Sunday, October 28, 2012

Putting the Power Struggle into Perspective

Readings: Daniel 7:9-14, I Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 25:31-46

During this season of posturing, finger-pointing, and down-right ugliness, I sometimes feel the need to shut off the TV, turn off the radio, click off the computer, and ignore all reading materials until the political season blows over. I know I'm not alone in this. I'm perplexed by the many candidates for office who blatantly ignore the question posed to them at a debate only to use their allotted time to bad-mouth the opposing candidate. All this struggle for one thing--power. 

Look out.

Too much power in the hands of humans has been proven, over the centuries, not to be a good thing--we're just not good at handling it. Even the most well-meaning politician, once handed a great deal of power, will need a great deal of reserve to keep things in perspective. It normally doesn't end well.

Only one takes and uses this power for all good things: our loving God. Fortunately for all of us, he lent this power to Christ as well in order to aid us in our lives to work for the betterment of this beautiful planet and all people and things that inhabit it.

"He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power, all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed" (Daniel 7:14).

God is our one true authority--he waivers to no one. We're still not so hot at it. It's not an easy street to be on; over the years, we've had perhaps a hand-full of leaders who have truly understood the concept. Unfortunately, too many others are lured by the temptation of power and influence and, over time, lose sight of their true call to serve and not be served. 

Christ understood authority--and the price that, during his time on earth, came with it. "He died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up just as in fact you are doing" (I Thessalonians 5:10-11). He was in ultimate service to God for all our sakes.

During this time of fist-shaking, fabricating, and general nastiness, we need to pray for a peaceful solution. Our job is not to work diligently for one person to have power over another--our job is decide who of those running for office will be the best servant to all people--rich and poor, but particularly a servant to those who need our help the most. Wondering if that is an out-dated idea? I don't think so..."He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me.' Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life" (Matthew 25:45-46).

Peace be with you.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Good, Old-Fashioned Pity Party

Readings: Job 14:1-6, I Thessalonians 4:13-18, Matthew 24:15-28

We all have a good, old-fashioned pity party from time to time. I don't know of anyone who is exempt from them. I know I've had my share. In today's readings, we get to witness--step by step--of one of the Bible's most famous pity parties--Job. 

As you'll recall, Job pretty much had the world by the tail--big family, health, wealth, all the good things in life--until Satan came to God one day and suggested that perhaps if Job's life were not as easy, he might not be as quick to praise God for all his many blessings. So, the problems began for Job--the massacres, the boils, the loss of virtually everything. And then the friends showed up to rub a little proverbial salt into those wounds. 

And Job, for a good while, did a very human thing--he had a pity party. At one point he declared that his life, as well as all others' on the planet, was futile at best. "Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. So look away from him and let him alone, till he has put in his time like a hired man" (Job 14:5).

Sound familiar? I think we all have these feelings from time to time. "What's the use?" we ask ourselves. Why work so hard to do well for others when it all comes down to dying and being laid to rest--the cemeteries are full of both saints and sinners. 

That's where our pity parties must end--there is a purpose for all things in life, and our faith is our life line. "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope"(I Thessalonians 4:13). "Therefore encourage each other with these words" (I Thessalonians 4:18). If we get caught up in the pity party ourselves, we start looking for the easy way out--just what Satan is hoping for, day after day. We are warned of this throughout the Bible, particularly in the book of Matthew: "So if anyone tell you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms' do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man'"(24:26-27). We'll get caught up in the ultimate web of deceit if we allow our need for temporary extreme comfort to over-take our wisdom.

So, do we eliminate pity parties from our lives completely? More than likely not. From time to time we'll all feel a little out of sorts--that's pretty natural. But the key to all this is to pull ourselves out of it as quickly as possible. And, if that doesn't work as well as we think it should, look to a friend to help you with getting un-stuck...most times, there's someone there more than happy to help you get back to happy, too. Ultimately, tell your best friend in the world--Jesus will understand and always makes time to listen.

Peace be with you.

(NIV Study Bible)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Faith in Truth

Readings: I Kings 17:17-24, Colossians 1:9-14, Matthew 9:18-26

Faith in truth--when we are truthful with ourselves as well as with each other, our lives just naturally go smoother. We also are more inclined to trust one another and have faith in one another once truth is established. In I Kings we hear these words of faith in truth: "Then the woman said to Elijah, 'Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth'" (17:24). 

Faith and truth were also apparent in the book of Matthew when Jesus was walking among the people and healing many. There was a woman who had suffered from a disease for many years. Yet she had faith. She knew that Jesus was the living truth. So she thought to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I will be healed". And she was. "Take heart, daughter," he said. "Your faith has healed you" (9:21-22). 

If we wake each morning with the goal of sticking to the truth in our thoughts, actions, feelings, then it will become easier to have faith in our lives as well--everything becomes much clearer and simpler. 

There's a beautiful prayer in Colosssians: "And we pray in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way; becoming 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 joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (1:10-14).

Peace be with you.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tax Debates

Readings: Proverbs 8:11-22, Philippians 3:17-21, Matthew 22:15-22

With the upcoming elections, taxes seem to be on the front burner of topics. I've yet to meet anyone who truly likes paying taxes, but there are various opinions on just how much is a comfortable amount to pay.

Taxes have been around since the time of Christ; in fact, He was asked, "Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" (Matthew 22:17) His answer? "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" (Matthew 22:21). Jesus didn't seem to get quite in the uproar the rest of us do. Maybe because he realized the wealth of Caesar couldn't touch the riches of Heaven. 

"With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and property. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, along the path of justice, bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasures full" (Proverbs 8:18-20). It's easy for us to forget what real wealth is; we instead kind of follow after this paper stuff here on Earth. "Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:19b-20). Citizenship where the debates on taxes, healthcare, education, etc. have no place. Citizenship in paradise. 

No debate there...just blessings beyond our wildest dreams.

Peace be with you.