Baptism or Compassion?

Matthew 3:1-12

I happen to be on vacation where it was 86 degrees today, but I wanted to submit a translation for the week. I’ve dealt with the kingdom of heaven before in a full length book and in several blogs, so you may remember that the KOH refers to life where everything is living together in harmony on this planet. I’ve also blogged a little about repentance not being sorry for doing something wrong, but instead, changing your mind or changing the way you think. And remember, I’ve taken all the fourth century religion out of it.

1 And in those days John the Baptist came publicly proclaiming in the wilderness of Judea, 2 saying, “Change the way you think, for the development of harmony is within your reach!” 3 For this is the one who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said:

“The voice of one shouting in the wilderness:       Prepare a way of thinking1 of the Lord;       Bring forth his upright ways.’”

4 Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, openly confessing their failures to act with love.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Children of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming vengeance?  8 Produce fruits now appropriate to an amended life,  9 and do not presume to say amongst yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Already the ax is lying at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear mature fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.2

11 Indeed, I wash you with water for the purpose of amending your life, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will immerse you in a spirit of reverence and purity, indeed a purifying fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor, and gather up his wheat into the barn; but he will burn up the outer husks with fire that will consume it completely.”

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1 ὁδός, a proceeding (cf. the Germ. Wandel); denotes a course of conduct, a way (i. e. manner) of thinking, feeling, deciding

fire, purifying fire – a reference to the consequences of sin that one is supposed to learn from.

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     The reference to fire and burning the husks is not about bad people getting sent to hell for eternity and good people going to heaven. You have to remember that each grain of wheat is made up of an outer shell and an inner shell. They belong to the same entity, not two separate entities. John is comparing the components of the grain to one person, not two different people. Every person is made up of good parts (good fruit/wheat) and husks (outer actions that are not worth anything). The fire of consequences is designed to eliminate our worthless actions.

The point of John the Baptist is this: Stop thinking God wants you to follow rules and if you don’t, you’ll have to face poisonous snakes, getting swallowed in earthquakes, or drowned in floods. God wants you to treat your neighbor the way you want to be treated by others. Do what is good and upright, just like a God who is good has always done.

Prepare the way of the Lord doesn’t necessarily mean prepare the way of Jesus. Nobody at that point in time ever thought of the “Lord” as the Messiah – if so, the writer might have written the “Christ” instead of the Lord.

This is the one” – did this refer to John or to Jesus? Jesus wasn’t even in the picture yet. Was John referring to himself when he quoted Isaiah as the one who would try to get people to change the way they think and act? John, like all the other prophets, had the law to encourage people to follow the upright ways of the Lord. Martin Luther compared the law to water in the story of Jesus turning water into wine. John immersed people in the law. Someone else would follow John with another kind of approach…a more effective approach than the law. Respect for each other. Love for each other.

Did Jesus “baptize” anyone with the Holy Spirit and with fire? Literally? Show me where that ever happens in the New Testament. What does that mean? Were you baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire when water was sprinkled on you? Did it change the way you were thinking or living? Can infants change like that?

If Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire, has that happened to you? Is this to be interpreted literally? If it’s not literal, then what does it mean? I wish I could give you better answers than I’ve been given. Sometimes I have more questions than answers.

Jesus came and showed us the example of how God wants us to live…with compassion that doesn’t depend on rules. Or rituals. Does religion save you? I think compassion, respect, and love are what bring you a better life and builds the kingdom of heaven on earth. Sometimes religion helps you to do that. Sometimes it just makes you feel bad when you break the law.

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Another Good Quotation from Martin Luther

 

Here’s another of my favorite quotations by Martin Luther. It comes from the sermons in his Church Postils. See other quotes here. Did you notice that my ebook of prayers based on Martin Luther’s Church Postils (sermons on the Gospels) is only 99 cents until Monday? Click on the ad in the right corner to check it out.

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Luke 23 retranslated

 

     It’s interesting how men with a religious agenda interpreted the Greek text. I’ve been working at removing religion from the New Testament to see if there are any significant variations. After all, Christianity wasn’t defined when the Gospels were written. I’m currently finishing a short book about the four texts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke on divorce and remarriage. You may be surprised. I was. But let me give you a taste of a few minor variations in the first part of Luke 23. First take a look at a traditional translation. I have underlined some parts to compare.

