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Glad Tidings

GT—Volume 11 Issue 7

18 Jul , 2014  

Response to Perceptions

The Pietà by Michelangelo Buonarroti

The Pietà (Italian: [pjeˈta]; 1498–1499) is a work of Renaissance sculpture by Michelangelo Buonarroti, housed in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City.

This is a 45 year old response to a letter I sent. My friend wrote about some of her understandings of the world. These are excerpts. The names I have changed , but not the grammar, etc.

Mary wrote,

You asked me, what idealistic ideals did not fit the Church, and what principles I doubted. The main one is that I feel that this life should be to a certain extent fair. By that, I mean people would not be born retarded, never have a chance to compete in our society; people would not be deformed or ill-treated in childhood, so as to leave them incomplete beings ill equipped to deal with life; the bad things in the world would not exist; the poor, the dumb (although many dumb persons are much happier than I), the pawn, the misfits, etc. I could go on forever. But I understand there could be a solution if the individual’s sole duty in this life were to firstly take care of himself, then one’s achievements would be his own making. It seems unfair to me that I can see and walk and hear and reason intelligently while there are those who can do only one, or some but not all of these. I realize that they might be far more satisfied with themselves than I with myself, they have tried much harder in this life that I, but then that evens it out, doesn’t it?”

I do not remember what my response to her plaint was at the time. I received her letter in the flurry of doing all that was necessary to leave for Seminary three weeks hence. It is possible (unhappily, even likely) that I did not respond; therefore, for your benefit and my own. I will try to respond.

Yep! Life Is Unfair

First, I see this as a plea for understanding. It seems I laid on her a heavy witness to Jesus, likely emphasizing the goodness of God. She is hoping to justify her exception to the understanding that life is not fair.

I wish to assert Christ, Himself and the true Christian Church does not affirm that life is fair. God, the Father, sent His Son into an unfair situation with an unfair responsibility. He had to leave behind His majesty and full power to complete His degrading mission of dying.

Fair means ever-handedness. What you get, I get, and vice versa. The reality is that none of us gets the same anything. We start out with an assembly of unique family genetics and innate abilities. I would have loved to play for the Seahawks. My enthusiasm may be great, but my abilities do not measure up. “It’s not fair!” Yep. Life’s not.

Mary’s concern for the disadvantaged is legitimate and a worthy concern. In God’s economy, she, you, and I must make up for the inabilities of the disadvantaged. We can do so by willingly sharing our abilities and resources. (This is NOT a government program; this is personal responsibility under God).

She wants a life where the “bad things in the world would not exist”. I am not making light of her desires. The truth is that wishing will not make it so. Actually, tragically, every effort and our best intentions will not make it so. Truly, we must face the reality that this world is broken and cannot be fixed; it can only be replaced.

We face this often. My printer failed. The repair tech told me that the power supply burned out. A new one cost $300.00 + labor. Instead, I bought a new printer for $400.00. It was twice as good as the old one. Like that printer, there is a new world coming (in God’s time) that is much better. It will replace this old, broken one. We are not to sit and wait, but continue to persevere in working to improve the world within our reach and make it better and more “fair”.

The Poor, Happy Dumb

When she refers to the “dumb” I believe she is not talking about those who cannot speak, but about those who have limited intelligence. Mary wrote this in the days before such terms became politically incorrect.

I believe she was referring to “ignorance is bliss”. Many of the less intelligent have a reduced perception of events in the world. Impending disasters around every corner do not burden them. They can live in the relative security of caring for themselves in concert with others care for them. Relatively they have more peace in life.

This young woman is a Martha. She comments:

I realize that they might be far more satisfied with themselves in this life than I. But Martha was cumbered about much serving; and she came up to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister did leave me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

But the Lord answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: for Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:40-42)

CaptureWhat is that “one thing”? It is putting your complete trust in Jesus. When we allow Him to set the priorities in our lives, He will utilize us to deal with the problems He chooses. Doing what He prescribes gives us a sense of satisfaction, a sense of fulfillment and a sense of peace. We can then be free of the worries of the unfairness of the world. The other disadvantaged in the world are not our responsibility. We can have peace concerning them.  I am not giving an excuse for rationalizing away our true responsibility.  I am stating that the Holy Spirit wants us to do something, but not everything. We must find out whom He is assigning to us. Any worry beyond our assignment is disobedience and may be idolatry.

