He said "Don't," but I did. He said "Do,", but I didn't. He said "Stop," but I kept going. He said "Keep going," but I stopped. He said "Give," but I kept. He said "Keep," but I spent. He said "Go," but I stayed. He said "Stay," but I went. He said "Louder," but I stayed silent. He said "Be quiet," but I shouted. He said "Now," but I waited. He said "Wait," but I did it anyway. Over and over I sinned. Over and over He forgave. And that is "Good News"!
In a capitalistic economic system every person is encouraged to accumulate all the wealth possible. Success is largely determined by the size of portfolios and bank accounts. Money earned today is to be used in a way that will produce more assets tomorrow.
By the same token, an individual’s poverty is of no concern to anyone else. A person is allowed to lose all his wealth without interference from anyone else. Birth-to-death poverty is common.
Such capitalism is a disaster unless it is guided by “Do unto others” (Matthew 7:12) and “Feed the hungry” (Matthew 25:35-36). Only these Christian principles can shape the system to benefit all income levels.
There are, of course, many times and places that Christians can give to people who need help. The Holy Spirit will lead in determining when, where and how such caring and sharing should take place. Certainly Jesus called on his followers to give help one-on-one.
But in today’s world there is a need for large-scale institutions that strive to produce economic equality. For the most part our churches have not stepped up to the plate to help fill this need. One of the least offered prayers during Sunday morning services is “God, do you want me to give more?”
Q. Does God want the poor in my community to have more of this world's resources? A. Yes. Q. What is His plan for getting more to them? A. The generosity of Christians. Q. Does God want me to have more of this world's resources? A. Only if I will pass on these additional blessings to the poor.(Or maybe only if I pass on more of my currently held resources.)
God's call to his children comes on two levels. First we receive the call to become, then we hear the call to do. Isaiah's experience illustrates this two-level call. First God called him to become sinless. Only then did He call Isaiah to do something (Isaiah 6:1-9) Jesus talked about this "becoming process" in John 15:1-5. Our identification with him should be so constant and intimate that we become exactly like him. Jesus told Phillip, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father." (John 14:9) When we have each become all the Father intends us to be, we will be able to say, "If you have seen me, you have seen Jesus." After we have clearly understood and started answering the "become" call, God issues the "do" call. Correctly answering the "do" call is the goal of the WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? movement. It is very wise to consider this question before making decisions. Each of our actions and reactions should be identical to what Jesus would have done in a similar situation. If we always follow his model, we will impact our world for him. However, if we try to answer the call to do without first answering the call to become, we are in danger of being like the Pharisees of Jesus' time. They were trying to do all their religion required without first becoming what Jesus was (Matthew 13:13-15). Maybe we need to start a WHAT DID JESUS BECOME? movement. We must answer God's call to become by spending time alone with him in prayer and Bible study. "I want to be like Jesus" must become the primary goal in our lives. Then, in his own time, God will issue each of us a call to action.
Prayer and love tend to unite people. Perhaps we need to do more of both at church on Sunday. Prayer should be a never-ending two-way conversation. Perhaps my most frequent prayer request should be "Lord, teach me to pray properly and what to pray for." Maybe knowing exactly what to pray for is what James had in mind when he said we should pray for wisdom. (James 1:5) What does God do when I pray and ask for something that is against His will? Nothing! He simply ignores such requests and gives me what is spiritually and eternally best for me. But if my prayers always include a sincere request to learn to pray better, He will grant that request and I will not offer as many ill-conceived petitions. In order for a prayer to be effective, the attitude must be correct before the words are spoken. To "say" a prayer without having the proper attitude is simply "word uttering" and is worthless. Passionless people pray powerless prayers. My prayers must not be so much an attempt to get God's attention, but rather a response to the fact that He has already gained my attention. He knows me completely before I pray, but I need to clearly identify and express my wants and needs so He can show me the difference between them.
Regular faith allows us to look back at past unpleasant times and say "God, I see now that you were teaching me and growing me. I understand now at least part of what you were doing. Thank you." Great faith allows us to look at current unpleasant times and say "God, I guess you are teaching me and growing me. Keep it up until I have learned all I need to learn. Thank you!" Somewhere I read "Faith and obedience will remove mountains of evil. But they must go hand in hand." I like this thought, but is faith without obedience really faith? The primary purpose of strong faith in God is not so that He can do more work through me, but so that He can do more work in me. My lack of faith hinders my effectiveness as his servant and it also blocks my becoming like him. I do not need to develop a plan for my life...month...week...day...hour. Instead I need to discover God's plan, which has been in existence for thousands of years. I need the faith to believe his plan is better than mine and the courage to put it into practice. Faith says to God "If it is your will I will attempt the impossible and accept the uncomfortable."
My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I love every person in my life all the time. My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I want to help every person I love. My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I learn how to express my love to people as individuals, not just as a group. None of this growth will take place until I yield to the influence and power of the Holy Spirit.
