Monday, December 17, 2012

Tragedy, the Lord, and Christmas Love

Struggling with the awful news of killings in a peaceful Connecticut town – 27 victims including 20 little children in the heart of the Christmas season – I recall another terrible killing two thousand years ago, of little boys two and under, not long after Jesus’ birth in a Bethlehem stable. “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2.18, quoting the prophecy of Jeremiah 31.15) 

Joseph heard the angel’s warning and led Mary and baby Jesus to safety in Egypt. But the killing of the baby boys around Bethlehem is there, every year, to remind us starkly of the evil in the world that the Lord came on earth to overcome, through His own living and victory in temptation.

This awful episode usually remains in the background as we prefer to focus on the positive, the happy and joyful – hopes for the future and human wishes to move closer to “peace on earth, good will towards men.” (Luke 2.14) It feels different this Christmas time. Reading about the murders in a happy little elementary school for 5-9-year-old boys and girls, I can’t help but feel also the horror of Herod’s attack on innocence around Bethlehem, and the tragic pain that parents and siblings went through, as they are going through now in Connecticut. With greater intensity than in other years I feel the reality of evil in the world, and in hell, that our Lord came on earth to counter, through His victorious love and truth.

Why at Christmas? The Lord always brings love. Evil is never from Him. When in His providence evil is allowed, it is because He created us to live in states of freedom, to make choices as of ourselves. Our environment is governed by His laws of providence, but is not arbitrarily changed at every turn to avoid or negate the consequences of bad human decisions. Such arbitrary manipulation of our environment would work against our choosing freely, and we would lean closer to choosing what feels good now, and leave God by Himself to clean up the messes from human decisions. To live truly freely, we exist in an environment that also has freedom and is not under God’s constant manipulation and change. And tragedies like the elementary school killings, like Herod’s slaughter of innocents, do occur.

Let us remember: the Lord’s loving providence without exception seeks to bring goodness out of all evil. No tragedy occurs where God does not enter into all people to inspire feelings of loving others, insights of truth, and human changes for the better. He forces inner change on no one, but endeavors always to lead us in our pain to higher understanding of reality, to spiritual growth inside us, and to heightened caring for our neighbors. Herod’s killings show us truly why God’s Word needed to come in the flesh. Tragedy at Christmas, while bringing anguish, can deepen our inner thought, and move our focus to what is truly important about Christmas – God coming on earth.

Everyone who reads this will grieve from the recent tragic news. And we all can also take the time to reflect and to act, in our own personal ways, to carry out goodness from the Lord in our daily surroundings, with fuller and better love towards others.

Dan Goodenough, December 15, 2012
Reprinted with permission

Jeremiah 31
15 Thus says Jehovah: A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her sons refused to be comforted for her sons, for they were not.
16 Thus says Jehovah: Withhold thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears; for there shall be a reward for thy work, says Jehovah; and they shall return from the land of the enemy.
17 And there is hope for thy last times, says Jehovah, and sons shall return to their border.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Spiritual Growth Support Group

I look forward to facilitating a Spiritual Growth Support Group again for nine sessions starting 

Monday, January 14, 2013. 

Here are the homework tasks that are given out. Very powerful stuff!

When you become aware of a negative emotion in yourself, find a distraction and notice if the strength of the emotion is reduced. Observe the thoughts that surround the negative emotion and how quickly they arrive. Experiment with stopping the negative emotion by stopping the negative thoughts. Notice any changes that the distraction or positive thoughts have on the negative emotion. Write about this in your journal and come prepared to report on your experience. 

When you observe a negative emotion in yourself, remind yourself that the emotion is not YOU. Say: "IT IS _________ (mad, jealous, scared, etc.), and I don't have to be." Write about this experience in your journal and come prepared to report on your reactions.

Observe your criticisms (out loud and in your head) for a whole day. Once you have noticed the pattern of critical thoughts, go for a whole day without internal or external criticism. This applies to self-criticism as well. Notice what happens and record it in your journal. 