NKJV

Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.”

Then Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

He answered him and said, “It is as you say.”

So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no fault in this Man.”

But they were the more fierce, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.”

My version:

So the entire assembly of them rose up and led him to Pilate. Then they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man corrupting our nation, both forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar and claiming himself to be an anointeda leader of the people.”

Therefore Pilate asked him, saying, “Are you a commanderb of the Jews?” So he answered him, declaring, “You are the one who gives the orders!”c

Then Pilate said to the chief priests and those gathered together, “I find no crime in this man.”

But they were infuriated, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching in opposition of all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.”

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Christ (christos) an anointed one; I wonder if it could refer to “an officially ordained” leader of the people?

Why would Pilate ask if Jesus was “king” of the Jews? He knew that Herod was their king. There had been no insurrection to overthrow Herod.

legō: literally means, “You command.”  Thayer suggests in one group of definitions “c. to exhort, advise; to command, direct.” In other words, “You are the one in command; you are the one giving orders.” Because Pilate’s response was that he could find no fault in Jesus, this was a respectful way for Jesus to say he wasn’t trying to usurp anyone’s civil authority.

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     Translation is not an exact science. That’s what makes it subjective rather than black and white. In verse 3, it appears that Jesus was not confirming Pilate and saying, “Yes, you’ve said it. I am king.” That never made sense to me the way it’s been translated. If Jesus had meant anything close to “yes, I am king,” Pilate would not have responded with a declaration of innocence. He would have crucified Jesus immediately…no more need for the chief priests to keep arguing. But they do keep arguing. And according to my interpretation, they said he was teaching in opposition to Jewish tradition, not simply teaching throughout all Judea. They kind of mean the same thing, however, the bulk of Christianity two thousand years later seems to think that Jesus believed he was a king and that everything written in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) was correct. No. Jesus was teaching in opposition to what the tradition was practicing.

     The New Testament paints a different picture of God than the Hebrew Scriptures paint. The NT describes a God who is not vindictive and punishing, but instead, tolerant and forgiving. Jesus might have come from that tradition but that does not mean he was in agreement with everything it did or said.

     Yes, there is great value and wisdom to be found in the Hebrew Scriptures. But I’ve received the word of the Lord in the same way the prophets did. Sometimes it was written on paper and sometimes it came (and continues to come) directly into my heart. I’m sure you have also.

     I believe there is wisdom we have not yet uncovered laying beneath its literal meanings. It’s clear there were many then who understood the deeper things of human consciousness. So there is much to learn from the OT, especially how it shows us what people are like until Christ is born in them. They are afraid of God and what God might do to them. Once they understand the total goodness and splendor of God, there’s no fear. Only love for the Unknowable, and the beginning of the kingdom of God. Until all have lost their fear of God, we still have to try to live together in peace.

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Do The Right Things

Luke 21=5-19  

     Every story in the Bible has its beginning in the story that precedes it. It sets the context for what is to come. The story that precedes this lesson is the one about a poor widow who gave two pennies for the betterment of the world. Two pennies compared to the five and ten dollar bills given by the rich. And Jesus said, “She gave the most because she gave all that she had.” I think there’s hope in that message for us. No matter how little we have, if we give what we have, we can make a difference and bring change the world we live in. We just have to be committed to doing the right things.

     It’s not up to one person in the White House, or the hundreds of millionaires in Congress, to change the world. It’s up to you and me to build the kingdom of heaven among us. We have to give of the best we have in our own backyards before unity can reign in our land and our world.

     With these thoughts in mind, there’s more hope in our Gospel than one might expect, given the negative tone that the early translators handed down to us. Take a look at the way I translate the Greek text:

     Likewise, some were speaking about the temple, how it had been adorned with beautiful stones and donations, he said, “As for these things that you are observing—the days will come in which no stone will be left upon a stone here; no, it will be destroyed.”Then they questioned him, saying, “Teacher, when will these things occur? And what will be a sign when these things are about to happen?”

