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How Much Should You Push Your Friends To Go To Church?

Many religions have teachings that encourage people to attend church or a service of worship; the New Church is no exception in this regard. You could ask many New Church members about the importance of church and most would agree that attending church is a good idea, and I agree. A question that is more difficult to answer is whether you should also push your friends to attend church. Does it matter if your friends attend church? Is it your responsibility to push them to attend?

In Apocalypse Explained 696, it talks about how in the measure someone knows the truths of faith and lives according to them they are worshiping the Lord. I think this suggests that you should want friends who learn more truths of faith. Moreover, attending church is an excellent way for people to acquire more truths of faith, apply them to their life and therefore worship the Lord. Therefore, if your friends attend church are they more your neighbor than if they didn’t?

I don’t think this is a straight forward question to answer, but it is nonetheless useful to consider. In the book of Luke Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan is a story in the Word about a man who takes care of someone in need without thought of recompense. I think this story is an example of how your friends are more your neighbor if they attend church. The best way to examine who your true friends are is to judge them by their actions. You know the Good Samaritan is the neighbor by his actions, he helped the man in need, not just in words. I do not believe the claims of a friend who says they love the teachings of the New Church but never practice them or seek to learn more of them. You do not worship the Lord simply by word of mouth, you must practice the truths of faith you learned; that is worshiping the Lord.

According to True Christian Religion 459, true charity consists in believing in the Lord, and acting fairly and righteously in every deed and employment. If you are compelling your friends to attend church, because from your knowledge you believe it to be the right thing to do, then according to this teaching I think you are being charitable. I think a perfect illustration of this charity is in the story of the watchmen from the book Ezekiel in chapter 33.

‘When the watchman, sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’

As a watchman it is your job to look out for your neighbor and warn them if you know they are doing something wrong, you should warn them and plead them to change. If you know that a friend is choosing to do something you believe to be wrong, it is your responsibility to call them out on it. This should be applied to every aspect of life, which includes church.

If you have a friend who doesn’t attend church, I believe it is your responsibility to remind them of its importance. It is your responsibility to remind your friend that the fourth commandment is to remember the sabbath day. It is your responsibility to show your friend that you believe this commandment is worthwhile for both your spiritual wellbeing and theirs. The best way to show your friend the importance of attending church is by practicing it in your own life. If you believe that going to church every Sunday is important, then prove it by attending every Sunday and if you are unable to than worship at home. However, if you remind your friend of the importance of worship and church and they do not listen, you are not responsible. Your friend must choose to listen to your warning, you can’t make them listen to you, as will be explained further below.

Your friend is the most crucial factor in the question of the paper, just like you, they were born with free will. In Arcana Coelestia 1937, it mentions how individuals need to compel themselves to do good, obey what the Lord has commanded, and to utter truths. The passage goes on to explain that this is submitting oneself beneath the power of Divine good and truth. This passage mentions the need for individuals to compel themselves: this is crucial to answer the big question. Furthermore, going hand in hand with compelling yourself is repentance.

In True Christian Religion 567 it describes how actual repentance is to examine yourself, recognize and acknowledge your sins, hold yourself guilty, and confess your sins before the Lord. Then you must pray for help and the power to resist them, and then refrain from them and begin a new life. The passage also explains that you need to feel as if you are doing this of yourself. It is essential for everyone to believe they are in control of their decisions regarding their spiritual well-being. As a friend you need to be wary of usurping this belief. Even if you are trying to push your friend to act more in accordance with your understanding of the commandments, they must choose it.

It is vital to understand how little control you have over your friend’s spiritual growth. Each person must choose to follow the Lord and act according to his teachings, no one else can choose this for them. It is your responsibility to warn your friends when you see them straying from the commandments. It is your responsibility to lead your friends by example and better yourself daily. It is your responsibility to attend to your own repentance. It is not your responsibility to make your friends attend church. You can’t make anyone, except yourself, worship the Lord.

The Word says in the book of Matthew chapter 7: first you must remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can look carefully to remove the bit of straw out of your brother’s eye. This does not answer how much you should push your friends to go to church, but it is important to consider how much time you spend trying to change your friends.

