Election Time Approaches

We would do well to consider the words of John Wesley as we prepare to vote

Although those words were spoken more than 240 years ago, they apply as much today as they when they were first uttered.

I had a thought maybe not an original thought, but a thought just the same.  We are the body of Christ and operate as such.  God has given us such a great opportunity as two becoming one.  We have an incredible opportunity to have a powerful impact on the communities we are a part of.  Let’s start by thinking about how we can serve the needs of those communities and to see the love of Christ shared.  Thank you for letting me be a part of it and thank you Lord this wouldn’t have happened without you!

Keeping the Great Commandment

I’ve been thinking . . .

Moses gave the children of Israel ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17)1.  Later, the prophet Micah simplified the list, giving only three requirements (Micah 6:8)2.  The Lord Jesus Christ, simplified the commandments by listing two.  This is reported in the Gospel of Matthew this way:

Matt 22:36-40  One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (NLT)

Sometimes, we find ourselves making lists of requirements for a person to be “a Christian.”  It seems to be built into our human nature to do things like that.  Do you remember the ditty that goes:

“We don’t smoke, cuss, drink or chew,
and we don’t go with the boys [girls] that do.”

What do you think Jesus would have to say about your list?  Excuse me, I’m going to go burn mine.

When Paul went to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and church fathers over the question of requirements for gentile Christians. Some were saying that the gentiles must be circumcised and become observant followers of Judaism. Paul and Barnabas did not agree. So the question before church leaders was what these new converts must do. The council told them what they must do to not offend the Jews. James summed it up this way in Acts 15:19, 20

“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (NIV)

Those are all things that would have deeply offended Jews.  Why do you think that these are the only requirements that were given?

Jesus had called people to Himself saying, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” It is not difficult to be a Christian, or is it?  Jesus also said,

Matthew 11:29-30 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)

What do you think?  Is it enough to love God and others?

 

Endnotes:

1Exodus 20:1-17 Then God gave the people all these instructions: “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.
“You must not have any other god but me.
“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.
“You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.
“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
“Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
“You must not murder.
“You must not commit adultery.
“You must not steal.
“You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” (NLT)

2 Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God? (NASB)

A Child is Born

Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:5-7 (NIV)

Thought For Today

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” — Ephesians 6:10-12 (NLT)

Humility

I’ve been thinking . . .

This week, we’ll wrap up our discussion of virtue and vice.  So let’s turn our attention to the virtue of Humility.

A wise person once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”  That is the spirit of Humility, which is focused outward toward others and not inward towards self.  True Humility is evidenced in modest behavior, selflessness, the giving of respect to others and in charity toward people you disagree with.  In other words, it will give credit where credit should be given.  Humility results in courage to undertake tasks which are difficult, tedious or unglamorous and to graciously accept the sacrifices involved.  One source says that Humility does not result in despair, but rather in the ability to confront fear and uncertainty, or intimidation.

That doesn’t exactly sound like what we’ve been told about Humility, does it?  You don’t get genuine humility by putting yourself down.  It comes from being concerned about other people.

The vice that contrasts with Humility is Pride.  Many consider Pride to be the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and the source of the others.  It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to acknowledge the good work of others, and excessive love of self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God).  In perhaps the best-known example, the story of Lucifer, Pride (his desire to compete with God) was what caused his fall from Heaven, and his resultant transformation into Satan.

If Humility is thinking more about others and less about yourself, your opinions, your . . ., your . . ., how are you doing in the area of Humility?

Can you see what an attractive virtue Humility is?

Would you consider this to be closely related to selflessness?

How can we develop, encourage and grow this virtue in ourselves?  In others?

Kindness

I’ve been thinking . . .

As we continue our discussion of virtue and vice, this week we turn our attention to the virtue of Kindness.  Kindness is closely related to Godly Love (what the KJV Bible refers to as “charity”).  You could describe it as: compassion, friendship, empathy or trust without bias, spite, prejudice or resentment.  That’s going to take a work of God’s grace to develop that in us.

