Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pearl of Great Price

I have always admired the guy in the parable of the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:46). He had foresight, the courage to risk, and he was commended for gaining return on the master's investment. I have always hoped that if I were in that kind of situation I would too. But I don't think I have ever been in that position. About that time I got a wakeup flash!

I was reading a book titled A Strand of Pearls; it is the testimonies of seven different women and their struggles in life and how the Lord brought them through that trouble...rather than zapping them out of it! At the beginning the editor explained how a pearl is the result of irritation--an irritation that will not go away. Therefore the oyster covers it over with softness. It takes many years of covering the irritant with softness to create a pearl that is precious.

The Holy Spirit often speaks with a still small voice, but that voice also carries a ring of authority to it. It cut right into my thought stream as I was reading and I knew I needed to stop and think about how pearls are formed and relate that to living with MS. The disease is a  major irritant! It does not seem to be going away. Is The Lord asking me to live with this irritant and cover it with softness? Time for a "Selah" moment!

Hmmm, I flash back to His statement to me that He trusts me with this disease. Is He trusting me to produce a great ROI (return on investment) on His investment in me? Am I to cover this irritation of MS with softness and in so doing create something of inestimatable preciousness to Him? That's a different way to look at it!

Pearls are made quietly, without fanfare and I believe they are made in relative darkness. But when the oyster is brought to the surface, its life ended, its body gracing someone's dinner plate, the pearl is discovered. That's an ugly scenario--becoming food. However, Jesus said His body was bread... Paul urges all Christians to present our bodies as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1). Okay, I've already asked Him to be my Lord, so the sacrifice thing goes with it. Paul went on in the following verse to say that sacrifice is only our "reasonable service"--it is the least we can do after what Jesus did for us! Perhaps the Lord is saying in this that I can leverage my sacrifice. In the process of being a living sacrifice I can produce a pearl if I so choose. I can transform the enemy's irritant. Oh, yeah! I like that idea. As my thoughts wandered to how to come up with the softness, I could feel Holy Spirit tug my thoughts in the direction of the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith (Gal. 5:22). I really like the idea of gaining a great ROI!

I admit that I have never thought of a chronic disease as the irritation catalyst for producing something of great worth! Or any worth actually! I also admit that I do not see in the spirit realm (except on occasion) and I cannot see what I am worth to God, but that's pretty awesome to have Him drop these thoughts into my mind.

I hope that all of you who read this will look again at the irritant in your life through this same lense. Can you see how great the potential is for spiritual return on your investment? I would encourage you to use all of His grace that you can lay hold of to cover your irritant with the softness of the fruits of the Spirit!

Blessings, Carol

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

God Thoughts #5

Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:15-16.

Jesus was a Jew the last time I checked. Something I have noticed about the Jewish community is the number of good works and the excellence with which they are done--have you noticed? For the percentage of population they have an incredible number of nobel prize winners, inventions that benefit mankind, pioneering medical techniques, philanthropic things they do...they shine. Then I saw an article about a nine year old girl who had made some kind of contribution to her community. They made a big deal of it; wrote it up in the newspaper, put it on TV and she was a celebrity!

So what is good works all about? Here is what I found:  "Good deed" Greek -- Kalos--It means to be beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, admirable
     a) beautiful to look at, shapely, magnificent

      b) good, excellent in its nature and characteristics, and therefore well adapted to its ends

          1) genuine, approved

           2) precious

           3) joined to names of men designated by their office, competent, able, such as one ought to be

           4) praiseworthy, noble

     c) beautiful by reason of purity of heart and life, and hence praiseworthy (morally good, noble)

      d) honourable, conferring honour

      e) affecting the mind agreeably, comforting and confirming

And then my Israeli friend said that "it also means doing what the law (Torah) says to do as well as good deed.  We have 613 laws = 613 mitzvot.  Each law you perform is a good deed, as well as.... whatever the local culture dictates as a good deed. I have been titling my blogs God Thoughts--He is always thinking good thoughts toward us and working on our behalf to better us, make us more noble, morally honorable, praiseworthy, etc.!

Who would not want that heaped upon their head?! But the thing that gets me is that this whole concept of doing good works--something that will build up, enhance and otherwise benefit all--is both caught and taught. Children see their parents being creative in finding yet another way to fulfill a law that benefits everyone, chalking up yet another "mitzvot." Children hear of people doing some great deed and see the admiration in the faces of people in their community as they speak of the people who did the deed and the deed itself. They ask about it and they are told. That is how culture is transmitted--we catch it; we get the idea--and we are intentionally taught. 

