Saturday, November 14, 2009

Be Perfect

     This morning I read in Mark 5 about the demon possessed man that met Jesus when he got out of the boat in Garza, (or something like that, it’s different in each translation). It’s a familiar story to many believers, and yet, today I saw it with fresh eyes. So bear with me it is a little different from anything I have ever thought about. Of course maybe I’m just the last to see it.

     The thing that struck me is how much I am like the Gerasene demoniac.

     Take another look at the story and see if you can find yourself. One of the most valuable things we can do is see how poorly we do it.

     The description of the man is amazing.

 • He lived in the tombs. With the dead. It sometimes amazes me when I realize the things I am   interested in and how empty and dead they are.

• No man could bind him. He was not under any authority. How often do I rebel against the authority that God has put over me? Recently I have begun to see that meekness has quite a bit to do with being at rest under authority. A pretty exciting concept if you’re not real crazy about the political leaders at this time.

• He was always crying out. Do I ‘need’ to complain? Do I always have something to say about every issue?

• And cutting himself with stones. He was always doing harm to himself. How about me? How about the choices I make? Do I choose the pleasures that are harmful? Overeating? Inactivity? Looking at the wrong things? Thinking about the wrong things?

     To some degree I can see myself in all these things and I am very convicted, but the worst is yet to come.

     When he saw Jesus he ran and worshipped him(verse 6).  But then he said “I beg you in the name of God, do not torment me.”

     Is this what I think Jesus comes to do? Torment Me? Does Jesus just want to take away all my pleasures? Sometimes it seems that is how I feel and how other “Christians” feel. But the truth is that Jesus simply wants to drive out everything that is unclean and harmful to me.

     His desire for me is that I become like him (Rom. 8:29). His longing for me is that I should have ABUNDANT life (John 10:10).

     A lot of “Christian” folks want to worship God with a loud voice, but they don’t want him to torment them about their sin. I sure have been guilty here. How about you?

     Jesus answer to the man is the same as his answer to me. “Come out of the Man”. Jesus doesn’t look for reasons why we don’t think we can be perfect, he simply tells us to be perfect (Matt. 5:48).

     I remember one time I was at a friend’s house in the evening, and he called some neighbors in and they all read God’s Word together. I was very impressed and told him so. His response shocked me. After he asked me whether I did the same, and found out I didn’t. He didn’t ask for a reason or a justification. He just said “Well start, Now.”

     There were a thousand demons in this man. Jesus drove them all out. There are many faults (sins) in me, and Jesus wants to drive them all out.

     As I was walking today, I thought about being perfect. Perfect doesn’t move. But as I move toward the perfect that I see and attain it, I realize I hadn’t seen all the way to completely perfect. But I think that if I am moving in the direction of the perfection I can see, God may count that as perfect as long as I keep moving. And God’s wonderful mercy will fill in what is lacking. I don’t think we can start a denomination on that one but it may be worth thinking about.

     Finally, when the man that was cleansed saw Jesus about to leave, he wanted to go with him. But Jesus wouldn’t let him go, and told him to “Go home and tell your friends about the wonderful things the Lord has done for you, and how he had great compassion on you.”   Sometimes I just want to go home and rest.  Jesus says to me,  "Go tell my brothers and sisters what wonderful things he has done for me."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Are You Willing to be Wrong

Are you willing to be wrong? Is there a possibility that some belief that you hold is not quite completely correct? There is a very significant verse in Corinthians 8:2

And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.
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If you let that sink in, it can begin to change your attitude about a lot of things. The first of the seven blessings is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God.” As I have thought and prayed about this blessing, I have seen some of how rich I believed I was. In my mind I possessed tremendous amounts of knowledge and understanding. Therefore I was willing and eager to set others straight when they didn’t properly understand the mysteries of God as clearly as I did. Have you ever known anyone like that? Have you ever been like that?

There are many scripture references that come to mind as I think about being poor in spirit. I suspect humility is a characteristic of being poor in spirit. James 4:6 and IPeter 5:5 have the same phrase almost word for word; “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” One teacher that I have read said, “I used to believe that humility was the most important thing. I was wrong it is everything!” The apostle Paul speaks of himself in tremendously strong terms when he says, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all the saints.” Ephesians 3:8. Now if Paul considered himself less than the least and called himself “chief of sinners,” I Timothy 1:15, where can my high thoughts about my own virtue and knowledge find any place to stand? No my brothers and sisters all of my riches in knowledge and righteousness are filth. I must come to God and to you in absolute poverty and humility.

Jesus said “suffer the little children to come unto me for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” He also said, “Except you be converted and become as little children you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Can we take these words too seriously? I believe we each have a lot of work to do here. I know I have. Along this way God gives us to one another, to encourage one another. That is the reason I write. Hopefully some are encouraged to go on in faith. I am also encouraged by others who have written testimonies of the faith that has strengthened them. I would like to recommend a brother who lived in South Africa around the beginning of the 20th century. Andrew Murray was a pastor and writer. In his book “The Deeper Christian Life an aid to its attainment” he wrote

When you have given God His place of honor, glory, and power, take your place of deepest lowliness, and seek to be filled with the Spirit of humility. As a creature it is your blessedness to be nothing, that God may be all in you. As a sinner you are not worthy to look up to God; bow in self abasement. As a saint, let God’s love overwhelm you, and bow you still lower down. Sink down before Him in humility, meekness, patience, and surrender to His goodness and mercy. He will exalt you. Oh! Take time, to get very low before God.

All of this talk about humbling myself would come short if we do not consider the result. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." As I have read God’s word and heard testimonies this has become a great wonder to me. Many speak of this with great terms of healing and financial prosperity, quickly followed by an appeal to send money. Then you can hear the story of George Muller who lived in England and operated an orphanage by faith. He never asked any man to provide his needs. Though he never took an offering, needs were met and God’s love was shown to thousands. Vern Howell is a man who lives in Denver Colorado. Almost 30 years ago he left a good job and put himself and his wife, Ruth, in God’s hands to minister to the needy in Denver. They have been able to give food, clothing, automobiles, shelter and most important the Gospel to thousands. Vern told me a few years ago that he had not gotten a pay check for almost 30 years. God provides all they need. (Ps 23) I don’t know any people more full of life and love than Vern and Ruth.

(1Co 2:9) But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
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A thing that occurs to me often is that we are missing so much when we don’t humble ourselves and without reservation place ourselves in the hands of God who only loves us and wants to bless us. Right now I am sitting waiting for a load. I drive truck for the money. These times are a wonderful opportunity for me to put myself in the hands of the shepherd. To humbly trust that he is providing all that I need. When I have done this, peace fills my heart and anxiety floats away like smoke. God is full of wonderful surprises to pour out on us as we learn to humble ourselves.

Finally in the story of the rich young ruler, we have read that he went away sorrowful. Mostly I have heard it taught that he did not do what Jesus told him to do. But I have hope for him. When I see that my virtue and knowledge are of no value, my first response is sorrow. I have put my trust in my doctrine, my baptism, my understanding of God. I have found that none of that will help me till I come to God and declare it all a loss. I am finding as I hope the rich young ruler did, all I trusted is of no value. I must throw myself at his feet, and learn humility and poverty so he can lift me up and make me rich.

Your Brother learning humility
Rick