The Power Of Positive Thinking

The Power Of Positive Thinking

Posted: 07 Mar 2014 04:01 AM PST

God has equipped us with many tools to give us a happy life. This week Mary describes the difference it makes in everyday life when we use our mental tools to choose trust, to work to understand, and to choose to see the peace and beauty in each moment. -Editor

Have you ever noticed that doing the same action can be changed drastically by your own attitude and expectations? For example, let’s say you have to drive 50 miles to get somewhere today. If you are on your way to a job interview, you probably left early, gave yourself lots of extra time, planned your route and spent the drive rehearsing what you will say. If you are on your way to see a loved one that you haven’t seen in a long time, you might be singing happily to yourself, noticing the sunshine or bluebirds and wishing you could just get there faster. But if you are running late to get to a meeting that you are dreading because you don’t feel prepared and you don’t like the people who will be there, you might be feeling very differently. It might seem like everyone is cutting you off in traffic, it is taking a very long time to get there, the sun is glaring in your eyes and you just spilled your coffee on your new outfit.

The Lord has been showing me that often the most important thing I have a part in is my reaction to what is happening. He might still ask me to do something for which I feel terribly unprepared. He might show me some frightening giants that I need to conquer in my spiritual life. I might feel like I’ve been captured and taken away into captivity at times. And I do still have to take responsibility to do the next right thing each day. But what if I had choices that could make all of it better? What if it could actually work out more smoothly and with less suffering because of something that I have been given the power to do?

Here are a few thoughts and examples from the Word that show the effect that my choices about my reactions and attitude can have on a situation:

1. I can choose to trust that with the Lord’s help I can do what is asked of me
From Exodus 4

”Then Moses answered and said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’” (Verse 1)

The Lord then gave him not one but THREE signs to show the people so they would believe him. And Moses still doubted:

”Then Moses said to the LORD, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Verses 10-12)
And still Moses didn’t believe that the Lord’s power was enough to help him do this so he begged to get out of it.

“But he said, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.” So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses…” (Verses 13-14)

Moses not only doubted his own ability to accomplish what the Lord was clearly asking him to do, but he doubted the Lord’s ability to do it. The signs and directions the Lord gave were not enough to convince him that it would work out. This did not stop the Lord from going forward with His plan to save the children of Israel or even get Moses out of being involved, but it made it harder for Moses.

Each of us has a choice about our reactions to what is asked of us. If I choose to be doubtful and fearful instead of trusting and hopeful the process will feel much more difficult.

2. I can choose to be hopeful in the Lord when what lies before me seems hopeless
From Numbers 13

”Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. Then they told him, and said: ‘We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.’

Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, ‘Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.’

But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.’ And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, ‘The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.’” (Verses 26-33)

The children of Israel came right up to the edge of the Promised Land. They saw the fruits with their own eyes but instead of trusting the Lord’s Word and strength which they had seen save them repeatedly on their journey out of Egypt, they spread lies and plans of rebellion.

”…because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it. But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” (Numbers 14:22-24)
I have the choice to trust that the Lord can help me and to go forward with Him.

3. I can choose to believe that the Lord has a good plan for me
From Isaiah 30

”For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’ But you would not, And you said, ‘No, for we will flee on horses’— Therefore you shall flee! And, ‘We will ride on swift horses’—Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift!” (Verses 15-16)
The Lord was saying to quiet their fears and complaining and put their trust in Him and He would bring them safely home. But they were saying that they are going to have to flee on horses for their lives—so that’s what happened. Not because the Lord declared it, but because they declared it.

If I believe the journey is going to be miserable then I will probably focus on the harder parts and perhaps even put myself through unneeded pain.

4. I can choose to focus on the beautiful moments of peace and hope that the Lord is offering me right now
From Luke 10

“Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.’” (Verses 38-42)
Martha was trying to do the right things and get the work done but she was feeling bitter about it. She felt like her sister should be working hard too. The Lord wanted her to see that sometimes the most important thing is to accept the gift of right now. Martha was letting her worries and expectations of what was important take away her opportunity to see the truth that Lord was there with them sharing His Word.

