Zacharias and Elizabeth


Text: Luke 1:5-25; True Christian Religion 510

“But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”


Good morning, and welcome to the Pittsburgh New Church! Christmas is a special time for all of us, but especially in the New Church, where we study the inner meaning of the Word. And here, in the Christmas stories, we find the Lord calling us! Imagine if someone was calling you. I suppose it’s easy to ignore someone calling you, right? Anyway…. Oh! Did you hear something? Who is that calling me? That has got to stop!

Imagine the Lord was calling you that loudly! That would be hard to miss, wouldn’t it? Today we’ll be reading about Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. The Lord called him; He even sent an angel to talk to him. Let’s read how it happened!

John’s Birth Announced to Zacharias

In 1946 Dodge came out with the first Power Wagon. Oh, what a beautiful machine it was! A 230 cubic-inch flathead inline six cylinder gas engine, a 4-speed manual transmission, a two-speed 2-1 low range transfer case! Are you feeling this? It could pull anything, go anywhere! Some even had a built-in PTO with a 2500 pound winch! Try to breathe! But over the years, these trucks deteriorated. And like everything else man-made, they fell into ruin.

A truck’s predicament is very much like our own. We arrive here as beautiful little babies, full of life and love. Full of the innocence of ignorance, we are loved and cared for, hugged, but over time we come into our hereditary loves. We learn that we need to be “born again,” that we need to move from the “natural state” we were born into and have fallen in love with to a spiritual state with new ideas and new loves. When we delay or refuse to do this work, our minds deteriorate; they rust like a truck left in a field that’s turning into woods again. We discover that:

[A]ll walk according to their life, the evil in no other ways than those that lead to hell, but the good in no other ways than those that lead to heaven; consequently all spirits are known… from the ways wherein they are walking.

Apocalypse Explained  97.2

Fortunately, the Lord is patient and works with us to manage this self-focused inheritance from our parents, We’ve been given the faculty of becoming spiritual and we are told this happens in three stages.

The first stage is called “condemnation.” It’s really the trickiest stage. Why? “Our delights feel good to us! …[T]his keeps us from knowing we are in evils” (Divine Providence 83.2). Basically, we get trapped in love for ourselves and love of the world, and we think this is “goodness” itself! Amazing, isn’t it? That telling our spouse what to do and chasing money become the top priorities in our life?

This is the human predicament, and is the stage the Lord has set up for warfare. Because a battle must begin against the onslaught of loves from the “natural man.” If our higher self wins this battle, we develop a conscience! That’s good; we’re on our way. If the natural man wins, oddly, we appear to be in tranquility. Why? Because tranquility happens when nothing matters--good happens, evil happens…. If nothing matters, the the person is peaceful in this life. It’s not until the next life that this kind of person comes into the unrest and torment of hell (Arcana Coelestia 2183).

A purely natural life is a terrifying thing! Think of your own life when you didn’t feel the Lord’s presence. Life becomes a series of half-realized ambitions, disappointed dreams, moments of success mixed with frequent sorrow. Given enough time, even the happy feelings come to an end without the deeper happiness from a lasting relationship with the Lord, a firm knowledge that we live after death, married, in a place according to our loves, with people that love what we love. So few people have an actual opportunity to know this for real!

It’s when we are running this “natural life” game that we first run into Zacharias and Elizabeth!

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah.

The “days of Herod the King” are a time in our life when the dominion of self-love, with all its destructive potential, is present--the natural man. This is the un-examined life with cruelty hidden within. Remember, Herod executed many of his own family members and wives from fear that he would betray him. Yet the Lord chooses to be born in this dangerous environment of our mind, and He is born so gently, so quietly. If we let Him, He begins to take command, loving us far better than we can love ourselves. And what are Zacharias and Elizabeth experiencing?

But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.

Despite making our best effort to set up the perfect life, with the perfect house and the perfect income, in a purely natural life we can feel “barren,” hopeless. And what of the future in this state? What can we hope for? Where can this empty life lead us with its temporary joys and pleasures that are merely skin deep?

It is interesting to note that when Zacharias came within the holy of holies, when he came to the Lord and was worshiping, the angel of the Lord appeared to him. It’s when we decide to come to the Lord in humility that He can find a chink in the armor to enter….

So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division… an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.

He was terrified, but angel comforted him, showed the secret of his heart was known, that he would have a son, a special boy who would turn many hearts to the Lord his God.

13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.

We can imagine Zacharias, as the years had slipped by, finally losing his conviction that he would actually have a son. But now, to be told it was possible in his old age--no wonder he doubted! Just as we can doubt that there could be more to our lives than just our natural desires and loves. The promise of John is that first inkling we get that there is more to life than living a natural self-centered lifestyle.

20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”

Being mute represents our inability to understand and obey the truth (AC 6988). Our lack of intelligence from the truth and living in a state of falsity (AE 455:20, AE 587:8). We are unable to “speak” the Lord’s truth because it is not yet within our heart.

22 But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.

23 So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house.

All of us come, at one time or another, to a time to make a decision that we will either follow the Lord or walk away from His church. Zacharias now needed to make that choice: would he name his son John? Or remain in a merely natural and disobedient life?

59 So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. 60 His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.”

61 But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” 62 So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called.

63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. 65 Then fear came on all who dwelt around them.

(Luke 1:59-63)

John the baptist’s birth represents the beginning of our life of repentance, when we are willing to examine our life and repent of the evil thoughts and aspirations of our old life. We read:

[A]cts of repentance are the things that actually produce the church within us.

(True Christian Religion 510)

So here, at the beginning of the our Christmas season, the first story we are given by the Lord reveals the spiritual life-and-death struggle going on within each us. This is the information each of us so badly needs as we approach the Lord this Christmas.

And who named John? Not just the angel, but Zacharias himself. The naming of John is an important victory for us, for in it we begin to accept repentance as part of our path to a heavenly life. If Zacharias had called the baby after his own name, he would have taken credit for his birth, just as we, when we experience the contentment after repentance, need to remember this is not the work of our hands. It is the work of the Lord within us. No one can repent on his own strength.

