Cure for the Guilty Conscience

Paradox of Matthew 5

“What joy of those who mourn…”

Matthew 5:4, paraphrased by Ted Kell

In Matthew 5:4, Jesus tells us that we will be blessed when we mourn. He’s not talking about the mourning that comes with a tragic event or with anxiety of tomorrow.  Nor does he refer to the despairing sorrows of the world or morbid self pity.  There’s a special kind of mourning that Jesus speaks of that brings us blessings.

It’s human nature to want to run away from something that you know you’ve done wrong.  Maybe you want to hide from it or brush it away and try to ignore it as best as you can.  But as Christians, we are called to mourn for our sins.  We mourn because we realize that we will never be perfect.

We are told in Hebrews 12:14 to “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (NIV).  We must live a holy life to be an example for the people around us; but to be holy one must reach perfection, and it is impossible for us to live a perfect life, so we mourn because we fail our calling.  Like David when he wrote Psalm 38:17 & 18, “For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me. I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin…” (NIV) and Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5 when he declares that ” ‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty…” (NIV) we must recognize our sinfulness and we must mourn for it, because it’s our sins that lead to our death.

2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that in Christ we are a new creation: “…the old has gone, the new has come!” (NIV) But when we sin, we return to our old sinful nature, and so we mourn.  We mourn because it is our sins that sends us to death, but Jesus took our place.  He was nailed on the cross for our sins.  We can never be perfect the way that He was perfect.

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” Psalm 32:1

In our mourning because of how sinful we are, God sees our grief and He forgives us.  We can take comfort in His forgiveness and be joyful: our sins are erased and we are made alive when we believe in Christ and accept Him as our Lord and Savior.  (Ephesians 2:1-10) Our sinful death has become a merciful resurrection.

A letter from Paul to the church in Corinth, concerning godly grief and forgiveness (2 Corinthians 2:5-11,NIV; 7:2-16, ESV):

“If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent — not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.  Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven — if there was anything to forgive — I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.  (2:5-11, NIV)

Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together I am acting with great boldness towards you: I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. 

For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn — fighting without and fear within.  But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more  For even if I made  you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it — though I did regret it, for I see that the letter grieved you, though only for a while.  As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting.  For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.  For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. Therefore we are comforted.  

And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.” (7:2-16, ESV)

 

Ted Said Happiness Is Our Identity, Not Our Goal

I don’t think my readers have to guess I’m a Bible geek. It’s always been that way since I can remember, partly due to the influence of teachers and scholars whom I’ve never met. I only heard them, and heard about them, thanks to the power of audio recording, word of mouth, and probably The Great Commission. All my life, Dad has always harped on Sunset preachers Edward Wharton, Jim McGuiggan, Richard Baggett, and Ted Kell, among others.

A few weeks ago, in the garage we found an old box of Bible courses from Sunset Preaching School, now known as Sunset International Bible Institute. That’s where my father was schooled. This particular Sunday, I listened to a dusty old tape which had a lecture on it from the late Ted Kell; he stated that it was the year 1974, so it’s been more than 40 years ago. Wow… I still shake my head in amazement that he was talking about subjects so relatable. It’s like he was talking about today! Except I think the world is even worse since he talked. (Maybe I’m just a millennial, aka Snowflake, aka Woman of Generation Why? as they call it…)

Ted Kell’s lecture was about the Beatitudes. Since I talked about Matthew 5 in our last study, I was extremely curious to know more. I listened closely. Here’s a summary of what I learned from him thus far:

The Beatitudes is part of the Sermon on the Mount. It is Jesus Christ’s longest sermon ever recorded. People from all over Palestine came to listen to Jesus teach, and ever since that time up until present day, it has continued to be the most popular part of his ministry; yet it is the least applied.

If the Sermon on the Mount is the essence of the Bible, then the Beatitudes is the ESSENCE of the essence. More specifically, the Beatitudes is where you go to find the principles of God’s laws, the very seed in which all the other verses of the New Testament grow from. These verses, which are Matthew 5:1-12, are also the answer to finding joy and godly fulfillment.

People are miserable today, Kell said; newspapers made the claim that anxiety and depression plagued the Post-Activism Era. People gave up on their dreams, dropped out of college, and committed suicide. (As it still is today. While I write, my thoughts drift to the recent suicide of Chester Pennington, vocalist of Linkin Park.) However, healing and prevention and freedom are found in Jesus Christ, only in him. You must apply his words to your life to get relief.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus speaks to the multitude. He was first walking in a plain with a crowd of thousands of followers, when he saw how huge the crowds were, and decided to climb a mountainside and sit down, to teach. In Bible times, it was custom for the teacher to sit down before he began teaching. You can see that in Luke 4:20—Jesus was reading from the scroll with the prophet’s words, in the synagogue, fulfilling the very words as he read them, and then he sat down and said, “While you heard me reading these words just now, they were coming true!”

Jesus amazed the crowds at the synagogue, and he amazed the crowds at the Sermon on the Mount both. The Bible tells us that, in Matthew 7:28-29:

When Jesus finished speaking, the people were amazed at his teaching. He did not teach like their teachers of the law. He taught like someone who has authority.” (ERV)

The question still remains as to how, then, should we apply The Beatitudes? None of Jesus’s teachings come naturally to the human disposition. Everything he says runs counter to human nature. So we cannot be a natural peacemaker, or a natural poor spirit. Transformation of character is only possible when a Christian actively seeks Christ.

