No Faith in the House

October 31, 2007

Can I ask a question?

You just did.

Thank you, wise guy.

Today I made a commitment to God that I would attempt to hear His voice, and if I thought I heard it I would act on it. The down side to this: I had not rallied the courage it would take to man up to His request.

I did this as a young Christian; impulsively act on what I thought I heard the Lord say.

But this morning, when He asked me to walk over and tell this one girl, a total stranger, that He loved her, I froze. I will tell you right here that I did not do it.

But here is the line of questions:

Do I no longer believe that it was Him, the Creator of the Universe? (If I really, truly, deep-down believed that God was speaking,  I would listen, right?)

Does fear outweigh faith in my life?

If I really had faith, would the miraculous not happen all the time? Would you not always be in uncomfortable situations where only faith could carry you through?

If we believed that God is who He said He is, and can do what He said He can do, wouldn’t we all be moving in the life that He said we could live?

And (here is the question I wanted to ask you) why can’t the leaders in our churches, ministries and fellowships admit that they do not believe that He is who He said He is?

I admit it! If God is true, and His word is true, and what He says about Himself and how we should be living is true, AND WE ARE NOT SEEING THE RESULTS THAT HE DESCRIBED, THE PROBLEM IS ME AND YOU! I admit that there must be a problem with us and our faith.

So, why can’t our leaders admit the same?

No Bread in the House

October 30, 2007

Why is there no fresh bread in the House?

This is a huge reason why the unsaved (shoot, the SAVED, too!) have no interest in the church. There is so little bread in the house.

It is much like it was in the days of Ruth. Ruth, a Moabitess, was married to Naomi’s son. Whatever the circumstances were, Naomi’s family LEFT Bethlehem in search of sustenance. Bethlehem means “house of bread.”

There was no bread in the house, so they left! They went on to Moab looking for something fresh. They found substance for a while, but quickly that was all taken. Naomi’s husband, as well as her two sons (Ruth and Orpah’s husbands), were killed. All of them were widows.

Then, they heard something new…there was bread in the house again. They heard that the Lord had visited His people and had brought bread into the house again.

You know what is funny about that? It is about the same time that Samuel had the first open vision in years. It was at this time (give or take 5-10 years) that Eli was passing the torch (or lamp, as in the Lamp of God), so to speak, to Samuel. Just a young boy, Samuel was recognized as one who was carrying the Word of the Lord.

AND, it was at this time that “bread returned to the house,” that bread returned to Bethlehem. So, Naomi returned to her native land, and brought a friend!

This is how it will be in the church again when we have been obedient enough, tender-hearted enough, to hear the voice of the Lord, and obey. Unlike Eli’s wicked sons who performed the sacrifices, the mantle was being passed to one who was obedient.

And that obedience brought a fresh word, fresh mannah, fresh bread into the house.

This is the place where the church is at. The Body has drifted away to other fertile lands. They are looking for fresh substance. We know that they may even find it for a time, but that many will be left alone in foreign lands.

As ministers, we need to ensure that the Lamp of God does not go out (1st Samuel 3:3), we need to be sensitive enough to hear the Word of the Lord and bring “fresh bread into the house.” Only then will we see a return of our people from foreign soil.

But, they will bring others who are unsaved. They will bring many who have never heard the Word of the Lord. And when they do, we will see an explosion in the church like never before!

To Give to the Poor

October 27, 2007

The 3rd Pillar of Islam has got nothing on me! Zakat, being the giving of tithes and/or alms, is similar for Christianity. Simply put, it is pretty well assumed that Christians are supposed to give to the poor.

With all of the philanthropic giving by Americans to churches and organizations, very little actually arrives into the hands of the intended recipients. (Often monies are whittled down by “administrative expenses” and such.

Though often unspoken, it is generally acknowledged among American givers that we have become pretty cynical to give to the poor.

Something happened today that illustrates this.

Coming out of my local grocery store, I saw a lady struggling in a wheel chair by herself. She was not elderly and decrepit, but she was certainly having difficulty.

Initially I kept walking. Something made me stop. (AKA, God really shamed me for being so hard-hearted. That and I thought that one day may be one of my parents trying to get along.) I guess He wants me to work on being tender-hearted.

So, I asked if she needed me to help her. She did. And I began to wheel her to her desired destination.

As we went, she told me that she had just moved here, that her food stamps had not come in, and if I would give her money for food.

What do you think I did?

Made up a lame excuse, got her to her destination and went to my car is what I did! Honestly. That is what I did. There was not a single ounce of sympathy or empathy.

