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Braking Points

Pausing in the midst of Life to ponder, pray and find footing to continue.

Month

May 2013

Written in Red–Tasty and Bright–SALT TODAY, LIGHT TOMORROW

Matthew 5:13-16
John 9:5
Ephesians 4:16

Our purpose as Christians involves more than absorbing good teaching, either in personal study of the Bible, from pieces of the sermon on Sunday or in one or more group study and discussion group.  Certainly, absorbing salt and light, helps add flavor to our lives and illumination for our walk with Christ, but Jesus, knowing how we are, reticient about sharing our faith, unsure if we really understand enough to well….witness, sets our purpose right out on the table.  

You are the SALT of the Earth!  

Consider the attributes of salt and how they apply to our purpose as Christians both individually and corporately:

Salt enhances flavor–with it we bring out the essence of God in everyday life, in joy and in sorrow.  Too much–and the world spits it out–too little and God seems bland and impotent.

Salt preserves–like salting meat prevents spoilage, a Christian’s salty life can often prevent sin spoilage by courageously living the Christian life and defending Christian values in an increasingly pagan culture.

Salt heals–like gargling salt water encourages a raw sore throat to heal, when a Christian encourages, prays, listens, or serves hurting, broken souls and bodies, the salt of presence works in the process of mending.

Salt cools–like rock salt on ice wrapped around a churning ice cream canister lowers the temperature within the canister to freezing, a salty Christian can work to cool down hot tempers and churning relationships by holding them close in actuality or in prayer.

Salt dehydrates–remember the old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.”  Not true, give the horse salt and he will become so thirsty, he will drink.  Don’t spill the whole salt shaker on the table by lecturing or judging…some of the most tantalizing salt to unbelievers is when a believer forgives and chooses mercy over judgement….salt your conversations just enough to entertain questions…you do not have to have all the answers…live your life not as if you are perfect, but as you are forgiven…a genuine Christian life is full of salt.  

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.

Isak Dinesen

Carolyn’s Musings

In Frederich High School Home Economics was required back in the 1960s.  Unfortunately, cooking and sewing were like learning in a foreign language.  So suffice it to say, I did not do well and did not develop the skills.  Sewing while a wonderful talent, hasn’t plagued my adult life like my poor cooking skills.  Over the years I have managed to learn to cook a few dishes and since I have retired from day job, I have mastered some new ones.  However, Bless my husband’s heart, he has endured over salted, under salted, over cooked (burned beyond recognition) and under cooked (Brown on the outside, cold on the inside) meals.  

So for me to talk about Salt and the Christian life is probably presumptuous, but years ago, my husband gave me a little sign for my kitchen that states “I kiss better than I cook”.  It made me smile, still does and it does relate.  Sometimes we get the idea that there is only one way to be the Salt Christ talks about, but my sign reminds me, every Christian spices up the world with the gifts they’ve been given.  Some cook, some kiss, some do both.

To not use the salt I have been given to make a difference in the world is to let it lose its value both to the body of Christ and to the world at large.

So GO SALT THE WORLD as only you are equipped to do!image

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Written in Red–The Happiness Attributes

Jeremiah 29: 11-14
Matthew 5: 3-12

What does it take to be happy?  Or prosperous?  Or to have hope and marvelous future?

The world offers answers.  How rich, famous, powerful, popular, influential does one need to be to be happy?  With God these temporary worldly attributes can be used for building the kingdom of God.  Without God these temporary worldly attributes….well suffice it to say…don’t satisfy and don’t last.

In Matthew 5: 3-12,  Jesus maps out the road to a blessed, happy life with the attributes and rewards of a believer.  

I grew up going to Sunday School, where in the olden days we memorized scripture.  The Beatitudes–this passage–was one required section.  I am pretty sure we got a badge or something for doing this.  I remembered the words when I was called on to recite them, but it has taken me a lifetime to begin to understand.  Even as a child I had a hard time reconciling “mourning” with “being blessed”.

Consider each one but in the end consider them as a whole.  How can I be the joyful, happy, blessed servant of Jesus, how can I witness to His power and His grace, how can I find and know God without these attributes.

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven–when you got no more in you, when you are at the end of your rope, that’s when more of God can shine through you, that’s when the Holy Spirit works best through you.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Loss comes in this life. “Jesus wept.” when he learned of Lazarus’s death, his friend.  Tears, sorrow come.  Grief that tears your insides out happens.  Beware of numbing yourself to grief, avoiding pain, that only brings hardness.  Comfort comes when we acknowledge our pain and our inablility to change what has happened. Comfort comes so that we too can become comforters and that brings happiness.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  Meek does not equate with weak. Meekness is restraint in difficult situations. Meekness is contentment with just who you are. Meekness stands tallest when life becomes chaotic.  Meekness allows you to see all you have rather than all you do not have.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Appetites define us at times. Appetites drive us.  When I crave chocolate, nothing satisfies but chocolate.  Jesus knows fleshly appetites have only momentary satisfaction.  An appetite for God fills us over and over again and keeps us wanting more.  In Jeremiah 29: 12-13, He says if we seek him, hunt for him, desire to know him, He will be found by us.  We will be filled.
 
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. The Message puts it this way, “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.”  God desires that we should experience compassion not judgement.  That we experience mercy in both giving and receiving. “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. “(Micah 6:8 NIV)  Clearly, God knows that an element of the happy life involves a merciful heart.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  Congruent living, a heart and mind tuned into God.  Actions may evidence a pure heart, but no one but God can see one.  A pure heart requires opening all the dark cubby holes, the ones filled with trash, the places, we want no one to see. To have a pure heart, we need to fling these doors open so the Holy Spirit can work on the most intimate hidden areas of our insides. Then we can see God in others; we can see where He is working; we can begin to understand how He works, because with a pure heart there are no self conceived notions to overcome.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Nothing in the Bible convinces me that God is a pacificist, but God is a Peacemaker.  Where possible we should live at peace with all, especially other Christians.  Happiness for the peacemaker comes as one acts to help people cooperate instead of fight.
 
