obedience will be effected. ‘I must obey and then possibly they will love me… if I do this, do that, get an A on my report card, excel in sports, etc. Those who lack assurance will live in constant insecurity due to not knowing if they are well, secure. They may work very hard but it won't be with a smile..not with song in their heart. If a person is not assured that they are truly a child of God or may lose their salvation, then it cannot but help but have an psychological affect over a long period of time.

I wonder how many people on Facebook and elsewhere who have effective ministries are truly assured of their faith? One who is not assured will put too much of their self-worth and significance in their ministries. Since they are deep down insecure, then it may also rob them of energy for service. Many people are so inwardly bent and tormented about the status of their own soul that they hardly have any energy left to care for others around them. All their energy is consumed with self-worry about the state of their own souls, and sadly they may not even be aware of the fact that they are so self-absorbed—it has become so much a part of their psyches. Like a nervous hypochondriac they will waste all their time on self analysis, with little energy for God’s work.

But with a heart at rest in Christ, then one can be: 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor 15)

The bottom line, is that for a robust life of productivity for the Lord we need to have this heaven in our hearts of knowing that we know; believing that we believe; having faith that we have faith. The assurance of our salvation and that we have this saving faith! The Puritan Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) wrote perhaps the best book on assurance entitled: Heaven on Earth.

May the Lord give us this heaven on earth increasingly, for His glory and our comfort and joy.

Part two:

Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook forma

Monday, January 7, 2019

Dalai Lama Meets with an Interfaith Forum

Meeting with an Interfaith Forum

Bodhgaya, Bihar, India - Members of an Inter Faith Forum from Gaya, comprising Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs and Brahmakumaris came to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Gaden Phelgyeling today. The Secretary, AK Khan speaking on behalf of the Forum welcomed His Holiness to this sacred place once more. He told him that the Inter Faith Forum was established in 2001. Among their activities members visit each others’ places of worship and join each other in celebrating their festivals, acknowledging their common message of love and compassion. They reject terrorism at any level and work to encourage respect for all major religions.

“Spiritual brothers and sisters,” His Holiness said, addressing the group with a fond smile, “as I always say, we belong to the seven billion human beings. With two eyes, one nose and so on, we are the same; some of us just have more hair. Mentally we are the same, emotionally we are the same. Each one of us wants to live a happy, joyful life. In our childhood we learn that love and affection are a source of happiness as our mothers care for us.

“My mother was essentially kind. She would weep when she encountered people who were really poor, but always found something to give them. She was my first teacher of compassion. Now, scientists tell us, based on experiments I’ve seen, that basic human nature is compassionate. So, our education systems need to teach how to develop peace of mind, how to be a happy individual in a happy family and a happy community here and now.

“I sometimes ask if religion is relevant today and since everyone needs love and affection, the answer seems to be “Yes”. However, it’s crucial that members of different religious traditions live in harmony with each other. If instead we quarrel and fight, people are entitled to ask, “What’s the use of religion?” Therefore, we need to be active in promoting religious harmony. In June next year, there will be an All-India Muslim Conference in Delhi focussed on encouraging Sunnis and Shias in the Middle East and elsewhere to befriend one another.”

His Holiness remarked that if we follow religion properly, all our various traditions have the potential to bring about peace of mind. He added that paying lip service to tradition is not enough, nor should religion be a vehicle of exploitation; he insisted that we have to be sincere in our practice. He observed that materialistic education has brought many problems from too much competition to dividing people into ‘us’ and ‘them’. To counter this, His Holiness suggested it should be possible in India to combine modern education with ancient Indian understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions.

original link & photos:

Monday, December 17, 2018

Dalai Lama's Pilgrimage to the Mahabodhi Temple

Pilgrimage to the Mahabodhi Temple

Bodhgaya, Bihar, India - On arrival in Bodhgaya yesterday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was given a brief formal welcome at the Main Tibetan Monastery, Gaden Phelgyeling. This morning he chose, as a priority, to make a pilgrimage to the Mahabodhi Temple. He also decided to walk, which he did at a brisk pace, greeting friends and well-wishers lining the street on the way.

