In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Thoughts on the book The Great Divorce

Recently I read C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce for the first time.

I was semi impressed while reading it. But since I finished it I keep on thinking about it.  Throughout my day periodically snatches of the book come back to me. Sometimes I'll meet people who remind me of his characters.

The way Lewis presents hell fascinates me. I'm attracted to the concept that the people who are in hell could cross over to heaven, but they don't want to be there.  They resist God's ways; His love, forgiveness and uncompromising stance that He must come first.

All my life I've lived in the north American Christian church. I was raised, and mostly resided, in a group called southern Baptists. While I appreciate the wealth that this Christian sect has afforded me, I'm not really comfortable with the common church stance regarding hell. This idea that the cross was a cosmic event where God poured out His love for all mankind, and He loves and wants all mankind to come to him up until the moment they die - and then it's too late.  If they were raised in a Muslim or some other anti-Christian country and did not repent and to come to Jesus, then they'll be tortured in hell for all eternity. This view that would say for an example that if Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl during WWII who wrote her famous diary while hiding from Nazis, died without coming to Christ; she'd end up in the same hell as Hitler.  Somehow, this doesn't jive with what I read in the Bible.

Lewis' idea of an opportunity after death to still come to God interests me.


Thinking on things authentic

Poster taken from http://jasrinsingh.com/
I'm continuing in Philippians 4:4-8, still unpacking that 8th verse (MSG):

Summing it all up friends, I'd say you'd do best by filling your minds with and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling and gracious - the best, not the worst; the beautiful not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

In order to increase my grasp on the meaning of authentic I'm going to see how this same verse, specifically that word, was translated in other versions:
  •  whatever [hosos] is pure [hagnos] (MOUNCE)
  • whatever is pure (NIV)
  • whatever is pure (AMP)
  • whatsoever things are pure (KJV)
  • whatever is pure (NET)
  • and pure (NLT)
  • whatever things holy (WYC)
  • as many as [are] pure (YLT)    
 Why did Peterson in his Message paraphrase use authentic instead of pure? What's the connection?   

When I look up definitions for authentic they all talk about being genuine, of indisputable origin.  Pure is like that too.  Pure can mean undiluted, free from contamination.  Maybe God's talking here about not letting the world's view creep into my thinking.  To fill my mind with, and mediate on His truth.

So how can this look in every day life?
  
There are so many messages that come to me everyday that are contrary to the Word.  Here's some examples:
  
  • When I see the beautiful women displayed on billboards, in magazines, and on TV; do I feel less than? Or, do I remember that God's word tells me in Psalm 139:13-14 that I'm wonderfully made?
  • When I feel overwhelmed at work do I let the thoughts of inadequacy slip in? Or, do I fix my mind on God's Word that says in Philippians 4:12-14 that I can do whatever is needed through Christ who strengthens me? 
  • When I see my middle son making wrong choices and going down the wrong path, do I get discouraged and give in to hopelessness? Or, do I fix my mind on the Word that directs me in Proverbs 3:4-6 to put my trust in God? Do I remember that in Jeremiah 29:11 God says He has good plans for His people? Do I think about how  Proverbs 22:6 explains that if I train a child in God's says, he will not depart from God? 

As I've been unpacking this verse, repeatedly I've been impressed with the importance God places on my thought life.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A look at reputable

Photo from http://coltharppianoworld.com/
Since I'm memorizing Philippians 4:4-8 I'm seeking to deepen my understanding of the passage.

Right now I'm unpacking the 8th verse:

Summing it all up friends, I'd say you'd do best by filling your minds with and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling and gracious - the best, not the worst; the beautiful not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

Today I want to think about what it means to think on that which is reputable.