Solve The Problem with Big Bucks

She continues, 

Fred [her husband] and I have always felt that the best way for us to help was to amass a fortune, then give it to select Charities.” Her letter continues, “The problem arises because all do not take care of themselves. And there are those that we should pity; first try to help, but if that fails, the only resource is pity. At least that salves something in the soul. Ted, there is so much suffering; much – all is created by mankind, but where does it begin. For instance, mental hospitals. There simply aren’t enough trained individuals, the funds to make them what they should be. So much to do; and the best place to begin is the Government. But how?  Oh, I will do some banner-carrying in the meantime, and talk to whomever I can, but money is one thing desperately lacking. The trained persons would come if the profits were lucrative enough.

Capture 5Mary’s approach although laudable is unrealistic. I believe instead of “do not take care of themselves” she means “cannot”. She immediately uses the example of mental hospitals, indicating people with mental incapacities.

Again, a term, acceptable in the 1960s, grates on 21st Century sensibilities. “Pity” has become a derogatory term. Its past meaning was to “have compassion on”. Mary understands that out of compassion for the disadvantaged (those who cannot care for themselves) we must first do what we can. She recognizes that what we can do may fail.

In this, Mary is realistic. The problem is bigger than one family can address. It is like trying to take a bite out of an apple as big as a basketball. It is too big. Your nose keeps getting in the way.

If all else fails, is the only resource compassion? James cautions against that as the only option,

and one of you say unto them, Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; and yet ye give them not the things needful to the body; what doth it profit?   (James 2:16)

When we are out of resources to assist the needy God put in our path, we must turn to Him. He has all the resources to fulfill what He requires us to do. We actually should begin by discussing the situation of the needy in our path with the Lord. “Lord, how much do You mean for me to do?” Talking it over with Jesus, we will learn our limits – an occasional handout or selling all we have to give to this needy person.

God does not intend us to take a bite out of something too big for us. He intends each of us to do what He asks.

Is the best way to help to amass money and donate it to a charity? Actually, the problem that she is addressing is far greater than all the money of the richest. All of Bill Gates’ $75 BILLION+ net worth poured into the problem of the disadvantaged of the world would help many, but it would not put a dent in the overall problem.

Realistically the possibility that Mary and her husband can amass that size of a fortune is nil (they did not).

Where one begins is not with the government. Our Federal Government, each state and many cities in the U.S. have been pouring billions into assistance of the needy. There are not enough beds in mental hospitals or homeless shelters. The numbers that need such care far outstrip the capability of the governments to provide space for them.

This being the case, where does one begin? The start is one on one. The Blind Side is the story of Michael Oher. He was a disadvantaged “kid from the project” where many, if not most died at an early age from drugs or gang violence. At 16, Michael came to the object of attention of Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy. They not only sponsored him, but also took him into their family, becoming his legal guardians. They shepherded him along through school and taught him his life could have a purpose. Responding to their love, he rose to the challenge. He was drafted into the NFL by the Baltimore Ravens and was a Superbowl champion in 2013. He is currently playing with the Tennessee Titans. This was a God-directed answer.

Certainly giving to charities is worthy. It is our perspective that needs sanctification. In trauma centers, they triage. They divide the patients into:

  1. critical, life-threatening trauma
  2. serious injury or disease
  3. routine injuries

First aid begins with stopping the bleeding, next clearing the airway to insure breathing, and then treating what you can until expert medical help arrives. This is the proper procedure in compassion for the needy. First turn to the Lord and determine His will. Next follow His directions. Be willing to provide all He asks of you and apply it to as much of the problem as you can.

