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Showing posts from May, 2011

GENEROUS TO TAKERS

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On a daily basis, I am faced with decisions about obligation and commitment. How am I to deal with the needs of others? Where is the line between serving others and becoming a rescuer? Where is the line that makes me feel good about doing good works in moderation?

Or what about the times that I need to ask others to help me? Where are the lines about borrowing and lending?

Some will reach into the fuzzy memory of bible verses and quote, ‘neither a borrower nor a lender be.’ Where is that verse? It might be in that book near the end; isn’t it called Conquerdance (concordance)?

In fact, it’s not a bible verse at all. It is from Act 1 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It does describe a common desire to not be burdensome- do not borrow. It describes protecting ourselves from users- do not lend.

But what did Jesus say?

Matthew 5:42 
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 

Jesus encourages us to be generous, prioritizing people above our property…

CARRYING SOMEONE ELSE'S LOAD

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Dying days are memorable to those who witness them. I remember being with a man dying of cancer hours before his passing. He sat in the hospital room chair leaning and lurching with the pain. I prayed with him and then I prayed silently. I marvelled at the intensity and the imminence of death’s final hours. He tried to tell me it was okay and not to worry about him.

It may be that someday your friends and family will gather at the bedside and watch you fighting for life. They are not gawking at you; they are entering the edges of your suffering. They need to let you know that love still exists and you matter. Let them come to your bedside.

On Jesus dying day, there were many brief conversations, forlorn glances and necessary steps to complete. Friends, family and complete strangers were drawn into the vortex of his death experience. A Libyan man named Simon was passing by when he was suddenly pulled into a gruesome close encounter.

One of the Roman soldiers conscripted Simon of Cyrene al…

GIVING THE SHIRT OFF YOUR BACK

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Often our first concern in conflict is proving our innocence. We are blinded by self-preservation and fear. We do not want to take blame or responsibility beyond the little part that we own. We think that paying our pittance is enough. Where would we be if Jesus had that attitude towards the world?





Matthew 5:40 
And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 

Lawsuits have been around for millennia. The goal is to repay those who have been mistreated and faced great loss. When you are sued or face the demand to repay someone, start with a willingness to do everything you can and more to restore peace.

A tunic would be comparable to your shirt. A cloak was the outer garment that kept a person warm at night. In Jewish law you could sue for a tunic, but not for a cloak. It was recognizing that the offender should not have to freeze at night. There is respect for basic human rights.

For the price of a winter coat, you may restore a broken relationship. Th…

THE REVENGE GAME

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In the secret games room of your mind, their picture hangs on a dartboard. Fiery darts of hurt, accusation and disappointment fly each time you enter that part of your mind. Hours can pass in the entertainment of trying to get your aim perfected. When you have your showdown, you will be ready for the bull’s eye.

Jesus enters the games room and says,

Matthew 5:
38 "You have heard that it was said, `Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 
39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 


In Jewish law the ‘eye for eye’ was not so much of a literal practice, but an illustration of the Law of Equivalency. The premise was that punishment for a crime should match the severity of the offense or injury. The equivalent punishment should not exceed the injury sustained.


In Matthew 5:38-42 Jesus was not abrogating this important legal principle, but was rather inviting Christians in their daily lives to go beyond the letter…

PLOTTING YOUR REVENGE

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Revenge… the word rolls softly off your tongue and curls around the imagined enemy. The world will be a better place when I find a way to put them in their place. Have you ever felt that way?

It seems that we never tire of ‘revenge’ stories.  TV shows and movies stir our passions as the underdog gets back at the villain.  We feel satisfied when the bad guy gets killed or arrested.


This is not just the stuff of movies, though.  History has many examples of revenge at its finest.

At one point early in Julius Caesar's political career, feelings ran so high against him that he thought it best to leave Rome. He sailed for the Aegean island of Rhodes, but en route the ship was attacked by pirates and Caesar was captured. The pirates demanded a ransom of 12,000 gold pieces, and Caesar's staff was sent away to arrange the payment. Caesar spent almost 40 days with his captors, jokingly telling the pirates on several occasions that he would someday capture and crucify them to a man. The…

IF YOUR CHURCH CLOSED TOMORROW

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(poetic license to portray the Bride of Christ as the virtuous woman)

If your congregation closed its doors tomorrow, would your neighbours be affected in any way?

Proverbs 31:
27 THE CHURCH watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 
28 THE CHILDREN OF THE CHURCH arise and call her blessed; JESUS also, and he praises her: 
29 "Many ORGANIZATIONS do noble things, but THE CHURCH surpasses them all." 
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a CHURCH who fears the LORD is to be praised. 
31 Give THE CHURCH the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. 

Lazy churches are satisfied with minimums. Empty buildings and empty seats are not viewed as a problem. The hoarding of resources and an unwillingness to do extra are the marks of idleness.

