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Posts Tagged ‘Providence’

Earlier this week I was talking to an old friend.  As long as I’ve known him, he’s been talking about ways to make the most out of all the information in the world.  What it comes down to is community: I can’t read all the books and you can’t watch all the movies, but if we do a little of each, and then share the summaries or highlights, we’ve both benefited from double what we could have done ourselves.  Another thing he brought up was the difference between knowledge and wisdom.  Wisdom knows value.  Wisdom can make choices. 

 

You get on the internet and how do you decide whether to read the article about the presidential race or the news story about international affairs?  You go to the library: upstairs or down?  Fiction or nonfiction?  M’s or Biographies?  There’s so much you couldn’t hope ever to get to, yet gaining knowledge is good.  What makes you read Jane Austen over Dickens?  Why did you pick a mystery today, but a book about Iceland last week?  Or we could look at your household.  How do you decide between Monopoly with your kids, a movie with the family, or any of the hundred chores and projects you could do around the house? 

 

The choice is wrought by wisdom: your wisdom or someone else’s.  My same friend is an excellent story-teller.  He has the wisdom to know what details are essential to letting you feel right there a part of the story.  When I get on the internet most days, I’m not thinking of choices that are life-shattering.  “What’s this about?” I ask and click.  I found all of my favorite blogs by linking out of curiosity.  Why did that article catch my eye?  I believe this is providential grace.  Do I always see purpose in my trips to the library, the museum, or the web?  Are all of my conversations with friends evidently headed in a direction good for both of us?  I believe that, though I can’t always point to it. 

 

Fruit in our Christian life is a matter of wisdom.  It isn’t dutifully devouring the books in the library shelf by shelf until we are filled with useless facts and exhausted by blurry lines on the pages.  Christianity is walking in the Spirit’s wisdom.  And the Spirit produces fruit in our lives. 

 

Luke 10:27-42 contains two stories: the first is the Good Samaritan.  The second is one we’ve been studying in Sunday school for several weeks, Mary and Martha.  This week we’re got a glimpse of the context of Mary and Martha.  We can tend to see Jesus’ reproof of Martha as a call to abandon work almost entirely.  Churches today are so afraid of legalism that they can be afraid to tell people to work.  Who was most spiritual in the Good Samaritan story?  Who was most Christ-like?  Who obeyed the greatest commandment?  It’s significant that Martha’s story follows the account of the lawyer (asking the question, “Who is my neighbor?”) who wanted to “justify himself.”  He wanted to earn credit from God.  That’s not what ministry is about.  Let’s look at a proper perspective on service. 

 

Last week in Sunday school we talked about having “living room intimacy” with God.  A few weeks ago one of our teachers shared a little of what her living room is like with friends.  She’ll serve them, but wants them to help themselves to refills or anything they need.  I love most to visit my friends and spend the day with them, changing diapers, folding laundry, etc.  What I’m getting at is intimacy that goes beyond sitting at Jesus’ feet, beyond the time of prayer and meditation on His words.  Intimacy with Jesus is an active intimacy, too.  It doesn’t turn off when we get off our knees, or when the kids wake up, when we’re at work, driving, relaxing, or even when we’re on vacation. 

 

We work as a result of being with Jesus.  We can’t do everything, so we need wisdom to know which works to choose.  Follow Jesus’ example (taken from Joanna Weaver’s Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World).  He ministered in three ways:

 

         as He went on His way

         as He went out of His way

         in all kinds of ways

 

 

In Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby writes that we should look for God at work and join Him there.  In John 5:19, Jesus describes His walk in the same way: So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”

 

We don’t get the impression from the gospels that Jesus published an itinerary.  His disciples rarely even knew where they were going or when.  Jesus was like a living pillar of cloud and fire that the Israelites followed.  Jesus knew where He was going, and the gospels even report at times that He had to go somewhere (Jn 4:4).  

 

Even in the story of Martha and Mary, when Jesus got to Bethany, He was on His way to Jerusalem.  What does this joining God at work look like? 

