Aug 27, 2010

Jesus Doesn't Kick Us When We're Down

"A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice . . . . " Isaiah 42:3

Do we kick people when they're down? Jesus doesn't. But somehow, many of Jesus' children, in the United States at least, have the reputation of being the last people the hurting want to see. The Church is supposed to be a hospital for all types of sick and wounded people, but as the phrase goes, we shoot our wounded. And to think, throngs of people surrounded Jesus, looking for all sorts of healing. Why aren't more of those who hurt making their way to the Church? Some of us, and some churches repel those in most need, the least of these in the world, because of our smug self-righteoussness, because we act like nothing bad ever happens or is supposed to happen to Christians. The hurting and the searching can't relate to such unreal people. We might be going through what some call a living hell, and still paste a fake smile on.

Let us be more forthright in admitting that we suffer just like all human beings do. May Christ knit in us a welcoming, compassionate spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, a Spirit that draws others in. Of course Jesus repelled some people, but he repelled those who didn't want him or thought that they had no need of him.

Aug 23, 2010

Holy Contempt ~ Contemptus Mundi ~ Thomas Kelly

Here is a excerpt from Thomas R. Kelly's classic A Testament of Devotion:

"Our old ambitions and heroic dreams--what years we have wasted in feeding our insatiable self-pride, when only his will truly matters! Our wealth and property, security now and in old age--upon what broken reeds we have leaned, when He is 'the rock of our heart, and our portion forever!'

Again, we have quailed and been tormented in our obscurity, we have fretted and been anxious because of our limitations, set by our own nature and by our surroundings. The tasks are so great, and we have accomplished so little, and been assigned such lowly talents and occupations. But instructed in one point of view of the paradox, we bestride the mountains or the valleys of earthly importance with a holy indifference, contempt, and detachment. Placed in coveted surroundings, recipients of honors, we count them as refuse, as nothing, utterly nothing. Placed in the shadows, we are happy to pick up straw for the love of God. No task is so small as to distress us, no honor so great as to turn our heads.

Such loosening of the chains of attachment is easy, if we be given times of a sense of unutterable nearness to Himself. In those moments, what would we not leave for Him? What mean honors and dishonors, comforts or wants, in Him? For some persons, in such moments, the work of detachment, contemptus mundi, exists chiefly as an intellectual obligation, ominously hovering over their heads as duty, but not known as experienced joy in the new freedom of utter poverty. Still others obstruct this detachment, reject it as absurd or unneeded, and cling to mammon while they seek to cling to God . . . . Totalitarian are the claims of Christ. No vestige of 'our' rights remain."

pp. 20-21

Aug 13, 2010

A Word.

My job has required that I be in training in the last week and I will continue to be next week. Therefore, I'll resume posting in about a week and a half. But, I'd like to leave you with one of my favorite verses to ponder. May you soak it in too:

From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Acts 17:26-27.

Aug 8, 2010

Indefatigable Worship of the One and Only Most Beautiful God

Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

"You are worthy, our Lord and God,

to receive glory and honor and power,

for you created all things,

and by your will they were created

and have their being."

Revelation 4:6-11

I remember wondering how the angels in heaven could continually chant, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.' Wouldn't they get tired, wouldn't they get bored? How did they have the energy?
Those are some of the foolish thoughts I had as an 18 year old. But then I realized that God is so ravishing, beautiful and intelligent, and sublime beyond comprehension, he fills the angels and the universe so that they cannot help but well up, they cannot  help but eternally explode in worship with 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.' Every time they say it, it bears repeating, for saying it just once does not get at the grandeur of God. Saying it for three million years doesn't do God justice. He is so beautiful, so glorious, that they cannot help but indefatigably proclaim the beyond-measure glory and beauty of God. Praise and worship ceaselessly flows and escapes from their mouths in the form of 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come' because God is so great and glorious and good and beautiful--the most wise and perfect being.

 His love and beauty and glory continuously inspires their ceaseless praise. It awakens them and energizes them moment by moment and they give up those moments in praise.

