Bits & Pieces, Odds & Ends-18

     Luke 2:49 indicates Jesus had unusual spiritual sensitivity. Does it mean He knew then He was the Messiah? Maybe and maybe not.
     But it does mean He understood that God had a specific, personal claim on his life to one degree or another.
     And what did He do about it? He went home and correctly played his proper role as a family member (Luke 2:51-52). He continued to do so for the next eighteen years (John 2:3-10).
     My first and greatest opportunity to behave in a Christ-like manner is at home with my family. If I don't follow his example there I won't follow it anywhere. 




     Genesis 4:26 states the people began to "call on the name of the LORD".
     Do I call on his name in surrender as often as I do in request? Do I call on his name asking that He change me as often as I ask him to change others?




     In my efforts to please my Father I need to emphasize relationships more than rules. I must not allow myself to settle for reasonable success in the "Thou shalt not" category of Christian living, while ignoring the "cup of cold water" part.




     Joshua 24:15 says "Choose you this day whom you will serve". I think we are also asked each day to decide who we will "worship."  This will be determined and demonstrated by which TV shows we watch, what internet images we download, which magazines we read, how we spend our money, which gossip we listen to, what attitudes we reinforce, which priorities we develop and what parts of our culture we embrace.    

Christian Capitalism

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.)

Become Before Doing

     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.
     

I Can

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”.

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.