His Holiness was welcomed at the gate to the temple by Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee Secretary (BTMC) Nangzey Dorje, Divisional Commissioner, Magadh, Tenzin Nima Bindhyeshwari, Senior Superintendent of Police, Rajiv Mishra and District Magistrate, Abhishek Singh. They accompanied him into the complex. Once inside, His Holiness paused to salute the Vajra-asana, the Seat of Enlightenment, beneath the Bodhi Tree, with the Mahabodhi Temple behind it. Monks, nuns and lay devotees attending a Kagyu Monlam turned to greet him as he descended the stairs.

His Holiness walked the inner circumambulatory path, smiling and waving to people gathered beyond the stone railings that are reputed to have originally been erected by Nagarjuna to protect the Bodhi Tree from elephants. Reaching the temple entrance he paused to pay his respects. Within the inner sanctum, he lit a lamp before the celebrated statue of Buddha Shakyamuni prior to sitting down in front of it.

Indian monks belonging to the BTMC first recited the Mangala Sutta in Pali. His Holiness then joined the Abbot and Löbpön of Namgyal Monastery, Thamtog Rinpoché and Ngawang Topgyal, in reciting the Praise to the Buddha known as the ‘Three Continuums’, the ‘Heart Sutra’, Tsongkhapa’s ‘Praise to the Buddha for Teaching Dependent Arising’, the ‘Drumbeat of Truth’, the ‘Praise to the 17 Masters of Nalanda’, a ‘Prayer for the Ecumenical Spread of the Buddha’s Teachings’ and dedication prayers.

Members of the BTMC presented His Holiness with their calendar illustrated by images of the Buddha. Expressing his gratitude he told them that in addition to acknowledging the Buddha as the founder of Buddhism, he regards him as a scientist and great thinker. He is especially struck by the Buddha’s advice to his followers: “As the wise test gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it, so, bhikshus, should you accept my words---after testing them, and not merely out of respect for me.”

As His Holiness left the Temple, members of the press were eager to question him. He gave them a succinct summary of what the Buddha taught—advising his followers to observe ‘ahimsa’ or non-violence in their conduct, ‘karuna’ or compassion as their motivation and dependent arising as their view of reality.

His Holiness completed his circumambulation of the Temple, walked up the steps to the gate, where he climbed into a car to drive back to Gaden Phelgyeling. This monastery began as a temple constructed by a Ladakhi Lama named Ngawang Samten in 1938. Returning to Tibet, he offered it to the Tibetan Government. In 1951, Dhardo Rinpoché was appointed Abbot and under his supervision monastic quarters were constructed in 1952, at which time His Holiness gave the monastery the name Gaden Phelgyeling. In 1965, when he was appointed Gaden Tripa, Ling Rinpoché also became Abbot of this monastery. In 2002, the monastery was given into the care of Namgyal Monastery and eight or nine monks from there look after it throughout the year.

original link & photos:

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Dalai Lama Teaches from "A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life"

Sankisa, UP, India - Mist rose from the fields that extend as far as the eye can see and the sun shone low as His Holiness the Dalai Lama drove to the Archaeological site at Sankisa this morning. He said brief prayers before the hillock that is presumed to have been a stupa and returned local people's greetings.

Reaching the grounds of the Youth Buddhist Society of India (YBSI) he again climbed out of his car to cut a ribbon and inaugurate an exhibition of paintings on Buddhist themes. Next, he unveiled the foundation stone for a proposed clinic and expressed his appreciation of their work to several medical volunteers who were introduced to him. Lastly, he unveiled a foundation plaque for a proposed school and took time to pay his respects before the image of the Buddha in an already established chapel.

Arriving at the teaching venue, His Holiness was given a traditional Tibetan musical welcome by a group from the Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts. They included performers from Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh, who were happy when he posed for photographs with them.

Welcomed to the stage inside a huge marquee by YBSI President, Suresh Chandra Baudhh, His Holiness lit an auspicious lamp and paid his respects before a statue of the Buddha prior to taking his seat. A group of local children in school uniform filed onto the stage and knelt down to recite the Mangala Sutta in Pali.

"First I must thank these students for their clear recitation," he said as he began to address a crowd estimated to number 15,000. "You belong to the generation of the 21st century while many of the rest of us belong to the 20th century. Looking back, we can see that there was too much violence at that time. So many lives were sacrificed. If their loss had contributed to the creation of a better world, it might have been justified. But that was not the case.

