Thursday, September 16, 2021

Notice

 Jesus said, "Who touched me?"  Luke 8:40a

Jesus was having a jam-packed day, if we only stay in Luke 8:  he's teaching and explaining parables;  he gets in a boat after a big day of it and goes across a lake, having to quiet a storm to keep the disciples calm; he heals a man of a demon, and upon arrival in town, is asked by Jairus to heal his daughter.  It's crowded.  There's much excitement at Jesus' presence.  An in the middle of it, Jesus notices someone has touched him.

Peter's response is golden in the rest of the verse:  "Master, everyone is touching you - you are pressed in."

Have you ever had days like that, where the assignments and demands come from a hundred directions?  Like you are responsible for everything? Everyday occurrences surround us like they surrounded Jesus, but he was able to stay present to the needs of those around him:  "I felt power go out from me..."

What would happen if we could stay present to the moments in the middle of busy-ness?  What if we could know that interruptions could become invitations to sacredness?  It was such a powerful request, probably with Jesus scanning the crowd, that woman could not stay hidden and with her presentation to Jesus as she fell at his feet, he affirmed her effort:  "Your faith has made you well; go in peace."

First, how do we develop that awareness for sacred presence, even in the midst of our busy lives?  Sacred presence notices a touch and recognizes healing.  Sabbath teach us with rest: rest which gives an awareness of sacred moments.  That Sabbath-rest allows us to recognize when God is at work and present, then we can recognize it "on the street."  

How does rest help us notice?

Secondly, do we notice Jesus' notice of us?  We may think no one sees us - our needs, our loss, our long struggle - but Jesus does!  He does!  When we bring our whole selves to him, when we are least expecting it or deeply seeking it, he notices.  His power is going out to us in those moments.  In every moment.

Think of your day.  When were you in greatest need?  When were you least aware?  Can you picture Jesus noticing?  Always.




Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Mountain Top

 We always want to be on the mountain top, although not always as committed to the path it may take to climb there.  Switchbacks seem like delay, undergrowth a barrier.  The shadow side of a mountain can cause us to shiver; exposed outcrops blast us with the wind and the hot sun.

But what if every step mattered?  

What if every turn a tool?  

What if the elements were a blessing?

As always, the journey provides the greatest truth that makes the summit all the more glorious.  Looking back on the path traveled, the climb becomes just as amazing as the final step.



Tuesday, August 10, 2021

My Dear Young Self

Letters can open a view into the personality of character.


Dear Young Gina,

Here I am, your older self with the unique opportunity to reach back through time and offer some guidance and a bit of hope for what you are going through.  On this side of time, I know you've been crushed and I know you feel like too many bad decisions have led you to where you are.

About to lose hope.

About to give in to the dark.

Let me tell you, the dawn is coming and the best thing I can tell you  is to make decisions in the light, specifically in the light of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I know its full truth, its full light is not yet fully on you.  Oh, you think you can see, but, truly, like the apostle Paul, you see as in a mirror darkly.

So seek the light of the way of Jesus, who said he was "the" light.  For every step.  For ever decision.  At every juncture.  To deal with every siren's call or earthly plea.  Turn the light onto your path.  Go to the well.  Sit in those moments at the feet of the Light-giver.

Many such moments will come upon you when you don't even realize you have a restricted view.  You'll rest in your own knowledge.  You'll lean into your own desires.  Instead, let the light shine onto the knowledge Jesus will give, consider (and come into agreement) with the desire of the Christ for you.

Don't be so late in coming to his light - it will be clarifying for you and many others.  The light of life will enthrall you!  Stay trusting of the One worthy of it.  Stay loyal to the love of the Father.  This will grow your faith and it will shine through you.


Love, 

65-year-old Gina

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

A Self-Revelation

You knitted me in my mother's womb.  I praise you, God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  Psalm 139:14

Maybe my soul doesn't know it very well.  The world has long tried to convince me that I am lacking.  

What if I took this one verse seriously?

"Start with the grace of resting in your dignity, then let the truth of identity flow out of that."  Christopher Huertz says.  

