Showing posts with label Devotionals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Devotionals. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I Must be Making Progress. . . the Gossips and Slanderers are Out and About!

One of my pastimes in my spare moments is to contribute discussion comments to a Facebook group on local current events.  I've also been made an administrator of the group due to my reasonable nature and willingness to thoughtfully contribute. 

Not everyone out there reading my comments on the 'Net cares for what I say, of course.  Not everyone agrees with everybody else. . . me included.  Some times it's hard to find out what position to take.  Many times it's best to take a position of "I don't know for sure without a lot more research" which is more true of the situation than most.  Cool heads prevail, hot heads just get steamed. 

There's a culture amongst some here in the United States of making partisan politics *THE* only thing that is worth discussing, and having your candidates and/or your party and/or your ballot issues win. . . or else.  It literally is a blood sport with these people, to the point of becoming an actual religion in my humble opinion.  When it goes that far, I'd call that making a false idol of politics and political speech, forgetting the Lord and his rightful position in one's life. 

Anyways, with the help of our small group of administrators/moderators, we found - in the normal course of comments made yesterday - one such person.  And they have it in for me personally in the world's worst way for reasons I don't even begin to understand. . . so sad.  I've never even met the person as far as I know.  Why make such drama on Facebook?  I dunno.  The person's arrogance and insistence that they were right, and everyone else opposing them was wrong, combined with some extremely bad advice concerning the primary election just concluded, gave all of us pause.  I put two and two together and realized that this person commenting must be a sockpuppet. . . someone having the cowardice to wear a mask on Facebook and say they were a non real name person.  We checked, and it was agreed this person was a fake person. . . not allowed under the group's rules, by the way. . . and POOF!  They were gone.  They'll no doubt try to get back in under yet another nom de plume sockpuppet personality. . . but their way of speaking, their vocabulary, their passions, and their arrogance always identify them once again.  Go ahead. . . make my day!

Anyways, in the course of the day, I was notified that this person was gossiping and libeling me in some other forum somewhere.  So what?  What is that to me?  I love many of the quotes of Sir Winston Churchill, a leader who took his responsibilities in leading Great Britain in World War II seriously.  One of them is this apt statement: "You have enemies?  Good.  That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." 

Indeed I have.  I have enemies.  Jesus had enemies, too.  The Pharisees, for one, were constantly trying to trip him up and get him killed.  Serious business, being in that position he was in.  As His follower and disciple, I am told I will get the same treatment Jesus got.  Goes with the territory. 

Here's some applicable Bible verses on gossip and slander - and wise speech - I've found. 

  • My enemies speak evil against me.  "When will he die, and his name perish?"  And when he comes to see me, he speaks falsehood; His heart gathers wickedness to itself; When he goes outside, he tells it.  All who hate me whisper together against me; Against me they devise my hurt, saying, "A wicked thing is poured out upon him.  That when he lies down, he will not rise up again."  Psalm 41:5-8
  • When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable.  But he who restrains his lips is wise.  Proverbs 10: 19
  • A fool's lips bring strife.  And his mouth calls for blows.  A fool's mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of the soul.  Proverbs 18:6-7
  • He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles.  Proverbs 21:23
  • A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back.  Proverbs 29:11
  • But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.  "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."  Jesus in Matthew 12:36-37
  • At the same time they learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house: and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention.  1 Timothy 5:13
  • Argue your case with your neighbor, And do not reveal the secret of another, or he who hears it will reproach you, And the evil report about you will not pass away.  Proverbs 25:9-10
  • For the lack of wood a fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention dies down.  Proverbs 26:20
  • You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.  Exodus 23:1
  • Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.  Psalms 101:5
  • He who conceals hatred has lying lips, And he who spreads slander is a fool.  Proverbs 10:18
  • . . . being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents. . . Romans 1:29-30
  • Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.  Psalms 141:3
  • He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,  Therefore do not associate with a gossip.  Proverbs 20:19

