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Friday, February 5, 2016

Kingdom Shalom: Preparation for Sunday School

A brief review for Sunday School:
The ministry of Jesus consisted of salvation manifest in Gospel Proclamation (Good News: the Kingdom of God is close), teaching (torah means instruction, Jesus is the Teacher of Truth), healing (mostly physical healing of humans , sometimes the earth--like storms), deliverance/exorcisms (from the demonic activities of the Enemy), and reconciliation (re-establishing right relationship through God's forgiveness and human repentance). Jesus is the Lamb (the sin offering for reconciliation) and the Great High Priest (morning prayer readings from Hebrews and John are important Biblical texts for understanding this). Jesus is (also in John) the One Sent (apostolos) by God; Jesus accomplishes His earthly mission now through us, His contemporary apostles sent in His Name, filled with His Holy Spirit.

God can clearly do what God wants--He is all powerful. God has done what He wanted, and as He is all wise, it seems fair to say that the creation in which we live is the best possible creation. God can do anything, but He has chosen to do this thing. We live in the world as created with a specific set of rules and we must figure out what that means. God is Trinity, three persons yet only one God. Humans have a trinitarian aspect as well. We are body, soul and spirit. One might say we can be viewed in terms of biology, psychology or spirituality. A human is a body. A human is a soul. A human is a spirit. Each realm occupies space and time in a unique way. Our biological self is governed by the laws of physics, chemistry and biology. Our psychological self includes reason, feeling, desiring and choosing. Our spiritual self is open to God, but at risk of the darkness of the demonic. We have lots going on!  So our ministry is best when it addresses all three. A good rule of thumb is salvation addresses the need in the appropriate manner for the totality of the human person. [Vitamins don't address sin, but they can help with physical and psychological problems! Being told "I love you" may make you feel good, but if you're bleeding a bandage may be more effective!]

We believe the world is "fallen" and so the original intent of creation has been modified dramatically. We were created to live in a more conducive environment; the Bible says we are aliens (alienated) in the world. Yet God has not deserted us. He continues to reveal Himself and save us. The role of human reason is to reflect on our experience and decipher what God speaks to us in and through our lived reality. This is called Natural Theology and is done (poorly or well) by anyone who thinks. From the vantage point of our "beliefs" we then engage the Scripture. We interpret what we read through the lenses of our beliefs, assumptions, expectations and it is influenced by our emotions. Our culture provides a framework which limits and contains us as well.  We are all involved in the process of interpreting the Revelation. What is God's intent for us?

The Jewish word, Shalom, is often translated as peace, but it's meaning is deeper

Shalom means much more than peace. Here is a short list to give you a fuller meaning of this wonderful Hebrew word: peace, wholeness, wellness, well-being, safe, happy, friendly, favor, completeness, to cause to be at peace, to make peace, peace offering, secure, to prosper, to be whole, to be victorious, contentment, tranquility, quiet, and rest. This word is also used is a general greeting or farewell. []

Jesus announces God's Kingdom is breaking into the (fallen) world. When God rules we will have shalom. God's Kingdom is breaking into the world primarily through the church. Shalom Peace includes freedom from the Kingdom of Darkness and its manifestation in body, soul and spirit as well as the world. Physical illness is not of God. However, mental/emotional issues may be even more devastating. We know that doubt, fear, unforgiveness, sin and Satan are all barriers to complete and speedy healing. We addressed this by beginning with our beliefs. Our minds, how we understand God, are the open door to the spiritual realm. Our theology dictates our response. This is why Jesus teaches so much. It is why we need to be good students. Our source, Revelation, may be limited to "Scripture" (and further limited by our designation of what that includes). It may be broader to include Tradition and Reason. Whatever it is, one must then engage it, praying for the Holy Spirit's guidance. If you believe God wants to inform you and you are open to the information, then you will probably receive. It's not infallible, you may misunderstand here and there, but life is a struggle! 

Healing troubled minds and hearts is a multi-layered work. Bringing Kingdom peace is never ended and accomplished this side of eternity. Today's peace can disintegrate into tomorrow's chaos and confusion. Some of us are more volatile than others, but all of us are a work in progress. The effort to create our own peace is a worthy endeavor, but there are times when it closes us off to God. Jesus upsets the apple cart, He draws us into a greater vision. Our temptation is to ask Him to bless what we are doing (or thinking, or feeling, or 'not') rather than conform our lives and do what He is blessing. This is the result of a fallen world and Original Sin. We have general principles (trust, love) but the particular application is not always clear (what is the faithfilled response here, what is the loving action there) or easy (know what to do but can't do it). The gap between what is and what we think 'should be' creates agitation. Biblical "chaos" dismembers the structuring we do to survive and thrive. Chaos is part of the Kingdom of Darkness. Order is part of God's creative and saving work. Peace is a fruit of godly order.