     8 Therefore, he said: “Beware. For many will come claiming to represent mea saying, ‘I am the one you should listen to,’b and, ‘The end is near.’ Do not be deceived lest you follow after them. So whenever you hear disputes and commotions, do not be terrified; for it is necessary for these things to come first, but the fulfillment of my prophecyc is not coming immediately.”

     10 He went on to said to them, “Nation after nation will be awakened,d and country after country. 11 And there will be great upheavals; namely, hunger and pestilence will be an occasion for action; also there will be awesome sights and great miracles from heaven.e

     12 Nevertheless prior to all these things, they will lay their hands on you and harass you, delivering you up to gathered assemblies, and even prisons, being led before kings and governors   on account of all the things I stand for.f  13 It will turn into an opportunity of testimony for you. 14 Therefore determine in your hearts not to think about what you will answer beforehand; 15 for I will give you the words to say and indeed wisdom which everyone opposing you will not be able to resist or dispute. 16 But still, you will be betrayed by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 Likewise you will be hated by all because of all the things I stand for.f 18 And yet the hair on your head shall not perish. 19 In your steadfastness, safeguard your mind.g

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in my name; claiming to represent him.

I am. In other words, “I am the one you should listen to.” Today this speaks about those Christians who continue to proclaim that the end times are coming. Jesus was speaking about the destruction of the Temple that would occur in forty years (70 CE). End times claims are used to produce fear for the purpose of behavior manipulation. They are not good news.

my prophecy – that the Temple would be destroyed (see verse 6).

egeirō – to arise from sleep.

Most of the verbs and particles in this prediction have positive connotations – that’s why the attitude of a translator is so important. Jesus is predicting what will come from all their efforts – great good will come!

f because of all the things I stand for — “on account of my name.”  One’s name encompasses everything he or she stands for.

g psuche, vital force which animates the body and shows itself in breathing; the psyche, personality, mindset.

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     Jesus and John the Baptist came proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand. That means within your grasp. Things are going to turn around if you and I persist in sharing the message and mission of Jesus: bring good news to the poor, open the eyes of the blind, heal those who are sick, free the prisoners, declare the year of the Lord’s favor. We have a responsibility for building the kingdom for others. In doing so, we build it for ourselves.

     The year of the Lord’s favor refers to the Year of Jubilee when all things went back to their original owners, and everyone started from the same place. Every person had an equal chance to make it in the world. No one could have unfair influence over the affairs of others because they inherited money from their father/mother, who inherited it from their parents, who inherited it from their parents, etc.

     The Year of Jubilee was supposed to happen every fifty years. It probably had been a long time since the religious leaders of Judea and Israel enforced it. People with the power rarely like to give it up to become one of the common people again. It makes me think of the impossibility of term limits for politicians being approved by the people who would be voting to become common again, or fair taxes. People with lots of money and comforts rarely are willing to give it up. Yet Jesus called for a Year of Jubilee, a year of the Lord’s favor when all people would be equal.

     When you follow Jesus and do the things he did, you will be hated by those who don’t want their money going to help the poor, the sick, the disabled, and the marginalized in our society. But you will be bringing the kingdom to them. You will make them feel loved. You will bring peace and hope to them.

     What’s it going to take to bring equity to all? All that is considered beautiful in the eyes of the world is going to have to crumble. That’s a frightening thought. Not one stone left on another. A new kingdom in which every person is treated with dignity and respect will have to be built.

     Are you following Jesus? How many people hate you because of your efforts to help the poor and the sick and the prisoners?

     The poor widow who gave everything she had, even though it was minimal, was building the kingdom for someone else who possessed even less than she had. Her reward was the peace that passes all understanding in her heart and mind because she knew she was doing the right thing.

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God in You

Luke 20:27-38

When I was preaching, I believed one of my responsibilities was to encourage people to think about what they believed rather than to accept anything and everything someone said from a pulpit. René Descartes said, “I think; therefore, I AM.” (my capitalization) If you don’t think, then you are not I AM.