Starting my car, I headed to the exit, when that Tugging happened again in my heart. What is this, thing?! Oh, God wanting me to be more tender-hearted. Thoughts flooded to mind:

What does it matter if she is trying just to get cash from you? Charity isn’t so much for the recipient as much as the giver. What does it matter if you saw SERIOUSLY poor people in India, Kenya and Vietnam? And, what happened to just plain ol’ giving?!

You are right, God. I should.

I whipped my car around and pulled up next to where the lady was. She was speaking to someone else trying to get money. Embarrassed for her, I circled the parking lot once more.

When I arrived, I told her I would pick her up something for breakfast from the grocery store. Now, here is why I am cynical.

She begins to custom order something. “Well, I really like sausage, and eggs, and cheese. But nothing too tough on my stomach. Something that…” and on she went for a moment. And not in the way that someone who is appreciatively excited. It was more in line with loading up your plate at a all-you-can eat buffet with no regard to the server.

Shrugging the critical thoughts that began creeping into my mind, I smiled, said ‘sure’, and made my way. I had taken about 10 steps when she called out.

“There is ONE thing you could do for me.”

“What’s that?” I asked in a way to hide the fact that I knew she would ask for 1 more thing.

“I could use some cigarettes,” she began.

I cut her off. “I am not going to buy you cigarettes, ma’am.” I knew it! I thought.

I purchased her a bagel and cream cheese, some granola bars, an orange juice, a water, a banana and an apple. Handing her the bag, I pointed out some of the items, we chit-chatted, and with a “God bless” I was off and got into the car.

Now, you tell me how wrong I am, and I won’t argue, but all I could think of was, “this woman is not poor!”

“I have seen the poor and destitute, not able to lift their arm because of their weakness. Were someone to offer them something, anything, a moving caterpillar or foul mushrooms, they would eat it. They would not debate it, because their lack of calories would not allow them. All they could muster would be to lift their skeletal arm and bring that thing to their mouth.

“I have seen the poor, and this is not it.”

As I drove away, I was glad that I heeded the Lord, but border-line bitter. I brought my inner turmoil to Him, begging for some relief.

“Giving has more to do with the giver than the receiver.” And you can see that being true I guess. I guess that so many people scurry away from the poor and destitute when asked for change. They are uncomfortable with the thought of, gasp, helping the poor.

Maybe we are broke.
Maybe we don’t have much extra money.
Maybe we are in a hurry.
Maybe it is out of the norm.

But what does that say about us? What does that say about where we are at internally? What does it say about what we value?

Does anyone know how good it feels sometimes to really give something with ZERO expected return? I know that this particular instance was a bummer and drove me to bitterness and cynicism, but half of that is from ME!

Giving is about the giver. It speaks more about where the giver is at. Who knows why the poor are poor. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is where we are at as a society of individuals, and what our willingness to give indicates.

Take time this week to give to someone. Don’t give cash, because you know how awkward you feel. Give something to them that they could seriously use and benefit them. It doesn’t take much. And give to a person or in a way that you know that there is no way you will ever be repaid.

Let me know how it goes and how it makes you feel!

Church Kids Less Affected by Poverty

October 24, 2007

This is an interesting finding by the academic authors of The Role of Religious and Social Organizations in the Lives of Disadvantaged Youth.

They say:

Overall, we find strong evidence that youth with religiously active parents are less affected later in life by childhood disadvantage than youth whose parents did not frequently attend religious services. These buffering effects of religious organizations are most pronounced when outcomes are measured by high school graduation or non-smoking and when disadvantage is measured by family resources or maternal education, but we also find buffering effects for a number of other outcome-disadvantage pairs. We generally find much weaker buffering effects for other social organizations.

Though this, in itself, is profound, what they said next I thoroughly appreciate.

Our data do not allow us to determine to what extent the buffering effects are driven by religious organizations actively intervening in the lives of disadvantaged youth (through tutoring, mentoring, or financial assistance) as opposed to providing the youth with motivation, values, or attitudes that lead to better outcomes.

The authors ascertain that the data is inconclusive, but my experience tells me that this is a valid conclusion. Coming from a church background, I can tell you that when I was a child and my family was in need I hardly recall any actual help or intervention (barring the odd ‘practicing’ Christian.)

What happened more often was a shunning from the church for those who are “down-and-outers.” It is more likely to be treated as if that person dealing with poverty was being punished by God. This is hardly acceptable behavior.

