Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Casting off vs casting out

In this week's Bible lesson there are references to God not casting off His people. I think of casting off in connection with knitting and with boating.

When you cast off in knitting you are finishing off what you have been working on. When you cast off in boating you are bringing in the lines that bound you to the dock in preparation for going out to sea. In both cases, you are choosing to do this. It is a letting go and a releasing. The Bible passages promise that 'the Lord will not cast off for ever' (Lam 3:31 and that 'the Lord will not cast off His people' (Ps 94:14). It should be a great comfort to know that God does not cast us off. We are one with Him forever.

There are times when something is cast out. That is a different situation where something is being discarded or sent away. Jesus often cast out devils, or evil beliefs, attached to people and causing illness. But many feel like they have cast out of work or relationships, excluded or discarded, seen as worthless.

We are never worthless in God's eyes. We are precious to Him as His own children, His own creation, an idea in divine Mind, cherished and held close. He will never cast us off or cast us out.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A new insight about the Prodigal Son parable

I love it when this happens. I am reading a familiar passage in the Bible and suddenly something lights up, like a light bulb, and I see something I hadn't before, a get a new understanding of those words. That happened this morning in this week's Bible lesson about Everlasting Punishment. Wha this lesson is teaching us is that God does not condemn, judge and punish, He forgives. And so should we.

In the Gospel of Luke, in chapter 15, Jesus is teaching and he tells the Parable of the Prodigal Son. What an amazing example of how God is ever watching us and just waiting for us to turn back to Him, for us to recognize that we have always been His beloved child, even when we have turned away from good. I love to notice who Jesus is speaking to, and in this case he tells this story to illustrate a point for the Pharisees and scribes who are murmuring because he chooses to welcome the publicans and sinners who have been drawn to him.

What was illumined this morning is the part of the story where the young man, having insisted on taking the money he would have had when his father died and then squandering it, has now been reduced to begging for work. Instead of going home, he becomes a servant to someone living in that place and is sent into the fields to feed swine. What could be more demeaning to a Jew who abhors swine to have to care for them. But this appears to be when he 'hits bottom' and sees the level to which he has allowed his life to sink. He looks at what he is doing. The only food available to him now is the husks of the carob tree given to the swine. This is something that would only be eaten by the poorest people. He suddenly realizes that in that place where he has chosen to remain no man is giving him anything.

There may be a point in your life when you find yourself in what appears to be this same condition. You have no job or income, your so-called friends treat you in the most demeaning way. You are no longer seen as an equal. No man gave unto him. No one offered comfort, advice, sympathy, compassion, a job that offered self-respect. No man gave him hope of returning to his former status.

In the parable, he suddenly comes to himself and realizes that his father's servants are treated better than this and he decides to leave this place and these people and go home. He is willing to swallow his pride, and not those carob husks. He will go back and ask for forgiveness. When he is on his way back, his father, who has been watching tirelessly for him, sees him and runs to meet him. He is embraced and welcomed with a kiss. No lectures, no I-told-you-so. He is lifted up and clothed in his former clothing, restored in his own eyes to his rightful place. He was never less than that in his father's eyes. We are never less than that in God's eyes either. He is always ready to show us who we have been all along.

What lies are you swallowing about your life? What atmosphere have you chosen to surround yourself? What are you relying on? Have you believed you are being punished for your choices? Come to yourself. Remember who you are and who you have always been. Go home. Your Father is waiting with open arms.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What was Tabitha thinking?