To review our knowledge, allow me to explain the vernacular usage of “the world” or “worldly people”, before we go any further. I have a friend who seemed to relate the Christian’s use of “the world” to a sort of anti-globalism stance, or some kind of pro-xenophobia agenda. No, no. Let’s define “the world”, and the difference between “the worldly” and “the righteous”:

The righteous is the flock, the sheep, in which Jesus is the Shepherd. The world are those who reject His teachings. Please refer to the picture below, to see a list of traits, taken from the Beatitudes, and then the antonyms, which can be applied to the worldly person.

righteousVsWorldly

“ Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2  (WEB)

Beatitude comes from a Latin word, beatus, that means “blessed”. There are a lot of beatitudes in the Bible, not just in Matthew 5. You can especially find them in Psalms. For example,

“Blessed is he who considers the poor. Yahweh will deliver him in the day of evil.” Psalm 4:11

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you; who have set their hearts on a pilgrimage.” Psalm 84:5

The Beatitudes aren’t so much commands as they are praises, praising those who are all these things: poor-spirited, mournful, gentle, thirsty for what’s right, full of mercy, pure-hearted, makers of peace, and persecuted for God.

The Beatitudes are also steps. You won’t mourn until you are poor in spirit, and you won’t be meek until you are mourning your emptiness. Once you’re meek, you will hunger and thirst for righteousness. That’s why this applies to all people, regardless of nation, heritage, origin, race, color, or language.

“Blessed” comes from the Greek Word, makarios, which is defined by BibleHub as “blessed, happy.” Ted Kell explains blessedness as a divine blessing only from the Lord, not from any other source. To quote 1 Timothy 6:15, “I command you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate testified the good confession, that you keep the commandment without spot, blameless, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; which in its own times he will show, who is the blessed and only Ruler, the King of Kings, and Lord of lords…” Lord Jesus is blessed, and he shares his blessings with us, if we follow his teachings. What’s awesome about that is, the generic story behind gods and goddesses is that they live it up and enjoy life, but God sent Jesus so that we can be blessed and happy ourselves. Only God has blessedness, and so only in God can we find real happiness.

Conjointly, happiness from God is independent of circumstance. The word “happiness” can be misleading because it comes from the same word roots as happenstance, which means it occurs from an accident or lucky break or chance encounter, but God’s happiness is different than that. It does not come from random happenstances. It comes from faith in Jesus Christ, and joy in the works we partake in on His behalf. Therefore, that’s why I say that in conclusion, the key phrase to summarize Ted Kell’s first sermon tape on the Beatitudes is this: Happiness is our identity, not our goal.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” –Jesus (John 10:10)

“I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10

I want to end with a fable:

In a quaint cottage set in medieval England, there once was a woman named Beatrice. Her name means bringer of joy, or one who brings blessings. From a young age, she strove to represent that; she strove to be what her name was. She married an average man. He was hardworking and sensitive, a good listener, and a light sleeper.

Beatrice did everything to bring blessings to her husband and her neighbors. She made them plum pudding on holidays, sewed them scarves on their birthdays, and kept the house clean and comfortable for visits. When her husband was sick with a cough, she made him the tastiest soup. If a cat came for milk, she always set a bowl out, warm and fresh.

As months and years went by, Beatrice grew weary of being the bringer of joy. She sometimes got sad at how much work it was, but she never stopped.

Soon, she bore twins. It was a happy event, but then again, she was forced to learn how to forgive, after the twins turned into obstinate brothers that always fussed.

As the years progressed, she began to notice her husband becoming restless. At night, he would toss and turn, and some nights he would stay out late. It left Beatrice alone to raise her sons, and sometimes the neighbors criticized the lack of authority in the house.

One day, Beatrice asked her husband why he had been distant. His answer surprised her.

“I toss and turn because I hear you crying in the kitchen. I stay out late because I want to make enough to buy you jewels. You never ask for anything but you give everything. If you yelled at me, I would feel more human. If you hated me, it would be more natural, yet you never do. You are the purest person I have ever known.”

“But, my husband,” she said, “I don’t need jewels. I love you and want you to come home so you can be with your sons.”

“Ah! See? Still, you consider not yourself. How, Beatrice? How? How do you bless me so much? Tell me your secret.”

Beatrice took a moment of silence, and her head was bowed, as she thought about his question. Finally, she answered simply but surely. “What’s in a name unless you live to make it true? I live to own up to who I am, and I live to make the blessings new, every day. For I am a bringer of blessings, not one who brought or one who will bring. I must bring today, and every day, to keep my name with meaning.”

Moral: Beatrice the name also derives from beatus, the same word Beatitudes derives from. Like Beatrice lived to see her namesake be real, we need to live up to our namesake: Christian.

“They will know we are Christians by our love.” -Peter Scholtes

Girls with Swords, Week 8

(All of the following Scripture is taken from the New International Version Holy Bible.)

God is love.

“Do not those who plot evil go astray?  But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.” (Proverbs 14:22) ~ “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” (Proverbs 3:3) ~ “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” (Proverbs 10:12) ~ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) ~ “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.” (Proverbs 21:21) ~

God Loves you.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so,  but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:1-8) ~ “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” (James 2:5) ~ “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12) ~

Love all people.