So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” (Luke 1:62-63)

This second stage of our spiritual life, reformation, is the reforming of our mind around the principles we already have learned, some of which we already have an affection for. Build your life around these principles! Live from the Heavenly Doctrines; let them influence every thought, every action! You are re-building your mind from the ground up. And someday, you’ll have that completely, reconditioned, rebuilt from the frame up, like a reconditioned Power Wagon!….that can pull anything and go anywhere.

Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God.


True Christianity #510

Repentance Is the Beginning of the Church within Us

The extended community that is known as the church consists of all the people who have the church within them. The church takes hold in us when we are regenerated, and we are all regenerated when we abstain from things that are evil and sinful and run away from them as we would run if we saw hordes of hellish spirits pursuing us with flaming torches, intending to attack us and throw us onto a bonfire.

As we go through the early stages of our lives, there are many things that prepare us for the church and introduce us into it; but acts of repentance are the things that actually produce the church within us. Acts of repentance include any and all actions that result in our not willing, and consequently not doing, evil things that are sins against God.

Before repentance, we stand outside regeneration. In that condition, if any thought of eternal salvation somehow makes its way into us, we at first turn toward it but soon turn away. That thought does not penetrate us any farther than the outer areas where we have ideas; it then goes out into our spoken words and perhaps into a few gestures that go along with those words. When the thought of eternal salvation penetrates our will, however, then it is truly inside us. The will is the real self, because it is where our love dwells; our thoughts are outside us, unless they come from our will, in which case our will and our thought act as one, and together make us who we are. From these points it follows that in order for repentance to be genuine and effective within us, it has to be done both by our will and by thinking that comes from our will. It cannot be done by thought alone. Therefore it has to be a matter of actions, and not of words alone.

[2] The Word makes it obvious that repentance is the beginning of the church. John the Baptist was sent out in advance to prepare people for the church that the Lord was about to establish. At the same time as he was baptizing people he was also preaching repentance; his baptism was therefore called a baptism of repentance. Baptism means a spiritual washing, that is, being cleansed from sins. John baptized in the Jordan river because the Jordan means introduction into the church, since it was the first border of the land of Canaan, where the church was. The Lord himself also preached that people should repent so that their sins would be forgiven. He taught, in effect, that repentance is the beginning of the church; that if we repent, the sins within us will be removed; and that if our sins are removed, they are also forgiven. Furthermore, when the Lord sent out his twelve apostles and also the seventy, he commanded them to preach repentance. From all this it is clear that repentance is the beginning of the church.

Humbleness: The Beginning of the Second Coming


Text: John 1:19-26; John 3:25-35; Divine Providence 326:6

“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4)


Good morning, and welcome to the Pittsburgh New Church! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! You all survived Black Friday!

Now we move into a very exciting time of year! Each Christmas season the Lord gives us a fresh opportunity to renew our covenant with Him! To renew the deal we’ve made, to be a servant of the Lord. For some of us, it helps to have a written contract--something we can look at! I’ve got one started, but it needs finishing. By the end of the sermon today, I hope you can fill in the rest of the contract and sign it! Only check off what works for you!

Now, here at the beginning of the season the Lord sends us John the Baptist! Why? John represents the literal sense of the Word: camel’s hair, leather girdle, locusts and wild honey….but John has a message for us. Listen for John’s humility in the face of the Lord, knowing the Lord is coming, just as the Lord can make a second coming in us as we step into humility.

We’ll focus in on one skill: humility.

This morning we are exploring why we are New Churchman. What does it take for the Second Coming to begin to shine in our life?

You know there are so many other religions to choose from--some a lot more fun than ours! So why are we hooked on this one? Our text today looks at one of the key elements to being New Church: humility.


For many people, religion has brought a sense of peace and security into their lives. It comes through trust in something outside of themselves. This is especially true in the New Church. We read:

…[P]eace has in it confidence in the Lord, that He directs all things, and provides all things, and that He leads to a good end. (Arcana Coelestia 8455)

But doesn't everyones religion bring confidence to its adherents? Doesn't every religion claim to have the answer of how to be a “good” person and how to have a spiritual life?

We know from the Heavenly Doctrines that everyone has an inborn intuition. There is “something” greater than ourselves, an intuition that there is some source we all came from which is One. That’s because everything divine coheres as one,  and constantly inspires in us the idea of one God (True Christian Religion 8). But, what varies in each of us is the reception of this influx, and this determines our conjunction with the Lord (Ibid (3)). The differing forms of our minds receive Him according to what corresponds in them, to what is heavenly.

Just as the human body has many forms--blood vessels, nerve fibers, supporting tendons, cartilage, bones, nails which have varying degrees of life in them, so heaven is made up of many people from many different religions, each with a different mind and differing degrees of conjunction, each performing a supporting role in the Grand Man (DP 326).

We read:

The Grand Man, which is heaven, in order that all these things may be in it, cannot be composed of men all of one religion but of men of many religions. (DP 326:10)

Thus, in the Lord’s Divine Providence there are today 1 billion Hindus, 14 million Jews, 1 billion Buddhists, 1.8 billion Muslims, and 2 billion Christians. Now, if each religion brings some level of conjunction with heaven, what is the big deal about belonging to the New Church?

Let’s first, take a look at what makes a religion a religion. All religions have two main principles which make it so that everyone can be saved: the acknowledgement of one God, and the refraining from doing evil because it is against God (DP 326:9). Anyone who follows these two principles will find a home in heaven and enjoy happiness to their own degree (DP 326:10, DP 254 III (3)).

But you may say, “Every religion teaches people how to live and how to obey the laws of God? Every religion professes to have the secret of a good life and offer salvation by means of it, don't they?” So how is the New Church different? We read in the Heavenly Doctrines:

All religion is of life, and the life of religion is to do what is good. (Doctrine of Life 1).

