Store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven
where moth and rust cannot destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal

Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday's Thoughts on Marriage

This is number 11 in a weekly series I began on December 21st/13 with a post called, “Married Forever?

I'd done a post yesterday referencing the human tendency to name as “love,” what is really nothing more than manipulation. That is, we are sometimes intentionally “good” to someone in the midst of a struggle, be it relational, or financial or addictions etc.. We call tell ourselves that these good behaviours on our part are motivated by love. The sticky part comes when, over the next few months or years, the person in need fails to change or improve. In that case many people become exasperated and pull the plug on what was termed love. The point I'm trying to make is that when we pull the plug, it wasn't love that was driving the “good” behaviours. It was an attempt to manipulated someone into change.

This pattern is seen no less often in marriage. We start off treating our spouses with kindness. We overlook their quirks – for awhile. In a few years however, we begin to think, “If I have to live with that behaviour for the rest of my life I'll go crazy.” And the quest to change another human being begins.

In a Biblical marriage that's not all bad. A Biblical marriage is a union of a man and a woman who have made a commitment before God to “love” each other until the death of one of them ends the union. In a Biblical marriage, this love entails submission to the other as well as a servant's heart. Just as there can be a subtle twist on love which is in reality manipulation, so too with serving one another. In fact, in a marriage there can be a double twist on serving. Here's what I mean.

The first twist is of course “serving” your spouse with the intent of motivating change. This is simply another case of manipulation. The second twist is more subtle. Most people know the parable of the Good Samaritan. A Jewish man is beaten and robbed. Two religious Jewish people see the man lying in the ditch and pass by on the other side of the road. Each individually ignores the man's plight. Then a “despised” Samaritan comes along and without hesitation he helps the injured Jewish man recover from his injuries. He pays for his medical care. He shows him true love. When discussing the parable, we usually talk about those who help or refuse to help and see if we can identify their lack of love in ourselves. Not often do we talk about what it's like for the Jewish man to be helped, regardless of whether it's by a Samaritan. Not often we we talk about our struggle with allowing someone to serve us.

In marriage it's one thing to serve your spouse. It's quite another to be served by your spouse. Secular people gnash their teeth in outrage at the very thought of submitting to and serving one another. That should not surprise. It's pride and corrupt self-love that keeps us from wanting to serve, even the one we claim to love. However it's also pride and corrupt self-love that bristles at the thought of being served by our spouse.

When we serve someone else, when we do good for someone else, it puts us in control. Our worldly (un loving) thinking senses that at some level, helping someone else puts that person in our debt. That kind of serving, like the pseudo love mentioned earlier in this post is also manipulation. People with this mindset keep score regarding who did what for whom. Men especially cringe at the thought of anyone doing for them and this includes their wives. This is pride saying, “I am not going to allow you to put me in your debt.”

The thing is, in a Biblical marriage, there is no such thing as debt. We serve Jesus by serving others – Period. Jesus gave His life for us so we give our life for Him. In a Biblical marriage we live out the Gospel in which there is no score keeping. Jesus freely loved us and we are to freely love one another.

In a Gospel marriage we aren't loved or served because we deserve it. Real love comes with no strings attached. Real love is gladly given. Real love is gladly received. It's a wonderful thing to allow yourself to be fully accepted, fully loved. In Biblical love we don't earn our love. And again, as men, as the husband, as the spiritual leader of the home, we take the lead in demonstrating servant leadership. We model for our spouse and children grace and mercy and love and kindness, patience and submission. We freely give love because real love is patient and kind. Real love doesn't envy or boast and it is not proud. It isn't rude or self-seeking. It isn't easily angered and it doesn't keep a record of wrongs. Real love doesn't delight in evil but takes joy in Truth. Real love always protects, always hopes, always trusts, always perseveres. Real love never fails.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

“I'm Done With Her”

Have you ever heard something similar?
Have you felt something similar?

