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Posts Tagged ‘Chritianity’

One of Webster’s definitions of the word ‘welfare’ is the ‘organized efforts to improve the living conditions of needy persons’. 2000 years ago there was one such effort. Matthew, in the 11th chapter and 36th verse of his gospel, records this about Jesus: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”.

Jesus didn’t just have compassion on them; He did something to make their living conditions better. When a person finds themselves in a helpless state, assistance can give them hope that they will see better days. And so this is what He did; He offered assistance.

In the movie, ‘Cinderella Man’, much of which takes place during the depression, we see, maybe for the first time, government assistance. People who lived through that period of our nation’s history, were definitely a needy people. They were used to working, but work ran out. And when work ran out, food ran out. Heat ran out. The organized efforts of our government to improve the living conditions of our people, was much needed.

But what began as a much needed effort to temporarily assist a needy people, has now grown to an ever expanding group of people who believe it is our governments duty to provide assistance perpetually. What began as the organized temporary assistance to help a needy people through to better days, and to a people who gratefully, yet with reluctance accepted it, has now spread to a much larger group who insists they are entitled.

Have we as Christians, to some extent, done the same thing? Have we who were provided the much needed assistance of forgiveness – given to help us through to better days – settled instead for the assistance?

Are we as stuck in a Christian welfare state as many today are with our government? Some undoubtedly are. It is really no different today than it was in the days when the disciples and apostles were preaching and writing to the believers of their day. The writer of the letter which we know today as ‘Hebrews’, was making this same point when he said the following:

“Therefore, let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death.” The writers point is that we should not become dependent on the assistance of forgiveness. Instead we are expected in time to move on to maturity, able to ‘distinguish’ and choose ‘between good and evil’.

It was never intended for us to be stuck there. It was intended that after this initial assistance that we should go on to maturity. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he gives a clue as to how this is to happen. The same power that God used to raise Jesus from His physical death, he said God will use to ‘transform our lowly bodies’.

I especially like the way Peter puts it in his second letter. ‘He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption that is in the world caused by evil desires.’

Like with people today who receive government assistance, some really need it. But some just choose it. Some have the ability to work their way into better days but instead they choose the easier path of assistance. Likewise with some Christians, some really need the assistance of forgiveness. But some who have received it continue to choose its easier path. They have not taken advantage of what the assistance was intended to do for them.

It is at least a little like the nation of Israel when God brought them out of Egypt. He gave them assistance to help them on to better days. It would require that they believe and follow as He led into battle. Instead they doubted and followed as He led them through 40 years of wandering.

He didn’t lead them into something they could do themselves; He led them into something they couldn’t do without Him. Similarly today, He did not offer us something that we could do for ourselves; He offered us something that we could not do – that we could not have – without Him and His help

There’s some fighting that has to be done. After 40 years of wandering, Israel was ready to do some fighting. They had had enough wandering. I was a lot smarter than they were; I only wandered for 30 years. For any today who have had enough – who are ready to do a little spiritual fighting – there are some improved living conditions to be gained.

It is not easy breaking out of a pattern that has developed over years; what takes years to do, takes a little while to undo. His forgiveness doesn’t wipe away all that our bad choices have caused, it is an invitation to follow Him out of all they have caused. There may be a fair amount to undo, but if we engage in the following He will lead us to the better living He intended for us to have. No matter how bad the pattern or how deep the hole, He knows how to lead us out. He wants to lead us out.

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You’ve seen the bag of liquid hanging by the hospital bed. It is set to dispense – drip by drip – the fluids a body needs while being cared for. I thought of this in relation to a blogging friend of mine. Every day, she posts something simple that she gets from reading God’s word. Drip by drip, day by day she is getting the vital nutrients which her spirit needs. Little by little, as she stays connected to this source of life, His life – His nature – flows into and becomes her life – her nature.

It is exactly what Jesus was saying in John 15. He is the vine; we are the branches. Apart from Him we can do nothing. When we remain connected, drip by drip, His life flows into ours.

Below is part of her post – the one I was reading when I had this thought. (My favorite, which I printed and read from time to time, is ‘Wind and Wave Obey’)

“And they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.” Mark 3:2

“How could the amazing truth that Jesus would restore this man’s withered hand completely escape their notice? How much do I miss when I get into critical mode?”

Drip . . . drip . . . drip, and over time we are changed.

Post-script: I have developed a habit of looking up the proper definitions to words that come to mind when I write. This morning, after having looked over this piece I had written the day before, I wrote the following line in my journal. ‘You have instilled in me, not only an appreciation for Your word, but an awareness that little by little, drip by drip, we are changed by it’.

Webster’s definition of the word ‘instill’ is, ‘to infuse slowly into the mind or feelings; to put in drop by drop’.

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Personally, I would much rather go around them. Wouldn’t we all? But then there is this thing called ‘life’. Every where I turn lately, there seems to be . . . ‘life’. There is good, but bad just seems to not be willing to let go – to not get out of the way.

