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“God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Romans 2:24

 

I am part of a team going to explore Navajoland in response to an invitation of the bishop there. We will look and listen and learn from the Navajos and see how we can partner with them to do God’s work. In preparation for this marvelous opportunity, our team has been reading extensively and researching the history and culture of Native Americans.
To my distress I have read that:
“The Navajo’s concept of religion is so total that it can be said that there is no such thing
as religion in Navajo culture because everything is religious. Everything a Navajo knows—his shelter, his fields, his livestock, the sky above him and the ground upon which he walks–is holy. The Navajos for the most part, have long resisted Christianity. They look upon it as a ‘part-time’ religion where a man’s god is available to him for only a few hours on Sunday and then has to be sought out in a special house where his spirit dwells.” (Locke:  The Book of the Navajo)

 

Even though this may be a broad generalization, it seems that the Navajo are not the only ones who hold this opinion. These “part-time” Christians could be called “nominal,” Christians in name only or, perhaps, they are believers who have not yet been discipled. Nevertheless, that those who call themselves Christians do such a poor job of representing the Son of God, the Light, the Truth, and the Way is heartbreaking.

 

As true followers of Jesus, we are to lift him up so that when people see us, they glorify God. Our actions are to reflect hearts of love and integrity and bless and bring the life of Christ to our world, especially those around us. We have centuries of misperception to undo, and it can only be done by abandonment to Jesus Christ, scrupulously following the crucified Lord, and abiding in his resurrected life.  All the while depending totally on him…

 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a massive global turning to Jesus Christ through the witness of his children who are walking faithfully with him?

 

Father, forgive us for our selfish, flawed portrayal of our idea of Christianity. Convict us and work within us that those who do not yet know you might hunger and thirst for you because of the Jesus they see in us. Humbly, I pray in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

JESUS DIDN’T MEAN IT

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  Matthew 5:17  (NIV)

 

Just like Moses, Jesus went up on the mountain to talk with his followers about the new rule God was establishing in his Kingdom.  His antagonists, the Pharisees (and the scribes and the Sadducees) had accused him repeatedly of attempting to do away with the Law that had governed them for thousands of years.  But actually, by the time of Jesus’ ministry, the Law of Moses had been so compromised by the religionists that it had little semblance to what God had intended.

For example, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’” (Matt. 5:43).  This is a far cry from the original (Lev. 19:18), “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.”  Nothing is said about hating our enemy but rather that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. 

The Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7 is a study in what we are to be and how we are to live as citizens of God’s Kingdom.  It says bizarre things to us, things that as rational people we find totally impossible to perform.  We’re blessed when we are poor in spirit, when we are sorrowful, when we are humble, when we are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, when we’re merciful, and when our hearts are pure.  We’re even blessed when we’re persecuted for righteousness’ sake.  And that’s only the beginning.

All these characteristics are antithetical to our cultural teachings.  And yet Jesus is the one who is speaking.  There’s got to be something beyond the superficial here OR Jesus just didn’t mean what he said.  He was merely speaking in hyperbole to get our attention.  And surely he accomplished his goal.  And so we, too, compromise the message saying it was only for a specific group of people or a specific time.  It’s too biting for US.

Oswald Chambers notes that Jesus has called us to live a life we cannot live and to do what we cannot do, and yet WE CAN do what he’s called us to do and to live as he’s asked us—through the power of his Holy Spirit.  This is how we move into life in the Kingdom of God that Jesus described as abundant life.  That’s what I want—all God has to offer.

Throughout the fall I’ll be studying and blogging about the Sermon on the Mount and Life in the Kingdom.  I hope you’ll join me.

 

Father, you offer so much, and we often take so little.  Give us a hunger and thirst for you and your righteousness, for you long to fill us.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

FAMINE

The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.  They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.  Amos 8:11, 12.

 

In England “just one tenth of the nation’s Christians attend church, and churches are now closing faster than mosques are opening.”  (UK Times Online 2007)  In 2010 the Pew Research Center data…highlighted the degree to which the European population reported no religious affiliation:  France (28%), Germany (24.7%), Italy (12.4%), Netherlands (42.1%), and the United Kingdom (21.3%).  By contrast, 16.4% of the United States population is unaffiliated with any religion.

Notwithstanding, is God’s Word being spoken or read from our pulpits and in our Sunday school classrooms every week when we gather?  Are we, instead, feeding hungry souls with philosophy, ideology, or humanism instead of the Bread of Life that alone can satisfy human hearts and lives?  How can we expect to reach our goals of universal peace without including the Prince of Peace; of empowerment without the Spirit who strengthens us to do all things; of sustainability without calling on the Rock who is the eternal foundation?  And however will we know eternal life without encountering the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)?

Yes, there is hunger, even starvation for the Word of God.  Sometimes it seems we offer cotton candy when people are craving bread.  For our own sustenance, are we seeking opportunities to grow spiritually through the Word?  I am often amazed that “cradle” church-goers haven’t yet established the practice of daily Bible reading that’s so essential to nurturing our spirits.

In Psalm 119, traditionally attributed to David, the writer enumerates the many blessings accrued to the one who loves God’s Word, who enjoys it, and who walks in its statutes.  God’s Word is “a delight,” it “preserves,” it “gives hope,” it “is precious.”  If you haven’t feasted on the 119th Psalm recently, take time now.  You will be fed.

The time of Lent is a wonderful time to begin to experience God’s presence through the daily discipline of reading and meditation on his Word.  And we can learn, like Samuel, to say, “Speak, for thy servant heareth” (I Samuel 3:10).

 

 

Father, arouse us to the need for your Word in our lives and in those around us.  Cause us to share the Bread of Life and Living Water rather than temporary platitudes that don’t speak to the deep desires in our souls.  Awaken us to the desperate hunger around us.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

LIVING WATER

 

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.  John 7:38

 

Our church offices are located on nineteen lush acres that have been inhabited for thousands of years before Christ.  Massive, ancient oaks, mountain Laurel, native grasses, and indigenous plants provide the habitat for birds and bugs and other critters.  Why has this particular spot drawn creatures great and small and hosted glorious trees and plants for eons?

A walk through the grounds, particularly after a time of heavy rains, reveals the secret.  Artesian springs bubble unexpectedly in crannies throughout, and we’re told that geysers spouted up to 20 feet in the days before urbanization.  In fact, a small lake several feet deep was a community draw with people coming for picnicking and boating.  People are attracted to water.  In fact, a community can’t exist without it.  And neither can we.

Jesus told the woman at the well that if she drank of the water he gave her, she would never thirst again.  Jesus satisfies, and nothing can really quench our thirst other than him.  Once we taste living water, we can never be content with anything less.  And once we begin abiding in him, we become conduits through which he freely pours water for other thirsty souls.

The water on our office grounds ebbs and flows with the rains just as the outflow in our spiritual lives ebbs and flows depending on our attachment to Jesus.  When we allow distractions, self –serving, or sin to clog our lives, the flow of living water is diminished, and others suffer through our neglect.  Perhaps we need spiritual housecleaning from time to time so that, as keepers of the spring, others can always be refreshed.

If we actively believe in Jesus Christ—which entails loving, obeying, and trusting him—that living water will flow in and out of us all the time.

 

Father, help us to mature into our calling to be keepers of the spring.  Remove from us anything that blocks the flow of your Spirit and water this thirsty land.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.