I've lost count of how many people who have told me about trying to love someone, a friend, an acquaintance, a family member who was struggling in life. Perhaps it was drug addiction, or relationship issues, or maybe trouble with honesty or the law. The person in question may have had a mental illness or a personality disorder. Regardless of what was causing the problem, the person in front of me had resolved to demonstrate love to the troubled person. These “helpers” were reaching out because they sensed that the offensive person had never really experience proper love. The helpers wanted to show the troubled person what it was like to be loved. The helpers may have believed that demonstrating love was their real and only motive. Circumstances proved the lie in that belief.

The scenario usually played out like this. Several months down the road, perhaps even a year or two, the offensive person remained the same. “The nerve,” thought the helper. “All that I've done for her and she's still using dope, or she's still moving from one crappy man to another.” In more cases than we'd like to think, the troubled person even “used” the helper in some manner.

Can you imagine? That's about the time that the helper says something like, “I'm done with her.” Or him as the case may be. Were true motives known, this result could have been predicted. You see, real love never fails. Real love is not dependent on circumstance. When these kind of relationships come to an end, it's always always always because love was not the motivating factor in what the helper was doing.

The helper wasn't loving the other person. The helper was manipulating. The helper was doing something that was calculated to change another person and when that didn't work, the helper decided to withhold h/her fake love as punishment.

That's why the fact that Jesus died for us while we were still His enemies, before we even knew of His existence is so meaningful. God the Father loved the world so much that He gave God the Son as a means of forgiving our sins – no strings attached. The sacrifice was made. The debt was paid. 

Turn your allegiance toward Him in appreciation, or reject Him out of pompous self-adoration. The choice is up to you.

Regardless of your choice, God's love is the real deal.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What's He Trying to Prove?

Jesus was forever telling people, “The Kingdom of God is near.” Okay, but what did He mean? What exactly was He trying to prove when He said that?

Well, He actually didn't stop there. What He really meant was, The Kingdom of God is near AND here is what it will be like.

The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.
Matthew 11:5-6

While the miracles that Jesus presented proved that He is who He said He is, they also showed in part, what the Kingdom of God will entail, in full, when He returns to judge the living and the dead.

In the Kingdom of God, there will not be any sickness, no more death, no more injustice, no more tears, no more suffering, grief and unbearable loss. In God's Kingdom peace will reign. There will be no more storms or dangerous waters. There will be more than enough food for everyone. In the Kingdom of God, people will know how to love one another.

When Jesus told people, “The Kingdom of God is near,” He was showing in striking detail the difference between life as we have chosen it to be on earth, and life as God will give to us if we will only humble ourselves before Him and admit that we cannot fix ourselves.

For people like atheists, that is simply too much to ask.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

“All I Need Is The Air That I Breath and To Love You.”

That's a line from a song from when I was young. 
"All I need is the air that I breath and to love you."

The song writer's opinion on love may change over time.
The part about his need for air?
He's bang on.

In fact, he will breath that air in and out about 20,000 times a day; most of the time without even thinking about it. We are totally dependent on the air we breath.

It's the same for followers of Jesus. Jesus' gift to us, translated as Holy Spirit, comes form the Greek and Hebrew Wind or Breath. As Christians we cannot live the Christian life with Him.

A commitment to follow Jesus is in reality a promise to do the impossible. It's means losing this life, giving away this life along with its priorities in order to see and interact with others as Jesus did. We simply cannot do that > unless we are totally dependent on Jesus' Spirit for strength, direction, correction and so on.

Doubting that reality leads to tremendous harm to the Kingdom of God. As the prophet Nathan said to King David, "You have given great opportunity to the enemies of God to despise and blaspheme Him."

How long can you hold your breath? 
Little children sometimes like to try. 

Sadly, so too do immature Christians. They like to see how long to can live the Christian life without relying on the Holy Spirit. It takes some people a long long time to accept that life is much, much better when we have more love, more joy, more peace, more patience, more kindness, more goodness, more faithfulness, more gentleness, and more self-control.

