Posted tagged ‘kindness’

Arguing With Ourselves

August 2, 2011

I woke up this morning with the oddest impression, you know that Scripture about the rich young ruler, yeah that’s the one, the one that makes us squirm when Jesus says, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

 

As I was waking up I had the distinct impression that Jesus wasn’t only referring to the rich man’s houses, camels, and servants, but also to his scrolls, the ideas the young man had studied and held close intellectually. Of course we know that the young man sadly withdrew from Jesus’ presence because he was unwilling to give them up.

 

The rich young ruler was unwilling to let go of the material goods to be sure, but there is a deeper item he didn’t want to release, he didn’t want to let go of the ideas that made him feel comfortable as a well-to-do man of influence. I would imagine that he was expecting Jesus to parrot the teachings of the Pharisees who saw riches as “the blessing of God” or even as God’s mark of approval. He did not expect to have those “blessings” turned into a millstone hung around his neck. He probably sought comfort with his fellow rich men later on, and they talked about the necessity of being rich and how “natural” it was that men like themselves should own so much.

 

You see this is not just a matter of material possessions it is a matter of mind set. The Pharisees were world class champions in that category, they would argue til they were blue in the face about whether one should stoke the fire on the Sabbath (their answer was no) or just how far from home one was allowed to journey on the Sabbath, and they had opinions on an infinite number of other theological minutae and if you didn’t agree with their conclusions you must be one of the other party, those heretics.

The spirit of the Pharisees is alive and well today.

 

I see examples of this on the web all of the time, I see comments like “Well I looked at her blog but it was obvious that she is an Arminian so I stopped reading it” or “you know I was enjoying that guy’s book until he said that Rob Bell’s writings were just a fad, so I closed the book in disgust.”

 

How many of us carry “possessions” in the form of pre-judgments or preconceived notions we are unwilling to loosen our grip on?

How many of us cling to intellectual ideas over and above clinging to the Lord?

 

With the advent of the internet and social media there is yet one more conduit for theological fads to spread across our culture. Now you are a heretic if you do not fall in line with the theological flavor of the month, and there are plenty of people willing to blast you, and burn you to a crisp, for saying otherwise. So what does all of this storm and fury mean?

 

It doesn’t mean anything.

Theological ideas are just the boxes we build to put our latest idols in, and we fight bitterly to keep our idols safe from damage or question.

 

There is so much more to having fellowship with Jesus than fighting over a bunch of silly human ideologies. Put yourself in the place of the rich young ruler with the riches of your ideas arrayed round about you, but with this difference, you then realize the futility of fighting against where God is taking you, and you let go of those clinging encumbrances and turn back and fall in with Him, you follow Him. You learn to listen to Him and let the overwhelming cacophony of the world slip away.

 

It is far better to know Jesus in Spirit and in Truth, than to possess all of the “correct” ideas that mankind can conceive.

Recovery or Collapse?

July 6, 2011

 

The world is recovering economically!

 

The worldwide economic collapse is imminent!

 

These days you will likely see both headlines, on the same day, sometimes on the same front page. So what are we to do?

 

There is a reality which has to do with understanding what God is doing, very few people experience it, yet many, many people who have walked with Him have known that the power and glory of all the earthly kingdoms and governments is fleeting. All of the kingdoms of the earth are existing on borrowed time. We cannot shore them up, apart from the will of God and we can’t expect our puny ideas to build our own lasting palaces of hope and freedom. There is only one enduring place of hope and freedom and that is to be found in Christ.

 

You see the “church” has spent two thousand years blessing and excusing the actions of men. The problem with that is that we are busy counting things that we deem positive and worthy as good, without asking God about it, and He has made it clear that He doesn’t think like we do.

“There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death.”

Proverbs 14:12 Amplified Bible (AMP)

“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits (the thoughts and intents of the heart).”

Proverbs 16:2 Amplified Bible (AMP)

 

As a culture we spend a lot of time consoling ourselves and rationalizing our actions, shouldn’t we be seeking Him to learn what we should really be doing?

 

We have “churches”, “megachurches”, impressive institutions, one might even call them corporations, but do we have an understanding of the things God is doing and our place in them?

 

As the dark economic clouds gather over our heads we should all be seeking His face. When a man has been living a wayward, selfish life there are small points in time when he might be able to see how things really stand, much like the prodigal son standing in the pig pen. At that point, he may realize, there is nothing further he can do to improve his lot, he must turn to the Father. We are being presented with our small moment of clarity as a nation, but we need to respond to God individually and seek our Father’s embrace.

