Saturday, 17 February 2018

Assumptions.

"Disappointment" by Julius LeBlanc Stewart.

When I was in my early 20s, I went to a prayer meeting where the preacher said, “Isn’t it wonderful to be a Christian. We don’t suffer from the ups and downs of emotions like neurotic people.”

I’ll never forget sitting there thinking, “My emotions are up and down. Am I neurotic? Is that what is wrong with me? He is saying it means you aren’t a Christian! Is that right?”

This happened in the 1970s. I would bet most pastors now realize most of their congregation is neurotic in some way or another. Here is the definition from Wikipedia:

Neuroticism is one of the Big Five higher-order personality traits in the study of psychology. Individuals who score high on neuroticism are more likely than average to be moody and to experience such feelings as anxietyworryfearangerfrustrationenvyjealousyguiltdepressed mood, and loneliness.[1] People who are neurotic respond worse to stressors and are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. They are often self-conscious and shy, and they may have trouble controlling urges and delaying gratification.

I don’t know, but it sounds like most of us to me.

I confess, I have done what that preacher did: assume. He assumed none of us in the room had those up and down emotions because he didn’t. He assumed all Christians were like him. He assumed Christ had taken care of all that in everyone.

I have assumed things about people. I have often said, “Well, they weren’t real Christians if they could do that!” You know what? That was wrong of me. I was actually saying they had no relationship with God at all. I don’t think I had the right to say that.

Our lives are a journey with God; we learn on this journey. We walk, fall, get up, run, crawl, get up, walk…  The times we fall may be when we are closest to God, who knows? Not you, not me. I am so guilty of the sin of judging people. I’m ashamed of myself and pray I will quit doing it. I know very well there are people who think I am not a Christian because of things I do. 

I hope and pray I can just love people without judging them. Just love them. Let God worry about what they are doing. Let him clean them up and clean me up in his own time. 

In closing, on my last post I mixed up which quotations I was putting together. I left out a really good quote by Thomas a Kempis about feelings that I still want to post. So here it is:

MY SON, trust not to your feelings, for they will quickly be changed into something else. As long as you live you are subject to change, even against your will; so that you are at one time merry, then sad; at one time quiet, then troubled; now devout, then worldly; now diligent, then listless; now grave, and presently light-hearted. 

But he that is wise and well instructed in the spirit stands firm upon these changeable things; not heeding what he feels in himself, or which way the wind of instability blows; but that the whole intention of his mind may tend to the right. 


So, I guess that pastor was wrong. We can have emotions that swing all over the place and still be Christians.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

What to do About Evil Thoughts.

Manuscript of Imitation Of Christ.

Thomas Kempis has a lot to say about feelings and thoughts in his book, “Imitation of Christ.”  I remember when I was a young Christian, I would get so discouraged by my thoughts. They did make me feel bad about myself. It is nice to know our thoughts are no surprise to God and he accepts us as we are, thoughts, feelings and all other things.
I wish I had learned when I was young what to do with bad thoughts and feelings, but the first I heard about the topic was from Joyce Meyer, who told me what to do about them: Quote Scripture out loud. Or tell Satan to go away. We can do that, Joyce says, because Jesus did and he is our example. Kempis also writes a lot about not finding our comfort from fellow humans – that God is enough.
From the book,”Imitation of Christ”, by Thomas a Kempis.
IT IS GOOD that we sometimes have troubles and crosses; for they often make a man enter into himself, and consider that he is here in banishment, and ought not to place his trust in any worldly thing…

It is good that we be sometimes contradicted; and that men think ill or inadequately of us, even though we do and intend well. These things help often to the attaining of humility, and defend us from vain glory: for then we chiefly seek God for our inward witness, when outwardly we are condemned by men, and when there is no credit given unto us.  

Therefore, a man should rest himself so fully in God, that he need not to seek many comforts of men. When a good man is afflicted, tempted, or troubled with evil thoughts, then he understands better the great need he hath of God, without whom he sees he can do nothing that is good. Then, also, he sorrows, laments, and prays, by reason of the miseries he suffers. Then also he understands that perfect security and full peace can not be had in this world.