To conclude, you are more the neighbor in accordance with the amount of good you practice through actions as explained in the story of the Good Samaritan. You should be a watchman for all your neighbors by warning them when you see them straying from the commandments. It is charitable to encourage your friends to attend church. However, you must allow your friends the opportunity to compel themselves into choosing a life leading to heaven. Therefore, and thusly you should push your friends to attend church to the extent you wish them to push you. The most effective way to push your friends to attend church without impeding on their freedom is to lead by example. As stated earlier in the paper, the only spiritual life you have any sliver of control over is your own. You should choose to live a life of repentance and become a wise friend who inspires others to do the same.

The Spiritual and Natural Growth of an Infant

Last school year as a high school junior at the Kempton New Church School, the final assignment in my Anatomy and Physiology course was to choose a topic related to the human body and connect it to teachings from the Heavenly Doctrines. The following article is a portion of the paper I wrote on the Spiritual and Natural Growth, Development, and Birth of an Infant. If you have further interest and would like to read the full anatomy portion of the paper and/or my sources, click here: Full Paper (PDF).
Like every other system and growth in the body, the development of an unborn child is caused by the spiritual growth and development that needs a natural foundation. There are many things happening spiritually when a baby is formed and developed in the womb and then born into the world. The spiritual growth most intimately corresponding to the newly forming human being, is the development of the will and the understanding. These are the vessels that receive love and wisdom from the Lord seated in the brain and nervous system that will serve a person after his first breath (Divine Wisdom 3.2). Another correspondence in a larger sense, is the connection between the stages and processes of pregnancy, and the stages and processes of regeneration (Divine Wisdom 4).

In every human being there is the marriage of love and wisdom to some degree, which allows a person to function and act from his will and understanding as an individual (Divine Love and Wisdom 401.3). This marriage can be illustrated by the heart and lungs, and how they function together. In the adult circulatory system the heart pumps blood that has been oxygenated by the lungs out to the body. In the fetal circulatory system, however, the lungs are not yet functioning, so only the heart is beating. This fact is the physical effect of the Lord’s Divine love pouring into the body of an unborn child. It causes the heart to beat, but does not yet open the lungs, because the marriage of love and wisdom has not yet occurred (Divine Love and Wisdom 401.3).

The Lord is with an unborn child from the moment of conception, and at that moment, life begins in that single cell and will develop into a new human being in the image and likeness of God. Life itself is the Lord with us, the influx of the Divine, and without this we would not exist (Divine Wisdom 2.1). An infant in this state, lives from the Lord’s life, not yet from life that seems to be his own, and thus he is unable to think or act from himself, only respond to stimulus (Divine Wisdom 3.3).

Since the unborn infant does not have his own life separate from Lord, he therefore does not receive Divine love and wisdom as of himself, but is formed by the Lord’s Divine love directly (Divine Wisdom 3.6). Once the baby is fully formed and ready to be brought into the world, the ‘first of the effect’ or influx, is initiated by the Lord (Arcana Coelestia 3298). This means that the baby acts, as if of himself, to come into the world to fill his lungs and breathe, which then opens his will and understanding to the influx from the Lord independent from his mother. With this first breath a new life begins, separate from the Lord, who can now think and act of himself and therefore be led to heaven (Arcana Coelestia 3298).

This is the direct spiritual action that takes place with each individual during the process of conception, development, and birth. Another correspondence of pregnancy, which is less directly grounded in this process, is the stages of the regeneration of man, or the process of being born again in the light of heaven.

It is known that the soul of man commences in the ovum of the mother, and is afterwards perfected in her womb, and is there encompassed with a tender body, and this of such a nature that through it the soul may be able to act in a manner suited to the world into which it is born. The case is the same when man is born again, that is, when he is being regenerated. (Arcana Coelestia 3570.4)

This passage from the work of the Heavenly Doctrine, Arcana Coelestia, draws the connection of the physical growth and development of an unborn child, to man’s regeneration, or the process of being born again. The only difference between the development of the physical body, or pregnancy, and the spiritual body, regeneration, is that for a person to regenerate and be born again he needs to have use of his will and understanding, so he may choose, as if of himself, to be regenerated and led to heaven. However, if he is truly being regenerated, he will realize that all life is from the Lord, and he isn’t really doing anything from himself, but asking the Lord do it for him (Divine Wisdom 4).

