Archive for » January, 2015 «

Who Says?

Click here to read Ezra 5 on BibleGateway.com

listeningBack in the yesteryear when you were younger, you may have come home from a hard day of sitting in a school desk pretending to listen to a teacher, when lo and behold, to what did your wondering eyes should appear, but the last brownie in the pan. Now comes the moral dilemma; there is one brownie, and three siblings.  Who shall have it?  Let’s further pretend that an older sibling came in and took the entire block of sweetness while you debated with yourself. Let’s assume still further, inspired by the passion of a lost love, you reached for the pilfered ambrosia, with the shriek of a berserker going into battle.

You: Give it back.
Older Sibling: No, it’s mine.
You: Who says?
Older Sibling: Mom.

Ah, the appeal to a higher power.  Who can argue against it?  At this point, you probably had the choice of seeking out the maternal authority (at which point the object of desire would have begun its long descent though your sibling’s intestinal tract), or of accepting defeat and grabbing a celery stick. When the Mom Card has been played, the game is over.

WHO SAYS?

Where does the right to act come from? Does it come from yourself?  Oh, in some circumstances, it could be argued.  You stand up and take something with no outside argument, but more often than not, there is an appeal to authority.  Kids appeal to teachers; students to the teacher or principal. Kings in the middle ages, rightly or wrongly, claimed Divine Right to rule.  Lawyers appeal to the Constitution, and you can be any type of lawyer, from a divorce lawyer, to a New York personal injury attorney or any other.   We act when a higher power gives us the impetus to act.

Have you ever done something extravagant for God?  Have you ever actually considered selling all your possessions and giving the money to the poor?  Have you ever thought about quitting your job and becoming a missionary?  Why would you do it?   Clearly, it doesn’t make sense to a rational person.  Odds are, not even remotely.  Did you know how it would turn out?  Not a chance.  Often, that’s what following God is all about.  We do things that don’t make sense to us, and trust that God will work it out.  The truth is, if you listen to God and really strive to be close to Him, you will end up doing the crazy and the impossible.  That’s the kind of God he is.

So, to take it a step further, if it doesn’t make sense to you, how would it possibly make sense to other people?  If you think that giving up a solid career to go work in Africa is crazy, and yet you are willing to do it, then imagine how crazy it must seem to someone who is not willing.  If you find it difficult to surrender your rights to God, and yet you are convinced enough to it,  imagine how insane that must seem to people who are not convinced.  People that are truly following (looking in your direction, Mr. Baptist) seem downright nuts to those looking from the outside.

THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM

When the people of Israel were rebuilding their temple (Ezra 5), the surrounding authorities (note: those that had not experienced God’s hand as directly) immediately said, “Who told you to do this?”  Where did the command to rebuild come from?  Yes, from the king, and they could have simply said that. But that’s not what the people answered: “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth.”   The king may have written the decree, but the reason we are doing the impossible is because we are listening to God.

That’s how it is.  If you try to completely surrender to God’s plan, people will think you’re crazy (it might even cross your own mind once or twice).  The disciples left their livelihood to follow Jesus; Elisha burned his means of survival; Abraham left his home.  It’s crazy.  It’s downright irresponsible.  Using the last of your food to feed a strange prophet when your son is starving is foolish.  Following God often does not make sense.  It never has, and if you truly want to be close to God, sooner or later you will have to accept that others will not accept your choices, and consequently may not accept you.  You will have to choose to either listen to the advice of others, or  to follow what God is telling you, no matter how crazy, or how lonely it seems.

Because He said so.

Can’t We All Just Get Along

Click here to read Genesis 4 on BibleGateway.com

supportpBack in the Middle Ages, around 1960 or so, America was a deeply divided nation. Brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend.  There were fights on the streets, and some people look back on that time with a sense of shame and pain.  We’re talking, of course, about the division between those who loved the Beatles and the fans of the Rolling Stones.  Not quite as bitter as the Backstreet/n’Sync Wars of later years, but a horror to behold none the less. And then you throw the Monkees in there and the whole world is up in arms, or perhaps in actors paid to look like arms.

In Genesis 4, we read of another division in society:  three brothers, all with different talents. Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock; Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes; and Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron.” Can you imagine the competition around the Christmas dinner?