Breathing the stale spiritual air that the world offers grows tiresome after awhile. Taking in the pure spiritual air that Jesus offers is so worth it. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

“So Long and Thanks For All The Guilt”

I can't remember who it is but there is, or at least was an atheist blogger who had that comment as part of his header. 

Guilt! 

That pesky feeling that reminds us that we've done wrong. If only we could get rid of that feeling we could convince ourselves that we're good people. Atheists have actually perfected that practice. They actually believe they are good people, certainly better than others.

But is that a good thing to do? To purposely delude yourself about a crucial piece of information regarding yourself? Should atheists lie to themselves just to support a world-view that has zero scientific support?

One of the reasons that Christians are so universally hated by atheists is that we keep harping on our sinful nature. We can't help it. The Spirit of Creator God resides within us and “when He comes, He will convict the world of sin and of the judgement to come.”

Jesus' Spirit takes all the shine off our high opinion of ourselves. He forces us to face reality - And that's a good thing. For it is only when we see clearly the alarming nature of who we are, a nature that sustains hypocrisy, deceit, anger, bigotry, coveting, and lust; an innate nature that is acutely dangerous to life on this planet, only when we can see this clearly can we appreciate what Jesus has done for us.

For it is Jesus who came to rescue us from ourselves.
It is lying to ourselves that causes us to reject this offer of salvation.
It is lying to ourselves that causes us to choose an eternity in Hell.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Fridays Thoughts on Marriage

This is number 10 in a weekly series I began on December 21st/13 with a post called, “Married Forever?

Because the command to Submit to one another carries such huge baggage for many people (sadly many Christians seem as confused as those who live upon the earth), I'm going to continue with that subject for just a bit.

I've said that instead of concentrating on the “behaviours of love,” we are far more successful when we focus on drawing closer to, and abiding in Jesus. I've also said that when couples focus on fixing a troubled marriage, they are not nearly as successful as when they focus on fixing their troubled relationship with Jesus. It is His Spirit that changes us which in turn changes our thoughts and behaviours. The former is little more than acting as though we're followers of Jesus. The latter provides genuine evidence of a changed character. Changing behaviours on their own ends in fatigue and failure. The indwelling Spirit of the Christ does the work for us, so to speak.

Having said that, in Ephesians 5:22,25, Paul instructs women to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church “giving Himself up for her.” The latter requires a far greater degree of self-sacrifice or dying to self, although each partner is called to a life of self-sacrifice for the other. The Holy Spirit can work this change of focus in us. I have yet to see anyone do it on their own for emotionally / spiritually healthy reasons.

For those indwelt by God's Spirit, giving others “preferential treatment over ourselves,” comes quite naturally and easily, without losing one iota of worth or value. This is not thinking that others are always better human beings than ourselves; rather it's thinking about ourselves less often and in turn treating others with deference. When the Holy Spirit forms our character, we simply view the interests of others before we notice our own, just as Jesus, the Creator of the universe stepped down from His throne to fix what we had destroyed. Just as Jesus the Christ did not “please Himself,” but did what was best for us, to save us, to love us and to draw us into a relationship with Himself. He came to earth, not be served but to serve us and give His life for us; then He says, “Follow Me in your relationship with others.” He met our needs at the cost of His own life and that is how husbands and wives are to treat each other until the death of one or the other ends the relationship.

In a Biblical marriage, as the spiritual head of the home, the husband is to take the lead in demonstrating servant-leadership.
More on this next Friday


Thursday, February 13, 2014

“All You Need Is Love!”

So sang the heroin addicted, wife abusing John Lennon. That's the member of the music group, The Beatles who actually thought that he could bring peace to the world by staying in bed.

On the other hand, all we do need is love; not Lennon's kind of love, but love nevertheless. That's because unlike the world's love (which actually means attracted to), the love that Jesus brings to His followers is patient and kind. It doesn't envy or boast and it's not proud. Jesus' love does not get angry easily and it doesn't keep a record of the wrong that other people do. It isn't rude or self-seeking. It doesn't delight in evil (either doing evil or watching evil), rather it rejoices in Truth of all kinds. Jesus' kind of love always protects, always trusts, always hopes and it always perseveres. Unlike worldly attraction, Jesus' love never fails.