 One way to achieve peace of a sort is to stop caring. Apathy breeds a calm life. If nothing matters then whatever happens won't matter. It may be the apathy of a quitter, or the apathy of avoidance. Some philosophical systems (to some extent, Stoicism, Buddhism) are based on the goal of disaffection. It is "peace as an absence."  Another "peace of absence" is by embracing childish ways. The absence of responsibility frees one of worry and concern. It puts the stress on someone else. A "peace of absence" is better than turmoil, but its not the Kingdom peace of Jesus and the Bible, and it is not the peace of the Healing/Salvation ministry of God's holy church. In the Gospel of John (14:27) Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." The absence peace is what the world offers.

In Christianity, there is a "peace of presence"--The Lord is in your life. The human condition (derived and dependent) is ultimately dismal if not grounded in the Creator/Savior. This is a goal of the healing ministry, to tap people into the life of God as poured out in Jesus and through Jesus' Body the church.

Biological peace is a function of healthy living. Obviously, good choices create a beneficial and supportive environment. Education is helpful here. Safety, nutrition, sleep, exercise, these are other practices enhance our physical abundance. Discipline is important. Healing is a corrective, but certainly the decision to respect the body and live in accord with optimal health is a good idea and pray for blessing is a recommended practice.

Psychological peace is multi-dimensional. 
1. Mind. God saves and heals the mind. Our thoughts and beliefs are incredibly significant. Positive, optimistic thinking is tied to longevity. Hope and trust bring life. Mercy brings health. Kindness brings joy. Pagan philosophers know that the good life is a fruit of being good. As the Bible says, "You reap what you sow." Lies and falsehood are of the Evil One. Bad theology destroys life. Heresy kills. Truth seeking and study are healthful. Beliefs are the seed. The Nazi death camps started with discussions. Minds are to be nurtured and filled with good ideas and holy thoughts. Teaching informally is a Christian role in salvation. Listening to people talk is as well. Listening (shema in Hebrew) is a learned skill. The therapeutic value of listening is it allows people to hear what they think, talking has a curative value intellectually and emotionally.
2. Heart. We use heart here to speak of the feeling person. As we said, speaking imparts stress relief to the soul. "I feel better" is a common refrain heard from people to counselors. Even if the problem looms just as large there is a healing from talking and being cared for. Paying someone to listen to you is a widespread practice, people must need it badly. The Christian vocation of Good News and salvation includes merely being a non-anxious presence for others, caring and listening. God heals the emotions, usually through simple acts of listening.
3. Desires and Will. Our wills are weakened by sin and our desires are disordered. We are born with disordered appetites. Will power (and "won't power") is rarely enough and most people desperately want things that are not good for them (broccoli or doughnut?). Wounded hearts and minds contribute to the problem. Abused children want the abusive parent! As we get older that insanity merely becomes more subtle. The motivation for the right things is a function of healthy self-love and the power to do the right things increases with that motivation. It also helps to be shaped by a positive peer environment. Hence the importance of church community. Shared values produce common desires, and teamwork sustains us. What I won't do for myself I may do for my brother or sister.
Spiritual Dimension
Prayers of healing and deliverance may be needed in each of the four realms. Minds trapped, emotions uncontrollable, addictive desires and sickened wills are not able on their own to find abundance. Literally, the Christian can and must, in faith and gratitude, pray for release. If the satanic infiltrates through the psychological so does the divine. The power of word and touch can be overlooked. The apostle's authority and power can and must be manifest in the physical and psychological realm. However, the spiritual is not an alternative therapy. If someone is thirsty you get them a glass of water. If their thirst is for human contact you sit with them. Rebuking thirst or loneliness and binding it up in Jesus' Name is more like witchcraft than faith. On the other hand, when the appropriate biological or psychological intervention is fruitless, then certainly we need to cast out evil and call down good. But the work of prayer is not meant to be in place of ordinary life. When people were hungry Jesus multiplied the loaves and fed them. He didn't exorcise.

One added dimension, the Believer can invoke sacramentality to every ordinary event. Jesus was thirsty at a well and used it as an opportunity to speak of the Living Waters. He used the multiplication of the loaves to teach on the Bread of Life. He used ordinary events like fishing, planting, harvesting and doing business to illustrate the Kingdom and provide insights into God's ways. The work of salvation comes from taking the ordinary (mother bird) and using it to proclaim God (love of Jesus for His children). However, to do this one must have a heart open all day to see God in and through the world around us, an ear open to hear the revelation in Word and Spirit. The one who finds God everywhere (not projects God but finds God) encounters the source of Peace. Peace flows from the relationship of creature and Creator. Peace is a fruit of the life in Christ. Not the world's peace, but Jesus Peace. At least the start! The healing/saving ministry of each of us is not usually going to be miraculous or extraordinary. It will be the mundane life of a human being filled with God's love and life, going about the daily tasks, filling them (or being filled in them) with the Holy Spirit. It happens because you want it to, and God wants it to more!

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