Social Progress?

April 7, 2011

Social Progress, we talk about it all the time. Yes, I know you might be scratching your head and saying “Now wait no one has approached me and started to talk about that subject”. Ah but they do, whenever someone discusses racism, they may refer to what a non issue slavery is in our culture now, or maybe someone might mention that in Dicken’s time people were hanged for stealing a loaf of bread, or how they used to burn witches at the stake. Yes indeed we talk about social progress all of the time, and usually in a self congratulatory fashion, as in, “oh we are so far past that awful business now”.

 

But are we? We may not keep people in chains now, but a person can be chained to a life of debt and underemployment, and if they try to run away or not fulfill their obligations they face dire consequences, in a different way of course, but I think you can see my point.

 

Have we come so far? When a family can be foreclosed on and thrown out of their home for having the misfortune of a change in the local property values? When a healthy man, even an educated man cannot find a job because he is over forty and might expect to be paid for his experience? Are we expressing that higher social conscience when we say that poor people don’t deserve financial help, or older people should be thrown out in the snow when they cannot pay their bills?

 

Truly Solomon was right when he declared that there is nothing new under the sun. The only difference in modern times is the spin the PR department puts on the unflattering story. People have not changed all that much, they are still proud, avaricious, selfish, and unfeeling about the troubles of others, yes even the troubles they have caused for other people.

 

So if you owe money to a person or a corporation, or if you depend on someone else’s good sense and judgement for your employment, your circumstances could change in an instant, depending on the whims of others. And these examples are just a particle of the storms we could face in our lives.

 

I was meditating on Scripture once, it was the passage in Matthew 13 where Jesus is teaching the people from a boat, and then I found myself in the boat, keeping it steady with the oars as the Lord taught the people. Then He turned to me and said let’s go on across the lake, so I turned the boat and pulled at the oars to move on out. The wind picked up and the waves got higher and I was beginning to struggle with the oars. Jesus told me to scoot over and He sat down on the bench next to me and took up one of the oars. He talked and laughed when the waves threw spray over the bow, wetting us. Suddenly a squall burst over us and we continued pulling hard at the oars for as the waves become more violent you must maintain way or the waves will broach the boat and you will founder. So we kept on and this time Jesus did not rebuke the storm as it struck us, and a right violent squall it was, but He stayed right there beside me pulling at His oar right along with me, and we made it safely through that pitiless squall, we had taken on some water, sloshing around our feet, but in all other respects we were still sea worthy. The sun came out and Jesus rather playfully threw His arm over my shoulders. We were brothers in labor and we had weathered the worst and we laughed at the things in life that would have foundered us, and sent our boat straight to the bottom. Some other things happened too, but when I recall that vision I remember how the Lord threw His arm around me and we laughed, He was preparing me for the storms in my life, because the lesson, of course, is that He is with us and He will see us through even the toughest situations, for you see it was not just my boat, it is His too.

My Soul Reaches For You, Lord

February 25, 2011

 

My soul reaches for You Oh Lord,

For I must respond to Your call.

I am tall in Your sight as you guide me,

I can do the things You require as you lead me.

I have no gift to give You Lord, save what you have given me.

There are weeks when I cannot lift my eyes because of the tears my sadness expresses.

Yet You lift my head oh Lord.

You lift my head and You set me on the high ground, far above the flood.

When I have cried my last tear and walked my last step

When every man has turned away from me

You are the one who will take me up and cherish me.

I am alive in your embrace and at peace under Your gaze

Do not let my heart fail before I have sung your praise with my life.

Microcosm

February 13, 2011

I have been on Facebook for some time now and I have begun to notice what an odd microcosm it is, not that it is in any way a faithful representation of the way the wider world is, but there are microclimates that encourage certain mirror images of what is going on in the world. You may be fortunate to fall in with a group of people whom you wholeheartedly agree with or you may find yourself locked into one of those endless and fruitless debates which have been the hallmark of internet exchanges for more than a decade now.

We used to call them flame wars and they are usually precipitated by someone dangling flame bait. All that a person has to do to start something like this is to ridicule a subject which he or she knows someone else holds sacred or dear, and stand back. Often after the gasoline has been thrown on the fire the resulting inferno will burn for days, or at least until all the participants are exhausted. I have seen these things going on long before Facebook ever existed. So now when I see them merrily reproducing with predictable frequency on Facebook. It makes me wonder what is being achieved. All of this energy and righteous indignation, spraying out into the ether, for what?