The “Bible-Beaters

In her letter Mary concludes:

However I doubt if we shall become Bible-beaters; that seems such a coarse term [I agree]. Fred believes in relying solely on oneself, and religion is a crutch to him, although he strongly believes. I think deep down Fred knows he can make it on his own steam, and feels that God should help those who can’t; God knows that Fred believes. He doesn’t need to sound it from the rooftops. I think that there are different ways of helping:. There would have to be. People are so diverse. Backgrounds are so different.

I will address the last first. People are very different, but their needs are similar and different. The government “one size fits all” approach helps some, but messes up others. God alone has the wisdom and the ability to form a solution that uniquely suits each person’s need. That is why it is vital that we consult Him before attempting to alleviate the needs we see around us.

Now to address “Bible-Beaters”: I confess I am one Mary disdains. Likely, I quoted a number of Scriptures in my letter to Mary and Fred. Probably that prompted this response. I am a “Bible-Beater”, because that is where God put the answers. Taking the Bible seriously is the only thing that makes sense. “Read, study and do”, is the formula for a successful life.

I was like her husband. I believed in God, but I “knew” I had to do it on my own. I was raised on, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” (That, by the way, is a non-Biblical heresy). I came to the end of my resources, as we all must in this complex and trouble-filled world. I took Christ as a crutch because I limped without Him. I still lean on Jesus today. However, when I lean on Him, I walk straight and strong.

It is a noble sentiment to allow God the freedom to help someone else because you are able to care for yourself; noble, but arrogant. If someone offers you a gift, it is boorish to turn it down. God offered to Fred and you and me His Son as a gift. Turning a cold shoulder to Jesus is at least bad manners, and ultimately disastrous, since without Him there is no eternal happiness. Without Jesus, there is only eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth.

When Fred (if he fishes), catches a record-setting salmon I would be willing to bet he would have no reticence about “sounding it from the rooftops”. When a person falls in love he or she is often exuberant enough to proclaim proudly “she loves me!” or “He loves me!” That is exactly the feeling one gets when one discovers the real love that Jesus has for believers. His love is overwhelming. It is so far greater than the love of another human being… and worth the shouting!

She avers that Fred has a deep faith. I know his faith was as mine was, in himself. Likely, he was only aware that there must be a God. Likely, underneath the surface he had the view of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, “Lord, keep the Czar … but keep him far away from here!” “God is alright in heaven, but I don’t want Him messing with my life.”

God is not a second-class citizen who you can take or leave. He is El Shaddai, God Almighty. He is the Creator and so His rules apply to everyone. As God’s creation, man has a duty to submit and obey. Taking an arrogant, “I can do it myself” attitude is an affront to God’s majesty.

It is the depth of idolatry to consider you can live your life perfectly well without His help.

It is the depth of idolatry to consider you can live your life perfectly well without His help. Sending God packing off to help some poor incapacitated person is foolish in the extreme.

One day a pastor was changing the church’s roadside sign when a man stopped his Harley Davidson motorcycle and he struck up a conversation.  The Pastor asked him where he was going. He replied, “I’ goin’ into town to sell my Harley. I’m gonna upgrade.”
“May I suggest,” the pastor offered, “that you say, ‘I’m going to sell my bike’ if it be God’s will.’’
The biker laughed, “God doesn’t have a thing to do with it. I’m gonna sell it! Me!” With that, he climbed on his bike and rode off.
Several hours later, the Pastor was locking the church when he saw a man limping down the road. It was the biker. His jeans were torn. The pastor could see badly skinned legs through the tears. One of the sleeves on his leather jacket was torn nearly off and his shoulder was badly skinned as well. He had had a bloody nose and a serious bruise under one eye.
The Pastor ran down the steps, “What happened!”
“Well, Pastor, about five miles down the road I was on a curve and hit some gravel. The bike slid out from under me. As you see, I got tore up pretty bad. The bike is totaled. I hiked back to a farmhouse about a mile further on to get some help. The lady came out on the porch with a shotgun. I took off running, but she got me with two loads of birdshot.
“Well, my son, come on in and I’ll clean you up and we can call for help.’
“No Pastor, I’m just gonna limp on home, IF THE LORD WILLS!”