What impresses me is how pervasive it is within the Hebrew culture, mindset, and way of thinking that even children look for ways they can impact their society in a positive way. Now that is what Jesus was talking about when He gave the sermon on the mount! We are to do our good deeds so that people will see and give glory to God! If we are to be a driven people, let us give Jesus the reins--let us look for those things that build up, edify, strengthen and make beautiful, morally good and noble, be honoring, and affect the mind agreeably; that are comforting....

That is what I believe the Lord wants me to be doing with the writing I do; to somehow impact the people who read what I write to build them up, enlarge their capacity and strengthen their inner being so that they are enabled to function at optimum capacity according to their original design! I believe that by publishing my writing I am putting my lamp on a stand and it will give light to all in the room. Wha Hoo!

So, all you Christ followers--onward and forward! Let the good works roll, and with excellence. Do what you do best and do it supurbly. I would love to hear your glory story. Let's talk about it; let's tell of the great deeds and the small deeds! Don't even begin to think you are bragging. Just tell us what happened and we will make a fuss over you, pat you on the back, admire your creativity, determination and courage, and we will give God the glory. Sounds like fun to me!

Blessings, Carol

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Play It Again

Being highly sensitive means that I experience life on multiple levels at the same time. It’s sort of like a surround sound experience. Even reading a book is a sensory experience--it isn't just print on a page. I see the print, yes, but I feel the atmosphere of each and every scene. I hear not only the words of conversation, but sense the emotions beneath the words, hear and feel the percussion of music or the smells, tension and bustle of the kitchen.

Recently, I lifted the cover of a newly acquired book, Play It Again. Cigarette smoke curled up out of its pages, clung to my hair, wrapped itself around my shoulders and tickled my nose till I sneezed. I'm allergic to cigarette smoke—the smell of stale liquor makes me gag. I don't like jazz, and I really don't like sultry jazz. I hadn't considered the impact content might have on me when I agreed to read the novel with a view to writing a review. Hmmm, would I be able to do it? I knew the author, Tracy Krauss, classified herself as "Edgy Christian.” I wondered what she meant by that. Now that I knew, I slipped into Holy Spirit so I could quit coughing and dove back into the story to see what Jesus was up to—these were His kind of people. The kind he left 99 righteous ones to find. This was going to be good!

Tracy captures the smoky bar scene, the lifestyle of those who struggle to make a living by their music, and the consequences of the loose morals and the lifestyle, of a variety of individuals you might meet on any given day of the week. I appreciated the accuracy and consistency of her characters. It wasn’t long before I was pulling for the good guys, wanting to stuff a reality muffin down the bad guys, and tell the jerks to grow up! I told you I experience books, I don’t just read! The author’s timing and sequencing of events were very effective. She let her characters live and let you bond with them so that you wanted good things to happen for them. To that end Christ was not brought into the story line in any real way that would result in change until well into the story! When He came, He made a difference! I appreciated the gentleness and lack of condemnation with which He came—the characters who brought Him into play were not preachy; they didn’t push Him on anyone. In the end…well you judge for yourself!

So what about “edgy?” Well, there were loose morals—and you saw the consequences of loose morals without whitewash. There were cuss words—nothing any 7th grader hasn’t already heard. To be honest, I was so into the story that the cussing blew right by me. It was not stand out offensive, no throwing it out like bird seed! The story seemed very “now” to me…this could be many people’s story. And many people need the hope that they too could have a happy ending. Many need to be reminded that there is forgiveness and restoration, a light at the end of their tunnel if they are willing to accept it.

I would not recommend Play It Again to people who came out of that kind of scene, who have learned that they need to avoid it because of the strong pull it has for them—much as I would not offer wine to a recovering alcoholic. Nor to those who are into a strongly religious scene whose skin would prickle with the worldliness of the book. I would recommend it to anyone who wants something better of life but doesn't know where to find it.
Happy reading! Carol

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

God Thoughts #4

I apologize for the irregularity in font...my computer has its own ideas about how things should be! Here we go on the "blesseds!"

·       Blessed are the poor in spirit—it is a Hebrew idiom meaning “repentant." Jesus was not referring to poor as those in "poverty." The repentant—doesn’t that speak of salvation? The kingdom of heaven belongs to those who repent; the saved ones are the ones who populate heaven! I knew that but never saw that connection here before.

·       Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. I take this to mean the ones who go way beyond remorse; who are deeply grieved by their own sin and failure as well as by society's failure to uphold God’s ways and give Him glory.

·       Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. A “meek” person is not the “wallflower” we often think of when we use the word but one who is humble, gentle, and not aggressive—they can still be of strong character and principled. In the ancient Greco-Roman world, such humility was no more valued than in our world today. Inheriting the earth as future compensation suggests that the meekness in view also included a lack of earthly possessions.