I looked in other translations and versions to see what they did with this same word and found the following:
  •  whatever is right (NIV)
  • whatever is worthy of respect (NET)
  • right (NLT)
  • whatever is right (NASB)
  • whatever is just (AMP)
  • whatsoever things are just (KJV)
  • whatever [hosos] is just [dikaios] (MOUNCE)
So I'm seeing this flavor of what is right, just, and worthy of respect.  God is telling me that it is to my good to spend my time thinking about right, just and respectful things.

According to Word Hippo the opposite of just is: Imprecise, inaccurate, inappropriate, inequitable, partial, unfair, unjustified, unsuitable, unsuited, unjust

Word Hippo shows the opposite of right to be: wrong, disadvantage, disfavor, corruption, immorality, injustice, unfairness, subordination, dishonesty, dishonor, evil, impropriety, unsuitableness, wickedness


Word Hippo shows the opposite of respect to be: disrespect, criticism, disdain, dishonor, disregard, ignorance, bad manners, disfavor.

When situations come up in daily life that involve these opposites, I find that myself and most other people keep mentally thinking about these things.  It is natural.  I've been listening to an audio book lately by Joel Osteen that's entitled You Can, You Will. Osteen relates how researchers have found that negative memories take up more space in the brain because the person has to process the event.  There's an interesting article about how people tend to remember the negative more than the positive in March 23, 2013 issue of the New York Times. The Times article quotes psychology professor Roy F. Baumeister from Florida State who says: “Bad emotions, bad parents and bad feedback have more impact than good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones.”

God warns me against this natural tendency in his Word.  He tells me I'll do better if I fill my mind with and think on what is right, just, and worthy of respect.

So what does that look like in daily life?  Here's some "down and dirty" examples from my daily life:
  • I can be irritated that my husband yet again forgot to put sweetener in my Chai tea. Or I can be thankful that I have a husband who is willing to make tea for me weekend mornings.
  • When I sit out on our deck I can be filled with sadness about the pine trees adjacent to our deck that are disease riddled with a problem rampant in Wrightwood currently. Or, I can be thankful for the delightful sound of our little fountain, the stirring breeze, and the fact that our next door neighbor doesn't have any windows facing our deck.
  • I can continue to re-hash that fact that my DON at work called my boss when she was on vacation (so of course I was not in communication) and claimed all the credit for our successful annual department of public health (DPH) nursing PPD survey - when in fact it was the DSD and I who did everything for that outcome while the DON was not even involved. Or, I can praise God for His favor and blessings (of the DSD, the DPH surveyor and the outcome) and know that I work unto God not for the favor of my boss. I can think on how trustworthy God is and that He will promote me, and build my reputation, in His way and timing.
This list could just go on and on.  It comes down to disciplining my mind like  God says to in Romans 12:1-2.



 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Noble???

As I noted yesterday, I'm working on memorizing Philippians 4:4-8 out of the Message paraphrase. Right
Photo from http://www.kenlauher.com
now I'm seeking to unpack verse 8:
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. 

Yesterday I looked at meditating on things that are true.

Today I want to tackle noble.

First off, what does noble even mean?

According to the Free dictionary by Farlex, noble means:

a. Having or showing qualities of high moral character, such as courage, generosity, or honor: a noble spirit.
b. Proceeding from or indicative of such a character; showing magnanimity: "What poor an instrument / May do a noble deed!" (Shakespeare).
I see a lot of decidedly un-noble acting people every day. I see them at work, in my neighborhood, at church, sometimes in my family, in the news, and when I look in the mirror.   
This 8th verse of the 4th chapter of Philippians is telling me that I'd be better off not filling my mind with, or meditating on, those un-nobel acting folks.  I don't believe that it's telling me to stick my head in the sand and not see what's going on. I also don't believe that it's telling me to not be alert, observant and wise and see who people really are and respond accordingly.  I think it's telling me to just not park my mind there.

