Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for June, 2015

persecuted

Regarding persecution: If another Christian from our own congregation were being mistreated by the powers that be and we (a.) knew it (b.) did not want to know it and pretended it wasn’t happening (c.) assumed they brought it upon themselves and ignored it, would we also be guilty of persecuting them?

I’m thinking of when a bully picks on someone smaller than they are and all the strong boys stand around blind. Are fear, comfort, and complacency acceptable excuses when brothers and sisters are abused by the ungodly? Is it wisdom to “stay out of it?” if they aren’t from our group but we have insight into the abuse?

How does that affect our responsibility regarding the persecuted church abroad? How does it affect what we do or do not do for those within our sphere of direct influence? Does it matter? Will we be accountable if we do nothing or is it ok to let others fight their own battles for the faith and not really get involved? How would you feel if you were made a criminal by the ungodly and those from your own church followed suit out of cowardice and suspicion? How would you feel if you knew others from another country had the means to help you but chose not to?

My questions are: What is our responsibility when and if those we know personally are unjustly treated? What about those we do not know personally who belong to the faith? Is there judgement for those who fail to assist or is it simply a matter of personal conviction in each situation where God calls those whom he will to support those suffering for their faith?

I consulted Matthew Henry.  Because this issue is so closely related to giving – be it of our concern, our time, our money, our allegiance, or our consolation, I thought of the rich man and Lazarus.

“Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here,  and you are in anguish.  ~Luke 16:25

God loves a cheerful giver, though, right?  Give not reluctantly or under compulsion, rather, each one must give as he has decided in his heart.  So then, what is the damnable fault of this rich man?  Surely he “gave.”  But he did not give in such a way that it pleased God.  Surely he gave to his friends and family.  Surely he threw exquisite banquets and spared no expense for those he preferred.  But what was at the center of his giving?  It was not God.  It was all for pomp, pride, and selfishness.

“And he said, ‘No,’ father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” ~Luke 16:30

After death, the rich man knew that overlooking the needs, affliction, and poverty placed in front of us is a sin requiring repentance.  Overlooking the needs, affliction, and poverty placed in front of us is a sin requiring repentance.

Here is Henry’s insight.

“That plenty and pleasure are a very dangerous and to many a fatal temptation to luxury and sensuality, and forgetfulness of God and another world.  This man might have been happy if he had not had great possessions and enjoyments.  That the indulgence of the body, and the ease and pleasure of that, are the ruin of many a soul, and the interests of it.  It is true, eating good meat and wearing good clothes are lawful; but it is as true that they often become the food and fuel of pride and luxury, and so turn into sin to us.  That feasting ourselves and our friends, and, at the same time, forgetting the distresses of the poor and afflicted, are very provoking to God and damning to the soul.  The sin of this rich man was not so much his dress or his diet, but his providing only for himself.”

“We are not told that he abused him, or forbade him his gate, or did him any harm, but it is intimated that he slighted him; he had no concern for him, took no care about him.  Here was a real object of charity, and a very moving one, which spoke for itself; it was presented to him at his own gate.  The poor man had a good character and good conduct, and every thing that could recommend him.  A little thing would be great kindness to him, and yet he took no cognizance of his case, did not order him to be taken in and lodged in the barn, or some of the out-buildings, but let him lie there.  Note, it is not enough to oppress and trample upon the poor; we shall be found unfaithful stewards of our Lord’s goods, in the great day, if we do not succour and relieve them.  The reason given for the fearful doom is, I was hungry, and you gave me no meat.  I wonder how those rich people who have read the gospel of Christ and say that they believe it can be so unconcerned as they often are in the necessities and miseries of the poor and afflicted…Note, those will  have a great deal to answer for hereafter that feed their dogs, but neglect the poor.  And it is a great aggravation of the uncharitableness of many rich people that they bestow that upon their fancies and follies which would supply the necessity, and rejoice the heart of many a good Christian in distress.  Those offend God, nay, and they put a contempt upon human nature, that pamper their dogs and horses, and let eh families of their poor neighbors starve.”

“This rich man had entirely devoted himself to the pleasure of the world of sense, was wholly taken up with them, and took up with them for his portion, and therefore was wholly unfit for the pleasures of the world of spirits…he was hard-hearted to God’s poor, and therefore he is not only cut off from mercy, but he has judgment without mercy, and falls under a punishment of sense as well as a punishment of loss.”

“The tendency of the gospel is both to reconcile us to poverty and affliction and to arm us against temptations to worldliness and sensuality…Our Savior came to bring us acquainted with another world, and to show us the reference which this world has to that.  Those that are not able to help the poor with their purses should help them with their pains; those that cannot lend them a penny should lend them a hand.” ~Matthew Henry

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

lj

This is me!  ūüôā

Faithfully, they stretch wide before me.  It is the second week of June.  It is time to gather the harvest.  Black raspberries, and after, blackberries, sprawl over the outermost portion of my backyard.

I carefully begin to cut away the weeds and reposition the unwelcoming briar bushes – also known as “jaggars.”

“Daddy would be proud,” I think.  He who took me every year in somber search would want me not to waste these.  Of course he set them here for me to find.  Soon after he was gone, they found their way into my backyard and beckoned of blessing.  Little wonder why they grow so close to Father’s Day.

Daddy gave the gifts.  How can I not go out and harvest them?  Still, I feel like Christian in “Pilgrim’s Progress.”  Poison, snakes, thorns, heat, and my personal favorite, ticks likely await as I begin my journey into the blessed brush.

Cut the thorns away.  Cut too many and the shade-less berries will dry up.  Leave some thorns.  Be gentle.  I must, must, must remember gentleness when picking my treasures lest I squish them, drop them, or get impaled by an intrusive thorn.  Move the vine, just a little, and a whole new load of berries are unveiled.  Shake the vine too hard and they will fall to the ground lost.    Dropping even just one into the place of no return is tragic to me.  The utmost care must be taken with each new find.

