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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Building Influence with mammon

Luke 16:

I am fortunate to belong to a small group of about four men from Sunday school who meet every two weeks. This is only our second consecutive meeting, but we are already seeing the spiritual benefit of our get togethers. Our Sunday school teacher has stepped out in spiritual leadership and has opened his house and resources up to us and we are grateful for his faithfulness and desire to do this important thing.

Tonight I brought up the passage from the other evening’s post. I wanted to present it to the group and get their collective input. As stated earlier, I had usually skimmed over this passage, not truly understanding the meaning. However, I believe the Holy Spirit took the time to point some important facts about the passage to us.

Upon further reflection, we came to understand that Jesus was not applauding bad behavior of the money manager, but his attempt to improve relationships. The manager used his position to foster relationships and build loyalty with others. Though the manager had mishandled money in the beginning, he came around to finding out what the purpose of money really turned out to be.

Money wasn’t to be a means to buy things, improve life or have security. Jesus pointed out the relationship building necessity. Money opens many doors and meets a lot of needs It opens eyes and hearts and make people in need better prepared to respond to God meeting their needs.

Christians can use this opportunity to create friendships, relationships and generate influence. This influence is incredible toward building credibility. God can use this credibility to expand his kingdom.

Money isn’t the solution, it’s a tool; a means to opening doors.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What about the faithful?

Luke 15: 1-32

I was once in charger of physically inventorying 20,000 documents. We had to maintain accountability of each and every one for various security and privacy reasons. Once complete with the normal inventory process, I reported to my boss that we had found all but three. Her face dropped in disappointment.

“It’s not so bad, boss,” I replied. “19,997 out 20,000 is better than 99%. That’s an A.”

She wasn’t very impressed. However, we began a more indepth search of records and under book shelves and between the pages of other documents. Finally, we rejoiced at having 100% accountability.

We focused a lot of effort on three documents we could not see. Those three lost documents cost a lot of time, effort and expenses that should have been dedicated to maintaining the status of the current documents.

So, how does this experience and the parables Jesus taught, relate to God’s Kindom?

Do the faithful get ignored while the newly saved or those who return to Christ are rejoiced over? What about those of us who I have posted about earlier? You know, those who are trying to be faithful, but are not recognized or celebrated as other lay leaders and church members. Does God appreciate the faithful servant who is in a less visible but labor intensive service? How are others more recognized for their visible work while some seem to be left out?

Luke 15 seems designed to answer these types of questions. At least, these are the answers I get from looking at the passage. When I wrongly feel some sort of injustice in these situations, I find comfort from Jesus’ words in the book of Luke. He puts some things in perspective. By seeing how Jesus answered the Pharisees, I can see how I can help with the recognition and rejoicing of people who either need to be energized by the recognition, have returned to following Jesus or are welcomed as new believers.

The Bible is full of encouragement to use our talents and our Spiritual gifts in God’s service. By using what God has provided each of us, we can fit in and joyfully serve in our right roles. If everyone is doing their part, the So, what is the conflict here?

The conflict is not entirely about faithful Christians being forgotten by God. The passage is meant to open the eyes of grumbling religious leaders who miss the point of a relationship with God. They are the “look at me” people who serve from the wrong motivations. They are inspired by position and duty, not by service to God.

When new converts, small and insignificant in social stature, are visited and doted upon by a man claiming to be God’s son, the leaders are left feeling indignant. Had they had the right heart, they would have heeded Jesus’ words: “…though art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad; for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again…”

Let our hearts be joyful in service to God and charitable to those who have accepted Christ as their savior and those who have returned to following him.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Being responsible for little

Luke 16:1-17

Not every part of a Christian’s life is Holy. We breathe impure air, eat tainted food and have friends and family members who are not saved. We also are called to be good stewards of all that is on earth as God has created it for his pleasure.

The parable of the unjust steward can at first seem confusing, but Jesus is warning that if a person cannot do what is expected of him with unholy task, how can God rely on them for larger jobs.

I remember when I was eight years old. It was about the time when I understood what it meant to be a Christian and also a reliable person. I was very self aware and I had always wanted to leave a good impression as a person others could rely on. My teacher at the time gave me a rather small assignment. My job was to deliver a note to another teacher in a separate wing of the school. No sooner had I left the room that I began to read the message.

Upon my return, my teacher pulled me aside and very quietly began to relay what she had seen outside of her window. As the story left her lips I began to feel small and ashamed. She concluded that she would not be able to trust me to deliver messages again. How ashamed and sorry I felt upon causing my teacher to doubt me and to disqualify myself form future trusted opportunities.

