Save Some Oil…For Yourself!

File:View from connors hill panorama.jpg

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ 

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour”. Matthew 25: 1-13

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, I don’t know where I went,
I disappeared amongst the kids, job, partner and the rent.
I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, I wander through the mist,
Of work and chores, school and trips and a never-ending list.

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, most days I just appease,
Despite the work to make it right they were rarely pleased.
I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, to make a happy house,
I want so much to make it well for my family, friends and spouse.

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, my goals I have made known
I really want to chase God’s dream, the seed that He has sown.
I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, I gave away my oil,
I’m all burnt out with nothing left from chasing endless toils.

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, a voice that goes unheard
But if I don’t exist why do I feel their every word?
I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, but I exist unseen,
It’s clear that I’m invisible, Dear God, where have I been?

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, but I gave me away
And though my well was void and dry, they thought I was okay.
I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, I’m in a lonely place,
I’m all worn out, too tired to care, I’m resting in His Grace

I’m lost; I’m searching to find me, I’m drinking at His well.
It’s then my eyes are opened and I see just where I fell.
I’m lost and I have found myself resting in His arms,
Leaning on His lasting love, protected from all harm

I’m lost and I have found myself, replenished and revived,
Remembering the sacrifice, why He was crucified.
I’M FOUND!!! I know just who I am, He taught me I’m His child,
There’s nothing else I need to know, His love has me beguiled.

I’M FOUND!!! I know just who I am I won’t be lost again
As long as He lights up my path and tightly holds the rein.
I’m found and I have realized the things I didn’t see,
I’m found and I have realized the need to care for me.

I’m found and He has promised me I’ll never be alone,
I’m found and He has set me on a path to take me home.
I’m found and I will not let go, in Him I will reside
My Lord, My Savior Jesus Christ!!! Forever by my side!

This poem reflects a perspective of how family life, though desired and prized, can also be stressful and draining.  It’s easy to get caught up in giving constantly to the demands of our, families, marriages, friends, jobs and church life while neglecting yourself.  As long as you are always self-sacrificing and always putting others first, neglecting your own needs – people – no matter who they are –  will take and take and eventually you will become exhausted. At those times when you ask for or need help – you may find some, but you may also find none.

You must not lose yourself, give away your character and eternal salvation because the demands of life or people – even the ones that you love – becomes so overwhelming that you fail to take time for yourself – and then when Christ returns – you are unprepared – you have no oil. Remember – Jesus took time away from the crowds to rest and renew His relationship with His Father – without this self-care, Jesus may have been of little help to anyone else.

Set clear boundaries with people who perpetually burn your oil without replenishing it.   Learn to say “No!” just as the wise virgins did. Take some time to know yourself and who God created you to be and pursue that course no matter what!  Make time to relax and renew your mind through an activity you enjoy,  whether exercising or socializing with friends. Last and most importantly, take consistent time to develop and cement your relationship with and your character in Christ through prayer and reading the Bible. Do yourself a favor while you still have time, save some oil for yourself – you cannot afford to be lost – your salvation depends on it!

Trust in The Source.

Trust is the foundation in any successful relationship. But trusting people always comes with a price – the possibility of being hurt. Once trust has been damaged it’s difficult to repair and without trust, relationships between friends, family, spouses or co-workers can fall apart.

People often let us down with their words and/or behavior – we all have done or said something which has damaged someone’s trust in us whether it is a parent, spouse, sibling, child, or friend – none of us are perfect. However, trust can be rebuilt if we are willing to swallow our pride, accept we are wrong, apologize and demonstrate through our actions a willingness to change and be considerate of others.

On the other hand, consistent displays of behavior which repeatedly breaks or damages trust is difficult to accept.  Perpetual broken trust, without repentance or humility often leads to a breakdown in the relationship. As Christians we are taught to forgive repeatedly and so we should, especially since we need forgiveness too, but there are behaviors which should not be tolerated – after all God did give us common sense and wisdom. To continually accept behavior which breaks our trust and hurts us is damaging, not only to the relationship, but to the spiritual, emotional and physical persons involved and can often lead to depression and despair.

