Bits & Pieces, Odds & Ends – 19

God is more interested in developing me into a tool for his service rather than a trophy for his mantel.

I am a nobody trying to tell everybody about the Somebody who can save us all.

For a child of God his mercy will last longer and be stronger than his discipline.

I am glad God gave us commandments. How else would we know how to please Him?

Does God intend for me to be a soldier or a lamb, a crusader or a teacher, a fierce defender of the faith or a little child approaching Jesus?

May God’s joy in my heart soften my judgements of others and  allow his grace to spill over onto them.

A life of service to God is much to be preferred over a life of comfort for self. Do we really believe that?

God applies his forgiveness to our sins with eagerness and joy, not with reluctance and regret. As much as that forgiveness cost Him…..the death of Jesus…..we can be sure He delights in applying it to us. I must give to others what God has given me.

Dear Father, slow me down before I break down and lift me up before I blow up.

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?

Am I Willing To Wait?

As Christians, most of us have made some sort of dedication pledge giving our lives to God. We have given Him permission to send us and use as as He sees fit.

The servant’s attitude inherent in such a pledge often prompts us to be active in service to others. We act and give in order to relieve the suffering of others and aid in the spread of the gospel throughout the world.

We take seriously the message of the Good Samaritan parable. Our hands, feet, arms and legs are always available to be used by the Father. In moments of peak dedication we might even be willing to wash feet. 

Such activity gives us moments of satisfaction, knowing we are serving God by helping others. We revel in Christ’s words “unto one of the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). We build ministries on “Pure religion….before God…is this, to visit the fatherless and widows (James 1:27).

But are we willing to sit quietly and do nothing if that is what He directs? Are we content to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10)? Do we allow God to give us times of restoration and relaxation so we will be able to serve more effectively later?

God knows when we need to be pulled aside and have our batteries recharged. He knows when we need to sit and study, rather than strive and serve. He knows there are times when we need to rest rather than minister. We need to accept his decision for us to “sit on the bench” until He puts us “back in the game.”

The Part Of Me I Withhold From God

As God’s children we give Him many things. We give him our intellect as we study his Word and memorize passages of it. We read theological literature and get exposed to the thoughts of religious leaders of the past. We allow Him to shape our minds.

We give Him our money. We tithe, donate to mission offerings, support building programs and contribute to programs that support the homeless and unfortunate of our society. He has access to our money.

We gladly allow Him a reasonable amount of our time. We attend Sunday School and worship services each Sunday. We go to choir practice and prayer breakfasts and home Bible-study groups. God is allowed to guide us during large chunks of our time.

We make our physical strength and abilities available to Him. We spend two Saturdays a year helping out at “Repair and cleanup” day at our church. We help neighbors with yard work and other chores when necessary. We help rebuild homes and churches in hard-hit areas after weather disasters. God can use our hands and feet.

But a part of us that we tend to withhold from Him is our attitude. We balk at allowing Him to control, and maybe change, our feelings and reactions toward church staff, family members, people of other races, those in certain economic levels and members of various political parties or religious groups.

In Mark 2:22 Jesus taught the futility of putting new wine in old wineskins. It may be that our attitudes are the old skins of our day and the new wine is further revelations of Himself that the Holy Spirit cannot show us because of our mental rigidity.

Inflexible attitudes cause us to whine when God expects us to shine. Which of our attitudes are we refusing to yield to Him?

My Provision and Protection

Because Jesus is my protector and provider I will always have all I need.

He provides me with food and shelter. When I am discouraged and frightened He calms and comforts me.

He shows me how to behave in ways that honor Him.

Even in the scariest of times I am not afraid of Satan because Jesus has the power to keep me safe.

He provides times of celebration for me and my family. I can’t even count all the ways He blesses me.

I know such love will continue throughout all my life and I will be with Him in heaven forever.

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In Luke 6:31 Jesus gave us the guiding standard for living a life that pleases Him. If we expand the principle He expressed we will smile at others the way we would like to be smiled at, listen to others the way we would like to be listened to, share with others the way we would like others to share with us, talk to others the way we would like others to talk to us, visit with others the way we would like them to visit with us, encourage others the way we would like them to encourage us, and love others the way we would like for them to love us.

How Did He Stand It?

When did Jesus know He was going to die on a Roman cross as a common criminal? At birth? At age twelve? Certainly by age 30.

At some point his divinity gave a fore knowledge of his death.  How did his humanity handle this look into a future that promised such pain and suffering? How did He maintain a sense of joy and peace in the shadow of the cross? What allowed Him to laugh, sing, joke and smile during his ministry?

And He did each of those things. Grown men didn’t leave home, family and careers to follow a sour puss. Children didn’t flock to be picked up and held by a grouch. Crowds didn’t contribute their donkeys and cloaks to form a parade for a “gloomy Gus”.

How did He avoid a constant feeling of dread and sadness as He healed and taught the people of Judea and Jerusalem? As he conquered disease and death in others, surely the specter of his own future hovered in the background of his mind.

The answer to the question has to be in his total trust in his father’s wisdom, power and love. Long before Gethsemane his daily mantra was “Not my will but thine be done” (Luke 22:42.) He was fully convinced that only by following Jehovah’s will could He provide a way for the human race to be ransomed from the power of sin. He had heard “With him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17) as He stepped out of the waters of John’s baptism and He had to die to hear it again.

What am I willing to do each day to hear it from Jehovah God?

 

 

 

Thought Provokers

When dealing with sin, American Christians have a problem over-using “We”  and “Us” and “Our” while too seldom using “I” and  “My.”

Statements such as “We  have wandered away from God” or “Our churches have forgotten God” are common. But admissions of “I have let God become second place in my life” and “My time with God has been neglected” are rare.

I call this corporate confession and it seems we have allowed it to replace the personal, intimate aspects of a soul-searching relationship with our Father.  We too easily can see the lack of Godliness in others (society, culture, government, education) but refuse to admit our own sins and request forgiveness.

I don’t think God’s anger and disappointment are assuaged if we confess only the sins of others. He wants each of us to come to Him on a personal, face-to-face basis to confess and repent.

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Those of us over sixty years of age have experienced perhaps the most prosperous fifty years of our country’s history. As Christians we have donated enormous amounts of money to our churches.

What have our churches done with it? We have sent missionaries, built children’s homes and hospitals, preached, taught, fed the hungry and spread the good news about Jesus. Certainly all these are good things. But we have also built humongous buildings and parking lots that require the efforts of large full-time staffs.

Twenty years from now, who will pay the repair and maintenance bills? Who will be responsible for meeting the payroll each month? Have we created brick-and-mortar albatrosses that will hang around the necks of our children and grandchildren?