I wonder how many Christians truly believe the New Testament’s claim that God is within them? In my short book, How to Love the Lord Your God with All Your Heart, I gave these examples as evidence that the Bible suggests God is within you:

The Bible says you were created in the image of God. Someone in the early church said you were created in sin. It’s your choice to believe the Bible or some theologian. The image of God is not sin. It doesn’t mean you’ve perfected that image. It just means there are other reasons why you do things that disrupt harmony in your life and in the lives of others.

The apostle Paul wrote, “You are temples of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit dwells in you” (1 Cor. 3:16);

and “Do you not know that Christ is within you? (2 Cor. 13:5);

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27);

and “Because you are sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Galatians 4:6, CEB);

and “I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:16-17);

Then the first letter of John says, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12).

     When you think about God or Christ living within you, you might have to accept that you are accountable to listen to the voice within you that guides you toward doing what brings harmony. The voice that guides toward love is God’s voice. Sometimes it’s the voice of Jesus. Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice and they follow me.”

Pondering the notion that God is within you may help you figure out how God knows everything you do—everything. You can’t get away with anything. Maybe God is part of that thing we call our “conscience.” Think about it, I AM!

So how does this line of thought relate to the text in Luke 20? I’ve already indicated in other blog posts that the doctrine of reincarnation isn’t as far-fetched as some in the later church decided. There are many references that indicate reincarnation was a viable doctrine at the time of Jesus. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, rising up, or reincarnation of the dead. You’ll have to be the judge of whether you think Jesus endorsed the doctrine (“I tell you, Elijah has returned”). And then look at what Jesus says to the Sadducees (my translation):

  34 Jesus answered and said to them, “The offspring of this system of thingsf marry and are given in marriage. 35 However, after being judged worthy to enjoy that age (the age we call Paradise), indeed a resurrection from the dead,g neither marry nor are they given in marriage; 36 nor are they able to dieh anymore, for they are like angels; yes, they are offspring of God, being offspring of resurrection. 37 Concerning (your denial that) the dead are being raised, Moses disclosed this secret at the bush, when he called Jehovah the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’i 38 Therefore he is not a God of the dead but of those living, for all are living for him.”j  39 Now having conceded, some of the scribesk said, “Teacher, you have spoken excellently.” 40 Therefore they were no longer so bold as to question him further.

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age. The way things are done in a certain period of time; the stage or system of the spirit being embodied in the flesh.

the deadness of living in the flesh, which is required for learning necessary lessons through pain and trials; it’s part of the spirit’s growth process. St. Paul said Jesus was the firstborn of the dead – having reached the fullness of Christ-consciousness, never to be incarnated into flesh (death) again.

reincarnate into the flesh of another body.

the Spirit of Oneness lives in, with, and through each of us, i.e,. we are living FOR God. The human body is a temple, as is everything in the natural world, of the pure Spirit.

inferring that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still alive, not necessarily in Paradise, but reincarnated in another bodily form.

scribes, not Sadducees.

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     Most people don’t know enough details about reincarnation to  make sense of this but it’s a start that might help you start “thinking” about some new things. My main point in this blog post is the concept of God being within you. In verses 37-38, Jesus said, “Jehovah is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” He didn’t say “was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Jesus implies that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive. Does that mean they are reincarnated in other bodies? Maybe. Maybe not. In some doctrines of reincarnation (of which there are many, just like there are many Protestant doctrines that don’t agree), to enter into the flesh is “to die” or leave the wonderful life of the spirit world. Maybe Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have graduated from the “reincarnation into flesh age” and they are now angels and sons/offspring of God. They are of the living, in a new system of things.

You can be like the Sadducees and say this is all bunk. That’s okay. Or you can be like the scribes and Pharisees (and maybe Jesus) who believed in resurrection (or is that reincarnation?). It will definitely take more thinking on your part.

What does it mean to be a son, a daughter, or a child of God? Do you have some of God’s DNA? Are you made in God’s image? Or have you had water sprinkled on you and that did it? Think about your answer. I know the Lutheran mantra. But does a Buddhist, or Hindi, or Muslim, or Jew, or atheist not have God living within them because they haven’t been baptized?