God does not want us to despair. Why?  Because He wants us to trust in Him. When people hurt us God wants us to draw close to Him.  God can renew us. Like Elijah, God can revive, refresh and sustain even when we are at our lowest points. Jesus will feed us, quench our thirst and provide for all our needs for He is the Bread of Life and the Living Water.

When people hurt you, whether intentional or not, God can use that hurt to turn your life around, just as Balaam, in Numbers 24 tried to curse the Israelites, he ended up blessing them three times. In Genesis 50:20 Joseph said “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good”. God can take you on a journey of revelation through your pain and transform it into a blessing of peaceful understanding, spiritual growth, strength and happiness.

Where a broken trust leads us to question ourselves, our identity and judgment, we must remember our identity is in God and He is the source of all things – our breath, self-esteem, gifts, abilities, education, job, income, health – everything in our lives.  Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein”.  God is the source of all things. The earth, people, jobs, wealth, success and all the things in the earth, dare I say, are merely re-sources and we should not put out trust in re-sources.

I am learning to trust in God – The Source and believe what He says about me and accept who He created me to be and to trust Him to provide for my life – He validates my very being – no one else. Trusting in ‘man’ to meet our mental, spiritual, financial needs or otherwise is sinking sand and we need to build our trust in and on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Rock of our Salvation.

landscape
Image courtesy of Photokanok at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Maybe that is why the very heart of the Bible says:-

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes”  Psalm 118:8 .

It is a lesson and a scripture that we should hold in our hearts as we seek to heal from the hurts of an imperfect human race.  God is The Source – let us put our trust and confidence in Him.

I Confess…

…I’m an Israelite…through and through.  Despite seeing miracles over and over and experiencing the blessings of God repeatedly – like the Israelites in the desert, I still doubt God’s protection and His ability to do the impossible.  I don’t understand how God can bless me one week, and the following week my faith crumbles when things are not going my way.  I’m putting it out there… bad as it sounds… it seems that I need God to prove Himself over and over again.

In our last blog by Delzino, it was mentioned that people watched Jesus Himself perform miracles, yet it did not cause them to believe… and it’s at times like these when ‘I get it’ and I feel the need to repent and ask God to cure this resistance in me that does not quite fully accept Him or His power at face value.  It must have been really frustrating for Jesus to ‘prove’ Himself, to people that were not open to believe in the first place.  And while I am open to believe, I still doubt. “Lord I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

I am sure that I have fallen victim to the art of projection.  It is likely the case that I do not believe in myself and my ability, and have thus projected my doubt in myself onto God – consequently diminishing Him to the stature of a human.  The reality is, that I should not bring God down to my level, but I should allow Him to raise me up to be the excellent creation that He created me to be – to glorify Him in all that I do.Woman with Arms in the Air

So today, I want to testify of God’s goodness toward me in answering the spoken and unspoken prayers of my heart despite my lack of faith and trust.  I have to praise and thank Him and confess that God has done great things in my life. YES! “…He has done marvelous things!” (Psalm 98:1)

My prayer is that as we continue our walk with God that our trust and faith in Him will grow and we will allow Him to transform and renew our minds, such that we can live a life of peace, knowing that ‘He is the blessed and only Sovereign (controller) of all things, the King of Kings, Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power (1Timothy 6:15 -16).

Miracles: Lessons from the Blessings of the Supernatural ‘Servior’

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”-Mark 10:45

The “Servior” might look like a typo, Jesus makes it clear in this verse what His entire mission on earth would be, and that is to be our Loving Server and our Lord and Savior. One of the many ways that Jesus served the people was through the miracles he performed.

Jesus performed miracles – around three dozen, depending on how you count them-but the Gospels actually downplay them. Though He never denied someone who asked for physical healing, He always turned down requests for a demonstration to amaze the crowds and impress important people such as King Herod & Pontius Pilate even when His life depended on it. Jesus recognized early on that the excitement generated by miracles did not readily convert into life-changing faith. Rarely did people find it easy to believe in miracles; they seemed as peculiar in the first century as they would seem if performed today. Just imagine your own reaction of seeing a televangelist on one of the Christian networks that “heals” members of his audience. Then, as now, miracles aroused suspicion, contempt, and only occasionally faith.

Now even though we cannot perform miracles as He did and still does, we can still learn lessons from Him in how we serve others in our community.

