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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday Message

You know that God speaks through you if you can successfully pull one message out of the first three chapters of my lineup this week- Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Ezekiel.  I mean, here we have the "everything is vain" book, followed by hot love poetry, the going, going, gone of Judah, and a vision of heaven.  But there is a way, because every combination that one can put together, God has put there for a reason.  Or to look at it as the Norse did, everything is part of a single tapestry, and pulling one string has an effect on all other lines.

And the common thread is most easily seen if we look at it in light of, "What message does it have for today's Christian Church?"  And for me, that message is, "How are we, who are to stay in, but separate, from the world, to deal with the idea that the 'things which are common to man' happen to us, too?"  So let's look at Ecclesiastes.  Solomon explains that he is a man who has everything- and wants to find a meaning to it.  "Whatever my eyes desired, I did not keep from them," he says in 2:10.  But it was all in vain:

12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,
    and also madness and folly.
What more can the king’s successor do
    than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
    just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their heads,
    while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
    that the same fate overtakes them both.

15 Then I said to myself,
“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
    What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself,
    “This too is meaningless.”
16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
    the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!
 
So, what was the point of life?  He comes to the conclusion in 3:12-13 that God put us on such a world to do good, work hard, and enjoy the fruit of our labor.  He had begun to see that all the rewards you could get in this life were vain- that this life was for obedience to God, and awaiting the reward for that obedience IN THE NEXT LIFE, not this one.  So then step one of understanding why things happen to all of us is: 
Be content with what you have and what you do; the reward is not in this world.
 
 
Part two is in Song of Solomon, a love poem that is really rich in it's description of the progress from emotional love to physical.  But twice in these first three chapters, just as it's getting the hottest:
 
Scarcely had I passed them
    when I found the one my heart loves.
I held him and would not let him go
    till I had brought him to my mother’s house,
    to the room of the one who conceived me.
Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
    by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
    until it so desires.
 
In the poem, the point is not let the emotion, the desire, overwhelm what is right and proper.  And so too, in our message.  Solomon in the first book spoke of having all his desires and saying, "What then?"  In his second, he speaks of the desire before him. Second lesson:
Don't let desire for things of this world lead you astray.
 
Bringing us to Isaiah, where I found the verse that struck me in 1:18:  "Come, let us reason together."  Now he had been talking to a people who were in sore need of repentance, and just couldn't conceive that there was a connection between the half-heartedness of their rituals and the abandonment of them by God.  Isaiah has three messages revolving around the phrase that caught my eye (basically because I remember the Hulk quoting it during Peter David's run).  The first is, God is not going to put up with going through the motions (vv 10-15).  Second, you need to live a life that SHOWS you have faith (vv 16-17).  And finally, through obedience, you access the salvation you cannot earn yourself (vv 18-20).
 
One thing to note here:  we have to put this in perspective.  We were saved AFTER Christ died for our sins.  We KNOW the mechanics of, "though your sins are scarlet, they shall be white as snow".  The audience Isaiah had was six or seven hundred years away from having a clue.  All they could do is have faith, be obedient, and somehow God was going to work it out in the next life.  I thought it interesting that Israel, who had seen the great miracles of God, were called to an even greater faith than we are.  So the third lesson that comes from this is:
 
Reason out that obedience leads to reward.
 
By Jeremiah's calling, things had went from bad to worse.  The society around him was on the verge of collapse- and yet there were those who didn't seem to care.  The part that got to me here revolved around 3:11- "Then the LORD said to me, 'Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah' ".  What did this mean?  Israel, if you recall, never had the great revivals that Judah did, never had one king take them back to God.  Judah, however, was another story- and just like Isaiah, Jeremiah was watching Judah going through the ritual, declaring themselves to be innocent (2:35 for one), but never really serving God. One question Jeremiah asked really caught me:  "Why do you beautify your way to seek love?" (2:33).  I look at today's society, calling out for "tolerance" and "acceptance", trying to get a bunch of people going all different ways to hold hands and say, "It doesn't matter which way you go."  So tell me, if you tell a line of children holding hands this, how long will they be holding hands?
 
