Get the right base to begin with…

February 9, 2018

The Jack’s Winning Words blog this morning had this little quote – “Just when I think I’ve learned the way to live, life changes.”  (Hugh Prather)

Jack went on to write about lifelong learning to keep up with changing times, which is certainly important. Life goes on and changes occur all around us all of the time. Just when we think we’ve got some technology or social media platform figured out, something new comes along that supplants what we just learned and we’re off on the learning process again.

Much of our “learning” about new things that challenge us is focused upon understanding what it is that is new or different and what new demands those differences are causing. We are always trying to figure out the answer to the question, right-and-wrong“What do you want from me? What decisions do I need to make and what should I base those decisions upon?” Sometimes those decisions have no moral content; but, sometimes they do and that is where having the right moral base is important. It is that base, or moral compass, that allows you to make decisions about right or wrong in life. You know what is wrong. Don’t go there.

If you have a base rooted in faith in God and the teachings of Jesus, you will find that no matter how life changes you are ready to make the right decisions. You will know how to reading-biblelive. You can find that base and helpful tips on how to live in the Bible. Certainly, the Bible makes no mention of Facebook and how you should react to a hurtful post there; but, it does clearly give instructions on how to deal with hate, scorn, or other things that might be aimed at you, no matter what the media. That hurtful Facebook post or that casual critical comment is trying to draw you into a bad place. Don’t go there.

Most of our decisions about things that happen during the day are really trying to answer the questions, “How should I react to that? What should I say or do?” Many people that we may see behaving badly around us don’t have a good moral compassman mad at himself to consult before acting or reacting. They may lash out or lash back at some perceived insult, rather than finding it in their hearts to forgive. Their lives are full of open sores at which they constantly pick and make worse. Don’t go there.

Rather than reacting quickly and perhaps badly to situations and changes in life; stop and reflect on the situation at hand in light of the moral base for your life. Perhaps that perceived slight or off-hand remark about you was really a cry for help from someone being kind 1who desperately needs a friend right now. Maybe it was a wake-up call to you to try harder to understand what is troubling them and find a way to help. It in no way really hurts you, unless you let it. Don’t go there.

Rather, look to the Bible for guidance and find this – . “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32

Get the right base and you will find that no matter how life changes or what it throws at woman-prayingyou, you are prepared to learn how to cope with anything because you are standing on the solid base of your faith. “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” – John 5:5

Go there, instead.

Break the grip of ego…Be at peace

February 7, 2018

The Jack’s Winning Words blog today featured this saying – “We can have peace if we let go of wanting to change the past and wanting to control the future.”  (Lester Levinson)

Out Pastor always says, “Go in peace, serve the Lord”, at the end of our church service. One of my favorite people, Pastor Doug McMunn of the Milford United Methodist Church often interjects, “Be at peace” into conversations. We also have been given a promise of be at peacea “peace that passes all understanding” when we join Jesus in Heaven.

So, what is this peace that is so important and how might we achieve it? I think today’s saying in Jack’s blog is the key – we must let go. The thing that we must let go of is our ego, the thing within us that drives us to try to understand and change the past and to control the future. Our inability to surrender to God’s will torments us and keeps us from achieving peace.

That constant need to understand and to control is our own ego inserting itself between us and God. I don’t think that there is anything particularly wrong with trying to understand and learn from something that happened in the past, but it is also necessary bored2to let it go, to put it in the past and get on with life. Instead, we beat up ourselves for what we perceive were our mistakes or we blame others for their influence on the outcome of things. There is no peace to be found in playing the “coulda, woulda, shoudla” game over and over in our minds.

Even less peaceful is worrying about the future; fretting about what might happen and how we might be able to control things. Our minds are wonderful things, but left untethered they are as likely to come up with a nightmare, as they are to conjure up a pleasant dream. There is nothing wrong with having some contingency plans in place; however, dwelling on how to control every possible thing that could go wrong is both wasteful and fruitless and certainly not peaceful.

How can one break the grip of our ego’s and be more at peace? Instead of surrendering control of your life to your ego, you can surrender it to God and trust the direction thatman praying He is taking you. I’ve shared the little prayer that I use many time, but I truly believe that it is the key to achieving peace. I just stop myself, usually in the midst of what my ego is telling me is a crisis that I must somehow try to control, and quietly say to God, “Not my will but thy will be done.” I usually experience an immediate sense of peace and the crisis fades into the background noise of life. Try it. Maybe it will help you achieve peace, too.

So, as you go through the rest of the week, put your trust in God and, as Pastor McMunn would say…Be at peace.

Save your eyes…

February 5, 2018

The Jack’s Winning Words blog today used a quote from Mahatma Gandhi – “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”  (Mahatma Gandhi)

I thought about that and another popular saying crept into my thinking – “Revenge is a dish best served cold”.

It occurred to me that what Gandhi was saying is that revenge is not a dish to be servedeyes of revenge at all, either within the heat of the moment or in a more calculating way. Seeking revenge for some wrong that one perceives has been committed against them goes directly against the principals of Christianity. In Matthew Chapter 5, verses 38-40, Jesus said, 38 You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a]39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”

It is hard in the heat of the moment to turn the other cheek, as Jesus recommended, when you have been slighted or scorned, or in some other way offended. Our reflexive reaction is often to strike back immediately. I hope that your faith gives have enough self-control to stifle that reflex.  It should be less difficult to do so once the moment has passed and you have time to think about it. It is in that time of reflection that you should regain the perspective that your faith gives you and chose to turn the other cheek, instead.

