Friday, April 27, 2012
This morning I have been reading a portion of the testimony of Martin Luther and have discovered that he and James might have been great friends and companions had they known each other. It seems that Martin suffered with a great restlessness over the subject of righteousness through faith. He apparently spent a great deal of time as an Augustinian monk seeking a way to stop that which is natural to us all… the rise of temptation within ourselves. His struggle to gain righteousness turned his heart to hate. It kept him torn about his real relationship with Christ. “What more can I do,” to stop this rising desire with in me?
As he sought answers to his dilemma, Christ suddenly cleared his head and he realized this (in his own words):
Then it suddenly came to my mind: If we are to live righteously because of righteousness by faith, and this righteousness of God is intended to save everyone who believes, it follows that righteousness is by faith, and life (is lived) by righteousness.
Doesn’t that sound a lot like: “Yes, a man may say, you have faith and I have works: show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works”. (James 2:18) Luther goes on to say that “If a good works can save a man, then apples and pears can also save him!”
He also explains: …He (Jesus) says “I am the way” (John14:6),. He does not say, “I give you the way,” as if He were working and giving me this way while He Himself is standing outside of me. He must be, remain, live, and speak in me, as Paul says, ‘That we might be the righteousness of God in Him,’ not in the love and gifts that follow.” (2 Cor. 5:21)
What an opportune moment it has been to have picked this book to read at just this time. The weaving of God’s plan in my life and yours goes on and on just as He desires within the confines of the Truth He has bestowed upon us
On a recent Sunday, as if in cahoots with God, our Pastor Joe preached on 2 John, explaining the inextricable connection between Truth and Love. “You can’t have one without the other.” (Remember that song about Love and Marriage. I do not wonder why we don’t hear that song much anymore.) But back to the subject, Christ has definitely defined Himself as the Truth, the Way and the Life, as well as Love and Righteousness and all other things that are God. Therefore it is not at all unreasonable to realize that we are made righteous through Him and In Him and that the life we live as Christians can only be lived in Him and through Him.
Let us give a BIG thank-you to James and to Martin for so clearly showing us what God has taught them and, of course to God, who’s Word is perfect and is always teaching us if we are listening and doing in His name. We are here today, able to freely practice our faith in great part because James, the brother of Christ, and Martin Luther, a troubled soul, spoke out for a personal, recognizable relationship with Jesus Christ. May we all live in a way that will not bring shame to His Name, but will encourage others to seek His awesome presence in their lives.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
This Morning I discovered a note I made last week in my Matthew study book. I read it and thought, “Did I write that or did I copy that?” Is it my own idea or am I stealing it from someone else? The truth is I do not know. I do not remember and I did not indicate either where I wrote the note. Perhaps last week I could remember and would have if I had used the note then. Now I am just not remembering. But I will share it with you anyway and if you recognize this as your own thought let me know. Otherwise I will claim it for now:
When we call to Jesus, we must tell Him what we want so that we can see clearly what He does. (This was a note referring to the blind men calling out to Jesus as He passed and Him calling back asking ‘What do you want me to do for you?’) He desired that they speak their need so that they and the multitude would recognize the answer when it came. Matthew 20:29-34
For me right now the struggle is to remember, period. But, for sure, I would like to remember what I asked for so that I can see how God answers and then remember that He did answer and how. Otherwise I may end up saying to God (as I did to my cousin recently), “Are you sure we talked about that? Are you sure I asked that? You already did that?” Things could get really weird.
The incident with my cousin was almost scary. She was surprised that I did not know she was having Easter dinner for us. She said she thought we had discussed it. And we had. I just did not remember. So while we visited she reminded me that we talked about it at dinner in Portland and suggested a couple of things that were said that I should remember. I believed her, but it took nearly half an hour for me to finally break through and “see” the conversation in my mind. That really was weird. I may be seeking some kind of “home” care soon if that keeps up.
And then there was trying to get started with my PT for my shoulder: I could not handle having two and a half months of appointments: I was getting them totally mixed up in my head. We had to agree to let me take one down at a time, getting the info the day I came.
And then there is the great day I had on Wednesday trying to get my simple laundry done. I got the load in fine and on time (we have appointments assigned for using the washers and dryers) but when I went down to get my clothes out of the dryer, I wondered where my towels were and was shocked to realize I had not dumped the bathroom stuff in the basket before I came down. So off I went to gather up that stuff and some things for my aunt who did not feel well and stuck those in the washer (on her time, thankfully) and realized that I did not bring any quarters with me since I was FINISHED with my laundry. I went back upstairs and got the quarters, got half way down again and remembered that I would also need soap, then remembered that I had not put soap in the first load so I needed to get those and wash them again.