"At the start of this 21st century violence persists because too many people still believe that the solution to problems lies in the use of force. This way of thinking is out of date. It's clear that India's longstanding tradition of ahimsa or non-violence is as relevant today as ever and young students like these represent our hope for a better future.

"Today, in this sacred place I've been requested to explain the Dharma. The organizers have worked hard to make this possible and I'd like to thank all of them.

"Whenever I meet monks, nuns and other religious people these days, I put a question to them. In this day and age when there has been great technological and material development, is religion something we still need. We see that in advanced countries, where there has been the most material development, people continue to be in mental turmoil. At such a time, when so many face emotional crises, people easily turn to violence. The arms industry thrives. Widespread sale of weapons increases the risk of devastating violence.

"Scientists declare on the basis of infant responses to different situations that basic human nature is compassionate. This makes sense since a mother gave birth to every one of us and then showered us with love and affection. Without her care we'd have died. It's easy to see that the kinder and more affectionate we are to others, the more peaceful we are in ourselves and the more peaceful is the atmosphere in which we live and work.

"Anger, anxiety and jealousy ruin our well-being. We need calm and affection, but if we were to seek them in the market or shopping mall people would laugh at us. Religions are concerned with human beings and human activity. They all teach the value of love and compassion, with support from different philosophical points of view.

"Theistic traditions teach about a creator god full of love and wisdom, whose children we all are, which makes it easy to see our fellow beings as brothers and sisters. Our purpose is to be harmonious, compassionate and affectionate to each other. Non-theistic traditions make no reference to a creator. What happens is in our hands. As long as we have love and compassion, we have peace of mind, which we lose when we are overcome by anger."

His Holiness spoke of the futility of seeking satisfaction only in sensory experience, neglecting the role of mental consciousness in peace of mind. He noted that for hundreds of years, not only has India cultivated ahimsa, it has also adopted a secular stance of respect for religious traditions without bias and with additional regard for the views of those who have no interest in religion. He remarked that such an approach is particularly relevant when we see people fighting and killing each other in the name of religion. He mentioned his commitments both to helping people find peace of mind and to maintaining inter-religious harmony.

Taking up a 'Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life' His Holiness remarked:

"Of course, I'm a Buddhist and I've studied Buddhist philosophy and psychology extensively, but I believe it is quite possible to look at their concepts and instructions from a purely academic point of view. This book can be very helpful to people. As sentient beings we easily fall under the influence of desire, hatred and ignorance. And when they overwhelm our intelligence it can be really unfortunate. As I've said above, the powerful weapons that are products of our intelligence can only be used to destroy others. We can create joy or wreak havoc depending on our motivation.

"Chapter 6 of this book explains patience, while Chapter 8 describes the development of altruism. We don't have time to go through the entire book, but I can give you a succinct account of what it says.

"Chapter 9 is about wisdom and begins 'The Sage propounded all these branches [of teachings] for the sake of wisdom. Therefore, those who wish to pacify suffering should generate wisdom'. The Buddhas don't wash negative deeds away with water, nor do they remove the sufferings of beings with their hands, neither do they transplant their own realization into others. It is through teaching the truth of suchness that they help beings find freedom.

"Right from the start Buddhas are intent on overcoming suffering. They teach from their own experience that the suffering of suffering, the suffering of change and the suffering of pervasive conditioning all arise from destructive emotions. These are rooted in ignorance—a misconception of reality—the final antidote to which is the wisdom understanding emptiness."

His Holiness explained how the trainings in morality, single-pointed concentration and insight converge in wisdom. He noted that in ancient India there was a consensus that the pleasures of the desire realm finally result in dissatisfaction, however for some the solution was to seek the greater peace of higher realms of absorption. The Buddha focused instead on refuting the idea of a single, permanent, independent self. The selflessness he taught is an antidote not only to the mental afflictions, but also to their residual stains, the obscurations to knowledge. And for it to be effective it needs to be combined with the awakening mind of bodhichitta.

His Holiness cited Nagarjuna's observation that what the Buddha taught was based on the two truths-conventional and ultimate. He also recalled that the Buddha hesitated to teach what he had realised after his enlightenment because no one would understand what he had to say.

"Profound and peaceful, free from elaboration, uncompounded clear light
I have found a nectar-like Dharma.
Yet if I were to teach it, no one would understand,
So I shall remain silent here in the forest.