Well, I hope I gave you some things to ponder. What greater benefit could there be than to have Love and Light dwelling in you, and then to recognize that Love and Light can be found in your neighbor? Believing God can be found in everyone will make it easier to love yourself and your neighbor.

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Salvation Is Always About Today

     Most Lutherans will focus on the Reformation this Sunday and that’s nice. I hope they talk about salvation as a present day reality instead of telling people they how much better off they will be when they are dead. Salvation in the Bible is always about being saved, rescued, or delivered from trouble or danger during life today.

     We are saved through faith (trust) in the teachings and example of Jesus. The conviction (faith) that we have for the truth of his teachings will cause us to act according to them. Peace of mind (salvation) always comes to us when we do what is good and right. We suffer negative consequences in this life if and when we fall into the desires of the flesh.

      At least, that’s what I understand when translating Luke 19:1-10:

     Now having entered Jericho, he was passing through.  And there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. Well, he wanted to see who Jesus was, but he could not on account of the crowd because he was a small man. So after running ahead, he climbed up into a sycomore tree so that he might see him, because [Jesus] was going to pass that way. Now when Jesus arrived at the place, he looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” Therefore he quickly came down, and welcomed him with joy. And having seen it, everyone was mumbling, saying that he went to lodge with a sinful man. But having been validated, Zacchaeus said to the Master, “Look, half of my goods, Lord, I am giving to the poor; and if I defrauded anyone, I am repaying fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today peace of minda has come to this house because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the son of man came to seek and to rescue from wrongdoingb those who have perished.”c

salvation. Honesty, generosity, and restoration of sins committed help one sleep well at night.

save. A person reaps what is sown. Negative consequences follow wrongdoing.

the lost. Literally, those who have perished or are perishing. To perish is to fall into the desires of the flesh and therefore suffer the present day consequences of sin.

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Martin Luther Quotations on the Law

This is one of my favorite quotations by Martin Luther about the use of the law, and it comes from the sermons in his Church Postils. See other quotes here.

Martin Luther quotations

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Martin Luther Commentary about the Law

 

Martin Luther had a practical way of understanding the rules/laws/instructions given in the Bible:

Martin Luther Commentary about the Law

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Have Faith in Easy Answers

2 Kings 5:1-14 and Luke 17:11-19

Three years ago, I developed a pinched rotator cuff in my left shoulder. It began limiting the things I could do. I tried several months of chiropractic treatments, which included some basic exercises. It subsided for a while, but it didn’t go away. I finally went to an Orthopedic Surgeon, expecting the worst. It had been nine months and I was tired of the discomfort. I was ready to be cut on. So he tested my shoulder, and said, “All you need is some physical therapy. Here’s a prescription to get into one.”

Then I went to a physical therapist who said, “Number one, you need to sit up straight, stand straight, and hold your shoulders back. Working at a desk and computer for long periods can tempt you to start to hunch over. And here’s a few specific exercises to strengthen the muscles that connect your shoulder to the clavicle bone.” She said, “Put these stretchy things on a door knob and swing your arms across your body. Then lay on the edge of a bed and raise your arm ten times. Do it two times a day.”

“That’s all I have to do? No surgery? Hold my shoulders back. Do a few exercises? No expensive medicine?” Within six weeks, my pain was gone. A very simple and unimpressive solution to my problem. That’s why this week’s Old Testament lesson resonates with me.

Naaman was a great and mighty commander of the king’s army. He sounds like the kind of person who liked things done in a big way. Maybe he had a flair for the dramatic, for the complex.  Naaman had leprosy. And he wanted a miracle to make it go away. He went to Elisha the prophet, hoping for a cure. He was told to wash seven times in the Jordan River.

“What? I’ve come all this way for a miracle and this is what I get? I get a prophet who doesn’t even bother to come out and do his work personally. He sends a peon to tell me I should wash seven times in that dirty Jordan River. Our rivers back home are cleaner than what you dream of around here!  I expected the prophet to wave his hand and ‘poof’, away goes the leprosy! Wash seven times? That’s it? I don’t believe that can cure me. I expected at least to have to muster up the courage and inner fortitude to fight my way through this cancer-like battle for healing. Then I could be the hero in my own healing – and the victory would be partly mine.”

