A Lesson for Spiritual / Counseling Majors from: SAINT JAMES COLLEGE SEMINARY and our parent organization, The Love Church Worldwide The Positive Thinking Church for Positive Thinking People! SCM104 Positive, Affirming Scripture… A Broad Overview Please visit: http://www.saintjamescollege.org Email Us! Chancellor Jan Learman ORDINATION / CHAPLAIN / SPIRITUAL MAJORS © 2004- 2013 The Love Church Worldwide, and Saint James College Positive, Affirming, Scripture: Our ordination, Chaplaincy, and Spiritually-based counseling and social work programs through The Center for Ministerial Studies and our degree programs through our affiliated Saint James College Seminary are all inter-faith. We do not attempt to impose our doctrinal or dogmatic beliefs on anyone. This Module will look at a variety of positive scriptural references, including back to the Torah and running through Jesus Christ’s teaching regarding living a positive life, and will explore his views on what has come to be called creative visualization. NOTE: This may be a somewhat controversial lesson. We believe that, while there are multitudinous teaching and historical references that are considered negative in nature…there are also positive quotations. Moses, is sometimes seen as a negative and judgmental “Thou Shalt Not” kind of person. Nonetheless, scholars believe that positivity was his primary motivator. It is widely argued by scholars that Moses, after all, had the best interest of the Children of Israel at heart. And, most Christians believe that Christ was a very positive teacher whereas others think we are over-emphasizing his positivity. Buddha, too, is said to have largely emphasized the positive aspects of spiritual practice. We'll be eager to see what you think. Christ’s Positive Teachings------Section 1: A broad overview INSTRUCTOR: Hello, Student. Regardless of whether you consider Christ to be the divine Son of God, incarnated on earth in order to die for the sins of humanity, this is the belief within the global body of Christendom. The Christians hold that Christ is the divine Son of God, incarnated on earth in order to die for the sins of humanity. You do not have to believe, or even agree with this doctrine but you need to understand it. This is not only the accepted idea, it is the core of the Christian religion. Among non-Christians, Jesus is nonetheless generally revered as a prophet, a great Teacher, or an “enlightened one.” This Module is not designed to tackle the issue of Christ’s divinity (we have classes dealing with this, if you’re interested) but, rather, to focus on his teachings about healing, prosperity, and creative visualization. He taught a great deal about how to live, how to pray, how to help others. Now, let’s look at what he had to say about positivism in our own lives. Christ is often portrayed as a rabble rouser, a person with little patience for the rude, absurd, egotistical, and dangerously life-threatening Pharisees and doctors of the law who ran things in his time. And, this ‘side’ of Christ is accurately portrayed in the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Yet, he also offered much teaching on how to succeed in life, how to have a sense of self-worth, and how to overcome despair and to heal, physically, as well as spiritually and emotionally. Remember, Christians refer to the four Gospels as The Good News. In the Christian tradition, this phrase is commonly used as being almost synonymous with the message of Jesus. Now, that “message” is multi-dimensional, and includes everything from salvation, the promise of eternal life as one of God’s freely-given gifts, to the teachings about how to live well. Being Positive Christ’s way… Christianity holds that Jesus did teach that being happy, having abundance, being healthy…and sharing our gifts…is a primary goal of God. Christ taught in so many different ways and at different times that we are to be happy and that our needs are to be met. Let’s start with: • "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10”) The late Pope John Paul II said: “Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God.” The leader of the Catholic Church went on to say: “The Gospel of life…has a profound and persuasive echo in the heart of every person-believer and non-believer alike-because it marvelously fulfils all the heart's expectations while infinitely surpassing them.” Norman Vincent Peale taught this same concept from the non-Catholic side of Christendom. As pastor of New York City’s Marble Collegiate Church for 52 years, he was committed to the belief that God intended us to be happy…and would “lend a hand” when requested prayerfully. For example, look at his teaching regarding prosperity: “Christ was clear that we are to have abundance and, in today’s world, the material side of abundance is measured in part by our level of financial prosperity. (Few of us raise goats, sheep, or fish for a living, or own vineyards.) Dr. Peale said that: “giving is the secret of the law of abundance. To receive the good things of life, you must first give." Peale taught that ten times more flows into your life than you give and he cites as an example the story of Jesus with the loaves and the fishes and countless other teachings. Peale also taught that, if you do not have material abundance, give of your time. Then, he said, pray faithfully and with confidence that the object of your prayer will be granted.” (Dr. Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking” is a recommended read.) •PARABLE OF THE THREE STEWARDS --Matthew 25 Before moving on, it might be worth your going to the New Testament and reading Matthew 25. Here, Jesus tells the story of the farmer who takes a trip and, before leaving, gives a portion of his wealth to three separate stewards, or servants. The one who returned a great profit is the one who is rewarded. INSTRUCTOR: It would just end in controversy and debate if we gave you a lot of our ideas about God, Jesus, and positive thinking. Instead, we’re going to select just one of the Gospel books, Matthew, and share with you what’s there, in the Bible itself. Let’s begin by looking at the Sermon on the Mount. As a part of that sermon, he recited the Beatitudes, (Matt 5:1-10). Here, Jesus says: “Happy are those who hunger and thirst for what is right: They shall be satisfied.” Hungering for financial or other blessings, including physical, mental, and spiritual health, a happy marriage, self-confidence, a job you love…all are things that, in Christ’s teaching, you will see “satisfied.” •THE LORD’S PRAYER: The tendency today is for Christians to pray The Lord’s Prayer as an actual prayer. However, in Matthew 6:9-13 (and also Luke 1: 1-4) this is not so much a prayer as it is a formula for how to pray. Of particular interest for this lesson in your ordination, chaplain, or degree studies, note: “Give us this day our daily bread.” In this case, Christ is telling his followers how to pray-- that it is okay to ask for what we want or need. TWO MASTERS: • Many Christians have been raised believing that it is wrong to “store up treasure on earth.” Actually, though, Christ didn’t say that. In Matt. 24, he says, “No one can be the servant of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the servant both of God and money.” As we saw in the Parable of the Talents, it’s okay to have money…just don’t worship it or it will take over your life and control you. • BIRDS OF THE SKY, LILILIES OF THE FIELD In Matthew 5, verse 25, Christ talks about being cared for. Here is his famous discourse on the “sparrows” of the King James version – “birds” in other translations. Either way, the meaning is clear: “Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than many birds?” He goes on to talk about the flowers and grasses in the field: “Think of the lilies growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin; yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his glory (regalia, Jerusalem Bible) was clothed like one of these. Now, if that is how God clothes the lilies (and grasses) on the field which are there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you…?” •THE GOLDEN RULE: Matt. 7:12. “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Immensely powerful stuff. Yet, most people tend to hear only the first part, the “do unto others” part. Jesus made this a two-part instruction, though: He challenges you to think about what you would like, or what you need…. Then, do unto others in the same fashion, meaning be kind, generous, etc., even as you would like kindness and generosity to be showered on you. As we shall see, Christ certainly meant that you are deserving of wonderful things, too! •HEALINGS: The Gospel story continues with Ten Miracles. In Matthew 9:22 and 9:28, among other places, Jesus heals someone but then adds, “Your faith has healed you.” When healing, Christ often prefaced the act with a question, ‘what is it you want?’ or, basically, ‘what do you want to achieve here?’ Christ was demonstrating the importance of his instructions to “seek and ye shall find.” In his curing people, he brought to life vividly the concept of “creative visualization.” Just as engineers can’t build a major new bridge without blueprints, Christ’s healings were preceded by someone, the patient or a loved one, saying, “here is what we want: healing.” •SEEK AND YE SHALL FIND Matthew 7:7-8. “Ask and it shall be given to you. Seek and ye shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened unto you. For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it shall be opened.” Here Christ is being very specific: you have to hold in your mind’s eye the thing or outcome that you desire, see the results you desire enough to be able to articulate them…to say them right out loud. Christ’s lesson here is one of creative visualization or positive affirmation. You can’t get more Biblical than from Christ’s own lips! •WHATSOEVER YE ASK… The theme of “ask and ye shall receive” flows throughout the “good news” of the Gospels as the loving, affirming Christ repeats over and over that we need to think about what it is we would like…and then ask for it. We’ve been mostly in Matthew but, let’s skip ahead for a moment to John 14:13. “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the son” (King James version.) And, for good measure, let’s visit Matthew 21:22. “All things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” IN ORDER FOR THESE AFFIRMATIVELY-STATED GOALS TO BE EFFECTIVE, CHRISTIANS FEEL THAT YOU MUST BELIEVE THAT CHRIST MEANT EXACTLY WHAT HE SAID! The key here is not just that Christ said you should believe in him, but that you need to believe what he taught! Lets go back to Matthew 21:22, where Jesus said “All things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” •REPEATING THE FORMULA: In order for your prayer of request (Prayer of Petition) to be effective: 1) You Christ teaches us to see in your mind’s eye the end result you wish to have 2) Ask God for the gift of having your request granted 3) Christ tells us to believe that it will be granted 4) And, it is only courteous to show gratitude, to thank God for granting this request. (Many “affirmation experts” say that, since Christ promised to give us that for which we ask, that we should be confident of its arrival and to give thanks even before the request is granted.) For Christians, our suggestion when making a prayer of petition is to ask for whatever it is that we reasonably believe God may deliver and…then…say, “and with gratitude and faith I ask this, in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.” •SAYING IT ONE MORE TIME! In Matthew 11:28-30, we read: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke (my instructions) upon