That's another month gone (all too quickly)

It has been a month since I last posted reflective questions for you to use in examining and building your walk with Jesus. September is now ending and it is a good time to ask, “How did I do this month?” You might find that these questions from Phil Helfter, a pastor in California, help you.

  1. How have you experienced God in your life this week [month]?
  2. What is God teaching you?
  3. How are you responding to His prompting?
  4. Do you have a need to confess any sin?
  5. How did you do with your [Bible] reading this week?

By the way today is my dads birthday – Happy Birthday dad!

Looking in all the wrong places

ItsNotWhat had an interview with Brian Dodd talking about leadership trends. Dodd makes two points about Jesus,

1. Growing churches teach about Jesus. “When I look at the growing churches…the number one thing they all have in common, it’s all about Jesus, Jesus Jesus, and when you’re tired about Jesus, talk more about Jesus.” It’s the churches who are Christ centred that are growing.
2. If your church is stuck, the question to ask is: “How passionate are you about Jesus and how much are you promoting Jesus?”

I teach a course on the life of Jesus. I am often amazed at the ignorance of students when it comes to Jesus. The prevailing attitude appears to be,

Jesus loves me this I know for the bible tells me so…

Rarely do I meet a student, faculty member, or come to that church member, who is fascinated and obsessed by this King and Lord.

I read an article simply because I found the title interesting, What if Jesus was Al Qaida terrorist? Let me quote two things,

I have studied the events of September 11, 2001 very closely. What amazed me is why these dozen or so men have spend years in flight school. They did not care about the average $165,000 a pilot makes. They lived for something better than that…When you really look at the missiology of Al Qaida and the wider Islam following; you find something odd. They are more committed to evangelizing their cause than we are ours. The sad truth is Muslims like their Messiah more than we love Jesus. It hurts but it is true. In America, Islam is outgrowing Christianity.

I have been known to find the ‘normal’ Christian life boring. In fact if I lived anything like the ‘normal’ life Jesus intended for me I would never be bored. My conclusion: I am often found lacking in faith, looking in the wrong places, asking the wrong questions, and doing the wrong things; it’s time to look at Jesus.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him…Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…

I am not alone

I remember being in a discussion about poverty – a lady (middle aged and middle class) quoted Jesus as saying, “You will always have the poor with you.” It was her argument for not giving more time or effort to helping them although to my knowledge she was a caring and compassionate woman. Not being too familiar with the bible at that time I went home and looked the verse up. The phrase (or something like it) occurs a number of times – my attention was caught up by Mark 14:7,

For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.

I wanted to go and tell the lady how the verse ended, to point out her “sin.” Then in his lovingkindness God showed me that I am a deeply selfish man. I love myself way too much. I know use that as my excuse not to accept the invitation of  Jesus to do good to them more often than I do.

The video below makes me believe I am not alone.

Let me finish with some challenging words from Isaiah (chapter 58). Reading between the lines it would appear that the selfishness which so rampant in my heart was to be found in ancient Israel too. And they, like me, were glad to be called the people of God.

I loved reading these words not because they made me feel conviction but because they drew my attention to the blessing of God upon those who accept God’s chosen fast.

“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 rearguard.
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.

Quintessentially Indian

Chai in GujaratThere is something quintessentially Indian about a man being arrested for drinking his morning cup of tea in a suspicious manner. It happened.

It does illustrate how capricious those in authority can be here. People are at the mercy of men and women who, when given authority, often wear it as a badge and right to do what they want regardless of the people they are meant to be ‘serving’.

Thankfully the judge threw the case out quickly – the full report is on the BBC website,

Indian police arrested a restaurant owner for drinking tea “in a suspicious manner”, it seems.

When Sub-Inspector Jadhav asked what Vijav Patil was doing at a tea stall in the town of Kolhapur one mid-morning, he was unhappy with the explanation of “cutting chai” – grabbing a quick half-glass of tea – reports the Times of India. So it seems the officer arrested him under a law that allows preventative detention of someone suspected of being about to commit a crime.

Fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit

The Gospel Coalition published an article which included 10 essential Christian behaviours (see below, for ease I have removed their supporting scriptural references but these are on the original post)

Ten Essential Christian Behaviors

1. We repent and turn from our sins

2. We forgive others

3. We are undivided in our devotion to God and to Jesus Christ

4. We publicly acknowledge Jesus before others

5. We obey God’s commands and do not make a practice of sinning

6. We live a life that is fruitful and not fleshly

7. We are humble and broken-hearted for our sin

8. We love God and love others

9. We must persevere in the faith

10. We help our natural family and church family when there are physical needs

I was left wondering about the practice of such behaviours – the difficulty is in the detail here not in the generalised statement. We all know we are meant to be loving people because Jesus told us they would know we belong to him by the love we have for one another. So how do we do that?

It is easy at this point to see how readily we could develop our own explanation in terms of do’s and don’ts. Much has been made that the OT Law explains how to practise the 10 commandments by giving another 613.

It makes me realise how hard – and often how untied – living in the Spirit of God is. To listen each moment of each day for his voice. To be enlightened and guided by him takes great spiritual discipline.

Intimacy with the Holy Spirit – fellowship as it is described in 2 Cor 13:14,

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

…is easier to say as words spoken in benediction at the end of a service rather than lived out on a wet Wednesday afternoon.

Yet it is worth it. The Holy Spirit does have a good path through every situation but it is not the same. There are principles he implants on our heart but the outworking of them can look very different in practicality.

Let me finish with two quotes from Do What Jesus Did by Bobby Dawkins,

“We are not going to move this world by criticism of it nor conformity to it, but by the combustion within it of lives ignited by the Spirit of God” Vince Havner

“Grace is the power of God to do the will of God”

Take some time today and renew your fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Ask, seek, receive and know your Father who is good will pour out his presence to you who ask. May there be more grace,  and more Holy Spirit intimacy in your life today.