"The first words of the first line 'profound and peaceful' refer to the true cessation that was the focus of the first turning of the wheel of dharma. 'Free from elaboration' alludes to what he eventually taught in the second turning of the wheel and 'uncompounded clear light' pertains to the third turning of the wheel. The first turning laid out the Four Noble Truths, the second revealed the perfection of wisdom that things have no essential independent existence.

"During the third turning of the wheel, the Buddha explained that he taught that things have no independent existence because of their three natures: their imputed nature implies they have no intrinsic existence; their dependent nature shows they are not self-created and their perfect nature is that they have no ultimate, independent existence. In the 'Tathagata-garbha Sutra' the Tathagata described Buddha-nature, referring to the objective clear light as the nature of the mind and the subjective clear light as Buddha-nature."

"In the course of the first turning of the wheel, the Buddha explained the nature, function and result of each of the Four Noble Truths. He made clear that suffering is undesired, but that it has compatible causes and conditions. Cessation was taught on the basis of an insight into emptiness that counters the ignorance of clinging to intrinsic existence."

His Holiness observed that just as Maitreya's 'Sublime Continuum' states that appearance is not reality, quantum physicists declare that nothing has any objective existence because things are dependent on the observer. They seem not to have questioned the observer's objective existence.

Remarking that when the second verse states 'The Ultimate is not the object of mind' it indicates that it is not a dualistic mind. When the third verse says 'The world of common people is undermined by the world of the yogis' it also refers to the non-dualistic mind.

He clarified that emptiness is only established on some basis. The 'Heart Sutra' states 'Form is empty; emptiness is form'. It goes on to declare 'Likewise are feeling, discrimination, compositional factors and consciousness empty.' His Holiness stressed that it is necessary to understand what ignorance grasps at and that it is a misconception. This is understood in the context of the deeds of a Bodhisattva, the six perfections.

Finally, His Holiness pointed out that because of its use of reason and logic the Nalanda Tradition introduced to Tibet by Shantarakshita was scientific. These days, he advises followers of the Buddha to be 21st century Buddhists, understanding what the Buddha taught and therefore what it means to go for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Read the book!

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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Staying Spiritually Safe From The Enemy

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season so far. It’s just now starting to cool down here in Florida. 48° is cold for us here. Lol. My heart goes out to the victims from the California fires. Let’s please keep them in our thoughts. I can’t imagine over 10,000 homes and businesses are burned down.

Christians are responsible to test words of teaching and prophecy. The Bereans were considered noble for hearing the teaching of Paul and Silas, receiving them with eagerness and “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). These believers tested the words of the apostles, examining the Scriptures to see if what they were being taught was consistent with what they knew of God’s revelation of Himself. In doing this they modeled the task of all believers. Christians are ultimately responsible for what they choose to believe, no matter whether or not they have been gifted with the spiritual gift of discernment.

When a person becomes converted and receives God's spirit they immediately enter into a war-like struggle against two large opponents and a lot of it consists in the mind. It’s satans most tool to attack! They will have to fight these two powerful enemies every day of their life until they die. The first major opponent Christians face is themselves. They must battle their own human nature with its self-defeating, sinful and destructive tendencies. The apostle Paul referred to this constant battle of the mind Christians face in his book to the Romans. The second lifelong opponent true believers must face is the devil and the world he has deceived into thinking and acting like he does (Ephesians 2:2, 1John 5:19, Revelation 12:9, etc.). Jesus, in his prayer to the Father before his crucifixion, reveals the ultimate attitude of those who do not believe God against those who do. I have given them (the disciples and all Christians by extension) Your words, and the world has hated them. . . (John 17)

Paul tells us, in no uncertain terms, that believers do not fight a carnal war that is so familiar to the world but rather one that is on a spiritual plane. A battle in the mind as I said above. Because “we are not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against principalities and against powers, against the world rulers of the darkness of this age, against the spiritual power of wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6)

We must create the armor of God to protect ourselves, what other ways can we stop the enemy from influencing us? We have to avoid all evil influences in our life. We can find these influences through music that we listen to, the TV shows and movies that we watch, and activities that are tied to the occult that we can find ourselves silently drawn towards or introduced to via our acquaintances and friends. We don't realize how the little things we do can open up doors and allow legal rights for demonic influence in our life. I'm so guilty of this myself. None of us are perfect nor are we expected to be. Remember Jesus Christ died for our sins. We can repent and be forgiven.

