Sunday, October 22, 2017

letting go

"If you cling to your life, 

you will lose it; 

but if you give it up for Me, 

you will find it." 

Jesus in Matthew 10:39



In 2008 & 2009 this was one of the primary verses God gave me for those years.

I was in tremendous transition back then.

He was challenging me to do something I thought no one in their right mind would allow me to do.

Every time I say "But God...", over & over God would whisper back "don't cling to your life".


Well, I walked toward that challenge.

The doors opened.

And the results of that obedience produced the most halcyon days of my life.



As I read these words this morning, it felt like God whispered again to me...

"don't cling to your life..."


I thought most of the life I've known has disappeared.

Maybe it not only has to disappear, but I have to let it go?


And who will I be now?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

notorious

Matthew 9

9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector's booth. 

"Follow me and be my disciple," Jesus said to him. 

So Matthew got up and followed him.



  10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, 

along with many tax collectors and other notorious sinners.

11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, 

"Why does your teacher eat with such scum?*"



  12 When Jesus heard this, he said, 

"Healthy people don't need a doctor—sick people do."

13 Then he added, 

"Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: 

'I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.' 

For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, 

but those who know they are sinners."


There's some interesting things about this passage...


Back then, I wonder what a "notorious" sinner was. 

Considering the plethora of awful & heinous things people were & did, there was quite an array of choices

Of course, today there's an equal array of sins for us to choose from, it's just that they are infinitely more socially acceptable, & not considered sins anymore!


I find it interesting that these notorious sinners actually wanted to be around Jesus. 

There must have been something about Him that drew them to Him.

Of course, today we have just the opposite - I don't get the feeling many folks who might fall into that notorious sinner category have any desire to be around Christians.

There must be something about Christians that influence that feeling from them?


I think the Pharisees reaction to Jesus hanging out with notorious sinners is typical of religious leaders back then as well as religious leaders today.


But the main thing that always comes to mind whenever I read this is the basic question...

Do non-believers want to hang out around me?

Do they feel loved & valued?

Does my connection with Jesus influence them to think about Him?

Or does the thought my relationship with Him only turn them off?

Do I simply love people enough / channel God's love enough, & let God be responsible for the rest?

And do I care what the super-Christians around me think about my hanging out with non-believers?

Friday, October 20, 2017

live wisely

Live wisely among those who are not Christians, 

& make the most of every opportunity. 

Let your conversation be gracious & effective 

so that you will have the right answer for everyone. 

Colossians 4:5-6



Paul wrote this in his letter to the followers of Jesus in Colossae.

Paul lived in during the peak of the Roman Empire, which is not place & time known for its virtue.

But then, sometimes I wonder if our day & time would be considered in many ways similar.


Bottom line, Paul challenges the Colossians to be gracious to non Christians.

Sometimes it feels like we Christians here in America have lost that talent.

It feels like we spend a awful lot of time these days defending or demanding our rights & privileges.

Maybe we should remember that anyone who tries to communicate & live out the simple mandate of Jesus to love God & love other will always be experiencing pushback or negative response.

Remember that they killed Jesus because of what He said & did.

And they killed / martyred people ever since for the same reasons.


And yet, Paul says to "live wisely" & "make the most of every opportunity".

How can we do that while many among us seem to be such strident voices demanding our white evangelical privilege?


Let's pretend for a minute...


Let's assume there is a mission board crazy enough to commission you & I as missionaries to Northern China.

What Paul said in those two verses would make total sense.

As we lived among the people in our town / area of Northern China, we'd try to woo & win those people who are around us, asking God to channel His love through us to the people we connect with.

We'd always be cognizant of people's reactions to who we are & what we do, using both as a port of entry with anyone in our sphere.

We wouldn't be pushy or demanding of any rights or privileges as Christians - that would be really stupid.

Our job would be to build bridges of connection, not be some oversensitive pouty jackass expecting some sort of parity simply because we hold certain religious beliefs.

That would be immensely counterproductive to the mission given us by the Lord, & the mission board crazy enough to send us there.



So why wouldn't all that reality not only apply to us as missionaries to Northern China but also to us as missionaries to people in whatever place or locale we live in here in America?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

our job

The most important piece of clothing you must wear is love.

Love is what binds us all together.

Colossians 3:14



Well, we're missing the boat on that one these days here in America.


When did we stop being people who are known for the quality of our love?


And when did we start having the street cred as mean spirited, judgemental people


When did it start?


How did it start, & who &/or what started it.


It's gotten to the point whenever I'm asked to quantify who I am with God, I just say I'm a follower of Jesus trying to live our His mandate to love God & love others (LGLO).


(Yeah, that's what those letters mean in my news feed - would make a good tat, dontcha think? ;-) )


It's also gotten to the point where it feels like I spend a tremendous amount of time living down many of those who call themselves "Christians" whose lives don't communicate that they are emulating Jesus.


Of course, I'm sure one or two people feel like they have to live me down, too ;-)


Anyway, let's concentrate on the positive here...


Paul says ti the followers of Jesus in Colossae that the most important characteristic we Jesus followers should manifest is love - God's love for others.


Why don't we focus on allowing God to channel His love through us & leave the judging to God, which is His job anyway?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

scandalous

Colossians 2

13 You were dead because of your sins 

and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. 

Then God made you alive with Christ, 

for he forgave all our sins.

14 He canceled the record of the charges against us 

and took it away by nailing it to the cross.



"He canceled the record of charges against us..."


Can you absorb that sentence?


Everything - like every sin of ours - God simply forgave & forgot.


Canceled the record of all those sins of ours.


All of them...


Think about that...


All those things that the devil & our own self inflicting thinking has been beating our brains out about are simply not valid.


He's canceled the record of them - He's wiped the slate clean...


And we certainly don't deserve that kind of break...


That is the scandal of grace...

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"But I say..."

In this day & time, what do we do with this?

This is Jesus talking at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount...

Remember that Jesus lived in a far more brutal time - well, maybe, maybe not, now that I think of it.

Anyway, what do we do with these statements of Jesus?



Matthew 5

38 "You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: 

'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.'

39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! 

If someone slaps you on the right cheek, 

offer the other cheek also.

40 If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, 

give your coat, too.

41 If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, 

carry it two miles.

42 Give to those who ask, 

and don't turn away from those who want to borrow.


43 "You have heard the law that says, 'Love your neighbor'* and hate your enemy.


44 But I say, love your enemies! 

Pray for those who persecute you!

45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. 

For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, 

and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? 

Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.

47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? 

Even pagans do that.

48 But you are to be perfect, 

even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Monday, October 16, 2017

all I got

All I've got today are these words by Paul in the 4th chapter of his letter written to the followers of Jesus in Philippi...


Philippians 4


6 Don't worry about anything; 

instead, pray about everything. 

Tell God what you need, 

and thank him for all he has done.

7 Then you will experience God's peace, 

which exceeds anything we can understand. 

His peace will guard your hearts and minds 

as you live in Christ Jesus.


  8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. 

Fix your thoughts on what is true, 

and honorable, 

and right, 

and pure, 

and lovely, 

and admirable. 

Think about things that are excellent 

and worthy of praise.



13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.



19 And this same God 

who takes care of me 

will supply all your needs 

from his glorious riches, 

which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.