1. Observe IT (your lower self) Lying 
a. Saying to yourself or to another what is not true, 
b. Rationalizing; making excuses by lying to yourself, 
c. Exaggerating (externally or internally), d. Talking with authority about something you know little or nothing about, e. Saying things that are true with the intention to mislead, f. Lying by omission, leaving out some vital piece of information, g. Telling "nice" lies, lying to be kind. 
2. When you observe the lying, stop as soon as you notice.

Whenever you feel regret or anxiety, observe any connection with the past or future. Let go and bring yourself into an awareness of something positive in the here and now. Say to yourself: "The present moment is eternity. I am in the perfect place at the perfect time."

When a person trespasses against you, use effort and attention to recall something you should ask the Lord to forgive you for. Hold them side-by-side.

When you suspect that a state you are in is NEGATIVE, notice whatever enjoyment you may be having from it. What is the pay-off for the negative state? What HIGHER ENJOYMENT is being blocked by the negative delight? Let go of the negative and see if you can allow the positive to take its place. 

Create a task for yourself relating to handing your life over to the Lord. It might take the form of beginning each day with a prayer, such as "Lord, I give my life to You this day". It could take the form of pausing from time to time to ask: "Lord, what is Your will for me at this moment?" Find a task that suits where you are in your life at this time.