***                    ***                    ***

Do not associate with a gossip.  Great advice from God's word today!  And for those gossipers, slanderers (verbal malice), and libelers (printed malice). . . I'll be doing everything I can in the spare moments I may have to either help you to see the error of your ways. . . or be gone from a particular Facebook group.  Don't have time for foolish strife. . . there's better things to be doing for God's Kingdom, and I'll be about them versus such small minded things like backbiting and gossip. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Abraham - the Archtype of a Wandering Pilgrim

As you know by now, I have titled my weblog Wandering Pilgrim's Progress for a reason.  This present plane of existence - as Rich Mullins so aptly called "stuff of Earth" - is only but a vapor, and then it is gone.  Eternity is a very very very long time, and that's what the Believer has to look forward to.  Yet he (or she) is still here on this earth, and what we do on Earth is of importance in how one lives life in the sight of God and man, and how one may cooperate with the Holy Spirit in producing Fruit that will last for all Eternity regarding those rescued from sin and perdicion - perdition or Hell.  Important stuff of Earth, indeed. 

How to live on this Earth is where life gets interesting.  Listening to his voice, seeking the Master in the morning, praying without ceasing, and listening to His response is what we are to do.  He builds His body and supplies for it in various ways.  Not all believers are to do the exact same thing in the exact same place.  Sin embargo - nevertheless - we are to do His leading.  Listening and following is key. 

I am reminded of that Old Testament - and New Testament - character, Abraham once again at this point in the Journey.  Here's some verses from Hebrews worthy of reflection and meditation. 

*    *     *
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.  (11:8)
By faith he sojourned in the land of promise as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.  (11:9)
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.  (11:10)
Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.  (11:11)
Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the seashore innumerable.  (11:12)
These all died in faith, not having receive the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  (11:13)
For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.  (11:14)
And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.  (11:15)
But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one; wherefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city. (11:16)
***     ***     ***
Abraham sought a better country - a heavenly one.  In the process, he had to leave Ur of the Chaldeans to go to a better country here on Earth. . . one where he could see the promises from a distance.  I too seek, along with my Christiana - Carolyn Anne - that better country.  Being on that geographical journey away from all we have ever known and experienced sharpens the soul's connections to the things of Heaven and Eternity.  Depending on God for everything, for we know not where we go, even when we try to make plans.  We are learning to ask the Lord to direct our steps, to where He wants us to go and in what manner. 
I'll close for now with one great story to illustrate.  Yesterday we were looking for a Dentista - a Dentist - for Carolyn Anne regarding some teeth cleaning.  She was quoted $378 back home for this service, and we were quoted just $25 for the same thing here in Cuenca.  !!!  At first we waited for a half hour or so for the dentist to arrive.  By 10:00 AM, he had not, so we walked to a location where we had seen a dentist office at the Spanish speaking church we were at last Sunday.  That location had no Dentista sign on it anymore, and the office was closed.  So we made it back to our first dental office downtown that we saw.  He was open, and glad to see us!  No appointment necessary for a consultation, either. . . and with my translating abilities - thank you, God for them - we communicated the need for deep cleaning of the teeth plus the need for a prescription for antibiotics due to her knee replacement surgery.  The dentist, Sr. Oswaldo Maldonado, engaged us in some more conversation, and it turned out he has a brother in Thousand Oaks, California that he would love to see more, but cannot due to financial and work demands.  He was impressed with my Spanish also, and thought I had lived in Cuenca for some time.  Not the case, of course. 
We couldn't have done any of this without God guiding us each moment to just the right person and place for each concern we may have.  Yea, God!  Helping us along the Pilgrim way.  Selah.   

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Don't Miss Out!

If you could do something to provide life, or keep yourself living, would you do it?  Sure you would.  That's pretty much an easy answer to give.  But is it really?  What if there was a cost to your decision. . . a consequence to kick in, or someone to whom you were held to account with?  What then? 

I give you two examples of this kind of decision.  One is a video in the positive (providing life) and one is in the negative (taking life away).  On to the videotape. . .