I finally got everything washing and had a quick sandwich which I almost chocked on because at 2:15 I remembered that I had a PT appointment for 2:45 and I sort of had to rush to get the things in the dryer and run out and hope that no one got upset with my laundry being in the dryer overtime. Yes, I am laughing… I am so hopeless at times! LOL (Hold on I have to blow my nose….)
Anyway, I guess my point is that remembering what God has done for us, past, and remembering what we are asking Him for, present, and recognizing how and what He answers is pretty important stuff. Our testimony for Him is certainly centered in the life we live for Him day to day, but sharing Him with others is truly centered around the verbal story we can tell about how God is alive and well in us each and every day. If we fail to remember what He has done for us, we will not be able to share Him. I guess that is why someone once wrote the song, Count Your Blessings … name them one by one. We have to remember. We just have to. For our own sake and for the sake of others, no matter what else we do not remember, may we always remember YOU!
Friday, April 20, 2012
Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
I was just innocently sitting with my cup of coffee thinking a little more about the iniquity of passing on our sins to our children: I have a woman friend who is much on my mind as she serves a term in prison. Recently I met her brother whom I had not met earlier because he was in prison and I was remembering that her oldest son has also spent time in jail It seems that the family “bent” of iniquity, has come down to spending time in prison or jail.
But then I remembered her precious children who are currently being raised by others: One by a family in the church and two by Grandpa, who brings them to church like clockwork and seeks simple support from those the boys are close to and who care dearly about the boys. And that happens to be a pretty large crowd of people in our church, praise the Lord.
So I guess it was natural for God to pop Prov. 22:6 into my head, at that point, and for me to ponder it because I have not been sure exactly what that meant. I have always been sure that it does not mean that your child will never sin nor ever fall short of the Glory of God. But I think it does mean your child will be in a place where God can work with him. That thought suddenly excited me.
I know all too well how far a Christian can go when angry and rebellious. I know too well the pain and suffering that goes with that: Not because my parents raised me up in the way I should go, but because I had been a child of God for many years, training myself in the way I should go, and took it upon myself to rebel and be angry. It can happen. But I was, by my own studying and searching, trained up enough to know that what I was doing was dangerous and absolutely wrong. I could not live that life with a clear conscience. And a guilty conscience is a very weighty thing. It can destroy a person body, soul and spirit.
But this child was never allowed to rest in what she was doing. God used the tools I had been given and kept me troubled and feeling guilty and lost. I knew, all the while, that I was not at home where I belonged.
If a child has been given the tools she needs for God to work with, she will never be able to sin without a guilty conscience. God will use what you have taught your child to bring that child to Him and to train that child up even further in what He expects. Suddenly I see that giving a child to God is not at all like setting her loose in the forest and walking away. It is prayerfully giving the child up to God’s constant care and direction while having given the child a heart and mind full of God.
May we all participate in this “training up” of children by being willing to be life coaches by example and by instruction in God’s Word. It seems to me that at our church, there are very nearly as many children (birth to 21) as there are adults. Our cup runs over. Praise God for guiding us to be the ones who have the responsibility for so many of His children. May our lives touch their lives with His Glory!
Monday, April 16, 2012
At least one preacher has stated that iniquity that is passed on from generation to generation is not sin. Sin is the following short of the mark of perfection, failing to be Holy as He is Holy. Iniquity is actually the BENT to sin, usually a particular sin, and it is passed down from generation to generation as a tool to depend on in life.
I am not a scholar so I will not try to prove him right or wrong, I will just say that I believe iniquity is equal, and synonymous with sin; but it also has a separate definition which indicates there is a possible narrower statement being made. One out of dozens of verses THAT speaks to the passing of iniquity from generation to generation is Exodus 34:7: Keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation
This caught my attention for two reasons. The first is that I have always found the statement about iniquity being passed on as a mystery. We know that sin is passed on in the flesh until all is set right in the final plans of God. So, why this condemnation, and what does it really mean other than that?
The second is that I am very familiar with the bent to certain sin, but I have never pursued the meaning of these things. For instance, I grew up in a home full of alcohol and cigarette smoke and I never desired to participate in either, but my brother chose to follow the bent for both of these and the bent of his father to be a womanizer. I thank God for keeping me from taking up the family bad habits, but I never thought the whole thing through before.