Paul’s comment to the believers in Antioch struck me. Not just that we must go ‘through’ hardships, but that we must go through them ‘to enter the kingdom of God’. I like the part of God’s kingdom that is free of hardships. They are like front door blessings – blessings that everybody sees and associates as ‘God’s blessings’. But Paul is talking about another kind of blessing – another part of the kingdom of God that is not seen. They are more like ‘back door’ blessings.

These blessings and part of the kingdom of God are found when we, with the help of God, go through our hardships. It is like a trailer I was pulling one time. One of the 4 wheels was a little too low on grease and burned up. The wheel was still there – it endured the haul – but the hub was burned out. The other 3, with the right amount of grease, didn’t even get warm.

It is possible in our hardships to enter the kingdom of God and relatively speaking, not even get warm. (Well maybe a little) But that is what Paul is referring to; and in chapter 16 he demonstrates it. Amidst all the good that happened in the chapter, he also experiences the bad of being thrown in prison. He was put in the inner cell and his feet were fastened with stocks. (Hardships are like that; they can lock you up.)

But through prayer, Paul entered the kingdom of God. Before his hub got hot he added the grease of prayer. He wrestled with God until he gained God’s perspective. Once he did, he was able to sing. Afterwards, the doors and chains that locked him up opened and fell off.

The Lord may not always cause the doors and chains of our lives to open and fall off as He did with Paul; but, at a minimum, He can keep our hub from burning up. As I am learning about most things lately, it is not just all or none; we can enter a little, or a little more, or a lot. We can keep from burning up. We can keep from getting warm. In some cases . . . we can enter enough to sing.

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There are two stories in Luke 8, that in spite of trying to move on from, more and more application keeps bringing me back.  The stories . . . the demon possessed man and the woman with the issue of blood.

In both stories, each had been in their situations for a long time, and neither they nor anyone else had been able to bring about the help or change that was needed.

Luke points out that the demon possessed man was ‘driven by the demon into solitary places’.  I thought it was interesting after he had pointed out several times before that Jesus often withdrew to solitary places to pray.  It occurred to me that God draws us to solitary places for our strength while Satan drives us into them for our destruction.

In regard to the woman with the issue of blood, Luke points out that the crowds were pressing against Jesus so much that they were about to ‘crush him’; which would mean they were touching Him.  But when she touched Him, power went out from Him.  I have been wrestling with this question for weeks, ‘Is my pressing through to touch Him causing power to go out from Him’? 

There are things in each of our lives that neither we nor anyone else has been able to change.  Whether with ourselves personally, our spouse, or a family member or friend, there are some things that only He can change.  The question I keep asking myself is this, ‘Should I not be pressing through to bring about that change?’, and if I am not, ‘Am I just part of the crowd?’

Have we sold the Lord short in what He is able to do?  Have we come to believe that He no longer intends to exorcise His power?  In the absence of this power, has the church fallen back on reform and put Christianity’s stamp on it?  Isn’t that still just reform?

Jesus did not work with the demon possessed man for 3 years; He healed him.  Immediately he was in his right mind.  He didn’t tell the woman with the issue of blood which doctor to go see; He healed her. 

I have lately been continually reminded of situation after situation that is helpless without the touch of God’s power.  I am challenged by these 2 stories and motivated by the one’s before me to become one through which His power can flow.

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Shifting Gears

In light of the glorious stories in the previous chapters, stories that reflect the power associated with this new gospel, chapter 6 may at first seem a little flat – it did for me.  In a way it is, but seeing what I finally saw in it, I no longer regard it as flat.

I have always had at least a little trouble with some of the things Jesus said during His ‘Sermon on the Mount’, which this is Luke’s account of.  I have always read it as if it were all said to the same group of ordinary people which contained, as any ordinary group would, some who were poor and some who were rich.  To simply read as, ‘blessed are the poor’ and ‘woe to the rich’, does not totally add up on its own.

But if you add the element of the ‘poor’ in one group and the ‘Pharisees’ in the other, it makes sense; it adds up.  The Pharisees were looking for a reason to accuse Him.  In a group this large, they would have been there.  So with these two groups in mind, Jesus says what He says.

To the poor, He has compassion and tries to comfort and encourage them.  To the rich, and not just the rich, but the Pharisees who see themselves as rich, He has warning and woe.  To the poor, He encourages to love their enemies.  Again to the poor, with undertones of reference to the Pharisees, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them”.

Either to the poor for the Pharisees to hear, or directly to the Pharisees Jesus says, ‘Do not judge’, ‘Do not condemn’, ‘forgive’; all things that the Pharisees were guilty of and needed to hear.  And by now, if not already, Jesus turns His attention completely to the Pharisees; “Why do you look at the spec of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay not attention to the plank in your own eye”?

Though it is not good to make a habit out of saying, ‘so and so really needed to hear that’ missing what might have been for you, but sometimes I believe it is good to realize that something might not be as much for you as someone else.  You can grind yourself to a pulp by trying to fine tune yourself to perfection. 

Jesus did some pretty cool stuff prior to this day.  The physical healings were at least somewhat responsible for the crowds that had gathered.  But at least for a while on this day, He shifts gears and tried to heal people’s minds, which I would bet the harder of the two.

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