Mindset

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I recently wrote a brief blog on another forum on Dr. Carol Dweck’s “Growth Mindset” approach to education. Dweck has spent three decades looking into how a learner’s attitudes about intelligence, effort, and failures, have influenced their outcomes. She has noticed that the attitude to failure in particular has very different impacts on future attainment. Some students rebound from a poor performance, while others give up or become disheartened even by the smallest setbacks.  She has found that a learner who believes they can improve – will. It follows that when a performance is weak, it is an opportunity to grow.

Spiritually speaking, this is clearly seen as well.  For all too many people, they see their “failures” in life as an obstacle to becoming something more.  We see this in Luke 5: 8-10,

“8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”

Many new Christians get discouraged when they fall back into their old ways.  This I think comes from a failure to understand that repentance is not an on/off switch.  It is a process, the act of taking a different course.  Sometimes we stumble along the way, but we can improve.  And why?  Because we have been shown the way.  We have been bought with a price, and we were created to be saved.  Yes, it has always been God’s plan for use to become his children, to restore us to the glory of the household of God.  How’s that for a growth mindset?

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Rambling

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Today is really a ramble.  Over the past couple of days theological discussions on covenants, and Christian understandings of tithing have featured in my days, but none to the point of making a coherent study or blog.  With one of my classes today, we looked at what would be a moral or immoral occupation.  This raised some real issues.  Is prostitution always immoral (probably), but is being a doctor moral?  What if that doctor does abortions? Is gambling wrong?  Does it “put the Lord, your God, to the test?”  Does it centre on greed?  So as you can see ramblings, and I hope to address some of these soon.
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Sinner

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I am a sinner.  This is not a terrific confession of heinous crimes as the world would see them, but rather a statement of fact.  I fall short of the glory of God.  I fail in my relationships with God and my fellow humans.  As a Christian, I am just as prone to the failings of the world as anyone else.  I am not perfect, just forgiven.

This reflection is especially relevant today.  Today we had an identity theft/false credit card usage against our accounts.  It is easy to immediately blame this evil on the criminals involved as somehow being less than human.  But in fact, they were being exactly that – human.

I am no less upset, and I pray that since it was discovered early, that the bank will fix the situation with minimal or no loss to us.  But, it was a time for self reflection.  Was I as careful with my security as I should have been?  Am I no less guilty of falling short?  Are my misdemeanors no less abhorrent to God?

Some very sad, troubled reflections for the day.  Lord, forgive me my failings.

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Protected!

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There has been a tendancy in modern Western culture to dismiss the Christian concept of a caring, saving God as “Pie in the sky.”  Christians suffer.  There are martyrs. All of the apostles (say for John) met violent deaths.  I recently say a query as to God’s concern for His earthly church.  It bluntly asked “Has God ever rescued someone in this life, or is all in the here after?”

A clear response was made.  Yes, He has!

  • Lot was rescued by Abram at God’s guidance (Genesis 14).
  • Lot and his daughters were saved from the promised destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19).
  • The Hebrews protected from the Angel of Death (Exodus 12-13).
  • The Hebrews flee the Egyptians through the Red Sea (Exodus 14).
  • King David was saved from the hand of King Saul [12 times]  (1 Samuel 18:30-19:24).
  • The prophet Elijah protected from wicked Queen Jezebel (I Kings 19f).
  • Esther and the jews of Persia were saved when evil Haman was plotting to exterminate the Jews (Esther).
  • The prophet Jonah from the belly of the great fish (Jonah 2).
  • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were saved from being burned alive in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace (Daniel 3).
  • Daniel, protected from the mouths of lions in a den of lions (Daniel 6).

So the Bible is full of examples.  But more importantly we have a promise:  “Seek first the Kingdom of God . . . and all these things will be added unto you.” Our needs and struggles will be provided for.  And as far as temptations: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it (I Corn 10:13).”

God is a saviour here in this life, and in the world to come.  Pie in the sky – why yes, but as dessert from a life of “Daily Bread” here below.  Count on it!

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Prayer

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I Timothy 2:1 reads “ I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men . . . .”  I was studying the “Lord’s Prayer” with a class recently, and we were breaking down the elements of the model.  It should not be a surprise that the example Jesus gave His disciples has the elements expressed in the letter to Timothy, plus adoration to the Father as well.

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread. 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] )Matthew 6).

In it God is praised, petition for the coming of the Kingdom is made, intercession for forgiveness is made, confession that we do debt is confirmed, and personal appeal for forgiveness is present.

Paul calls on Timothy to make this a regular act, praying not just for “mine and thine” but for leaders, rulers, and in fact “for all men.”  Via prayer we might have peace (vs 2), but this is not a selfish exhortation.  Ultimately verse 3 says it all – “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

Pray for all people today, that they may come to the knowledge of the truth.  What could be better?

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To See As God Sees

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In I Samuel 16 it reads:

“6 When they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Next Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 10 Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are these all the children?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12 So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers;  . . .”