 

I’ve worked at the same office for seven years.  Over that time I’ve met some favorite patients and some least favorite.  Last week we saw one of my least favorite, a man who when he came last year was a test of my Christian love.  I didn’t want to love him, to want him to be saved, to be nice to him or anywhere around him.  I wanted him punished.  But I struggled with that, and prayed that God would help my weak heart to love my neighbors no matter who they were. 

 

This year when I saw his name on the books I started to pray, but my prayers were all different.  I prayed for an opportunity to share the gospel, and for the approach to take with the gospel.  Our patient needs Jesus, no question about it.  And for all the times I’ve asked God to never let this man come back to our office, God has brought him back year after year.  God doesn’t make me miserable for no reason, so I believe God is at work in that man’s life.  I didn’t get to share the gospel.  He came in and left without even stopping. 

 

But he came back the next day, and my gifted-evangelist brother shared the gospel with him.  How incredibly cool is that? 

 

Remember the story of the Good Samaritan?  He wasn’t out on a charity field trip.  He didn’t build a shelter for beaten and unconscious penniless men to recover if they could make it.  Luke 10:33 – “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.”  The Samaritan was on his way, paying attention to the needs of others.  He ministered on his way. 

 

But the difference between the Samaritan and the other, “religious” men in the story, was that after he met the needy man on the road, the Samaritan didn’t just toss him a drink or some money; he went out of his way to help him, just like Jesus would. 

 

Joanna Weaver points us to Matthew 14:1-22  for Jesus’ example.  The first part of this chapter describes the death of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.  John was the first to proclaim Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God,’ and actually baptized Jesus.  In response to news of his friend’s execution, Jesus goes apart by Himself.  The crowds find Jesus, but He doesn’t immediately send them away.  Instead, according to verse 14, Jesus “saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”  Note the word “compassion.” 

 

“He laid aside his hurt so he could pick up their pain.  He laid aside his wishes so he could become their one Desire.  He laid aside his agenda so he could meet all of their needs.”  – Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

 

There’s a lot of emphasis these days on our passion for ministry.  What do you just love doing?  God created you to be passionate about certain types of service, truths about Him, or people groups.  As youth leaders at church we’ve been talking about that.  And when you’re building a team with a mission, that’s good.  You want those passionate about interaction to be doing the fellowship, the teachers to be teaching, the servants to be running the snack bar or sound booth, the loud and energetic ones to be leading games.  God gave the body spiritual gifts, and He gave varieties to different people so that we could work together and be the best and strongest. 

 

But we’re not talking just about targeted long-term missions. 

 

Compassion is different from passion.  Compassion is why Jesus went out of His way to meet the needs of the multitudes.  Compassion is why Jesus went out of His way to make me His.  And compassion is willing to serve wherever needed. 

 

Jesus ministered in all kinds of ways. 

 

What if Jesus had said, “Blind people aren’t my ministry; I heal the lame”?  Or “You’re a Roman; I only help Jews”? 

 

Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, healed lepers, taught Pharisees, fielded questions from lawyers and peasants.  Jesus played with kids and cleansed the temple.  Nothing and no one was off limits to Him. 

 

Yeah, you say.  That’s Jesus.  Of course He could do everything. 

 

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

 

God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the same Spirit from whom we get the terms “spiritual gifts,” and “fruit of the Spirit.”  So no excuses.  If God is leading you to a ministry, whether for five minutes, five days, or for a lifetime, He’s going to supply the gifting.  Remember the idea of spiritual gifts is that they are supernatural.  If we could do it without God, they wouldn’t be spiritual gifts.  Ministry is God’s power working through us.  And that Power, that God, is exactly what the world needs. 

 

Remember the story of Peter and John from Acts 3:6-9 where they heal the lame man?  Peter offers the man first Jesus and second healing.  We need to have that intimacy with God (from spending particular time with Him) that gives us insight into physical and spiritual needs of those around us.  They need Him more than money, free food or good counseling.  Even the people not like the Samaritan’s neighbor, not at death’s door, desperately need to believe that there is a God with Power that they can trust. 

