Finding God in the every day

Week 5 Day 6

Ezekiel 3:5 For you are not sent to a people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, but to the house of Israel,

Have you ever felt like an outsider? Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t understand what people were saying? It’s difficult enough living in a world where populations of people who speak a language other than the one we understand are as mobile as people groups are today. We are also beset with all kinds of “insider lingo” related to our jobs or avocations. I have struggled to learn the language of music, computers, auto repair, cell phones, and several other fields of endeavor over the course of my life. Always and ever there is a great personal discomfort when I feel like the only person in the room who “doesn’t get it”.

For Ezekiel, his mission was clear, his target audience familiar. He was able to speak boldly to a lost and confused people and to bring them to a place where they would be forced to choose repentance or the utter loss of identity as Jews and be absorbed into the spiritual oblivion that was Babylon.

What happens to you and I as we try to bring the message of grace to a people of “obscure” speech? Far too often we make the mistake of assuming that people are capable of understanding the “insider” Christian language we all speak to each other. This presumption on our part is often alienating, and offensive to people. Perhaps we would do well to pray for God’s guidance and direction allowing the Holy Spirit to inform our speech rather than arrogantly assuming we are being understood. Basic communication of the Gospel is not a two-person affair. There is the speaker, the auditor, and first and foremost the Spirit of God.

Finding God in the every day

Week 5 day 5

1 Samuel 16:7 ESV But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

            There are certain standards by which we make judgements about people. Perhaps the weakest standard is that of appearance. Tall, short, thin, fat, sculpted, flabby, dark, light, blonde, brunette, bald we all have created a “standard” in our mind of what the best appearance is. The fallacy in this system of measurement is the fact that we then give to that person “respect” because of what they look like, rather than whether or not their words and ideas communicate truth. Martin Luther King said famously, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Sadly, we seem to be as far away from that ideal today as we ever have been.

In the same way social unrest and political bullying far too often arise out of the misuse of scripture. As an example I would point to Romans 13:1-2 which is often used out of context and deliberatelyso to silence opposition or to point to the “harshness and injustice” inherent in Christianity. Both points are horribly at odds with the heart of Christ. Here, I make an appeal to seek once again “the whole council of God” as rendered in scripture. Do not just grab a verse and use it as a club to beat down anyone who opposes your point of view. The counsel of Jesus would be to pray, relate to the person, examine the idea against what the law and the prophets have said, pray some more, and then act accordingly. Yeah, I know, you’re saying; “Who on earth has that kind of time, and why should I bother?” I think the resulting chaos, we see and the continuing degeneration or evolution of society, depending on your point of view is ample evidence of the need for Christians to follow the “Jesus Way”. We must learn to avoid “knee-jerk” intuition and commentary for the sake of easing our discomfort, and begin to ask, as always, the question; “What would Jesus do?”

Finding God in the every day

Week 5 day 4

Acts 3And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something

Learning to see

            In the time of the book of Acts this scene was quite a common sight. Begging, or alms seeking was a large part of a culture which routinely found the elderly, the infirmed and those without any family support taking up the practice as the only resort they had to survive. This bible passage brings to mind a flood of images and experiences from my time living in cities and traveling around the country. Often the folks we see panhandling at highway interchanges and on the streets are performing a kind of theater in which they play on the sympathy passersby. Some are legitimately in distress, many are not. To discern who is who is the challenge of the sympathetic person who is considering engaging the beggar.

            I will not regale you with horror stories of the many charlatans and thieves I have encountered, but I take heart whenever I read this passage. It was first a miracle of seeing. Peter saw the man, the man saw Peter. Then Peter, in the bloom of Pentecost demonstrates the kind of discernment I pray someday to learn. Seeing, not only an opportunity to model the compassion of the Lord Jesus, he was, I believe acutely aware of where he was and the effect this healing miracle would have among the fledgling Church, the skeptical Jews and the Romans who watched everything of note that happened in the Jewish colony. It was really a “God moment”.

            So, what’s question here? Is our gut instinct and skepticism enough to balance out the compassion we feel in our heart? I cannot answer that question for you. Jesus can and will answer by his Holy Spirit. (John 16:13However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.)  Pray, as the disciples did when Pentecostal power fell upon the assembled group that magnificent day.

Finding God in the every day

Deuteronomy 22: 4“You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fall down along the road, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely help him lift them up again.

When Spiritual faith Meets Physical need

            The roots of Christian kindness run deep in the heart of the ground of our faith in God. Perhaps it is because no matter our external circumstances we know and understand the deep need and great deliverance that every believer in Christ has had met in the remarkable grace of our Lord Jesus. O believe that it is this recognition that compels us, as we love Jesus, to be a people who attempt to meet the need of others through kindness and help. That our performance in these things is often misdirected, or presumptuous and belittling to the very people we try to help is unfortunately the place where very often headstrong self-determination meets the fierce pride and dignity of the person or group we are attempting to help.  