Jesus wants us to be faithful with even the riches of this world. We are to act responsibly and use money, talents, resource and anything else of this earth in a way that pleases God. We are to use it to make friends, relationships and live responsibly. Jesus is serious about building relationships and living in such a way as to lead people to him. When we misuse these resources or break the law or cause the wrong impression or lose credibility, our witnesses are shot and God will have no reason to reward us with more meaningful roles.

Monday, September 15, 2008

What would you give up?

Luke 14: 25-26

Jesus explained what discipleship really meant. I meant that people should be willing to give up everything to follow him. Everything includes loving him more than we could possibly love anyone else.

I asked my Sunday school kids (5th -6th Grade) what they loved doing.
“How many of you have something that you love to do so much that you lose track of time while you are doing it?” I had asked that particular Sunday morning.

I received many typical responses normal to that age group.

“So, what would you do if you had to give it up to follow Jesus?”

Unfortunately I received some more typical reaction of many children not particularly happy about the idea.

The right “Sunday school” answer is to reply that you would give it up and do anything God asked and would follow him blindly. However, I believe those children gave an honest answer that we should probably admit.

In the above verses, Jesus tried to set an example of Godly love that he had a hard time teaching. His father, God was just about to complete His demonstration of how much he loved us by letting his son be treated by a lowly criminal and killed as an innocent man. This just shows us that God understand us so much that he would not ask us to do something that he is not willing to do himself. God so loved the world that he gave us his only son so that whoever believed in him would not die, but live forever…John 3:16.

Let’s pray that our hearts can be tuned to God and that all the love we feel for each other will fall miserably short of the love and obedience we show to our savior.

God Bless.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Invitation please

Luke 13: 22-35

One of those listening to Jesus as he went about preaching asked Jesus if indeed going to be only a few saved. Jesus confirmed this with an excellent example of those trying to enter a house if it were already closed.

This story makes and excellent evangelical tool as it touches on people’s desire to be included in something important. I would say spending eternity with God as that all important membership which one should belong. This person probably asked to be sure of what it takes to be include, or maybe they were concerned about their own eternal security.

Many people who are turned away from Heaven will try to negotiate their way in. Those to whom Jesus referred said “We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and though has taught in our street.” Signifying that they had associated with Jesus, but never accepted him as their savior. It is entirely to believe that Jesus lived, but not acknowledge him as the son of God. Many people will learn the difference too late. Some more modern examples of what people might say to Jesus include:
“Jesus, I know who you are, do you remember me?”
“Jesus, I heard about you in Church once and I gave some money to the poor”
“I’ve never done anything bad in my life.”
None of those statements makes a difference. The only thing certain to let you in the gates is declaring Jesus as your savior. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the father except through me”. There is no other way into heave.

I remember once in my youth my friends and I were playing a dangerous gang. After one of my friends got into a fight, we all decided that was a cool thing to do. We invited a rival neighborhood to a fight in a remote location. Everyone showed up on time and as we walked from one end of the field to the other I began to recognized some familiar faces…football players, popular students and other influential people in our school. I just looked at my friends and said, “we’re dead”.

They were there to fight and I was like, “hey, aren’t you in my sister’s class?” “I’ve seen you around school,” and other distracting sayings to get their minds off the task of beating me down.

Though I tried to develop some kind of relationship, it did not work. I had shown up to fight, putting all other friendship opportunities aside. Just like those in Jesus’ story, my feeble attempts at friendship was a last ditch effort to save myself some pain. Though we never ended up fighting, they saw right through me.

It’s not enough to hear about Jesus, do good deeds or attend church. Christ is looking for a restoration. He wants to be reconciled with humanity. Many people will try to get to heaven, but only a few who belong to Jesus will make it.

If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your savior, please do so while you can.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

God's kingdom

Luke 13:6-21

Jesus taught that unless one is born again, they can not enter into Heaven. It is the sin that condemns us to all die, but Christ that gives eternal life. Why would we not share this good news to all? For all are appointed to die, but Christ allows us to live.

Jesus taught that the 18 who died when the tower fell on them not as a result of their sin, but simply because we were all destined to die. Jesus went further to demonstrate God’s love for us. As we can never be perfect, there is only one thing to do with something that bears bad fruit; cut it down.

