God doesn’t care

democrats_vs_republicans

Conservative vs Liberal, tradition vs new ideas, free will vs sovereignty, OT vs NT, worship band vs hymns, and the list can go on and on and on with the trivial arguments and proposals for what we hold most valuable to express faith. I propose that God doesn’t care.

 

From the Old Testament to the New Testament God makes one thing that He cares about very clear and He cares about it far more than the details of religious practice or political thought.

 

People.

You and I.

 

Although there are many passages we could examine from the OT that exemplify this one heart desire above ordinations and practices we are going to look at one, Isaiah chapter 58. The people of Israel were caught up in doing the religious order or duties of how to fast and “get” Gods attention to respond to their plight. God comes through with His heart cry for them to examine what He cares about most for their lives when He responded to them with this.

6 “Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed[b] go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.

 

Quite sobering sin’t it?

 

And from the NT Gospels we have Jesus teaching about how God will view two types of people, sheep and goats. From Matt 25.

 

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

 

Again this can be utterly sobering to us.

But I want us to not focus on the implications of salvation and judgement and get us to focus on one amazing truth that gives us hope.

These passages echo the heart of a God who cares about people!

 

That’s good news! 😀

We serve a God who cares about people and how we are reaching out and helping other people.

In these instances (Isaiah 58 and Matt 25) God’s heart for how His people treat the people in need around them is what He both rebukes and judges them by.

He equates it with doing what pleases Him most and worships Him most. (And there are a plethora of other Biblical passages that reflect that big picture of His heart for people)

If we care about religious ordinance or proper belief more than we care about our ability to help someone, somehow, then we are missing what God cares about most. I would propose that He doesn’t care how politically correct our perspectives are as much as He cares about you and I doing something to help the needy we encounter in our lives.

God cares about people!

That is awesome! I am thankful that we serve a God who is more concerned about people than religious practices or political concerns. Aren’t you?

He cares about you!

He cares about me!

He cares about all people!

What an awesome God we serve!

How can we be helping those around us this week?

 

 

 

 

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People Trump Agendas and Worship

Who doesn’t love good music (subjective to their opinion of good music)? Who doesn’t love a good motivational speaker or preacher? Who doesn’t love to hear someone clearly articulate things that you are passionate about and agree whole heartedly with? Who wouldn’t want society to be exactly what we perceive it should be?

As Americans we love to surround ourselves with people who support our social agenda, our religious perspective on church and worship, and what it means to live “Godly” or “right”. We can easily begin to make our beliefs a social plumb-line that we measure our “rightness” in comparison to others “wrongness” and feel a since of security in the people we support, the agenda we support, or the religious belief system we support/participate in. We can find a sense of security  in who we voted for, the article we posted on Facebook, who “liked” us on Facebook, who we oppose or what “belief” we oppose, and in who supports our ideas. We measure the world around us on a human plumb-line that shows favor to ourselves based on our limited life experience and knowledge.

God has a plumb-line that He measures us all by too. His plumb-line sees past the many things that we measure by and puts a humbling perspective on what is “good”, “right”, and “bad”in His eyes. God clearly addresses this self-religious tendency to know how to do things the “right” way throughout the Bible. In Isaiah 58 there is a passage where the people of Israel say (paraphrased) “Lord we have been doing the right things and it doesn’t seem like you care” and the Lord responds (paraphrased) by saying “It would appear from an outer appraisal that you are doing “right things” but you are completely missing my heart for my people”. In essence God is saying “I look at right and wrong belief and practice much differently even if it is “politically correct””. He then rebukes their cause for doing “right things” and asks them this (paraphrased) “why aren’t you taking care of the people around you ? Isn’t this what I desire?” In this instance He talks about helping the oppressed, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, and clothing the naked.

Lee-Jeffries-homeless-6

So many times in the gospels the people that Jesus was most irate with were the ones who put their “practice” or “political correctness” above those around them in such a way that they were not doing anything to help anyone around them. Throughout the writings of Paul he challenges the people around him that He is following  God’s heart because he sacrifices for those people around him either financially, socially, or physically.

Jesus lays it bear in two instances stating that law is complete in “loving God first and the second “is like it” love your neighbor as yourself”. I think we can miss the fact that the second “is like it”, that makes it drastically close to loving God. Have we maybe missed that? Have we missed out on loving others as a direct expression of our love to God?  What if all of our political correctness and the pursuit thereof is worthless if we are not actively loving others? What if all of our religious practices are worthless if we are not actively loving others? Could it be that God is far less concerned with how right or wrong you and I are but is completely and brokenly interested in how we are loving those around us? Jesus even told His disciples that how they loved each other is how the world would know His love, so take it a step further and know that the way you love your brothers and sisters in Christ is the first practice of showing the world that God has love for them. That command is not exclusive to your denomination, political party, social agenda, or conservative vs liberal opinion. We are one church and body that is commanded to love each other first, not argue until we get it right, agree, and then make up.

In Romans 13:8 this is laid again, despite the theological ideas presented in Romans Paul writes that we fulfill the “law” (which is God’s politically correct plumb-line for righteousness) when we love another. In this particular instance he is referring to an “indebted love”. What he means is the law is fulfilled when we see our great need to love AND WHEN WE ARE DOING that love we are fulfilling God’s heart for our lives and then living “rightly” before Him.

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Now, the practical application of this can be messy at times as love is expressed and misinterpreted in many different ways but one thing that needs made clear for our day and age is this. God doesn’t give a rip about your political, social or religious ideas (even if they are politically correct) if you are not seeking after loving those around you, and I am not convinced that “proving you are right about such and such and they are wrong about such and such” is the accomplishing that task.