The faith or the New Church is based on the conviction that in the theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg the Lord Jesus Christ has fulfilled His promise to come again, that He may be visibly present with people, to teach them and lead them in paths of true happiness and lasting peace.

The purpose of His second coming is to establish His Kingdom here on earth as well as in the heavens. The Church is the Lord’s Kingdom on earth, and the Lord Himself described His plans and specifications of a true Christian Church, one that is designed to be altogether distinct from the former Christianity or any other religion!

The Heavenly Doctrines completely revolutionize our understanding of what the Word teaches, and of how it’s teachings are to be applied. They present a radically new idea of God; they offer an entirely new concept of heaven, and the life of people after death; and they give us a new interpretation of what is meant by a truly religious life. The whole world is invited to join in! To move from a natural faith to a spiritual one; to be re-born into a spiritual person (TCR 8)! Nothing could bring us more happiness or be more exciting!

This can only happen to each of us when we take the truths of doctrine--and you know what I mean by truths here--the Ten Commandments, the truths you have learned from reading and listening to sermons, the truths you have come to love.... Only by using them in our daily life do we get the benefit they provide: conjunction with the Lord.

This is what’s so incredible about the New Church! The Heavenly Doctrines are not asking us to bow down to the east 5 times a day, meditate for an hour, detach from things of this world or follow detailed meal rituals. Although these might work for some people, what the Lord is really asking of us who are to be in the New Heaven, is to have nothing less than a complete change of heart! A new outlook! A dramatic change in who you are; a change in what you love, which is the core of who you are! He is asking each of us to trade in the things we think make us happy, for things that actually do create happiness! It’s actually quite simple, but not easy!

Many of us have learned doctrine and can recite it! But doctrine retained in the memory as abstract knowledge without a deeper understanding and application to life dissipates. We don’t even take it with us into the spiritual world! It’s in the “doing,” the application of what we have learned, that changes our loves and makes the Second Coming happen in each of us!

So, right here at the beginning of our Christmas season, what is the first skill John the Baptist introduces to us? Humility. We are told in the Heavenly Doctrines, if we really want this regenerative process to happen in our life, we start with humility! John the baptist gives his disciples a basic lesson in humility. In the face of Jesus’s growing popularity and his own waning popularity, John gives us a one-liner to live by:

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

To the extent that John’s motto is true of us, we are growing in humility.

We are told humility starts with an acknowledgement of God, but what does this involve? It is simply recognizing that there is an omniscient, omnipresent Divine Man who is all powerful and loving. Who cares for us intimately, guiding us in everything we do, all the while leaving us in freedom to choose Him or not.

The corollary to this acknowledgment is the acknowledgment of self (NJHD 129). If all good and life is from Him, where does that leave us? It slowly dawns on us that, we are, since we are born into evils of every kind, nothing but unhealthy loves and thoughts; no good can come from us. We are born this way! But there is no need to lament our situation. The Lord has given each of us every means, including specific directions, on how to escape from our predicament, and follow Him. We read:

Only into an humble heart can the Divine flow. (NJHD 129)

So far as a person is in humility, so far he is removed from the love of self, where evils live, and open to reading and learning what His role in this process is. We read:

Indeed within self-love there lies contempt for all others in comparison with oneself; there lies hatred and revenge if one is not venerated most highly; and there lies mercilessness and cruelty within it, and thus the worst evils of all into which good and truth cannot possibly be introduced, since they are completely opposite. (Arcana Coelestia 5957:3)

The Lord does not desire humility for His own sake, but for our sakes, so that we will be in a state and condition ready to receive the Divine truths He so much wants to impart to us.

The sister of humility is repentance; each requires the same acknowledgment. We read:

Repentance begins with the same acknowledgement and does not become a reality except through humility, and humility does not become a reality except through heartfelt confession that in oneself one is such a source of evil and falsity. (AC 4779)

Today many religions falsely teach that we are inherently good, that merely having faith in God and being a “good” person will lead to heaven. But this belief puts the natural man to sleep, and keeps him from rooting out his deeper evils which lurk in his affections.

The “gift” to each of us in the New Church is in the realization that we, of ourselves, are incapable of looking towards the Lord, where everything is Divine and Holy, and prefer the life of exteriorly “looking good,” while interiorly remaining comfortable in our natural thoughts and affections (AC 5957). This is what the Lord meant when He spoke to the Pharisees: “[Y]ou wash the outside of the cup…” So, as uncomfortable as it may be, we can be grateful we are in the New Church, where we know the truth about ourselves and the means of escape!

As we move into this Christmas season, let us remember the words of John the Baptist:

Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord,”

Amen. Let us pray.

Readings for sermon

Divine Providence 326:6

[6] Second:……. Everyone acknowledges God and is conjoined to Him according to the good of his life. All can have a knowledge of God who know anything from religion. They can also speak of God from knowledge, that is, from what is in the memory, and some may also think about Him from the understanding.

However, if one does not live well, this only brings about presence; for he can nevertheless turn himself away from God towards hell; and this happens if he lives wickedly.

But only those can acknowledge God in their heart who live well; and these according to the good of their life the Lord turns away from hell and towards Himself. The reason is that these alone love God, for they love Divine things, which are from Him, in doing them.

The Divine things which are from God are the precepts of His Law. These are God because He is His own Divine going forth: this is to love God, and therefore the Lord says:

He that keepeth my commandment, he it is that loveth me....But he that keepeth not my commandments loveth me not. John 14:21, 24.

[7] This is the reason why there are two tables of the Decalogue, one relating to God and the other relating to man. God works unceasingly that man may receive what is in his own table; but if man does not do the things that are in his table he does not receive with acknowledgment of heart the things that are in God's table; and if he does not receive them he is not conjoined.

Therefore those two tables were so joined together as to be one, and were called the tables of the covenant, for covenant signifies conjunction. Everyone acknowledges God and is conjoined to Him according to the good of his life because the good of life is like the good that is in the Lord, and consequently that originates from the Lord.

Therefore when man is in the good of life conjunction is effected. The contrary is the case with evil of life; for this rejects the Lord.