But sometimes God wants to show us His miracles are not the result of our incredible efforts. Sometimes His answers are simple so that God will be glorified, instead of people crediting their own efforts for His miracles. But the little people around Naaman convinced him that the simple answer was worth trying. “Have faith in the treatment Naaman.”

Maybe we don’t have to work so hard or struggle so intensely to participate in a miracle of God. Naaman washed seven times in the Jordan River, and his leprosy disappeared. He followed the simple, unimpressive answer sent from God, and his life was changed forever.

Look at the ten lepers in the Gospel lesson. They didn’t question Jesus after he told them what they should do. They said, “Have mercy on us, Lord.” Instead of waving his wand over them and chanting some magical words, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priest.”

The lepers didn’t say, “What? That’s all we have to do? You’re not going to drum up some special potion for us to cover our sores, or to scrub these scabs off with steel wool and soak them in lye, or call upon Elijah to bring something down from heaven to heal us?”

No. Just take a hike to the nearest priest. They did. And they were healed.

The other thing is that if you want answers to your health problems, you also must say, “I am willing to be part of any solution you propose, God.” You can’t pray any prayer and expect a miracle unless you are willing to be part of the answer. Maybe that’s why Naaman was irritated. He had to go do something to help himself…wash in the river.  Sometimes we want a grand and glorious miracle to take place but we don’t want to be involved in doing anything to make it happen. How can our prayers for miracles be effective if we refuse to participate in the solution?  Sometimes all we have to do is wash in the river.

All ten lepers were healed along the way.

But only one came back to thank the person who helped them, who gave them a simple solution to their problem. How many of you have gone back to your PT or nurse or doctor to say, “Thank you”? How many of you have gone back to a teacher who helped you find an easy answer to your problem to say, “thank you”?

This isn’t rocket science. Don’t take easy answers for granted or the people that give them. They are often the answer to your biggest nightmare.

Do you have a health condition you want to have healed? If you are diabetic and your doctor says, “Don’t eat foods with high fructose sugar” – then don’t eat them. If your therapist says “do these exercises” – do the exercises faithfully. If your nurse says, “take these pills every six hours” – take the pills every six hours. If you have high blood pressure and your doctor says, “don’t eat salty foods” – don’t eat salty foods. If you are needing to lose weight and your counselor says, “don’t eat more than 1200 calories per day” – don’t eat more than 1200 calories per day. The easy answer is often better than the hocus-pocus, dramatic medical treatment.

In the 20th century, people needed a pill to get well. Today people expect to have surgery to get well. Maybe there’s an easy answer. Your faith will make you well. Last week, we learned that the Greek word for faith (pistueo) also means trust. You have to trust the treatment prescribed to you will work, otherwise, you won’t follow it. Trust the advice of your doctor. Trust is important.

Another word for pistueo is “confidence or determination.” You may simply have to be determined to take better care of yourself. Jesus said to the Samaritan who came back to say thank you, “Your faith, your determination, has made you well.”

Your determination to be healed, is often the biggest factor in receiving healing. Faith means both trusting and having the determination to see it through—the same way I kept up the physical therapy exercises, and sitting up straight, not for just six weeks – but I continue to include them in my weekly exercises. I am determined. It’s not always easy, but it’s simple. I have faith that if I continue to do the right things to bring health to my body, I’m going to enjoy better health. Your faith will make you whole. Your determination and commitment to doing the right things will make you whole. When you do them, you can give God praise that the simple answer was the best answer.

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The Key to Forgiveness is Conviction

In 2005, a tornado ripped through Benton, KY. A year later, my wife and I bought a lot that had been in its path. What remained on the lot was a huge pile of limbs and logs pushed together by bulldozers. Before we could get started on building a house, we had to burn that mountain of wood. Many of the trees had been uprooted and their roots were still covered with dirt. The roots were like fingers clinging to the dirt. The dirt was keeping air from reaching the wood and it couldn’t burn like the rest.

sycamine-tree          I bring up that image because those roots holding onto the suffocating dirt is a picture of unforgiveness. At one point, Jesus said, “If you had conviction (pisteuo) like a mustard seed, you could tell this sycamine tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea.” Unfortunately, translators put in the word “faith” instead of conviction. They said if you had faith like a mustard seed. But that doesn’t make sense. Mustard seeds don’t have faith. They have conviction. They will grow wherever they are planted.

