Saturday, June 23, 2007

Blind Guides - Part 2

A thought occurred to me: what if I am a blind guide? I don't mean, what if I am requiring people to measure up to my standards before I allow them to come to God. God forbid that I am dragging around that pointless cross again - I have not only dealt with those who think I should do things their way, but have also myself, tried to require others to tow my own lines of interpretations on what to believe on various issues, both moral and practical. There really is only one non-negotiable when it comes to God: the only way to Him is through His Son, Jesus Christ, who paid for our sins on the cross. I gladly tow that line. All else, while not being irrelevant, does not even come close to this eternal truth.

What I am talking about is when I try to live my life for Christ and when I help others, am I trying to do it on my own? Or am I relying on God to lead me - even if it means the decision I would like to make immediately isn't what He wants? How do I know what He wants?

Hurry Up and Wait!

Most times, I want to move faster than I perceive God wants to move. I want to force an issue - use my own reasoning apart from God's leading. Is the advice I am giving not only wise and practical, but is it of God? Have I even sought His advice before doling out what I think should happen in any given situation? This is my biggest struggle. When I see someone stuck in sin that has their lives in a tailspin - I immediately want to tell them to "Stop it! Just stop sinning!" If you have any experience with addictive behavior, you know that this is not a possibility. I know our God is all powerful. He is supreme and above all of creation. But, for some reason, He does not commonly intervene with a miracle and take away a besetting sin from someone to never have to deal with again. Why not? I don't know. He leaves that unanswered. All I know is that we have to trust Him and His process for healing someone from their addiction. And therein lies the true miracle: He uses people to do His healing and on His schedule - if we are willing to listen to him.


See Through God's Eyes

So our marching orders are to see through God's eyes and be His instruments of healing as He seeks the lost and in my case, those stuck in addictive behaviors that are looking for a way out. We need to be in prayer with Him - staying in touch with His heart. How else do we know what He wants to do?

We also need to be willing to wait when He wants us to wait and be willing to move when He wants us to move. He doesn't heal on our terms. He heals on His own mysterious terms. We become blind guides when we don't do things His way - even if our motives are pure.

We also need to remember that Christ has left a helper - the Holy Spirit for us to rely on for insight and guidance. We need to invite Him into our situations and ask Him to show us along the way.

Lest I forget to mention this: We need to be clean ourselves - or at the very least, be far along on the road to being clean. I hesitate to say we must be perfect - none of us are. But we should not pretend to be able to help others when we are ourselves stuck in sin and addiction.


Conclusion

The blind guides Jesus was talking about in Matthew 23 were purposely leading people to do and believe things that benefited their interests. They ruled selfishly and self-righteously.

What I am writing about here is different, I don't want to control anyone for my own purposes. But I can still fall into leading someone in a direction that God doesn't want to go in simply because I didn't seek His counsel or direction - thinking I know what's best. I am a blind guide in that instance. I must reject the tendency to give a quick answer and expect quick results. I need to allow God the time and room to work in that person's life. As I tell those I have helped, God's way of healing is a process. It takes time and it's usually pretty messy. If I am willing to do these things, I will have become an instrument in God's hands, and will be a part of the healing process and not a hindrance to it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blind Guides

As I have pointed out in the past, I am reading through the book of Matthew. The other night I was reading through chapter 23 - the culmination of the the Pharisees, Sadduccees—the teachers of the law trying to trap Jesus in whatever way they could. Jesus finally fed up with all that they were trying to trap Him in - well, he let them have it - he ripped into them to their faces and in front of the very people they were afraid would rise up against them because of the Savior's teachings.

I have read through this passage before - but I have never read it like I am this time. I am, for some reason, realizing the depth of Jesus' righteous anger, disgust for these "authorities" and His passion for those they were leading to hell.

I will let Jesus' words speak (to you, without any commentary from me) for themselves...

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’

“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!

“Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’ Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding. How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. Then you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have joined them in killing the prophets.’

“But in saying that, you testify against yourselves that you are indeed the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started. Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?

“Therefore, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers of religious law. But you will kill some by crucifixion, and you will flog others with whips in your synagogues, chasing them from city to city. As a result, you will be held responsible for the murder of all godly people of all time—from the murder of righteous Abel to the murder of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed in the Temple between the sanctuary and the altar. I tell you the truth, this judgment will fall on this very generation.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tell my Wife and Kids I love Them

I was on the way home from work today and heard another report about the terrible fire in South Carolina. The fire killed 9 fire fighters when a firestorm erupted and the roof suddenly collapsed in a big, warehouse-type building. A bystander was being interviewed and told of being within earshot of one of the fire fighters on the street and his radio. He was communicating with his comrades inside the building after the roof collapsed. The bystander said that he heard one of the men trapped inside the building say, "It looks like I am not going to get out of this thing. Tell my wife and kids I love them." Then, apparently, there was radio silence. The bystander couldn't listen anymore and he walked away - overcome by the emotion of it I guess.