God sends us into the world with a trunk full of love to give to others. We are to dip into that trunk and scatter love to everyone we meet. That love takes the form of listening, sharing, teaching, patience and forgiving. (That short list is not exhaustive.) That trunk has compartments that contain all the forms of love. He also gives us the wisdom to use the most effective form of love with each individual we meet. When I find myself running low on the motivational drive to be a "love scatterer" I must remember how empty my trunk was before He filled it, how small my qualification was to be a receiver of that love, and how much better my life is now because of that love.
The best, most effective, most accurate way I can glorify God is to let the Holy Spirit make me like Jesus. "God...decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son." (Romans 8:29, The Message Bible) The Holy Spirit will do the shaping of the way I am. My role is to allow such changes to happen and then behave in ways that exhibit my new shape. Do we Christians spend more time, money and energy trying to change our physical "shape" into the way the world says it should be than we do allowing the Spirit to alter our spiritual shape into the way God wants it to be?
To fully benefit from having God as my Father, I must admit that I need him as provider, protector, counselor, guide, comforter and savior. I must admit "I can't," acknowledge "He can," and believe "He will." Only then can I know the full value of having been adopted into his family and having the privilege of calling him "Abba Daddy." John 5:1-18 tells the story of a crippled man. When Jesus asked him "Do you want to get well" he replied that he had no one to help him get into the healing pool. He knew of only one way to get healed. Sometimes I limit God the same way. I say "Lord, I can't be happy unless ____." Then I get discouraged and disgruntled if my specific request is not granted. I need to be willing to say "Lord, do whatever you think is best in my life and I'll be happy no matter what you provide." Should I view Jehovah as a god of joy (and praise him) or a god of responsibility (and serve him?) Of course the answer is "both," since worship is defined as "recognizing and properly responding to God." Service is part of that proper response. Too much emphasis on the joy part can cause a turn inward, always looking for the next bit of spiritual excitement. Too much emphasis on the responsibility portion can result in guilt and lifeless attempts to minister. Our challenge is to find and retain the joy that comes from fulfilling responsibilities.
If I apply Paul’s “I can do all things through Christ…” (Philippians 4:13) to my life, it means I can run errands for a shut-in neighbor and then sit and listen for the hundredth time as she recounts her memories of childhood. It means I can ladle soup in a homeless shelter. It means I can baby sit for a single mother while she goes grocery shopping. It means I can take a four-hour shift beside the ICU bed of a relative I hardly know and do not particularly like. It means I can share Jesus on a bench at Wal Mart. It means I can forgive completely. It mean I can show love to those who criticize me.
Any time my pastor or other church leader asks me to do something I must never say “I can’t” without first asking God if He wants me to. When I am following his will the answer “I don’t want to” is not an option, unless I immediately say “But I’ll do it if He wants me to.” In the Philippians verse the words “through Christ” are the key to life application. If, as I pray, I am led to believe God does not want me to do it I may say “I won’t” but I must never say “I can’t”.
In Matthew 5:20 Jesus called his disciples to a spiritual level higher than that of their religious leaders. He was asking the disciples to grow beyond those who led their times of worship and taught in their synagogues.
To the disciples this must have sounded impossible. Those religious leaders very carefully followed the law of Moses and the many interpretations thereof. They were the theologians and seminary professors of their day. They wrote the Sunday School literature and scriptural commentaries. They tithed, attended all the festivals, gave special offerings, prayed three times every day, fasted several times each year, and sacrificed at the correct times and in the appropriate manner. How could these “working stiffs” ever exceed such righteousness?
They could love their neighbors!
Jesus did not fault the actions of these leaders. Their actions were impeccable. But He knew their hearts (Luke16:15). He called his followers to a set of attitudes that were more pleasing to the Father. He called them to love others.
If God were to call us to judgement today, would we want him to judge us on our actions or our attitudes? Which come closer to the meeting his standards?
What should be our primary attitude toward God? Love! (Matthew 22:37)
What should be our primary attitude toward people? Love! (Matthew 22:39)
What actions should we take to show God we love Him? Obey Him! (John 14:15)
What actions should we take to show others we love them? Serve them! (John 13:4-5)
A craftsman is someone who does accurate, skilled work with tools. He values his tools. He uses them, but never abuses them. He uses them correctly and properly. He repairs them if they are damaged and keeps them in good repair. He cleans them after each use and stores them properly. After all, his reputation is based on the quality of work he is able to do with those tools. If I am letting God use me as His tool, will He treat me any differently. ********** There is no record that Jesus ever hurried or worried. If I am successful in becoming more like Him I will do less of both. He said "Come unto me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew ll:28-30)This is for saved people as well as lost people. Come reminds me that I must take some initiative. I must take action to go to Him. Me tells me I must go to Jesus, not some church or religious leader. Give indicates that rest is a free gift and cannot be earned. Rest includes the ability to not fret, worry or fear. ********** I have asked God to "show me your face." I have said to Him "Help me to know you more fully." His reply seems to be "Why should I? The knowledge you already have of me is not being consistently and effectively shared with others. Are you asking for your own comfort and gratification or so that you may be a better witness?" Isaiah saw God in a new and glorious way (Isaiah 6:1-9) But God's revelation of Himself has a purpose beyond Isaiah's spiritual growth. God was preparing him for a mission. God knew Isaiah would obey. Do I have a core of disobedience that keeps God from further revealing himself to me?