The three trimesters of pregnancy can be compared to our own lives as we hopefully progress through the regeneration process. The first trimester comprises of the formation of the basic structures of an unborn child in the womb. This can be compared to our childhood, where we store up remains and basic knowledges of the Lord’s truth. In the second trimester the unborn child begins to move and respond to stimulus. This can be compared to young adulthood, where a person becomes rational and starts to make decisions for himself on how he wants to live his life, hopefully according to the Lord’s commandments. The third trimester is the completion period, where final development occurs, preparing the unborn child for life outside of the womb. This can be compared to adulthood and old age. At the end of this state a person is finishing life on this earth and starting to look towards the next life.

Throughout the whole gestation period, an unborn infant does not breathe on his own, but takes his first breath once he is born. In relation to the regeneration process, this could correspond to when a person is regenerated by the Lord and receives a new will, and is then prepared for heaven after a full life on earth.

While these two states, that of an unborn infant and an adult in the world, seem to be different, they really converge into the same state, because although we may believe that we act from ourselves, the Lord is really giving us life continually. If a person regenerates he will see that he can do nothing from himself and is entirely dependant on the Lord. The physical state of the unborn child, who has not yet been born into the realizations of the will and understanding, is the most natural, visible form of our dependence on the Lord and His Love. In the case of rebirth, we all should wish to receive a new will and understanding so that we can raise our minds in a new way and recognize the Lord as our Heavenly Father and Creator (Divine Wisdom 4.2).

The Lord is constantly giving every single person who was ever born life so that he may continue to exist and hopefully be useful. To be able to live a useful life on earth and then later in heaven, we need to first be born as an infant, and then work towards and be a part of the regenerative gestation period. Then, we can be born again into the light of heaven and receive a new will and understanding from the Lord.


The Point of Art

Over the past year I’ve tried several times to put into words the point of art. Or to put it another way, why is art more than just a hobby? What is its greater or spiritual use? I don’t think I have THE answer, or if there even is one, but I wanted to share some thoughts, and I’d love to hear yours!

I know in my gut that art has a profound use and that the world would be pretty bleak without it. Art undoubtedly adds aesthetically to the world, but is that it? It’s not exactly an insignificant role (think of how Heaven is described in the Writings: bursting with beauty of all kinds), but I think there’s more. Creating art or being an artist can easily look and feel like a luxurious hobby next to more “useful” or worthy occupations (doctors, teachers, ministers, counsellors, orphanage managers… to name a few of my most easily guilt-tripping ones). Now comparing the use of relative jobs is a losing game from the beginning, especially in a world which focuses on monetary and external value. Still, this question of arts’ USE is one I’ve pondered and enjoyed seeking to find a satisfying answer to.

While thinking about this question, I came upon this psalm, a jubilant celebration of the Lord’s creation.

“O Lord, how manifold are Your works!
In wisdom You have made them all.
The earth is full of Your possessions—
This great and wide sea,
In which are innumerable teeming things,
Living things both small and great.”
Psalm 104:24-25

Continue reading The Point of Art

Till Death Do Us Part

I’ve had times in my marriage that I wanted to leave, times when I wasn’t happy, and times when I wondered what my role was in our marriage.

That being said, we are still together. My husband and I have been married for over 15 years. We have been together for nearly 20 years. Something must be working.

One of the main things that kept me from leaving was to reread my marriage vows. We promised to love and support each other no matter what. In sickness and in health. For richer for poorer. As long as we both shall live or until death us do part…

Remembering the promise I made has given me peace and comfort that our marriage, built on love and mutual respect, will keep on growing and last forever thanks to the Lord’s guidance.

We have been through many ‘phases’ in our marriage. The romantic phase at the beginning. The realisation of the reality and communication required for a successful marriage as we discovered our differences once the rose coloured spectacles of romance were removed. We had children. That one decision changed a great deal for us. Suddenly, it wasn’t just about the two of us. Now there were three, then four, then five of us.
Continue reading Till Death Do Us Part