[8] Third: The good of life, that is, living well, is shunning evils because they are contrary to religion, thus contrary to God. That this is the good of life, or living well, is fully shown in THE DOCTRINE OF LIFE FOR THE NEW JERUSALEM, from beginning to end. To this I will merely add that if you do good to the fullest extent, for example, if you build churches, adorn them and fill them with votive offerings; if you expend money lavishly on hospitals and guest-houses for strangers, give alms daily, succour widows and orphans; if you diligently observe the holy things of worship, indeed, if you think about them, speak and preach about them as from the heart, and yet do not shun evils as sins against God, all those goods are not good. They are either hypocritical or meritorious, for there is still evil interiorly within them, since the life of everyone is in all things that he does, in general and in particular. Goods only become good by the removal of evil from them. Hence it is clear that shunning evils because they are contrary to religion, thus contrary to God, is living well.


[3] But it is very different when by John is understood the Lord as to the Word, or the Word representatively.

Then by "the wilderness of Judea in which John was" is signified the state in which the Word was at the time

when the Lord came into the world, namely, that it was "in the wilderness," that is, it was in obscurity so great that the Lord was not at all acknowledged,

neither was anything known about His heavenly kingdom;

when yet all the prophets prophesied about Him, and about His kingdom, that it was to endure forever.

(That "a wilderness" denotes such obscurity, see n. 2708, 4736, 7313.)

For this reason the Word is compared to "a reed shaken by the wind" when it is explained at pleasure; for in the internal sense "a reed" denotes truth in the ultimate, such as is the Word in the letter.

(References: Malachi 4:5)

[4] That the Word in the ultimate, or in the letter, is crude and obscure in the sight of men;

but that in the internal sense it is soft and shining, is signified by their "not seeing a man clothed in soft raiment, for behold those who wear soft things are in kings' houses."

That such things are signified by these words, is plain from the signification of "raiment," or "garments," as being truths

(n. 2132, 2576, 4545, 4763, 5248, 6914, 6918, 9093);

and for this reason the angels appear clothed in garments soft and shining according to the truths from good with them

(n. 5248, 5319, 5954, 9212, 9216).

The same is evident from the signification of "kings' houses," as being the abodes of the angels, and in the universal sense, the heavens;

for "houses" are so called from good (n. 2233, 2234, 3128, 3652, 3720, 4622, 4982, 7836, 7891, 7996, 7997); and "kings," from truth (n. 1672, 2015, 2069, 3009, 4575, 4581, 4966, 5044, 6148).

Therefore by virtue of their reception of truth from the Lord, the angels are called "sons of the kingdom," "sons of the king," and also "kings."

(References: Arcana Coelestia 2233-2234, 7996-7997)

[5] That the Word is more than any doctrine in the world, and more than any truth in the world, is signified by

"what went ye out to see? a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet;" and by, "there hath not arisen among those who are born of women a greater than John the Baptist;"

for in the internal sense "a prophet" denotes doctrine (n. 2534, 7269); and "those who are born," or are the sons, "of women" denote truths (n. 489, 491, 533, 1147, 2623, 2803, 2813, 3704, 4257).

[6] That in the internal sense, or such as it is in heaven, the Word is in a degree above the Word in the external sense, or such as it is in the world,

and such as John the Baptist taught, is signified by, "he that is less in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he;”

for as perceived in heaven the Word is of wisdom so great that it transcends all human apprehension.

That the prophecies about the Lord and His coming, and that the representatives of the Lord and of His kingdom, ceased when the Lord came into the world, is signified by,

"all the prophets and the law prophesied until John."

That the Word was represented by John, as by Elijah, is signified by his being "Elias who is to come."

[7] The same is signified by these words in Matthew:

The disciples asked Jesus, Why say the scribes that Elias must first come? He answered and said, Elias must needs first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elias hath come already, and they knew him not, but did unto him whatsoever they wished.

Even so shall the Son of man also suffer of them. And they understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist (Matthew 17:10-13).

That "Elias hath come, and they knew him not, but did unto him whatsoever they wished" signifies that the Word has indeed taught them that the Lord is to come, but that still they did not wish to comprehend, interpreting it in favor of the rule of self, and thus extinguishing what is Divine in it.

That they would do the same with the truth Divine itself, is signified by

"even so shall the Son of man also suffer of them." (That "the Son of man" denotes the Lord as to truth Divine, see n. 2803, 2813, 3704)

[8] From all this it is now evident what is meant by the prophecy about John in Malachi:

Behold I send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Jehovah cometh (Malachi 4:5).

Moreover, the Word in the ultimate, or such as it is in the external form in which it appears before man in the world, is described by the "clothing" and "food" of John the Baptist, in Matthew:

John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, had His clothing of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his food was locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:1, 4).

In like manner it is described by Elijah in the second book of Kings:

He was a hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins (2 Kings 1:8).

By "clothing," or a "garment," when said of the Word, is signified truth Divine there in the ultimate form; by "camel's hair" are signified memory-truths such as appear there before a man in the world; by the "leathern girdle" is signified the external bond connecting and keeping in order all the interior things; by "food" is signified spiritual nourishment from the knowledges of truth and of good out of the Word; by "locusts" are signified ultimate or most general truths; and by "wild honey" their pleasantness.

[9] That such things are signified by "clothing" and "food" has its origin in the representatives of the other life,

where all appear clothed according to truths from good, and where food also is represented according to the desires of acquiring knowledge and growing wise.

From this it is that "clothing," or a "garment," denotes truth

(as may be seen from the citations above; and that "food" or "meat" denotes spiritual nourishment, n. 3114, 4459, 4792, 5147, 5293, 5340, 5342, 5576, 5579, 5915, 8562, 9003; that "a girdle" denotes a bond which gathers up and holds together interior things, n. 9341; that "leather" denotes what is external, n. 3540; and thus "a leathern girdle" denotes an external bond; that "hairs" denote ultimate or most general truths, n. 3301, 5569-5573; that "a camel" denotes memory-knowledge in general, n. 3048, 3071, 3143, 3145, 4156; that "a locust" denotes nourishing truth in the extremes, n. 7643; and that "honey" denotes the pleasantness thereof, n. 5620, 6857, 8056). It is called "wild honey," or "honey of the field," because by "a field" is signified the church (n. 2971, 3317, 3766, 7502, 7571, 9139, 9295).