Now begin again.  Think of Christian.  Think of Christ.  Is this not how we are to make disciples?  I reckon it surely seems familiar.  I liken these blessed berries to those to whom we must preach the gospel; those to whom Our Father has given us; those whom he has placed in our own yard, ripe for the picking, no, choosing, perhaps.  Only he is the one who has done the choosing beforehand.  We have simply come to reap the harvest.

I feel like the lumberjack the little girl Lori always wanted so very much to be.  To my surprise, just the other day I discovered that my very name – my married name, that is – literally means, “to clear away, area of forest designed for clearing, to chop or cut down.”  I can hardly contain my excitement knowing that I have veritably been a lumberjack of sorts for the past fifteen years.

The Lord gives the desires of the heart.  He gives the gifts.  He makes them ripe and ready.  He asks us to harvest – carefully, gently, painstakingly.  And when we do, he shows up every time.  He changes our name,  fifteen years go by, and we fail to even realize who we have become.

His.  We are his.  That is, Our Father’s.  We love what he loved.  We do what he did.  We are the remnant of who he is.  We are not of him because we are like him, we are like him precisely because we are of him.

And he is always with us in the garden that he made especially for us – even after the thorns have come.

 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
    ‚ÄėYou shall not eat of it,‚Äô
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.‚ÄĚ ~Genesis 3:17-19

Read Full Post »

A Good Dad

father

Daddy plays tic-tac-toe with X’s and heart’s with our youngest daughter as we wait for the server to bring lunch after church. ¬†What a good father, I think to myself. ¬†He provides, protects, plays with, and pampers our three little girls.

With Father’s Day drawing close, I consider my heavenly father and his goodness in light of the badness of the world.

Pain, suffering, injustice, oppression, and betrayal are just a few problems we encounter here. ¬†We all have experiences with these hard parts of life. ¬†We all have stories we can tell about when we have been both the victim and the abuser in unkind circumstances, unlovely people, and uncalled for events. ¬†Life isn’t fair and we know it all too well.

How can that fact be reconciled to the reality of a good father – a father that calls both the offended and the offenders, the pain-inflicting and the pain-stricken, the victims and the oppressors, the betrayed and the betrayers to “strive for peace with everyone.”

Peace with everyone.

I believe one key to the mystery lies in Judas. ¬†The name itself is a dead giveaway. ¬†No one likes a traitor. ¬†How can we be at peace with someone like that? ¬†Yet, at one time or another, we have all sold out for the sake of self. ¬†Selfish ambition, selfish pleasure, selfish gain – it’s all the same disease. ¬†Much suffering, oppression, and injustice in the world is because we and others around us act like Judas instead of acting like Jesus.

Consider him.

Judas was chosen – out of all the trillions of people in the world who have ever lived or will ever live – to be one of Jesus’s twelve disciples. ¬†He got to be one of a dozen men who knew God himself, in the flesh. ¬†Judas had the most opportunity to know and understand the truth of the gospel. ¬†Judas was greatly loved by the Lord.

When I consider the obsession with self that led to Judas’s betrayal of Jesus, I grieve over the irony. ¬†Just as Jesus taught that he who seeks to save his life will lose it and he who loses he life will save it, Judas, in his gross, habitual self-seeking, lost everything good he had ever been given.

It was Judas’s loss when he betrayed Christ. ¬†Judas lost not only the best friend he could ever have, but he also lost his connection to the Lord, his privileged position in the kingdom, his soundness of mind, and ultimately his own life.

Perhaps the most devastating part of Judas’s story is his unwillingness to repent. ¬†Judas preferred to die than to humble himself and ask forgiveness. ¬†Judas was full of pride and power-seeking. ¬†Bad as it was, it wasn’t his betrayal that condemned him. ¬†It was his stubborn unwillingness to admit, confess, and repent afterwards.

Consider Peter. ¬†Peter denied Jesus three times and left him to die. ¬†Why didn’t he end up like Judas?

Peter repented. ¬†He submitted to the Father’s authority and he changed.

The realization that Jesus Christ was more than willing to forgive even Judas out of his great love and mercy is a tragedy for those who refuse to repent.

The other day I was out for a walk and Whitney Houston’s version of “Jesus Loves Me” began to play on my itunes.

“Jesus loves me, this I know,

for the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to him belong,

they are weak but he is strong.”

Childhood memories of Sunday school and early faith came along with the melody. ¬†Later, my six year old placed a previously misplaced stuffed lamb on my pregnant belly. ¬†Her once favorite toy, “Lamby” came from a lady at church when her older sister was born. ¬†Lamby plays “Jesus Loves Me.” ¬†She was sharing the song with her new sibling the best way she knew how. ¬†Still later my husband and I were listening to a sermon on the radio and the preacher repeated the same line at least four or five times: “God loves you. ¬†God loves you. ¬†God loves you. ¬†God loves you. ¬†God loves you.”

Our good Father’s solution to injustice and evil is repentance and forgiveness. ¬†It is we who choose his wrath and condemnation instead – just like Judas.

No amount of revenge or justice serving fixes the pain left by betrayal because the love one has for the betrayer long remains.  Forgiveness is the only way to peace for those who hold out hope for either repentance or ultimate justice in the here after for those whom we have loved that injure us.

God holds out his hands all day long to we who continually betray him.  He offers forgiveness and hope before we ever repent.  He waits with outstretched arms for us to come, to confess, to repent, to ask for and accept his already appropriated forgiveness.

Our Father is waiting.  Come.

Read Full Post »