you and learn of (from) me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. •YOU DON’T HAVE TO EARN THIS GIFT! This is getting to be a rather long lesson but one more thing needs to be brought out…a very, very important aspect of the “affirmative Christ” … YOU DO NOT HAVE TO EARN YOUR REQUESTS BEING GRANTED! You do not have to have done anything to earn thegifts of having your requests granted. There are more assertions of this reality than we have time for here but there is probably no more convincing proof than the story of the “good thief” in Luke 22: 39-43. Here we have a thief who has done wrong and who has never believed in Christ for even one nanosecond of his life. See what Christ did: “One of the criminals hanging there abused him. “Are you not the Christ?” he said. “Save yourself and us as well.” But the other spoke up and rebuked him. “Have you no fear of God at all?” he said. “You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. “Jesus,” he said, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” “Indeed, I promise you,” Jesus replied, “today you will be with me in paradise.” Ask and ye shall receive. Unconditionally. MANY INDIVIDUAL JEWS HAVE A BIT OF A STRUGGLE WITH THE NOTION OF A BENEVOLENT GOD… In virtually every country and under essentially every ruler, Jews have been persecuted, imprisoned, thrown into ghettos, even burned alive. It is no surprise, then, that many Jews have a difficult time enthusiastically proclaiming the benevolence of God. Diaspora: Starting in the 6th Century BCE, Jews began being dispersed…exiled out of their traditional homeland in Israel and Palestine. The initial exile was the Biblical account of the Jewish people being forcibly relocated to Babylonia. This came to be known as the Diaspora and resulted in Jews living in communities throughout the world, principally in Central Asia, Russia, and Europe, although not limited only to these locations. In spite of being emotionally defeated because of being separated from their homeland for thousands of years, Jews kept up a positive spirit, believing that God would end the Diaspora “soon”. In fact, at the coming of the New Year, year after year after year after year, the Jews in exile optimistically declared: “Next year in Jerusalem.” This expressed the hope that, in spite of being dispersed around the globe for thousands of years, that God would make it possible to return to their homeland next year! In the musical Fiddler on the Roof, the Russian Jewish father, Tevye, faces many incredible hurdles, not the least of which is that the Czar has ordered all Jews expelled from his village. In spite of this torturous experience, Tevye remains close to his friend, the Russian government Kommisar. The Jews remain upbeat and optimistic, even jolly at times, in the face of yet another horrific persecution. In one scene, Tevye tells the Kommisar how much he reveres his friendship and pays the Russian government operative a gigantic complement, telling him that he wishes that the Kommisar could also be Jewish! In spite of thousands of years as outcasts, positivity has remained prevalent in Jewish culture. Could this be attributed to the view that God is seen as benevolent, in spite of the cause of His people’s pain? Examples from Scripture For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. -Psalm 100:5 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end ..... “and whose mercies are new every morning” -Lam 3:22 For he loves us with unfailing love; the Lord's faithfulness endures forever. Praise the Lord! -Psalm 117:2 BUDDHIST POSITIVITY Buddhists, too, possess optimism in their beliefs and observances. This lesson is not the place for an in-depth study of Buddhism but, suffice it to say at this point, that Buddhists have sects just as do Christians and Jews. Some tend to believe in a creator and others emphasize the need to work on ourselves in order to bring about happy results. In Mahayana Buddhism, for example, the term Gautama Budda roughly equates with a divine Creator God. The bottom line is that, like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, Buddhists emphasize the positive over the negative. Buddhists tend to believe that a mind focused on negativity will lead the person into negative, unhappy circumstances. Such a person is also likely to create havoc in life, and to bring injury to others. The opposite is also true: if one maintains a positive outlook and banishes dark, negative, thoughts from the mind, then the person’s life will tend to be brighter, more optimistic, and more successful. There is a saying within Buddhism: The person who lacks positive emotions lacks a conscience. TEST YOUR UNDERSTANDING: This is an “open book” test. It is perfectly okay to refer to the Lesson above, or to use other resources as needed. HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT 1) Please write an essay of at least 200 words (more is fine!) describing in your own words the Positive and affirming nature of either Jesus or God the Creator. 2) Do you believe that Jesus was teaching techniques for living that can be applied today? Alternatively, do you think that the Creator offers teachings in scripture that can help bring about a happier world today? Please briefly explain why you chose the view that you have. 3) Please search your life’s history and tell us a story from your own experience where God has been true to promises that our lives will improve if we ask for divine assistance. This can be something that has happened to you personally or something anecdotally with which you are familiar that was experienced by someone else. Please EMAIL your results. We recommend that you write your answer in an Email and hitting Send. ABOUT YOUR TUITION PAYMENTS: Saint James College does not send bills to obtain tuition payments. 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