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39) ~ “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is a fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10) ~ “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48) ~ “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all that I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) ~

 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.” (James 2:8)

 

Lisa Bevere’s workbook, the Fencing Manual, made the statement: “For far too long the Word has been interpreted rather than proclaimed.” Then it asked the question: “What is the difference?” Lacy’s written reply was,
“Interpreting Scripture is when someone tries to grasp its meaning, with bias that overcomes willingness, and so the Scripture is read with the bias as absolute truth, rather than God’s word and meaning.  Contrastingly, proclaiming is when Scripture is read in context, read cover to cover, and shared.” -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

“The language of God is LOVE.  That needs no words at all.  Wouldn’t it be something if the church just… stopped talking for a change and just… ACTED on love, instead of speaking?” -quote from Kat’s fencing manual

Girls With Swords, Week 7

“Then Eleazar the priest said to the soldiers who had gone into battle, ‘This is the requirement of the law that the LORD gave Moses: Gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin, lead and anything else that can withstand fire must be put through fire, and then it will be clean. But it must also be purified with the water of cleansing.  And whatever cannot withstand fire must be put through that water.” Numbers 31:21-24, NIV

The Israelites had just gained victory over the Midianites, and they brought back the spoils of battle.   Since the Israelites were God’s holy people, they were required to follow strict rules to not defile themselves or the rest of their camp.  To protect themselves from defilement, God gave them this command: purify all the spoils with water and fire.

The Bible uses the example of the refinement of gold and silver many times in the Bible.  Job used the idea first, in Job 23:10.  “…he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

This act of refinement is compared to God’s testing of our hearts.  Daniel received a vision in which he was told of the testing: “Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.” (Daniel 11:33-35. NIV)

Some of the wise will stumble so that they may be refined… God allows his people to make mistakes so that they can grow in character and learn from the mistakes.

“For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to cut you off.  See, I have refined you, though not as silver. I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.” (Isaiah 48:9-10, NIV)

We are tested in the furnace of affliction.  To refine gold and silver, a smithy melts it down it a very hot fire, and the fire burns away any impurities in it.  This causes the precious metal to become more pure.

But according to Isaiah, God tests us in the furnace of affliction.  We are made pure by passing through the fires, surviving the trials that God tests us with.

“Therefore this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people?  Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks with deceit, with his mouth each speaks cordially to his neighbor, but in his heart he sets a trap for him. Should I not punish them for this?’ declares the LORD. ‘Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?’” (Jeremiah 9:7-9, NIV)

God must refine and test His people to reveal their intentions.  If they are true to Him and striving to be good, then they will become pure from the affliction; but if they are with evil plans, then God will surely punish them like He did with Israel once Israel and Judah split into 2 nations, and Israel grew corrupt.

“Son of man, the house of Israel had become dross to me; all of them are the copper, tin, iron, and lead left inside a furnace. They are but the dross of silver. Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Because you have all become dross, I will gather you into Jerusalem. As men gather silver, copper, iron, lead and tin into a furnace to melt it with a fiery blast, so will I gather you in my anger and my wrath, and put you inside the city and melt you. I will gather you and I will blow on you with my fiery wrath, and you will be melted inside her. As silver is melted in a furnace, so you will be melted inside her, and you will know that I the Lord have poured out my wrath upon you.” (Ezekiel 22:18-22, NIV)

“Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” Psalm 66:8-12 (NIV)

God judged his people in the old testament, but where do we fit in?  We, God’s chosen people, can read some wonderful news in the book of Malachi.  (2:17-3:5) “You have wearied the Lord with your words. “How have we wearied him?” You ask.  By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”  “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple: the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years. So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerer, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.”

Jesus is the Master Refiner.  We are made pure through Him!  1 Peter 1:3-9 explains it like this: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed at the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of  your souls.”

As all impurities are burned away from gold in the refinement process, our imperfect deeds will be burned away to reveal our pure intentions.  I Corinthians 3:11-18 says “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.  Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”

When we do our works according to God’s wishes and dedicate our lives for Him, then we will surely receive the inheritance which Jesus is preparing for us.

“In the whole land,” declares the Lord, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, “They are my people,” and they will say, “The Lord is our God.”  (Zechariah 13:8-9, NIV)

(Example of a time you “traveled through flames”) “Not literally, but that time Kathryn got sick with the [ovarian] cyst and had surgery, I was pretty afraid for her. I didn’t eat for days and lost 20 pounds during that time. I thought death was around the corner…” -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

(Example of a time you “traveled through water”) “We had just gone to Germany. I was still new. We had barely been there a week.  That Sunday (our first Sunday at GK) all the youth were going to camp. I was in new territory. I only knew Kristina from letter writing once or twice.  And yet, I was swept up to join the youth group, to go to Camp Gemunden.  I didn’t want to go to camp [because I was a shy girl], but it was good for me. It was fun, and it strengthened my friendships while I was in Germany.” -quote from Kat’s fencing manual

Girls With Swords, Week 6

“Good men must not obey the laws too well.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

In this week’s study, we were given this quote and asked to explain what we thought it meant.  I really had no clue what to imagine the quote meant, but finally came up with this answer to the challenge:

“It needs context. I went and tried to read a little bit of the essay that the quote is from, and it’s generally about government.  In more entirety, the quote actually says ‘Every actual State is corrupt. Good men must not obey the laws too well.’ The essay also argues the ‘government’ between Laban and Jacob; how Laban and Isaac are the keepers of the land, [and are in charge of making decisions on matters concerning their land, and though Jacob lives there too, he must simply earn his keep.  He has no power over what happens to the land.]  So from the little that I read, maybe it means that there is no HUMAN state that is flawless.  Only God’s state is really Good.” 