As you can see from the above clip from The Shawshank Redemption, Red left his place and gave up his life to follow Andy in Zihuatenejo, Mexico.  I love that last line from Morgan Freeman, who played Red: "I hope."  That's what it's all about, friends.
Our next video is in the negative: what do you abstain from or avoid to keep your life?  Watch!
Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich gives the warning at 1:13 in the clip: "By the way, we had that water come in special for you folks.  Came from a well in Hinkley."  The response from the Ms. Sanchez character is mostly nonverbal as she refrains from drinking the now recognized deadly water, lowers the glass, and declares the meeting over. Visibly shook up, and put on the spot by Erin and her law partner Ed Masry, Ms. Sanchez backs down in the presence of her law partners, as well as the opposing side in the legal case.  Telling scene. . .
*  *  *
The Gospel of John, chapter 6 contains the "Bread of Life" discourse of Jesus, which is below in its entirety.

I Am the Bread of Life

22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread[c] the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus[d] said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

The Words of Eternal Life

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

*  *  *
Let's set the scene here.  Jesus has just fed 5000 people with fish and bread on the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum, on a hillside.  The people sought him not to find out how he got to the other side of the Sea of Galilee so quickly, but when.  The "when" aspect of their question reveals the spiritual condition of their hearts - the when shows Jesus they are looking to be fed the fish and bread again, and are not concerned with how Jesus got to where he now was (a story in itself, as Jesus walked on the water and approached the disciples' boat, and once in, the boat immediately came to land where they were headed - see verses 19 and 20). 
Jesus calls them out on this.  From our passage:  26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 
There's a limit to this physical world.  Food only lasts so long.  The human body lives on this earth physically only so many years.  One can intellectually assent to someone being right or true, and not be changed physically beyond that.  Faith begins when you go beyond the physical world, and trust in "things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).  This is what Jesus is driving at in this conversation.  Hoping in what is unseen that is beyond this mortal life.  Eternal Life.
The next question from the people is "what must we do?  Jesus replies with "believe in him (Jesus) who he (the Father) has sent."  Now the word believe here in verse 29 is pisteuo in the Greek (Strong's Concordance word #4100) which has to do with being persuaded, and placing confidence in another, even saving faith.  The Apostle John uses the word 85 times in his Gospel, and 7 times in 1 John.  A rather important word to him, and to us. 
The people asked Jesus for a sign again.  This was so soon after the feeding of the five thousand, and a further indication of them not believing (pisteuo) in Jesus, placing their trust in him for eternal life.  They talk of the manna given to Israel in the wilderness by Moses.  Jesus lets them on a little secret: physically it looked like Moses fed them the manna from heaven, but it was really the Father who did it.  The spirit world, heaven (and hell), and God are not seen, but are nevertheless real. 
Jesus then said this:
 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.

Give the bread, give the bread. . . that's all they are thinking about.  Bread.  Physical mortal life.  Jesus' bread is far different from what they are used to: the bread of life.  No hunger, no thirst - ever!  But that's not good enough for the people.  They don't pisteuo Jesus, and so go on nonbelieving.  That's called eternal death - eternal separation from God and heaven.  A sobering thought it should be.

So this Jewish crowd grumble about Jesus saying he is the Bread of Life.  They know him only as a carpenter's son, son of Joseph, and not as anyone else (which he is. . . eternal lifegiver and judge of all).  Jesus then states "51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

That flesh part is one that confounds the Jews.  They reply with " “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  It's one I probably would have asked not knowing anything more about Jesus than they did at that time before his crucifiction and resurrection. 
53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread[c] the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Have you ever heard of initiation ceremonies?  Now, I'm not an expert on every world religion out there, but I imagine there's one where you drink someone's blood and/or eat their flesh.  There's cannibalism out there in human society, both in history and at the present time, as well as those who drink human blood.  We all know from the HIV/AIDS situation how it's important not to share infected blood from those infected with HIV in blood transfusions, for example.  The deal here is folks, if you share in another's flesh and/or blood, you partake wholly and completely of them, without reservation.  You aren't just a pal or casual acquaintance.  You're a true blue friend.  A friend for life!