Dignity is something worthy of honor and respect. I need the grace, the gift to rest in that one truth.  I am God's and I have been from the beginning.  He formed me, with the intention of having ownership over me.  He knitted me - blocked in my qualities such that they define me, cover and protect me.  They provide the definition of who I am and whose I am.

And as his creation, I am awesome and astonishing and wonderfully made.  My personhood is distinctive, distinguished and filled with the wonder of humanity and my uniqueness.  This is that gift he created me to be - a representation of himself in my unique form.  That is my identity:  my value and worth as assigned by God.  My distinctiveness is part of God's creative design.

As such, it is to be honored - held in esteem as to its valued and selective uniqueness.  You, too, are so created!  

These truths need to be held tightly against the lies the culture would generate about us.  We should be aware of the persona (mask) that we would build in order to deal with the world.  Our true identity holds an original righteousness that is expressed through our faithfulness in relationship to God, as our creator.

I need a humble exultation to appreciate God's great commitment to me.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Saved!

 I looked and I could hardly believe my eyes!  Everything was new:  the earth was gone; the sea was gone; even the heavens had passed away.  Yet, I saw Jerusalem, the holy city, descending from above, from God.  It was beautiful!  She was prepared as a bride prepared for her groom.

And a voice said:  See God has come to live with his people:

  • they will be his people
  • God will be with them
  • He will wipe away their tears!
  • Death will be no more!
  • No more reason to mourn; no more reason to cry.
  • Nothing to cause pain!
                        They are all gone!   Revelation 21:1-4

The fulfilled Kingdom's presence will be filled with God and all the old, painful parts of life will be gone!  Think of anything which causes you to cry, to fear, to be in pain.  It will be gone!  It is God's presence which will dismiss these pain-causers!  

Here's what his presence will look like:  it will involve the sense of "home" and a present and active God.  The connotation for home here indicates a dwelling with the aura of being "under one roof" with other kingdom inhabitants, including God.  It reflects a theme of togetherness with a relationship theme:  we will belong to him and carry a moniker - "his people." This reference is a group-identity idea:  like a tribal or national identity.  The Greek uses heritage language that connects historical truth to futuristic promises.

This makes me think of Johnny Cash's song "These are my people."

Then John, the writer of the Revelation, says that God's true self will be present.  His being will be with them in such a way that he is known to them; he will be in proximity to them and will accompany them.  It is a companionship model.  It has permanent connotations, indicating that this relationship with the true God provides a sense of belonging and protection.  God may be on the throne, but he will bring us into the household as full-fledged members, not just late-comers or in-laws, but full-fledged belonging.

Do you feel like you have a home, a tradition, a heritage that can carry you into the future?  God has an every lasting heritage for you.  He has claimed you as his own - His child - and wants to return you home with full assurance.  

Whatever this world has shorted you on, whatever this world has lacked, whatever holes you have felt in your existence are because you belong only one place:  in the household of God.  Seek its presence today.  Glory in its future fulfillment!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Cross?

 If you don't carry your own cross as you follow me, you cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:26

My cross?  Didn't you do that?  

Add this to the previous , which says to "hate" every other relationship, even hate your life and it is hard to imagine why anyone would be interested in being a disciple.  Yet, Luke does not tire of talking about this dying to self repeatedly.

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily and follow me.  If you try to hang onto your life, you will lose it.  But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  For what good will it benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?  Luke 9:23-25

There it is - that cross again. This theme is repeated in Matthew, Mark and Luke.

The word literally is a reference to that terrible instrument of death used on Jesus.  Did he mean that we all had to die to prove our Christian mettle?  

A deeper look at this word might come from cross' (stauros) base meaning.  The root word for stauros is hestame and it means to make a stand,  to be firmly resolute and establish a position of strength, to be unwavering.  It means to be on solid ground, safe and sound, and, resultantly, to not waiver.

Essentially, Jesus says we must be sure.  We must be sure with whom we are standing and for what we are standing.  We can't have one foot in "the world" and the other in the Kingdom.  We cannot serve two masters.  Like the stake which stood firm to uphold a dying man, our "stake" in the world must signify a serious "line in the sand" to reflect who we follow.  