Later, my dad shared a new thought with us, a sermon that he had heard spoken, and it cleared my understanding of Mr. Emerson’s quote. It dealt with the story in John 5:1-18. In the story, Jesus was healing a man who couldn’t walk.

When Jesus saw the man and knew that he had been sick for such a long time, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered, “Sir, there is no one to help me get into the pool when the water starts moving. While I am coming to the water, someone else always gets in before me.” Then Jesus said, “Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.” And immediately the man was well; he picked up his mat and began to walk.” (verses 6-9, NCV)

According to the laws of love, Jesus did a wonderful thing.  He healed a man who had been trying to reach an angel’s healing touch for 38 years.  Who could have possibly been against such a good act of kindness?

“Because Jesus was doing this on the Sabbath day, some evil people began to persecute him.” (Verse 16, NCV)

As wonderful as was the kindness that Jesus showed to the cripple, the Jews weren’t happy with his work because it was on the Sabbath, which was their holy day of rest.  According to the Jewish laws, no one was allowed to work on the Sabbath.  Jesus, however, never allowed the laws of the Sabbath to stop Him from doing a good deed.

“But Jesus said to them, “My Father never stops working, and so I keep working, too.” This made them try still harder to kill him. They said, “First Jesus was breaking the law about the Sabbath day. Now he says that God is his own Father, making himself equal with God!” (verses 17-18, NCV)

There are many stories where Jesus healed people on the Sabbath (Mark 1:21-31, 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17, 14:1-6; John 9:1-16).  Jesus was hated for His work.

“Every actual State is corrupt.  Good men must not obey the laws too well.”  Jesus matched the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson perfectly in this story: He is a good man, the only good man on earth, but He didn’t follow the Jewish laws perfectly.  Instead He followed God’s flawless law: love and mercy.

 “Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.” Mark 10:18 (NCV)

Amen, Lord Jesus!

“Our Warrior-King is beautiful. His very image is beyond compare. The wondrous span of creation captures a mere fragment of his beauty. The mighty ocean, soaring skies, and majestic mountains declare the powerful, immeasurable, enduring beauty of his strength.  Each and every living thing-from plants to animals- is an irresistible revelation of the fact that our God is gorgeous! He lovingly formed his sons and daughters to carry more of his majesty, glory, and beauty than any other creation.  We are his masterpiece.” –Quote from Lisa Bevere, Girls with Swords

“Being kind to people who see no kindness, or little of it anyway, [moves me].  Also being reliable. I am moved by quality, whether it’s quality of life, writing, behavior- perhaps I have high expectations, but…”    -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

“Read the Psalms.  All over the place, [the scriptures can bring you perspective when you’re anxious or afraid], it calls God “a fortress”, “a shield”, “my strength”.  I never really understood the concept of the Psalms until we came up with Belaedria, and Escaping the Lair.  Taliesan [our fictional character] is always impressed by the Psalms.  He convinced me that God really is our shield!” -quote from Kat’s fencing manual  

Girls With Swords, Week 5

The chapter this week focused on the cross, and how Satan thought he was victorious as Jesus drew his final breath on the cross and said “It is finished.”  Satan didn’t realize that it was man’s fate of being covered in sin with no hope of redemption that was finished; not God’s wonderful plan of salvation!  Through Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection, we are forgiven! There is no condemnation for us; all that is expected is that we boast in the cross and believe (and proclaim) Jesus Christ is Lord!

“…Aaron will take the two goats and bring them before the Lord at the entrance to the Meeting Tent. He will throw lots for the two goats—one will be for the Lord and the other for the goat that removes sin. Then Aaron will take the goat that was chosen for the Lord by throwing the lot, and he will offer it as a sin offering. The other goat, which was chosen by lot to remove the sin, must be brought alive before the Lord. The priest will use it to perform the acts that remove Israel’s sin so they will belong to the Lord. Then this goat will be sent out into the desert as a goat that removes sin. … He will put both his hands on the head of the living goat, and he will confess over it all the sins and crimes of Israel. In this way Aaron will put the people’s sins on the goat’s head. Then he will send the goat away into the desert, and a man who has been appointed will lead the goat away. So the goat will carry on itself all the people’s sins to a lonely place in the desert. The man who leads the goat will let it loose there.” Leviticus 16:7-10, 21-22

In the Old Testament the Israelites were commanded to use the blood of a lamb for the forgiveness of their sins.  They were also commanded to send out a scapegoat to carry their sins into the wilderness.  Once gone, the sins would be forgotten.

Looking into the future, the prophet Isaiah told how one day a Savior would come to the nation of Israel and save God’s people from the judgment that awaits those who do not respect and obey God.  In Isaiah 49:6, the prophecy even tells how people who are not part of Israel will also be saved by this wonderful Savior. “The Lord told me, ‘You are an important servant to me. You will bring back the tribes of Jacob. You will bring back the people of Israel who are left alive. But, more importantly, I will make you a light for all nations. You will show people all over the world the way to be saved.’(ICB)  God wanted us ALL to be brought into righteousness.

