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Friday, September 18, 2015

Good Works

Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

When you come into a dark room you flip a switch and the light comes on. If you think about it at all you don’t think about the electricity and how it was generated. No, you think about the light. But when the light won’t come on you know where to go to replace a fuse (that’s flip the breaker for you who don’t know what a fuse is) or call the electric company. The light didn’t work because it didn’t get any power.

Somewhere people had to work to generate the power to cause your light to come on.
In the same way we have to work to provide the power for our light to shine and produce good results. But what is the work that we must do in order to make our light shine and give good results.

For a long time I have made it my practice to look at 1 Corinthians 13 regularly. The first 3 verses speak of what are commonly thought of as good things to do or be able to do, but in every case they are classified as worthless in less they proceed from love. Then the writer goes on to explain what love is. If you think about these verses for a while they will ruin almost all romantic stories.

The point is; the things we think of as good works are only the light. The good works is the work of learning and living the love. Read the verses 4-9 and see clearly what the love that God intends for us to practice truly is. This is a good work. This is difficult and we cannot accomplish it without the help of the Spirit of God living in us, helping us.

From the Sermon on the Mount on, the New Testament is full of Good Work that we are called to do. All of this work is invisible to those around us.

Let me illustrate what I am saying. Let’s assume you are in a store waiting in line to pay for your purchase and you turn around to look at something and when you turn back someone has stepped in front of you. What happens inside your mind? Do you become angry because someone has violated your right to be next in line? Jesus says that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgement (not exactly sure what that last part means but it doesn’t sound pleasant) (Matthew 5:22). The apostle Paul says that love does not demand its rights (1 Corinthians 13:5). These and other scriptures demand that we think completely in a new way, a way completely different from our natural inclination.

The light that can come forth is no indication of impatience, or possibly mentioning to the other person what they did with no critical or impatient emotion, and then accepting the result with peace in your heart.

Read the Sermon on the Mount and see how many of the things Jesus says are done internally. The instructions that Jesus gives in the sermon are the good works that produce the light that people see coming from us in the daily life.

One time I saw a police officer receive repeated verbal abuses and he remained calm and patient. Later I asked him how he did that (I want to be that way). He said he had learned to act like a duck. You may have seen ducks in a swift moving stream just sitting still. What you see seems to be a stationary duck but what you don’t see is little duck feet paddling furiously where they can’t be seen but the results are obvious.

No one will see what is going on under the surface, but all will be able to see the light that it produces.

Let us grow in faithfulness.

Ephesians 2:10

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The End of Conflict

This morning I came home from buying coffee because we just didn’t get it done yesterday. I was hungry and wanted some potatoes and eggs for breakfast.

Now we have changed some things under the sink and Jeannie wanted to clean out under the sink before we put the dish drainer back under there. She had told me this. I knew it. I was conscious of it.

I wanted to fix some potatoes and eggs. The dish drainer was on the counter, in my way. So I put it back under the sink, where it belongs. Or should I say I lit the fuse.

What followed may be familiar to many of you. She said… I said…she said…I said…etc. This was followed by some tears some apologies, some more tears and some more apologies; and then by peace restored.

What happened? Does this have to happen every now and then? Is there a solution?
The answers in reverse order are; yes, no, and well let me explain.

What Happened was I did not allow the cross to work in my life. I did not crucify my flesh with its lusts and desires (Gal 5:24). I wanted what I wanted and so I did what I wanted in spite of what my wife wanted. Then something else happened, Jeannie didn’t have the cross in her life. So when I told her why I had done what I did, she responded by being offended. And so it began and continued for far too long.

Jesus says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

We both failed to take up our cross and deny ourselves. The cross is the solution to every conflict. James says, “Where do all the fights and quarrels among you come from? They come from your desires for pleasure, which are constantly fighting within you.” (James 4:1)  All conflict comes from this cause. If you read on you will see the extension of how this goes and it doesn’t matter if we are talking about dish drainers or you name it.

In the past I was acquainted with a happy man named Bratlie who said, “If one person has the cross in their life there is peace, if two people have the cross in their life there is fellowship.” If one person will take up their cross and faithfully carry that cross there is no possibility for conflict with that person.

It is something to think about.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Question

In 1978 Douglas Adams wrote a farcical novel called “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” In this wonderfully entertaining book we learned that the earth was simply a giant computer created by a civilization from another dimension in order to discover “The Answer.” But after several thousands of our years the earth was destroyed to make way for an intergalactic byway. But fortunately the operators escaped in time and they had just been able to work out the answer. This only created another and much larger problem. What is the question?

It seems to me (major disclaimer) that this may be where the Christian Church in almost all of its expressions has come up with the wrong answer or question in this case. This is where it all falls apart. What is the question? If we look around at the people all around us we do not see people who are wondering if they will go to heaven when they die. But that is the question that all of Christendom is answering.

Could it possibly be that people are really interested in how to be happy? Could it also be that when they look at the other people who claim to be Christians they don’t see happy?

“Christians” seem really interested in telling those who are not Christians that they are going to Hell if they don’t pray a certain prayer, say some special words and do some ceremonies. Christians seem really interested in pointing out the sins that others are doing. As Christians, disciples of Jesus, active members of the (fill in the blank) church do we have anything that is truly of interest to those who haven’t bought our T-shirts?

Let’s just assume that the real question is something like, “how can I be happy?” Does the Bible or Jesus have an answer to that question? I believe that the answer in bold flashing capital letters is YES WE DO. The colossal problem is that many of the people wearing the T-shirts and flashing the hand book are not doing what it says in order to be happy. So the non-T-shirt wearing non hand book flashing public doesn’t believe the sales pitch when the results are obviously not as advertised.

The Word of God tells us in many places who will be happy. These simple instructions involve conforming to God’s pattern. Take some time to look up the references in your bible that begin with the word blessed. This is just another word for happy.

Jesus showed us by his life how to conform to God’s pattern. In Hebrews 1:9 it says that because Jesus loved to do what was righteous (God’s pattern) and hated lawlessness (that’s everything else) God poured the oil of gladness (happiness) over him more that over anyone else.

This is much more difficult than telling people they will go to hell if they don’t conform to my religion. But this is the way that I have chosen for myself. Thankfully I have made some small progress and I am trusting God that he will give me the power to continue in this way. I hope some others will follow me as I follow Jesus and learn to be happy in all situations.

It is something to think about.