That "line in the sand" might distinguish us from others, might cause us to be removed from others who do not follow the same path.  It causes us to look different and behave differently.  Paul called it "Put off" or "throw off" your old sinful nature and your former way of life and ... instead "Put on" your new nature...Ephesians 4:21-24.  This line in the sand needs to be deliberate and will result in a drastic new way of being.  There should be no doubt as to whom you belong, whom you follow.

Have you taken a stand? Does your marker clearly delineate which side you are on?  That is your cross!




Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Raise the Christ

 If any of you come to me without hating your own father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters and even your own life, you cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:26


This sounds astonishingly harsh and actually inconsistent with the rest of biblical text,  and I can understand that Jesus wants us to place the whole of our life in proper priority with Him as the head, the driving force of life.  It's not that we lessen the value of relationships and life, but that we raise Christ and follow Him to an even greater status than all the rest.  To elevate the value of Christ and Christ-likeness to a higher place comparatively to what we already hold dear is to esteem Him all the more.  If we lessen significant relationships, we actually lessen the Christ position in us.

Greater love of earthly relationships should drive us to greater love of Jesus.

My example is in my relationship with my children.  When I am in closeness with them, I think, "Lord, you love us more than this.  You delight and desire my attention more than I do with them."

When the children are difficult or wayward, the same prayer thought comes, "You put up with us like this, too.  We fail you, take paths away from your presence.  Your heart is more broken than mine by this absence."  It always leads me to my own repentance and desire to pursue Jesus.

Don't negate the vehicle of earth-bound relationships, but ride them to greater intimacy with Jesus.  

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Center

Matthew 6:25-34 (sections thereof) Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life - what you eat or drink - or your body - what you will wear.  Is your life more than food and body more than clothes?

(Living is more than eating and the body more than dressing up. The Voice)

But seek first his (God's) kingdom and his righteousness and these things (life needs) will be given to you as well. 

Jesus is appealing us to put our lives in order, placing our priorities in life under the umbrella of God's kingdom.  His use of certain words emphasizes this prioritizing.  When he says "seek" - zeteo - he is intoning a serious pursuit of a goal.  It means to strive in a goal-oriented way.  And, of course, he highlights God's kingdom as the goal, indicating God's overall and encompassing authority over our lives.

But not just the kingdom, but its righteousness - it's rightness.  Diakino is that righteousness, indicating a condition acceptable to God.  It means to be "right," as God intended for us. This correctness of character is to be a pursuit of thinking, feeling and acting.  It is to be as we should be, in general, and, specifically, in relationship to God.  When I seek righteousness, then my true self, my God-intended self would be developed and completed in me.  If righteousness in character, then this pursuit is identity formation.

What a statement to make:  "I am becoming righteous." (as I should be.) Yet it must be true because righteous living will come no other way.  (A good tree bears good fruit.)

All this time, we have been trying to go by the rules when the rules cause nothing in us.  At most, they are checkpoints along the way;  maybe more like safeguards for a free field of play.  

Because Christ is my righteousness-giver and my righteousness-model, he is the solution for my identity change.  Who am I?  What is Christ in me?  Christ alone.  Christ, author and finisher of my faith.  Every question I have about my pursuits should be turned towards Christ-influence of those pursuits.  I can only operate in pursuit of the kingdom by me finally getting "right," deep into my center.


Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Entirely Ready

There is an endless set of verses in the Old Testament and New on readiness.  In the Old Testament, the verses revolve around being ready for battle, the scribe's pen being ready, and being ready to do the king's bidding.  

In the New Testament,  Jesus expands the usage to be readiness for God and the coming Kingdom.  Paul bemoans people's lack of readiness for the "meat" of spiritual learning.  Readiness for advancing the kingdom and its work is prevelant.

In the Twelve Steps, in addition, I find another powerful admonition:  "Be entirely ready..."  Be entirely ready to have God remove all defects of character.  Am I ready to remove all the blocks which keep me not only from healing, but those which keep me from all the biblical directives to receive and transmit the Kingdom of God?  Can I acknowledge and own them?  Can I remove them?