Having Jesus In Your Heart 16

The next in a series of articles based on the Gospel of Matthew intended to equip us to be better followers of Jesus Christ.
“And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, ‘Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him,‘ Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ Matthew 8:18-20
“Here‘ the Son of man’ denotes the Divine truth;‘ not having where to lay His head,’ means that Divine truth had no place anywhere, or with any man, at that time.” (Secrets of Heaven §9807:9) “And also that they had it not abiding in them, because they had not acknowledged Him (John 5:38). In Revelation also‘ the Son of man’ means the Lord in respect to the Word.” (Doctrine of the Lord §27)
The actions and words of Jesus Christ manifested Divine power. They manifested the Divine Love that was His soul. By His actions He did miracles. By His words He brought people to understand their lives as consisting of both natural and spiritual realities, both outer and inner. He invited people to live spiritual lives. He taught people how to realize a joyous release from the drudgery, the fear, and the anger that dominated their small lives. He showed them a path to an ever-expanding happiness, and to freedom from the impossible rules of the church leaders, and the oppression of the Roman taxes.
I can imagine that there were hundreds who said and did just what the “scribe,” the church legal expert, did when he came and fell at Jesus’ feet, and declared his intention of following Jesus. We are told the story of this particular man so that we may learn a spiritual lesson and see its application to our spiritual life.
This government representative, and employee of the church, was offering to give up his entire life style. He was abandoning both his income and his reputation. He was a leader, a teacher and a man with power. Here he was stepping back, and down, into the role of mere student, acolyte, disciple. He was walking away from his place in his community. I wonder how much he prepared for this break. Was it a spur of the moment action, or did he pack a bag and bed roll? Did he bring a second cloak and set of sandals? Did he say anything to his family and friends as he left the city to go see Jesus on the outskirts of Capernaum, as He headed east and out of the country?
I am sure that we are to understand that the Scribe believed he was paying a high price to volunteer to follow Jesus. I know this because of Jesus’ response to the man’s announcement of his obeisance. If I had been that man (acknowledging my need for acceptance!), I would have expected Jesus Christ to put His hands on my arms and raise me up, embrace me, and congratulate me, perhaps even giving me a place in His inner circle because I was such a valuable commodity – an insider from the enemy camp!
Instead Jesus gives the man (and me!) a reality check and a response precisely matching the man’s spiritual needs. The scribe knows that foxes and birds are not noble or useful creatures. Birds steal seeds from the field before they root. Foxes eat lambs out of the flock. And Jesus gives the man this powerful image that these noxious irritants have a place in the world that Jesus has been refused.
Jesus has begun to show the man, starting where the man’s life is – in a comfortable and satisfying home and work – that in fact, to become a “follower” of Jesus, one must be willing to become a martyr! Knowing the end of the story, we can see how Jesus is preparing the man for this very noble task. I have a small disappointment that the New Testament does not tell the rest of the story of this man. I am sure it would be inspiring whether the man stayed with Jesus or returned home.
Now, I am not at all bothered by foxes and birds. I am excited to see a fox trotting across a nearby field, newly reaped of its wheat. And other than an occasional dropping, birds always give me delight in their colors, flight or song. As with the rest of Jesus’ words, there is a message here for me that is much deeper than the metaphor and simile. It is describing how I can make the spiritual journey to be with Jesus Christ, to have Him in my heart.
First, Jesus Christ inspires me to leave my comfort zone, the spiritual country of my heredity and upbringing. He invites me, ever so gently yet compellingly, to leave my home, my standard operating, my usual thought process. The more I listen to Jesus, the more I really get that what I am giving up to follow Him is not all that valuable. He models for me how to let go of the possessions, the desires and the beliefs that are actually limiting my joy and thwarting the expression of my love of what is good and true.
For instance, when I hear Jesus tell me to “forgive others trespasses,” I am reminded of certain specific thoughts and feelings I have about specific people because of specific things they have done to me. At one end of the spectrum is forgiving the person who dangerously cut me off while driving. I can easily and quickly forgive that person, letting go of disparaging thoughts and feelings of anger.
At the other end of the spectrum is forgiving the person whose violence wounded my spirit. Putting myself in his shoes does not work as it does for the harried, thoughtless driver. Denying that harm was done – “no foul, no penalty” – leaves me vulnerable to a festering of the wound. Jesus Christ welcomes me into a new spiritual home that He shows me, which is across the sea. There I can see clearly, as it were from a better perspective, the thoughts and feelings conditioned by my experience, which I am holding on to, that make me feel comfortable. I can then see clearly that they are foxes’ holes and birds’ nests – ignoble homes for a human spirit.
As I hear Jesus Christ invite me to the home He is providing, where His heart and my heart find communion, I realize that Jesus was not advocating homelessness. Jesus did not tell His followers to live under a bridge. Rather, He is saying that, with Him as the householder, we can all be in a community. By becoming a manifestation of, for instance, authentic forgiveness, we create a structure in which Jesus Christ can dwell.
The homes of foxes and birds are symbols for desires and ideas having existence in our natural mind, which are, if not evil and false, at least less noble than what the home for our Savior and Lord ought to be. Jesus does not ask us to become destitute physically, but to depend upon Him for our sense of security on an external level. Eventually, we become spiritually dependent upon Him for the very life of our soul (which is an advanced spiritual state!).
Following Jesus Christ is definitely a walk, a journey. There are steps to take in certain directions. There are actions I have to do, and some that I have to stop. There are words I have to say and some that I have to stop saying. But that is not the end or goal, even though it is the necessary journey “to the other side.” On the other side is the enjoyment of freedom, the delight of goodness, the enlightenment of truth because I have prepared, made a commitment, and then accepted the gift of having Jesus in my heart.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Having Jesus In Your Heart 15

When Jesus arrived at Peter’s house, Peter’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. But when Jesus touched her hand, the fever left her. Then she got up and prepared a meal for him.
That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command, and he healed all the sick. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said,
“He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.”                    Matthew 8:14-17
“That by ‘bearing sicknesses,’ ‘sorrows,’ and ‘iniquities,’ and by ‘being pierced and bruised by them,’ [Isaiah 53:4,5] means a state of temptations, because in such a state there are griefs of soul, distresses, and despairs, which in this way cause anguish. Such things are induced by the hells, for in temptations they assault the very love of the person against whom they fight; the love of everyone being the inmost of their life. The Lord's love was the love of saving the human race, which love was the Being of His life, for this love was the Divine in Him. In Isaiah also, where the subject treated of is the combats of the Lord, this is described in these words:
‘He said, Surely they are My people, therefore He became their Savior. In all their distress He was distressed; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He took them up, and carried them all the days of eternity’ (Isa. 63:8, 9).                           Secrets of Heaven §9937:6