Some churches die because they have not reproduced. But even busy, full churches can miss the point. What influence and impact do you have on your surrounding commun…

TAKING IT TO THE STREETS

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(poetic license to portray the Bride of Christ as the virtuous woman)

Proverbs 31:
23 JESUS is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 THE CHURCH makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 THE CHURCH is clothed with strength and dignity; THE CHURCH can laugh at the days to come.
26 THE CHURCH speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

The world still whistles at the Bride when she shows virtue. Jesus is well spoken of in the city when the church does good work. They may not be impressed by many of our indoor activities. They do sit up and take note when we feed the poor, take care of the sick and bring help to the most vulnerable.

We can laugh at the days to come when we learn to trust Jesus for our future. We can speak wisely to the community when we have a dream for better streets and merciful justice.


SHE CLEANS UP NICE

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(poetic license to portray the Bride of Christ as the virtuous woman)

Proverbs 31:
21 When it snows, THE CHURCH has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed; THE CHURCH is clothed in fine linen and purple.

The virtuous woman made sure her kids and servants were dressed well. Scarlet was actually the finest clothing available. What does this mean for a church that wears ‘work clothes’ when we gather? We tend to dress down deliberately to not draw attention to ourselves.

Certainly the Pharisees and other religious leaders placed high value in their vestments and robes. There’s nothing wrong with dressing up or having a costume that sets you apart. But, there are better things to wear.

It is not wrong for us to dress up. Feel free if you want to. The day will come in eternity when we will all be sharp-dressed by the Master Designer. For now, it is good that we focus on inward adornment. What are the inner things that are…

ARMS WIDE OPEN

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(poetic license to portray the Bride of Christ as the virtuous woman)



Proverbs 31:
20 THE CHURCH opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

When we embrace the poor, we receive Christ. The church with this attitude is becoming more like her husband.


Not only does she open her arms, she gives herself to meet the needs of the poorest. This a church that is willing to help wherever they can.

She may be moving to the King’s palace, but she never forgets the ghetto she was raised in. She does not look down on anyone; she looks into their eyes and finds one more way to serve her Lord.

GOD'S WIFE TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS

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(poetic license to portray the Bride of Christ as the virtuous woman) 

Proverbs 31:
13 THE CHURCH selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
14 THE CHURCH is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
15 THE CHURCH gets up while it is still dark; THE CHURCH provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.
16 THE CHURCH considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 THE CHURCH sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 THE CHURCH sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand THE CHURCH holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.


In the picture of the virtuous woman, she worked creatively, supplied her household with provision, rose early to get ahead of the work and found ways to generate profits. To be a virtuous church, we need a DIY (do it yourself) attitude. Instead of waiting for someone to rescue us and supply our needs, we find …

A WOMAN GOD CAN TRUST

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Some people think that Christianity is an enemy to feminism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Women served as missionaries, prophets and deacons in the early days of the Church and continually throughout history.

The first wave of feminism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries included an increased interest in the place of women in religion. Women who were campaigning for their rights began to question their inferiority both within the church and in other spheres justified by church teachings. Some Christian feminists of this time period were Katharine Bushnell, Catherine Booth, Frances Willard, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.[i]

Jesus and the early apostles elevated the position of women above that of the surrounding culture. Men were told to love their wives sacrificially in the same way Christ loved his woman, the Church.

One of the metaphors to describe God’s view of the church is that of a bride. We are the bride of Christ. In ancient cultures of the East, a fa…

THE HEN WHO DEFEATED THE FOX

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Luke 13:
34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’

As Jesus tells of his mission to head to Jerusalem, he fills with emotion for the estranged children of God. Jerusalem should be the holy city where the Father is found in the streets. Instead, it is filled with those who have left home and forgotten their blessing.

He is not a fox ready to devour the vulnerable citizens of the holy city. He is a nurturing, mother-like hen feeling the urgency to gather the chicks under wing. Jesus desires to protect people from the storm of evildoers.

So many have painted Jesus as a fox-- a political animal trying to overthrow Rome and Judaism. This is no such animal. Jesus has the heart of …

MESSAGE FOR THE OPPRESSOR

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Jesus was never afraid to talk about ‘the elephant in the room’. Calling Herod a fox was an echo of what the Jews all believed but only whispered in hushed tones. Having come out with it, Jesus now delivers a message that remains the same to any unruly oppressor who perverts justice.


Luke 13:
 32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!


Jesus is not about to back down from doing the right things. Jesus is bringing mercy and hope to the most distressed citizens. He was doing what the politicians were incapable of doing. Deliverance and healing were not policies empowered by any Senate.

This is the work of God who rules above earthly principalities and powers. Jesus recognized that he had a short window of opportunity to fulfill his mission. He will end up in Jerusale…

HEROD ANTIPAS FOXWORTHY

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We are not told what Jesus thought their intentions were. But, his response tells us much about his fearless pursuit of God’s Will. Others thought they knew what Jesus should do, but He was not deterred.

Luke 13:
 32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

In democracy, you can call politicians names without reprisal. In many ways, political mocking is a national sport. This is not the case in other nations, nor was it politically correct for a first century Jew to speak ill of Roman rule. They had crosses and cat-o-nines for mouthy people.

Jesus calls Herod Antipas a ‘fox’. To a Jewish mind, this indicated an unclean animal. The fox was unholy and one to avoid. This was the Herod that Jesus would soon stand before in trial.

When Jesus calls someone by a derogatory…