Exactly.
 
Point being, there is the narrow way to the reward of the next life.  Either you accept Christ's sacrifice for your sin, and live an obedient life, or you don't.  Society today is like Judah then- they thought (and think) that the crust of beauty, the appearance of faith, is enough.  And the lesson here is:
 
Be sincere in your faith.  Live your faith.
 
 
By the time Jeremiah got to Lamentations, it had all fallen apart.  He paints an awful picture of degradation, poverty, misery, you name it, coming down on a people who refused to believe they couldn't do it all themselves.  And just when the picture he paints looks like the end of everything, he shifts- slightly- to the future and adds this:
 
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:
 
For you see, even out of all this, he was brought out because he had not left his faith and obedience.  Should be humbling to a bunch of soft Christians who have a problem with God sending them life's catastrophes small and large, that a man like Jeremiah, whose faith they'll never touch, went through worse than they are.  AND SURVIVED.  Thus the lesson for this chapter is:
 
Nothing that happens in this world to you means God has abandoned you- if you have faith.
 
And that brings me to Ezekiel and his "Man on the Throne" and his "four living creatures".  But it also brings his calling:
 
10 And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. 11 Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.
 
My friend Shirley had an excellent post this week on people who need to hear this very thing.  Here's a swatch of it:
 
 
 
What causes people who profess Christianity, to keep a quiet, private faith? What causes people who profess Christianity, to be busy in the church, doing everything good under the sun, appearing to have their lives in perfect order, yet not being able to talk honestly about the true condition of their hearts? What causes people who profess Christianity, to teach others, yet never be free to share the private pain within; the deep pain that keeps them from being real? 

What keeps people who profess Christianity, from sharing their testimony of how God came into them and revealed to them their ugly sinfulness, and how He began to heal their hard hearts? How deep and wide is the hole within that causes emptiness and loneliness to be the driving force in their lives, instead of the love of God that heals and fills?
 
 
 
 
 
I answered her with:

Why are so many Christians silent ones? Because they like to enjoy "the peace which passeth understanding" and having "a ready defense of your faith " ready rocks the boat too much. Every Christian should spend one afternoon of their lives defending themselves on an atheist chat board. Sadly, a lot of them will learn things about themselves they won't like.

And the final lesson is:

It doesn't matter what anyone else does about your faith.  It's what you do WITH IT that counts.

12 comments:

  1. I've said it before, and I'm going to say it again. Your Sunday Message posts are such a blessing. Thank you for taking the time to share! This is exactly what I needed to read after a roller coaster of emotional things happening this week.

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    1. And thank you. This is a hard job, because I typically spend three days reading and hoping theres a connection, 2 days going, "How could there possibly be a connection here?" And maybe 10 minutes before I type it going, "Ah, I get it."

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  2. As you wrote, "going through the motions"; very well put. So glad you could use some of my post about silent Christians, which stemmed from a "very godly, wonderful woman" who taught children at school, and women at church, and was there for anyone who needed her ... until she abruptly took her life just days ago. Tragically, she is the model example for many more just like her, who are walking around trying to do it all, in order to please God, and it simply won't work. If we don't "come out" we just remain paralyzed in the closet (called church).

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    1. Just like there is a difference between "religion" and faith, there's a difference between doing and faith. I'm sorry to hear about this lady. Sometimes I think people think they have to carry the world to Church... but it's really all about carrying yourself to the cross.

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  3. Our beloved Father S. spoke on the subject of sharing our Faith often.

    Here's is my thought process - I am not out to change the world or convert anyone, even a Muslim. I do my best "professing of my Faith" and aharing the Grace of Christ through my own actions.

    I try to lead by example, hoping that people will see that I have a peace and a joy that comes through my relationship with God and my Church. That fills my whole family and my life. That this is the biggest crayon in my box that colors my world.