·      Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness…For the poor, “righteousness” would include having their basic needs for food met, but it goes on to include a desire to see God’s standards established and obeyed in every area of life.

·      Blessed are the merciful…“Merciful” embraces the characteristics of being generous, forgiving others, having compassion for the suffering, and providing healing of every kind. Extending these behaviors to others will invoke the law of sowing and reaping! It will come back to us pressed down and running over!

·       Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God—of course they will! The pure in heart have nothing in them (resentment, unforgiveness, hatred, etc.) to cloud or distort their vision! Purity in heart refers to moral uprightness and not just ritual cleanliness. This is a life-style characterized by pleasing God. The “pure in heart” exhibit a single-minded devotion to God that stems from the internal cleansing created by following Jesus. Holiness is a prerequisite for entering God’s presence. The pure in heart pass this test, so they will see God and experience intimate fellowship with him.

·       Blessed are the peacemakers…“peacemakers” focus on interpersonal relationships. Those who work for shālôm (wholeness and harmony rather than strife and discord in all aspects of life) and who reconcile others to God and each other--these will “be called sons of God.” Others will identify them as God’s true ambassadors, as those who are being conformed to His likeness.

·       Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake… All of these characteristics which Jesus labels as blessed are usually not welcomed in the world at large. Hostility may well arise against Jesus’ followers, but even persecuted people are seen by Christ as fortunate. This persecution, however, must be the result of righteous living and not due to individual sin or tactlessness (see 1 Pet 3:14; 4:14–15). What is even more tragic is when one Christian persecutes another, allegedly “because of righteousness,” (proper dress, food, amusements, etc.) when the persecution actually stems from too narrow a definition of Christian belief or behavior.

·       5:11–12 These verses repeat, amplify, and personalize v. 10 by shifting from third-person to second-person address. “Because of me” provides another key qualification. As in v. 10, the only persecution that is blessed is that which stems from allegiance to Jesus and living in conformity with his standards. Because this life is just a fraction of all eternity, we can and must rejoice even in persecution. The joy commanded here, as elsewhere in Scripture (esp. Jas 1:2), is not an emotion but an attitude.

·       “Reward” (more literally wages) is more a promise of “future recompense (compensation) for a present condition of persecution and reproach” than a reward for piety. There is no comparison here between those with a lesser reward and a greater reward. So the reward should be thought of as heaven itself and not some particular status in the life to come. Jesus offers a poignant reminder that the great men and women of Old Testament times often suffered a similar fate. The prophet Jeremiah provides the classic example. The same is true of Christian history. When we suffer, we must avoid the trap of thinking that we are the only ones who have ever experienced such problems—or thinking God is mean or does not care!

·       The upshot of the Beatitudes is a complete inversion of the attitude popularly known in our culture as “machismo.” In fact, this attitude is not limited to a particular culture but characterizes humanity’s self-centered, self-arrogating pride which invariably seeks personal security and survival above the good of others. We are enabled to invert these natural, worldly values only when we recognize that God will in turn invert our marginalized status and grant eternal compensation. This is not to promote works-righteousness; Jesus is addressing those already professing discipleship (5:1). But, like James among the Epistles, Matthew is the one Gospel to emphasize most the changed life that must flow from commitment to Christ.

These insights are taken from the New American Commentary, but I will have to wait until I can consult my reference librarian for a complete biblegraphic citation!
Please share with me what most impacts you.
Blessings, Carol

I’d love for you to leave a comment for how these gems have affected you! And!! we have only begun!!

Blessings, Carol

Friday, February 10, 2012

God Thoughts #3

Wow, when I started memorizing the Sermon on The Mount I didn’t have a clue where it would take me! I became intrigued with the word “blessed” and gently prodded my husband to help me use his wonderful, amazing Bible resources. What I found amazed me:

·       Jesus was strategic in the use of the beatitudes. The beatitude genre was a literary hook! The essence of a beatitude was the juxtaposition of opposites. It fostered rumination. You went away thinking, “How can you put those two things in the same sentence?” And, there was life and power in every word. Jesus planted them in people’s minds and hearts to grow into lives transformed.

·       Beatitudes had a long, rich tradition and therefore using that particular literary style would bring up a huge array of emotional response whether the listener was a “dyed-in-the-wool” Jew or a Hellenistic Jew or even a Greek. The Greeks also had a literary style of beatitude!

