Monday, February 21, 2011

Some will like this, some will not

2/21/11 Monday
In the busyness that came with warm weather, I was surprised to see that the last journal entry was a week ago. I’m always surprised at how quickly time passes and what hasn’t gotten done. That’s part of living with short term memory loss, where you think you just did something but it ends up to have been a week ago. So bear with me all you faithful readers, who probably wonder when or if I’ll write again. I thought I did.

Ok, so what’s happened over the last week? I don’t know, don’t have the journal to tell me cause I didn’t keep it up. Actually I can piece much of it together as I remember better these days than I did a year ago.

Here’s the good news. Our friends and those we consider family from First Baptist church in Midland have been following our lives through this blog, and thus were aware of the whole bathroom saga. They got together, took up a collection, and hired someone who knows how to do plumbing and all kinds of other general contractor type work. Wally brought him out last week to get an idea of what we need. He’s aiming to be here this morning and start on the project. So after nearly four months we will have a bathroom, we will be able to take a shower for the first time ever as all we had before was just a tub.

Cherie has gone through a severe depression because of all this, and depression can be debilitating. Just having hope renewed that we will once again have a bathroom and that in that the rest of the house, which is piled up with stuff due to the unfinished construction, can be restored to functionality, has lifted her spirits immensely. I’ve been feeling helpless, unable to wave a wand and make her feel better, so it’s a big relief for me too.

Our church family, at the First Baptist church in Midland, had a fellowship party Friday, a simple get together with food and fun. It was so nice to go there and feel the genuine love of those we had grown close too during the time we worshiped there. Just kind of a big relief, big weight off our shoulders, greatly encouraging moment of time for us. I don’t understand why we can’t seem to find this at other places we go. There is something going on I can’t put my hands on, but it’s palpable and there in other places, something that doesn’t quite agree with the Love of Christ, that Love which is to accept and care for all despite any preconceived notions of what is good and what is not.

In my journey, God has placed me in the path of many spiritual leaders of the church lately. Some of these leaders have traveled the world and some have been sort of founding fathers locally, involved in the beginnings of many churches and ministries in the area. There is a common thread in what I’m hearing from them, and part of that is God’s desire for the church to begin practicing the true love Jesus practiced and taught about.

I’m going to preach a little here. There will be some who will choose to be offended at what I say, but such is the way of things. When presented with truth people will do one of two things, they will either recognize a wrong in their life and repent, thus returning to a right relationship with God, or they will harden their hearts, allow bitterness to pollute their souls, and in doing so fall deeper into error and the self deception that blinds the eyes and leads to death. My hope and prayer is for restoration, for the love of Christ to triumph over all that would fight against it. But I know the reality of the human spirit. No one likes having their faults exposed to the light and often rebel against the truth and attack the presenter of that truth. Such has been the case for all the prophets of old, who many times were tortured and killed for shining the light of truth on the lives of those they preached too.

The thing about truth is that it applies to all. There is no need to aim or point when it’s declared, for the Word of God, the basis of all truth, “ is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart”. (Hebrews 4:12) Many pastors have had members of their flocks come to them expressing the thought that the sermon had been preached directly at them, exposing their faults to everyone. Such is the way of things, and any pastor, who preaches the truth, should understand that they are not going to win the popularity contest. Unfortunately all of us like to be popular, accepted, and looked up to, so the temptation is great to avoid the controversial and only say those things that are easier on the ears. “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths”. (2 Timothy 4:3)

Most of us look for the easier path and when I’m working on the farm if I find an quicker or less expensive way to do things it is generally a good thing, and perhaps wiser. But when it comes to the ways of God, this doesn’t hold true. "Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.” (Mathew 7:13)

Many of the spiritual leaders I’ve met, those who travel throughout the world, reveal that there is a great awakening happening everywhere, except the U.S., England, and European countries that once were the source of Christian outreach to the world. What has happened? Over the centuries the church has evolved and turned into that which doesn’t come close to resembling what was in the beginnings of our faith. Having itching ears, desiring easier paths, and wanting to avoid that which is not comfortable, doctrines and traditions have crept in and become accepted as truth. There are always revivals where these things are fought against and truth is restored, to a point, but inevitably it gets watered down again.

So it is today. We now have what I call “Comfortable Christianity”. Sometimes I label it “Convenient Christianity” in reference to those who wear their “Christian” label when it works out for them. Please understand, I’m not out to make others feel bad or to point fingers from some position of spiritual superiority, but this I know, that wide and easy is the way to destruction and that the way to eternal life is the hard one and there are “Few that find it”. My motivation is love and concern for the well being of all whom I can reach. There is eternal life and eternal destruction waiting us all, choose life and don’t deceive yourself, avoiding a truth you may not want to hear.

The bible scripture I read to Cherie this morning, as we did a quick devotional before she went to work, was in Luke chapter 14, vs 12 "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. 13 "But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

These are the words of Jesus, and many times throughout the gospels this same principle is presented. In fact in the next paragraph Jesus describes a man who gave a great feast, inviting many. Those invited had many excuses on why they couldn’t come so the giver of the feast had his servant go out and compel those in the street, be they sick, poor, or lame, to come in and dine.

Jesus purposely spent time with those whom the rest of the world looked down on, and was often chastised by the spiritual leaders for doing so. His response once was "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 "But go and learn what this means : 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mathew 9:12)

The reality today is that many of us are just like the “righteous” people Jesus had to deal with when He walked the earth in those days. We know we are religious and are confident in our religion, but we are not willing to get out of our comfort zone and associate with those who make us uncomfortable. We surround ourselves with those who support us in this, those who tell us what we want to hear, and pat each other on the back for the good we do when we throw a dollar at someone who has less than we do.

