Saturday, February 26, 2005

Sadness

I saw her before she saw me; and I recognized her, too.
A closer look only confirmed my suspicions--she was a prostitute.
I passed her by to wait for the bus to come by,
Watched as she walked up and down the roadside,
Eyes pleading with passersby, "Oh, do stop and spend your money on me!"

I watched at first with a cold heart: this was the one that had lied to me,
She told me she needed money to buy some chips--but chips don't cost $1.50.
I had seen later the money in her hand, and knew what it was for:
She was on crack--the drug--and needed the money for more,
Her body screaming, "Oh, give again that feeling I need!"

My heart began to soften, as I talked with Jesus there.
I couldn't help but wonder as I watched her standing there,
How long she had been like this? Why did this even begin?
She had started out, probably, just for the thrill, but then--
Then the drug lord had her crying, "More of the white stuff, please!"

He raised her price, by raising the amount she'd daily need.
Now she had to beg and be sold: a job doesn't pay that much, you see.
So now a slave to the long sought thrill that is killing her body each day,
She wanders up and down the street, giving herself away,
And rueing day by day the harlot she came to be.

That's who I saw this morning, on my way home from my job.
To think of all that she's been through--her name splashed through the mud,
Her parents have probably disowned her, her friend don't even exist--
And to think that if she were to die today, would she even be missed?
Would anyone care that a little crack whore had disappeared from the street?

Yes, Jesus would care, but who would care with Him? Would I, such a blessed young man?
Or would I turn my back on her pleading eyes, run away as fast as I can?
It is Jesus she needs and Jesus I have--what more do I need to say?
Oh, why did I not tell her just that, as I was ending my day?
Why could I not tell her this morning, "My Jesus is all you need"?

Maybe she will be there tomorrow, but then again, maybe not.
Maybe I'll get to preach the Gospel to her, maybe that's a long shot.
Or maybe she'll just die, and I'll be none the wiser.
She just a crack whore, after all, and, boy, does everyone despise her--
Everyone but Jesus, who calls daily to her crying soul, "Come unto Me."

Friday, February 25, 2005

Faith:Part Three

I was reading an article last night about somebody who claimed in a popular book that knowing your talents is essential to knowing God's will for your life. I beg to differ.

When God called Moses to tell Pharoah to free the children of Israel, Moses had some objections. And while we may say that Moses was just being faithless, if you look at the problems closely and see also God's response, you will see that Moses was actually quite right to be concerned.

Moses' first problem was that he had no reputation before Israel as their leader (Exodus 3:11, 13; 4:1). this is actually quite a serious problem. How would you respond if, while you were under oppressive slavery, someone told you that God had sent him to free you? The numerous treacheries in the history of slavery to such leaders (and not just in this country) bears witness to the fact that it could have very easily cost Moses his life if the Israelites did not believe him. Thus God responded by giving him three things: a promise (based on obedience, 3:12), His special name (3:14), and some miraculous signs, by which he would convince the children of Israel that the Lord had indeed sent him (4:2-9).

Moses' other problem was that he was not an eloquent speaker. This could pose a respect problem for one who claims to be speaking on the behalf of God. Have you ever tried to tell someone about Jesus and stumbled your way through the speech? Then you know why Moses feared being laughed out of the court or even held as an amusement piece for the king, another legitimate concern. Also remember that Moses was no longer an Egyptian prince, having spent much time (forty years) in Midian. Just as it doesn't take long to lose your native tongue when you no longer use it, so Moses probably was a little fuzzy with his Egyptian by this time. God therefore responded by appointing Aaron to speak for him.

Now we can say, "Well, Moses should have expected God to provide all that stuff"; but we must notice that God did not rebuke Moses for asking! Then we must also remember that God commands us to ask for what we need! Jesus said, "Ask, and it shall be given unto you" (Matthew 7:7a)! Such requests are actually part of faith, because if we didn't believe that God could possibly overcome the obstacle, would we really bother to "remind" Him of it?