            I am compelled once again to remember the words of the apostle Paul from first Corinthians 13 “Love is kind”.  Well of course love is kind, but do you realize kindness can be a two-edged sword. Kindness does not happen in a vacuum. It is not enough to merely “hit and run” without acknowledging the ones you are helping. Trying to understand the person, being sensitive to the factors which may have contributed to the current need, these are the deeper roots of Christian kindness that Jesus modeled and encouraged for his disciples. This is perhaps the “second mile”  (Matthew 5:41) we feel lurking at the back door of our consciousness.

            Do not be misled. It is not merely enough to give of your substance to meet a need. We should also give our hearts to those for whom Jesus died. Even up to and including our enemies. This is hard. It makes me to stand in awe of my God whose heart is so great and complex that I realize it will take a lifetime of walking before him before I can even begin to comprehend his amazing love.

Finding God in the every day

Week 5 Day 2

Psalm 2 Why do the [a]nations [b]rage, And the people plot a [c]vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed,
[d] saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision.
Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have [e]set My King f]On My holy hill of Zion.”

The patch image shown here was the type of identifying symbol used by German troops in Poland and Austria and elsewhere during the 1930’s and 40’s to provide quick access to the millions of people who were ultimately murdered by the insane regime of Adolph Hitler. This may not be familiar to younger readers. It is a symbol, to me of one of the deepest tragedies that the world has ever allowed to come to light. There have been, it may surprise you to know,  many others. Stalin is reputed to have killed as many as ten million people, Cambodian leader Pol Pot as many as one and a half million. These are but two examples out of many throughout history. In each case a scapegoat people were targeted to begin with, soon though any person or group the perpetrating regime found “inconvenient” became targets. It has ever been so. Since Cain and Able, the enmity that arises over real or imagined enemies soon arises to murderous rage.

              Most of the time we tend to shrug off the obvious implications of history. Today , however I write with a feeling of sadness knowing that such a time seems to be coming and there is little that can be done practically to prevent the madness which is looming everywhere we look. The true disciples of Christ during the times of Roman persecution the worst being under emperor Trajan (Yr. 108 AD) were no less difficult to round up than the Jews forced to wear the Star of David patch. They were evident to all by their refusal to worship the emperor with incense, their refusal to participate in the consumption and rituals of the pagan temples, and most importantly, they were identifiable by their deep love for one another in the bond of Christian love.

              As time spins toward what seems inevitable will we be so easy to spot among the “raging” peoples of the world? Even so, Lord Jesus come.

Finding God in the every day

Week 5 Day 1

1 Peter 3:3-4 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

The eye of the beholder

My wife and I have been together for many years. We have weathered good times and some that were not so good. I saw in her from the beginning a beauty that has transcended the years and has grown deeper with time. She has truly been God’s blessing to me. It may be that our days of dancing on the beach begin to look more like stumbling around, but for me on this particular morning when I looked upon her with more than a passing glance I saw the girl I fell deeply in love with so many years ago. To me she is more beautiful to me now than ever as God has enhanced her beauty of spirit in ways I cannot begin to measure. I am truly a man blessed by God. On this, her birthday I would say that I am a man truly blessed by God to have this wonderful friend, confidante, and wife.

              I am reminded of the scripture from Ephesians in which Paul says, 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25) If you ever want to truly understand the blessings of marriage, the unmerited favor of God in a relationship commit yourself to do the work of the kind of love that binds one to another in this relationship. The deep, deep love of God which is transcendent, and yet readily seen in the life of our Lord Jesus finds a tremendous proving ground in the love relationship between a man and his wife.

Finding God in the every day

Week 4 Day 7

Exodus 10;19 And the Lord changed the wind to a very strong west wind, which caught up the locusts and carried them into the Red Sea.

            Change; the very idea flies in the face of common sense. Not so much that God would change the direction of the wind, but that there exists the real possibility of change. How hopeful, how far reaching how fraught with visions of a different possibly better life.

            Today we have whole industries devoted to “improving” the human condition. Though the courses of our lives may have been tracking in the same path or rut, we are enticed everywhere we look to try this or that idea, product or discipline to change some aspect of our lives.

            I have struggled with excessive weight for most of my adult life. Some time ago I heard a quote from an actor (Adam Driver) who was preparing for a particularly grueling role in an upcoming film. He was tasked, or had chosen to lose an excessive amount of weight and concerning his apparent success he commented that only he could control how he responded to hunger. Based upon that “truth” I began a diet regimen and over the course of several months lost a little over sixty pounds. I have since come to realize that the whole idea of physical improvement is not so much a sprint as it is a marathon and a willingness to adapt to a new lifestyle, that is hard and can be discouraging. Perhaps lifestyle is a misnomer. A better way to look at this is to adopt a new system of personal values.