While the fallen angels have no control over your Free Will, they do have some preternatural abilities to influence your thoughts. They will silently tempt you, often to impure thoughts, or into dissuading you from some good effort. Construct a mental picture of Our Lord Jesus Christ during His Passion. Focus on His pierced hands or feet, or maybe His carrying of the Cross, or concentrate on His crowning with thorns or scourging at the pillar. You will be amazed at how fast the evil thoughts will flee.

The dark forces pull out all the stops to trick us out of our good intentions, and it is only by our soul's determination to succeed and by the grace of God's assistance that we can get back on track. The last thing Christ said after revealing his self to a certain amount of people after he rose from the dead was “I leave you with the power of the Holy Spirit So that you may cast demons out in my name.” Without your spiritual armor on tight (the light of God sealed around you), it's easy to fall prey to a spiritual attack. Satan is God of this world.

These so-called attacks don't have to be very in-your-face. As a matter of fact, they work better when they aren't obvious, because you're less likely to do anything about it. Cunning and subtle methods cause us to accept an intrusion into our world as 'the way things are' or 'just part of our personality'. We have no clue we are receiving or are under demonic influence. They never stop. It’s their job here on earth. It’s a constant struggle.

It's important to recognize when we need to call to God to take care of that negative energy. Praying for discernment is key, as well as just simply practicing. I always like to pray for his protection and favor every day I wake up and every night before I go to bed. The power of prayer is very much stronger than what many people realize I believe.

Spiritual warfare is really one of the greatest blessings we have. We don't have to wallow in the darkness, we can call for spiritual protection from the forces of light and they will fight back and raise us out of whatever negative state of mind or being we are in. Praise God we have these ways of protection.

Written By Jennifer L Auld

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Dalai Lama Says "We are One Family"

One - We are One Family

Tokyo, Japan - This morning, under bright sunshine and a high blue sky scattered with thin clouds, His Holiness the Dalai Lama left Yokohama. He drove directly to the Hibiya Open-Air Concert Hall in Tokyo, a ninety year old theatre surrounded by trees. Half the 2800 strong audience sat in the sun, the other half in the shade.

The event was presented as an opportunity for young Japanese to get to know His Holiness better and to hear what he has to say. Two other special guests were introduced. Actor, film director and event producer Kenji Kohashi told the audience how moved he had been by a visit to Tibet. It compelled him to visit Dharamsala and meet His Holiness. He declared that he feels he must have been a Tibetan in a previous life.

Ai Tominaga started her career as a model at the age of 17 in New York and worked there for the next ten years. She returned to Tokyo and participates in activities that contribute to social welfare and convey the traditional culture of Japan. She has visited Mongolia. She told the audience how struck she had been by His Holiness’s warmth.

“Brothers and sisters,” His Holiness began, “it’s a great honour for me to have the opportunity to share my views and experiences with you. Wherever I go I emphasize that all 7 billion human beings are physically, mentally and emotionally the same. Everybody wants to live a happy life free from problems. Even insects, birds and animals want to be happy.

“What distinguishes us human beings is our intelligence. However, there are occasions when we use it improperly, as, for example, when we use it to design weapons. Animals like lions and tigers that live by attacking and eating other animals have sharp teeth and claws, but human beings’ nature and teeth are more like those of a deer. We use our intelligence to fulfil our desires, to which, compared to those of other animals, there seems to be no limit.

“Right here and now we are sitting together in peace and pleasure, but at this very moment, in other parts of the world people are killing each other.

“As I said, devising ever more lethal arms is a poor use of human intelligence and the worst are nuclear weapons. You Japanese have actually been victims of nuclear attack and know what the consequent suffering is like. I’ve been to both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On my first visit to Hiroshima I met a woman who had been through it and survived and I saw the watch in the museum that had stopped at the instant of the explosion and was half melted by the heat. So, instead of using our intelligence to create joy, the result has sometimes been fear.

“Here in the 21st century we should make an effort not to repeat the errors of the last century with its endless series of wars. Historians suggest that 200 million people died of violence during this period. It’s time to say, ‘Enough’. Let’s make the 21st a century of peace and compassion on the basis of the oneness of all 7 billion human beings alive today.