One of the barriers to knowing someone well is that a small item, a single act, or just a few words, can establish an entire point of view, creating a filter of judgment through which the other person is seen. Psychologists have noticed the huge effect of first impressions. Recently it was noticed that we make very complex decisions in the time it takes us to blink. I say this is a barrier because our initial interpretation may be entirely incorrect due to no fault of the person we have just been introduced to.
A more serious problem is when we hear something someone says, and already have a set context given to us, giving color and weight to what is said. And the worst case is when we hear someone say something and hear it only as confirmation of our previously established point of view. For instance, we may make light of it in art and literature, but it can be a serious problem when a young man’s mother makes public her judgment about his fiancĂ©e. Sure this can be really funny, but it is also makes a serious point about how manipulative our point of view can be.
There is a serious barrier to our relationship with Jesus Christ that has been set up by a large number of theologians over the last two centuries. Modern Christian apologists (those who seek to explain the story of, and the teachings by, Jesus Christ) look at the fulfillment of prophecies such as the one used above from Isaiah 53:4, and use them to justify the interpretation that Jesus Christ’s death was caused by our sickness, and that our spiritual disease is all now gone because He removed them from our spirit. It is thus said that Jesus taught that faith in Him wipes our spirit clean of all the sin that has been built up since it originated in the Garden of Eden.
In fact, as the teachings for the New Church show in a depth and detail not possible in this short article, Jesus Christ took on not our individual spiritual sickness, but the totality of the evil of all hell. That is the sickness He took on and bore, even to the cross. Because He is the Son of God, He put off all that sickness and even made Himself Divine, one with the Father, as He predicted.
What is wonderful, what connects me with my Savior Jesus Christ, is not that He has washed me of all evil, but that He experienced, in an incomprehensibly more powerful way, the influence of the hells that I feel. Every time I feel like lying, I know Jesus Christ felt that. Every time I become angry, I know Jesus Christ felt that. My faith in Him is knowing that, since He did not allow the hells to run His life, I don’t have to either. My faith in Him is the belief that I can die battling an evil desire, and I will continue to live in the only way that counts, spiritually. My faith in Him is the hope that I will be saved from the attack of the evil spirits by means of the power of His love, since I have none of that power.
This interpretation of the prophecy that Jesus Christ has borne my illnesses has a very practical application. I have experienced what appears to be a common human trait: I can believe someone else has caused my spiritual illness. An example is anger. It is very common for a person to say “He made me angry.” Or “I could just kill her!” Or “He ruined my day!” And lying this way is very common. “The traffic made me late.” I have noticed that my anger and fear (which leads to lying) are barriers to my relationships with other people. And I get angry, and I lie, simply because I have a preconceived notion, a particular point of view, a habit of making a quick judgment, when someone says or does something that impacts me.
A very unspiritual part of me wishes someone would take this trait away from me. I really want to not get angry, and I really want to stop lying. A quick glance at Jesus Christ’s teachings, in light of what so many theologians have taught, going along with my human trait to put responsibility on others, all combine to make the faith that Jesus Christ has taken away all my sin, and I have no more to do, very attractive.
But is that really a relationship of love? My spiritual self (rising above my merely natural self) wants the responsibility that brings with it the radical freedom that is the core of my humanity. Jesus Christ wants me to have the freedom so much that He came to the world, took on the same spiritual sickness I have, and thus created a path and a process for me to use to be made well by His love.
So this means that I have some work to do. I have to notice the quick interpretations I make, and take the time to look at myself and my relationship with Jesus Christ from a higher, deeper point of view. I means I have to do the work of reading the Word myself, allowing His Holy Spirit to show me the truths that will heal me. And I have to do the work of creating the sacred space in which Jesus Christ can be in my life by being honest, taking responsibility, and relying on Him for the power to change my thoughts and actions. That is having Jesus Christ in my heart!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Having Jesus In Your Heart 14