To me, that means to prepare the environment of my soul to let the Holy Spirit have it to do her work.   I can allow contentment to grow in such a way that there is room only for the Holy Spirit and her presence, as preparing for a guest.  I can unclutter it of resentments, worry, projection, sinful anger, and wrong expectations of God and myself. It also means that no other earthly satisfaction will suffice.

How else can I be ready for subsequent faithful action if my soul is not prepared?  I think about Mary, the mother of Jesus, when she said, "let it be to me according to your word."  She was entirely ready.  

I want to be, also. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Entering the Darkness

Most of us know the familiar territory where darkness prevails and we usually work to avoid it at all costs, from the extremes of addiction to keeping a good (false) attitude of the place we are in.  We are just avoiding the darkness.  We fear it.  It is not fun.  Yet, what if, in it, we could find God? What if, in it, we could find the greatest truth of all?  God is not afraid of it.  It doesn’t surround him like it does us.

To you, the night shines bright as day.  Darkness and light are the same to you.  Psalm 139:12

Oh, God! Of course, you can see through either.  Both can dispense your truth and your presence.  What if the darkness might hold just as much truth as the light?

Places of darkness are different for each of us.  Maybe it’s the darkness of a hurt we have buried or the darkness that befalls us when we quiet ourselves from shiny, noisy or blustery practices and we have to sink into the center of who we are.  Maybe it’s the darkness of an unresolved relationship or truth about ourselves.  The list goes on, but God’s truth about each can often only be revealed in the chasm. 

And since He is there, seeing it as clearly as if by daylight, if we allow ourselves to enter with him, he can shine the light on the truth we need.  We can stay in the darkness knowing he is there, whether resolution comes or not, knowing that he is there to comfort or guide, satisfy or use it for our good. 

I am not so afraid of quiet now or even the darkness that some would claim to be the absence of God.  I think in the end the only one refusing to be in the darkness is me.  Now I know to enter it and relish the pause it gives, the truth it shows, and the comfort it brings.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Enemies

 But I tell you this:  love your enemies.   Pray for those who torment and persecute you - in so doing, you become, you reveal that you are children of your Father in Heaven...for He causes the sun to shine on evil and good alike...It's easy to love your own kind (those who love you), for even tax collectors do that.  So be perfect as your Father in heaven is.  Matthew 5:43-48

Some key words to consider.  Enemies - ekhthro - haters, those who are actively hostile.  Perfect - mature, virtuous.

What enemies, Lord?  Haters.  Those who would steal my joy and subvert my path towards godliness.  I am thinking about how I can act righteous and pursue godliness with support and how certain dreadful people get me off track - make me want to swear and obsess about their dreadfulness.  

How about the system which oppresses my black/brown friends?  It breaks my heart and steals their joy.  How do I pray for those enemies of God's people?  Martin Luther King said they would only be won over with love.  Which prayer could I pray "for" them.  By implication my prayers are that they would be moved towards God.  

The scariest prayers I pray for my loved ones, these enemies deserve:  "Lord, do whatever it takes..."  Do whatever it takes to remove oppression, to return hearts towards the Lord, to allow love to flow between people instead of hate and eliminate hostility.  Such a focus would move me and them.

I think of how I want to pray for my friends, colleagues, brothers and sisters in Christ.  May I want to pray for all enemies with the same fervor.  Feels daunting, but I must.


Monday, March 08, 2021

Linger

 Having weathered many storms (gulf coast freezes and hurricanes, midwest blizzards and tornados), I know how to prepare and improvise  through a catastrophe.  As a city, country and world traveler I thought that during the pandemic, this would be a nice time to regroup.  This would be a good time to collect myself.


But I didn't need 12 months to regroup.  At first, the puzzles mollified me.  A few things got cleaned that needed it.  I increased my meditation and study.  These were all good.  But 12 months?  There was no way I was going to stay away from grandkids and kids for 12 months, and they pretty much stayed in the same bubble protocols as we did, so I didn't have to give up visiting. 