It’s easy to love those who love you, but much harder to love the unlovable. But this is what Jesus has called us to do. His words are hard to obey, but He knew this. Just a little farther down in Luke 14, the scripture I’d read to Cherie this morning, Jesus says "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 "For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?”

Many of us have heard the light and easy version of Christianity, the simple one where you just believe Jesus died for your sins, say that out loud, and your saved!!! Hallelujah!!! But it’s not that easy, or that simple. I’ve watched many people, over the years, pick out a sentence here and a verse there, out of the bible, in order to make it say what they wanted. And they sit back confident in what they have created saying “It’s what the bible says” when in reality it isn’t.

There are two commandments that Jesus specifically named as what we need to follow. "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND ; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." (Luke 10:27)

The word “Love” in Greek is Agapeo. One of the most pertinent definitions of it is “To choose for the highest good of the other, over what is good for you”. It is a sacrificial love, one which Jesus personified when He died on the cross, died so that we might have life. When we Love God we are to choose what God wants over our own personal desires. When it comes to loving our neighbor as ourselves that means we are to think as much of them as we think of us but beyond that to adopt a servants attitude towards them. This requires humility, a requisite part of our faith. Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from 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 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 grasped, 7 but 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 on a cross.

You understand, I hope, that pride is the opposite of humility. It is pride that makes one not want to associate with another, pride that allows them to look down on others and hold them in disdain, and pride that separates us from God. “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders ; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” (1 Peter 5:5) I’ve listened to people of God express their opinions of others, saying things like “They want everyone else to do for them, instead of doing for themselves” and wondered who they were talking about, but mostly wondered about the attitude. I’ve been helpless before, wandering with amnesia and severe brain damage, unable to comprehend the world around me or even complete a task, so I’ve experienced that kind of judgment and disdain, and it hurts. But Jesus helps the helpless and loves those who are less able to fend for themselves, thus setting the example we are to follow.

James 2:1 My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 2 For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3 and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives ? 5 Listen, my beloved brethren : did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court ? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called ? 8 If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

I’ve been in churches all over this country and seen this in action. Heard of a preacher saying “I’m tired of hearing songs about streets of gold in heaven. I want my gold now”. WOW!!! In the parable Jesus told, one we’ve all heard of about the prodigal son, the son went to his dad and demanded his inheritance in gold NOW. We all know how that worked out. Jesus was clear when He said "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will wear for clothing?' 32 "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things ; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mathew 6:31) There is nothing wrong with a pastor wanting their congregation to prosper, but they must be careful not to put the cart before the horse.

If you want to see your church grow, to fill the seats, care for the poor. Read Job 29 to see the perfect description of how we should all be. I feel a need to say something here. Church is not about the pastor, in fact the early church didn’t have a single pastor standing at the pulpit directing the audience. If you read in 1 Corinthians 14 you can get an idea of the order of the service back in those days. Everyone contributed and participated, some teaching, some having words of knowledge, some prophesying, each according to their individual ability and gift, but all very much involved. The Amish today conduct things in a similar fashion. There are shepherds of the flock, elders who have proved themselves to be wise and faithful but everyone has a part to play. The concept of just going to church, singing a few songs, listening to a sermon, and calling it a day, is foreign to the new testament church concept. They met in homes and sometimes synagogues, where they enjoyed meals and each other’s company, sharing with each other their lives and needs, and caring for each other as family.

Today we have those who have been placed on pedestals, whom we have handed the burdens and duties of studying the word and caring for everyone. When Moses led the estimated 2 to 6 million people out of Egypt there was a similar situation. His father in law, Jethro, saw this and wisely set Moses straight. He suggested that Moses should spread this burden out, to appoint those who had proved themselves positions of authority to share the load.

There will always rise up leaders in any group. As a businessman I always looked for them, people who displayed selfless traits, who saw the big picture, who could make decisions based on what’s good for the company, and whom others naturally looked up to. They needed to be guided and watched, some more than others, but when trained up in the way they should go proved to be invaluable assets to the company.

The same is true in churches. However, when it comes to church and the things of God there is an additional element, that is the spiritual. In church, just as in business, there are egos and personalities to deal with, along with pride, ambition, jealousy, and a host of other human traits. Everywhere there are things of God there is the enemy at work, who’s goal is to steal, kill, and destroy. He will tap into and make use of all those human weaknesses, finding any opening he can manipulate to his advantage. This he does well, having thousands of years of experience to draw on and the patience to take a lifetime to destroy someone. It is discord and division that are his favorite tools, pitting one person against another, using gossip and judgmental hearts to create these situations.

These things can only work when the true Love of God is not present, for it is Love that overcomes these things. 1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous ; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly ; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth ; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.

It is in the absence of Love that the devil can rule. Real love, not the outward “We love you” verbal kind that in reality is empty wind. This is what all these spiritual leaders I’ve met brought out, that there is a need for true love to be revived in the church. A sacrificial love that gives of oneself for another, that isn’t selfish or self serving.

The guys are here working on the bathroom. I’m moving a little slow and did something I haven’t done in a while. Was going to cook eggs for breakfast, turned the stove on and forgot, leaving the frying pan on it and melting the plastic spatula. Time to go.


ConniePinkham said...

Wonderful that the family of God is meeting your need Bob. What church is this? Do you attend there?

ConniePinkham said...

Great post by the way.

Bob said...

It's the First Baptist church of Midland that we attended for about two years. We started going to a church close to home (40 minute round trip to the baptist one) that is small but seems more distant. I know God's heart and we pray daily for them, that God's true love will break through.