Lesson #1. When you do community service, or any volunteer activity to benefit others, you must expect suspicion and skepticism.

We live in such a cynical world, that even random acts of kindness to strangers will have them thinking there is a catch. Also when we go out to serve the community, like Jesus, we cannot do it just so we can get attention, give ourselves a pat on the back, or just make our church look good. Read Matthew 6:2. Imagine if you will, the mentality of the arrogant modern day apostle, “Look at me; I just gave away a free water bottle and two bags of Cheetos and Skittles! I’m such an awesome volunteer”. Service should be who we are and not just what we do. Christian writer E.G. White says in the book “Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing” that “Those who desire words of praise and flattery and feed on them as sweet morsel, are Christians in name only.”

Jesus’ first miracle in John chapter 2 (turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana) was perhaps the strangest of all. He never repeated anything quite like it, and the miracle seemed to take Jesus by surprise as much as anyone else.

As emergencies go, this one falls well down the list. It caused embarrassment, to be sure, but should a Messiah who had come to heal the sick and liberate the captives concern Himself with a social mishap? “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied when His mother mentioned the problem. “My time has not yet come.”

Can you imagine what crossed Jesus’ mind? If He acted now that would mean His time HAD come and from that moment on, life would change. If word of His powers leaked, He would soon hear pleas from needy people from Galilee to Jerusalem. Crowds would flock: the blind, the lame, the deaf-mutes, and the demon-possessed, not to mention any street beggar who wanted a free glass of wine. So finally He reached a decision, for the first but surely not the last time in His public life, He changed HIS plans to accommodate someone else.

Lesson #2-When we serve others in any capacity, like Jesus, it would require us to change plans to accommodate someone else.

Serving others is not about us. It requires sacrifice of our time, money, our energy, and some of our material possessions. Also serving others requires us to step outside of our comfort zone. Like Jesus, we have to meet people where they are. We actually have to step out of the ivory towers of the church building and go into some of the most undesirable neighborhoods to serve those in need. We can’t expect those in the community to come in here, if they feel we are too good to go meet them out there.
The people back then blamed the victims of blindness, deafness, and paralysis on their sinful conditions. So the sicker you were, the more sinful you were. But Jesus overturned common notions about how God views sick and disabled people. He denied that the men’s blindness came from sin, just as he dismissed the common opinion that tragedies happen to those that deserve them. Job refuted that theory right? Job was the most upright man in the land and still got hit with more tragedy than anyone else. Praise be to God that Jesus, the only perfect Man who ever lived, served the most imperfect of people.

Lesson #3-When we serve others, like Jesus, we must not look down on them or stand in judgment of their circumstances as if we’re superior and they’re inferior to us. We must dismiss the ideology that bad circumstances mean they’re bad people. But if you read the Holier Than Thou version of Romans 3:23, it says “Most have sinned..some have fallen short”, no ALL have sinned and not only have ALL sinned but no matter how high and mighty you think you are, or how big a deal you think you are, you STILL come short of the glory of God. We are all just nobodies telling somebody that anybody can be saved by the Man who died for everybody. So let’s serve with humble hearts of compassion like Christ.

Let us talk about the only miracle in all four Gospels, the feeding of the 5,000. The daunted disciples were vexed and perplexed on how to feed the multitude, but the Savior was the solution. When we focus on the problems, we lose sight of the promises. When we focus on great obstacles, we miss out on golden opportunities. So I can imagine Jesus telling the disciples “I healed the sick, made the blind see, made the lame walk, raised the dead, and calmed a storm with My voice alone … so do you honestly think hunger is something I can’t handle?”

Lesson #4-When we serve others, we need to remember that little becomes much when we place it in the Masters hands. Just like the 2 fish and 5 loaves fed everyone AND created an overflow and spillover, God will take whatever gifts and talents you have to serve others and will multiply it so that it would exceed even YOUR expectations so that it will spillover and overflow to have a huge impact on so many that would greatly benefit from it.