 

So we’re serving out of our intimacy with God, continuing the journey and joining Him in His work.  We serve and bear fruit as we go, when we embrace God’s interruptions of our plans and go out of our way to help, and reach out in all kinds of ways.  You see a person in need.  What do you have to offer? 

         Compassion that comes because God loves them.  When we spend time with God, we get His heart.  We start to love people because God loves them, and because we love what God loves.  The word compassion is an overflow of feeling.  If it doesn’t produce action, it isn’t compassion. 

         Compassion that sees their need as more than outward.  Going through our daily lives with God is a good way to keep in mind that there’s more to life than what we see or feel.  People have needs that are physical, and God calls us to care for those in distress.  But God left us on earth to spread the good news. 

         Passion for God’s glory that can’t hold it in.  Getting to know our God produces more and more enthusiasm for who He is.  Then we can’t help sharing it.  Everyone should know about God; He should get credit from everyone for the goodness that He is and does. 

 

This whole lesson on fruit is based on the idea of abiding in Christ, summed up in John 15:5 – “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  When we have that intimacy with Jesus, we’re like a zucchini vine.  Joanna Weaver writes, “Fruit happens.  You get connected to the Vine and pretty soon you’ve got zucchini – tons and tons of zucchini.  So much zucchini you just have to share!”  If our fruit doesn’t point back to the vine, though, we’re just working.  We’re Marthas, cumbered about with that load of rocks (acts of service or ministry) God didn’t give to us, trying to earn credit from God for all the good things we do.  We’re trying to tackle the whole library.  Christian work is from “walking in the Spirit” (that living room intimacy picking up and moving through the whole house), the Spirit who glorifies Himself, and who gives people what they need and not a cheap substitute.  If all we have to offer the world is our love by ourselves, or our money, or our help – they’re not getting nearly what they need. 

 

Jesus promises that men will recognize His followers by their love (John 13:35), and sure enough, Peter and John were identified as Jesus’ disciples because they boldly healed the lame man in Jesus’ name, and would not be deterred by the religious incumbents, though the apostles were untrained and uneducated.  Jesus had made a noticeable impact on their lives (Acts 4:13). 

 

We had elections in this country last week.  Compare the US to China.  In China the Christians are often officially persecuted for their faith.  But most of them aren’t fighting to transform the government.  They know their real mission – and only hope – is to transform lives.  God changes lives when He is known in His people’s love.  “Chinese Christians devoted themselves to worship and evangelism.  They concentrated on changing lives, not changing laws.”  – Philip Yancey

 

Does the world know WHOSE you are? 

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I believe that congressmen, who are involved in ratifying treaties of the United States and charged with representing our country, should know history and diplomacy.  This is their job.  I hate needing to remind politicians of their job.  Nevertheless, I press on.  This is not to say that the situation in Georgia is our fault.  We did agree to admit Georgia as our ally, which Russia does not like (they being a selfish political power hoping to re-aquire the land of Georgia). 

 

Rather than the most recent war in Iraq, perhaps a better illustration of the need to proceed with wisdom in Georgia would be the conflict between Afghanistan and Russia, in which the US armed the Taliban in order to defeat the Soviets.  Certainly neither party needed us to be helping them.  However, Georgia has been advancing toward a democratic, “westernized” government and culture, despite serious economic and military opposition from its closest most powerful neighbor.  The US, because of the fundamental beliefs that make us a democracy: “endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights”, believes that these rights apply to all people, and wishes to aid the sovereign governments who share our concern to promote liberty in their own countries.  It is also strategic for us to have allies like Georgia, the Ukraine, and Poland, whence we can maintain vigil over the growing threat of Russia’s imperialism. 

 

Another good example would be World War II, which could actually have been prevented as a world war if the other superpowers in the world had stood against Hitler when he took over Austria and Czechoslavakia, citing similar reasons as Putin’s Russia now claims.  Because Hitler was undeterred in his conquest, he gained confidence and military positional advantage by which he launched his near-complete takeover of Europe.  Too much appeasement, and too many empty threats, are what allow world wars to come to fruition. 