Now, in the 12th month, I have had some new revelations.  I have learned to love the space I am in.  I like being in the rooms of my house.  That may sound like an obvious thought, but I mean that I actually take time to enjoy a picture or an item, sometimes for its inherent artistry, its source - the aura of its presence adds a color or a memory.  I love my yard and gardens. They speak to me; I speak to them.  (They really need some encouragement right now.)


This kind of quiet presence in the company of great blessings, I must admit I haven't always held.  I'm usually on the clock, or worse yet, a stopwatch for activities. 


A pandemic lull has been the place I have really learned to linger.  In some fashion, I am at peace in a new way.  I don't want to go back to "normal."  I want to rest, take in nature and humanity, my own and others.  I want to continue some sense of deeper knowing that I didn't have before.  My words are slack in telling it, but I want to stay where this pandemic has put me.


I have given much thought to this:  Do less so you can be more.

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Rise

 God is so rich in mercy and he loves us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sin, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God’s grace that you are saved.  For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and sealed us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.

Ephesians 2:4-6, 7-10

Over and over I read about the generosity of God and the sacrifice of Jesus to deliver these riches to us.  These origins of the faith, I cannot forget.  My peace from His torture, my healing from His wounds.  Heavenly realms are spoken in the present tense.  It’s now.   “He raised me up” is the song by Josh Groban:

            He raised me so I can stand on mountains…

            He raised me up to walk on stormy seas….

What low place might we feel right now?  How might we “sit” ourselves in the heavenly realms with Christ?  Take 2 minutes and breathe that truth.

So God can point to us in the future as the example of his incredible wealth of his grace and kindness, to show what is available for those united with Christ.

A life of meaning comes from the design of God.  We are to be the example to a lost world of his incredible grace and kindness.  To allow His gift to us to flow out is a gift, an honor, a burden.  The world doesn’t always seem to welcome it, but we an do no other thing.  Consider how we can show grace and kindness in all the places we are.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Nourishing the Soul

 May the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit (pneuma) and soul (psyche) and body (soma-life) be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.  God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful. 

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

It is an exercise in metacognition to be able to think about our feelings:  to step back from them and use vocabulary to name and describe them, which is more than just experience and act on them.  When a person can engage in such self-awareness, it causes them to be able to use their emotions rightly and not just be reactive.  This is a basic practice in emotions management.

Similarly, with that same kind of self-aware cognition, I can begin to think about my soul.  I wonder what is my soul, different from the whole of whoever I may be.  I wonder how I can recognize my soul, differentiated from my heart or spirit.  In teaching others about their spiritual selves, I realize we must grasp the greaterness of the depths of being.  To fail to do so is to live reactively if we cannot locate a language and understanding of the soul.

I realized my physical center--my heart-- gives me the metaphorical lesson for my soul.  My heart sustains my body.  Even my brain cannot operate without my heart.  And though my heart can function with minimal brain activity, it is also dependent upon my brain.  For my heart to be at its best, I must take care of my body by keeping it fit and active, or my heart fails.  The interdependence of my body, brain and heart is clear.

So, my soul. 

My soul sustains my life.  My spirit cannot operate without my soul.  And though my soul, which is my identity, can function with minimal spirit(ual) activity, it is dependent and enlivened by my spirit.  For my soul to be its healthiest/fullest/truest self, I must take care of the entirety of my life by keeping it engaged in righteous pursuits and relationships or my soul loses its fulfilment, its greatest capacity.  The interdependence of my spirit, soul and life is clear, especially in the pursuit of blamelessness, complete blamelessness, as Paul writes here.  The language here means to be preserved completely for a whole and righteous life.  To be blameless means to have no cause for disapproval and to be free from fault or defect.

The metaphor continues.  For my heart to be well, my doctors and medical community say I need to exercise and to be selective about what I eat (less sugar and fat, and more plants) and less gluttonous about what I eat.  Exercise needs to be regular (as in daily) and with enough exertion to raise my heart activity to what they call cardio. 

So, my soul.