            Change is something the Israelites in Egypt didn’t fully understand when they elected to follow Moses into the desert. But God was fully aware that the people, not yet really a nation were being placed in a position to choose to change. They would soon be faced with a written blueprint for the life God had ordained for a people whom he had chosen for that special privilege, a glimpse into the very heart of God.

            We are faced everyday with the idea of change. Sometimes change for the better, and sometimes a transition to something far worse. The change which the Lord Jesus invites us to receive as his blessing is “new birth”, the possibility of change (ing) and become (ing) like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)

Finding God in the every day

Week 4 Day 6

Colossians 3:23  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,

            In my home church we are in a long-term study of the question “What is love?”  based upon the famous “love chapter” in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Church (I Corinthians 13). Author  C.S. Lewis wrote an excellent book entitled The Four Loves in which he explains the nuances and implications of the four Greek words which describe what the English language has rendered into one wholly inadequate word.

It is not my intention to dwell on that idea today. It does, however,  bear on what as I reflect upon the implications of what is called `agape (agape), which is to say an all -encompassing, self- sacrificing love which transcends the desires and fears of the body and mind. Jesus, of course being our supreme example and model of that love, on the meaning of work.

             I would also ask that you contemplate for a moment that there are also what I would call four kinds of labor which are a part of our life before our God. First there is necessarily physical labor  which encompasses those thing we do to “keep body and soul together” A job, housework, physical training and exercise, caring for the blessings of home and family etc.

            Second, there is in most regardless of how they are enabled a meditative work which assesses and responds to the kinds of experiences and conditions in which they exist and renders judgements and actions according to “what they think”.

            Third, there is in the Christian life what is probably the most important and powerful labor, and that is the labor of prayer. James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. That I believe is enough said about that.

            Fourth, and finally there is the labor of being in relationship with other people. (Yo might call that Church) I believe that if prayer is at the center of the wheel, then all of the other labors that we undertake are like spokes radiating out from the hub of prayer. Think for a moment how prayer may be the one thing that makes all of our other efforts in life if not worth-while, at least endurable.

Finding God in the every Day

Week 4 Day 5

Jonah 1:But Jonah ran away from the Lord…

Have you ever had a Jonah moment? How about a Jonah year, or maybe a Jonah lifetime? There are a lot of folks who may have “heard” the call of God or felt the tug of the Holy Spirit on their heart but in fear, even abject terror they have run the other way. I don’t need to say any more about what happened to Jonah. For most who are reading this they know the story. For those who might not, the prophecy of Jonah is found among the so called “minor prophets” of the Old Testament sandwiched between the books of Obadiah and Micah. It is well worth the readers time to get to know this man through misfortunes and blessings.

            There are no prizes given for those who run away from God for the longest amount of time. There is only a bundle of regret sin and failure such as the “unbearable burden” carried by the character “Pilgrim” in the Christian classic book Pilgrim’s Progress. I know many, including myself who have lived down to the worst of human (sin) nature in their unbridled haste to escape the love of God. Oh, what a fool I was for so long. Like Paul the apostle if you are running from God, or are on the fence about his Spirit’s calling, you will eventually come to the place where you will say. As Paul the did: 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Romans 7:24.

            The eternal question is: Why wait? Or Why not now? Call on the name of Jesus. He is there, waiting for you.

Finding God in the everyday

Week 4 Day 4

1 Corinthians 14:33…for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

I had the dubious “pleasure” of purchasing a new computer today. When I finally arrived home with my prize, I began setting up the new “monster” in my life. I realize that even after so many years of working with these crazy things I still do not understand half of the language that seems necessary to get them to work the way I think they should.  Computers, I think will probably always be a mystery to me.

            People, on the other hand are even less understandable than computers. The scripture that talks about being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) is quite true. The human creation is still one of the most amazing, and completely incomprehensible things that God has ever done. Sentience, that is to say the idea of being “self-aware” supposedly setting us apart from the animals is to my way of thinking one of the most misunderstood and misused concepts in modern thought. I have seen people who live and act little better than animals, and I have seen animals who have been so conditioned by loving humans as to act almost in a human sort of way. “Fearfully, and wonderfully” certainly seems an understatement. Is it any wonder that people are so confused these days by what the so called great social minds call “trivial concerns” such as gender, the value of life, the relationship of animals and humans, and the rights of people to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”?

            Remember who is NOT the author of confusion.Look instead to those who became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, (Romans 1:21-22) In the immortal words of Mister T “I pity the fool.”

            Perhaps it is our pity for the foolish which will someday allow God to reap a great harvest. Don’t give up.