What I DO reflect on often are the motivating teachings, and the passion and fervor I felt to live a life with purpose. What I DID gain from the church was reliance on God.

How we deal with this apparent dichotomy of wonderful teaching versus poor doing I will leave for the philosophers to resolve.

Hey, Jude, Are You Even A Book In the Bible?

October 23, 2007

Why do these guys always look down?Jude. Jude. I had to think just to remember where that was? Oh, yeah, one of the obscure ones just before Revelation.

Someone had inquired of me about the word ‘rebuke’ in Jude verse 9. (Yes, it is such a short book/letter of the Bible that they decided against even using chapters!)

In Jude 9 it is written: “Yet, Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he distputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord Rebuke thee.” (KJV.)

So, I checked the Strong’s reference for ‘rebuke.’ Now, there are plenty of other Greek words that have been translated into “rebuke”. I will just stick to this one real quick.

Because the word was ‘Epitimao’, I assumed that it had something to do with being removed from the center (‘epi’ being the Greek preposition often used with regards to the center.)

Well, being wrong has never bothered me before, and being wrong here was more enlightening than anything.

The two root words, epi + timao, carry something a little different here. It is as if to say, “I will let the Lord affix your value”, or “Let the Lord decide on your value (with a negative assumption to imply that He will find your value as very little and cast you off)”.

Now, I know that the latter is quite a leap, but when you look at the two words they really carry this sort of meaning. (That is, without an exhaustive study on the tone of the actual Greek.)

I found it quite interesting that the word would be translated as ‘rebuke’ in this one instance. Why would it not be translated “The Lord judge you” or “Let the Lord judge your worth”? I will leave the intense study to the scholars.

For now I will take from this brief study the knowledge that it is the Lord who should estimate one’s value. Even the archangel felt that it was not his place. We can leave the same critique of those around us to God, and seek Him for the value of others around us.

After all, who would want to judge the value of another, only to be “rebuked” by the Lord?!

Arise, O Sleeper

October 22, 2007

Ephesians 5:13-16

13 “But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible. 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

This has been a profound scripture for me recently. I find that when I get further from God, I tend to sleep a lot more. I tend to ignore the cause of Christ on my life. I am the living dead. My purpose and vision is not as clear. Things are fuzzy. Like a foggy morning that blocks the sun; you could say that I am walking, well, in darkness.

But, when I come realize this fact and admit that I am in sin (by my mere separation from God instead of a particular sinful act), it shines light on it. And, as it says, that which becomes visible IS light.

That means that in the instant that I shine light on my wrong path, my path become visible and thus, light. I am instantly in God’s grace again.

I also realize that other things in my life fall into order. Waking up early to write about God, study His word, planning my day and working out all seem to come back together with ease. Struggling to rise at 4:30 a.m. is gone. I seem to just hop out of bed ready for my day.

That is what it is to be ‘awake’; to rise with purpose, to know one’s destiny (or at least be at peace and full of faith that God knows your destiny.)

Why all of this rising, and asleep and awake? Because there is only one commodity that we lack, and that is time.

Though we are, all of us (the righteous and the unrighteous), eternal beings, there is only a brief time that we can make our stand. This life is a proving ground where we wave our colors, be they the colors of light or colors of darkness.

We stand here in the temporal to determine how we shall spend the rest of our eternal existence.

As it says in verse 16, we must make the best use of our time. We must be sure to walk in wisdom in our short time on this earth in this time.

This is what it means to Awake, O Sleeper! Arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!!

I encourage you. Rise today! Raise your banner in your heart once again that it may blow in the wind of God.

Regain the purpose of your heart, so that Christ may shine on you today, and always.

Holy vs. Common; Clean vs. Unclean.

October 18, 2007

“They are to teach my people to difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.”

Ezekiel 44:23 

In Ezekiel 44, we find that he is having another wacky vision. (Crazy prophets, huh?)

Here, though, he hits on something really profound. As Christians, we know that we are a holy priesthood (Exodus 19:6). We know that we are to be set apart in all of our ways.

So are we? Do our lives show the people around the difference of the holy and the common? Is there a difference from the way you do business and the way others do business? Is there a difference from the way you treat your family than the way others do? Do we live in a way that others can better distinguish between the unclean and the clean?

Thought for the day: observe yourself throughout the day.

Look for whether or not your life is really that much different than the life of those around you. Ask yourself if you are living in a way that illustrates to the people around you the difference between the holy and the common; the clean and the unclean.