Thursday, March 29, 2012

You Might Be a Pharisee if...

You claim to have a heart only for God, but what pours from your lips is hate.
You say you rejoice in the Lord, but your conversation rejoices in the failings of those you oppose.
You proclaim your vocation to work for the kingdom of heaven, but your efforts are directed to the institutions of men.
You declare your call to share the Word of God, but your words speak only of the world.
Instead of preaching the forgiveness of Christ, you pour out your own condemnation.
Though you have heard, "Yield unto Caesar what is Caesar's," you carry an angry fear that your money will be taken away.
Though you heard, "Surely as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me," you deny your compassion to others.
You expect to be spared, yet you judge.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Prayer Stop

Pray without ceasing 1Thessalonians 5:17

I've added a new page called Prayer Stop entirely devoted to prayer where I will post prayers of my own creation and maybe a few well documented exceptions from other sources. The link is in the column to the right. I'm hoping it will be mobile friendly and that I will have a few words to say more often.
So let's get praying...A quick word to God can make all the difference in your day. A time in your schedule can make a difference in your life. Take the time to put more into your prayer than the words your read or say. Stop, close your eyes and open up your heart. Surely the Lord shall come in, and you shall feel peace.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

God Forgive Us All

For our hesitation,
For our lack of faith,
For our lack of trust,
God, forgive us all.

For our blindness,
For our apathy,
For our silence,
God, forgive us all.

For our judging,
For our predjudice,
For our intolerance,
God, forgive us all.

For our greed,
For our stubborness,
For our pride,
God, forgive us all.

Lord, Let us not be focused on worldly agendas.
Let us not find excuses to justify ourselves and others.
Let us see evil and sin for what it is and not mask it with redirection
   or deny it by pointing blame at others.
Open our eyes and ears to see the world as you see it.
Open our minds to new concepts we may have been unwilling to learn.
Break open our hearts to recieve the Truth.

For all that we have done
and all that we have left undone,
God, forgive us all.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Faith Doesn't Make Sense

The argument of a "logical" atheist:
How do you know there is a god? You can't prove he exists. You can't see him. Your bible is legend not historical fact. You can't prove it either. Miracles are coincidence and hocus-pocus. Your faith makes no sense.
I could argue that many things in the Bible do have corroborating evidense to support them, but that is not my point. Faith doesn't have to make sense.  Faith is believing in and trusting what you can't see and can't prove. It's not about logic or reason. Faith in God is not a rational response. It is knowing what doesn't come from knowledge; it is based on truth not facts. It can not be made to make sense to a world desperate to define itself for itself in rational terms it can calculate and understand.
None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. -- 1 Corinthians 2:8, 14 (NIV)
Another thing to remember about faith is that we are assured in every exhortation in both Old and New testaments that there will be those who will not accept it. "First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires." 2 Peter 3:3 (NIV)
We can do nothing for them but to keep trusting, keep hoping, keep believing.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Walking among the Pharisees

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
  Luke 18:9-14
   To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went upto the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men -- robbers, evil doers, adulterers -- or even this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
   "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
   "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (NIV)

Many of us do not realize that we are the Phaisees of this story not the humble sinner. We look down on another's sin, but do we recognize our own? I have problems with that. I catch myself doing the things I don't like all the time. If I had to live up to my own standards without fail Whoa Boy! would I be in trouble. Luckily we are all forgiven in Christ of all our sins. We can know that and feel massive relief. I do, and it makes me want to sing. A lot of things make me want to sing. I spontaneously burst out into song, but there again I could just be one of those annoying, happy Christians. Probably so. (He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today...)

Christ has removed our guilt, but the important thing, I think, to truly being washed clean, is repentence -- feeling bad that we commited sins in the first place, acknowledging them and asking forgiveness. It is not required for salvation that we recognize every sin individually, but Jesus calls for repentance and warns against self righteousness.

Paul's words, speaking as a sinner forgiven and grateful: 1 Corinthians 4:4-5
   My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will recieve his praise from God. (NIV)

Paul did write in the same letter not to associate with the believer who sins greatly (Paul lists some examples). This is to correct the one who has sinned, but he does not mention the everyday sins we humans can't seem to avoid. Or even of the ones we could avoid but don't -- like skipping church to play golf, or pouting because this friend has an AWESOME pair of shoes and we want them, too. If removal from the church were required for all sins, there would be no church. (Just a lot of people with awesome shoes and nine on Sunday tee times who see no reason to repent because they figure they're lost anyway.)

And then the sinner repents and stops committing the condemning sin. He is to be received again with love and forgiveness. His actions have been neither condoned nor overlooked nor has the sinner repentant been ostracized to the point that he has lost his faith.

2 Corinthians 2:6-8
   The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead,you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. (NIV)

We are all sinners, regardless of how bad we think our sins are. We are all forgiven and can rejoice. (Insert loud chorus of Jesus is a rock, and he rolls my blues away! Bop shoo bop a shoo bop WHOO!) But we are also still flawed and human living in a very human world. We can not escape the nature with which we were born, but with utter dependence on the Holy Spirit for help we can move beyond it to a closer relationship with God, who makes us perfect. But Christ has admonished us not to think ourselves perfect on our own nor that we are qualified to judge others.

Jesus' words: Luke 6:37
   Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. (NIV)

Following this previous reassurance is the passage about first removing the plank from your own eye before helping your brother to remove the speck from his own. I would think a plank in my eye might hit my brother in the head. The Whack! (and following exclamation I will represent here with Ouch! That hurt!) would justify him in not wanting my help thank you very much.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Stretching Our Faith Muscle

Faith can be considered a weak thing unless it is tested. Think of it as a muscle. It gains strength only when pushed by exercise. The harder and more regular the exercise the stronger our muscles become. As humans, people are weak in themselves. It's easy to take God's favor for granted, to get used to it and lose some of that consciousness of the excellent provisions God provides for our care. We can forget sometimes that we are God's lilies and become thorns without realizing it.

The true strength of one's faith can not be seen in the contented status quo. Faith is tested and tried through hardship. It is easy to give thanks and praise for the many good things we have when life is stable and our circumstances pleasant, but during hardship we often focus entirely on the immediate difficulty, losing the ability to look at the broader perspective and see the present more as Christ might see it. Without hardship, we would not get to see the glory of God in enduring or overcoming adversity. Difficulty allows us to see how powerful God truly is.

When we persevere in difficult times, keeping a positive attitude and remembering to give God the credit and our gratitude for bringing us through it, we achieve victory. In 1709 John Wesley's father Samuel called all the neighbors together as his family's house was burning to the ground to say a grateful prayer that all the family made it out alive. When I stop to appreciate what I haven't suffered, the sufferings I do face lose their sting. The exercise can put an abrupt end to a bad attitude. Even the small irritations could be blessings in disguise.