The next in a series of articles based on the Gospel of Matthew intended to equip us to be better followers of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.”
Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.”
But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared—will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, “Go back home. Because you believed, it has happened.” And the young servant was healed that same hour.                                          Matthew 8:5-13

“[Jesus] said that the very first thing a person needs to do is to acknowledge that the Lord is the Savior of the world, because without this acknowledgment no one can receive any truth or good at all from heaven, or therefore receive faith from there. And since it was the very first and most essential thing, therefore in order that He might be acknowledged when He came into the world the Lord questioned the sick, when He healed them, about their faith; and those who had faith were healed. This faith was that He was the Son of God who was to come into the world, and that He had power to heal and save. Furthermore every healing of sickness by the Lord when He was in the world served to mean a healing of spiritual life, thus served to mean the things that belong to salvation.”                                             Secrets of Heaven §10083

Every reader of the New Testament has to admire Jesus. Jesus is a person who has completely overcome racial, ethnic, and jingoistic prejudice. And He demonstrates again and again His Divine power, which is not only in His hands, but in His words. I can startle you into looking at me. But can I actually change your spiritual point of view? I think not. That is the power of the Divine only, which clearly Jesus has. I do not merely admire Him, I am in awe of Him! This story will give us all an insight as to how to listen for the Word of the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives.
Here’s some background to this story. A Roman army officer seeks out Jesus just as Jesus enters Capernaum, because this man likely set a lookout – Roman or Jew – to report His approach. The Centurion is in charge of 60 or 80 men who run the customs house in the city. By army rules he cannot be married, so he has no biological family. However, we discover that he has a deep familial love for a young man who is, actually, his slave. The man is his only “family.” His coming to Jesus must be an act of desperation, because the Romans were pagans, and to go to a Jew, who worshipped the wrong God, was a radical change of faith, on top of being an act of faith!
It seems the Centurion knows two things: 1. Jesus can heal his servant. And 2. Jesus can heal because He has the authority to do so (note that he is described as “also a man under authority”). The Centurion understands authority, the power to command and then see results at a distance. It is all this man knows. He has learned discipline. He has been given authority by Rome, and exercises it all the time. He need not be in a particular place to have something happen there. He assumes that this is how Jesus operates, for he knows no other way. He has heard, and perhaps seen, how Jesus heals, so, of course, Jesus can heal his servant by simply commanding that it be so.
And Jesus was “amazed.” He acted out the reaction of all the people around Him at that moment, and called attention to the greatness of this faith! Jesus points out that his fellow Jews, who have a long history of being blessed by an omnipotent God who has chosen them, do not have such trust in God. Jesus points out that it takes a process, it takes effort, to acquire such a faith. The journey starts outside of the kingdom, and is long.
The lesson for us is an invitation to come into such a faith, such a relationship with Jesus Christ. And here is a piece of advice from this story: beware any feelings of being the chosen people, the best people, the blessed people. It so easily morphs into becoming snobs and thinking we are blessed simply because we are the chosen people!
An attitude of being special because of one’s beliefs destroys one’s faith in God, and the blessing is soon replaced by a curse. Thinking I am greater than others because I have the truth separates me from other people; even from a close friend; even from my spouse! And that is the saddest thing in life. When it happens, you will feel alone, isolated, rejected. You might even cry, a lot. Some who are separated from others because they believe they are better, feel so cold that they have to clench their teeth to keep them from rattling.  Others find themselves so incensed and full of anger that they bare their teeth in a snarl.
Having the truth gives you a special job: to speak the word of truth to all those who come seeking healing. It is our special work to look at someone in emotional or intellectual pain and actually disregard where we are meeting them, how we came to meet them, and where they are coming from. We are to speak a word of healing truth regardless of our prejudice about that kind of person.
And as you speak the truth in love, the next challenge is not to do anything to or for the person directly, but to clearly speak the truth. The Lord does the healing. For you are a servant; a powerful servant because you have the divine truth.
It takes courage and preparation to speak the truth this way. I do not feel prepared for some specific circumstances I know will be coming my way in the future. So I continue to practice when I can. I continue to read the Word for a storehouse of healing truth. I continue to model my behavior according to how Jesus behaved. I pray. As I let go of my proprium, of my belief that I am special, and of the need to control results, Jesus Christ is more and more in my heart.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Having Jesus in Your Heart 13

“Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. ‘Lord,’ the man said, ‘if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.’ Jesus reached out and touched him. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be healed!’ And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.’” (Matthew 8:1-4)
“Those who maintain that a person is saved by faith alone cannot explain the things which the Lord speaks of as ‘works’ as anything else than the fruits of faith, and that He made mention of these alone for the sake of the simple who know nothing about mysteries. But even this opinion of theirs shows that the fruits of faith are what make a person blessed and happy after death. The fruits of faith are nothing else than a life led in keeping with what faith commands, and therefore it is a life in keeping with what faith commands that saves a person, not faith apart from life. For a person takes with him after death every state of his life, so that he is like what he was when in the body. That is to say, anyone who during his lifetime despised others compared with himself continues in the next life to despise others compared with himself….Everyone retains in the next life the essential character he has acquired during his lifetime; and it is well known that it is not possible to get rid of one's essential character, for if one does so, no life at all remains. This then is the reason why solely the works of charity are mentioned by the Lord, for anyone who practices the works of charity - or what amounts to the same, leads the life of faith - possesses the ability to receive faith, if not during his lifetime, then in the next life.” Secrets of Heaven §4663

I have a very clear memory of the first time my High School Junior Varsity team won a basketball game. I was a sophomore. I ran, leaping repeatedly, with my arms high in the air! A few seconds into it, I was headed towards a teammate who was a Senior. He was good enough for JV, buy not Varsity, yet he loved to play. He was much more sophisticated than I, and, while he enjoyed my elation, was not very excited. I became self conscious, and calmed down right away.
Perhaps you have had such an experience of elation at a success. Maybe you were on a winning sports team, jumping around, yelling, and laughing, giving each other high fives. The adrenaline is running and your heart is pounding. The tension is completely gone because you have won.
Or maybe it is that your favorite professional team just won at the last second with a tremendous effort. Everybody around you is clapping, cheering and reliving their favorite play. You all are excited and relieved for the team, and happy for them. You look forward to the next game, especially if they are going to go on in the playoffs.
Or maybe you just completed a presentation you had worked long and hard on and it was a complete success. Your bosses loved it and will be using your ideas, what you created, and giving you credit. It is definitely a contribution to your future success. Maybe it is an immediate reward. You leave the meeting “high” on an adrenaline rush, looking for someone – maybe anyone – to tell what just happened. And of course you whip out you cell phone to tell the people you love the most!
In every such event, in a few minutes you will come down from your “high.” What you do then is really important. Some of us try to make the moment continue longer than it can. They tell the story again  and again, seeking to feel the rush again. Their life at that moment is rather artificial. Some of us get depressed when the moment is passed. The victory is short lived, and their spirit and bodies swing really low relative to the earlier high. Most of us have wonderful memories of the moments of excitement we have had, which establish life-long attitudes about the game of life and the people in our lives.
Matthew introduces us in the short story above to this part of Jesus’ character. We have just experienced Jesus as a powerful preacher, who challenges all our attitudes, all our assumptions and our preconceived notions. He urges us to change, modeling ourselves after His example. And now, so wonderfully and powerfully, Jesus actually does what He has preached. He comes down from the “high mountain” of emotion established by the entire Sermon on the Mount. He would not have done it, but today He would be “high fiveing” the Apostles as He started down the mountain’s path. And, at the first opportunity, He walks the walk.
Imagine meeting a “leper.” Let’s call him or her “TT.” TT is someone everybody sees clearly is nasty and ugly inside his (or her) mind and heart, and perhaps also on the outside. Everybody knows very well how TT can hurt people, and is able to infect others with her negative attitude. You and your friends have come to have a rule about TT: avoid her. Don’t let TT into your group. You know that TT’s whole personality will kill her in the end, because everyone with whom TT becomes close eventually leaves her.
Jesus was confronted by such a person. A leper was someone with a highly contagious and often life threatening, skin disease (and not just the specific disease of leprosy, but lesions and boils and so forth). Everyone could see that the person was sick because it showed on their skin, maybe disfiguring their faces. They would look scary or repulsive. And so, in accordance with Mosaic Law, they were put out of the town, by force if necessary. They were cared for – at a distance – by relatives and friends. Their lives are unbearable. They are isolated, shunned, and there is little hope for cure. There are even laws keeping them from getting help.
Complete desperation combined with stories of healings is the only explanation for this leper to break the law in approaching Jesus. And only a total commitment to healing all people can explain Jesus’ touching the infected, contagious man. Thus we learn two things: Jesus has overcome any prejudice based on the fear of infection, and He is sure He can heal the man without getting infected. In other words, He has a consciousness of being God on earth, and His human mind and heart have evolved beyond such fears.
Jesus is asking us to believe that we can do for our neighbors what He did for this man. Jesus wants us to expect and accept His healing, even as the leper expected and accepted His healing. Such a reliance upon Jesus Christ will make us fearless. We can live spiritually healthy lives at the same time as being in contact with evil people. The prerequisites are a deep faith on our part, and a willingness to be loved on the other person’s part.
So when TT comes to you and asks for help, he is saying, “If you accept me, I will be able to be a better person.” Now, you know only the Lord can change people’s hearts. And you remember that the Lord works through people like you to heal people. And you remember how Jesus modeled loving your neighbor as much as yourself. And so you reach out and touch his heart with a gentle stroke of the Lord’s truth. You hold his hand and look into his eyes and say that He loves him and will heal him. You tell him that you are sure the Lord will do this, and that, of course, you accept him, too.
Jesus wants you to walk beside Him down from the mountain of “high” appreciation of His teaching, from the ecstasy of His Spirit’s effect on your heart and mind. And He will be with us when we express love for our neighbors without fear, for we trust that what has caused us to fear them will be healed by the Lord This is loving your neighbor as yourself!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Having Jesus in Your Heart 12