The sycamine tree in the Middle East (kind of like our mulberry tree) has one of the deepest and broadest root structures of all the trees. The roots can be bigger than what’s above ground. They are massive, intertwined and extraordinarily strong. To pull that kind of tree up – roots and all – and plant it in the sea would have been impossible.

Many of us have roots that are holding tight to some dirt that is suffocating us and we can’t let go of it. Today, I’m going to teach you how to let go of the dirt. And it will take the conviction of a mustard seed to do it.

I’m reading a book, Personal Power through Awareness, that like many others suggests what you say creates your world. What you speak or even think becomes your reality. Think about it. When someone has hurt you deeply, or has created a huge loss in your life, what do you say? You typically say, “I’ll never be able to forgive him.” Or “I can’t forgive him.” Or “I won’t forgive him.” And so you never do. You hold onto the dirt. You hold onto the hurt. And it suffocates the joy and the peace and the freedom you could have it you only let it go.

Previously, I read a book called “The Wisdom of the Subconscious Mind.” In a nutshell, the conscious mind is like the captain of a big ship and the subconscious mind is like the crew of men below in the engine room. The men below do the mechanics of getting the work done, but they only know what to do based on what the captain says. The conscious mind sends orders through your mouth, your ears send it down to the subconscious which starts right away to make sure those orders are followed.

Pay attention to what you say. Because what you say is what you get.

Stop saying things like, “I’m fat. I’m too old. I’m tired. I’m no good. I can’t afford this. I have no ability to change this. I don’t like Hillary. I don’t like Donald. This country is going to hell in a handbasket.” When you say it, your subconscious mind immediately starts looking for anything and everything to prove you are right. And it will ignore or deny any evidence contrary to what you said. You and I choose what we want to see.

In the same way, you and I choose whether or not to hold onto the dirt, the hurt, the loss, that could make or break our peace of mind. The Greek word for forgive means to let go, to release, to set free. One way to loosen some of that dirt you’re holding onto, is to ask yourself some questions: why is this bothering me so much? What is so important about this that I’m letting it steal my joy and my peace of mind? What am I threatened by? What do I fear losing? Am I being realistic? Why did this hurt my feelings so much? What is it that makes me so defensive about it? Dig deeper, search your own heart, try to understand what is making your roots grip so tightly around the dirt.

Once you’ve come to a better understanding of why you are holding onto the pain and hurt, you can start to say to your sycamine tree, “Be uprooted. I let go of the dirt and I send you to be planted in the sea.” You can do it. But you have to want to do it. And you need the conviction to keep giving that same order so the men below keep working at sending your ship in that direction.

Control what you say. Control what you think. And you will gain control of the direction of your life. Speak the truth that you want to see happen. And say it like it is already a reality. It doesn’t work if you project it into the future. It doesn’t work to say, “I’m going to get healthy, or I’m going to get more productive, or I’m going to get over this incident one day.” Speak as if it is a present reality.

Say, out loud, “I have let this incident go. I’ve let it go.” Keep saying it every time the dirt wants to come back into your mind. Saying it just once isn’t going to cover a year of “I’m never going to forgive her.” Keep saying it. Be convicted that you are going to regain your peace. Say, “I am good at letting things go that use to bother me. I am secure in myself. I’m at peace. I’m a happy person. I don’t let anyone get under my skin.”

It takes the conviction of a mustard seed that can grow anywhere it wants to grow to keep saying, “I can do this.” You can do what appears impossible. And regain your peace of mind.

Practice that right now. If you want peace in your heart and mind, forgive someone right now. Picture an incident that you have been holding onto, and imagine you are holding it in your hands. Say, “I’m forgiving this. I set this offense free.” Lift your hands up and give it to God. Let go of it. And you will realize that your anger and hurt will be released with it.

When you do your job of forgiving, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Peace, hope, love, joy return. May God grant you the conviction of a mustard seed so you can secure your peace of mind.

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