Attitudes and Actions

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)

Love

     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, caring, forgiving and some occasional foot-washing.
     Our trunk has compartments that contain an inexhaustible amount of all forms of love. He also gives us the wisdom to use the most effective form of love with each individual we meet. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can match each recipient with the proper form of love at the appropriate time. 
     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 was (is) my qualification to be a receiver of such love and how much better my life is now because of that love.

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     The Bible is a love story...not a romance, but a love story none-the-less. It is a story of love freely offered, but often rejected. In the cases where that love was accepted the result was wonderful loyalty, joy and power in each individual's life.
     It is a love story featuring you and me, just as much as Biblical characters.

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     I have grown up with the idea that as Christians we should "Love the things God loves and hate the things God hates."  I think "...and with the same intensity" should be added. This may be an accurate summary statement of being and living as a Christian.
     It seems lately that the intensity of our hating is much greater than the intensity of our loving.

Bit & Pieces, Odds & Ends…16

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.
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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.
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      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?

Burden Sharing

One of the most attractive aspects of Christianity, one of the most cherished promises of Scripture, is in 1Peter 5:7 (Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.) Over and over , we go to the Lord in prayer, acknowledging that the cares of our life are over-whelming. To the best of our ability, we follow the instruction of this verse and give God our concerns.

And, faithful to His word, He lifts those burdens from us. He allows us to continue our daily life with optimism and freedom from fear.

Then our daily prayers can begin and end with expressions of gratitude for this load-lifting, burden-removing promise. We praise Him, privately and publicly, for His faithfulness.

But Galatians 6:2 puts new light on burden-sharing when Paul tells us we are to “Bear ye one another’s burdens.”

Burden-sharing is to be horizontal as well as vertical. Just as the Father helps us carry our load, we are instructed to help others carry the weights their life has given them. Our motive for this should be our love for them. Our willingness should be indicated by an attitude and question of “May I help you?” toward everyone we meet…and really mean it.

We hesitate to become burden bearers because we fear we will be overwhelmed by the load someone might pass to us. We don’t trust Paul’s assurance that “I can do all things through Christ which  strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13). Such lack of faith often prevents from being obedient to his command.

We must learn to trust that our Father will not give us a heavier load of our burdens, or the burdens of others, than we can carry with His help.

Importance of Intercessory Prayer

How important is intercessory prayer? Do our prayers for others actually help?

Study Jesus in Gethsemane (Matt 26:35-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46). In His time of greatest agony He asked his friends to pray for Him. Think of it. The God who created all the universe was hurting so much He asked for the prayers of his closest friends.

But before He asked for their prayers, He asked for their companionship. He asked them to go a little farther, stay awake a little longer, pay a little more attention, give a little more of their energy and time on his behalf.

And they did so, for awhile. Then they went to sleep.

All too often we say to a hurting neighbor or acquaintance “I’m sorry things are so tough for you right now. I’ll keep you in my prayers.” Then we turn and walk away, unwilling to give a bit our our time and energy to help ease their pain. Our lack of action shows how we refuse to let the problems of others intrude on our own comfort zone.

Oh, such prayers do help, if we actually remember them. We can certainly be of assistance by praying. But if we, like the disciples, are called on to go a little farther and give practical aid and comfort, are we willing to do so? In our Christian growth have we allowed God to develop in us a sense of “disruptive compassion” – the willingness to let the needs of others disrupt our normal pattern of life?

When Strangers Visit My Church

They don't want to know about our preacher.
They don't really care about our teachers.
They're not concerned about our parking lot.
They don't care how many elders we've got.
The don't care about the size of our choir.
They don't ask "How tall is your spire?"
They just want to know, "Do you love me?"

They don't care about our preacher's degree,
Or if the donuts and coffee are free.
They don't care about our building's size,
Or if our deacons are gals or guys.
They don't care about our recreation,
Or our theology of creation.
They just want to know, "Do you love me?"

So when they come to visit us here
We must meet them with a smile or a tear.
Quietly, sincerely without a fuss,
Let them know they're important to us.
A pat on the back. A "We're glad you're here."
Will help us make it completely clear,
That without any doubt, we love them.

