Friday, April 28, 2023

Human Flourishing

At the State of Omaha, the Barna research team talked about research out of Harvard on human flourishing. I looked it up and read it. These are essentially my quick notes. I love how researchers are discovering truths that are clearly laid out in the Bible. 

Essentially, thr research showed three areas that we can influence human flourishing as a leader.

1. The mind
2. The behavior
3. Our relationships.

They discovered that taking time to daily expressing gratitude, taking time to savor, and imagining your best self develops well being in the mind.

They discovered that the exercise of virtue leads to happiness. So be good to yourself and grow your character. Find ways to be kind to others and serve in your community. By finding ways to do something out of your character strengths daily, you will grow human flourishing in you and others. The cool part is that it inspires others to do the same.

They discovered that when we engage in relationships through marriage, work, and religion, we will flourish. They ended this section on the importance of forgiveness and its role in healing and hope.

For those that know your Bible you will feel very affirmed by what you know. For those that don't know what the Bible says, this article should inspire you to go to the source that cares more about human flourishing.

The key to all of these. The more you do them daily the happier you will be and feel as if you are flourishing. The challenge comes in doing them all more than just once a week. Think 5 times or more a day.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Who do you send?

Who can tell all about my activities?  Who am I willing to send to go share about them? 

Who can I send to encourage another for me? Or go and give instructions that I trust? 

Who brings comfort to my soul? Who will give comfort to another if I say, "Will you go?"

Who prays in such a way that I would send them to go pray for another?

I love that Paul can list specific men by name for each of these questions.

This morning as I reflected through these questions many of you on this page are some of the faces that came to mind that I could send in my name. It is truly a beautiful trust. 

Thank you for being you.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Why are oil & vinegar significant to Easter?

As I was grocery shopping, I saw a beautiful jar filled with oil and vinegar and I thought, maybe I should buy this for the kids for Easter this year instead of a chocolate bunny. So, I picked up a couple of jars. I thought the jar was beautiful because it had two jars nested within one another making it look like they are one. I couldn’t wait to give them the gift. 

On Easter morning, while I was reading my Bible and praying a thought came to me. I had the visual in my mind of the jar I just bought, and I heard the question, “Why is vinegar and oil significant for Easter?” I had a few ideas that I already knew but decided to research it just the same. 

Once again, God caught me and showed me the beauty of who He is! 
When we toured in Israel, we were able to see how much the people cared for their olive trees. We even saw an olive tree that was believed to be well over 2,000 years old. We were told that the olive tree represents life, longevity, stability, prosperity, and joy. It has the capacity to go through a fire and being chopped off and still grow. It has the resilience to endure the seasons both the drought and the rain. 

The olives that are grown on an olive tree are used to press into oil. The olive oil is thought to symbolize divine presence. 

While in Israel we toured a mock village of Nazareth and one of the things we were able to see was an olive press. The olive is placed on a massive stone press that has a huge round boulder that is pushed with a large log. As the log is rolled in a circle around the press, the huge boulder would squish the olives to produce oil. We were told that the first press is believed to be the holiest of oils. This oil is used for anointing oil and to bring light to the temple. It is then pressed again a second time. 

The second press of oil is used for healing. It will become medicine. 

While the third press of the oil is used for cleansing. It will be made into soap. It is also used for common lights like what will be found in the home. So the pressed olive oil becomes anointed light, healing medicine, and cleansing soap. 

As I reflected on what Jesus did for us at Easter, I was reminded of Jesus going to the Mount of Olives to pray. His prayers set Him apart as holy anointed as at the Light of the world. 

As Jesus prayed, He felt the first crush of the weight of what He would bear in our behalf. Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but your will be done” as sweat filled with drops of blood fell from His brow (Luke 22:42). Imagine Jesus enduring His first press in becoming the anointing oil that brings life as the Light of the world. 

I then was reminded that Jesus was beaten, scourged, spit on, and crucified. This was His second press. In this press Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). He chose to press in and become our eternal healer. Our medicine from heaven. He was willing to provide forgiveness as healing for our souls when His own body needed relief from the humiliation He suffered. He chose us over Himself. 

The final and last press came when Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. It is finished” (Luke 23:46). In His last breath, Jesus became the one who cleanses us of all our sins. He was crushed for our iniquities. He became our cleanser. 

Light, Healer, and Cleanser! Jesus our anointed One! The symbolism of the oil washed over me. 

I then heard, “What is the significance of the vinegar?” Oh, I knew they put it on a sponge and offered it to Jesus. 

Even though the Romans would hang people on a cross, they would offer to the person on the cross a cheap vinegar wine that was laced with a drug to help the person endure the suffering. The person dying on a cross would become very thirsty because the wounds would leak, and dehydration would take over their body as they would sweat. So, the Romans would dip the vinegar wine in a hyssop and lift it up to the person so that they could endure their suffering. When Jesus cried out, He was thirsty they offered to Him on hyssop the vinegar wine, but Jesus refused to drink it (Matthew 27:34). 

Why would Jesus refuse? Did He refuse because He didn’t want to dull His senses? Did He refuse because He wanted us to know He bore the full weight of the crush from our sins? Did He refuse because the pain was so unbearable? We don’t know. But He refused. 

The second time Jesus was offered the vinegar it says that when Jesus received the drink on the hyssop, He gave up His spirit (John 19:29). 

The hyssop was very symbolic to the Jews. It was on the hyssop at Passover that they soaked in blood to paint around their door posts so that the Angel of Death would pass over their home (Exodus 12:22). Jesus died on the cross so that the Angel of Death will pass over our lives because Jesus paid the debt so that our sins and shame are forgiven. In that moment, His blood became the Passover lamb for you and me. 

With a clear mind and intentional heart, Jesus refused to take the vinegar as He was becoming our anointing oil that brings life, light, healing, and cleansing. Jesus willingly allowed Himself to go through the press of the cross to become our eternal life and light that give us stability, prosperity, and joy as well. 

Hmmm… I had no idea when I picked up the jar of oil, how much it would mean to me. It will now sit in our home as a symbol of the gift Jesus gave us at Easter some 2,000 years ago.