Isaiah 53 is a direct prophecy of Jesus Christ, telling how He would be treated unfairly, killed, and become the sin offering for all who believe in Him. “We all have wandered away like sheep; each of us has gone his own way. But the Lord has put on him the punishment for all the evil we have done.” (verse 6, NCV)

Jesus is not only the Lamb of God which is sacrificed to wash away sins, but He is also the scapegoat which carries the sins of all the people away, no longer to be thought of.

Isaiah also prophecies Jesus’ victory in his resurrection. Isaiah 53:11 says that After his soul suffers many things, he will see life and be satisfied. My good servant will make many people right with God; he will carry away their sins.” (NCV)  Jesus did gain the victory over death, and He offers the same to us.

“He willingly gave his life and was treated like a criminal. But he carried away the sins of many people and asked forgiveness for those who sinned.” (verse 12, NCV)

Praise the Lord!  Thank you, Jesus.

“The cross addresses our raw human tendency that not one of us can escape. Before the cross, we were victims of destiny, our own fate hung over our heads like doom, but after the cross, we had another option: eternal life with Jesus.” –quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

“It’s the blood of lambs that would wash away the sins of the Israelites. A purely good life must be given – its blood spilt, for the sanctification of our own sinful lives.  And so what other way could Christ have saved us?  He is our lamb of God; a sinless, perfect life. He had to fulfill all the prophesies.”  –quote from Kat’s fencing manual

Prayer of the Faithful

A prayer with the words of Albert B. Simpson (Hymn: What will you do with Jesus?) , Eliza E. Hewitt (Hymn: Who will follow Jesus?), and King David (Psalms 25 and 26).

Jesus is standing in Pilate’s hall, Friendless, forsaken, betrayed  by all; Hearken! What meaneth the sudden call? What will you do with Jesus?

Jesus is standing on trial still, You can be false to Him if you will, You can be faithful through good or ill: What will you do with Jesus?  (Simpson)

O Lord, I give my life to you. I trust in you, my God! Do not let me be disgraced, or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat. No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others. (Psalms 25:1-3, NLT)

Who will follow Jesus, standing for the right, holding up His banner in the thickest fight?  Listening for His orders, ready to obey, who will follow Jesus, serving Him today? (Hewitt)

Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.  Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me.  All day long I put my hope in you.  Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love, which you have shown from long ages past.  Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.  Remember me in the light of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, grapes
O Lord. (Psalms 25:4-7, NLT)

Who will follow Jesus, in life’s busy ways, working for the Master, giving Him the
praise; Earnest in His vineyard, honoring His laws, faithful to His counsel, watchful for His cause? (Hewitt)

The Lord is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray.  He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way.  The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep his covenant and obey his demands. (Psalm 25:8-10, NLT)

Will you evade Him as Pilate tried?  Or will you choose Him, whate’er betide?  Vainly you struggle from Him to hide: What will you do with Jesus?

Will you, like Peter, your Lord deny? Or will you scorn from His foes to fly, Daring for Jesus to live or die?  What will you do with Jesus? (Simpson)

For the honor of your name, O Lord, forgive my many, many sins.  Who are those who fear the Lord? He will show them the path they should choose.  They will live in prosperity, and their children will inherit the land. The Lord is a friend to those who fear him.  He teaches them his covenant.  My eyes are always on the Lord, for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.  (Psalms 25:11-15, NLT)

Who will follow Jesus when the tempter charms? Fleeing then, for safety, to the Savior’s arms; trusting in His mercy, trusting in His power, seeking fresh renewals of His grace every hour? (Hewitt)

Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. My problems go from bad to worse.  Oh, save me from them all! Feel my pain and see my trouble.  Forgive all my sins.  See how many enemies I have and how viciously they hate me! Protect me! Rescue my life from them! Do not let me be disgraced, for in you I take my refuge.  May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in you.  (Psalm 25: 16-21, NLT)

Who will follow Jesus, in His work of love, leading others to Him, lifting prayers above?  Courage, faithful servant! In His word we see, on our side forever will this Savior be. (Hewitt)

Declare me innocent, O Lord, for I have acted with integrity; I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.  Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me.  Test my motives and my heart. For I am always aware of your unfailing love, and I have lived according to your truth. (Psalms 26:1-3, NLT)

Who will follow Jesus? Who will make reply, I am on the Lord’s side; Master here am I?(Hewitt)

Don’t let me suffer the fate of sinners. Don’t condemn me along with murderers.  Their hands are dirty with evil schemes, and they constantly take bribes.  But I am not like that; I live with integrity.  So redeem me and show me mercy.  Now I stand on solid ground, and I will publicly praise the Lord. (Psalms 26:9-12, NLT)

“Jesus, I give Thee my heart today! Jesus, I’ll follow Thee all the way, Gladly obeying Thee!” will you say: “This I will do with Jesus!”  (Simpson)

Trust in God: Be Not Disappointed

My mother has an amazing green thumb, though she’s bound not to agree.  She always points out all the plants that she cannot grow, but to tell the truth, she makes our backyard a paradise for wildlife. With cardinals and mourning doves and house wrens and mockingbirds and hummingbirds and blue jays, butterflies and bugs of all kinds, Texas spiny lizards and small geckos and squirrels, time spent sitting in our back yard truly ministers to the spirit and soul.

Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:8 (WEB)

“Our Iris is blooming Kathryn.  You thought you could get out of it,  but you’ve got to go out and take a picture of it,” Mom teased after our worship was over. It’s all right, I thought to myself. Maybe I can get a picture of another sphinx moth to go along with my blog entry.  We had gone out yesterday to see a pretty yellow butterfly flitting around the yard, calling with a wave of its delicate wings for us to join it in the sun.  While we were out, we witnessed a big green caterpillar crawling along our swing bench that we were sitting on.  At first we thought it was a tomato hornworm, but upon further investigation we discovered that it was the waved sphinx caterpillar.  With that (and a prayer) on my mind, I was ready to go outside again today.

WavedSphinxCaterpillar

The sun was bright, the breeze was nice.  The shade of the ash tree cooled us from the spring heat of the sun.  Trigger (our Australian Kelpie) was chasing lizards under our lawn chairs, and today he actually caught one.  It was a Texas lizard, the type that we try to protect because Mom loves them so much. Luckily, Mom saw it immediately and she made Trigger drop the lizard.  It was unharmed.  I helped Mom hold Trig back and, after the shock wore off, the lizard quickly climbed up my pants leg and clutched on, knowing that I was a safe haven for it to hide while the angry dog tried to attack it. (Trig wasn’t really angry, he was just trying to protect his people from the lizard that he had found hiding under our chair.) After the lizard escaped, I calmed Trig down and Mom took him back inside.

Like what Mom and I were doing for the lizard in protecting it from Trig, God wants to protect us from the vicious dangers in our life.  He wants us to trust in Him and to cling onto Him, so that He can hold us in His arms and protect us from harm.

But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives. In the end, he will stand upon the earth. Job 19:25 (WEB)

While we were outside, I was looking for something amazing to take a picture of. The day was still and quiet, aside from the children playing next door.  As my gaze skimmed the yard, I drew my attention to the roof of our house, to a spot where the shingles are missing.  We’re getting our roof replaced this week, so I was using my telescopic lens on my camera to get a good look at the damage to the roof.  I gave Lacy the camera so that she could see the spots on the roof too, and when she looked into the lens, I suddenly caught a glimpse of something  big buzzing around the roses.  “Oh quick! Give it to me!” Lacy immediately handed me the camera, but it was too late. The small creature had finished its business at the roses and flown on past the house.  From the distance that I was at, it looked like a hummingbird, but bigger and bulkier; it must have been a sphinx moth making a quick stop at the flowers in our yard before moving on.  It was the very moment I came outside for, but I had missed it.

Roof-worries

The message God gave me at that moment was loud and clear. When we decide to focus on the worries of life, we miss the beautiful moments that God tries to bless us with. Lacy and I were focused on the roof of the house- something that is completely out of our hands.  We could do nothing about the missing shingles or the rains that we’ve been getting lately.  All we could do was trust that God will protect us from harm and wait for the roofers to do their job, scheduled later this week.  But because I had decided to think about my worries and God’s concerns, I missed a moment that God had given for me to enjoy.

Who knows if I could have gotten a picture of the sphinx moth before it flew away. I was disappointed that I had missed the chance to try, but Lacy reassured me later that we’ll have more chances in the future.  The sphinx moth is usually seen in May to July, so no worries.  Maybe next time.

God heard my prayer of repentance, and although he didn’t send the moth back around, he answered another prayer of mine instead; I had wished for a chance to take a picture of the dragonflies and damselflies that we have in our back yard. That taught me another lesson: With a missed opportunity, God will always open a new door.

damselfly

Hear my cry, God. Listen to my prayer. From the end of the earth, I will call to you when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been a refuge for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will dwell in your tent forever. I will take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Selah. Psalm 61:1-4 (WEB)

Live by the Spirit

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1 (WEB)

This week’s Bible reading has been focused on the book of Judges, Ruth, and the start of 1 Samuel.  It’s amazing to see the Holy Spirit direct and empower God’s chosen people in the Old Testament.  There were especially 2 people who stood out to me as I read this week: Samson and boy Samuel. They were both raised from birth as Nazirites, and were supposed to be set aside for God’s purpose.

…A man or a woman might want to promise to belong to the Lord in a special way. This person will be called a Nazirite. Numbers 6:2 (ICB)

Nazirites had special rules that they had to follow.  As long as they followed the rules of the Nazirite promise, they would be filled with the Holy Spirit.  But if a rule was broken then they would become unclean and the Spirit of the Lord would leave them.

Like the Nazirites, Christians are also called to live in reverence to God’s laws. Every Christian has his or her own relationship with God, and not all Christians feel called to take a drastic Nazirite-like promise to dedicate their life to God. Even if they don’t take drastic measures to declare their faith, all Christians should at least create for themselves a standard to live by; one that allows a place in their hearts for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Once anointed by the Spirit, the Christian will be empowered with God’s truth. After truth is received, strive to walk in the life that you dedicated to God.  Don’t let yourself fall for temptation. If it’s too hard, then you may have to re-prioritize.  If just 1 glass of wine will lead to 2, then 3 and 4, maybe you should skip that first glass all together.

TRUST the Spirit to teach you what you need to know.

“but the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and will bring to your remembrance all the things which I have said to you.” John 14:26 (DARBY)

The Spirit is a witness.

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes forth from the Father, he shall bear witness concerning me;” John 15:26 (DARBY)

The Spirit convicts the world.

“When he has come, he will convict the world about sin, about righteousness, and about judgment;” John 16:8 (WEB)

The Spirit speaks the words of God.