That good and sweet affection which thou sometimes feel, is the effect of grace present, and a sort of foretaste of thy heavenly home; but on this you must not lean too much, for it comes and goes. 

But to strive against evil motions of the mind which arise, and to reject with scorn the suggestions of the devil, is a notable sign of virtue, and shall have great reward. 

Let no strange fancies therefore trouble you, which on any subject whatever may crowd into thy mind. Keep to your purpose, with courage, and an upright intention toward God. Neither is it an illusion that sometimes thou art suddenly rapt on high, and presently return again unto the accustomed vanities of thy heart.

 Know that the ancient enemy doth strive by all means to hinder your longing for good, and to keep you clear of all devout exercises... Many evil thoughts he suggests to you, that so he may cause a weariness and horror in you, to draw you away from prayer and holy communion.

Blame him when he suggests evil and unclean thoughts unto you; say to him, “Away, you unclean spirit! ” “Depart from me you wicked deceiver! you shall have no part in me: but Jesus shall be with me as a valiant Warrior, and you shalt stand confounded. “

‘The Lord is my Light and my Salvation, whom shall I fear?’ "If whole armies should stand together against me, my heart shall not fear. The Lord is my Helper and my Redeemer.”

Saturday, 10 February 2018

The Comfort of the Psalms.


I have written before about how my mother was diagnosed with 90% chance of colon cancer. There is something there, but they didn't want to do a biopsy because she is 90 and it is painful. Even if they did find out for sure, the operation to remove it is too much for her.

So, last week a palliative nurse came by to interview Mom and myself. She was very kind and helpful. My mom keeps forgetting her diagnosis and had to be reminded. As soon as my mother has any pain, I am supposed to call these nurses and they come right over to give my mother drugs and help out with anything else. It is good to know they will be here.

We saw Mom's regular doctor and she has set Mom up with a hospice home, just in case she gets too much pain. Mom will then go to live there until the end. I do love how our government takes care of all this. The hospice care will only be $37 a day. The nurse visits are free. The doctor said they will not let Mother die in pain.

Mom hasn't had any blockage or pain since the first time when she went to emergency. I'm very happy about that. At first she slept most of the day and night, and I just let her. The hospital never let her sleep a lot and neither did the rehab center. After a few weeks of only being awake 4 or 5 hours, she now gets up more often and stays awake for hours. She is doing very well and is happy. I'm so glad God gave us this nice time together.

The last few weeks, I've had a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. I'm sure you all know how frustrating that can be, not to mention I was getting more tired. I took half a sleeping pill for two nights this week. It was nice to sleep, but they do make me feel groggy and just yucky. Last night, I didn't take any and didn't get to sleep until 6am.

I don't feel I am worrying about Mom, I think it is just having it in my mind that I do not know when or what is going to happen. Then there are the other members of my family that I think about. Also, I have nightmares, not about my father anymore, but about my family suffering. This means I'm kind of scared to fall asleep because of the dreams.

I used to worry about my family so much I would cry and feel terrified. I am no longer that way. I do trust God completely when it comes to them. I know he loves them even more than I do. I know he is working for them because I have asked him to.

This morning, well 1pm when I woke up, I talked with God about it some more and opened my Bible. I always am encouraged by the Psalms, so I went there. God encouraged me through his words, and I'm so thankful. Later on, I saw an ad about older people who have Parkinson's Disease. I thought that it would be awful if Mom had that. I thought about what other people have to deal with. I felt comforted by God that dying is just a part of this life and he is here with me through it all.
These are the verses I read this morning:

Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy;

in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.

Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.

(When the Psalms speak of an enemy, I think of Satan as the enemy who tries to discourage me.)

The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground;

he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead.

So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed.

I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.

(Often I think of what God has done for me and what he has done in the Bible.)

I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land.

Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails.

Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.

Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.

Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you.

Teach me to do your will for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.

In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.
Psalm 143

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Why was Jesus' Death Necessary?