I have also been a part of a group that demonstrates this generational passing on of the penchant for certain sins from past generations through to newer generations. I think we can all relate to this even if only through the news, movies or TV shows.
I asked a friend who is a recovering alcoholic and is serving God in great and wonderful ways if this penchant to drink one’s troubles away came down the line and he agreed that it certainly did and that he saw it arise in the next generation as well, even though he had stopped drinking before these children even knew anything about drinking. One of our good friends who died recently also bemoaned and regretted most of all that his children’s lives had been ruined by alcohol because of his own use of alcohol and drugs.
Then there are the rampant, out-of-control results of spousal abuse, “wife beating.” that we all see when the the father beats his wife. The son will follow suit, almost assuredly. Sexual abuse, with in the family or through strangers, will bear fruit to more and more abuse. Even laziness can become a family iniquity that is passed on generation-ally. We see it often in homes where mothers have no ambition to be serious about caring for
their children and force the state to help out to the point that daughter, granddaughter and on take the same position over and over again. Remembering that at any point a decision can be made to stop carrying on the family traditions, it is never the less, IS a given that a decision must be made before anything can change. The simplest decision is to “cry out to Jesus” for help, but even simply pulling up the boot straps and rebelling against these bad habits of living has been known to work for some to at least set them on a different path. How many of us know women who grew up in messy homes who are spotless housekeepers and visa-versa?
But one other generational deviance comes to mind as well: Deception. From Abraham’s brother to his son and granddaughters, from Jacobs mother to her son and to 11 of his sons, deception became a way of life. But there is also a very interesting story of deception in the tribes of New Guinea that were discovered and written about in the ‘70s in a book called The Peace Child, by Don Richardson. The tribes they ministered to lived by deception to the point of believing that deceiving someone was a reason for honor. As the mystery of this unfolds it becomes apparent that somehow these people have been passed down a heritage based on Judas as a hero. When it is found that they actually do have a way to make amends that is based on a Peace Child, it becomes clear that somewhere in their past, someone heard the message of Christ and passed it on, but it became extremely distorted and Judas became the hero; an example to follow. This is one of the most amazing stories I have ever read in that it supports the fact that Christ has been preached to people we think have never heard. God did not lie when He said that the Word, Christ, was preached in all the world. And neither did he lie or exaggerate that what we do will imprint on our children and they will carry it forward, good or bad.
And when Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin…” would be better off dead, He meant that too.
Lord may we be ever mindful of the children: Our children, our neighbors children, our church children, the children in our classrooms, all the children who will be watching and listening and learning from us whether we want them, or intend for them to or not.
“The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”
Friday, April 13, 2012
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus brought this subject up many times as He ministered to the people. This week He reminded the rich young man that keeping the law was not effective in itself to save our souls, no matter how hard we try, even to the point of trying to love our neighbor as ourselves. We cannot achieve these goals on our own. It is impossible. That is why He came.
James uses the Royal Law to remind the church that God is serious about us loving our neighbors and reminds them that anything short of freely given love is short of His instructions and commands to us. It becomes a hard lesson to be learned at the very core of living a life dedicated to Christ. Favoritism is forbidden. It is a sin as horrible as adultery or murder. It is intolerable in Christ’s name.
You may ask, “What?” How did “Love my neighbor” become “show no favoritism?”
As our table discussed the subject this week, we took note of how we actually show favoritism. Our church does not have many, if any, people who could be called rich, and the rich were the subject of James correcting letter. The people in the church had been playing favorites with the rich and giving them undue attention at the expense of the poor. Why? If given the chance, why would we? Financial and social benefits abound when your friends are rich. They can help the church grow bigger and faster. They can provide the extras that would be oh so nice to have. They can give more and therefore allow the church to do more. And maybe they will give a little to us, as well.
So we asked: How do we show favoritism then, if we do not favor the rich? Opportunities abound. Jesus never said, “Love some of your neighbors.” He told us to love them ALL. So let’s start there. Who do we smile our big smiles at when we see our neighbors? Do we smile just as big at the ones we wish lived in a different neighborhood, as we do to the ones we think are pretty nice people? Or do we even take the time to smile at our neighbors? Do our neighbors even know that we know that they are alive? Many “neighbors” of people who are arrested, for instance, are stunned: But he seemed to be such a great guy. But they were so quiet; we had no idea that was going on there. We really can’t say for sure if we are right about people, just by looking at them, but we sure try. And we behave accordingly by according some high praise and big smiles while frowning at or avoiding looking at some others.