This is what Jesus is driving at.  Going all the way.  Not having artificial boundaries from a human intellectual point of view on Jesus.  Not having simply intellectual assent.  No more knowing about Jesus, but knowing Jesus.  Through and through.  No reservations, no regrets.  A friend for life.   

Red left his abode and job at the grocery store to follow his friend Andy in Zihuatenejo.  He hoped to find a better life there, and did, recognizing that if he did go back, he would be found in violation of his parole.  So he didn't go back.  He came. 

You can too, friend.  You can too.  I did.  So can you.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Life Together. . . Bonhoeffer Style

As I've been saying in a few posts now, I'm reading the most excellent book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas (Thomas Nelson, 2010) which has made the New York Times Bestseller list.  Previously, I've given quotations from the book.  Now I'd like to reflect on the nature of how Bonhoeffer lived, and why the way he lived was and is attractive, moreso to those who choose to follow Jesus Christ. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer grew up with some advantages.  He had a father - and what a father! - and a mother - with familial lineage to some of Germany's past and present theologians and learned men - and his siblings.  His extended family of aunts and uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins simply added to the pastel of relationships Bonhoeffer enjoyed and benefited from. 

His father, Karl Bonhoeffer, had a way of conducting family business.  He was a believer in gathering the family around the table at mealtimes for discussion.  From there, discussions about anything and everything would ensue.  But the structure had the indelible imprint of Bonhoeffer's father, for his way of conducting a conversation around the table was this:

"Karl Bonhoeffer taught his children to speak only when they had something to say.  He did not tolerate sloppiness of expression any more than he tolerated self-pity or selfishness or boastful pride.  His children loved and respected him in a way that made them eager to gain his approval; he hardly had to say anything to communicate his feelings on a subject.  Often a cocked eyebrow was all it took."  (Metaxas, Page 15)

His children were taught to be in firm control of their emotions, according to Metaxas.  While a certain part of this was cultural and familial practice, some of it is not, imho.  The drive from Karl Bonhoeffer to his children was to know what you believe and what you think before you say it. . . so as to not be embarrassed when others find fault in your reasoning and logic.  Fair enough, and actually, quite a gift . The art of speaking and debating around a table at mealtime - and learning how to speak - is quite the lost art in the current culture. 

Structure, whether it be from the direction of conversation conducted by father Karl, or the ministrations of activities and learning from mother Paula, was a given that gave root and order. . . and a way to explore the world and find meaning in it. 

From this foundation, Bonhoeffer was allowed to bloom in his own time.  Bloom he did!

He would invite his students to his parent's house, where his father would engage, with his son, Bonhoeffer's young charges in discussion and lively debate.  Of course there was food to eat, the centerpiece of any good conversation.  Once established in a cabin in the woods, he would invite his students to come visit him there, away from Berlin and the big city, to talk and reflect.  At one point, he told his landlady to allow some hooligan type students from the government run and funded state school (similar to a public high school in a way in the United States) to come in to his quarters.  She complied, but wondered in amazement at the amount of trust he gave such young, undisciplined, potentially troublesome youth.  And he would feed them there.  His kitchen and icebox (or refrigerator, not sure without further research) weren't off limits to their hungry appetites.  Such a draw, eh?  (wink)

Now, I've got to confess. . . as a public school educator, if I allowed my students, once outside back in society, to do that, my wife for one would wonder if I had gone nuts or if I was losing it.  That kind of act of hospitality is truly a mark of a believing follower of Christ.  And that he did, but not from his childhood.  The moment of trusting Jesus Christ to save him from his sins took place when Bonhoeffer was a young man, while still learning and preparing for his life's work.  And he would revisit his faith and beliefs from time to time, deepening his relationship with Jesus and with those who are of the ekklesia - the called out ones of God - who knew and walked with Jesus.  This is not the same group of people known in that day as the government state supported Lutheran Church (to be German was to be Lutheran).  Not at all!  It was the voluntary group of people who confessed Christ as Lord. 

