Is Church a Safe Place?

SCRIPTURE

“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.

They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.

But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.” John 16: 1 – 4

OBSERVATION

They, the Jews believed that they were doing God’s work, eliminating the sinners and blasphemers from the synagogue.   They believed their doctrine and traditions were truth.  They believed that other people were sinful and they were without error.  They believed Jesus had a demon and they had the Holy Spirit. They believed that they were right and Jesus was wrong, because they had upheld these beliefs and traditions for so long as the elders and priests of the church. They refused to listen to anyone because they believed they were righteous,  defending God’s law and doing this all in God’s name.

And…here comes Jesus, a fresh dynamic young man with new ideas.  A preacher with a creative expression proclaiming God’s love, grace and mercy – and they chased Him out of the synagogue!!

Jesus’ own people, the people He went to the synagogue with, the Jewish people He grew up with, the priests who likely taught Him, rejected Him and eventually killed Him.  Jesus warned us – the synagogue is not a safe place – in fact it may be even more dangerous.

APPLICATION

I was a mature adult with children when I entered the realm of church membership and with this sense of belonging came a huge helping of naivety.  I wasn’t raised in the church and so I expected there would be a difference in the way people treated each other within the church as opposed to in the world.  But, this whole scenario in my observation above is all too familiar and it saddens me.  While some church people are shocked at the behavior of people in the secular world, I am sad to say, that I am even more shocked by the behavior of people in the church who profess God.  It is disappointing to say that the church is not a safe place to be.

I see people busily doing ‘God’s work’ believing they are serving Him; while I cannot judge another person’s heart or desire to serve, I am convicted that I need to be careful of what I do and how I relate to my brothers and sisters in the church.  I don’t want to ‘kill’ any of Jesus’ servants, simply because I am so caught up in protecting God’s law or church. God really does not need me to protect His law or doctrines. Neither do I want to chase someone out of the church because they do not meet the ‘image’ I have in my mind of who a Godly person is.  After all, Jesus did not meet the image of a King or God’s Son that people were anticipating.

Jesus has told us plainly, these same people in the church –  will attempt to kill us, physically (in some countries) and spiritually and in so doing, either stop or slow our ministry, believing they are doing this for God.  But Jesus warns us about this so that we may not stumble or be discouraged.

PRAYER

Dear Father

It has consistently been a blessing to meditate upon your Holy Word.  I feel disappointed by the knowledge that our own church family could some day choose to harm or discourage us.  But I feel empowered that Jesus has told us this to help us to stand firm in our ministry and in our faith despite this.  I am thankful that Jesus went before us and that He has been able to warn us of these dangers in our churches.

I pray that You will help us not to be so over-righteous in our beliefs, doctrines and traditions just because we’ve had them for so long we think they’re right.  We need to be still and listen to You when You talk to us.  I pray that You will help us not to discourage others who do not share our ministry or meet our expectations because it is possible we may not be serving You when we do this. In Luke 9:49 when John told Jesus he forbade someone from casting out demons because they did not follow with their disciples, Jesus told John “Do not forbid him for he who is not against us is on our side”.

I pray that we will not be a stumbling block for anyone, but particularly for those who are fresh, young and dynamic with different ideas who are seeking to develop a ministry in Your name.  Remind us daily Lord that there is only one safe place to be and that is resting in Your arms.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Save Some Oil…For Yourself!

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“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!

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

Open the Door

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock…” Revelation 3:20

A recent article described the importance of maintaining healthy boundaries with family, friends and co-workers. It stated the benefits for our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health to create boundaries that allow healthy, positive, and encouraging people into our lives, while limiting or denying the access that negative, critical people have.

It is wonderful news that God’s amazing unconditional love of sinners means that He does not create boundaries to keep any of us out.  Despite our sinful nature, God created a way through His Son, Jesus Christ to enable us to have fellowship with Him such that nothing can separate us from His Love. The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15 : 1-7) tells us about how God looks for us. God is gracious and does not turn his back on us, but He actively seeks out the fallen.

It is even more incredible that Almighty God wishes to respect our human boundaries, such that He knocks at our doors and waits for us to answer! God wants us to remove our barriers, open the door and invite Him in. No  boundaries, no limits!

Even if we place boundaries on others or they do the same to us, we can take comfort in the fact that God’s love is always available to us. He is a healthy wholesome God who is willing and able to heal/comfort those who are emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically unwell – especially when we let Him into our lives.  God invites us all to limitless fellowship with Him through prayer and meditation on the Bible. God’s promise in Revelation 3:20 (NKJV) is:-

Image courtesy of ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If  anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

God’s door is always open to us and yet He patiently stands and waits at our doors. Is He knocking at your door? Will you let Him in?