“However when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak from himself; but whatever he hears, he will speak. He will declare to you things that are coming.” John 16:13 (WEB)

The Spirit tells you what is true.

“I am in Christ, and I am telling you the truth. I do not lie. My feelings are ruled by the Holy Spirit, and they tell me that I am not lying.” Romans 9:1 (ICB)

Be FILLED with the Spirit.

“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were assembled shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and spoke the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:31 (DARBY)

The Spirit empowers you to succeed.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (WEB)

The Spirit guides you to God’s will.

“And the Spirit said to Philip, Approach and join this chariot.” Acts 8:29 (DARBY)

The Spirit calls you to do God’s work.

“As they served the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Separate Barnabas and Saul for me, for the work to which I have called them.'” Acts 13:2 (WEB)

Be RECOGNIZED by the Spirit to receive God’s blessings as His children.

“And the Spirit himself joins with our spirits to say that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:16 (ICB)

The Spirit lives in you if you are Christian.

“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his.” Romans 8:9 (WEB)

The Spirit leads you into a relationship with God.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the children of God.” Romans 8:14 (WEB)

If we are God’s children, then we will receive the blessings God has for us. We will receive these things from God together with Christ. But we must suffer as Christ suffered, and then we will have glory as Christ has glory. We have sufferings now. But the sufferings we have now are nothing compared to the great glory that will be given to us. Everything that God made is waiting with excitement for the time when God will show the world who his children are. The whole world wants very much for that to happen. Romans 8:17-19 (ICB)

GROW in the Spirit and be COMFORTED.

“So the assemblies throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, and were built up. They were multiplied, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9:31 (WEB)

The Spirit will help you and pray for you when you are weak.

“In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered.” Romans 8:26 (WEB)

The Spirit will speak to God on your behalf.

“God can see what is in people’s hearts. And he knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit speaks to God for his people in the way that God wants.” Romans 8:27 (ICB)

The Spirit provides hope in every circumstance.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (WEB)

RECEIVE GRACE and be FORGIVEN with the Spirit.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and of death.” Romans 8:2 (DARBY)

The Spirit restores life.

“If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:10-11 (WEB)

My brothers, I am sure that you are full of goodness. I know that you have all the knowledge you need and that you are able to teach each other. But I have written to you very openly about some things that I wanted you to remember. I did this because God gave me this special gift: to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the non-Jewish people. I served God by teaching his Good News, so that the non-Jewish people could be an offering that God would accept- an offering made holy by the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:14-16 (ICB)

The Trinity Does Talk and Minds Do Think – Norman Vincent Peale Changed The Way I Think

Couple days ago, Mom held out her hand to give me a paper pamphlet found in the home library.  I recognized it as one of those little books the elderly carried with them in their pockets, at the old Church of Christ when I was a child, many of the pamphlets seen neatly placed in a wooden shelf at the building’s entrance. (Do churches still do that?) I was about 6 or 7 years old. I always wondered about them, since they were read almost religiously, but I wasn’t much of a reader. I liked drawing and playing with friends.

Mom told me why she recommended it now, after all this time. “Norman Vincent Peale was always an inspiration to me when I was young. Read his writing and see if you can get something out of it.” Oh well, no problem, I thought.

Peering down at the pamphlet, my eyes saw the cover. Within purple and blue stripes was the title, “Thought Conditioners, Silver Anniversary Edition” and “by Norman Vincent Peale”. The copyright, written in that old style, “MCMLI, MCMLXXV” aka Roman Numerals for 1951, 1975.

Peale outlines how by conditioning our thoughts, we can create happiness. “Since happiness and effectiveness depend upon the kind of thoughts we think, it is absolutely impossible to be happy if we think unhappiness-producing thoughts. One of the wisest men who ever lived was Marcus Aurelius, who said, ‘A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.'” Peale continues to write that by letting negative thoughts come into your mind, you will have an attitude of negativity, and by thinking fearfully, you will, as consequence, be afraid. Great ideas. But immediately my mind felt a sense of cognitive dissonance.

Norman acts like I can control the thoughts that come into my mind. Sure my mind thinks, but I can’t “put into my mind thoughts”, as he suggests. Rather, perception just happens. My thoughts respond to what I perceive: I either agree or disagree to events as they unfold. Personality is most of who we are, and we are what we are. Yes, my thoughts possibly induce fear and anxiety, even a panic attack or sweaty palms or hyperactivity, but like the commercials for antidepressants say that side effects may cause suicidal thoughts, bad events in my life cause negative thoughts, while good events caused positive thoughts. It can’t be changed…

I kept reading though, giving him the benefit of the doubt, not only because I was curious, but because I respected his age and generation. Mr. Peale was in his early 50’s when the book was first copyrighted, in 1951. He was my age in 1926. That means he suffered through the Great Depression. He witnessed World War I and II. He was alive before technology took over, and before TVs were in every home. Maybe he knew a secret I didn’t…?

I continued to read. “…if you fill your mind with spiritual words so that they sink from your conscious to your unconscious mind by a process of spiritual osmosis, you will so condition your personality with spiritual power and sensitivity that God’s will can operate in you, and every great value of this life, the ones that really matter, shall be yours.”

The wind of confidence in his tone nearly blew me over! According to him, you can change your personality by filling your thoughts with spiritual words, which of course, he as a minister, means the Holy Bible. I can’t believe that my mind sat here like a wimp trying to justify my lack of willpower, saying personalities are what they are, while he states we have the power to change our very selves, to meet the standards of God and His will!