And what about Sunday greetings? Do we ever seek out faces we do not know and greet them, just because? Not everyone is extroverted enough to do that, but we all can be more aware of strangers (to us) and willing to at least smile at them… right? Or, I guess the official greeters can handle all of that for us. But then during the service we might be asked to greet one another… Oh, dear, where are my friends so I can shake their hands?
And that brings me to socializing within the church. When there is a social activity we love to take time to visit with friends that we do not get to see all the time. Understandable. But we have opportunities to make choices there, too. What about the warn-out looking lady sitting by herself and watching the parade go by? Does anyone want to go sit by her and get acquainted instead of keeping busy with friends we already have. And what if she is “not quite” up to our standards of appearance? Shouldn’t we stay with our own kind and be safe?
One of the stumbling blocks that kept being thrown at me during my first couple of years in my new church was exactly that. I would get there early, (I make a really bad Baptist that way,) and I would pick a place to sit down and no one would come and sit near me let alone by me. That was really hard. Once I took a new friend to a women’s social function and talked a bit with some who were already there, but then we found a table and sat down waiting for things to begin. It was not until there were absolutely no other choices of where to sit, that anyone joined us at our table. As my friend said later, “It felt like we were in High School again.” All I can say is that if you are too shy to do it alone then bring a friend, but somebody come and deliberately sit with those of us who are not your closest friends. I still come early to most activities, including church, but I have learned to take my time settling down and take opportunities to make those I do not know feel welcome and cared about.
It seems to me that “preferencing” comes from our own need to be noticed and held in high esteem, and from finding satisfaction in our “comfort” zone. God did not ask us to love our neighbors in order to be comfortable. He expects us to love no matter how uncomfortable it may make us feel, and to love with action such as reaching out a hand and inviting others to share what we have in Christ.
May we be always aware of new people who enter our lives at God’s bidding and may we be willing to step forward and be a friend, whether at home in our neighborhood, at church, or on the road among strangers. May we approach and be approachable for Christ.
And may I stop using my inability to see and hear well as an excuse for sitting “down front” when there are people in the back who need a friend. Talk about a comfort zone.
Friday, April 6, 2012
This week’s study in James speaks of the ever scary tongue. We had unanimous agreement that no one really wanted to discuss that subject. But our fearless leader insisted that we do, and she had us do a communal verbalization of question 19 in spite of our protests. J So, table by table we presented our thoughts on “How do we evidence true faith in these three areas: Bridled Tongue – Love for others – Holiness or purity?”
As our table was third in line, I had a little time to speculate on what a great outline this would be for a subject if I were speaking to a group of women. It pretty well outlines some of the serious changes that needed to be made in order to live a life that could be seen as belonging to Christ. My tongue had been an instrument of torture for many years and taming it would take some serious time and effort. However, God in His Grace gave me Love to replace the hate and bitterness and that Love nudged me into Peace for the first time in my life, and with Peace came something close to gentleness that helped me “keep the lid on it” if not just plain refusal to be offended by each and everything that came along.
But, as I consider the subject of the unbridled tongue, I am now prone to think on a broader scale. What do we say on a daily basis about or to our spouses, friends, family, co-workers or fellow church members that our children hear and learn from? And what do they learn from our speech? Mean spiritedness? Judgment? Critical sarcasm? Bald faced lies? Gossiping? Hate speech? Excuses? Curses and swearing? How about just gentle, unkind words spoken behind a person’s back?
So why did I ask that, you may wonder? Because last night in our study of Matthew (chapter 18) we came across this: Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him… (to die, than to continue living.) Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! NKJV
And one of the aspects of this whole declaration is that it is not only our children and the children of others, but also the children of God of whom He is speaking. We necessarily come to Him as humble children and we are to treat others with the same serious consideration we give to children.
It seems it is not just the angry person who is spoken of here, even though the Christian speaking may very well be angry at the time. It is all of us and it is all that we say. I would say that the unbridled tongue could be any careless use of our speech; any snotty, haughty, whiny, agitated remark that we might make. I, myself, am terribly guilty of this type of speaking. I wish I were not.
As representatives of Christ, we have an obligation to be careful; to be careful what we see, to be careful what we hear, and to be careful what we do, and to be very careful what we say. And what we see, hear, and do will definitely affect what comes out our mouths.
May we all be more sensitive to what we say remembering that God is always listening and that the “walls have ears.” Anyone could overhear and be crushed by our words. Father, let us pay attention and fill our hearts with good words and then use them readily.
And may we also be more sensitive to speaking about You where we can be overheard. Let us praise You loudly and often for the sake of those who might overhear.