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Couch Potato

I admit, I’ve been a bit lazy this summer. No lie, no hiding it. In all honesty, I’ve been distracted and less productive. You know God tells us basically that being lazy is just as bad as doing evil. Servants certainly aren’t rewarded if they’re not punished for being lazy–and, as Paul put it, we are truly servants of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, hard work is rewarded.

Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.”
Proverbs 12:24

Sounds to me like diligence and hard-work means success, while doing little until someone makes you isn’t the choice path. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good to rest, but sitting on a couch all day without reason isn’t right.

Jesus told more than one parable on the subject, but I love this one:

 Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”

After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.” Matthew 25:14-27

I sure don’t want to be the “wicked, lazy” servant who didn’t work. Inactivity can be as harmful as doing something wrong.  Only God can give us strength to do what we need to do–even when we don’t feel like doing anything at all.

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Light-wise Living

Nothing I say can directly help you stop sinning. Nothing you do can either; no goals you set. Personal determination alone can’t win battles of heart, but a change of heart can.

There’s a reason Jesus comes into our hearts when we become Christians. To help us, to guide us, to be close to us. But mostly to change our hearts, through and through; to ready us to listen to and serve him.

Unlike the Israelites, we have more than just a big book of rules to read, and then be left to hope we can find the will to follow those rules. We have God as our strength and guidance, helping us to do the right things at the right time. Living a radical life starts with realizing the power and potential God has placed in you.

The apostle Paul is possibly the greatest Christian of all time. And, as he said himself, he wasn’t anything special. On the contrary, speaking in 1 Corinthians, Paul describes how he went in “weakness and fear”, something we all feel when faced with a challenge. That’s one of many reasons why I chose and love the following verse.

I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1 Corinthians 2:3-5

I wish that God gave us all step-by-step directions on how to live our lives, but everyone’s life is different–and so is God’s plan for it. That means we have to live ready, waiting, trusting, and the way to do that is in the light and truth of the Spirit. This classic proverb never grows old:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

We are Doctors

Everybody knows that words hurt and encourage, but how can we take it to the spiritual level? Having legitimate interest and honest compassion for those around us is vastly important to be being a Christian. I’ll be the first to tell you, people aren’t going to be saved if you’re nasty to them. Allowing people to connect with God’s true love through us can be the first step in reaching out, and, for goodness’ sake, it’s what we’re called to do.

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

One of the most important things to learn is how to control your words–to encourage especially. This is a key component of acting a “doctors”. Most physical violence starts with words, so we really need to watch our mouths. Our mouths are one of the most powerful weapons, meaning one of the most difficult to keep under control. We all need God to help control ourselves, specifically our mouths, and when we harness the power of our mouths for God’s kingdom, people can be healed. That is to say, people can be healed through God’s power. Never in the world is it anything we could ever do, but rather what God can do. Whether it’s a miracle that astonishes all, or simply building someone up in confidence and strength, our love and care for people can be a deciding factor in bringing the “lost sheep” of the world to Christ.

A real world doctor isn’t doing the healing. He (or she) is simply using the knowledge they have to help the patient. Healing with God’s power is the same.

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'” Luke 10:30-35

We should all have the compassion of the good Samaritan and really, honestly, earnestly, truly, seriously just care about each other. How many times a week, or even a day, do you pass by someone who needs help with something, or something which you could do to help someone out? (How many times do I?!) But healing spiritually is infinitely (as in, eternally) more important than physical healing (though obviously both are fantastic). With care and compassion, encouraging words and actions, and most importantly God in our heart, we can all be the next Daniel Hale Williams or Clara Barton, only a spiritual version, and in doing that can have even greater impact on the world.