For my soul to be well (and souls do become sick and damaged, unable to sustain a healthy life), I need to engage in spiritual activities and be selective and less gluttonous with intake of worldly activities.  What is the “sugar” of this world that sets up my lifestyle to damage my soul?  Maybe idolatrous practices of which I can’t get enough and which completely distract me from God, such as addictions to TV, social media, shopping, food, or other substance abuse.  And the gluttony:  those behaviors which are legitimate needs of the soul, such as relationships or service to God, in which I indulge to the exclusion of God and to the condition of my soul. 

The activities/exercise for my soul need to be regular (daily) and with enough passion and engagement to raise my soul activity to a level that engages the power of God and brings the energy necessary to strengthen and sustain my soul.

Like a heart which can get injured through accident or attack, the soul can be harmed, too.  And like the heart, which can be healed with the intervention practices of a doctor, so can the soul be healed by the practices of spiritual healers and guides who use prayer, companionship and coaching into wellness.  The Greek word for soul is psyche.  Those spiritual guides and healers could be called psychologists, but they could also be called prayer warriors and partners, sponsors and mentors, and friends. 

Jesus would call us brethren, which means “of the womb,” those who are born into new life by His work on the cross and the Holy Spirit’s engagement in this new life. To know and nurture your soul, you must be born again, Jesus would say, into a community of reborn souls and sustained by a soul-healthy lifestyle and a soul-fitness community.  I would call it the Kingdom of God.

To use the metaphor shamelessly, when the heart is strengthened for exertion and endurance, it can stand the rigors of a demanding life; it can bear the physical burdens of caring for household and community well into old-age; it can lead the rest of the body into wellness if injured or attacked.

So, the soul.

The soul, strengthened, will respond and enable a strong lifestyle on a parallel level to my heart responding to the care and exercise it receives.  The soul then can be equipped to bear the demands and burdens of the struggle with sin.  It can then carry the heavy load of loss and grief of self and others.  The soul can forge new paths and develop a life that serves the greater good and bears the glory of God into a hurting world.  Only a strong soul can carry that weight. Then the entirety of what is life will be preserved (taken care of, guarded; specifically from external attack).  It will be a fortress.

 

 

 

 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Reconcile 2

So, we have stopped evauating others from a human point of view...anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  This is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ.  And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them.  And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.  So, we are Christ's ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us.  We speak for Christ when we plead, "Come back to God!"

2 Corinthians 5: 16-20

I began thinking about reconciliation's purpose, including my own reconciliation with others.  My motivation for reconciliation has been only because of my own hurting heart.  What if my motivation was another's reconciliation with God or, better yet, for the glorification of this intent for reconciliation:  to return people back to him.  Would I proceed differently?  Would I see the stakes as higher than just my own relief?  More importantly, how could I do this without seeming high and mighty, but, instead, humble and lowly?

How do I get over my hurting heart?  Did I have the wrong expectations of my relationships?  I do I make sure my motivations are God's?  

My confession would be, Lord, change me.  Help me to facilitate reconciliation of others to you and not just to me.  Not for me.  Not even for them, but for you.  Because you paid a high price.

For God made Christ, who never sinned to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right (reconciled and righteous) with God through Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:21

This reconciliation effort is not to assuage my guilt when my conflict with them has created barriers.  I need to push through the hurt I hold due to our differences.  Instead I administer the same grace that was offered me, the only avenue which allows redemption to flow.  Amen. 



Friday, February 19, 2021

One Master

 No one can serve two masters.  If you try, you will end up loving one and despising the other.  You cannot serve both God and money - You must choose.

Matthew 6:24

Here the word for money in the King James is "mammon," which means wealth or treasure and, specifically, riches when it is personified and opposed to God.

What is wealth personified?  

When our interaction with wealth becomes a relationship, to which we answer and serve.  This happens when we have an intimacy with wealth, preferring it and being ruled by it,  rather than seeing it as a tool.  This relationship becomes a barrier to our relationship with God when it becomes a master relationship - where we serve wealth and its purposes.  

What is wealth's purpose?  

To love it (and not God), to let it be an idol (main focus) to the point where other parts of life are sacrificed to its pursuance is sin's purpose for wealth.  When we use wealth to dominate and influence others, thus proving its high status in our lives, this demonstrates that it has gotten out of place.  