·       The difference between the Jewish and Greek beatitudes: For the Greeks there was a dichotomy between the spiritual and the natural—you wanted to get out of the natural and get into the spiritual. When the Greeks started using “blessed” as a synonym for “fortunate” poets and authors quit using the word! It had become mundane and no longer communicated what they were trying to say! For the Greeks, the gods were other worldly and capricious. The Greek would be piqued to want to know how to attain that state of blessedness.

For the Jews, “Blessed” meant “God with us!” This is a God who sees injustice and does something about it, a God who makes sure your sandals don’t wear out. He provides when there is no provision; makes a way when there is no way!  Rather than other worldly the Jewish God was steady and sure; in Him there was no shadow of turning--the antithesis of capricious! He made covenant and chose to live with them, provide for them emotionally, physically and spiritually, and protect them. Blessed brings up the feelings of family, belonging and inclusion, sonship and inheritance. However, what Jesus associated with blessedness turned Jewish thinking on blessedness on its ear!

Both the Jew and the Greek would be pulled in to listen; they would go away with fodder to ruminate upon. Both would have to come to acknowledge Jesus as the only way to attain the state of blessedness or write Him off as a lunatic.

In the next post we will look at the individual "blesseds"—and watch for how they rock your world!             

Blessings, Carol

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

God Thoughts #2

Proverbs 16:9
A man's heart devises his way: but the LORD directs his steps.

It is so amazing! I get the word to READ THE RED verses in the bible because Jesus only said what the Father directed Him to say. The red text would reveal the Father's thoughts. Then He plops the next step in front of me, an invitation to memorize the mount--it is a scripture memorization plan by which to memorize Matthew 5,6,7--just two or three verses a week. At the end of 52 weeks, the sermon on the mount is a part of you. Whether you commute, do housework, homeschool, whatever, it is there in your mind to chew on, meditate upon.

Over time we pick up the traits of those with whom we spend time. I want my mindset to be like God's so I am committing the Sermon On the Mount to memory. Scripture says that the "govenment shall be upon His shoulders." In this year of politics I wonder if the Sermon On the Mount could be the planks in Jesus' platform... perhaps He was just laying it out there for us to see if we have His eyes!

Please share your ways of preparing the way for His kingdom to come. How are you working on your "heavenly mindset?"

Blessings, Carol

Thursday, February 2, 2012

God Thoughts

My New Year focus was to study to discover, and then try to incorporate into my own mindset/worldview, how God thinks. If I can think the way He does, how would that impact my life? How would it change my day to day? I pondered that for a few days and then I became aware of a bold thought in my mind. No, the thought was not bold as in audacious--it was in bold font type! READ THE RED TEXT!

Laughing, I turned to Matthew 5, to the beatitudes--of course, if I want to find out how God thinks, read what Jesus said. Simple. Jesus said, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." I think that generalizes to "if you hear Jesus words, you have heard the Father speak." The words we speak are a result of our thoughts. Okay! Hmmm, I wonder if the Beatitudes were sort of like a political platform in that they represent God's basic values--they reveal His heart. I will be watching to see if the other times Jesus speaks publically if what He says is a further expansion of one of these basic values!

"Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." The first thing I learned is that "poor in spirit" is a Hebrew idiom meaning  "repentant." Huh, those who know they have messed up and want to change, who admit "God You are right and I am wrong" are the ones who are blessed, the ones to whom the Kingdom of Heaven belongs. A repentant heart is characteristic of all those in Heaven. Some attributes of repentance:
  • Repentant means to turn from one direction and go in the opposite direction
  • Repentant means a lack of pride and independence
  • Repentant means an openness and vulnerability and lack of defensiveness, protectiveness
  • Repentant value correction--there is a willingness to learn
  • Repentant see correction as a loving thing from a loving Father
Is He not talking about Salvation first of all!? and then carrying those same qualities into a relationship of increasing intimacy and authority? Intimacy and authority go together I believe because the more we know Him, the more we become like Him. The more like Him we become, the safer we are and can be trusted with authority.

Next I'm going to look at what it means to be blessed--I also want to check out "Kingdom of Heaven." When reading my husband's Hebrew Bible (it is actually in English. It has word study notes and is written by someone who understands both Greek & Hebrew. It was commissioned by Sid Roth. It is available from Sid, also on Amazon--The One New Man Bible. From 1993 through 1999, Reverend Morford studied Hebrew under Rabbi Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, grandson of the Eliezer Ben-Yehuda whose lifetime work made Modern Hebrew the national language of Israel. The man knows his Hebrew!*) I saw a footnote that says "Kingdom of God" actually refers to God Himself rather than a government...so maybe there are other meanings there. Must find out! This is will be an ongoing study interspersed with book reviews and other hooha!

*For more on the author: http://www.tppress.com/Authors/William-J-Morford/
Blessings, Carol