Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Taking care of those in need

Leviticus 19:9-10  "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen.  Leave them for the poor and alien.  I am the Lord your God."

The Lord spoke to Moses and gave him many laws and statutes to pass along to the people.  These laws were not simply a way for God to exercise His authority.  These laws were given in love and mercy to show us how to live in accordance with God's will.  Certainly these were laws that restricted an individual's choice and freedom.  But following God's laws is the path to true life, even if at times it feels contrary to our own free will and choice. 

As a country, we recoil at the thought of restrictions on individual freedom.  It is a principle on which this country was founded.  But as with many worthy ideas, the merits of individual freedom fall apart when carried to the extreme.  We all answer to someone, so the concept of complete individual freedom is a fallacy. 

The key question is what does an individual plan to do if given freedom?  There is a responsible way of handling individual freedom, and there is a selfish way.  If we desire complete individual freedom because we think it relinquishes our responsibility to our fellow man, we are traveling down the selfish path.  If we want to keep more of our resources for ourselves, what do you plan to do with them?  If those plans solely involve your own savings account, your own possessions, etc., we are not following God's laws.

God didn't envision an "every man for himself" society.  Over and over in the Bible we are commanded to take care of our fellow man and those in need.  That is why He told Moses it is not good to harvest every last bit of fruit from the vineyard.  That is hoarding God's resources at the expense of those in need. 

There is a legitimate argument as to whether individuals or institutions are best able to care for and provide for those in need.  But if the responsibility is left to us as individuals, we have to do it and not just talk about the worthiness of the cause while padding our own bank accounts.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Our real purpose

Isaiah 43:7  "Everyone who is called by My Name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made."

I remember vividly the excitement and anticipation I had several years ago as I prepared to read The Purpose-Driven Life.  I was in a difficult stage of my life, and desperately wanted to know in what direction God wanted me to go.  I hoped that this book would provide answers to questions I had regarding choices I should make in my life and how I should shape my day-to-day earthly life.

The book did provide some useful framework to use in certain circumstances, but I still felt lost when I finished reading it.  I wanted the book to give me a clear roadmap of where I should go and what I should do.  I really wanted a step-by-step action plan, and was disappointed when I didn't get one.

In hindsight, I now understand what the book's message is regarding our purpose in life.  Each of us has different giftings and callings, but at the core we all have the same purpose.  As Isaiah says in the verse above, we are all created for God's glory.  We were all made to know, love and worship God.  The rest of life is made up of details whose importance pales in comparison to this purpose.

What job we hold or where we live can certainly provide us with opportunities to use our giftings and talents, while glorifying God in the process.  But we all have one and only one purpose- to love God.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The joy of sacrifice

John 15:13  "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

One of the most important, if not the most important, concepts relating to true love is the concept of sacrifice.  To truly love someone is to sacrifice many things for them.  The sacrifices can be as simple as taking out the garbage or as serious as putting oneself in harm's way on behalf of another.

The absence of a sense of sacrifice is a clue that true love does not exist.  The word "sacrifice" can have a negative connotation, as if what is given up is being done begrudgingly.  The flesh will often fight against the need or desire to sacrifice oneself, but we know how much trouble is in store for us when we trust in and are led by our flesh.

Our society today suffers from a "me first" mentality.  The concept of sacrificing for the greater good seems to be a thing of the past, replaced by "every man for themselves".  This not only shows itself in how classes of people deal with each other, but also in our personal relationships.  The same unwillingness to sacrifice that leads to class warfare leads to divorce. 

Examine the things you aren't willing to sacrifice, and ask yourself if Jesus would share the same feelings.  If those things are held onto out of selfishness rather than principle, let them go.  Someone in your life will benefit. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Is your storehouse of truth full or empty?

Acts 6:10  "But they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke"

As he was confronted by the ruling factions of the Jews, Stephen held fast to his beliefs.  In the face of accusations of blasphemy that would eventually lead to his death by stoning, Stephen continued to speak the truth about Jesus.  The situation begged for someone to speak the truth to those who refused to listen.  Rather than shrinking back in the face of hostility, Stephen rose to the occasion. 

Rising to the occasion required two primary things from Stephen.  First, he had to have courage.  He most certainly felt the urge to stay silent, not respond to the accusations, and try to save himself.  Instead, he followed the leading of the Holy Spirit and confronted the hostility head on. 

Second, he had to have something with which to fight back.  His weapon was the truth.  The truth didn't just miraculously come to him in the moment he needed it.  He was able to fight back with the truth because he knew the truth.  Stephen had, without question, spent much time and effort studying and absorbing the truth.  That is why it was available for his use when he needed it.

We face situations every day where there is an opportunity and a need to inject truth.  Do you know the truth in such a way that you can draw upon it and use it when it is needed?  Memorizing Scripture is not just a mental exercise that is designed to test you.  It is a way of developing your own personal storehouse of truth that you may draw upon when these situations arise. 

Is your storehouse of truth full or empty?  If it is empty, we may miss out on opportunities God gives us to share the truth.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Love sincerely

Romans 12:9  "Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil, cling to what is good."

We know from the Bible that God is love.  We know that the two greatest commandments He gives us are to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love others as ourselves.  As if those commands aren't daunting enough- now He adds to it- love must be sincere.

It is as if He know that we will hear the commandments to love and will put forth a white-knuckled effort in our own strength to be nice, to say something nice, to do something nice, etc.  Effort is important, and it is certainly better than not putting forth the effort at all.  But He lets us know that going through the motions is not what He means.

To love sincerely is a much higher calling.  There are probably only a handful of people in this world that each of us can honestly say that we love sincerely.  Yet this level of love is what He calls us to for Himself and others.  It is almost impossible to comprehend sincerely loving all people. 

But let's not forget that even before we love others sincerely, we are to love Him sincerely.  Am I really fulfilling that command?  It is helpful to do a constant motive check- am I doing what I do with no expectation of return or benefit for myself?  Is my sole focus on Him/others?  If the answer is yes, we are closer to the mark He sets for us.