Sunday, February 6, 2011

Isaiah + Matthew = Encouragement

3 brief related, encouraging passages have come across my path today.

The first, shared by long-time friend-of-the-blog Melanie, comes from Isaiah 58:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. " -Isaiah 58:6-11 (NIV)

Wow. WOW! God's will for our lives seems so simple sometimes. Justice, Freedom, Equality, Love. Easy? No. Simple? Yes.

On to passage 2, inspired by an old Baptist hymn popularized by the African Children's Choir:
"These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give." -Matthew 10:5-8

This passage (and song) always remind me of a story my mom tells about God's desire for us to freely share what he's given us with others...I think about it every single time we donate something to a food bank, homeless shelter, or a friend in need.

And now for passage 3 (also from Matthew), which always takes me back to my days as a youth group sponsor at the Lake Overholser Church of the Nazarene:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’" -Matthew 25:34-40

The longer we live here in Poland, the more we are convinced that God's will for his church boils down to these basic principles...loving and meeting the most essential physical, spiritual, and relational needs of others as if they were Christ himself. Every day we
we trust him to meet our own needs, and to refresh us as we strive to help meet the needs of others....and every day we ask God for the wisdom, strength, and humility to recognize and act on our opportunities to do so.


I. Heart. The. Green. Book.

At the end of a tiring work week, and then a frustrating first few hours of budgeting, calculating, and more budgeting on Sunday morning...I came (back) across these consecutive gems from last week's Green Book Scripture readings:

THURSDAY: "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV)

FRIDAY: "Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand." -Mark 6:39-44 (NIV)

SATURDAY: "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience."-Hebrews 4:9-11 (NIV)

Encouraging thoughts for the week, then:
1.) As a proud alumnus of Mingo Valley Christian School, I've recited Isaiah 40:31 about a hundred million times...but I forget how much I really, really love the verses that precede it, especially the Creator God's specific promises to strengthen the weary and empower the weak.

2.) If God can turn 5 loaves and 2 fish into dinner for 5,000+, surely he can be trusted with guardianship of our ministry (and personal) bank account(s). It's a good thing, too! :)

3.) No matter how real and pressing our human needs are, God always offers us a Sabbath-time and -place of spiritual and physical rest and we use (or misuse) it is up to us.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

John Wesley = Good Advice.

In the early days of the Methodist church, John Wesley received a letter from a colleague complaining that his spiritual life was "withering." Wesley's response was (and is) a classic call to personal devotion and development:

"O begin! Fix some part of your day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first will afterward be pleasant. Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way: else you will be a trifler all your days." -from Prayer and Devotional Life of United Methodists, by Steve Harper

Hear now the Word of the LORD:
"The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD as been good to you." -Psalm 116:6-7 (NIV)