“Over-emphasizing difference of nationality, religion or race culminates in feelings of ‘us’ and ‘them’—division. We must remind ourselves that at a deeper level all human beings are the same. We all want to live a happy life and to be happy is our right. Throughout the universe are sentient beings seeking peace and happiness. What distinguishes the human beings on our planet is that we can communicate with each other—we can convey a sense of the oneness of humanity. If we develop peace of mind within ourselves, I believe we can make the 21st century an era of peace. We must heed the ways of achieving inner peace.

“There are no natural boundaries between human beings on this earth, we are one family. At a time of increasing natural disasters, climate change and global warming affect us all. We have to learn to live together, to work together and to share what we have together. The way we make problems for ourselves is senseless. We will achieve genuine peace in the world if we pursue demilitarization, but we need a sense of inner disarmament, a reduction of hostility and anger, to start with.

“A mother gave birth to each one of us and lavished us with care and affection, but once we go to school our education system fails to nurture this sense of loving-kindness. It’s aimed instead at fulfilling material goals. We need to re-introduce to education such inner values as warm-heartedness. If we could be more warm-hearted we’d be happier as individuals, contributing to happier families and wider communities too.

“Human beings are social animals. What brings us together is love and affection—anger drives us apart. Just as we employ physical hygiene to protect our health, we need emotional hygiene, the means to tackle our destructive emotions, if we are to achieve peace of mind.

“I belong to the 20th century, an era that is past. But this is what I want to share with you young people—if you start to collect the causes now, you’ll live to see a happier, more peaceful world. Don’t be content with the present circumstances, take a more far-sighted view.”

His Holiness added that when the heart is closed it leads to fear, stress and anger. Nurturing the idea of the oneness of humanity has the effect of opening the heart. When you think of all other human beings as your brothers and sisters it’s easy to communicate with them all. It makes it easier to smile, to be warm and friendly. He said this is what he tries to do. For him, whether they are beggars or leaders, all human beings are the same. If he tells himself he’s a Buddhist, a Tibetan, the Dalai Lama, it just increases his sense of isolation.

He observed that Japan has historically been a Buddhist country, yet all religions convey a message of love, compassion and self-discipline. Their philosophical differences arose to suit people of different dispositions, at different times and in different places and conditions. The fundamental message of love remains the same. Buddhism, especially the Nalanda Tradition, with its emphasis on reasoned investigation, takes a realistic stance that accords with the approach of science. His Holiness recommended that to become a 21st century Buddhist, simply having faith and reciting the sutras is not enough, far more important is understanding and implementing what the Buddha taught.

Ai Tominaga told His Holiness that in her experience young people today have a desire for fashion, but it’s in the context of a concern for freedom, human rights and protecting the environment. She thanked him for giving encouraging advice to the next generation.

Kenji Kohashi told him that when he plans musical and other events he wants young people to develop greater self-awareness. “We have to take the initiative to connect with each other, otherwise we remain apart. For me, a near death experience while mountain climbing and meditation have been a source of inspiration.”

A young man who works for a NGO caring for orphans asked His Holiness to comment on leadership and optimism.

“According to my observation,” His Holiness replied, “NGOs are sometimes more effective than governments agencies, so I appreciate their contribution. Since our existing culture tends to be materialistic, we look to external sources for fulfilment. But that can change. Look at how popular attitudes to war have changed. In the early 20th century if a nation declared war, people joined up proudly without question. Compare that to resistance in America to the Vietnam War or to the millions of people around the world who marched to protest against going to war with Iraq.

“Certainly I’m optimistic, because giving in to pessimism leads to defeat. I’m committed to trying to revive interest in what ancient Indian knowledge has to tell us about the workings of our minds and emotions—the goal is to achieve peace of mind.”

As words of thanks were pronounced, the organizers of the event from Sherab Kyetsel Ling Institute presented bouquets of flowers to His Holiness and the other guests. A member of the audience ran to the front of the stage and offered His Holiness a knitted hat resembling a sunflower. With a look of amusement he put it on.

Tomorrow, he will visit Sherab Kyetsel Ling Institute where he will teach the ‘Eight Verses for Training the Mind’.

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