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  Provoking persecution sounds like the farthest thing from living a happy, blessed life and certainly not all persecution begets happiness.  Only when commitment to God brings the insults, the lies, the put downs, or other anti Christian restrictions…only then can we delight in the fact that the truth has made the persecuters uncomfortable.  That is when the Kingdom of God is near and we can Cheer for their discomfort in the presence of godliness pleases God.  And as it says in The Message, “And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.”

Carolyn’s Musings for this day

So today I decided to start this study, to dig deeper into the “red letter” passage in Matthew 5-7.  I don’t know what I expected, but to start with I did not sleep well.  Twice in the night my dogs insisted on going out.  This doesn’t happen often, so I knew they really needed it.  Even my caffeine fix couldn’t  produce the bounce I thought I needed.  

Still as I worked through the familiar passage, I began to consider these words of Christ as a pattern for not just a blessed happy life in the final product, but as the daily work of the Holy Spirit as He shapes me into the image of Christ.  Paul wrote of the fruit of the Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 23 NIV) as the evidence of the Christian to the world.  Each of these finds purchase in the Beatitudes and so this day with all its interruptions, challenges, with a sleep deprived brain and a true feeling of inadequacy I encounter Spirit led opportunities to deepen my root system in these initial words of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount.

Written in Red

As a child with my first Bible, my mother pointed out that in the New Testament that I could easily find the words Jesus spoke, rather than words spoken about Jesus, because they would be in red. Today not all Bibles continue this, but some do. Whether in red print or not Jesus’ words drip with the blood of forgiveness. The fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of Matthew present the longest passage of red lettered words.

Known as the Sermon on the Mount, these words embody Christ’s ministry both then and now. Here at Braking Points, it is time to pause, ponder and pray that God may illuminate these ancient words that they might breathe new life for today. I hope you will join in as we explore.

God’s Anguish

On the mountain or in the valley
Ever present, always near
Watching closely, weeping softly
Oh the anguish of your tears

On my knees prostrate before you, 
Or Flaunting boundaries built to shield 
Climbing walls, embracing sin
Running wildly through the alleys
Spinning, tripping, falling hard
Filth clinging to me like a banner
Of my wayward wanton heart.

On the mountain or in the valley
Ever present, always near
Watching closely, weeping softly
Oh the anguish of your tears

On my knees prostrate before you
Crying “Abba, come and save me”
Wipe my tears and heal my bruises
Hold me in your arms again.
Teach me, guide me, help me stand.
Your love and mercy like a banner
Flung from my repentant heart.

On the mountain or in the valley
Ever present, always near
Watching closely, weeping softly
Oh the anguish of your tears

Laying Down The Hammer

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them. (Hosea 14:9 ESV)
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:16, 17 ESV)

Occasionally, God has revealed to me sin from my past that needs to be confessed in order to continue to grow in Christ, but typically, it involves a day to day review by the Holy Spirit so that I can get it out in the open and see how dirty it really is and let Him cleanse me. Sometimes it can be the same sin over and over, because I do have propensity to sin in certain areas. The Bible tells us that God remembers our sin no more. 

“as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalms 103:12 ESV)

 When we were saved, He, by His Will, choses to see us as Forgiven, New Creatures and that doesn’t change. But if I want to live my life as if He never saved me, to act as an adulturious bride, it is as if everyday I nail Jesus to the Cross BUT still He Loves me.  

While I am kisslng whatever golden calf I am enamored with or heading down some tainted alley, HE still waits, watches, agonizes as I drive the nail and YET He loves me. I groan as I acknowledge this and run home to Daddy.

“And yet, in this discomfort there is beauty.  And the beauty is in the return.” [http://shereadstruth.com]

Oh, Lord, I lay the hammer down at Your Feet.  I am forgiven, a new creation.  Let me see every path that could lead me away as you see it, bloody, deadly and heartbreaking.  May I today live in the shadow of Your wings and may someone see Christ in me.  Amen

Walking Two Dogs

Image

Max and Emma have different walking behaviors, which provides challenges, frustration, moments of laughter and also of terror.  Our country road at 7 am is virtually traffic free, except for the big Yellow Monster, also known as the school bus.  Max has declared war on the monster and hears it rounding the bend, climbing the hill, before Emma or I do.
With Emma forging ahead and Max lagging behind, listening, I stand arms outstretched thankful neither of them are Mastiffs or else I would be pulled apart.  As the bus rounds the corner, Max rises up on his back legs and lunges forward, while Emma calmly eats grass or sticks her nose in the crawdad holes in the ditches. I immediately reel Max closer shortening his leash.  His fury grows, he snarls, he barks, putting on the ugliest face a Shih Tzu can muster, the driver waves, sleepy kids leaning against the windows drowsily regard the spectacle and I smile unable to wave with my hands gripping both leashes.  Once the bus rounds the next bend, the scenario ends.
This happens every school day of the year. If I were the dog whisperer or even a decent dog trainer, this could be avoided, but alas, I am not. I tell Max, “Saved your b__(backside), again.” To which he just romps up to join Emma and continue their walk.
As God often does, this morning God made me consider His leash on me…not like mine on Max, but still a tether.  In the Old Testament God gave his people the Law and the Prophets, not to bind them but so they could Live.  But that leash could not hold them…over and over again they ran away. What the law could not do, Jesus did by loving me.
“Love is a silken cord, strong as a chain of steel.”  His leash is Love.

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