Monday, August 9, 2010

How joyful are you?

Would you consider yourself a joyful person? Would those around you describe you that way? This week's Bible lesson is about God as Soul and focuses on joy as a quality of Soul that we all express as God's image and likeness. Along with joy, the qualities of Soul include true hearing and sight which are as immortal as God.

There is a very interesting example from the New Testament. In the gospel of Mark (which many consider to be Peter's memoirs) Jesus and his disciples are leaving the city of Jericho. So this is an eye witness report. As usual there is a large crowd of people surrounding the Master. As this procession goes by a blind man, Bartimaeus, he hears the commotion and must have asked what was going on. When he is told that it Jesus is passing, he begins to call out to him and asking for mercy.

Bartimaeus considered himself both blind and poor, as did those around him. He had chosen the spot on the highway to sit and beg. He had been doing that for some time. He seems to have accepted this, until an opportunity arises to change things. Had he been hearing about what this man could do? Did he have faith that Jesus could heal his condition? He must have believed it was possible for he continued to call out to him, even when those around him told him to hold his peace. Those sincere call for help did not go unanswered. Jesus stopped. The whole parade halted. Then he commanded that they call Bartimaus to him. Now those around the blind man changed their tune and encouraged him to be of good comfort and go to Jesus.

The account does not say that anyone led him. It says he got up, cast aside his beggar's garment, and went to the Master. When Jesus asks him what he wants, he asks that his sight be restored. Jesus tells him that his faith has made him whole and immediately he could see.

What I am appreciating about this story this morning is that casting away of his false identity, his conscious choice to not be seen as a beggar any longer. Is there something going on in your life that you have accepted as a limitation? Are you identifying yourself as poor or lacking in some way? Do you carry that around with you like a garment? The Christ that Jesus expressed so completely is present here and now. You have just as much access to the Christ as Bartimaeus had. Have you asked for healing? Are you willing to rise to the occasion? Can you change the way you have been thinking about yourself? Do you have faith the your request will be granted?

Seeing and hearing are spiritual qualities that exist forever with God. Joy and joyfulness are also spiritual qualities. The Bible tells us we can go out each day with joy. God will be with us all day. Those immortal qualities will be with us all day.

Surely that is a reason to be glad.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

When things seem their darkest

I love the incident included in this week's Bible lesson about a midnight experience. It happened to Paul and Silas and is found in Acts 16. They had healed a woman who brought her masters much money by being a medium or clairvoyant. She believed herself possessed of a spirit until they healed her. Her masters were furious and had the men brought before the magistrate. Accused of causing trouble, they were beaten and then thrown into prision. Their jailer was told to make sure they did not escape so he put them in the midst of the prison and chained them in stocks.

Think how they might have felt, beaten unfairly, accused falsely, all for healing someone. They could have been resentful or planned vengence, but that is not what they did. At the darkest moment, midnight, when they might have felt farthest from home and friends, they did not complain or wail. They prayed, most likely aloud, and those must have been prayers of trust and faith in God's protection and care. They must have known they had done the right thing and were innocent in His eyes. In fact, they sang praises to Him, probably what we would think of as hymns. The Bible account says that the prisoners heard them. Think what an effect that must have had on those who listened to those prayers and hymns. What hope and encouragement to know God was a very present help in trouble.

What happens next is wonderous. There was an earthquake and the foundations of the prison were shaken. All the doors opened, Everyone's bands were loosed. When you think about this spiritually, it is so helpful for our own challenges. What was so dramatically shaken and altered must have been how the prisoners were feeling about God, about themselves, maybe even those they were resenting. The very foundations of their beliefs were shaken and they let go and opened their hearts. All doors opened. Do you need a door opened in your life? Does some avenue seemed closed or blocked? Are you holding stubbornly to some resentment or incident? Those 'doors' can be opened. God can do that. And when that happens all bands are loosed. Not only Paul and Silas were freed, but everyone around them benefited.

So when you find yourself in a dark place, when you are at your wits end, when there doesn't appear to be a solution, change your approach. Turn to God and tell Him that you know He is there and that He loves you. He did not bring any of this on you. His plan is for blessing and good. Think back to some favorite hymn and sing it to yourself, thinking about the words. Don't be surprised at what happens next. Expect your bands to be loosed.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Jesus and the woman who was afflicted for 18 years

In this week's Bible Lesson, there is this story given in Luke 13: 11 -13. Remember, Luke was both an historian and a doctor. His accounts of healings are very thorough. He also seems to have interviewed many people and his gospel and the book of Acts contain many eye witness accounts.

Jesus was teaching in one of the synogogues on a Sabbath. There in the temple he sees a woman who had a spirit of infirmity for 18 years. She was bowed together and couldn't straighten up. He calls her to him and tells her she is freed from this infirmity, placing his hands on those bowed shoulders. She immediately straightens up and praises God.

Here are the four claims made about her; that she has the appearance of being infirm or weak and ill, that this condition has gone on for many years, that she is bent over, and that she can't help herself. Jesus does not accept any of this as the truth about her true being as a child of God. He calls her to him, unusual in itself as Jewish men did not address women in public.
She has come to the temple to pray, possibly asking God to help her, indicating that she is receptive to healing. And she gets her healing.

What do we learn from this? How can we apply it to our own experiences?

Jesus did not accept any of these claims as truth. We never have to either. We never have to see ourselves or anyone else as the victims of some debilitating situation or condition. We never have to go around with the appearance of being infirm.

Time was no problem to the Master. It does not have to intimidate us either. It does not matter how long something claims to have been going on. It's still only a lie. When you wake up from a dream the things that seemed to have happened in that dream lose their reality and fade away. You see that you were never having that experience except in the dream. The real you was untouched by that dreaming you.

What matters is the state of your thinking. How are you starting each day? Are you dragging around all the past hurts, mental and physical Do you spend your time brooding over mistakes or situations? Are you constantly looking down in acceptance and defeat? Or do you start the day praising God and claiming your rights as His own image and likeness? Pray for yourself every single day, go to whatever 'temple' or holy place in thought you identify with. Spend a few moments there to see yourself at one with divine Love and goodness.

Put God's diagnosis about you first.

Mrs. Eddy describes what Jesus was doing when confronted with false claims about man. "Christ Jesus overruled the error which would impose penalties for transgressions of the physical laws of health. He annulled supposed laws of matter, opposed to the harmonies of Spirit, lacking divine authority and having only human approval for their sanction". What a remarkable statement! To overrule is to disallow the arguements of something and to annul is to make void or invalid. Jesus disallowed what the world is saying is true and he made void or invalid any such conditions imposed on God's child. He saw God as the only cause and creator and knew that all He caused and created was good. Nothing else was present or had power.

You don't have to change the condition, you have to change what you believe about the condition. That is what he did for what he saw and he helped that woman to see it. She got her healing and you can too.