5. I can choose to believe these things even when I don’t feel sure
In the book Heaven and Hell, Swedenborg speaks of people who have no idea that angels live in houses in Heaven, don’t realize that angels are people and even don’t believe there is a life after death:

“They could also grasp this if when they thought about angels and spirits they would step outside their preconceptions, which happens when they are not constantly questioning and consciously pondering whether this is so.” (183)
No, I don’t have “proof” that choosing to be hopeful and trusting will change anything. But if I spend my time pondering and constantly questioning whether or not I can prove that my attitude has power to affect the outcomes of situations, I really won’t ever know for sure. Perhaps the point is trusting without “knowing” that the Lord can use me to do whatever He sees fit even when I feel weak. He is able to conquer any giants that stand in the way. He is asking me to stop listening to worries that spin around in my head, to stand—confident in Him and quiet in the Word long enough to notice He’s here with me now. If I am willing to do that, even if I don’t know for sure “whether it is so”—He can show me the miracles that He already has planned. Then I’ll get to see the sparkling sunshine and bluebirds rather than the sun glare and traffic jams. That sounds good to me.

Mary Abele
Mary has a Master of Social Work degree from Millersville University. She is currently exploring ideas of ways to combine her degree and experience with her love for the New Church in a new and useful way. Traveling keeps her busy as well—up next is a trip driving across the country from Philadelphia to Denver followed by a week in California.


The Lord’s Fight Against a Human Enemy

The Lord’s Fight Against a Human Enemy

Posted: 10 Jan 2014 04:00 AM PST

Jared asks a question this week that is at the heart of understanding Christianity: why a human God? His answer is simple, but powerful. -Editor.

Why did the Lord have to be born on earth as a human being? This is a simple-seeming question, the kind of question a little child might ask. But there is so much wrapped up in the answer; really the whole of the Word, the whole truth about who God is, is wrapped up in the answer to this question. So of course a question like this can be answered in innumerable ways. But there is one answer in particular that I’d like to share here: the Lord had to be born on earth as a human being because evil spirits are human beings.

But let’s back up a bit. This is just an answer to our question, not the answer. There are some much, simpler, broader answers to the question, and we should start with those. At the beginning of True Christian Religion (TCR) we’re told, “The Lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, came into the world to subjugate the hells and to glorify His Human” (TCR 2). This is perhaps the most basic, universal answer to our question. A little further on in TCR this statement, particularly the part about the subjugation of the hells, is explained more fully:

[Jehovah God] took upon Himself human form, so as to reduce to order everything in heaven, in hell and in the church. For at that time the power of hell was stronger than the power of heaven, and on earth the power of evil was stronger than the power of good, so that utter damnation stood threatening at the gates. This impending damnation was removed by Jehovah God by means of His Human. (TCR 3)
In many ways this statement aligns perfectly with what the angel Gabriel expresses as Jesus’ purpose when he first visits Joseph in the Gospel of Matthew, at the very beginning of the New Testament; he says that the Child who will be born is to be named Jesus, “for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). There it is in a nutshell. The Lord came to earth to save us—to save us from hell, to save us from our sin.

Of course there is so much more to the Lord’s incarnation than this. The Lord also came to glorify His human, we’re told—and many other things. All of these teachings are wonderful and profound, but I’m going to focus in on the Lord’s subjugation of hell by means of His human—an accomplishment that, in some sense, seems to have been at the very forefront of His purpose in coming to earth.

There’s a very obvious “problem” with the subjugation of the hells as the answer to our question, a problem which, I remember, bothered me very much when I was a child. The Lord is the Lord—He is almighty Jehovah God! Why did He have to take on a human body to subjugate the hells? How was it necessary that He become a helpless baby, in order to save us?

There are hundreds of passages throughout the Old Testament that tell us emphatically just how powerful the Divine is. When we read passages like the ones just below, we are clearly given a glimpse of a power that is able to save us from anything.