Other ways of showing people care were visiting the sick in the hospital, showing up at home after class to inquire as to the health of a student (and to give him classwork and/or tutoring), and visiting relatives regularly and often.  Letter writing, the thing back then instead of texting or emailing, was de rigueur for Bonheoffer and his family.  In this way, through letter writing and visits, he got to know a good deal of his extended family in person in his abbreviated days on this earth. 

These kind of actions are familiar to me.  They were not always demonstrated or instilled from my childhood, but as young believer in Jesus Christ, I saw them demonstrated over the years in his people, the church.  I particularly remember my Young Adult Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, M. Craig Barnes, delivering his message - actually sermon quality stuff - to our assembled class in the Cathedral Room in Hansen Hall, then ending it with this invitation: "I invite you all to come - well, not all you, but as many as Ann and I can fit into our living room - to our house.  I'm going to leave the address and directions on the board so you may copy them down.  Phone number is on the board should you get lost. . . there's a hill or two out east on our street for those who don't get out that way much.  Hope to see many of you there tonight where we'll continue our conversation. . . this time by you asking the questions, instead of me posing them for you."  Golden words by a gifted pastor, then as now.  Who could resist such an invitation to come and spend time in great conversation. . . and ice cream to boot?  I learned much from my time spent with Craig at his house.

Ice cream. . . makes me think of another gifted pastor, Todd Dubord, and his wife Tracy.  Back in the days when he served as Pastoral Assistant at First Presbyterian Church of Palmdale, Todd would invite the church to come out to a local restaurant for "Pie a la mode," as he termed it.  This was in reality his "dry run" for his sermons he gave on Sunday mornings at the church. . . but not everyone caught on to that.  Todd would pose the provocative question for the day, and we would discuss and debate the thing. . . sometimes for hours.  I never stayed past Midnight, though, if I recall correctly.  Fun times, and a great time to get to know others who were passionate and willing servants of Jesus. 

Life together. . . Eating together, conversing together, doing tasks together, helping one another together. . . this is how Bonhoeffer realized how Christians should live - in community.  To learn from one another. . . together.  Of course, one of Bonhoeffer's written works is titled Life Together.  This isn't a review of that book, however. . . but nonetheless you get a flavor of where he was coming from in this reflection here from Metaxas' excellent biography of the man. 

My adult Sunday School class at Grace Chapel had in attendance this past Sunday two young missionaries to the Middle East.  I asked the question: "So how do these folks who know the Muslim faith quite well hear you out. . . how do you reach them and communicate with them the Good News of Jesus Christ?"  Words to that effect.  The answer is disarming: "I simply say God's Word to them from the Bible.  The Holy Spirit will illumine their hearts and help them to turn to Jesus Christ, if they will but let him."  See!  Our battle is not against flesh and blood. . . for these Muslim folks are just the same spiritually speaking as anyone else in the world who is without Christ. . . lost and in spiritual darkness. 

This is what Bonhoeffer eventually realized.  Without God's Word, we are all lost and in spiritual darkness, being apart from Christ and his blessings of Heaven.  So, as I always strive to do, I'll leave you with an applicable Bible passage that speaks to the topic at hand.  From 1 Corinthians 6 (New Living Translation):

3 We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. 4 In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. 5 We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. 6 We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us,[c] and by our sincere love. 7 We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. 8 We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. 9 We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. 10 Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

11 Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you. 12 There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us. 13 I am asking you to respond as if you were my own children. Open your hearts to us!

Open our hearts to us!  The call the Apostle Paul had for the Corinthian church, and the call Dietrich Bonhoeffer had for the students and community he served.  Don't withold. . . don't keep back. . . but open wide your heart, not only to us, but to Jesus Christ, the Living One, the Firstborn of the Dead, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  What a charge to keep this is. . . and may God help me to do it day by day, in his power, not my own.  