He who does not know that such things are signified, cannot possibly know why Elijah and John were so clothed. And yet that these things signified something peculiar to these prophets, can be thought by everyone who thinks well about the Word.

[10] Because John the Baptist represented the Lord as to the Word, therefore also when he spoke of the Lord, who was the Word itself, he said of himself that he was "not Elias, nor the prophet,” and that he was "not worthy to loose the latchet of the Lord's shoe," as in John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.

The Jews from Jerusalem, priests and Levites, asked John who he was. And he confessed, and denied not, I am not the Christ.

Therefore they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? But he said, I am not. Art thou the prophet? He answered, No. They said therefore unto him, Who art thou? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said Isaiah the prophet. They said therefore, Why then baptizest thou, if thou art not the Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet? He answered, I baptize with water; in the midst of you standeth one whom ye know not; He it is who is to come after me, who was before me, the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose.

When he saw Jesus, he said, Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world!

This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a man who was before me; for he was before me (John 1:1, 14, 19-30).

From these words it is plain that when John spoke about the Lord Himself, who was Truth Divine itself, or the Word, he said that he himself was not anything, because the shadow disappears when the light itself appears, that is, the representative disappears when the original itself makes its appearance.

(That the representatives had in view holy things, and the Lord Himself, and not at all the person that represented, see n. 665, 1097, 1361, 3147, 3881, 4208, 4281, 4288, 4292, 4307, 4444, 4500, 6304, 7048, 7439, 8588, 8788, 8806.)

One who does not know that representatives vanish like shadows at the presence of light, cannot know why John denied that he was Elias and the prophet.

[11] From all this it can now be seen what is signified by Moses and Elias, who were seen in glory, and who spoke with the Lord when transfigured, of His departure which He should accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:29-31); namely, that they signified the Word ("Moses" the historic Word, and "Elias" the prophetic Word), which in the internal sense throughout treats of the Lord, of His coming into the world, and of His departure out of the world; and therefore it is said that "Moses and Elias were seen in glory," for "glory" denotes the internal sense of the Word, and the "cloud" its external sense (see the preface to Genesis 18, and n. 5922, 8427).

(References: Arcana Coelestia 2135; Exodus 24:1-2)

Why Forgive?

by Rev. Calvin Odhner

Text: Luke 7:36-50
Divine Providence 100

Good morning, and welcome to the Pittsburgh New Church! 

This morning we begin our series on forgiveness. Is forgiveness important? Does the Lord want us to forgive? How can we be forgiven? Nobody gets through this life without feeling betrayal by someone: getting hurt, that feeling of being “done wrong” to. It could have happened when we were young, or it could have happened yesterday. We hold these wrongs in our mind. We carry them with us. If you would like, write one or two of these offences/wrongs on a label with the pens provided, and we’ll take care of it. 

I know a boy who picked up one of those bazookas sitting on a porch--a potato shooter. It was winter, and he picked it up and pulled the trigger! There was now a frozen potato in it, and it flew 200 feet and hit his best friend in the jaw! It broke his jaw and he had to have it wired shut for a month! It still hurts. If he were here, he’d be writing that down. So if you want, you can just write down story Q or story J. The Lord will know which one you mean! 

Sometimes, we can do things we feel are so wrong that we can never be forgiven for them! The Lord has a story for us about that in Luke. Let’s read it now!

At the opening of our story we find the Lord going to eat a meal with a Pharisee:

“Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat.”

Not only did He go into the pharisee's house, which signifies consociation with him as a man, but He also ate with him, which signifies conjunction through good, whatever good there was. 

Now Pharisees were known for their hypocrisy, not really being interested in what the Lord had to say unless they could gain from it. But here is our first instruction in this parable:

Many times the Pharisees had “done the Lord wrong” like people in our own lives have betrayed us. How often have we felt injustices by our spouse or a co-worker for some infraction! And yet we must continue to connect, overlook, and be tolerant, allowing for whatever good that can come about from that connection. The Lord spurned fear and resentment for the sake of the use. He continued to connect. He stayed in the game and went beyond personalities and problems. 

For He says:

“ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”               

(John 13:3)

 "And having entered into the pharisee's house, He reclined to eat." 

 In those days it was common at meals for guests to recline on cushions which were arranged in a pattern radiating outward from a central, low table. They faced the table, but their feet stretched out behind them, away from the center. 

“And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil,  and stood at His feet behind Him weeping…”

Take a moment to think back to a time when you had done something so shameful, so wrong, that you wished you could erase that moment. But now that it is in your life, if only you could be forgiven for it. If only the Lord would forgive me. The "woman of the city" who came to worship the Lord was not merely a particular individual, but she represents all of us! 

She pictures the “affection for truth” which can be alive in everyone! It is with this affection for truth that we must approach the Lord if we wish to be conjoined with Him. 

She came with humility, conscious and repentant of her sins. She did not come ostentatiously with reasoning or promises of great plans. She came to perform a use for the Lord.

“… and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.”

When we picture this in our mind we can just imagine the humility and need for forgiveness this woman must have felt. But for the real power, we must turn to the internal sense. 

Washing represents the way we can cleanse our minds so we can clearly see and embrace the Lord. The Lord’s feet stand for the Word—the part of Him that touches the earth. The dirt on His feet represents the evils in us that cover Him and stand between the Lord and ourselves. Tears are the true ideas that she possessed to help her see and accept responsibility for her evils and repent of them. 

The story mentions both weeping and the shedding of tears: again, like everything in the Word: even this little detail is important. Weeping comes more from the mouth,  thus from the chest and abdomen, signifying grief of the heart over our falsities. Tears are a bitter watering of the eyes, coming from the thought and thus signifying grief of our mind. 

