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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Self Control is a Pineapple

“You are all children of light, and children of the day. We don’t belong to the night, nor to darkness, so then let’s not sleep, as the rest do, but let’s watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep in the night, and those who are drunk are drunk in the night. But let us, since we belong to the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and, for a helmet, the hope of salvation.” 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8 (WEB)

If you’ve ever brought a whole pineapple home, you might have wondered how to peel the fruit and eat it.  With the hard spiky skin and the tough leaves on top, it might be intimidating to sink your teeth into. And the truth is, you don’t just bring it home and eat it like you do an apple or a pear.  You have to cut the top and outer skin off before slicing the pineapple into pieces you can eat. The meat of the fruit is protected, and if you’ve ever tried to grow a pineapple plant from the top part that you cut off, then you’ll know that the leaves of the plant are razor sharp and painful to brush against.

Mastering the art of self control will give you a suit of armor that can withstand any temptation.  But today, self control is a foreign concept.  People think they have to have what they want when they want it.

Have you ever seen cartoons or old movies where the character would have an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other?  Each would whisper into the character’s ear, argue with each other, and try to win the person to their side.  Good versus evil.  The character had a choice.

But as Christians we can’t afford to have a choice: we need to be holy.  Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:13-21 that we need to “prepare our minds for action, be sober, and set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ- as children of obedience, not conforming yourselves according to your former lusts as in your ignorance, but just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behavior…”  Because we weren’t bought with gold or silver, but with the precious blood of Jesus, the Son of God.

Like the armor on a pineapple, self control can be a complicated fruit to enjoy; but it is not impossible to achieve.  In Christ, we are new creations, and our old selves are dead. (2 Corinthians 5:17) After baptism, our sinful desires and habits should be cut away and discarded.  We should have no part in sin anymore.  But like the rotting corpse zombies that break out of their graves in modern fiction, the dead sin will fight to come back to life and govern our lives.  Sin does not want to let us go!

Sin changes the way our brain works; it puts us into a completely different paradigm of thought. Christians will never be understood by people in sin.  Titus 1:15 tells us that “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.”  That is why self control is so important in our lives.

But don’t lose hope, if you have a friend who is in sin. Remember Ephesians 5:8-16 when it says “…you were once darkness,  but are now light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth, proving what is well pleasing to the Lord. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather even reprove them. For the things which are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of. But all things, when they are reproved, are revealed by the light, for everything that reveals is light. Therefore he says, “Awake, you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise,  but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  With God’s grace, your friend can still be pulled out of the paradigm of sin and be saved.  Pray for them!

Self control is best achieved when the trait is developed as a child. Joseph was taught self control when his father Jacob rebuked him for telling his prophetic dreams to his father and brothers (Genesis 37:5-11), and because of the discipline that he received as a child, he later was able to flee the evil of Potiphar’s wife and also hide his true identity to his brothers despite the strong emotion that welled within his spirit.  That’s why it’s so important to discipline your child with punishment when respect is not given or a wrong deed is done.

But what about those of us now, as adults, wish to master the art of self control? The book of Titus explains what is expected of us as Christians, but we can also learn valuable lessons from Joseph and other key figures in the Bible.

Flee From Evil: The Story of Joseph (Genesis 37, 39-45)

Joseph always kept his words, his thoughts, and his actions focused on God. This allowed him to flee the evil that confronted him. He also saved many people with self control, and had the wisdom to deal with his brothers when he saw them again.  If Joseph had given into his lusts or temptations even once, it would have weakened his self control.

Before acting, always ask yourself this question: “Can I dedicate this to God?”  If the answer is no, think again before you do it.  Does the Bible speak against it? If so, don’t do it!

For example, if you’d like to watch a movie, then that may be fine; but if the movie has nudity or bad language then it would be better to spend your time doing something else.

Listen to godly advice: The Story of Boy Samuel (1 Samuel 3)

Samuel was ready to minister to Eli, but he didn’t think it was God Almighty who would call him.  When the priest Eli realized what was happening, he advised the boy on how to respond if called again.  Samuel followed the advice, and it opened a life of service to God.  Samuel was respected as a great prophet of God, and followed His commands faithfully.

If you don’t know whether God would approve of what you want to do, then seek advice.  Ask a godly friend or a church elder or deacon what the Bible says on the issue at hand, and ask them if they think it’s a good thing to do. Even if the issue is embarrassing or something you’d rather not confess, you need to find someone to ask advice from.  Don’t try to work it out yourself.

For example, if your work group is going on a skiing retreat and they’ve asked you to come;  Men and women will be occupying the cabins and alcohol will be served, though it is optional… You’d like to go, but you may need to seek advice if you don’t know what God would think.

