Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pleasing God, not People

Pleasing others by compromising our values is wrong.  But as followers of Jesus, we are called by him to serve others ahead of ourselves in the name of God.

"People pleasing" is rightly condemned as a "trap" that can lead us to do things solely to make others like us. Sometimes, we are tempted to compromise our values and ethics to please others: a boss, co-worker, neighbor, or friend, just to win favor with them.

But it's easy to mistakenly glean from those teaching and preaching against this danger that we start believing that ALL things that please others is wrong, and that we must always please the Self first.

Jesus calls us to please God, and put others first in God's name. Jesus teaches us that we should humbly perform Good Works and Holy Service.

Inherent in Jesus' parables is the duty - not just casual, optional advice, but the duty - to go above and beyond in our service of others.

"I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me" (Matt. 25:36.)

"If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles" (Matt. 5:41.)

As Jesus' brother James puts it, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James 1:26.)

Jesus has called us to a religion of works and action, of radical love and service. There are numerous ways we can put this to work in our lives:

- Giving up lunch in a fancy restaurant to take a co-worker to lunch for the week.

- Sacrificing the family vacation and giving the money instead to house a a family after a fire.

- Literally obeying Jesus and giving your coat, and more, to someone in need.

- Spending time with a sick or hurting loved one, friend, or stranger.

Giving of your time to serve another in need is Christlike and holy. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves in the Godly service of others.

Putting one's own needs on hold when it feels difficult is a short-term sacrifice, not an exercise in "people pleasing," because Jesus challenges us to love others and serve others sacrificially, and demonstrated that love and service by his life and death.

Jesus calls us to do just as he has done, because it pleases God, our Father and Creator.

By Jesus' example, we learn to be humble servants of God, and by his example, we are saved from the sin of self-absorption.

Does it hurt sometimes to put yourself in Second Place, or in Last Place, behind others? Yes. But Jesus teaches that the last are first in the Kingdom of God, and that the World's treasures, and measures, are not God's.

While we should never give out of fear (that we won't be liked) let us never fear to give of ourselves in Godly service.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

50 Things Jesus Taught

If we believe Jesus’ words will live forever, what he said during his brief ministry should be the cornerstone of our religion and how we best relate to God. It is this God, our Father, who chose and sent Jesus out into the world to show by word and deed how we should live Godly lives.

Jesus' words and Teachings echo down through the centuries, calling out to us, urging us to follow him. And while similarities with others' words exist, none have challenged us to serve God with such love and devotion and Righteousness as Jesus has done.

There is simply nothing that compares with his Teachings, and they should never be demeaned, wished away or interpreted by others as being insignificant or not applicable for today.

This is meant to be a summary, not a complete listing. And yet, if this is all we knew of Jesus, it would guide us perfectly on the path of life that God wishes for us.