When you see this, your heart shall rejoice, And your bones shall flourish like grass; The hand of the Lord shall be known to His servants, And His indignation to His enemies. For behold, the Lord will come with fire And with His chariots, like a whirlwind, To render His anger with fury, And His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword The Lord will judge all flesh; And the slain of the Lord shall be many. (Isaiah 66:14-16)
The Lord also will roar from Zion, And utter His voice from Jerusalem; The heavens and earth will shake; But the Lord will be a shelter for His people, And the strength of the children of Israel. (Joel 3:16)
Why didn’t this kind of power just reach down from heaven and restore earth to order in an instant? Why didn’t the hand of the Lord seize the devil and throw him back into hell as soon as hell’s power started to get out of control? The answer to this question is what I’m going to focus in on now; what it reveals about why the Lord came to earth is, to me, one of the most humbling teachings about His Advent.

The answer, in short, is this: the Lord chose to take on hell with His Divine strength veiled under human limitations in order to be able to actually fight and conquer the evil spirits, instead of simply completely obliterating them. In TCR we’re told:

The reason why [redemption] had to be [effected] by means of His incarnation, that is, by making Himself man, is that Jehovah God, as He is in His infinite essence, cannot approach hell, much less enter it, since He exists at the purest and first level. Therefore if Jehovah God, being in essence of that nature, were so much as to breathe upon those in hell, He would destroy them in an instant. (TCR 124)
In a sense, the Lord came to earth to make His combat with the hells a “fair fight”—He wanted to defeat them but He didn’t want to destroy them, so He limited Himself. But there’s more involved in the picture than this.

Evil spirits are human beings—and so they have, as a sacred inheritance from the Lord, the gift of freedom. They are people, and it is the Lord’s law that everything a person does be done in freedom, freedom which is guided by that person’s reason—that is, his capacity for making decisions (DP 77). If the Lord were to come against evil spirits with His unmitigated Divine might, they would simply evaporate and no longer be able to think or to choose anything. If the Lord by means of His Divine might were to somehow “suspend” evil spirits’ power without destroying them, the fact that they had chosen to devote themselves to attacking good people in heaven and on earth would not be changed; they would return to their attack as soon as that “suspension” was released. The evil spirits had to be put into a situation where they would choose to cease their assault on the world. They could not be “driven out” but had to “flee of their own accord.” (AC 9333)1

So the Lord had to play the game on the evil spirits’ terms—and beat them that way. He knew that they would attack Him with all their being, if they got the chance (AC 1820). So He gave them the chance, by making Himself as “weak” as they are—or, at least, by veiling His Divine strength with the same limitations that they were born with. They are human, so He made Himself human. Then hell, smelling victory, rose up against Him with its fullest force—but the Lord withstood their assault and conquered each and every one of them, and they fled from Him.

Victories have this effect, that after they have been won, [evil spirits] do not dare to attempt anything; for their life consists in their being able to destroy, but when they perceive that a person is able to withstand them, they flee even when they are making their first assault. (Ibid)
Running beneath all the ideas I’ve put forward so far is a single very basic and very well-known teaching, one whose light transforms everything it touches. This is the teaching that the Lord loves everyone in heaven, in hell, and on earth, with an everlasting love. We’re told:

The nature of the Lord’s love surpasses all human understanding and is unbelievable in the extreme to people who do not know what heavenly love is in which angels abide. To save a soul from hell the angels think nothing of giving their own lives; indeed if it were possible they would suffer hell themselves in place of that soul. (AC 2077.2)
This passage illustrates the Lord’s love—which is indescribable—by comparing it with an angel’s love. If the angels would think nothing of spending eternity in hell in order to save an evil spirit from that fate, then what must the Lord’s love for the evil spirits be like? This love is unfathomable—and it is what directed the Lord in His combat against Hell. The Lord chose to subjugate the evil spirits by means of coming to earth as a human being because this was the only way that He could defeat them for good without harming their innate, human freedom—freedom which He treasured, because He loved them.

1See also Apocalypse Explained (AE) §1164; Spiritual Experiences Minor §4600; Spiritual Experiences §§6031-6033; and AC §7273 & §7795. I am indebted to the Rev. Grant Odhner’s article “The Lord’s Conception,” published in New Church Life, 2001, 100ff, for this list of passages, and for many of the ideas I have expressed in this section.

Jared Buss
Jared is recently married and currently a theolog at the Bryn Athyn College Theological School, on track to graduate in 2015. He is eager to see where in the world Providence and the church send him to serve as pastor, and eager to engage in the uses and discoveries that ministry will bring.