Often I hear the argument that God’s standards are too high, too strict. Therefore He cannot exist or somehow He is less valid. For example, one modern day problem with the Bible is that homosexuality is among the sins that are practiced by people who cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, so if the Bible indeed says that then never mind, it is not a valid doctrine, it surely cannot be truth, or if it is, it’s rejectable. However, if what Mr. Peale writes is true, then our personality can be conditioned, and if our personality, then our attitude towards gender roles, our likes and dislikes, our prejudices, and eventually, are very character and the way our mind is oriented. The same goes for anyone and any sin.

Society (maybe even scientific studies) might back up my argument that personality is set in stone and we are not responsible for our mental wanderings, but the Bible backs up Mr. Peale. Romans 8 is a Bible passage explaining the human mind’s struggle, between what is spiritual and what is selfish (some versions say “fleshly”, or “sinful”). The first verse gives us hope saying “there isn’t any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, but that shouldn’t fool our brains into thinking we can let our minds run like a wild mustang without a master, and Jesus cannot condemn us. For it continues to say:

People whose lives are based on selfishness think about selfish things, but people whose lives are based on the Spirit think about things that are related to the Spirit. The attitude that comes from selfishness leads to death, but the attitude that comes from the Spirit leads to life and peace. So the attitude that comes from selfishness is hostile to God. It doesn’t submit to God’s Law, because it can’t. People who are self-centered aren’t able to please God.” (Romans 8:5-8, CEB)

Do you notice how it says, “because it can’t”? The “I can’t change” attitude my brain has is the one beholden to selfishness. In order to submit to God you must first believe that you can.

So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but it isn’t an obligation to ourselves to live our lives on the basis of selfishness. If you live on the basis of selfishness, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the actions of the body, you will live. All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.” The same Spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children. But if we are children, we are also heirs. We are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ, if we really suffer with him so that we can also be glorified with him.” Romans 8:12-17, CEB

According to Romans, God the Father is the holy standard we must try to learn from, the Holy Spirit inside us is what says “Abba, Father” and gives us the will to change, and Jesus Christ is the one who makes it possible for us to do so.

It seems I was wrong and Peale was right. You can and should condition your thoughts. In order for the Spirit to dwell, He needs spiritual-thought-processes, rather than usual self-thought-processes. That means I’ll have to learn which of my thoughts are selfish, which are spiritual, and if I still feel like my thoughts are side effects to things around me rather than something that can be controlled, well, I need to figure out what I let be in my life and whether I can cut off the bad influences.

For example, my Ipad can be a tool for good or evil. I may carry it to have the Bible with me, but if I find myself using it for immoral research on things I don’t need to know – for example, I look up how to write a better love scene to improve my writing, but I shouldn’t even be thinking about that kind of intimacy much less writing it – then I may need to stop carrying it with me and instead read from a paper Bible where temptation won’t be. That will certainly condition my thoughts, even if I do get a few stares or critical comments.

In “Thought Conditioners”, Norman Vincent Peale stresses that memorizing Scripture is the key to altering your personality. Now this is something our technology-hungry-world almost doesn’t have the ability to do. I personally have trouble memorizing Scripture, especially since it is so tempting to use the ‘Search’ option on Google or look at the Bible app and compare versions. But what if someday Google doesn’t exist or the government blocks copies of Bibles? (That’s how it is in some countries.) The ability to zero in on a text and think about it repeatedly until it is able to be recalled feels like an ancient custom, but it is perhaps the highest form of intelligence to prepare the mind, if ever should calamity strike, conveniences disappear, or future events remove what we see now as everyday habits but are actually privileges capable of being destroyed by a sudden new development.

Here is a good THOUGHT CONDITIONER that Norman Vincent Peale wrote that I will share:

“‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ Romans 8:31

“Imagine yourself as actually looking at all your difficulties like an army lined up against you.

“Then realize you have a backing that can overcome them all. As you face these enemies of yours: discouragement, frustration, disappointment, hostility, weakness, ask yourself, ‘What shall I say to these things?’ And the answer is ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’

“Now spend a minute realizing that God is for you and say this affirmation, ‘God is with me. God is for me. God is greater than all these things.’

“Then visualize these enemies of your peace and happiness as retreating, giving way before God’s power.

“Personalize the text by saying: ‘If God be for me, who can be against me?’

“The repetitive use of this text will give you an enormous sense of God’s presence and a powerful feeling of victory.”

Always remember: You CAN do it!!!!

Final note: After all this time! I understood thanks to Kat, my lovely sister, why the elders passed those pamphlets around like they were the latest craze. Ha. It’s cool. Kat explained, “Back in that day, it wasn’t convenient to carry the whole Bible around, and it was easy to carry these around in the pocket of a jacket.” She took the pamphlet from me and imitated the way an old man wore a suit, pulling back her imaginary jacket and tucking it away in a refuge, next to her heart. “See, this was their way of taking Scripture or self-help writing with them, so they could think about it throughout the day.” Imagine that! They had no phone, no car radio, no laptop, no distractions other than face to face conversations with people, and oneness with nature!

Perhaps it was easier for writers in the past to condition their thoughts and fill their mind with the Spirit, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible today. It just means we’ll have to do a lot less conforming, and more converting!

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