A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

It’s much like the church of today. You have the majority (Jabal), the 9-5ers who live their lives, support the church, love their neighbors (most of the time), and rarely get any attention. You have the youth ministers and the worship leaders (Jubal), those who use the tools of entertainment to (hopefully) bring the congregation closer to God.  And you have the iron workers (Tubal-Cain), those who utilize the weapons of the time on the front lines: the missionaries, evangelists, and some pastors (though not all, unfortunately).

Like any societal group, too often only those on the front lines get the recognition.  Admittedly, those in the front lines carry the greatest risk, they tend to suffer the most, and they tend to be the most lonely, so  maybe it’s alright that they get a larger share of the glory. However, as any soldier  will tell, they depend on those back home.  You need the support of the families, you need the citizenry behind the military, you need the support staff back at HQ, you need the intelligence work, the construction, the IT, the infrastructure, and a host of others.  You can’t do your best on your own.

THE HAPPIEST PEOPLE

Here’s the thing; all people can find themselves in one of these groups.  Not all of us were called to be musicians (and frankly, not all who think they are – are), just as not all were called to be soldiers.  Some were called to encourage those at home, some were called to support those out on the edge.  The point is, we can all be used where we are if we allow God to use us, and accept the role that we are in (and don’t worry, you’ll probably find yourself in all of these roles at one time or another).  The struggle is to avoid focusing on another, and to remain faithful to where you are now.

The greatest benefit we can give our church is to love and accept everyone else’s place, regardless of the position you find yourself in at the moment. If you’re on the edge right now, be careful of looking down on those who are support you.  If you are supporting, be careful of exalting those on the lines or resenting their accolades.  In the end, we all have a common enemy and the same commander.  It’s his plan that is at work; we are merely to do our duty and trust.

That’s how an army works.

Surprise

Click here to read Acts 3 on BibleGateway.com

surpriseThere you are, silently, trying not even to breathe.  You can hear them coming down the hall, stumbling a little with morning grogginess.  You wait…wait…wait as they draw closer and closer to your hiding place.   And just when you see that first footstep come around the corner, kablooie, out you jump with the roar of a thousand wildbeasts.  Such sweet joy; the look of terror as their eyes fling open, their arms flinging out in front and to the sides trying to catch their balance, and the shriek…oh, the shriek.  Is there anything better than jumping out and scaring one of your parents when you’re a kid?  Or, if you happen to be a slightly less mature adult, scaring your kids?

Surprising someone is one of the great joys of life.  We prepare elaborate surprise birthday parties that only a blind donkey could miss coming.  We wrap up skis to open on Christmas morning (skis? How will you sneakily wrap skis?) We play peekaboo with our infants.  The shock of seeing your face appear behind your hands for the ten thousandth time never gets old.  All for that little joy we call surprise.

SAME OLE SAME OLE

In Acts 3, we read the famous story of Peter and John walking to the temple, and the healing of the crippled man who sits there begging (sing along; “silver and gold have  I none…).  There he is, a man crippled for life that the whole city walks past daily.  For years, they pass him, maybe once in a while throwing a nickle or two to help him out. As much a fixture of the street as the pavement and guy selling kosher hotdogs.

Then suddenly, he’s walking.  Not just walking; running like a hyperactive 2nd grader, jumping like a spastic kangaroo. Peter looks at the crowd and asks the dumbest question imaginable (not surprising for Peter): Why are you surprised?

Why? Umm…because that crippled dude is doing jumping jacks.  Because I gave that guy my last twenty bucks on the way to church today to help out a poor man, and now he’s running around with my twenty bucks in his pocket. Because crippled people don’t just get up and run around.

HEAR ME NOW AND BELIEVE ME LATER

Notice where these people are going: to the temple.  These guys are going to worship almighty God, creator of the whole universe.  But they are surprised when God does something in their midst.  Why? Why are we surprised, when we believe that God can, when we actually does?  Sometimes our faith, amazingly, is at its lowest when we are going to worship God.

What will God do for you this year? Will he answer that prayer you’ve been praying for fifteen years? Will he throw open the floodgates of heaven so that you can’t believe the blessing?  Will you get that promotion, that job, that grandbaby, that spouse, that dream?  Will you run and jump after being stuck in place for years? Will he do above and beyond all you could ask or imagine?

Why would it surprise you?