 

Thus, the United States was acting in this prudent manner of putting out a spark rather than a raging forest fire, when we “preemptively” struck Iraq.  A little history (which it is good to know, before you judge a situation):  In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait in order to add its natural resources to the larger, but economically depleted, Iraq.  The US and a UN-supported coalition defended Kuwait.  Iraq was forced to surrender, on very favorable terms considering the nature of war.  They submitted at the time to the UN as enforcers of these terms.  When after several years Sadaam Hussein began to put his toe across the line, and found himself unchecked, he gained confidence and gradually became more and more blatant in disregarding the terms of his surrender over a decade prior.  As it became evident that he was committing atrocities and defying the UN resolutions (an act by all accounts punishable if the UN meant anything); harboring and aiding the professed terror-wielding enemies of the US and her allies; and moving towards if not already possessing the means of restarting his quest for more money and power at the cost of human lives at home and abroad, the US led the way in collecting the Coalition of the Willing and specific UN resolutions in order to redress the transgressions Sadaam Hussein’s Iraq made against international post-Gulf War agreements. 

 

The resulting war, Operation Iraqi Freedom, was so shocking and awe-ful to Sadaam that the real fighting was over in a few days.  What has taken so long in Iraq was the establishment of a democracy among a people used to oppression.  The South needed to be reconstructed, and the freed slaves equipped for life and industry after the Civil War in the United States.  Georgia needed the support and example of democracies to build its government on the true, God-fearing principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  In the case of Georgia, they have met insurgent opposition to democratic government, and have endured opposition sponsored by neighbors with ulterior motives – all very reminiscent of the situation in Iraq where Iran continued to supply and train the insurgency.  Interestingly, Putin and Ahmadinejad are themselves allies, who have no doubt consulted on tactics. 

 

Georgia, a sovereign nation, has the right to use force to suppress violent uprisings in its land.  That is what governments do.  If the government is being oppressive and abusive, that is another story, but then one wonders why most of Georgia is NOT in revolt.  (See Declaration of Independence).  I find it sad that Americans seem willing to accept ethnic differences as explanations for conflict and wanting one’s own country divided according to race all the while recognizing the great fact (which has been largely successful in its American implementation) that race has nothing to do with the value of a human life, with relationships, or with the principles of government by the people for the people.  Being of a different ethnicity than a portion of your country is no reason either to revolt against your government or to oppress your people.

 

When America broke away from the Crown, it was not a matter of race or even of disapproval of the laws so much as it was outcry against the king’s making rules and breaking them.  The charters by which America was colonized gave specific rights and powers to the colonists, which the king then usurped.  Since the Magna Carta, England had recognized that the king was not himself above the law, and Americans expected the present king to honor that.  However, when he did not, they declared their independence.  Unlike the implications some have made, the king did not immediately recognize his fault and repent, but invaded their land with violence.  By the providence of God, America was able to defeat the armies of the tyrant king, winning independence and teaching England a lesson on human rights and the nature of government that the Crown has yet to forget.  America is free not because of the benevolence of England, but because England surrendered their object in the colonies. 

 

My letters were addressed to my congressmen because, as the Constitution of the United States presently stands, they are my representatives to the world.  World leaders are not my concern beyond my own country.  I am not a globalist.  America is my nation, and her leaders are my focus. 

 

My position maintains that we were not so utterly wrong in Iraq or in Afghanistan as is popularly argued.  Weapons of Mass Destruction have been found, and there is some evidence that more may have been shipped to likeminded countries.  Good has been accomplished in Iraq and Afghanistan.  No further terrorist attacks have been perpetrated on America.  Lives have been lost, tragically, but most American lives were willingly laid on the line in service of country.  Alongside wars of history, the human toll has been remarkably small.  Peace reigns over the Middle East more than ever.  There is still violence, but there is violence in New York City, in San Francisco, and in my city, Denver.  To quote Tolkien, “It takes but one foe to breed a war…” 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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