So thus we see that God will provide for us when we do not have what it takes to complete the task He has assigned us. I like the way Steven Curtis Chapman wrote it:

"I made a list/Wrote down from A to Z/All the ways I thought that You could best use Me/told all my strengths and my abilities.
"I formed a plan/It seemed to make good sense/I laid it out for you/So sure You'd be convinced/Made my case, presented my defence...
"But then I read the Letter/That You sent me/It said that all You really want from me/Is just...
"Whatever--whatever You say/Whatever--I will obey/Whatever--Lord, have Your way/Cause You are my God/Whatever."

We can take as many spiritual gifts inventories as exist; but only God's voice can truly tell us what "good works [He] hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Faith: Part Two

Steven Curtis Chapman recently wrote a song that talks about real faith. It's called "Believe Me Now," and it tells us how God views faith. The entire song consists of God insisting that we look upon His faithfulness to us in the past and believe Him now as we face challenges in our lives.
Real faith doesn't happen tomorrow, wasn't only for yesterday, but is for right now. If we really have faith in God then we will count on Him for what He has promised today.

SCC also wrote another song called "Be Still": it tells us to wait for the Lord to move us, "Be still and know that He is God." It tells us to reflect upon His love in the past and to look to Him for the answers now instead of running about in a panic. It tells us that He knows ours pains, and that He is powerful enough to overcome them--and that He is actually inclined to do so. (For many people love us and want to see us do well in life; but how many of them actually know what is best for us and are willing and able to, with all their might, move our circumstances around to truly help us?)

The Scriptural foundation for both of these songs can be found in Exodus 14 where we read in the History of the nation of Israel how God rescued them from the hand of the mightiest army on earth at the time. Looking across the Red Sea, with the revenge-minded Egyptians fast approaching, Israel seemingly had a reason to panic. But Moses said, "Fear ye not." How could Moses say such a thing? Because he believed the word which the Lord had spoken concerning His chosen people, saying that He would surely bring them out of Egypt to the Land which He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 2:7-8; cf. Gen 15:18-21; 26:3-4; 35:11-12). No matter the obstacle present, God could not fail to keep His promise.

And so it is with us today. God has made us who are His children (for qualifications, see John 1:12 and John 3:3) certain promises, with both definitions of certain being included: certain, as in specific; and certain, as in sure. God is not ambiguous about His promises so that we have to wonder what He means and so that any little thing can be taken as a fulfillment. God is very specific about what He desires to do in our lives: He desires to bring men, women, boys, and girls to the hope and peace with God that can only be found in Christ Jesus our Lord (John 12:32; Luke 19:10; Romans 5:1; II Peter 3:9) and has sent us into all the world to preach that Gospel to all nations (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15).

He has told us how to do it (Matt. 5:16) and He has told us what the results will be. These results included receptiveness, shallow/feigned belief, apathy/indifference, and persecution (Matt. 13:3-23; John 15:17-25; II Timothy 3:12; I Peter 3:8-17; etc.). He has also told us that He will never leave us or forsake us, as both the songs attest (cf. Hebrews 13:5, Matt. 28:20). And He has promised to provide for us all that we need to accomplish His will (Matt. 6:33 and Philippians 4:13,19). Finally, He has promised to reward us for faithfully following His orders in belief of His promises (Matt. 5:12; 7:7-11; 25:31-40; Luke 6:35), for we know that true faith produces good works (James 2:14-26; Matt. 7:15-20).

So as you go through this life and you face obstacles, and people around you start telling you what to expect and what to fear, the question God is asking you is, "Do you believe Me now?"
Will you act in faith to follow the commands of God even when everything around you is telling you that it doesn't make sense? Will you be a man or woman of (the) Faith?