We can show God's love in dozens of practical ways: feeding the hungry, adopting the homeless, visiting the elderly, fighting against the killing of the most vulnerable, sharing our wealth. That's what is meant when we read, “Let your light shine among others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Those are all good, but how is it of any benefit to anyone if they gain the whole world but lose their soul? To not tell people of the greatest love in the universe, to not let people know that there is forgiveness for real guilt, to not let people know that freedom from the power of sin is available is to not love others at all. As Jesus tells us, “You can give away everything you have, but if you don't have love you are just a useless noise that the world can do without.” 1st Corinthians 13:3.

God loved the people of the world so much, that He sent Jesus, God the Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not be separated from God for eternity but have eternal life in paradise.” John 3:16. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Of Camels and Prophecy

There's been some chatter on the internet lately. Both Time and CNN carried the story. Apparently the Bible can't be trusted because, according to the writer, Abraham had Camels before it is believed that people had tamed Camels. So there!

The solution to why the Bible says what it does, again according to the writer, is that these accounts were written 100's of years after the events in question.

Well, until God opens our spiritual eyes, we can't believe or understand what the Bible says to us so . . .

Regardless, these doubters run into a bit of a problem (they can't see it, but the problem is there nevertheless) when it comes to prophecy of Jesus. By the time these prophecies came true, the Old Testament had already been translated into Greek. They were not written hundreds of years after the fact. So . . .

What is the probability of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah being fulfilled? Contained in the Old Testament, there are more than 300 specific prophecies alone that concerned Jesus, the promised coming Messiah. These were written from 450 to more than 2,000 years before his birth. It's been mathematically calculated that the probability of just 8 of the more than 300 prophecies being fulfilled by chance is 1^1017. Anything greater than 1^50 is generally considered to be beyond natural possibility.
Science Digest

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

“If animals aren’t suffering, somebody isn’t working hard enough in the business of gene survival.”
Richard Dawkins

Do You Represent Jesus?

When the Spirit of Creator God resides within a person, would you not expect that person to present thoughts and behaviours and cultural, familial and economic ideals, that reflect the person of Jesus?

When the Spirit of Creator God resides within a person, would you not expect that person to share a view of wealth and prosperity, of racial and gender equality that Jesus showed?

When the Spirit of Creator God resides within a person, would you not expect that person to reject any sort of in-group mentality based upon worldly standards and reject hypocritical judgements that push people further down into a state of helpless and hopelessness?

So why is it that we as Christians in North America wear Jesus as an accessory to our worldly life-style and expect Him to bless our pursuit of wealth and power and the appearance of material success?

Monday, February 10, 2014

How Then Should I Live?

