Friday, May 13, 2011

Healing the Selfish

I think I've mentioned before, Mount Hope, the church we attend is the church in which I grew up.  I never thought I'd say it, but tradition, heritage, faith, memories, a large number of surrogate parents and former babysitters gathered under one roof is a unique privilege -- is home

Several years ago, however, I left my "home" when I felt I had been wronged.  Truth is, I had.  But God also revealed to me my role in the whole ordeal, and left me with the realization that this person had never let me down before, had never been given the chance to explain their actions (misunderstanding, bad day, complete failure to do the job) and like me, is not exempt from sin and the need for forgiveness.

It's terrible to say, but during the years in which I attended another church, or didn't attend at all, I kept one eye on Mount Hope.  Not because I was interested in what they were doing, or even praying for those who'd wronged me -- I was gloating, critiquing, watching as others left the church, just dreaming up scenarios in which the church had failed them as well, looking for anything to support my derision and waiting for the church's collapse.  Think Jonah and Nineveh.  Horrible, I know.  How can something I supported each week with my time and money, how can something on which I leaned so heavily, how can something that meant so much to my children and me, how can God's house -- suddenly become the object of such ill wishes?  Selfishness.

James 3:14 says:
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. (ESV)

"Bitter jealousy."  I was jealous.  I wanted others to suffer along with me.  "Why should 'they' succeed, enjoy the benefits of my church, when 'they' let me down?  Why do 'they' stay in my home while I feel uncomfortable there?'  I wanted the church to skid out.  When people started wondering why and went looking for answers, my enemy would be discovered and suffer publicly.  Or at least, that's how I had it all planned out.

"Selfish ambition."  What would have happened if the church had fallen into ruin?  What would have happened if its membership dwindled, its finances dried up, its programs came to a screeching halt?  Hundreds of -- maybe even a thousand or more -- people would have suffered.  And why?  Just to make me feel better about my choice?  My vindication?  Oh, bitter jealousy.  Oh, selfish ambition.  Oh, black, black heart that makes its truth the only truth.

Praise God, I can say today that I love our church, and the people in it, and the Heavenly Father Who sees it all and is sovereign over it all, and the husband and children who brought me back to it.  God is still working on my heart each time I lay eyes on the person with whom I had issue.  In a practical sense, God teaches me that no man -- or woman -- is an island.  We need support networks even at church -- and not just one -- because even support networks are made up of imperfect people and are therefore, imperfect in themselves; even the best servants in this world are sometimes bound by this world.  In a spiritual sense, I endeavor to seek His Truth, the Only Truth.  I renounce legalism, judgement, arrogance everyday, sometimes more than once, more than twice...  The Holy Spirit works to show me failure not as something for me to judge, but something that is common to us all, and can only be worked for good through the love of Jesus Christ in us.  We all need Our Saviour, Jesus Christ -- the One Who is Truth, whose love redeems, changes, and perfects us all.  God is Good -- All the Time!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Wedding is Off!!!

Solomon brought Pharaoh’s daughter up from the City of David to the palace he had built for her, for he said, “My wife must not live in the palace of David king of Israel, because the places the ark of the LORD has entered are holy.” 2 Chronicles 8:11

I am no stranger to bad choices.  In fact, let's call it what it is -- sin.  I was not uninformed.  I was not misled.  I knew I was not where I was supposed to be.  Solomon knew he wasn't marrying someone he should be marrying; he even built her a place to live because he could not allow her to live in a place the Ark of the Covenant had been, a holy place. 

OK, Rule Number One, if your wife is so un-Godlike you can't allow her in a holy place, you might want to hold off on the nuptials. 

Rule Number Two, if she is OK with you banishing her from a holy place, you might want to hold off on the nuptials.

Rule Number Three, if you see yourself building a house for a girl who is so un-Godlike she can't be allowed in a holy place, and she's OK with that, and you are Ok with her being OK with that -- you might want to hold off on the nuptials! 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Don't Shoot the Messenger!

I've often thought how great it would be to be a full-time prophet of God.  Travelling by foot, dirty and unwashed, hungry some days, imprisoned the next, almost always ignored.  Not.  How did these guys stand it?  There was always someone who didn't like what they said, or challenged them to some miracle to prove the truth of what they were saying.  And of course you had the false prophets, who gave all prophets a bad name.  One, they always told the people what they wanted to hear.  Duh, WINNING!  Two, they made skeptics out of everyone when their false prophecies didn't come true.  Can you say, "Early Spring?"  Thanks for that, Phil.

Anyway, in Jeremiah 26, God tells Jeremiah to make another pass at the people of Judah; convince them to change their minds, repent of their sins, and God would hold back the punishment He had in store for them.  Long story short, the people threaten to kill Jeremiah.  They take their case to court, but Jewish officials hear Jeremiah's rebuttal and find him guiltless; they remembered Micah and his prophecy, and the wisdom of King Hezekiah when he told the people to repent.  Another prophet, Uriah suffered a worse fate.  These were, supposedly, God's people.  Why were they so opposed to a message from God?  Why were they so opposed to repenting of their sins?  If you walked into church on Sunday morning, and your pastor spoke the same message -- repent or die -- you wouldn't threaten his life -- would you?  So, why all the hostility?

1)  This took place at the Temple.  These people were coming to worship.  They were righteous (in their own eyes).  So here is a scraggly looking guy telling them how sinful they were, how angry God is with them, and how God is planning on decimating the very building He built/ they worship in.  More than likely, these people had decided Jeremiah was the one in need of repentance.  The headline of the Judean Gazette probably read, "Man of God Off His Rocker: Jeremiah, once a prophet of God accused of blasphemy!"  God, destroy His Temple?  His people?  Nonsense!

2)  So we probably wouldn't threaten a pastor's life, but how many people have left the church because a pastor spoke about "the sin of homosexuality?"  How many times have we wanted to put "Mrs. Busybody," who corrects one of our children, in her place?  Do we spend as much time meditating on the Scripture used at Bible Study last week, as we do debating something someone else has said? pouring over Scripture, trying to support our argument while discrediting theirs?  Or maybe we just poke around, trying to dig up some dirt on our pastor because he spoke out against pre-marital sex.  No one likes to be confronted with their own problems, and sadly, we Christians who should be open to correction, seem to like it least of all.

"Heavenly Father, soften our hearts, we pray.  Make us more like You, draw us closer to You, and give us the desire to know You better everyday.
 Give us wisdom and discernment.  Prepare us that we may be ever more conscious of our own sin, and open to the trustworthy correction of others. 
Father, thank you for those in leadership; I pray for their physical and spiritual health.  Help me to honor and respect them.