Uncomfortable

Today is May 30, 2018 and it is appearing that the world has gone completely crazy!   ISIS is running rampant; Donald Trump is in the Presidency, who knows what is up with North Korea and most Christians in the USA have become comfortable and “lukewarm.”   I can’t imagine what the world will look like in a few years!   But regardless of the time, the message Jesus gave us regarding doing what the Bible says has not changed and never will. In short, we are to be faithful in serving Christ in the world and into the next.  

 

Ephesians 4:1-3

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

 

We are to follow to the best of our abilities the call to ministry that Christ has placed on our lives.   This call might include several aspects, some of which are a bit out of the box.   If you remember God calls people like Moses who never felt comfortable or capable of doing the ministry that he was called to.   Why is that?   It’s because he wasn’t equipped to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, but God was!

“Doing What It Says” will most likely entail some difficult, unpalatable choices that you had never thought of before.   Peter never anticipated stepping out of the boat much less being martyred upside down on a cross for his testimony about Christ.   Mother Teresa never thought she would end up in Calcutta watching people die on the street, and John Wesley never thought he would be riding around on a horse preaching to anyone that would listen in a field.   Nevertheless, God does things much differently than we ever would.   We simply have to be ready to accept His call and to the best of our abilities, prepare ourselves for Him to work through us and be open to whatever He wants us to do!   Guess what, I never thought I’d be writing a blog!   But God uses people that are willing, that’s the key.   We have to be willing to be used and ready to relinquish our calendar and agenda for His purposes.

NOTE TO SELF: Wonder what’s next?

An Attitude of Giving

Sometimes we feel as if the responsibility of giving rest solely on the shoulders of others.   “How can I give to others when there is so much that I need, or at least think I need?”   Giving is an attitude of the heart.   Giving is a place where we experience the opposite of what is normally expected.   When we “give” we assume that it means it will cost us, we will walk away with less.   Usually that is true.   But it is in the attitude and act of giving that we receive many rich blessings.

What a joy it is to watch a good friend of mine as he “joyfully gives” away the blessings God has gifted him with.   It is a joy to hear he and his wife talk about how money is meaningless to them, and without the opportunity to bless others as they have themselves been blessed, it would all be for nothing.

In one of my small member churches, the attitude of giving was one of generosity as long as “our needs” are served first.   I again want to emphasize, there was no outreach, no evangelism and certainly no sacrifice for the welfare of others going on… it was all about them.   That being said they still were a congregation of loving wonderful people but they had become so entrenched in their own traditions and expectations of what church was that they missed the opportunity to serve Christ.   They felt as if their church was a “victim” of decline, but they as a congregation had nothing to do with it!

 

Mark 12

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

 

She gave to God out of her very need. The others that day were giving out of their very greed, selfishness, desires and agendas.   What about God? How does that honor God who has given up everything for us?   Jesus went on to explain to the disciples that day that it was not the amount that was given that was so important, but the attitude of the persons heart.   Her offering that day to God demonstrated her obedience, faithfulness, trust and love for the God that meant everything to her.  

That brings up an interesting question: “Does God mean everything to you?”

In that small member church, the offering became confused with self-preservation.   They were willing to give to themselves and tell themselves that they were honoring God but they were not willing to invest in what God was doing outside of what they felt “forced” to do through the apportionments paid to the denomination.   They enjoyed church their way, but not necessarily God’s way.  

What did the Book of Revelation say: “I wish you were either hot or cold?”

Do It God’s Way

“Doing What It Says” means taking God at face value.   It means that God is still on the throne, holy and perfect and does not need our help in guiding the world toward holiness; we just need to accept His definition of it.   In becoming devoted Disciples of Jesus Christ, we need to accept God’s guidelines for what is acceptable behavior and what is not.   Just because we “feel” a certain way or because we were “born” a certain way does not give us the right to call it “normal” or “acceptable.”   We were born in sin and consequently many of our feelings, desires, understandings etc. are sinful in nature.  