I was reading, "A Year with C.S. Lewis," this morning and he addressed the subject of Jesus taking our place and dying for us so we could be saved. I thought I would share it with you:

"If God was prepared to let us off, why on earth did He not do so? And what possible point could there be in punishing an innocent person instead? None at all that I can see, if you are thinking of punishment in the police-court sense. On the other hand, if you think of a debt, there is plenty of point in a person who has some assets paying it on behalf of someone who has not. Or if you take ‘paying the penalty’, not in the sense of being punished, but in the more general sense of ‘standing the racket’ or ‘footing the bill’, then, of course, it is a matter of common experience that, when one person has got himself into a hole, the trouble of getting him out usually falls on a kind friend.

Now what was the sort of ‘hole’ man had got himself into? He had tried to set up on his own, to behave as if he belonged to himself. In other words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realizing that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor—that is the only way out of our ‘hole’. This process of surrender—this movement full speed astern—is what Christians call repentance.

Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person—and he would not need it."

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Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Right and Wrong Doesn't Matter.

Today, I read a blog post by Colin Picering that I think is important for the people of the United States and Canada. I could never have written about this as well as Colin.

Right and Wrong Doesn't Matter:

Without God, morality is just an arbitrary rule destined to change on whim and convenience. This doesn’t mean that Christians and other religious individuals don’t make the same moral concessions, but there are some among us who hold to doing what God has instructed us to do. Some probably thought that we could hold each other to a high moral standard. Considering the current state of our country’s political system, our ability to hold such a standard is incredibly limited. Morality does not overrule our fears and instincts to survive without a respect for a higher power and belief of consequences worse than what we expect through our actions or inactions. Humans naturally want control over their own future, so we make decisions to concede defeat on morale grounds if it improves our prospective futures.
True Christianity is about giving up control. It is about trusting completely in God and not being afraid. The world, the United States, and the greater Christian community is full of fear. We are so worried about right and wrong because we are afraid that the things we believe are wrong will happen to us. We fight so hard for different topics of morality because we fear punishment from God, ridicule from each other, and our own lack of self control. We believe God will punish us if we don’t fight against abortions, gay marriages, and sexual promiscuity. We fear that God will lose the battle to school districts across the country that don’t teach biblical topics. We fear losing our way of life, our freedom to believe what we want, and our ability to live free from things we believe are abominations and damaging to the society we want.
Much of sin comes from fear. The fear of losing control leads people to do things to harm others in order to retain that control. The fear of being weak leads people to seek power in any way they can get it. The fear of physical injury will keep us from putting ourselves in harms way for others. There are many other examples of fear that push us toward sin, fear of limited resources can make us unwilling to share with those in need. Fearing limited resources could also cause us to steal or lie in order to gain more. Even the fear of God can be enough to make us sin.
The fear of God spoken about in the bible was meant as respect. It requires a healthy level of fear, which is more an understanding and concession of who is in control, God. It requires that we believe that when we do wrong, there will be consequences for those actions. However, we are not responsible for the actions of others. We are responsible for what we do, say, and believe. God isn’t going to hold us accountable for others.
There are three things that a Christian needs to combat the fears that lead to sin; love, faith, and hope. Love for God and each other will prevent us from doing things that hurt our spirit and our neighbor. Faith that God will keep his promises allows us to fight through thoughts of weakness, limited resources, and death. Our hope in Jesus Christ and in the future he promised will allow us to persevere through tough times.
God never promised that only good things will happen to us if we believe. If we have love, faith, and hope we can endure anything life throws at us. We can share our love, our faith, and our hope with others. This is how we work for God to change others, not by aggressively trying to force change. We have to introduce people to the core of Christianity. First impressions cannot be our scolding judgment on the way they live their lives.
For Christians, right and wrong is meaningless. The law is built on love. Not love as in romantic love, but in unconditional enduring love. Fear might create quick knee jerk reactions, but hope builds a foundation of belief. We can’t allow ourselves to continue to be pushed around by the waves. The waves are the many fears in our lives. We must have faith in Jesus. We must believe that God is in control and that our job here is to love each other, build each other up, and spread hope to those who have no hope.
We can’t be the reason they have no hope. We are meant to be ridiculed and persecuted. Others are supposed to see the strength that our faith gives us to endure that ridicule and persecution. Our love is supposed to make them feel shame for doing it while being a peaceful example in a conflict oriented world. Our hope is meant to draw people in to the possibility that life is more than a temporary stay on a world full of both good and bad.
Stop concerning yourself with right and wrong. If we focus on love, faith, and hope; all of the other stuff will fall into place. God will keep his promises. We have to show that we can keep ours.
1 John 4:7-21
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.       
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Sunday, 28 January 2018