 When we discover the real condition our minds are in, we, too can feel a grief of heart and mind on account of our lack of truth and our false ideas. 

Only after the woman had washed the Lord's feet, and dried them with her hair, did she kiss Him on the feet. The kiss represents unition, and conjunction from affection, thus further acknowledgment and reciprocation with the Lord.

When we begin, from an affection of truth, to recognize and acknowledge our sins, we begin to see ourselves for what we are, all of us, interiorly: sinners, and we may wonder what we can do to obtain the Lord's forgiveness and mercy. 

The answer is in our story:

We are to approach the Lord with humility, especially when we have grief in heart and mind. We are to repent from our evil ways cleansing our minds so we can clearly see and embrace Him. And finally, from an affection for truth, we are to unite with Him and (like the fragrant oil) worship Him from the good of love. Notice that we are the one who must get busy and work to receive the Lord. 

The pharisee had failed to do this. The Lord pointed out, despite an appearance of concern and respect:

“... you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

Without forgiveness we carry resentment that blocks the Lord’s entry into our mind. It is so important to forgive that the Lord incorporated these words into our daily prayer: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” 

 The Lord cannot forgive man his trespasses as long as he retains hatred, revenge and enmity in his heart. He indeed forgives all people, but the law according to which He forgives them is the same to all. It is by repentance, reformation, and regeneration that man receives the Divine forgiveness. To forgive is to create in ourselves a love of the neighbor which is charity itself--a love which, because of its greatness, because of its nobility, because of its Divine source, will enable us to receive forgiveness of the Lord.

We read:

"I have heard from heaven that the Lord forgives every man his sins, and never takes vengeance or even imputes them, because He is Love Itself and Good Itself; but that nevertheless sins are not on this account wiped out; for that can only be done by repentance."

(True Christian Religion 409.)

During this six week study of forgiveness, I challenge you to study forgiveness as a craft! For it is really a “practice” anyone can learn. The art of forgiving; instant and loving forgiveness. When you figure it out you can teach me. But we know it starts by approaching the Lord with an affection for learning the truth. This is called faith. This is why the Lord said to the woman: 

"Your faith hath saved you; go in peace." 

Resentment and Marriage


By Rev. Calvin Odhner

Text: 2 Samuel 11:1 - 12; Conjugial Love 4

“Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house.”   (2 Samuel 11:1)

Good morning, and welcome to the Pittsburgh New Church! It’s great to be back! I hope you had a good break and are ready to turbocharge your spirituality! What a great deal we have, being in the NEW CHURCH! We get to study heaven and hell and decide which to choose! TOTAL FREEDOM! We choose one or the other by loving what people in heaven love, or what people in hell love. Now, every parable, every story, and every psalm warns us to watch out for three nasty things: hatred, revenge, and adultery. These three beasts live in our desires, our expectations, and our resentments! So let’s find out how king David managed His hatred, revenge, and adultery. We read from 2 Samuel chapter 11.

The famous actress Katherine Hepburn was quoted as saying, “Life is hard. After all, it kills you.” Winston Churchill said: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Everybody finds out life is challenging! I’m sure all of us in here have been through some hard life things, real challenges; you’re probably going through some right now! This reminds me of Mark Twain’s quote: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” And where can we get that fighting spirit? The Heavenly Doctrines!

We discover through the Heavenly Doctrines that challenges and temptations actually take us to a new level--they give us new insights. That’s why the Writings are timeless! They’re written to help with every stage of life. And if we live by key principles in them, life gets easier, because they teach us what makes us happy! Even if we don’t believe it--or live by it--at least we have a path home when we’re ready.

One of these key principles is: every love has a delight. Every love has a delight. Adultery has a delight; loving one wife has a delight. And since we love what delights us, by carefully monitoring our delights we can see if what we love is on track with what people in heaven love. Hell has everything to do with delights. A definition of hell is given in True Christian Religion:

A novitiate spirit was told to research what delight is, so he went around asking in the world of spirits, “What’s delight?” People said: “what kind of question is that? Delight is delight--when you’re glad or happy. One is just like another.” Others said: “Delight is laughing all the time and telling jokes.” Others said:  “Delight is eating and drinking until you’re intoxicated. Eventually, he found some wise people who helped him interview devils in hell. Here’s their conversation:

"The devils said, “Know, that everyone, good or evil, is in his own delight, a good man in the delight of good and an evil man in the delight of evil.”

And they asked, “What is your delight?”

They answered, that they were in the delight of whoring, stealing, defrauding, blaspheming. And they asked again, “What is the quality of these delights?”

They said, “They are perceived by others as fetid odors from excrements, and as the stench from dead bodies, and the rank smell from stagnant urine.”

And they were asked, “Are these delightful to you?”

They answered, “Most delightful.”

The others said, “Then you are like the unclean beasts that live in such things.”

They replied, “If we are, we are; but such things are the delights of our nostrils.”

And the others asked, “What else?”

They answered, that, “Everyone is allowed to be in his own delight, even the most unclean, as they call it, if only they do not infest good spirits and angels; but because from our delight, we cannot but infest them, we are cast into workhouses where we suffer horrible things."

It is here they describe the definition of hell:

"The prohibition and withdrawal of our delights there is what is called the torment of hell. It is really interior pain.”

(True Christian Religion 570:7)

Hell is a place where you can’t do what you love to do! This is why we can learn so much from what we delight in, and see if it would be allowed or not in heaven. In hell, people try to fulfill their delights anyway, and are forced to work in workhouses and suffer horrible things. So why would anybody keep hating, revenging, and adulterating? Because it feels good, at first: the pain and misery come later.


One of the easiest ways to see how hatred, revenge, and adultery show up in our lives is studying our relationships, especially marriage. Think back to a time when you were in love! It’s a fantastic feeling. There is no one else we desire more than that person. Everything in us wants to connect: men would climb Everest in the morning and cross the Sahara in the afternoon if needed to prove their love. Women spend hours to get that perfect look, the perfect dress and hair, or whatever else women do. Every part of the feminine is a perfect match for the masculine; this is the divine design.