Men, love your wives first (women love your husbands first) and then practice loving others (another topic for another time but I wanted to interject that in the mix too) 😉

Be the love God wants you to be in the lives of those around you. Don’t wait for it, do it. James makes a bold statement in James 1:26-27 by saying (paraphrased) “true religion doesn’t just mouth words of belief, that is worthless, but true religion reaches down, helps those who can’t help themselves,  and doesn’t chase the world”.

It seems clear to me that “People Trump our Agendas and Worship” and people are what God cares about most. How are you treating those closest to you and near you today? Are you practicing worthless religion? God wants to restore and redeem His love in people’s lives and He wants to do it through you. Be God’s love today. You can’t help or fix everyone’s life but we aren’t called to do that, we are called to help and love someone/people  who is in need. The destitute  are out there but you may just have to go, search, and find, similarly to how God seeks us out to help and restore our lives in His love.

People Trump our Agendas and Worship

 

Photos courtesy of

http://www.lostateminor.com/2012/01/04/lee-jeffriess-portraits-of-homeless-people/

http://www.sodahead.com/fun/do-you-give-money-or-change-to-homeless-people-when-they-ask-you-for-it/question-32571/?link=ibaf&q=&esrc=s

Clumps of Salt are Disgusting

Have you ever ate a homemade pretzel with salt on top? I for one love homemade pretzels! Auntie Anne’s Pretzels are pretty mouth watering too. Have you had a delectable pretzel, bitten into it, and to your disgust there was a clump of salt that was quite a bit disproportionate to the bite ingested? Maybe it was a lack there-of? Or have you simply made (by accident) extremely salty eggs, or just poured too much salt on whatever you are eating to the point it can’t be eaten? I know I have and I see within myself and the American Body of Followers a tendency to do the same with the influence of their lives (Salt). We either lack in our salt (influence) or clump to the point of being a disgust to society around us.

In Matt. 5:13 we are told to be the salt of the earth. It’s a very cliche’ evangelical quote “salt and light” but I for one am not sure we really believe the implications this simple cliche’ phrase means to us as followers of Jesus.  I am particularly concerned with the “salt” in this phrase. One symptom in our lives that validates we don’t fully grasp the ideas that “salt and light” calls us to is the “clumpy salt symptom”. When is the last time you wanted to eat a clump of salt? And a friendly dare doesn’t count 😉

Being in full time ministry I have been particularly challenged by this. If I make no effort to get outside of my church bubble or even my community bubble of Rosedale (which is a small speck in the road town that is majorly Christianized) I can quickly become a large part of the clumpy disgusto I am writing about. My week long meeting with people, preparing for worship, preparing for youth, being a husband, finding down time for myself, and trying to find fun time with other followers leaves me at best an influence to the body of local Followers. That sounds good and all but I’m just not convinced it is the life Jesus wants for me or my wife or any of us for that fact. So I guess it seems a large part of the problem is “have we given up trying?” It seems Jesus isn’t concerned with “performing” or “being good enough” but the journey of trying to follow after His example to be salt. I sometimes wonder if we were to try to be intentional about influencing (salting) the world of non-followers around us that  our example of “being salt” would influence the larger body of followers in a more positive and powerful way.

For example, what will lead people in our churches to be salt to those around us? A good worship set? A great sermon? Or going out and doing it and asking the followers around us to follow? That’s how Jesus did it. He was going, He was doing, He was being what He wanted others to follow and then invited them to do so by presenting God’s heart and truth. I don’t for a second think we should rid ourselves of worship services and sermons for the abandonment of “doing” but how great of an influence would our lives carry if we first saw value in the “doing” or “being” “salt”, followed by a powerful and inspirational service where we worship and affirm the truth of that calling?

This isn’t just a calling to people working within full time ministry either. It’s a calling to awareness for all of us. Let our actions be followed by our words. I could honestly care less about your theological opinions of God and church if your life is not being used in some small or great capacity to use the salt you have been given to impact those around you. I would rather be with the unconvinced, the pot heads, and the un-orthodox who want to go out and help those around them rather than living in a pretty bubble of vain tenants and theological unities. (That’s also what Jesus did) I’d rather be with those who will struggle and wrestle with aligning parts of their life with that of Christ even if it hurts or is humbling and embarrassing but they are willing to try.

Now before anyone gets their panties in a wad over grace and salvation, this has nothing to do with that and is has nothing to do with what I am talking about. Our Word has made these things clear, we can’t earn it, we are covered by it, and are deeply loved and valued in God’s eyes no matter where our lives may be right now. Now that that is out of the way we need to square up with the truth.  King Jesus called His followers to go, to be, to do, to work in His Kingdom and that “believing” the right things about Him and church/christian bubble “attendance” doesn’t qualify that calling.

Jesus made it clear in the parable of the two sons in Matt21:28-32

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 

For me I feel like God has challenged me to make time in my  week where I can walk through the town of Mechanicsburg for a couple of hours for prayer and the potential for His Spirit to use me where He may already be working in people’s lives. It might be on the porch of someone’s house sitting and chatting around sweet tea or it might be starting relationships around food at the local bar. Either way God has challenged my heart that He has given me the choice of being intentional about spreading His salt into the decomposing world around me. Our salt can preserve life, enhance life, and bring new life into the lives of those around us. How will you use the salt you have been given?

You can be the salt of this earth.

Seek after God’s heart for how you can be His salt to those around your realm of influence.