So, just a thought...
Christianity certainly involves some lofty theology.
But, the practical side of Christianity hits a lot closer to home than just how the Trinity is arranged...
In Matthew 25, what did Jesus Himself suggest the distinction between the sheep and the goats was going to be? Every item in the list He makes is a very practical day-to-day kind of thing. It wasn't that the sheep understood how Jesus was simultaneously fully human and fully God and the goats didn't. It wasn't that the sheep perfectly understood the concepts of Biblical authority and the goats didn't. It wasn't that the sheep converted 50 souls apiece and the goats only converted 5...
Granted, all of those kinds of things are important for Godly-minded individuals to spend time thinking about.
What Jesus did mention in this passage is that the sheep fed the hungry and the goats didn't.
The sheep visited the imprisoned and the goats didn't.
The sheep clothed the naked and the goats didn't.
Was He speaking metaphorically, simply giving us practical examples to teach us a spiritual principle?
No! Jesus was giving us practical examples because those are the kinds of activities that should FILL UP a Christian's life!
What's the point?
Our world has experienced some horrific natural disasters in the last few weeks, and more seem to be on the way. We had Haiti a few weeks ago. Yesterday, Chile experienced an earthquake 100 times the strength of the Haitian quake. Many, many smaller earthquakes have happened in the last 24 hours. Now, the entire Pacific region...a full quarter of the globe...is in danger of tsunamis.
Our fellow human beings are suffering terribly in many parts of the world this very day. It's time for us as Christians to step up and do something to help. Yes, we should be concerned with rightly dividing the Word of Truth theologically, but we dare not miss the day-to-day applications of our Savior's teachings. If we do, we are in grave danger of landing ourselves right in the middle of the Pharisees' backyard.
So, maybe you can't travel to Haiti, Chile, Hawaii, etc. yourself.
You can donate a few dollars to aid agencies.
You can send a change of clothing with someone who is going.
You can do SOMETHING.
So, my challenge to YOU and to ME is to do SOMETHING...TODAY.
Help your fellow man.
That is Christianity.
Our goal as Christians: "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth..." (Eph. 4:29)
The difficulty in achieving that goal: ""But no man can tame the tongue..." (James 3:8)
How's that for aiming at the impossible?! The Lord commands us to let no corrupt word come out of our mouths, but then, He turns right around and tells us that it is impossible to tame the tongue. A wee bit disconcerting...
Indeed, just because we know the end of the story...that we won't be able to be perfect in speech...doesn't mean we shouldn't aim for pure speech every time we open our mouths. It is a worthy goal, to say the least. Words have the power to transform lives both for the good and the bad. I guarantee you have examples of both from your life, just as I do mine. When we look back over time, there are certainly instances when we spoke a kind word and it did far more to lift a person up than we ever imagined it would. On the flip-side, there are certainly instances when we managed to destroy someone inside with just a few words.
What a powerful ability communication is. The Lord has blessed us greatly. We must simply remember the adage that with much blessing comes much responsibility.
Consider some rather wise words from some various people over the years:
~ "Be careful of your thoughts; they may become words at any moment." (Ira Gassen)
~ "The trouble with talking too fast is you may say something you haven't thought of yet." (Ann Landers)
~ "Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can't, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it." (Robert Frost)
~ "Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." (Plato)
~ "After all is said and done, more is said than done." (Unknown)
~ "If you wouldn't write it and sign it, don't say it." (Earl Wilson)
~ "When you are arguing with a fool, make sure he isn't doing the same thing." (Unknown)
~ "Of those who say nothing, few are silent." (Thomas Neiel)
~ "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." (Mark Twain)
Well, so much for keeping up with frequent updates. It's been nearly a year since I last posted. I am so glad it's 2010, as 2009 was a rough one for me. I hope that your year is off to a good start, as mine seems to be. =)
I taught a study this evening on Philemon, and just wanted to share with you some of the lessons I've learned from this short personal letter from the apostle Paul to the well-to-do Christian slave-owner Philemon, regarding the now-Christian slave Onesimus.
My typical habit on here has been to make extremely long posts, but I will keep this one short. Instead of totally fleshing out every thought, I'll just suggest them briefly. That way, you can take them and chew on them, as you look at Philemon yourself. Please, let me know your thoughts as you consider mine.
First, what can we learn from Paul in his letter to Philemon?
1) Paul always looked for and acknowledged the good in others before he said or did anything else. If you doubt me, look through his epistles. Almost without fail, he expresses his thankfulness for the goodness in the group of people he is writing to before he admonishes, exhorts, or makes a request of them. Philemon is no exception. Before Paul makes his plea, he praises Philemon for the man that he is and the love that he shows his brethren.
2) Paul took the warmest, softest approach he could with Philemon. He could've chosen to call down his authority as an apostle and command Philemon to graciously receive Onesimus back. But he didn't. Instead, he appealed to Philemon as a brother and a friend. In fact, Paul doesn't even identify himself as an apostle at the start of this letter like he does in almost every other letter. Right from the beginning, Paul takes a tender approach with his dear brother.