We read:

“...[E]very particular--in fact every detail--of them offers conjunction....[T]his disposition to unite has been implanted from creation, so it is always there, and that means that the one yearns and pants to unite with the other. Viewed in its own right, love is nothing other than a desire, and from it an effort, to join together."

(Conjugial Love 37)


But we also bring desires to our relationships, don’t we? Some of us believed: “We’ll have the same friends like my parents did,” or, “She’ll love to go on vacation where I love to go.” “He’ll understand that I need my coffee in the morning. He’ll bring it to me just like my dad did to my mom.” “It’s just going to be wonderful!” “He also knows that sometimes I need extra care, to lie in bed all day, so he’ll take care of the wash and everything.” So down the aisle we go with all these desires: how our finances will be, how our house will be, how romance will be…. “He’ll even make sure that I’m comfortable at night--so I can wear whatever I want.”

Now, after a week or a month or a year, we begin to place these things we desired into another box, called expectations. It was fine before we were married, when we just started our relationship. I didn’t expect much then, but now that we are married and it’s been a while, it’s time to get going! In fact, I feel like you even agreed to this stuff, that it was your end of the deal. And I kind of said yes because you kinda said yes to all these things!

Love of Self and the World

You see, coming down that aisle is not just two people. There is something else looming inside both of them: loves with their delights; the old love of self and love of the world. This is something nobody gets out of: everybody has it. It’s also part of the divine design. We read:

..[T]he worldly person is the one everyone is led to be at first when he grows up, which happens through information and finding things out, and through rational and intellectual thoughts.

(Conjugial Love 426)

And it’s this person who is running the show, figuring out what’s best for the marriage, determining if this is going to work.


It’s this person, when his loves are not satisfied, when he doesn't get what he thinks he wants, who begins to put things in the next box: resentments.

The definition of a resentment is: “The experience of a negative emotion felt as a result of a real or imagined wrong.” It comes from the Latin “Sentire” which means “to feel.” So re-sentment is to re-feel a negative emotion over and over. And when we begin believing those loves we delight in, something new begins to happen. She may begin to say: “I hate that we don’t have the security, money, romance, children--fill in the blank. I want to punish you for not giving it to me, and I might even leave to find someone else (hatred, revenge and adultery…).

Throughout the Writings these three represent the opposite of charity and love to the neighbor. We read:

Everyone can see that… charity consists in being wholly unwilling to commit adultery with the wife of another; that charity consists in not doing injury to the neighbor in hatred and revenge; that charity consists in not reviling another, and so forth. He who abhors these things as sins, has charity, for he loves the neighbor.

(Last Judgment, Posthumous 164)


So we can see from this progression that the things we love, in the end determine who we are and the way we will think and act (CL 34).1 In many places, Swedenborg tells us how amazed he is that a person’s loves are the real person. He had this proved to him thousands of times. We read:

... Love is a person’s life, and therefore is the person himself... Love is the being of a person’s life or the essential reality of it, and thinking from love is the visible existence or manifestation of his life. So the speech and action that spring from thinking do not really spring from thinking but from love, and flow out through thought. From many experiences I have found out that after death people are not their thoughts, but they are their feelings and the thought from them, in other words they are there love and understanding that comes from it. After death people reject everything not in harmony with their love. In fact, they gradually assume the face, voice, speech, gestures, and manners of their life’s love.

(Conjugial Love 36)

So if our loves and desires lead to expectations, and expectations lead to resentments which carry hatred, revenge, and adultery. How can we change our loves? How can we begin to break the chain at the very beginning? This is where the Word comes in: everything in the Word is designed to heal us and to educate us on what we are actually like. We can see ourselves in King David. He desired Bathsheba; he desired what he thought would be delightful and make him happy. And we resent those who won’t fulfill our fantasies, who stand in our way, just as King David resented Uriah.

Each of us, through trial and error, learn over and over the that only way to happiness is through temptation, through fighting the distress that is felt when we are resisting something we love--the delight of evil. When we resist this evil delight, our spiritual mind is opened and our spirit is introduced into heaven even while we are in the world!

"Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house."  (2 Samuel 11:1)

Awe and Holy Fear: Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.

By Rev. Pearse Frazier

Fear is an emotion. And like all emotions it can be best understood as a passive experience. It's something that happens to you. We are not our emotions. We might feel joy, or anger, or sadness, or fear, but those are experiences that we feel. It's like feeling something rough or soft or painful or hot or cold. We're not cold or hot or painful. Those are things we feel. All of our feelings are passive in that way. This is an important thing to remember because too often we can identify ourselves as our emotions.

Fear is that kind of passive emotion. It's something we experience. And the Heavenly Doctrine in Arcana Coelestia 3718 tells us about different kinds of fear and why we experience what we experience. Think about any emotion for a moment. Any emotion is experienced of some affection that we have for something or someone being stimulated or stirred in a particular way.

If you love a child, for example, and that child is given something wonderful and they laugh, you experience the emotion of joy. If that child is harmed then you experience the emotion of sadness or anger. And when a child is threatened -- a child that you love -- you might experience the emotions of fear and anger.

Fear is when something that we love or have an affection for is threatened, is in danger -- that's when we experience fear. A simple illustration of this is why people are afraid of heights. They have an affection for their own health, and for their own life. And when they're at the top of a height, look down, think they might slip and fall, then naturally they think, I could lose this thing that I love -- me! It's a normal thing. They are not their fear. But they are their affection behind that fear. They do genuinely love themselves. And they are that love. It's an appropriate love that they have for themselves. This is why so often our fear does tell us about who and what we are. We are not our emotions, but our emotions tell us who we can or can't be.