It reminds me that there are people in this world who actually make a living by spreading disinformation. Have you ever wondered why TV news picks up certain stories to run with? Have you ever noticed when the subjects of a news report are characterized as being crude or backward in those reports? It may not be apparent in the copy of the story, often it is in the video content. Have you ever thought through the sage advice you got from that political analyst?

As a culture we are immersed in media throughout the day, every day. It is so pervasive that we often cannot tell that we are being swayed. We do not understand why we don’t care to be around certain types of people, but we are very certain that we don’t.

Our reasoning faculties are hobbled at an early age through ceaseless bombardment. Are we quite certain of our own tastes and ideas? Or have we surrendered to the barrage of endless input from the endless parade of “authorities” we see in newscasts, and advertisements, that we hear on talk radio, and we read in the press, or even from the sermons we hear?

This world is full of distortions of the truth, if we are to move forward Spiritually, if we are to mature, should we be relying on the things people tell us? Or should we be seeking the One who knows?

Why Do We?

January 15, 2011

Why do we use “crossing the Jordan” as a metaphor for physical death when we can live in the Promised land now (by means of the Spirit)?

Why do we not find fault with a minister whose idea of “being a servant” is to insist on being honored and having authority over us?

Why do we find fault with people who fall down when someone prays for them? Maybe they are more comfortable on the floor.

Why do we read about the Spirit in the Bible, but only think about the flesh?

Why do we tolerate preachers who push us down when they pray for us?

Why do we hold hands and proclaim our unity in the sanctuary, but get into a heated theological debate in the vestibule?

Why do some congregations throw people out when they dance in the aisles? After all, that could be the high point of the service!

Why do we say that we love God and live only for Him, when all of our desires and plans have to do with making our way in this world?

Why do we obsess about sin when Jesus already took care of that? If you are troubled, humble contrition is all that is needed, He is in His office 24/7.

Why do we gather with that same old group of crabby, and/or unnaturally cheerful people each week and call it church?

Why do we feel that the people in a church building are God’s people when the plastic smiles and handshakes are less genuine than Madoff’s hedge fund?

Why do we pass up an opportunity to help someone, so that we might get to church on time?

Why are we so sad at funerals (not counting relatives and close friends who are sad because they will truly miss the deceased) when we say that “he/she is with Jesus now”?

Why oh why do we believe the promises of men which are nearly always empty lies, while we ignore the true promises of God.

Why are we content to live shallow lives when we could be living in the fullness of His Spirit?

If you have done one or two, or more, of these things and understand how inconsistent they are, congratulations you are human.

For that matter if you drew breath and opened your eyes this morning you are human.

We all have needs, to love and to be loved, to be sheltered and fed, but most of all we need God.

Our need for God is apparent when we hunger and thirst for justice, or love, or friendship, or even for a break from the chaos which is this world.

God can bring us peace, love, provision, and companionship, if we will have it.

We can live in Him, in union with Him.

Jesus is the cure for our feckless humanity.

The Religious Boor

January 3, 2011

I bring the message, missive from on high

to enlighten all, so with my ideas I

on cantilever’d wings attempt to soar

And in this way reveal myself, a boor.

 

I burst forth in haste and ranting I do come

To prattle at you ’til your ears are numb

to hold forth on the subject of “the God”

Of which, I know as little as a cod.

 

For scholar’s books have been my native land

and soaring I cannot beyond the hand

of the ancient sage who records his best regrets

which I turn ’round and spew out in sudden fits

that do not help, but hinder even the wise

as if I had entrapped them in a vise.

 

Of union with the Spirit I speak not

and of trusting God I will not write a jot

But in my imagined genius do I play

and those who oppose me, well, they’ll rue the day!

 

The gentle grace of God did shine His light

illuminated my shortcomings, and my plight

of my arrows flying wild, which missed the mark

And in my shame I hid me in the dark

 

‘Tis His sweet self who rescued me, you see

and pulled me in His boat out of the sea

for half of it I swallowed as I drowned

He’ll heal me ’cause for this He is renowned.

 

My wish for fame like a rocket did ascend

but exploded in vain infamy in the end

but tho’ I did attempt to steal His crown

His hand reached out to me to sit me down

beside Him on His throne, Oh happy day!

I wandered lost, but He has shown the way.