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Way? No. . . His Way

Living here in the Mojave Desert, I find a lot of people escaping.  Escaping from what?  An ex-spouse, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, another relative, big city life in Los Angeles, you name it.  They end up here, where I live.  I see them all the time in my daily errands and such. 

Since people need to buy food and drink, whether of the supermarket variety or restaurant kind, you're bound to rub shoulders with them.  So I do.  One such person was in line for a sandwich and drink on a hot Summer day recently, kid in tow.  I, having my Bonhoeffer book in my hand - I am working to complete more chapters as time goes on, as you may know from my previous post - strike up a conversation.  Kinda like a pre-evangelism conversation, springing from my Bonhoeffer book's cover photo.  I forget what I mentioned to her now, but I do remember her response: "I'm not here for anything heavy.  I'm just here to eat!"

Well. . . not that I was being too forward or anything. . . at least I don't think so.  Just a different kind of person that you find here versus other parts of Southern California. . . like the kind that has major four year universities, for starters.  Anyways, probably yet another instance of narcissism restaurant style. 

Another woman, with their mother, was in a discount store in line for the cashier ready to have their purchases rung up.  She saw me come to the back of her, and asked me, "would you like to come in front of me?"  Hey. . . that's my line I say to people, especially people in a hurry.  I, with few items and in no particular hurry, decline the gracious offer.  Then I asked her if she might know a certain person whose first name starts with "J" and ends with "s."  She says yes.  I smile, and ask her, "so, where do you go to worship each week?"  Right in front of her mother, she replies, "We don't go anywhere.  Churches are too judgmental around here, you know."  I wince at that statement.  I counter with a statement of where I attend and am a member, Grace Chapel (listed as one of the links in "Links for the Journey" to the right of this page).  "We aren't one of those judgmental churches," I reply.  "In fact, we place a particular emphasis on Loving God and Loving People" (the church's motto).  I make the invite to come and check it out, and - Ack! - didn't have any business cards with me at the moment.  My bad.  I tell her anyway.  She smiles and says she will come.  One never knows, of course.   

There's a common thread here, of course.  Doing things my way.  Cafeteria style disengagement and faith a la carte.  Picking and choosing what you believe and how you live as though you were in total control and in charge.  Not heeding and respecting what the Word of God says on such matters.  Heck, probably not even knowing what the Bible says, period!

For those who don't know the lyrics to the song My Way, popularized by the late Frank Sinatra, I give you this link:

Lots of bravado in those lyrics to be sure, laced with liberal doses of humanism. 

*  *  * 

God has an entirely different perspective on the issue of "how you do it."  It's radically different. From Philippians 2 (NASB):

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any [a] affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete [b]by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing [c]from [d] selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude [e]in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be [f]grasped, 7 but [g] emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death [h]on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Being of the same mind. . . love, united in spirit, intent of one purpose.  That describes the North American and Western culture to a tee, right?  Nope.  That's one of our problems. . . this constant, unremitting rebellion seemingly for the sake of rebellion.  Why. . . no one seems to know.  I smell deception from the Prince of the Power of the Air. . . 'nuff said!

Much more could be said about the above passage, but I'm focusing here a bit.  Pardon me. . .

From Hebrews 10 (NASB):

, 22 let us draw near with a [h]sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Let us draw near. . . having our hearts. . . our bodies. . .

Let us hold fast. . . the confession of our hope. . . and let us consider. . . one another. . . not forsaking our own assembling together. . . but encouraging one another; as *you* see the day drawing near.

That's six uses of us, our and one another.  Only one form of the first person singular, you, in the entire passage.  That speaks volumes to me, my friend!

Not only is ministry a team sport, but so is Christian community and worship.  Worship is to be done corporately, together as Christ's body assembled, as the writer of Hebrews instructs above. 