3) Paul genuinely assumed the best in Philemon. He says in verse 21, "Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say." Paul is not unrealistically optimistic here...he simply chooses to genuinely believe in his brother.
Isn't it true that people will generally live up to or down to our expectations? Next time you approach someone with a request, plea, or an admonishment, try the Pauline approach: First, take the time to acknowledge the goodness of the person you are talking to. Next, make sure that you take the softest and gentlest approach possible. Use a stronger approach only as a last-ditch effort. Third, assume the best in the person.
I guarantee that if you start taking that approach with people consistently, you will see dramatic effects in your ability to influence other people. Two things to keep in mind, though. First, be genuine. Don't just butter the person up so you can get what you want out of them. Be sincere. Secondly, always use this approach to enhance the other person's life.
Now, what can we learn from Philemon himself?
Assuming that he did indeed fulfill Paul's plea, as Paul assumed he would, let me suggest one major lesson from Philemon:
It would have been Philemon's legal right to severely punish, or even kill, Onesimus for running away, and likely stealing from him (vss. 17-18). Paul, though, urges Philemon to look past his being heinously wronged and receive Onesimus back, not just as a slave, but now, as a brother.
One thing is for sure: We will ALL be wronged many times in our life. Nowhere are we being more like Christ than when we return good for evil. I'm not simply talking about returning justice for evil. In this case, justice would have meant severe punishment for Onesimus. I'm talking about true mercy. Going waaay above and beyond what human reasoning would suggest as even remotely reasonable. Consider Matthew 5: 38-48. Christ hasn't called us to simply return good for evil. He has called us to return unconditional love and sacrifice for evil. That's a high calling.
Finally, what can we learn from Onesimus, Philemon's runaway slave?
Consider what Onesimus' past looked like: He was a runaway slave and a thief. That may not sound like anything terrible, but it was. It was enough to get him labeled as "unprofitable" by Paul (v. 11). Consider what he now looks like, having been converted to the gospel: profitable both to Paul and to Philemon (v. 11).
The beauty of Onesimus' story? We can change. We can become transformed beings. No person who is willing to repent is beyond the reach of God's gracious hand. No one. No life is so bleak that God can't wash it clean. That gives me hope, and it should you as well.
"Onesimus" is Greek for "profitable". The man who had once been exactly the opposite, is now both profitable in name and in deed. God's grace can do wonders, if we will be avail ourselves of it.
Consider the words of William Barclay: "Christianity is not out to help a man escape his past and run away from it; it is out to enable him to face his past and RISE ABOVE it...Christianity is never escape; it is always CONQUEST."
The story of Onesimus is our story, if we will allow God's grace to penetrate our hearts and infuse us with new-found vitality.
My life is filled with death and dying.
And it has been for quite sometime now...
I used to be a firefighter. I currently work fulltime in a nursing home. I am going to school to be a pediatric oncologist (a kids' cancer doctor).
Here's my last five days:
Five people that I cared for at work died this week.
A sixth resident at work, whom I never had the privilege of taking care of, died while I was actually at work, and I stood in, watched, and learned as one of my co-workers cleaned her corpse, in preparation for the funeral home to pick her up.
One of the gentlemen that I have helped take care of at work was on 15-minute suicide checks last night, because he decided that he has absolutely nothing to live for.
I have a dear brother in Christ dying in the hospital with cancer. His life is likely only a few days from coming to a close.
I found out about as soon as I got to work last night that a co-worker and close friend of mine...she's 29...has been diagnosed with a malignant breast tumor...breast cancer...and doesn't know yet whether the doctors caught it before it spread to other parts of her body.
And I had to awaken one of my residents at work this morning in order to clean her up, dress her, and get her ready to go to a funeral...that of her husband of 50+ years...who happened to be one of the five residents for whom I cared that died this week.
Death and dying have come to be permanent fixtures in my life.
There are a lot of things I would love to share with you about how that affects me. But I will keep it to one thought...
I have come to be tremendously appreciative of the opportunity to be surrounded by death and dying...for one reason:
I know very vividly the truth to the sentiment in Ecclesiastes 7:2: "Better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting..."
If you've not spent time around death and dying, please do so.
It will bring you closer than anything else to a sense of what life is all about. When you look death face-to-face, you are forced to admit your mortality. Admitting your mortality forces you to admit your dependency on our gracious Creator and Sustainer.
So, as morbidly as I know how to say it...get real...and go experience some death and dying.
The Lord meant what He said in Ecclesiastes 7:2.
Granted, she and I have some very drastic doctrinal differences, but one of my most beloved heroines was Mother Teresa.
I am hard-pressed to find a person that demonstrated the practical side of Christian living anymore than this woman. She was a servant's servant.
To God be the glory for the good that she did while she walked the earth. Below are some of my most cherished words of hers. The original poem is not hers, although it is widely attributed to her. It was in fact written by Dr. Kent Keith. This particular version of it, though, is justifiably attributed to her, as it was found written on the wall inside her home for children in Calcutta. This version takes a distinctly more spiritual tone than the original...
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.