I have a DON at work who's the best and the worst.  The part in which she's the worst includes almost always lying, manipulating, and back stabbing. It would be oh so easy for me to get caught up in thinking on how terrible she is and how sometimes she makes my job seem impossible.  Instead I'm learning that I need to recognize what she's doing and pray.  I need to be wise and have the Holy Spirit help me know how to act strategically in light of the facts about this person.  But it is counterproductive for me to dwell on her "badness".  It's of no value for me to play over and over in my mind how she drives me crazy or that she calls my boss and bad talks me. Instead, I need to fill my mind and think on what is noble.

I'll benefit most from looking around me at work, home, church, my neighborhood, and in the media and thinking about who is showing courage, generosity, honor, or magnanimity.  Those are the people who's actions I should be considering. Those are the people who will help me see what I want to be. 

One of the things I really appreciate about the Word is how practical it can be!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Why Truth?

Photo from http://www.insearchofthetruth.net
I've been working on memorizing Philippians 4:4-8 out of the Message paraphrase.

Today I want to think a bit more on that 8th verse:
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. 

So what's true?Why should I fill my mind with it and meditate on it?

One reason is because truth sets me free.

John 8:31-32 (MSG) says:
31-32 Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him. “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.”

This leads me to the question, how does truth set me free?

The first thing that comes to my mind is 2 Bible passages. The first is found in 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NASB):
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

The second is when Jesus is talking and He says (found in John 10:10 (NET):
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly. 

One of the things that I've found in my life is that the enemy whispers, or nudges me toward, lies in my mind. Things like oh I'm too overwhelmed and can't do this. Or I'll never be free from this addiction to food. Or it won't hurt if I just go with the flow today, I'm tired, I don't have to give my all every day - that's too much. Another one is I can't get up in front of this group and talk, I just feel too ashamed. Similarly, I don't want to be friendly and talk to them, it's just too much effort. Or I know I should be less selfish toward John, but it's just so easy to act naturally. Why bother? Or Oh I don't want to get out of bed, I have to go to work and there's this problem and that, etc. I just don't want to deal with it all. Another way this can work is when some of the people at work start gossiping or talking about others; instead of getting into all that negativity I can walk away or just simply say I don't want to be talking about that person.


Choosing to let my mind fill with this kind of garbage will end up with me being right down in the pit.  For me that looks like me going through the motions in life but not really living. It looks like me using food, day dreams, or any other passing distraction to numb out.

Instead of living like that, I can choose to actively put God's truth into my mind.  I'm reminded of Romans 12:1-2, especially that second verse (NET):
 Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.

Deliberately choosing to think on the truth is one way to renew my mind. There are three practical ways I've found helpful in this quest recently:

Hearing positive, true encouraging words on the way to work.
Recently a brother in Christ at work and I have been trading books on CD.  We're both into listening to books on our way to work. He'd loaned me one that is by a pastor who I find so encouraging that I went out and bought it for myself and keep listening to it over and over.  I want it down in my spirit.  It's super positive and my job puts me around sick, unhappy patients and their unhappy families every day.  Staff, patients, and family all come to me with their complaints and problems.  I have such an opportunity to minister God's truth and love. I can really make a difference. But it can also be draining. Sometimes the negativity feels like it's going to engulf me.  Letting super positive, encouraging, hope-filled words be read over me as I drive to work is one way to counteract all that negativity. 

Memorizing Bible verses and passages.
Memorizing has never been easy for me. Back when I was in college the first time I went through the Navigators scripture memory program.  I still remember those same verses today. I still find that they minister to me and help form the way I think and look at the world.  So I've taken the plunge and am working to memorize verses and passages again. I pray that God enable my brain to remember and use His words to change the way I think, to align me with His thoughts. 

Prayer.
I'm praying that God would help me recognize and catch the lies. That He would bring His truth to my mind. That He would empower me to replace lies with truth in my thought life.  That He would build truth upon truth in my innermost being.

One of the reasons I adore this 8th verse in Philippians 4 is that it's so practical.  It just comes out and explains that I'll do best if I fill my mind with, and meditate on, truth.

 



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