The author Philip Yancey once said, “Jesus never met a disease He could not cure, a birth defect He could not reverse, a demon He could not exorcise. But He did meet skeptics He could not convince and sinners He could not convert. Forgiveness of sins requires an act of will on the receiver’s part, and some who heard Jesus’ strongest words about grace and forgiveness turned away unrepentant.” In the context of service, we can help so many people when we give of our time and energy, and they can still end up being ungrateful and unappreciative, but serve anyhow. And why should we serve others? What’s the point of it all anyway? Let’s look no further than Matthew 25:37-40. It wasn’t the wicked, the unbelievers, or even the Gentiles that asked those questions, it was the righteous that asked these questions. It was His followers, the believers, the Christians. He wants us to serve others we SEE just like we serve Him that we DON’T see. Matthew 20:28- the Son of Man did not come to be served, but TO SERVE, and give His life a ransom for so many.” Besides dying on the cross for our sins, out of His own mouth, serving was His only other purpose on earth. We are saved to serve. God saved us so we can serve others…God saved us, so we can serve others. So let us serve with compassionate hearts and sincerity. Francis of Assisi once said, “It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look”. I believe that God not only loves a cheerful giver, but a cheerful servant.

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” -Muhammad Ali
We all need to ask ourselves, are we current with our “rent” payments with our LandLord? Or are we delinquent?

Suggested listening music to reflect on.
Keith Pringle-Saved to Serve

Apostle or Christian?

Nowadays anyone can call themselves a Christian if they profess to believe in God. But are they Apostles for Christ – messengers of the gospel and ambassadors making disciples of others? I overheard the following conversation between two fellow co-workers discussing Christian ministries. “Have you ever thought about serving outside the church?” said one. “You know – I’m not sure about totally going outside of the church, though the idea is appealing” replied the other. They went on to describe how their circle of acquaintances and family were in the church and that was their target area of ministry.

Although I recognize the need for people to minister inside the church and while I do not want to doubt the sincerity of any person who serves God. I did wonder how much of those remarks were based on the ministerial needs of the church or of the individual needs of the person having a familiar group of people around them.

The call to go totally outside of the church is not an idea, it’s a commission. Jesus said “Go into all the world…and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:17) 

How many of us have become comfortable Christians? Professing Christ and serving busily in roles which serve other comfortable Christians. Do we hide behind the comfort and security of the church, hoping that the drug addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals, homeless, mentally ill, and any other non-conforming group will stay safely outside of the church? After all, we don’t want anyone coming in lowering the church standards or making us feel uncomfortable, do we?

unwelcome mat
Image courtesy of theguardian.com

Why are we unwilling to sacrifice the creature comforts of the church walls to seek the lost in the community?

“They’re a crazy drug mob…What if they have AIDS?…Maybe they’ll ruin our church! Or take my favorite seat…They’ll bleed our budgets dry!… They’re a bad example for our children!”

Though these comments are not always expressed verbally, it is often clear in the way we treat our visiting brothers and sisters, and it becomes clear to them that they are not welcome at our church to receive the message that God quite clearly told us to preach to all the nations.

Where would we be if Jesus had said:- “You know, I’m not sure about going down there, they’re dangerous, crazy and they just don’t get it…they could even kill me!  Why would I want to bring those sinners up here anyway? They’ll bring our standards down, they may even try to sit on my throne! I’m going to stay here in Heaven and hang with my angels…”

Thankfully He didn’t!

We need to remember that the majority of Jesus’ ministry was outside of the synagogue with the apparent ‘unsavory’ characters of His time. Furthermore, it was Jesus, the Son of God, who gave up His heavenly home, throne, family, angels, and His Father and suffered incredible discomfort – to save us.

Jesus did not call us only to believe in Him as a Christian, but also to follow His example as an Apostle, a messenger and ambassador. Following Christ’s example in sharing the gospel requires some discomfort and potentially a ministry outside of the church with God and the gospel being our only partners. What better lesson could we teach our children about love and overcoming fears, than to serve God in the community sharing the gospel with others? The nervous unease of inexperience and meeting different people as we seek to move outsideimagesCAL2PEE0 of our comfort zone is positive growth.  The confidence in our abilities and acceptance of others as God’s children usually becomes more assured as we allow God to equip us as He promised.

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1: 4 – 6).  Has the time come for you to take the next step from being a comfortable  Christian towards being an Apostle for Christ?

…Happily Ever After!