Here in this post I find myself a fool. I reveal my incompetence. My lack is displayed for all to see, because I cannot in this moment craft the words that describe the virtually indescribable glory and beauty of God. But I know he is inifintely beyond the good and the true and the beautiful that I can imagine and far beyond what I can describe.And I guess the point is, I understand why the angels are unceasing in their praise.                                       

Aug 6, 2010

Are You Jesus' Disciple?

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Matthew 7:21

A lot of people say they believe in Jesus or that they are Christians. I think what they mean is that they believe that Jesus exists, they know that he died on the cross for their sins, and they believe it is a historical fact and that his death and resurrection means salvation for them. But they don't follow him. They don't obey him, they aren't his apprentices as Dallas Willards says.

But in Romans, when Paul tells people that they will be saved if they confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their hearts that he rose from the dead, we have to remember who he was saying that to (Let me be clear, I believe this).

Those who heard Paul and confessed with their mouths that Jesus was Lord and believed in their innermost being--their hearts--that he rose from the dead...those people were putting their lives at risk. They were counting the cost of following Jesus. For by confessing that Jesus is Lord, they were confessing to the Jewish religious leaders and all of those around them that they believed Jesus was the Messiah and God and worthy of worship. The Jewish leaders considered it blasphemy and still do. They don't believe the Messiah has come. When Gentiles (and Jews) confessed that in the Roman Empire, they were saying that Jesus, not Caesar was Lord. They'd bow to Jesus over Caesar. Many put their lives at risk when they confessed with their mouths that Jesus was Lord. Jesus was worthy losing their lives for.

Are we disciples, are we willing to lose everything to gain everything as we follow Jesus?  In Matthew, Jesus says that not everyone who calls Jesus Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those who obey the Father's will shall enter.

I pray that you are in the kingdom and obedient to Jesus. If you should ever have any questions about what it means to follow Jesus, I'd be glad to answer them or refer you to someone who can.

The Lord bless you.

Aug 4, 2010

Welcoming Strangers. Welcoming Those Who Are Mourning.

Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.    Hebrews 13:1-3

We are a world in transition. And not all transition is welcomed. Has someone new moved into our neighborhood or started attending our churches?  Are we remembering the widows--long past their initial grief? What about our single friends? There are many with a deep-seated loneliness, a longing to feel loved. And it's not just the people that live alone. We can find ourselves with a loving family yet feel a deep sense of alienation. Let us do what is basic and integral to Christianity. Let us be hospitable to strangers, to the people on the street, but also to those who are new in our neighborhoods and life and to the widows and those who find themselves familyless or neglected by those who are supposed to care for them. Are we unaware of such people? Then sadly, we are too self-absorbed, because they are all around. And maybe we ourselves are one of them, just wishing someone in the body would reach out.

We can't be all things to all people, but we can practice hospitality to those around us. At the end of the age, when Jesus seperates the sheep from the goats--will many of us say we were too busy to obey?

Aug 1, 2010

Bearing With And Loving One Another

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves." Romans 12: 9,10

Anyone can point out the negatives in the lives of others. Often those of us who are quick to point out the flaws of others, those of us most critical of those around us, are blind to the sins in ourselves. Some of us think that Christ has called us to criticism of anything and everything. We're quick to speak and slow to listen--we're unleashing weapons of mass destruction from our mouths. That's foolish or as Proverbs would say, unwise. Sinful and destructive. That's what it is. I once read or heard that sarcasm is really veiled anger.

But what about all the crazy things in the world going on around us and in our families? Are we not to speak out against them? Yes we are. We are to speak in a loving way but not condemn people. More importantly we are to overcome evil with good. People around us need to know that our love for God and our actions go farther than our lipservice. Like the Apostle Paul said, if we have all wisdom and can fathom all mysteries yet have not love...we are clanging, annoying, cymbals.

We are practiced in criticism. What we really need to be is practiced in loving. Let us practice in clinging to the good of those around us. Yes we hate what is evil. But we are to love our enemies. Let us practice considering one another above ourselves. Let us sincerely love--people can tell when it is inauthentic.

Let us ask God for these graces, the graces of putting others above ourselves, of being draped with humility, of loving. Let us start with those closest to us. Then people will say and know that we are like Jesus. His love and power will exude from us.

May we be sons and daughters of encouragement like Barnabas was.