Countercultural, to be sure.  Radical, even.  But that's what following Jesus and being on the Pilgrim Journey is all about.  Leaving the City of Destruction and traveling by God's grace to the Celestial City, where all this discordant nonsense will never abide and will be forgotten in the midst of celebrating at His banqueting table, where those this world thought nothing of, Jesus thought everything of. . . to the point of obediently dying for them on a Cross.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Employment done God's Way

My wife, my "Christiana," if you are familiar with Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, has reached a milestone or marker of sorts.  She's been nursing in one form or another for almost forty years now.  She's almost 60 years of age as well.  Employment at one agency has lasted four years running, the longest employment she's had since being married to me. 

But it's not been without pain.  Never being told you are doing a good job, always being told of your deficiencies, and seeing an office staff that once was on the top of their game descend into abysmally poor morale while their accreditation is currently in jeopardy is hard to take.  So it's time for her to go and work elsewhere.  It's not like I didn't counsel her to get out of there. . . I did that over and over for months on end.  It's due to her being fired. 

Now, regardless of whether or not the firing is justified or not, how ought one's attitude be toward an employer in this case?  Generally speaking before a firing, how ought an employee's attitude be?  How about that of the employer?  Does God have anything to say on the topic?  You betcha he does!

I used to have a yellow legal pad paper sheet entitled "Employer-Employee Relationships" that had a plethora of applicable scriptures on the topic at hand.  I gave that paper away years ago to a young, enterprising, personable, charismatic (in the relational, not theological sense) pastor friend, Todd DuBord.  Todd these days is the Chaplain to none other than Chuck Norris of Walker, Texas Ranger fame.  Check out what he's done on the subject of America as a nation with foundational beginnings in the Christian faith. . . quite a bit of good research, actually.  Good stuff that goes along with what David Barton of says.  Anyways, like I fool I was then, I didn't make a copy of my paper.  I sure would like to have it now.  Nevertheless, the Internet is your friend when it comes to the Bible and what it says on virtually any topic, including this one.  So I've been able to some degree recreate my list of verses to some extent below.  All passages from the ESV unless otherwise noted. 

*  *  *

From Colossians 3:22-25:

Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

A lot of people forget that the Bible is replete with imagery concerning slaves and masters.  Why?  Because that was the way it was back then, for starters.  The bigger reason, though, is because in reality, if you belong to Jesus Christ, he is your Lord. . . that is, your Master. . . and you are his bondslave, as the Apostle Paul put it over and over in his letters.  That's right.  A master/slave relationship.  Not a bad thing if and only if you have a good master.  Jesus is in fact that good master.  Modern day 21st Century sensibilities and North American cultural views often occlude these facts. 

From Colossians 4:1:

Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

Aha!  Masters have a master too!  That's right. . . and one reason why it's important for a supervisor or manager, or executive not to become too arrogant in their business dealings involving employees.  They have someone to answer to, just like the employee does.  The Lord God Almighty himself.  So they'd better be just and fair now. . . or pay the price later before their master, the Lord.

From Ephesians 6:5-9:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

So. . . employees are to act as though they are working for Christ, servants of his, doing his will from the heart, and not any people pleasing (or watching the clock).  Whole different work attitude than what most encounter on the job.  Employers are to have true consideration for their employees with fear and trembling and a sincere heart, and stop their threatening, knowing that the Lord is impartial in judging all concerned.  That awareness of the Lord as everyone's judge puts a lot of bad behavior in its place, as it should.

From Leviticus 25:43:

You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God.

From Leviticus 19:13:

You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning.

From the last part of this verse one may infer correctly that prompt payment of wages is what pleases God.  Yet in modern day society, how many let pay accrue on a every two weeks or twice a month basis, much less monthly?  A whole lot.  See, it really should be pay at the end of the day like one pays a farmhand in agriculture.  How do I know that?  I've picked in the field for pay before.  Not afraid of work, you know.

From 1 Timothy 6:1:

Let all who are under a yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.