The fire fighter's request reminded me of a couple of things:

1. God has ordained our days and He gives us only one shot at this life.
2. Money and "stuff" ain't important.

1. God has numbered our days.
I don't know how this works practically speaking - especially when there are terrible accidents that take people's lives. You can't explain why God didn't save those people - or any others caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. If He is so powerful - then why allow all of the death and destruction? Don't know. Won't try to explain it away with simplistic, pious sounding soapbox speeches about how we sin and live in a fallen world, etc. Those kinds of answers don't really answer the question we are asking. The only response (notice I Didn't say "answer") I can give is that though we don't understand, God has proven himself faithful to me as I have sought to follow Him the last 10 years or so. He has provided for me even when I didn't want anything to do with Him. He can be trusted. We don't have His perspective, so we can't pretend to know what He is thinking. All we can say is, "Lord, we don't understand why you allowed this tragedy to happen, but we love You and we trust You." Easy words to say. Hard words to put into action when your in the middle of the crappiness of life. But let's face it, they don't call it "faith" for nothing and it's faith that is required to make it in this world - even if your faith is put into something other than Christ (though I wouldn't recommend that - you'll be sorely disappointed in the end). Speaking of the end, when it comes right down to it, Christ is our only hope - now and in eternity. Hold fast to the one who is the author and perfector of your faith. If you don't know Him, begin the journey of faith by asking Him to come into your life and have His way. His way is through His Son Jesus, Who died on the cross for your sins. Through Jesus is the only way to God. I know that's not popular in today's world (nor was it during Jesus' time by the way) - but popularity has never dictated truth and it never will. Settle things with Him right now - before it's too late.

2. Money and "stuff" ain't important.
We have all been told this, Problem is, money makes the world go 'round - and actually we do need it. But to elevate it and the chase after it as being anymore important than simply using it to provide for our needs, is pointless and not really who we are about as human beings. We weren't created to make money and accumulate stuff. We were made to worship God and give Him the glory by loving Him and those in our lives - our families. If this was not true, why then did that man not say, "Dang it! Why didn't I make more money before I died?" or "Tell my wife to be sure to invest my money wisely!" No. He said, "Tell my wife and kids I love them." He knew in an instant what was important. Family. It's embedded into us by God that we KNOW what's important - or I should say, WHO'S more important - even if we act otherwise. We need to remember that in the end, it's the memories and time and moments we spend with those we love that matter - these are what makes a legacy worth leaving - and a legacy that will last. Money is nice, but it's a terrible legacy to leave if it's the only thing left. It's been said that we all leave a legacy whether we like it or not. What's yours going to look like?

So to end this rambling post (I'm exhausted from a long day and little sleep) - I was reminded once again, that despite my failings in working too much - trying to make more money to buy more stuff (or buy a bigger security net - which is another issue altogether!) - and despite the fact that I have been told a cazillion times that family and time spent with them is the most important thing in this life apart from knowing my Savior - that there is still time left for me to focus on what's important: my wife and my family.

Trudy I love you! (assuming she takes the time to read her hubby's blog!)

Chelsea, I love you and miss you! (hoping that she is reading her daddy's blog)

Christopher and Zachary I love you too! (hoping that Trudy will share these lines with the boys while I am at work)

I know of at least 9 families that will never hear those kinds of words again from their husbands and fathers. It's good just to be able to type them and even better to be able to turn around now and say it to them in person!

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Voice in the Wilderness

I was thinking tonight about my blog and of course trying to think about what I was going to write. I thought, "Who cares? I am only one voice out of many - a voice in the online wilderness." Maybe my family members and a few friends will read this. But that ain't many people. So why bother?

Then of course, being a good Christian and remembering my reading from Matthew, I remembered John the Baptist, a lone voice in the desert - a wilderness of sorts. Now, he is not to be confused with the fighting, bickering, sometimes-they-try-to-get-along-but-it-just-never-seems-to-work-out, Baptists of today. I have heard that it is more correct to say "John the Baptizer" anyways. But that's besides my point.

John lived out in the desert, an outcast, a weirdo who dressed funny and ate bugs dipped in honey. He was a prophet who called - more like shouted - "Repent! The Kingdom of Heaven is Near!" Picture a guy standing on the corner in downtown Dallas screaming that your going to hell. That's the picture I get when I think about John the Baptist.

John was a prophecy fulfilled in that he made way for the coming Messiah and he was also Elijah returning according to Christ - which was another prophecy fulfilled.

And Jesus called him the greatest man ever born.

Quite statement for one small voice by none other than the Savior Himself. But, you know, Jesus was always focusing on those that no one else considered worth paying attention to. So I guess we shouldn't be surprised at His estimation of John.

John made a difference - he prepared the hearts of the people of Israel for Jesus' impending arrival. And he was just one small, seemingly insignificant voice in the wilderness just doing what he knew God wanted him to do - not worrying too much about being an outcast.

But if you read on in that particular passage that Jesus was speaking about John, you read that as great as He considered John to be, He also said to the disciples and the crowds around them that the least of the rest of us is greater than John. Go figure that one out!

I think you can see my point, we can be one small voice in the wilderness of life and it will count. We can make a difference in someone's life by trusting Christ enough to step out and take a chance, obey His commands and follow His will for our lives. For out of His will for our lives flows the hope and the help He wants to give others. He provides for others through us.