I’m sure that Moses didn’t agree with God on many things.   Was it fair that God sent all of those plagues?   Was it right that God drown the Egyptian Army in the sea?   How about Abraham, asking him to sacrifice his son?   What about Adam and Eve, after all they had permission to eat of everything else in the Garden!

Regardless of where you stand on the many issues surrounding our obedience to Scripture, you always end up asking certain questions:

Is God’s Word really God’s Word?

Is the Bible really inspired by Him?

Is it relevant for today?

Why do some things no longer apply as they use to?

Would it be right for God to leave us guessing?

NOTE TO SELF: Jesus said that the faithful would experience opposition.   Are you ready for it?

Don’t Ask

I was recently in conversation with a UMC Pastor that held the Bill Clinton approach to the homosexual issue in the United Methodist Church; “” Don’t ask, don’t tell.”   As the lead pastor of a growing church his answer was simply not to address the issue publicly, and in fact to skirt around it if need be.   The difficult part is that taking a stance on one side or the other could fracture the core of the church causing many to leave.   It can also fracture our family structure, especially when the issue involves a loved one in our own house.   It is an issue that sharply divides our hearts and culture.   So, to go back a few years and approach the issue; “what would Jesus do?”

Let’s break it down into bite size chunks: first, yes, God wants all of His creation to be with Him in an eternal loving relationship for all of eternity.   This includes all people, young, old, black, white, straight, homosexual, bi-sexual, questioning, whatever.   God never created one person that He didn’t want to include in His heavenly family forever.   Let the record show that God loves all people, through all time, in all states of existence.     But there is a condition called sin, or rebellion, or pride, and this condition separates us from a holy and perfect God.   God loves us but due to our sinful nature we are eternally separated from Him.   So now what?  

As a perfect God, he does not leave us alone in our fallen state, He offers us redemption.   The first step of taking God up on His offer of redemption is to admit that we need it!   If I don’t see or admit that I have sinned then how can I do my part which is simply to accept His sacrifice and repent?   To repent means to have a change of heart, to want to have not sinned, to desire to not sin if we had the opportunity to live those moments over again.   It would be absolutely wrong of God to create humankind in His image yet imperfect and not offer humankind the opportunity to be forgiven.   In reality, our decision to accept His sacrifice and repent is part of the creation process.   God is still “creating” you!

But where do we get our sense of what’s right and wrong?   What determines what is acceptable or not?   In other words, where is truth?   Where is the dividing line of acceptable behavior and sinful behavior?   Is it left up to each person, society or culture?   Has God given us the principles of righteousness and holiness somewhere or are we left in the dark to figure it out for ourselves?

For centuries Christianity has accepted that the Bible is God’s holy and perfect Word for humankind.   We have accepted the authorship of the Bible as being God inspired through various writers and have taken God’s Word at face value when it has told us of its perfect harmony with the holiness of God.   So why all of a sudden has our stance in the church changed?   Is it not telling us what we want to hear?   So, as an example, if the Bible is no longer correct when it comes to sexuality what else needs our attention?

NOTE TO SELF: decision time

Mike

Mike was a young man with a new family.   His wife and he were building the American dream and literally had the small house, two kids, a dog all surrounded by a white picket fence.   Mike was a builder by trade and very meticulous about his work.   Many of his houses were listed each year in the Parade of Homes due to his eye for quality and detail.   Life was good and the family seemed very happy and secure, but one day that all changed when Mike enrolled in school to become a Pastor.

This was only somewhat of a shock at the time as Mike had been growing in his faith for many years.   He became more involved at his church, started attending small groups and spending more and more time in the Scriptures.   While Mike felt that his life was flowering into something new and beautiful his wife did not.   She felt abandoned and like she had lost her husband to something else.   As time went on the arguments became uglier and the time they spent away from each other seemed to fuel the fires even more.   Finally, the camel’s back broke.   Mike’s wife felt that her marriage was going down a path that would be unrecoverable.   She felt ordinary, not appreciated, abandoned and empty.