Envy stands opposite Kindness.  (The contrast to Godly Love is greed.  Once again the relationship is close.)  The envious are not happy with what others have or possess.  The kindly seek the good of others without regard to who or what they are.

A recent news story told us about the New York City police officer who bought boots and socks for a homeless man who had none.  Someone with a smart phone recorded this act of kindness and it spread like wildfire.  Did that story inspire you?

How are you doing with Kindness?  What can you do to encourage and develop this virtue in yourself?  In others?

Patience

I’ve been thinking . . .

As we continue our discussion of virtue and vice.  This week we turn to the virtue of patience.  This is the virtue that helps one to tolerate and endure situations without reacting strongly to them.  An individual with patience will work at resolving conflict and injustice through peaceful means and not through violence.

Violence, wrath or anger is the vice that contrasts with patience.  Think about it.
Patience will attempt to build an atmosphere that is peaceful and stable.  You will not see patience building on hostility, suffering or antagonism.  The contrast is strong.

Where does patience come from?  Proverbs 19:11 says,

A person’s wisdom yields patience;
it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

As to the power of patience, Proverbs 25:15 says,

Through patience a ruler can be persuaded,
and a gentle tongue can break a bone.

Paul in writing to the Collosians wrote,

. . . since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

You have probably heard of the person who asked God for patience and who added, “and give to me right now.”  Do you think it works that way?

How do we get patience?

How are you doing in this regard?

Diligence

I’ve been thinking . . .

As we continue our discussion of virtue and vice.  This week we turn to the virtue of diligence.  I have often heard this virtue referred to as “work ethic.”  The vice that occupies the other end of this spectrum is sloth or laziness.

Chapter 6 of Proverbs speaks to this very matter:

Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.
Learn from their ways and become wise!
Though they have no prince
or governor or ruler to make them work,
they labor hard all summer,
gathering food for the winter.
But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep?
When will you wake up?
A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
scarcity will attack you like an armed robber. [NLT]

Paul wrote about this in his second letter to the church at Thessaloniki.  He said it this way:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us. For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”

Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good. [NLT]

Retired with a good income?  Great!  Now you are free to actively involve yourself in service to your family, church and community.  How great is that?

Many years ago, I met a man in Jackson, Michigan.  He used a wheelchair for mobility.  He told me that he was not able to find a regular job.  Next he asked me, “Do you know what I do?”  I said, “No, what do you do?”  He replied, “I pray.”

That’s right.  He couldn’t find a “regular job,” so he spent eight hours a day in intercessory prayer.  I remembered what Paul had written in Colossians 4 about one of one of his companions:

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. [KJV]

That is an interesting word picture, isn’t it?  The man was not casual about his approach to intercessory prayer.

Today’s topic is not prayer.  It is about being actively, constructively, productively involved in meeting your needs, the needs of your family, friends, church, community and others.

God did not mean for  Christianity to be a spectator sport.  Ask yourself what part you have.

What does this mean for you?  And for the folks you know?

What do you see as the positives for working diligently?

What else should be said about this?

 

Godly Love

I’ve been thinking . . .

Let’s continue our discussion of virtue and vice.  This week we turn to the virtue of godly love.  The Greek word for this is agape.  The KJV Bible calls this charity.  I choose not to use that word, because it has taken on a different meaning in our modern language and culture.  The Greek word, agape, describes a non-sexual, self-denying or self-giving kind of love.  This word describes God’s love for us.  It also is the kind of love we should return to God and the kind of love we should have for others–including our enemies.  Now, that’s not at all easy, is it?

The vice that contrasts or opposes this is greed.  Can you believe that?  It’s true.  Godly love is outwardly focused on others.  Greed is inwardly focused on self.  Think about it.

Where is your focus?

Have you witnessed this kind of love at work?

How can we develop and encourage this kind of love in ourselves?

In others?

I Corinthians 13:13b — “The greatest of these is love.”