It may not make the news or even be known by anyone of stature, but it will be known by the person who is encouraged by a kind word; by that person who is thankful for a few bucks you gave him to buy a meal with. It'll be appreciated when a single mom can get a few moments of freedom from the pressures of her life because you took her kids for ice cream or maybe to the park to play.

Your kindness will be noticed by the orphan who puts on the new shoes you bought for him (unashamed plug here: www.shoesfororphansouls.com). Or even more so if you take those shoes to him or her on a mission trip. Trust me, the kids LOVE getting new shoes and socks. It may seem insignificant in all of our wealth here in the States, but in the orphanages of Russia, Guatemala, Africa or any number of other countries the organization I work for (buckner.org) serves, it's a BIG deal to the kids. Sometimes, it's all they have for the rest of the year until someone else brings them another pair the next year.

Those are just a few off the top of my head. There are a myriad of other ways both near and far that you can fulfill God's command to love others.

This blog is called Stumbling About for Truth. I think we have stumbled into truth when we stop to help someone who needs it in Jesus name. Where else would He want us but involved directly with other people's lives - helping them - encouraging them - leading them to the One who can provide for all of their needs.

So like me, don't fret about being just one voice in the wilderness. Look for ways to use it. You may be surprised at the impact you can have.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Jesus' Traveling Instructions for the Itinerant Preacher

I am a part of a group that meets every other Saturday morning for prayer and for breakfast. One of the requirements of belonging to the group is that we commit to reading our Bibles, journaling our thoughts and then sharing with our group what we have learned. Here lately, I haven't been either able or willing to get up at 5:30am to go pray and meet. I am sure Jesus would treat me the same way he treated the disciples who just couldn't stay awake while he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemene!

At any rate, I have been faithful to keep up with my reading even if I haven't been attending the meetings and we have been reading through the book of Matthew. As I read through Chapter 10 where Jesus is sending his disciples out to preach to the people - the Jews in particular that the "Kingdom of Heaven is near", it occurred to me that he had some very interesting instructions for them. What follows is a few lists to consider along with a conclusion at the end. I will spare you and me both the hassle of having scripture references at the end of each item on in the lists, but you can find them all in Matthew 10. Read this as if Jesus has just handed you a list written as if He was giving the instructions personally to you.

Packing List
1. Power to cast out evil spirits and heal diseases. You can pick this up from me before you leave.

Instructions on what to do (and not to do) as you are traveling.
1. Go to only those I have sent you to - the people of Israel - God's lost sheep
2. Announce to them my Kingdoms imminent arrival
3. Heal the sick, cast out demons
4. Give of yourself freely - after all, I have given you much.
5. Take no money
6. Don't pack a suitcase
7. No walking sticks allowed
8. But be sure t accept the hospitality offered you as your work is worthy of it
9. When you arrive at a town, look for a place to stay - someone who will give you shelter, comfort, food and rest. Stay there until you leave. Be sure to bless those who have offered their homes for you to stay in - if their home turns out to be unworthy, rescind that blessing.
10. If a village rejects you and my message to them, leave and shake the dust off of your feet as you leave. You tried, they wouldn't listen. When you are persecuted in a village, flee to the next one.
11.Seeing as how I am sending you out as sheep amongst wolves. Be wary as snakes and harmelss as doves. In other words, be smart, but act with humility and integrity.
12. Don't be afraid. They may (and will) kill your body, but I have your back spiritually - they can't take you soul - it's mine. You will ive on for ever with me in heaven.

What to Expect.
1. You will be beaten in the synagogues (those local pastors won't care much for your message)
2. Expect to be arrested and brought into court to stand trial for being my disciples. DON'T forget to remember to use your opportunities presented by being arrested and prosecuted to share my message with the kings and governors you will go before.
3. As for your defense, don't worry about what to say. I will give you the right words at the right time when you need them.
4. Everyone will hate you because you follow me, but stand firm in your convictions and you will be saved.

Warnings/Things to Remember as You Travel.
1. You are mistaken if you think I came to bring peace to the world. I have actually came to shakes this world to its foundations!
2. If you love anyone, thing or place - including yourself and your family more than me, and refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not really my disciple. If you attempt to hang on to your life and all its trappings, you end up losing it all. But if you surrender all to me, you'll find life - and find it abundantly!

Now consider these lists. Are you still as excited about serving Jesus as you might have been before reading them? Or would you seek to theologize, contextualize or otherwise dismiss them as being irrelevant for your life today? If you read on to the first verse of the chapter 11, you'll see that Jesus left to practice what he just told His disciples to do. As a matter of fact, He was already practicing it. He came to earth with what? How many supplies did he bring? How much power did he bring? He didn't bring anything - He came naked, a helpless infant born to lowly parents. But just as He told His disciples he would provide for them as they had need (or at least He told them how to get their needs provided for) - God also provided for His needs as He went about His Father's will. So we can naturally assume that He will also provide for our needs at the right time - when we need His provision most.

So... are you ready to travel?