Really, what it gets down to is this: recognize the earthly master or employer as in the place of the Lord himself, and treat him as such.  If one does, the name of God and the Scriptures of the Bible aren't called into disrepute. . . harmony and respect ensues.  A happy situation, instead of the rebellion and resistance people like the Occupy Wall Street crowd have done in the last year.

From Luke 3:14:

Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

Being content with your wages is beginning to be a recovered art form once again in the face of a stagnant and uncertain economy.  People realize that they are blessed to have employment these days. . . any employment.  A chastened attitude towards obtaining wages is a good thing.

From Ecclesiastes 9:10:

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

So give your work your all.  Do it with all your might, and don't hold back in your efforts.

From 1 Timothy 5:18:

For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

Employers, don't hold back wages.  An uncertain economic stream of income increases irritability and anxiety, which you by a faithful rendering of accurate wages paid can eliminate.  No commission reductions to please the home office, kickbacks to the owner because he doesn't think you deserve the pay, and that ilk (and believe me, I can cite more personal examples here).  Be straightforward and honest in your accounting of pay.

From James 5:1-6, (Easy English):

“Now, you rich people, weep and cry aloud. There are terrible troubles that will soon be coming to you. Your riches have lost their value. Your beautiful clothes are as if moths had eaten them. Your gold and your silver have become dirty and stained. The dirt and stains will be evidence against you in the judgement. They are like poison that will eat up your bodies as with fire. That is because you have heaped up a lot of riches in these last days. Listen! You have not paid the wages of those who worked in your fields. The money you kept from them cries out to God against you. The Lord of all power has heard the cries of the workers. You have lived on earth in luxury. And you have had all that you wanted. You lived to please yourselves. You have made yourself fat, like animals ready for men to kill. You have accused. And you have caused the death of those who were innocent.”

It's not a sin to be rich, but it is a sin to have a wrong attitude towards workers (employees) and deliberately withhold wages due.  Pretty ugly picture here.  Dickensian imagery to boot.

From 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 (Easy English)

“Brothers and sisters, keep away from Christians who are lazy. Such people do not live in the way that we taught you. We tell you to do this by the authority that the Lord Jesus Christ gives to us. You yourselves know very well that you should live as we did. We were not lazy when we were with you. We did not depend on any of you for our food without paying for it. No, we worked hard night and day. We earned what we needed. So we did not have to charge you anything at all. We did this, not because we do not have the right to expect such help. But we did it so as to be an example of how you should live. Because when we were with you, we gave you this rule: Whoever refuses to work should not eat.

We say this because we hear that some among you are lazy. They talk about other people but do no work themselves. By the authority that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ, we urge them to work quietly. They must earn the money to buy their own food. But you, brothers and sisters, must never tire of doing good things.”

Whoever refuses to work should not eat.  Not whoever does not work should not eat.  See the difference?  If one has the ability, one should be working for what they need to eat.  Pretty straightforward.  No entitlement society going on here for the able bodied, unlike a lot of North American society today. 

From Ephesians 4:28 (Easy English):

“If you were a thief, you must stop stealing things. You should work and do something useful with your hands. Then you will earn something that you can share with other people. They may need your help.”

This is such a good and useful verse to use with my incarcerated juvenile students in the county camp system, I'm going to be memorizing it and quoting it liberally.  Lots of theives behind bars there where I work. . . trust me on this.  Yes, those friends and relatives outside of their confinement in juvenile camp need their help.  I raise that point up to them over and over, and talk of legitimate employment they don't know about as a way to do it once they're released.  Often these kids don't know there's any other way of getting money other than burglary, grand theft auto or drug running.  I have a big job to do in that regard, for sure.

Finally, some reminders on the bigger picture on the matter from where God sees it.  There's no place for bitterness towards an employer, even when one may be (justly or not) fired from a position.

Hebrews 12:14-15:

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

What God really wants is renewed minds in sync with him, walking with him, depending on him, trusting him, communicating all the time with him.  That's a lot of him. . . and not a lot of me!

Romans 12:2:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Hope you've profited from this time together in God's Word as much as I have.  Until next time. . .