    Do I fail miserably sometimes? I am sure I do. But as a Christian I have been taught to respect my neighbors beliefs. I don't have to like them, but who am I to change them? I just ask for the same in return.

    It is the whole "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

    I am hoping through my actions and attitude towards life and my fellow human being that others will covet what I have thorough my Faith, and want it for themselves, instead of the material goods everyone else seems to covet of their neighbors' goods.

    Does that make sense? Basically, we try to lead by example. And my in laws, over many years, taught me that is the strongest way to share your faith.

    Nice post. As always. :) Hugs to you.

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    1. I started to answer, but I am having many annoying problems with the computer today. Let me try again, hopefully without frustration coming through.

      I think there are some of us who have those in need come to us, and some of us that are sent. With the faith you have employed to get through all you have, I am confident that anyone sent into your life would see it, and you could talk to them once they ask, "How do you do it?" That's fine.

      But while not everyone is built to evangelize others of different faiths, we need to keep in mind that REFUSING (not "not going out to evangelize" but refusing to say anything) to speak out might just rob them of their chance to heaven. It's wonderful to respect other people, but if you have a chance to help someone and don't, you might just as well push them over the ledge.

      What Shirley was addressing were people who think just going to church on Sunday and not worrying about the other six days, people who say, "I did the altar call, that's good enough." But it's not IF you are called to other service. There are people (like yourself) that truly do lead by example. And there are those who have the opportunity, the resources and the calling to do more- and don't.

      I kind of feel that I am exiled from the physical church because at a time I should have acted with faith, patience, and humility, I acted with fear, self-righteousness, and pride. But God implanted in me a mind which (when I actually use it) can find the great weave in His Word, and He wants me to use it. There are weeks I've messed up so bad, and I tell God I shouldn't be doing a post, I'm not worthy. And every Sunday, whether I feel this way or not, I pray that if He has a message He wants to share, share it through me; and if not, then shut my mouth. And every week that He allows me to write I am humbled. And any week I'm really humbled, I get comments like Kelly's.

      Each person has their own ministry. It is given, not chosen. And only that person can judge whether they are trying to fulfill it or not. But for every time I post in humility, I have to demand, "Am I applying it to myself, or just being a hero in my own eyes?" And every time we feel called to lead by example, we have to ask NOT about the example, but, "Am I leading? Who am I Leading? And where are we going?"

      I hope this doesn't sound like I'm bashing you, I am not. But every thing we do to the glory of God, we have to ask, who's getting the glory. For example, the "Sunday message" didn't start because God pointed a finger and said "Write". It started with a determination to drag myself, kicking and screaming if need be, to the Word EVERY DAY. The message , when it is right, is no more than what I learn each week, each day, even if it takes me till Sunday to learn it.

      I would just add this one thing- answer to yourself. "Who am I to change them?" You are the Light of the World. The change has to be their choice, but you have to be out from under the bushel basket to shine it. Only you can decide if your light is out in the open or peering through a crack.

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    2. Dang, nothing like writing a whole new post, eh?

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    3. Oh, Chris. I am sorry. Should I have sent an email? Your post just moved me to write all that. You can remove it. I'll understand. I am really sorry.

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    4. Why? Your post was valid, and I just wanted to draw the contrast between people who lead by example, and those that say they do, but don't know what or who they're leading. Not a bash, never a bash. I just know that there are a lot of people who serve "in their comfort zone," But my personal experience is that He wants at least one foot OUT of that zone.

      I just wanted to get ahold of those who read your comment and said, "I do all that," to look in the mirror and say, "Do I?" I thought your comment was a damn fine string in the tapestry. Please don't mind me pulling it.

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  4. I just read the comments. And I just want Shirley to know that is so very sad. Oh. Prayers for her, her family and you Shirley.

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  5. I do like these Sunday message post and can often relate to them and am often touched by them so keep them coming.....

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