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” Matthew 5: 27-32

The behaviors required of a Christian are often extremely challenging. Yet throughout all His speeches there is a steady current of love carrying us along–Jesus loves us and never condemns; He lifts, does not put down; leaves us free and never compels. We know He is on our side, because He tells us clearly about the other side, which is spiritual death.
Each behavior Jesus describes has a promise attached to it. Every behavior Jesus asks us to do includes a blessing and so a good feeling. Many times it doesn’t look this way, but I suggest you consider where your resistance is coming from. I believe you will see that all resistance, fear, cynicism or fatalism is inspired in our minds by the hells.
Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7 are all about how to live as a Christian. Some of the things Jesus Christ asks us are tough to do. Some are easy. Below is one way to view the sermon on the mount: as a collection of promises Jesus makes to us, and the requirements necessary for that promise to be fulfilled. Go through list below and grade each requirement on a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 being easy to do, 3 being hard to do, and 5 being impossible at this time (even though it might change when you are older). Maybe this will produce a "bucket list" for your spiritual life!



Being humble gets you everything
     Be humble

Being sad about your own and other’s evil will attract sympathy         
    Be sad when evil happens

Being powerless ends in winning  
    Let another person win an argument

Being curious about goodness       
   Always look for goodness in people gets you justice    

Forgiving others leads directly to being forgiven      
     Forgive unconditionally                

Being good leads to understanding everything
     Consistently do good actions

Making peace and harmony among people makes you powerful           
     Be a peacemaker

Being rejected means you are on your way to a wonderful life 
     Take the correct, but unpopular stand

Add spice to people’s lives                       
     Do random acts of kindness

Show people exactly who and what you are
     Be outgoing, honest, transparent

Obeying minor rules is just as important as obeying major one           
     Be consistently obedient