In our reading we heard about two kinds of fear, holy fear and un-holy or natural fear. Natural fear is like the fear we just talked about, the fear that you have that you might be harmed. It's the fear that keeps most people in line. It's the fear that you might get a ticket if you speed. It's the fear that any kind of punishment or harm might come to you or to those you love, and it's felt as fear. The Writings say it's felt primarily in the body and in the natural man. You can imagine this fear; it's an unpleasant, physical feeling. It can tighten your stomach and send chills up your spine. We have physical things that we identify with fear, such as darkness, cold, screeching noises, a note out of key. These are the things that trigger the physical feeling of fear. They are all natural feelings of fear.

Holy fear, we're told, doesn't feel the same as natural fear. It doesn't feel physical in that way. We're also told that holy fear is when we have a fear of harm coming to something good or true outside of oneself. Returning to the example of a child: If you love a child and you're afraid for that child to be hurt, that's a kind of holy fear, and you might feel that fear as a knot in your stomach. But this is still a natural sort of holy fear and is not true spiritual holy fear.

We're told that good holy fear, spiritual holy fear, is felt as awe. In a moment we'll discuss love to the neighbor as it relates to holy fear. But first think about times when you have experienced awe or wonder -- Divine awe -- maybe you've been up early in the morning and you saw a sunrise and you thought, My God! What a beautiful sunrise! Literally thinking, Wow! The Lord made this amazing thing! And I've been given the blessing and the opportunity to see it. You are awed by that creation. That sense of awe is the feeling that accompanies holy fear.

But it's even more than that. A breathtaking sunrise is an example of a natural experience, a trick of aesthetics. Think to the moments in your life when real spiritual experience (not something visual) brought you awe. Maybe at your wedding. Or at the birth of your child. Or the death of a loved one, if you were there at their side. In these moments of real spiritual meaning when we experience a sense of awe and wonder, we think My God! We know that something more than our life has occurred here. We are struck by that wonder. Jacob experiences in his dream. That awe is what he's feeling when he wakes up. He realizes that the Lord is in this place. And he had not known it.

Often in our lives we'll have a sense of clarity, a moment where we truly understand that the Lord is God of Creation and is behind all the most meaningful moments of our lives. Maybe it is one of those important life experiences mentioned earlier -- your wedding or the birth of a loved one or the death of a loved one -- or maybe it's another important event, where acknowledgment and recognition of the Lord becomes clear and powerful, almost overwhelming.

We all acknowledge that on the average Tuesday morning, for example, when we wake up, awe is not the feeling we have. What should we do in those moments? How do we capture that sense of awe and clarity?

What does Jacob do? He sets up an alter. As we discussed with the children, you can set up an alter to the Lord in those moments of clarity and awe, when you feel a spiritual holy fear. You can do this with a mind meld, with your imagination, building literally an alter in your mind, setting up a stone and pouring oil on it. These images from the Word have powerful correspondential spiritual truth behind them. And your application of these kinds of images in your imagination can help order your mind.

The Heavenly Doctrine tells us time and again that we should meditate on the Word. This process applied to the story of Jacob's dream is the kind of thing that the Word is talking about: meditate on it. Really think about it.

If you're sitting there in front of a beautiful sunrise and you suddenly realize truly what it means for the Lord to be guiding you and your life, pause, close your eyes, set up an alter and pour oil on that alter, and pray to the Lord. Realize that He is with you.

These images have even more power when they are physical and tangible. This is why it is so useful to come to church. It's why we have an alter with the Word on it. It's why it's useful in your home to have an alter with the Word, a place set aside to remind you of the awe and wonder of the Lord.

Think back now to our original example of our love for a child. People love putting photos up of their children on Facebook. And when you go into a retired person's home, one of the things you may see are pictures everywhere, in the bathroom, in the bedroom, in the living room, on the refrigerator, why? These are physical reminders of the things that are important to that person. They are like alters to the objects of their affections. We put up pictures because we want to be reminded of the things that mean the most to us, and because we want to be reminded of those people for whom we have great affection and love.

Because we're natural, because we're here on earth and we're not perfect, often we'll experience a fear for the well being of those people. We feel this as worry in our stomach or chills up our spine. We might think, Oh, no, what could happen to my son or my daughter or my husband or my wife or my cousin? That fear can happen.

There is another fear. It is the spiritual holy fear of awe and wonder, for instance, when we can look at a picture of a loved one and we can say, My God! He has given them into my life. They are the son or daughter of the Lord, and they've been put into my life. This is like the true holy fear of angels. Angels do not worry about bad things that happen to other people. Their stomachs do not knot up and chills do not come up their spines, because they have faith and confidence in the Lord. And what's more, they know where their power lies.

We too can have that faith and confidence in the Lord, and that feeling the angels have, if we remember where our power lies.

We do not have the power to prevent terrible things from happening to the people we love. We cannot prevent terrorist attacks, or firebombings, or accidents or serious illnesses. We cannot. We can only do our best to mitigate against them.

Where then does your true power lie?

The answer to that question has to do with fear. True holy fear -- the fear that we as individuals might cause harm to those we love -- the fear that a parent has, the terrible fear, that maybe they are parenting poorly, that maybe they've done something wrong. It's the fear that we can have at work when we worry, Maybe I've offended one of my colleagues. Or it's the fear we can have in our relationships and friendships when we think maybe we've offended someone or caused someone harm, or maybe we might. That is true holy fear, because in that we can trust the Lord. We can ask the Lord for help in being a good friend and worker and parent and spouse. We can know and have confidence that shunning evils as sins and loving the neighbor is in our control and within our grasp. That's where we can have awe and wonder at the gift the Lord has given us.

Remember the Lord told Jacob that he would be a blessing to all nations. Remember we, each of us, can be a blessing to everyone in our lives.

In keeping holy fear, we acknowledge that we are the one who has power over our own sins. That is where our true power lies. We can shun sins. We can do better. The Lord has given us this power. This is the blessing we can be: we can treat our neighbor with love and kindness and honesty and faith. When we love the neighbor, we love God.

Have confidence. Set up an alter to the Lord in your mind, and the Lord will make you a blessing to all nations.