Feed His Sheep

In John 10:14 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep…” When He told Peter to feed the sheep, He was giving Peter the responsibility for the care and feeding of the flock.

The sheep belonged to Jesus. He had a personal relationship with each of them. He knew them by name and He loved them . But his earthly ministry was almost over and He was passing the shepherd’s staff to Peter.

He did not ask Peter if he wanted to be a shepherd. He simply gave Peter an assignment He knew was within Peter’s capability. Because Peter loved his savior he was expected to be obedient to the task.

God calls each of his children to help tend his sheep. He intends for each of us to help care for a flock and each of us to receive care from someone else. Such interdependence among Christians will result in the effective spreading of the gospel.

As we each give and receive care, God is glorified in our lives. If we choose not to perform our shepherd’s duties, others suffer. If we refuse to listen to the guidance of the Good Shepherd, we suffer.

Our motive for being a shepherd must be our love for him. We must love others because He loves us. We must serve others because He served us. We must give our time and energy to others because He gave his life for us.

It is dangerous for us to try to serve those He has put into our care if we do not love them. We are likely to become discouraged, resentful and angry. Such emotions disrupt our relationship with him.

It is dangerous for the flock because our attitude will lead them away from him and the blessings He has for them. They will sense our insincerity and rebel against his leadership.

We must always remember they are his sheep, not ours. We must love and feed them because we love him.

Bits, Pieces, Odds, Ends -14

As children of God we should look back and thank Him, look forward and trust Him, look around and serve Him, look inward and find Him.

Desperation is often the starting point to getting a passing grade in Grace 101.

Patience is developed, often slowly, by waiting. We need to be patient while the Lord teaches us patience.

Too often we try to impress people rather than serve people.

When we pray God is more concerned with what our heart feels than what our lips say.

Our greatest test of faith is believing God loves us, even when He is not blessing us like we feel He should.

Dear Christian, if as the song says, this world is not our home, why do we spend so much time and money building houses in it?

About 2000 years ago God had a gift to give me, but Jesus had to die before I could open it.

Being God's servant is an honor because He chose me for the position.

The spiritual success of my interaction with other people is largely dependent on the intensity and extent of my prior interaction with God. 

Deny Self

"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself..."   Matthew 16:24

To deny self means to deny
          self-importance
          self-competence
          self-direction
          self-motivation
          self-accomplishment
          self-glorification
          self-determination
          self-approval
          self-justification.

To deny self means to realize we are nothing apart from Jesus. Such a realization may come as a shock. It is not natural to surrender control of our lives to someone else. The very basis of our culture, our democratic way of life, lies in the belief that each person is in control of his own fate. Denial of our right to decide our own course goes against everything the world has taught us.

To live and function within this state of denial, we must constantly abide in Jesus. Only such abiding will enable us to accept his decisions and become all he wants us to be.

Jesus Learned Obedience

Jesus said “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John14:15) Clearly and concisely, He stated the link between love and obedience. If we love Him we must learn to obey Him.

But obedience does not come easily or naturally. Children do not want to obey parents, students do not want to obey teachers, adults do not want to obey the law. Obedience is difficult. Always has been. Always will be.

Disobedience is a sin. When Jesus spoke these words to his disciples He knew what He was demanding would not easy for them. From childhood He, himself, had to learn to be obedient to his parents. He “was tempted in every way that we are But He did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 CEV) Because He loved his heavenly Father, He learned to obey. He asks of us only what He has already experienced himself.

He first learned obedience in his home. Sometimes this learning experience involved suffering. (Hebrews 5:8) But his life-long obedience was necessary in order for him to be the spotless sacrifice for our sins. And it was his early obedience that laid the groundwork which enabled him to say in Gethsemane “nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36)

His love was demonstrated by the obedience that sent him to the cross. Our salvation depends on that obedience. Our love must be demonstrated by an obedience that sends us into the world. (Matthew 28:19-20) He is the example we must follow.

MY LOVE FOR GOD IS NO GREATER THAN MY OBEDIENCE TO GOD