This is the second posting where the idea of prejudice (positive or negative) has featured. In our story Samuel has gone to the house of Jesse, and the sons of Jesse are brought to him in search of one who would be God’s annointed leader of Israel.  The result is not the tall, muscular Eliab; nor is it any of the “warrior brothers.”  In the end, it is the youngest, sheep-tending son – David – that finds God’s favour.  Outward appearance, or even the “front” many put on in public is not what God sees.  He sees your inner self.

Jesus chose fishermen, tax collectors, and political zealots to follow him.  He did not pick the rich, rabbis, or the powerful.  He saw people who had heart, and the potential to serve.

When we meet people do we look at the surface?  Do we look for potential?  Do we seek to see as God sees?  Lord help us to see the Davids among those we encounter.

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Judge Not

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There is no doubt that Christians around the world face persecution.  In Egypt on Palm Sunday, Coptic Christians were targeted.  Christians in Pakistan and parts of northern India face hostility.  In the West, Christianity is marginalised, and the media ridicule and satirise faith.  So, with these facts stated, I found myself on the “wrong side” in a recent theological discussion.  The question was raised, “How do you evangelise Muslims, since all they will do is attack you.”  I said that I didn’t minimalise the challenges faced by saints in many Muslim majority places, but I found the second part of the question problematic.  While it is true that “some Muslims” may attack you [here the context was literally in the physical sense], I challenged that it may well be an overstatement when speaking of all 1.6 billion Muslims.  We, as well as the world, need to free ourselves of stereotypes.  Jesus taught that we should not judge [and especially pre-judge] “lest we be judged (Luke 6:37).” Ultimately the answer to his question, is “One person at a time.”  If we treat everyone we meet with respect; if we acknowledge that we as well as they are sinners; if we present Christ with the same understanding, loving, and forgiving attitude Jesus modelled – then we can change the world.

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Of Human Effort

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The world is a complex place, and there are daily obstacles in our human pursuits. People have long tried to have control of these situations, from Abraham picking Lot as his heir, to Peter saying to Jesus, “not so Lord!”

God has a plan, and while we may not see the reasoning, it remains the RIGHT plan.  The Assyrians had to learn that the hard way.  They were wicked, and God warned them through Jonah of their faults.  They after a period of repentance seem to return to “their own way,” however.

In Nahum chapter 3, the prophet forewarns their destruction. In verse 14 , we read:

“Draw for yourself water for the siege!  Strengthen your fortifications! Go into the clay and tread the mortar! Take hold of the brick mold!” Do it your way, but it will be of no avail.  God’s plan is in motion, you can’t stop it. For: “15 There fire will consume you,
The sword will cut you down; It will consume you as the locust doesMultiply yourself like the creeping locust, Multiply yourself like the swarming locust [Make your army huge]. 16 [Yet] You have [already] increased your traders more than the stars of heaven— The creeping locust strips and flies away. 17 Your guardsmen are like the swarming locust. Your marshals are like hordes of grasshoppers Settling in the stone walls on a cold day. The sun rises and they flee, And the place where they are is not known. [But the big army will be destroyed, or run away].18 Your shepherds are sleeping, O king of Assyria; Your nobles are lying down.Your people are scattered on the mountains. And there is no one to regather them.”

Are we like Nineveh?  Full of our own desires, plans, and notions?  If these differ from God’s plans they will be in vain.  If we are struggling, we need to “seek first the kingdom of God,” then He will make it right.  When we face this complex contrary world, don’t conform to it.  Don’t try to force your will upon it.  Instead try surrendering.  Not to the world, but to God!

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He Is Risen!

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Today is generally known as Easter.  It has in much of the US and UK to be connected with bunnies, chocolate eggs, and an extra day off work (on Friday, Monday, or both).  It is, however, the most significant day on the Christian calendar.  Here I must differ from C.S. Lewis, who said Christmas was the central event of human history.  I believe it is the resurrection day!

Yes, the advent of Christ at Christmas was the coming of joy to the world, and good will to men.  It was the Word of God taking on flesh to be Emmanuel, God with us.  But, as spectacular as that was, He came with a mission.  That mission was to lay down His life for us.  His death, His blood, His sacrifice cleanses us.  But if His death were the end of the story, where would our hope be?  It is not that He was born (we all do that), nor that He died (we surely will do that too), but that He rose from the dead.  He defeated death ad the grave, and in so doing, gives us hope for a life everlasting as well.

Bunnies are nice; chocolate is yummy; but and empty tomb is awesome!  Praise God today, He is risen!

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The Second Sabbath?

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Today is Holy Saturday, or Easter Saturday.  It is the day between the crucifixion and the ressurection of Jesus.  For some it is a day of contemplation on the events just past, and the great event about to happen.  For others it is a day to finish their lenten vows.

Some call this day God’s second sabbath, the day that God the Son rested in the tomb.  I am not personally satisfied with that view.  Yes, His physical body was in state in the tomb, but His spirit was all too active. I Peter 3 reads: “18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah . . . , ” or as the Apostles’ Creed renders it: “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell.  The third day he rose again from the dead.”  This is hardly a day of rest!

If nothing else, it was a day of preparation.  Jesus was about to do the greatest feat ever – the conquering of death. Tomorrow we will mark the resurrection.  He Lives, and through Him we can and do as well.  A Second Sabbath?  Probably not.  A great day of hope ?  MOST DEFINITELY!

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