Eat Your Cereal

I’ve always been fond of metaphors, though I think to have a true appreciation you have to be willing to change your perspective. Lately, I have both become more fond of cereal, and God has used it to show me something. Also, having recently begun Lent, I thought I would

Every January, my church does a fast as a congregation. During the fast, I gave up a number of food items; sweets, soda, and the lot, and cereal was naturally included. I don’t know why, but I find that it can be a relaxing afternoon snack. So during the fast, I was left strangely craving cereal–something I would not have expected. So eventually, when I broke my fast, I broke it with a bowl of cereal. With that, the bowl of cereal became for me the symbol of spiritual blessing, or something that had more depth and meaning, something that connected me to God on a personal level. With this, I was inspired with a metaphor, and one that really applied to me. Every blessing, every wonder and moment, every truth–it’s like a bowl of cereal. For everyone, it is surely different, but for me cereal is a symbol of a truly meaningful blessing.

Granted, it is mildly strange to be comparing my family to bowls of cereal, and I can’t deny that there wasn’t any humor meant to be involved. But either way, the fast helped me to gain a perspective of thankfulness I had never experienced before. I was able to look past the Thanksgiving thankful list, and see that there is so much more to be thankful. We have all been placed in positions by which we can live for Christ as he would live. Personally, I had never seen the places, people, and opportunities I had been given until that fast–until I looked around and saw that I was surrounded by cereal.

We have blessings, honors, and wonders in our lives, but those naturally come with responsibility. We need to embrace those opportunities, to eat your cereal if you will. Having been given such things we have to make use of them. That’s just one of the reasons that we fast. We remember our responsibilities as we gain perspective and knowledge.

 …indeed, if you call out for insight, and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:3-5

It’s a pretty great honor to have “knowledge of God”, so it takes a truly humbled heart and cry to hear God’s inspiration. That humility is one part of fasting. Just as well, it’s easy to look for riches or the things we desire with eagerness, but if we look for fear of the Lord and the knowledge of God, we can find those things which are far more valuable (and honestly it’s probably easier than getting rich).

The things we are blessed with in life arte so often overlooked. We are blessed with more than just worldly things, or more than just family even. We are blessed with the opportunities and possibilities we are given, and we have to take advantage. We have to humble ourselves to seek God. We remember our responsibilities as we pursue the fear of the Lord. So, don’t leave it on your shelf. Eat your cereal.

Remembering Others

Let’s face it–we are generally classified as the awkward archetype, and it doesn’t help that most of us are. But as Christians, we are called to live while considering others and their needs.

Solomon shares with us an incredible amount of wisdom in Proverbs, and in two specific excerpts, seemingly unrelated, we get some insight into the original “putting yourself in others’ shoes” phrase. Both are found in Proverbs 25, and they are 25:20-22:

20Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day,

or like vinegar poured on a wound,

is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.

21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;

if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.

22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,

and the Lord will reward you.”

Basically, the proverbs give us two situations:

The first situation describes two people, one who is of a “heavy heart” and the other, the “one who sings songs”,  in a situation where singing may not be the best. From this, we can gather the true importance of good social timing. In reality, there is a time for everything, as King Solomon tells us (Ecclesiastes 3:1), and when someone has a heavy heart and is having a truly unfortunate time, sometimes its better to back off and leave it up to God. This isn’t to say, however, that God doesn’t use us in the lives of our family and friends, and we should always be looking out for one another.

The second situation describes “you” and “your enemy”. Your enemy is hungry or thirsty, and we are supposed to help him; to attend to the needs of even the person who hates us. While it may not be giving them food or drink, there are infinite parallel situations to this. God tells us that what we do for the least of all people, we do for God himself (Matthew 25:40). This proverb is very much the same, and  Basically, this sets the precedent in many situations–your enemy is in trouble and you have the upper hand, we are told to assist him. And all this despite the difficulty; fighting the urge to trample them in the dust and gloat over the moment (because I know I would want to). As Christians we are called to a greater lifestyle, and as geeks, we live a lifestyle where, often, no one expects us to step out.

We are called to living righteous lives, giving up our sin in redemption. Part of that means remembering others. When you have a friend who’s mourning, it is not always right to attempt to cheer them up. Think about how you would feel–for there is place for mourning. And, as the same, think of your enemy. We do not humiliate our enemies, and any Sunday school regular knows we are called to love them. In order to seek God, and to grow in Him, we are called to live morally right lives, and remembering others is absolutely essential.

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