Taking revenge is often followed by regret for having allowed yourself do so. You realizemen hugging that you have lowered yourself to the level of the person who you believe has wronged you and that never feels good. A second evil action does not make right the initial evil action. Rather, reaching out with forgiveness and love to that person not only makes you feel better, but it may help them, too. They may secretly be regretful of the hurt that they have caused and your forgiveness will bring closure to that regret and may bring you a new friend as well. Nothing works better to smother the flames of hate than a blanket of love thrown over the flames.

So, rather than seeking revenge for the wrongs that you believe someone has perpetrated against you, seek out that person and tell them that you forgive them. Bring reading-bibleclosure in your own mind to the incident and perhaps in their mind, too. In a world to often full of people blinded by the “eye for an eye” manta of revenge, remember another old saying, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

Turn the other cheek, forgive and keep your eyes open. The world can be a beautiful place if you have the eyes to see it as such. Have a wonderful and forgiving week ahead.

Which demons live within?

February 3, 2018

Recently I heard a sermon in church about one of the many episodes in the Bible in which Jesus encountered people who were possessed by demons. Jesus cast out the demons and freed the people who were possessed from their afflictions. One can write these stories off as quaint folklore tales or maybe as representing a simplistic way to characterize the nature of sin and the way to deal with sins. They may be trivialized asdemon grabbinbg child being just the way that people understood or tried to explain things at the time. After all, they didn’t have Google back then; so, there was no way to look up what might be causing a behavior or an ailment or illness. Declaring that the person must be possessed by a demon was as good of an explanation as any and was widely accepted.

We tend to think of ourselves as much more sophisticated and knowledgeable about the world around us these days, so demonic possession has fallen largely out of favor. The Catholic Church still has an active practice of exorcism for demonic possession, so perhaps they have not really gone away, but rather just fallen out of the vernacular. When you think about it, demonic possession is as good an explanation as any for the evil behavior that we so often hear about on the nightly news. It makes as much sense to explain the shootings, lawlessness and cruel behavior towards children and others to attribute it to the perpetrators being possessed by demons, as it is to try to figure out other reasons. Many crimes are attributed to drug addiction and the need to “feed the drug habit”. Perhaps it could be described as the need to feed the drug habit demon that is within that person. Once “cured” of that habit the ex-drug addict is said to be “clean”. Remember that people whom Jesus had cast out demons from were also said to be clean.

What of our own demons? Perhaps what we call sins are really the demons that live within us. According to Christian tradition the seven deadly sins are: envy, gluttony, greed or avarice, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath. There is not any place in the bible where such a list exists, but each is identified somewhere in the Bible. You can Goggle “the seven deadly sins” and get references to where they appear. It is probable that all seven depression3demons live within us to some extent. It is only through our faith that we control these demons or cast them out. Sometimes incidents in our daily lives let one of more of these demons out and they temporarily control us. News stories of “road rage” provide an example of a personal demon that took temporary control of that person.

As we struggle to understand what could have possessed someone to commit a heinous crime – shooting innocent people or molesting innocent children – we are struggling both to understand their demons and to control those demons within us that want us to hate or fear them. I have been amazed and humbled by every news story of a group that was targeted for an attack by a demon-possessed person who find it in their hearts to forgive their attacker. We don’t see those stories enough on the news. When they do appear you almost always hear that they have prayed about it and that God told them to forgive their attacker. They have cast out thejesus-as-light demons that were within them that wanted them to hate that person and found a way to express God’s love to them.

The impact on the victims of being able to forgive is profound and in many cases, the impact on the perpetrator is equally profound.  The demons of hate and prejudice and fear that were driving that person to that heinous act have been driven out by the love of God expressed through their victims. For the victims, there is no closure to the incident more powerful or more healing than the act of forgiveness. That simple act casts out that demons that were introduced by the actions of the perpetrator and allows them to go on with life “clean” and free of those demons.

So, which demons live within you? Do you harbor demons of hate or envy against someone? Perhaps you have let the demon of drug dependency or alcoholism creep into your life and that demon has opened the door for other demons to control your actions. alcohol abuseMaybe the demon of depression has seized control of your life and cast you into a dungeon of darkness. Perhaps that little demon of self-doubt has grown into a monster inside of you and now you seek to hide from the world. Maybe you have let the demon of complacency or the distractions of the world lead you away from church and your faith.

Whichever demons may be in temporary control of your life, you need acknowledge them and then take a stand and cast them out. Taking a stand requires that you have solid footing upon which to base your life. Jesus told parables about the wise builder whowoman-praying built his house on rock and not on soil or sand, which might wash away in the storms of life. Your faith is the rock upon which you must stand to cast out your own personal demons and build your future. Once you have taken that stand and cast out your demons, you can live a “clean” life, free of the demons that sought to drag you down or hold you back.

So, I ask you; which demons live within you? Pray today that God help you cast them out, so that you can be clean.