I have heard people describe those who did not pull their weight as “oxygen thieves.” That seemed harsh, but just. Those who did not due what they are trained to do or paid to do are hurting the rest of the team. The same is the death that we all deserve because of our sin.

The good new is, just like the gardner in the Parable of the barren fig tree, Jesus wants to groom us to produce. “this one is not an oxygen thief, let me work with him, give him water an food and he will grow. However, if after I’ve had my say and he still denies me, then you may cut him down. Jesus is ready to save us from our sins, we just have to respond.

Soon, Jesus is again teaching in the synagogue on a nice Sabbath morning. While there a crippled woman who had not been able to stand for 18 years walks in. Jesus is moved to heal her. What a time to celebrate and praise God’s faithfulness and goodness. They had just witness another miracle.

What do they do instead? “Hey, it’s the Sabbath, no healing! You should have waited for another day to work.”

That showed the eroding condition of their hearts. The religious leaders loved their position and power. They openly “suffered” for God, putting up with poor people and forcing everyone to obey rules. They did not understand God’s new covenant or his love and desire to save his people.

I am reminded of people I encounter in my profession. I work in safety and security; a highly regulated field. On one occasion I witnessed a co-worked rightly pursuing why a fellow employee was not wearing their protective shoes. They had spent a significant amount of energy chastising employees who were not in the proper protective equipment. However, they did not take into consideration that the employees had just shifted to administrative tasks and were no longer working around an injury hazard. This person was so focused on rules and routine and not on the opportunity to realize that the other employee had made a good decision.

Sometimes our positions and power take us out of the relationship building business. We use rules and regulations to validate ourselves or increase our power. This is not the intent of rules. Rules are there to provide order and protection. The Pharasees used their positions to gain validation and power. Instead of building up God’s Kingdom, they worked to tear it down.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

They deserved it?

Luke 13:1-5
Some folks brought up some recent deaths of Galilaeans who died at the hands of the the Romans. They supposed that they must have been big sinners because they had died.

They also brought up the recent deaths of eighteen Jewish people who had died in an accident or tower collapse. Perhaps their sins led to their death as well. In both cases the Jewish people equated death and injury with the advent of Sin.

Jesus told them that death happens to everyone. Everyone sins and everyone will die. However, those who repent of their sins will have eternal life with God after they die.

Jesus reminded them that death comes to all since all sin. We all die and no one is immune from that. We are all doomed to spiritual death and an eternity away from God if we do not turn away from our sin. Spiritual death and not physical death is the only thing actually equated with all sin. Jesue can forgive our sin and bring us in to eternal life. All we have to do is repent and believe in him.

I'm going to definitely tell my friends who do not know Christ as their savior. I will also pray for a change in their hearts.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Watching and waiting

Luke 12:35-59

Building treasures with Kingdom activities provide rewards in Heaven. These treasures can never be destroyed, never need polishing and always makes God proud. Treasure in Heaven are rewards for visiting the sick, imprisoned, helping widows and orphans, preaching the gospel, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and waiting and watching for Jesus’ return.

Jesus begins verse 35 with an action to prepare for the Lord’s return. He does not tell us to passively bide our time, but take action with activities of preparation. When Jesus does return, those who have been watching will not be caught off guard, embarrassed or surprised. Those who watch for Jesus will be prepared for the reunion and ready to receive these rewards.

In versus 42-48, Jesus gives a warning. It is quite a different message than that of a humble servant king. This warning should be heeded by all Christians as a motivation to be responsible with the challenges and individual jobs that Christ gave us. He will punish those who have not accepted him and reward his children according to their faithfulness.

Unfortunately this warning is impossible to live up to. We are not physically capable of being watchful as Jesus commands. Our sins condemn us and we will encounter God’s judgment unless we accept His gift. To be truly watchful, we must be converted from our sinful state into people who believe in Christ. Those who have accepted Christ as savior are the truly watchful.

My prayer is that everyone I encounter either through this blog or in my relationships and efforts will come to know Jesus. Because we are humans and live in an imperfect and hopelessly sinful state, our actions condemn us to eternal separation from God. We all do wrong and will continue to do wrong. We are born in a temporary world and with imperfect bodies that are doomed. However, Christ gives us a way out. God gave us His Son, those who believe in him will not be condemned but will be forgiven. This forgiveness ensures that all who believe will be ready and waiting.

Those of us who are Christians can encourage one another to be ready for Christ’s coming. We can be watchful while doing everything in our power to bring others to Christ by visiting the sick and imprisoned, caring for widows and orphans and following the commandments to love one another as Christ loves us.