Your motive always colors your action                   
     Have integrity–acts match feelings   

You can go to hell                      
     Don’t get angry

You too will be judged                
     Don’t be judgmental in a mean way

What goes around, comes around   
     Don’t call people cruel names

Peace in relationships                  
     Be the first to apologize

Good relationships with the opposite sex
     Don’t label people, especially sexually

You can be enlightened and powerful                     
     Leave when pressured to do something wrong

A happy marriage                       
     Don’t make jokes about marriage or adultery

A marriage that lasts forever                     
     Show your disgust at jokes about sexuality

You will be respected by others     
     Tell the truth in love

You will be trusted by others                    
     Keep all your agreements and promises

Life will be fair; there will be justice          
     Resist attacks against your body, but not against your honor

Civil relationships                                  
     Don’t try to get revenge

Relationships based on spirituality
     Make friendship is more important that possessions

Relationships with mutual giving  
     When someone is mean (1st mile), be kind (2nd mile)

Maintaining your personal standards          
     Show and tell people that you care more about what God thinks of you than what they think of you

Healed torn relationships              
     Befriend your enemy; be respectful, kind, compassionate

Everyone feels “in”                                 
     Act friendly and kindly to people not in your group

People don’t hurt each other’s feelings                    
     Forgive people when they do you wrong

No one gossips                          
     Never say mean things about people not in your group

No one is judgmental                              
     Act like you know the Lord will judge the person

Feeling rewarded for doing good deeds
     Have pride IN your work, but not ABOUT your work

Feeling close to the Lord             
     Talk to Him

Feeling like He listens                             
     Talk to Him a lot, about anything and everything

Knowing you are saying the right  
     Say the Lord’s prayer as part of many prayer times things

Feeling secure in life                               
     Acknowledge Him for the little, as well as big, things

Feeling satisfied with life             
     Thank Him for what you have and who you are

Feeling safe                                           
     Thank Him for protecting you, naturally and spiritually

Feel forgiven                                         
     Forgive others

Your religion will make a difference           
     Make your piety joyful, especially during tough trials

People will see and acknowledge your goodness       
     Do good because it is good

Having treasure                                      
     Value your spirit as a precious gift

Never losing your treasure                        
     Eternal gifts last forever

The peace that comes from integrity                       
     Make goodness your most treasure possession

Enjoy everything you see                         
     Choose carefully what you look at

Desire spiritual light                                           
     Open your spiritual eyes

Want an idealism that makes a difference    
     Do what Jesus would do!

No worries                                                        
     Value your spiritual life more than natural

Feel free                                                
     Act like the Lord has given you freedom

Want to  mature                                     
     Remember that the Lord does it

No drudgery in your life                          
     Bring your love and passion to your work

Be beautiful/handsome                            
     Care for body; redefine “beauty” & “good looks”

Have everything you want                        
     Learn to want only what you need

Enjoy life                                                          
     Live in the present; let Lord care about results

The Lord never misjudges                        
     Take measurements and remember you will be measured

Clear sightedness                                    
     Don’t pretend you don’t do the same bad things others do

Being helpful to erring friends                  
     Stop sinning, and you can be of great help to your friends

Be the pearl God made you                                  
     Don’t hang with people who will throw you in the mud

Opportunity, success, fulfillment               
     Perseverance pays off when based on charity

Being blessed with a good feeling                        
     Develop a clear picture of how wonderful the Lord is by looking at how wonderful people can be

What goes around, comes around               
     Act like this is true: what you put out always comes back

Don’t follow a crowd                                          
     Start your own

Watch what people do and say                  
     You will learn who they really are

Able to walk the walk                                                     
     Talk the talk and then walk the walk

The urge to be hypocritical or sarcastic is gone
     Do non random acts of kindness every day

You can be wise or foolish                                   
     Depending on where you stand, not how you look

Be astonished                                                    
     It’s a Christian thing

(Okay, I made that last one up - but it is the feeling I have as I consider how awesome and loving my Lord is!)