I saw a documentary about some convict who said, “I decided to follow Islam because Christianity is too easy. All you have to do in Christianity is go to Church and read your Bible and you’re in.”
(((Sigh))) It's like he thinks that as a Christian I indulge my insouciant ways with an ice-tea, lying in a hammock while letting my Creator do the heavy lifting. See whether you think being a follower of Jesus is easy –
. Admitting one’s need for forgiveness and admitting that there is nothing that I can do to warrant salvation is the single most difficult thing that a human being can do.
The road is narrow and the gate is small and only a few will ever find it.” 
Jesus
. Finding and following the Will of God, loving what God loves and hating what God hates bends the intellect almost beyond the breaking point.
. Agreeing with God that what the world has to offer is useless for real life and real living takes constant reminding.
. Having a relationship with one’s Creator whereby we mean it when we say, “That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 
2nd Corinthians 2:10, is not for the faint of heart.
. Romans 8:29 is God’s goal of each and every Christian, but oh my what a goal it is. “For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the first-born among many brothers and sisters.”
Hated without cause, mocked, lied to and lied about. Jesus, our example and character goal, came to earth knowing in advance that He would be abused, misunderstood, mistreated, rejected, insulted, betrayed and ultimately have humanity do our absolute worst to Him. Yet He entered into a covenant relationship with us anyway because He loves us. And then Jesus said, “Pick up your cross and follow Me (be like Me, do what I did, act like I did, relate to others like I did), and be ready to die (both literally and figuratively) for Me.
. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Col. 3:12,13
Try Jesus and tell me how easy it is.
. Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who persecute you.
. Simply “Doing no harm,” as fools advocate, is not good enough for the path of Christ. The way of Jesus is proactive and encourages doing good to all. Lessening the needs of others whenever and wherever one can is a spiritual fallout of a Christ filled heart.
. “If you think you stand, be careful lest you fall.” A follower of Jesus will never overestimate h/her ability to withstand the power of temptation. Flirting with evil is anathema to those who love Jesus.
. A follower of Jesus does good, and not just when officers of the world are watching. Rather, a follower of Jesus does good to please Him who is always present. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
. Christian love sees others as worthy of preferential treatment.
If you have encouragement from being united with Christ, If you have comfort from His love, If you have any fellowship with the Spirit, If you have any tenderness and compassion then in humility consider others better than yourselves. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.   
Philippians 2:3,4,10
Romans 12:10 - “Honour one another above yourselves.”
Gal. 5:13 - “Serve one another in love.”
Eph. 5:21 - “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
1Pt. 5:5 - “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another because the Lord opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Islam is the end result of a spiritual quest that passes through atheism / humanism on the road to self-salvation. It is the easiest and default path of all who deny their Creator as Lord of their lives. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday's Thoughts on Marriage

This is number 9 in a weekly series begun on December 21st/13 with a post called, “Married Forever?

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21

Ah submission the dirtiest word in secular relationships. That's okay. Let them fight for their own rights. Let them demand change in their partners while demanding that their spouses accept them as they are. How functional atheists live their lives has nothing to do with us. On the other hand, I hope I'm getting the point across that our behaviours don't determine our character. Rather, our character determines our behaviours. When the Holy Spirit indwells us, when we abide in Jesus, our character becomes like that of Jesus. Humility and submission were two strong, strong characteristics of Jesus.

The fact is the ability to submit, the power and strength to submit our will to another is a sign that the Holy Spirit resides within. Submission to one another is a sign that you are being guided by the will and the wishes of Creator God. Humility (which the world wrongly associates with humiliation) along with the absence of pride (which the world sees as some sort of affliction) and a lack of self-will (which the world associates with social and economic suicide), is what allows couples in a Biblical marriage to show love to one another. In fact, the behaviours of love are actually the duties of husbands and wives in a Biblical marriage. It is only through a Holy Spirit guided ability to serve your spouse that you will be able to meet and overcome the hurdles that so often trip up marriages run by what passes for human wisdom.

Characteristics of those guided by the Holy Spirit are well known among those indwelt by Him: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control. These are the characteristics of Jesus and if you think about these for a moment, you will quickly see how each one is indispensable to a strong and stable marriage. We must allow ourselves to be transformed into the character of Jesus if we are to live out and model marriage as God intends for us. Anything less makes a mockery of stating that we are followers of Jesus.

Even though the circumstances of life change, the character of Jesus does not. That is what creates the ever present stability in a Biblical marriage. With these characteristics present in each partner, it's easy to see that these are not two needy people looking to someone else to solve their own insecurities or to give them value and worth. That's because they already possess these things because of their relationship with and the indwelling Spirit of Jesus. 

We function at our best on the indwelling strength and power of God's Spirit. 

We do not draw life from our partner. Unlike secular lives which produce songs claiming to “need you,” “I can't live without you,” etc., a follower of Jesus has learned that the worship of our Creator produces a human who is fully alive. That is what allows us to be the kind of people that our spouse deserves. To not draw our strength from God causes us to demand from our spouses something that is impossible for them to give.

More on this next Friday.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Stalin > Dawkins et al. - A Straight Line

Atheists rage at the very thought of their being a straight line succession of thought from savages like Stalin to them. Believing themselves to be good people, they must fight any notion that if they were in power, they'd never ever try to eradicate Christianity by the means used by other like-thinkers.