What is God's purpose for wealth?

Wealth's purpose is to serve God and to take care of others with it.  Our time is not to be overused simply in the accumulation of wealth.  We are to balance our time, God getting preference over all.  Most of all, we are to remember who we are to serve with our being and our efforts - the God of the universe.  He provides.  He may use us to provide for others.  We must remember that wealth is a tool and not a toy. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Optimism

 The eye is the lamp of the body.  If your eye is well, then your whole body will be filled with light.  But if your eye is clouded, then your body will be filled with darkness, and the darkness that takes over the body - if this is how you "see" - then it is a deep darkness.  

Matthew 6:22-23

In reading the Greek, I imagine this is a metaphor like seeing the glass half-full or half-empty.  The "cloudy" or "unwell" view can keep one from seeing positiveness and possibilities.  Could this be about pessimism which can lead an entire body (soma = life in the Greek) down a "dark" path where nothing is ever good or good enough?

If so, then having a "clear" eye makes it possible to see all opportunities and make choices which can enliven and enlighten a whole life: for a lifetime, including a whole/well life.

While much is said about having a positive mind set compared to having a negative one, Jesus makes it even more clear that attitude is everything with this metaphor.  It will affect an entire life.  What is our attitude about life?  Do we see clearly?  Or is our vision clouded with the negativity of the day or of my mind?

Lord, give me your eyes!

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Swear Not!

 Jesus seems to be always pushing the envelope of righteous behavior.  Torah's ten commandments were honed - fulfilled, by Jesus' words - into a set of standards held by no other religious practice.  "You heard it said, 'Do not murder,' but I say, don't even call a person a fool..."  Egad!  There are so many fools!  

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refines and fulfills the truest meaning of many commands, including the command not to take the Lord's name in vain.

You have heard it said to those of old, "You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord."  But I say, do not make any vows!  Do not say, "By heaven" because heaven is God's throne.  And do not say, "By earth" because the earth is is his footstool... Do not even say, "By my head!" for you cannot turn one hair white or black.  Instead, let your YES be YES and your NO be NO.  Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

Matthew 5:33-37

Here, the vow (or swear in KJV) means "as my witness."  There cannot be any outside validation of the meaning of our words.  I can be my only witness.  I have to be good for my word; I must be true to my own words. My actions must follow.   Today we would say, "Walk the talk."

The original commandment means using God's name in such a way that it is emptied of its value by assigning it to our behavior.  Our behavior is our own.  We are the only ones who can prove ourselves.  Jesus wants us to be a standard bearer of our own actions, to take responsibility for what we say and do.

The use of hyperbole of needing to back our words or actions with an external source only proves two things.  The first is that we are not good for our word.  The second is that any attempt to do so is not of the godly order - it is from the evil one.  

This fulfillment by Jesus is to push our definition of integrity, of righteousness.  We are to be true to our nature and honest about it.  We might call that transparency today.  I say what I am and I am what I say.


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Reconcile

 You have heard that the law of Moses says, "Do not murder.  If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment."  But I say, if you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment!  If you say to your friend, "You idiot," you are in danger of being brought before the court.  And if you curse someone, you are in danger of hell fire.  

So, if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there.  Go and be reconciled to that person.  Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

Matthew 5:21-24


Jesus is always clear that our faith expression, our desire to serve God is directly tied to our relationships with others.  Relationship with others is the hinge on which our relationship with God may have its most meaning. You cannot come to God with your gift/service/offering unless your relationship with your brother is right.  Every time, our faith has a horizontal component as well as a vertical component.  

And this is much more than "tolerance," which is a false/fake version of reconciling in modern culture. While Jesus is dealing with anger and bullying, he is asking for more than just a ceasing of hostilities.  To reconcile is to renew a friendship with someone and to change thoroughly.  I'm almost sure it doesn't mean to change them, but to change ourselves.  Given the following set of verses, Jesus references a specific example of consequences relating to debts owed...and we know the debts owed due to love.

