Monday, April 16, 2012

The struggle continues

4/11/12 Wednesday – 4/16/12 Monday
So much on my mind these days, as I watch the world fall apart and the fast progression of insidious schemes designed to overthrow. Meantime I watch the church continue to blind it’s eyes and not speak up as people focus on their personal kingdoms and wealth. This morning’s scripture reading included a statement Jesus made in John 13. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another

It is this most basic, most central theme of the Christian faith, that is the most lacking in the church. Oh, they will say “We love!” but the reality of their actions reveal the truth. They love when it is convenient, when others are watching, and for a display, but when it comes to making any kind of real sacrifice, when it costs them something, that all seems to disappear. It’s easy to love the lovable but Jesus asks we love those who are not so easy to love. And real love, the kind that chooses for the highest good of the other person over what is good for you, means you give something up. The church that kicked us out talks about love and will tell you to your face that they show love, but not one of them sat down and talked with us. Now the pastor hides her face whenever she sees one of us. Cherie has seen her several times at the post office and she will study carefully the mail she has, keeping her eyes down, or start up and drive quickly away. This hypocrisy breaks our heart for we know the world sees and despises Christianity because of it. Plus we know that we (including me) will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and have to answer for what we do and don’t do.

We are surrounded by people of means, who are very comfortable and have plenty. Yet we struggle to survive in the midst of this wealth. Meantime I continue to sacrifice to help others, giving of my time while my farm lies unplanted, but choosing to do what I know is best for others. I cut a tree off of a widow’s house yesterday and when she asked what I wanted her to pay I told her “you can pay me what you want. If money is short don’t pay me anything. I am happy and grateful that I was able to help you. That is my reward”. While cutting the tree two young men came by and asked what that job was worth, for they had been asked to cut a tree of the same size down by a neighbor. I let them know what a professional would charge and then told them about the love God has for them and of how God had raised me from the dead. That was worth more than a thousand trees.

I went to Kairos prison ministry training Saturday and one of the men there told me he saw “great sadness” in my eyes. He was perceptive for sure. There is a great sadness in my eyes as they see so much that others seem blind to. There is a new song I heard on the Christian radio that talks of how many in church are busy pointing their fingers and judging others, more worried about looking for faults in others than about those around who have needs, whether spiritual or material. It is the same kind of self-righteous religiosity that motivated the Pharisees and religious leaders to kill Jesus. In fact most of the prophets of old were killed or persecuted, and the same still goes on today. A true prophet presents the standards of God, and in that the sin and error of those around are exposed. With that comes jealousy, envy, and anger. If someone, who claims to be a prophet, (there are a growing number of them these days as it is a popular part of some segments of Christianity) always says what is pleasing to your ear, beware! That is a sure sign of a false prophet. A root of all this is pride and the desire to have others look up and admire you.

I wrote another email to the pastor that kicked me out, always reaching out with the hope that she will repent and thus escape the judgment of God, but I fear she chooses to not recognize or acknowledge any fault in her. Here is a story about a little church I am familiar with. The pastor came to one of its wealthier members and cried “we don’t have enough funds to help those in need, because people aren’t tithing like they should”. It was evident that she was appealing to this man for more money and presenting the “need” to help and minister to others in need. Soon after that we saw this church asphalting their parking lot, a not too cheap project. How clearly this illustrates the error in mind that exists in so many churches. I know of a pastor who told me that if the church parking lot was full of Cadillac’s more people would come. The same mentality exists when you think that a paved parking lot will attract people to church.

Jesus was clear about how to grow a church, reach out to the lost, not the rich per se. Have a true compassion for those in need. To truly love your neighbor as yourself means to look at them and understand that without a saving faith in God they are doomed, and do not have eternal life in heaven to look forward to. And then to act based on that, to reach out to them, make a personal sacrifice of your time and effort, to care enough to do something.

“Do you really believe?” is a question I want to ask so many who wear that Christian label proudly on their chest. “Really?” because I can’t see it in your actions. Read what the early church was like right after Jesus died on the cross. This is found in Acts chapter 4:32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul ; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35 and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

You see, when you really believe, and understand that this time on earth is like a job application for eternity in heaven, when you really believe that you WILL stand before the judgment seat and give account for what you did, THEN others needs are more important than your own, THEN doing what is pleasing to God is more important than just taking care of yourself, THEN you understand who you are and learn to be a servant, to humble yourself and work to build up others. Until that happens in your heart all your religion is empty and worthless.

This is a warning to take heed of. Jesus will be the judge on that day. Why? Because He lived here on earth in a human body, because He endured all the temptations we all have, and because He died so that we can have life. Listen carefully to what Jesus, who will be your judge, says. First in Mathew 7:13 - "Enter through the narrow gate ; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

It’s not easy folks, the easy way is the wrong path. Be careful for there are many who go to church but will not be found acceptable. Just a few paragraphs down Jesus said “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles ?' 23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'

Did you catch that? These are people doing things in the name of Jesus, they are “Good Christians”, at least in their own minds, but are not. Sure they are doing things, good Christian things, but their hearts are poisoned. So many do things to be seen by others, to impress those around with how holy they are, but not because of real compassion and love. It is not what you do that is important, but why you do it.

I will leave you with the words Jesus spoke in Mathew chapter 25 and hope that you will understand and take to heart what He said. "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats ; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 34 "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat ; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink ; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink ? 38 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' 40 "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' 41 "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels ; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat ; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink ; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' 44 "Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' 45 "Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' 46 "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

We will all be judged on how we treat those around us. These are the words of Jesus, the son of God, before whom we will all stand and answer. Remember, Jesus said, “To the extent that you did, or did not, do it to one of the LEAST of mine, you did it to me”. In Jesus’s eye, how we treat others is how we treat Him.

I have taken 2 weeks off of work so I can attend two Kairos events in two different prisons. This will cause great hardship financially but working for my friend, who came and said “I need help” has put me almost three months behind on my farm. Weeds are growing wild, drip irrigation is not installed, and crops have not been planted, so I have made a great sacrifice to help a friend and dearly hope to catch up on those three days a week I have available to work on the farm. But I will still spend time to help the widows we have been honored to serve, for this is pleasing to God. Remember me in your prayers as I strive to accomplish so much.

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