Monday, February 21, 2005

Faith: Part One

Recently, I had a small cyber-debate on a message board I frequent about faith. There is an organization of which I was an active part that teaches "the power of the spoken word" as if people can successfully determine their own path in life simply by speaking what they want. Or as if by verbalizing a fear, they fall in danger of it actually coming to pass, and indeed bring it upon themselves. So the theory that logically falls from that is that if you only speak what you want, you will have great success in life.
Verses are cited, such as Mark 4:14, John 1:1, Proverbs 6:2, etc., to support this thesis--but they are all out of context. If you read the verses surrounding the cited ones, you will see that those verses have absolutely nothing to do with the power of the spoken word. But verses whose context makes plain that the subject is indeed the power of words--are never used. I'm talking about James 3:2-18. I'm talking about Matthew 15:18-20. And how about Proverbs 15:1-4 and 25:15? These verses do talk about how to use words to accomplish goals--but they never ascribe to us an amount of power rivaling God's.
In fact, there are several Scriptures which plainly teach that our power to achieve is indeed limited. My favorite is Psalm 127:1 : "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep [watch over] the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." So then no matter what we endeavor, if God does not help us, we shall fail. Even further, if we work against God, we shall be destroyed (Prov. 11:21, 16:5).
And yet daily we hear the message, "Any thing you can conceive and believe, you can achieve"; as if it were some kind of law of the universe or something, or as if God would make Himself a slave to the will of (sinful) man. A Holy Creator? Subject to every whim of the imagination of His rebellious creation? Please! The only reason Satan continues to tell that lie (remember, he told it to Eve [Gen. 3:5]) is that if he stops believing it, then he will have to acknowledge that his 6,000-year fight against the Maker of Heaven and earth has been a fruitless, pointless endeavor.
In addition to the un-Biblical nature of this teaching, it is also very illogical. People believe lies everyday: that doesn't make them true, no matter how hard those who believe them want them to be, nor how much those lies inspire them to do good things (see also Romans 3:5-7). And, ultimately, lies hurt people and give them a false hope. Once they have put all of their effort into obeying the lie that they have believed, in the end they have wasted their time, and with it many opportunities to actually accomplish something that God says is worthwhile.
Furthermore, history bears out the fact that many people will conceive many things, but few will actually accomplish them no matter what they believe about them. Alexander the Great did not conquer the world. Nero did not stamp out Christianity. Hitler could not make a purer race of people by segregation nor wipe out the Jew. Al Gore did not become president. Not that these people didn't try; God worked against them to accomplish His will--which their dreams and aspirations contradicted.
And so it is with us. If God's will is contrary to our will, then no matter how long or how often we say to the mountain, "You will move," the mountain will not move. In Mark 11:22, Jesus placed that restriction on the effectiveness of our prayers when He said, "Have faith in God." He meant that if God has commanded us to accomplish something, or has given us a promise, there is no obstacle great enough to hinder what He has said from coming to pass. If we speak the words which God has spoken to us, much like the prophets of the Old Testament, then we can be assured that we know what the future holds, and that, if we act accordingly, we will have what we ask for along that line.
When Elijah asked God for a famine over Israel, he got it (I Kings 17:1). Not because he just believed so hard that God had to give it to him, but because God had promised one for the children of Israel, if they rebelled against Him to serve other gods (Deuteronomy 11:16-17). When Abraham spoke to his servants that both he and Isaac would return from the sacrifice, in which Isaac was to be the "lamb," he got what he believed. But not because God had pity on him and said, "Y'know, I think I'll listen to Abraham's wish this time." That is not why Abraham was so confident. On the contrary, God had promised him that He would fulfill His promises to him in Isaac, for which to happen, Isaac would need to be alive long enough to have children. Therefore, he believed that because God would keep His promise, Isaac would return with him to fulfill God's promise, even if that meant that God would have to raise him from the dead (Gen. 21:12;22:1-9; Hebrews 11:17-19).
This is the faith that "was counted unto him for righteous-ness" (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:5; James 2:20-24), a faith that is not a power in and of itself, but that finds its strength in obedience to God, believing that He is able to keep His word no matter what He has to do to accomplish His will. It is a faith that finds its foundation in the unlimited power of God. As my pastor says, "'In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth': If God is so powerful that He can create the earth out of nothing, what can't He do?" That is true faith.