In this week's Bible Lesson we read about a wonderful person named Tabitha. She appears to have been an accomplished needle woman who created many coats and garments for others. She got sick and died. Her friends were devestated by this loss. They heard that Peter was in a nearby town and immediately sent for him to consol their grief. It is interesting that they did not send for him when Tabitha was so ill but waited until she was gone. Peter comes right away, he must have because the custom was to bury someone within 24 hours after death. Peter has been in a situation like this one before. He was an eyewitness to Jesus raising a young girl from death. Like that situation, Peter arrives to be surrounded by mourners. Remembering how Jesus dealt with that, he puts them all out. He needed to remove the strong claim of death and sadness. He needed some quiet to pray. And pray he does, kneeling down. This account is in the Book of Acts so it is possible that Peter told this story to Luke who recorded it. Once Peter understands that God is Life and there is never an end to Life, that Tabitha is at one with divine Life, that nothing in the form of illness could be more powerful than that divine Life, he turns to her and tells her to arise. She opens her eyes. That reminded me of when one of the prophets prayed for his servants eyes to be opened when they appeared to be surrounded by an enemy intent on killing them. She opens her eyes and sits up. The hold of illness has been broken and nullified. Now Peter gives her his hand and lifts her up. He has done this in past with the man who was lame from birth. He took him by the hand and lifted him up and instantly his feet and ankle bones recieved strength and he not only stood, but walked and leaped. Calling those who had been mourning Tabitha's death, he presents her alive and well. You can believe that news spread like wildfire and it lead many to believe in the power of God. I think Peter lifted Tabitha up in more ways than one. He lifted her right out of her own thought that she had become ill, that the illness could be fatal, and that she had passed away. He helped her awake from that dream into the reality of eternal Life. What a gift! We are not subject to decay or illness or deterioration. We are not under the jurisdiction of material or medical law. We are only subject to the divine law and power of God, who is Life. Be lifted up by this thought today.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Don't walk around with the spirit of infirmity

Our Father, divine Love, does not afflict. I love the woman who is described as having 'a spirit of infirmity'. That is how she looked to others, bowed down with something. That is how she must have felt about herself. It was the infirmity, that was the result. It was this heavy spirit for whatever reason that dragged her down. Jesus calls her over to him, puts his hands on her bowed shoulders, and with authority tells her she is loosed from that infirmity God had not caused it. He was not punishing her. This false belief was all that was bowing her under. Jesus describes her affliction as someone 'whom Satan hath bound'. Satan being the belief of something or someone other than God's creation. Another power, and yet we believe that God is omnipotent. If God fills all space then how can there be another power, except if we choose to believe in it. Once we see its powerlessness it no longer can bind us in any way. We are freed. The Christ did that for her and does that for each today. God is the only Life and it is all good. Don't let anything bring you down and make you stay there. In fact, it can only suggest, it has no power to enforce anything. You are loosed!

Monday, April 4, 2011

In this week's Bible Lesson we have the eye witness account from John of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery. The scribes and Pharisees were determined to undermine this man who was going around doing good and healing. They attempted to trap him in a situation that would make him look bad no matter how he answered. To accomplish this they caught a woman in the act of committing adultery. So this was premeditated on their part. Only the woman was brought before him for judgement although the man was equally at fault and by their own law should have been judged as well. They point out what Moses says in their 613 laws, that she should be stoned to death and ask what he feels should be her punishment. Should he show mercy he would be defying Moses. Jesus refuses to get into an arguement with them and stoops down to write in the dust, ignoring them. But they persist. At this point he lifts himself up, stands upright and gives his answer: he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. Brilliant. One by one, being convicted in their own heart, they leave. I notice that Jesus took time before he responded. I believe he was praying about how to handle these men and their vindictive behavior. He may have then been doodling the names of sins in the dust. Those seeing that knew that Jesus was aware of their sins. Just as he was aware of the woman's sin. But he did not expose them openly, they convicted themselves as sinners. I love the fact that 'Jesus was left alone', they stopped badgering him. This is an important lesson for us when we feel like we are being put on the spot by those who would judge and condemn us. Jesus didn't argue and neither should we. Jesus took a moment to pray so he could respond instead of reacting. When he did, he did not turn around and treat them with contempt or anger, he just let God touch their hearts. What about the woman? Her actions, which she might have thought were undetected, had been publicly exposed. Jesus had lifted himself, phycially and more importantly metaphysically, above that confrontation. Now he would lift her as well. When 'he saw none but the woman', he saw nothing but the woman's true identity as a pure and sinless child of God, he asked her where her accusers were, did no one accuse her. She says 'no man' and calls him Lord. He tells her that he does not accuse her either but that she is to go and sin no more. What a saw this morning was that not only was that woman the object of this incident but Jesus himself was being accusing by those men. His handling of the situation left him untouched by their malice as he lifted himself above it and then lifted the woman as well. An important story for all of us.Their sin was uncovered, her sin was uncovered, but all learned something from this and left humbled and chastened without bloodshed. Their conspiracy had failed. As will all attempts of evil fail before the purity and power of good.