The Pride of Satan. The Humility of God.




Many Bible scholars believe Isaiah 14 is written about Satan and his fall from heaven. Some don't. Personally, I do think it is about him.

"How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! (Lucifer)
You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!

You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.
Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate:
“Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble,
the man who made the world a wilderness, who overthrew its cities
and would not let his captives go home?”    Isaiah 14:12-17

I was listening to a sermon last night and the preacher said we should notice how Lucifer keeps saying, "I Will," and wants to rise higher and higher. 

In Ezekiel 28, there is more written about Satan. There is no one else who is like the person in these verses:

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald,
topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl.

Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared.
You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you.
You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones.
You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.

Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned.
So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub,from among the fiery stones.

Your heart became proud on account of your beauty,
and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.
So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.
By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries.

This part speaks of Satan's death:

So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you,
and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching.
All the nations who knew you are appalled at you;
you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.”

If we contrast the words of Jesus with the words of Satan, we can see how Satan wanted his own will. He wanted to rise higher, be in God's place and rule the universe. Whereas Jesus came down from heaven, became a man and did his Father's will.  Ezekiel 28:11-19

Jesus came down.

Painting by Uber User:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Uber_painter&action=edit&redlink=1


"For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."   John 6:38

"... Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28

"Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men." 

"...and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."   Philippians 2:6-11

Friday, 26 January 2018

Living with Cranky People.



Photo by:  https://www.flickr.com/people/78428166@N00

I'm reading, The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas A. Kempis (1380-1471). It is a book famous for its depth of spirituality. I just wanted to share parts of this book. The edition I am reading was published in old-fashioned English, so I am going to paraphrase.

It is not hard to associate with kind, gentle people. This is pleasing to all, and everyone enjoys peace and loves those who agree with them. 

But to be able to live peacefully with hard-hearted and irritable persons, disorderly persons, or those who argue with us, is a great grace, and a most commendable and brave thing.

Our whole peace in this world consists in humble suffering, not so much in experiencing troubles. He that knows how to suffer in peace, (being with these kind of people) is conqueror of himself, lord of the world, the friend of Christ and heir of heaven.

Kempis goes on to describe two kinds of people, one of peace the other of passions.

A peaceful man does good and turns all things into good. A passionate man turns even good into evil, and easily believes evil. He who is discontented and troubled, is tossed with many suspicions; he is neither at rest himself nor will let others be at rest.

He often says what he should not say and does not say what he should. He judges what others do without judging himself. He will excuse his own deeds, but will not accept the excuses of others.

If you want to be forgiven and understood, learn to forgive and understand others.

Since there are quite a few cranky people in my family, I have realized two things:

1. Don't take what they say personally. If they are mad at the world, that is their problem. If you can in any way ignore politely what is said or done - do it. If you need to talk with them about their treatment of you, wait for a calm time, sit down with them and say, "Do not speak until I am finished saying what I want to say." Explain how you feel. Probably nothing will change, but at least you tried.

2. Don't have expectations of people. They don't know what you expect, for one thing, and even when you tell them, they usually won't change.  (However, after 40 years of this, they might.)

3. This is the most important thing to do. Ask God to help you to accept and love this person just as they are. Ask when you get angry, ask in the morning, noon and night. God will do this for you. You will be at peace.

4. This may take 20 - 45 years to learn and even then you will goof up.