Individual atheists may do evil things,” says Richard Dawkins, “but they don’t do evil things in the name of atheism.”

No, atheists do evil because their atheism spawns a seething and irrational hatred for Christianity as demonstrated by Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Dennett, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Honecker, Castro, Ho, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Kim, Ceausescu and virtually every atheist that blogs about religion. The point of their agenda is, ‘Religion is harmful. Get rid of it and everything will begin to move toward civil society.’ Marx and Engels put it bluntly, “Abolish all religion and all morality.”

Richard Dawkins simply cannot bring himself to admit that atheism was the driving force from which atheists, directing governments made up exclusively of atheists were obsessed with spreading anti-God propaganda, and specialized in the murder of almost 100 million believers in the last century. Atheist Soviet rulers systematically and efficiently destroyed the majority of churches and killed the majority of religious leaders during a period from 1918 - 1941. This was not individual atheists perpetrating evil. This was
individual atheists doing evil in the name of atheism. They were perpetrating evil, all according to the atheist driven agenda to eliminate Christianity from society.

Atheism is opposed to God and anything that smacks of His presence; especially the people who worship Creator God.

Because it is so absurd, I can only assume that Richard Dawkins finds the following comment amusing. When he’s confronted with the atrocities done by atheists in the name of atheism, Dawkins says with a straight face, “Well, Stalin also had a moustache. Maybe we should blame the death of Christians on people with moustaches.” Pathetic and pitiful more correctly describes Dawkins’ attempt to deliberately confuse the obvious. Dawkins and friends can’t even recognize how close they are to encouraging the Soviet experiment to repeat itself in the West. Like Russian atheists before him, in “Letter to a Christian Nation” Sam Harris bemoans, “the failure of our schools to announce the death of God in a way that each generation can understand.” He even goes on to say that some ideas are so dangerous that people may need to be killed simply for having those ideas. If you don’t see this as a dangerously secular idea, you are not an observer of history.

The fact is that in the 20th century, a third of the world saw atheists pronounce the death of God throughout their nations. They declared it on billboards, in schools, government controlled publications, from speaker trucks roaming through the streets, over the radio and in secret jails where torture was used in an attempt to force Christians to deny their faith. Leaders in the underground Church in China spoke in our Church a few months ago. They told us that in today’s atheist China, secret worship services in homes, warehouses, and even groups meeting in the forests and fields are forcibly broken up. If caught, those who attended are beaten or killed or taken to reeducation camps, never to be seen again. The accounts they related made us squirm in our pews and wonder, “How would I do under such intense pressure?” Interestingly, these people didn't ask us to pray for an end to the persecution. Rather, they asked us to pray for their strength and courage to continue to spread the Word of God in spite of persecution.
In the 20th century a hundred million people have been killed under the banner of atheism in its hatred of Jesus and the religion that worships Him. This pattern continues to this very day and there is no reason to expect that atheists who possess the needed power will stop anytime soon.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

To The Persecuted Church

I remember reading about the 100th anniversary of Christian Missionaries in the Congo. One of the speakers said he was about 12 years old, almost a man, when the missionaries first came. And he said that for years and years and years, in an attempt to drive the missionaries from their country, they poisoned the missionaries and their families. The children were especially susceptible to the poison, he said, and that is what led so many people from the Congo to Jesus. "We did not accept Jesus into our lives by watching how you lived, but by watching how you suffered and died. You always had hope. You never gave up on Jesus and you never gave up on showing His love to us."

"People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly, in hard times, tough times, bad times, when we're beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we're telling the truth, and when God's showing His power; when we're doing our best setting things right; when we're praised, and when we're blamed; slandered, and honoured, true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumoured to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, yet having it all. Dear followers of Jesus, I can't tell you how much I long for you to enter the wide-open spacious life. We didn't fence you in. Any smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren't small, but you're living them in a small way. I'm speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!”
From Paul's letter to the believers in Corinth, 6:10-13

To those of you who are experiencing extreme and ultimate persecution, please, for the love of Jesus, at all cost avoid violence, revenge and retribution under the guise of self-protection. It's God who protects. It's God who will bring you safely home when your work on earth is done. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How Much Is Too Much?