While Mike was becoming more and more involved with his faith, growing and now going to pastoral licensing school, his wife was also becoming more involved at her work.   She was starting to sense the attention and affection of a co-worker.   Over the months, Mike missed the signs of a deteriorating marriage until the day she finally told him she was having an affair.   This rocked his belief in God to the core.   “After all I’m doing for God how could He let this happen?”   Mike felt that since he was following the path God had carved out for him that God was left with the responsibility to keep everything else “in order!”   Wrong!   Really, Mike was putting God to the test!

While we are to “Do What It Says” (follow the call of Christ in our lives) we are not to ignore the other responsibilities God has entrusted to us.   Mike had family responsibilities that he had walked away from.   He ignored those that he loved because of his enthusiasm for his new-found life direction.   In essence he had replaced his family with his ministry calling.   In his subconscious, Mike was also looking forward to “God owing” him because of his service in Pastoral Ministry.   Mike’s enthusiasm got the best of him!

To be faithful to the calling of God we have to remember that God will never ask us to do something that is wrong.   God is good and the plans He executes in the world through us are good too!   These plans are many times difficult, misunderstood and laden with hardship, but they are always good.   We have to remember that “good” in God’s eyes is much different than “good” in humanities eyes.   God is always moving forward toward the eternal redemption of His creation while our attention is many times very temporal.  

In the fall of 2015 I had the opportunity to spend some time with Mike at a seminar we were both attending.   Things had progressed in his family situation to a full blown ugly divorce that included using the kids as pawns.   Mike was extremely depressed.   One day in the middle of a class Mike turned to me and said; “I really blew it!   I mentally and emotionally walked out on my family …. now it’s just done.”  

As the months went on Mike did his best to become the father and husband that he knew God wanted him to be.   He found out that he could serve God as a pastor and be a loving father and partner at the same time.   It was difficult, as most things God calls us to do are, but he prayerfully started to seek God’s help and guidance to do them all.   The good news is that on now Mike and his wife “dating” once again.   Truly God is healing their marriage.

As in all situations where we are torn between living out God’s plans in our lives, we have to remember that those plans do not include abandoning the loved ones He has giving to us or expecting God to clean up our trail of broken commitments.  

NOTE To Self: Don’t abandon those lovely people God has give to you!

Deadliest Catch

I love this program!   The men and women on this program risk life and limb for the sole purpose of catching crabs and making a living.   These fishermen sail into the Bering Sea throughout the year in search of large healthy Ophelia crabs.   In many of the episodes I have watched the weather conditions are horrendous!   The risk is immense and these fishermen are faced with long endless hours of monotonous work, extreme cold, massive waves, hunger, illness and even death.   Without a doubt being a crab fisherman in the Bering Sea is one of the most hazardous jobs in the world.   One small slip into the frigid waters will leave the individual in a hopeless state of hypothermia.   Besides that, there is no guarantee that they will catch anything!

But one-character trait I have observed from the men and women on this program is there selfless sacrifice for the sake of their families.   They are willing to put themselves in harm’s way and endure countless hours of misery for the sake of providing for their loved ones.   We also see this type of trait in those in military service.   Our military service men and women have made the choice to protect our nation and their families by placing themselves on the firing line, and they do this by choice and dedication.

Jesus calls us into the same type of setting: placing ourselves into an uncomfortable or harsh situation for the sake of others.   Crab fishermen do it for income, our military does it in order to protect, we should do it in order to serve others in Christ’ name.   It all seems so simple, but in reality, unless we apply rule number 1 (It’s Not About You), it will never happen.

We also have to remember that Jesus dove headfirst into a deadly situation all for our sake.   He didn’t have to, He chose to, for you and me!   I have to assume that Jesus, knowing the future, must have seen a great worth in placing Himself in that deadly position as compared to allowing us to fall into the future we were heading for.   Jesus chose to place Himself in harm’s way fully knowing that it would cost Him His life but saving ours.   Isn’t it gratitude for this that should be an overwhelming motivator to serve Him in our life?   In His Word, the Scriptures, would it be fair if He misled us?