What a challenge!  This is a serious piece of getting ready for heaven for me.  I do not want to be on my death bed wanting to get things right with my brothers, near and far.  So, I have to rid myself of hate-prodders.  I have to spend more time with the Lord on that sacred ground of prayer in order to look for leads and opportunities and a change of mindset.  My part lies in the practices of prayer, love, and kindness.

I have found that outreach is the necessary move.  Jesus does say to leave your gift and go.  You can't wait for them to come, or the consequences come with them.  Go in prayer.  God in love.  Go in kindness.

I must!


Saturday, January 02, 2021

Kindness in Me

 The New Testament provides a proliferation of verses about kindness, especially what it should look like in us.  When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, she will produce fruit easily recognizeable as traits of kindness...goodness, gentleness and kindness.  Here is where we see that definition in the Greek - chrestotes - moral goodness, integrity with gentleness. 

A myriad of verses demonstrate how to gain kindness and develop the character trait in us:

  • Apply the benefits of God's promises in your life...which will result in kindness.

  • Have an eagerness, real zeal, towards love, favor for others and mercy for anyone.

  • Wear the garment of compassion and kindness.
What is in God, we must be deliberate to bring to ourselves.  His promises provide proof of his eagerness to give.  Wear the qualities of compassion and kindness - put them on and get comfortable.   When you have these promises, when you are familiar and easily portraying kindness, an eagerness will develop for favor and mercy for all.

Then, we are given practical directives for acts of kindness...and they are not random, but rather deliberate:
  • Be especially kind to those who are loyal.
  • Help the sick.
  • Be ready to provide an immediate response to need.
  • Provide companionship and sustenance.
  • Be welcoming.  
And then the news gets deep:
  • Be slow to avenge a wrong.
  • Love your enemies!  Do good to them.  Lend to them and don't be concerned that they might not repay.  (Then your reward in heaven will be great...)
If you are not sure how to dig that deep, remember that God's kindness is your lead.  His kindness extended to us even while we were sinners ourselves.  Digging deeper includes being kind to ourselves in that truth:  seek to stay in God's kindness.  Seek the kindness of correction and realize that the rebuke of a friend is a kindness. 

Most of all and, finally, Love is Kind.  Kindness is an expression of love.  I do want that character trait in me.  


God's Kindness

 About ten years ago, I did a deep exploration of kindness because I had decided I needed to be more kind to the world.  I had been defending myself  heavily for years and could have an unkind disposition.  I made some changes and hopefully some people might have noticed.  

Now I face 2021.  Each year I have a Word of the year.  I don't do resolutions, I just have a theme.  One Word.  Almost always, I don't have to search for one.  God brings me one and he brought me Kindness...again.  I could go into the reason why, but this year brings a new application for Kindness of which I am sure he wanted me to be cognizant.  So, I went to my last study, still in my prayer book.  That one is a page of "studying in color," which I often do, but I decided to transfer it into some logical order.

In the Old Testament, the word used exclusively is checed, which is often translated as lovingkindness with overtures of mercy, goodness, or pity.

In the New Testament, there are two words translated as kindness.  One is philantropia - you recognize it - which means benevolence, love acted toward people.  It is used only once or twice.  The word most used for kindness is chrestotes, with an expanded meaning of moral goodness, integrity; gentleness.  This makes kindness a character trait.

This is step one:  focusing on God's kindness.  I cannot do it God's way without a deep exploration of his example for us.  So God's kindness is in his nature.  It's qualities are as follows:

  • it endures forever
  • it preserves our lives
  • it provides opportunity even when we are in bondage
  • it binds us to God
  • even in the midst of sin
  • thus, God's kindness leads us to repentance.
God wants to demonstrate the incomparableness of his grace to us, which is demonstrated by providing Jesus incarnate and allowing us involvement with Christ's reign.  It's a kindness for us to be included in his plan, in his Kingdom development on earth.

Can we keep our own awareness of God's example of kindness?  Can we develop kindness as a character trait for ourselves?  We are to seek to stay in God's kindness.  If you want to let kindness take a hold of you, stay in these truth's about God.  You cannot give what you have not received.  Let God's kindness develop in you.  And be changed.