I love a happy ending! Who doesn’t? Hollywood movies, fairy tales, computer games and other fictional stories usually thrive on the concept of evil working against good.  But, no matter how sinister the plot or determined the bad guy, the good guy conquers evil in the end, and the final scene usually closes with the good guy getting the girl, world order restored and a unanimous victory cheer! What could be better than that?

superman1
Image courtesy of superitch.com

Sometimes it’s impossible not to get caught up in the ‘Hollywood Gospel’.  We are deceived by the instant gratification of a happy ending guiding subconscious beliefs that evil can be terminated by the good guy in about a couple of hours that it takes to watch the movie – and then we wonder why God is taking so long. On top of that, the ‘Prosperity Message’ suggests that if we ‘do the right things’, we can overcome sickness, wayward children, marriage troubles, financial  and world crises and whatever else is thrown our way. Our Bibles contain beautiful inspiring stories of faithful men and women like Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Abigail, the poor widow, and Leah who overcame a few snags and fulfilled incredible achievements. Right? Well… not entirely so…

These faithful few, despite victories in some areas of their lives all experienced difficult, tragic and traumatic moments which are hardly beautiful.  Abraham sent away Hagar, his concubine along with his first-born son Ishmael – the Bible does not tell us if he ever saw them again. Though there is a great story about Moses’ survival in the bulrushes, let’s not forget the thousands of babies who were murdered by Pharaoh. Ironically, Pharaoh’s family rescued and adopted Moses, but later issued a death warrant against him. Moses ran away and eventually journeyed through the desert for 40 years leading a complaining and miserable people, and at the end of it God tells him he can’t enter the Promised Land.  Then we have Elijah, though translated to heaven to be with God, at one point in time he became so depressed he wanted to die.   Prior to Abigail’s marriage to David, her former husband Nabal was a cruel and abusive man whose dealings were described as ‘harsh and evil’. As for the poor widow, she gave everything she had but there is no evidence to suggest that she ever became rich as a result of her sacrificial offering. And despite Leah’s best efforts to produce a tent-full of offspring, Jacob did not love her. These are only a few stories, but if we look around the Biblical miracles, there is murder, rape, incest, suicide, war and unwarranted death – all issues we deal with today.

Being a Christian does not guarantee protection from misfortune or unhappy endings no matter what we do. There are incredibly horrific events occurring across the world on a daily basis to people from all types of backgrounds regardless of their belief in God. While on the other hand, there are some wonderful blessings that happen to people who we might define as undeserving. Why does this happen? God has already explained why. Sin is in the world and ‘His sun rise(s) on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust’ (Matthew 5:45).

chess2
Image courtesy of Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Satan is the god of this world and in Job we read that it was Satan who caused the afflictions to Job, not God. God allowed it, because He wanted Job to have free will to choose between Him and Satan (Job 1:9-22). To do otherwise would not be free will or a true expression of love by God or Job, because love does not control or manipulate.  If God was to control  and move everything in this world to take away all the pain and suffering right now, then we would be no more than lifeless pieces in a game of chess with little opportunity to exercise our own thoughts.

Why doesn’t God do something? Well he has. The true Good News is that God created a plan to counter sin and to end suffering. Through Jesus, God guarantees us the opportunity to start all over again and have access to eternal life. The promises that God gives to us, are to provide comfort in this life through trials and tribulations with hope of eternal life in God’s heaven on earth.  It’s not a short-term feel-good fix delivered through a two-hour movie, it’s a long-term plan which like most complicated people issues, is painful and slow to resolve. As depicted in M. Scott Peck’s ‘Road Less Traveled‘, many of us want to forfeit the agonizing journey to get to the ‘happily ever after’ part, but God knew that true human spiritual development and salvation required pain and sacrifice and Christ felt the full effect of that pain and sacrifice on the cross.

Image courtesy of menapolis.com

Truth is, we all need a superhero to restore law and order in our lives and to this world. But if there is ever going to be a knight in shining armor for me, it has to be Christ  even though his entry into this world was hardly dashing. The crucial matter is Christ died for me and because of his sacrificial love,  there is only one ‘happily ever after’ that I’m looking forward to. I’m willing to wait for Christ’s triumphant return to take His faithful followers home to live with Him in God’s Kingdom on Earth, where finally there will be eternal life, love, peace and unity for all. Now – doesn’t THAT deserve a victory cheer!!!!