Live for God: The Story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 1, 3)

Daniel and his 3 friends begin their story as they are taken from Judah and placed in the king’s palace to work.  They honored God by refraining from eating the royal food and wine, instead eating only vegetables and drinking only water.  The self control that these men showed in chapter 1 of Daniel is tested severely in chapter 3. When the king Nebuchadnezzar called for everyone to bow down to the great golden statue, it would have been easy for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to bow down along with everyone else- but they didn’t. Instead, they had already dedicated their entire lives to God, so they were able to stand firm on their belief and as a result, God’s greatness was glorified.

Know what’s expected of you.  Read the Bible daily and learn the laws of Christ. Study with a church family. Memorize scripture so that you can combat against the sinful habits that try to ensnare you.

For example, it may not be a sin to eat an extra piece of pie at dinner, but if you’re trying not to eat so much then remember Matthew 5:33-37, which says “…But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’…” and keep your word, even to yourself.

Live in prayer: The Story of Daniel (Daniel 1, 6)

We already know Daniel dedicated his life to God along with his 3 friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  While the others found themselves in a fiery furnace after Nebuchadnezzar’s decree, Daniel found himself facing a sentence in a lion’s den because he would not give up his relationship with God.   King Darius’s decree was for no one to pray to anyone but him, and Daniel could have simply prayed quietly for no one to see. But Daniel’s public prayers to God were too important to him.  His self control wouldn’t allow his faith in God to be hidden.

Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Have a personal relationship with God.  Talk to Him, and allow yourself to open the Bible so that He can respond back.  Seek His will for you, and strive to live it.  If you’re always in prayer with God, then sin has a hard time sneaking back into your life.

For example, you’ve got a juicy bit of gossip that you know your neighbor would love to hear, but the gossip will hurt the local celebrity’s reputation if the word gets out.  Next time you greet your neighbor across the fence, be sure to ask God to give you the wisdom to speak only words that will edify the neighbor and glorify God- not words that will slander anyone else.

Admit When You Do Wrong: The Story of Eve (Genesis 3)

Eve is often criticized for eating the forbidden fruit of Eden and then passing the blame off to the serpent.  And although that could be true, we cannot ignore the fact that she did admit her fault.  “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” God punished her for eating the fruit, not for playing the blame game.

Admit when you’ve done something wrong.  You can keep a prayer journal where you write down your prayers to God- write in your pages that you’ve done wrong and you need forgiveness.  Or find a godly friend that you can trust, and tell that friend whenever you do something against God.  Have your friend pray for you, right there on the spot if he or she is willing.

For example, if someone has done something against you and you feel hatred towards them for what they’ve done, then go to that person and tell them what you feel about what they’ve done.  If the person is unapproachable, then confess to a godly friend or church elder or deacon and ask them to pray for you.

Recognize Your Demons and Rebuke Them: The Story of Jesus Rebuking Satan (Matthew 4:1-11, Matthew 16:22-24)

When Jesus told his disciples that he was going to have to die, Peter was quick to reply by saying “Far be it from you, Lord! This will never be done to you.”  After all, Jesus is the son of God, so Peter couldn’t dream that He could have such a tragic fate.  This is the Lord who can call angels from heaven!  Death would never come to Him!

But Jesus recognized Peter’s words as from Satan himself- perhaps it reminded him too much of the temptations He had met with in the desert, when Satan told Jesus that he would give the Son of Man all the kingdoms of the world and their glory if He would just fall down and worship him.  The temptation in the desert received the response: “Get behind me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve him only.”  Just like the response which Peter now received: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.”

Jesus wasn’t afraid to call the demon for what it was; He wasn’t just responding to his friend Peter,  He was responding to Satan speaking through Peter. Satan was telling Jesus that ‘You don’t really have to die.  You have the power to stay alive. Don’t leave your friends here on earth.  They need you.’

Split your mind into two personalities.  The demon on one shoulder and the angel on the other.  There’s a difference between your mind and sin’s thoughts.  Learn –through knowledge of the laws of Christ- what sin’s thoughts sound like.  Once you can hear the demon’s voice for what it really is, you can argue and fight for God’s truth instead.

For example, when you’ve got a moment to spare and you decide to pass the time, you may automatically move to enjoy some indecent pictures.  Catch yourself in the act and ask yourself, “What are you doing?” Your brain will surely try to justify your actions and give you good reasons for why you’re doing it, but if you know Matthew 5:28 (CEB) which says “But I say to you that every man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart,”  (Don’t be fooled by sin my friends, this applies to men as well as women) and Romans 7:5 (ERV) which says “In the past we were ruled by our sinful selves. The law made us want to do sinful things. And those sinful desires controlled our bodies, so that what we did only brought us spiritual death,” then you’ll be on your way to arguing your demon’s voice in the same way Jesus did in the desert.  (Also, read 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Peter 4:1-6, and Colossians 3:5-8 for more arguments against your demon of lust.)

“Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Withstand him steadfast in your faith, knowing that your brothers who are in the world are undergoing the same sufferings. But may the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”  1 Peter 5:8-11 (WEB)

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