Sometimes we have to learn the hard way. Now, God is not a vindictive God. Actually, His loving care is around us, believers and unbelievers alike, all the time. But when we sin we walk out from under His care, we open ourselves up to the resident evil in this world.

In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

Whether we choose to use Jesus as a crutch or an umbrella, He assures us that our lives are secure for eternity in Christ. He gives us His love. He opens our hearts to receive all His good gifts.  Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” That is great assurance not only for us who believe and want to serve Him, but also for all those who are in need, who are disadvantaged and who are limited in any way.

You know what? That includes me! It also includes you. Praise God, He is FOR all of us

 

Questions Demanding Answers

I will pose a question in this issue. You will have the opportunity to send me answers. I will publish the best ones in the next issue. Please cite Biblical authority, and keep you answer within 250 words.

QUESTION: King David sinned greatly.  How can God call him, “a man after God’s heart”?

ANSWER: David’s sins were plenty to lose him God’s favor.  He lied to the High Priest at Nob and the result was that King Saul had all the innocent priests there slaughtered.  David lied to the Philistines a number of times so he could take refuge among them.  He committed adultery and murder.  Out of pride David disobeyed God and ordered a census of the people.

Surely, that was more than enough to get him condemned by God.  It certainly was; however, David had an ace in the hole.  He loved God with all his heart.  He sinned, but as soon as he was made aware of His over-passionate ill behavior, King David not only repented, but threw himself open to God’s punishment. Certainly, this is “a man after God’s own heart”.

Everyone sins!  No one is exempt.  Anyone who loves God completely will be deeply grieved when God points out his sin.  Then when that man does not try to hide it or explain it away, but frankly and sincerely repents, God blesses and forgives.

The man after God’s own heart is one that keeps short accounts with God.  He listens for direction and for the Holy Spirit’s conviction that he has gone astray.  He bears honest grief at having offended God by his sin.

Love based on trust is his predominant character trait.  He knows His Father and His Lord intimately.

QUESTION: What is the unforgiveable sin?  How do I know if I have committed it?

 

The Holy of Holies

Join me in bowing before our God in gratitude that we can speak directly and personally to Him.  He is our loving Father, so we can embrace Him boldly, but respectfully.

“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.”  Father, I know a number of people who live this way, whether they say they believe in God or not.  Father, send the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sin of disbelief in Jesus.  Send them someone (even me) to speak to them about how real and wonderful you are.  Some are close to me and I do want them to spend eternity with you in blessedness.

There is nothing too hard for You.  I know You allow each to acknowledge on their own that You are Lord God.  The Holy Spirit finds a way to bring Your truth to them so they will embrace Our Savior.

Jesus, you are so wonderful.  You have demeaned Yourself by setting aside Your glory and becoming a man.  You allowed all the puny men to criticize You, to insult You and then to abuse You, condemn You falsely and finally crucify You. 

Despite all the evil we perpetrated against You, You out of love and grace You love me, Jesus and I love You.  Please cast your net of love around my dear ones and draw them into Your love, Your Presence, Your forgiveness and Your grace.  Take away their tendency to sin, as You take mine from me.e not only asked Your Father to forgive us, but You became sin for us and accepted the punishment of God for our sin.  Your Father withdrew from You, because You bore our sin.  That for You was far greater pain than anything man could do to Your body and soul.  Your Father turned His back on You as You carried my sin.

You are my Sovereign Lord Savior.  I rejoice in Your salvation.  You are magnificent in all you do.  Open my heart to receive more of You.  Open my eyes to Your ever-present Spirit.  Tune my ears to be quick to hear my Master’s voice. Glory be to You!  Hallelujah!  Come quickly, Lord Jesus, Lord Triumphant!   Amen


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