Because of physical health issues I'm exhausted. Because I'm exhausted I've been feeling overwhelmed by the problems of the world. Too many people need counselling. Too many people need food and safety. Too many people are slaves (current estimate 27 million).

I'm staggered by the amount of sin that we simply ignore.

We just let people be used and abused. It's easier that way. Or so we think. Raw human brokenness is on display daily, crying out for someone to help, and at best we who have so much toss them a biscuit or a couple coins. 

But then I think – Am I even asked to fix it all? 

Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will love one another. Your love for others will be the measure of whether I am a living presence in your life. My indwelling presence in your life will guide your desires to match My desire to help the poor and needy. It's not that helping the poor will save you. It's that helping those whose lives are broken is evidence that I reside within your soul. If I am truly your friend, you will see Me, waiting to be loved, within every person you meet who is in need.”

As a Christian, as a follower of Jesus, what I'm asked to do is meet the need that's in front of me. I'm asked to heal the person that God brings to my attention. I'm asked, at minimum to love the one who crosses my path either in person or online. The world is a mass of suffering and Jesus has shown us what is expected of us.

He never apologizes for the suffering. It's not His fault. We are the ones who invited this mess to take place. Neither however does He look the other way. Jesus steps into the middle of our messy lives. He asks us to grab hold of His hand and spend time in the hard places; to not seek safety and comfort but to give comfort and mercy and love.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time there was a group of people who took stock of all that the earth possessed. They said to one another, “We're going to need some of all of this stuff, right? But there are other people on this planet who also want what we want. If we're going to ensure that we always have enough, we need to see to it that we have more than enough.”

So, even though they didn't actually need all the materials and minerals and information that they already had, they began to store 10, 50, a 100 times more of everything than they needed. And they used it. They used a lot of it. In fact much of what they used was simply squandered and wasted.

But there were those other people in the world who didn't have enough of what they needed. “Won't you share your knowledge of how to use these resources so that we too can have enough?” they asked the hoarders.

This scared the hoarders very much. 'What if our situation becomes like those who don't have enough?' they thought to themselves. 'We need to grab and keep even more of the world's resources for ourselves.”

But we're dying!” pleaded the rest of the world. “Our children need what you have. Please don't abandon us!”

We're not abandoning you,” shouted the hoarders. “We're taking care of our own. God helps those who help themselves to whatever they see.”

This made the dying very angry, both at the hoarders and at the religion the hoarders tried to teach those who were dying. So, in fear that those who were dying would demand that the hoarders share their wealth, the grossly wealthy began to build walls to keep out the needy, and they bought guns and more guns. And then they built missiles and warships to ensure the safety of their wealth.

Just as Jesus had warned, all this wealth and all these guns did nothing to provide for a feeling of safety and security. In fact, the hoarders grew depressed and anxious. They became fearful not just of the needy “over there.” They became fearful of their neighbours. Instead of enjoying comfort and contentment, their moods fluctuated wildly between grandiose thinking driven by a level of energy that seemed like madness, to depths of depression and hopelessness. They looked for people to blame and found no shortage of suspects; from those of a different skin colour, to those who spoke a different language, to those who voted differently and even to those who had sex in a different manner or who worshipped differently - and in the case of atheists, they grew fearful of those who worshipped at all. 

The hoarders tried everything they could think of to distract themselves from the mess they'd created. There arose such a demand for mood altering drugs that the laws were changed to legalize them. So too with every form of sexual distraction that could be imagined. Family breakdown was celebrated as something good, as were beauty and fame and violence. In fact, as entertainment the people watched lot's and lot's of violence and it made them feel powerful and aggressive - which was seen as a good thing.

Sadly the hoarders rejected the one source of advice that commanded them to share what they had. They tried everything but loving their neighbours.