1. Repent – Matthew 4:17

2. Follow Me – Matthew 4:19

3. Rejoice – Matthew 5:12

4. Let Your Light Shine – Matthew 5:16

5. Honor God’s Law – Matthew 5:17–18

6. Let Your Righteousness Exceed Others’ – Matthew 5:20

7. Be Reconciled, Not Angry – Matthew 5:24–25

8. Do Not Commit Adultery – Matthew 5:29–30

9. Let Your “Yes” be “Yes” Without Oaths – Matthew 5:37

10. Go the Extra Mile – Matthew 5:38-42

11. Love And Pray For Your Enemies – Matthew 5:44

12. Seek to Be Perfect In Godliness – Matthew 5:48

13. Do Not Practice Righteousness Just To Be Seen – Matthew 6:1

14. Do Not Pray Like Pagans – Matthew 6:7-8

15. Forgive Those Who Sin Against You – Matthew 6:14

16. Seek Heavenly Treasures – Matthew 6:19–21

17. Seek God’s Kingdom—Matthew 6:33

18. Do Not Be Anxious – Matthew 6:34

19. Do Not Judge Hypocritically – Matthew 7:1

20. Beware of Covetousness – Luke 12:15

21. Ask, Seek, and Knock – Matthew 7:7–8

22. Do Unto Others – Matthew 7:12

23. Seek the Narrow Gate – Matthew 7:13-14

24. Deny Yourself—Luke 9:23

25. Pray For Laborers – Matthew 9:38

26. Be Wise as Serpents – Matthew 10:16

27. Fear Not – Matthew 10:26

28. Take My Yoke Upon You – Matthew 11:29

29. Honor Your Parents—Matthew 15:4

30. Beware of False Prophets—Matthew 7:15

31. Despise Not Little Ones – Matthew 18:10

32. Deal Justly With Offenders – Matthew 18:15

33. Practice Godly Forgiveness (70x7) – Matthew 18:22

34. Honor Marriage – Matthew 19:6

35. Keep God’s Commandments – Matt. 19:17

36. Be a Servant – Matthew 20:26-28

37. Be a House of Prayer – Matthew 21:13

38. Ask in Faith – Matthew 21:21–22

39. Seek Not to Be Honored and Exalted – Luke 14:7-11

40. Bring in the Poor – Luke 14:12–14

41. Render to Caesar—Matthew 22:19–21

42. Love God With All Your Being – Matthew 22:37-38

43. Love Your Neighbor As Yourself – Matthew 22:39

44. Be Born Again – John 3:7

45. Keep My Commandments—John 14:15

46. Feed My Sheep – John 21:15-16

47. Baptize My Disciples—Matthew 28:19

48. Make Disciples – Matthew 28:20

49. Do As I have Done – John 13:15

50. Do Greater Things Than I Have Done – Matthew 14:12

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Jesus, Our Teacher

Jesus was chosen by God to be our teacher, but not just a teacher, our complete example. In Jesus, we have our model for how God wishes us to live, and in him is our assurance that a human being may live according to God's will.

Jesus calls us to live lives of radical love, radical service and radical obedience. And invites us to become his life-long students, learning to serve God and Others. 

To consider Jesus as anything less than a teacher who challenges his students to achieve greatness makes Jesus into something less, something small, something light and easy to obtain.

That which we obtain cheaply, we esteem lightly. A gift freely given, a gift unwrapped and unused, is a worthless gift, regardless of the cost. Teachings unused, and unapplied, are exactly the same - useless.

The word "Teachings" can have a weak sense about it. Some who claim his name even MOCK Jesus' teachings, as if they are not really that important.

But we can flippantly follow the moral teachings of a philosopher, or not. We can heed a schoolteachers' teachings, or casually ignore them. But if we believe God chose Jesus as humanity's teacher, his teachings are vital to all that we do. 

And to call ourselves his students, then, is the most important thing we can do, because these teachings are the most pure, most Godly and therefore most important teachings ever shared amongst the human race. 

To follow Jesus' teachings is a challenge no other teacher has ever made.

No other teacher has called us to live lives of radical love - a love that dares equate what we give to our neighbors, to strangers, and even to our enemies, to what we give our SELVES. 

No other teacher has called us to live lives of radical service - a service that leads us to think of Others first, to deny our own needs, to care for all who are suffering and in need, and to always do more than is required. 

And no other teacher has called us to live lives of radical obedience - serving God completely, repenting of our past sins, seeking Heavenly, rather than Earthy treasure, and striving to live in complete and perfect obedience to God's will.

Some say that we can never be perfect students, so why even listen to the teachings? Others believe they can get an "A+" by just being the teacher's pet, or that they can contemptuously ignore the teacher's instructions, but still graduate simply by shouting that same teacher's praises! But Jesus says it doesn't work that way. 

The easy path, where all doors are opened for us and all gates are wide, isn't the path Jesus calls us to tread.

Instead, Jesus knows that, like all students, we will fall short, we will fail, and we won't do our best at all times. No student gets an A+ all the time, and certainly without effort, and Jesus never expected instant perfection from those who accepted his instruction. 

God didn't choose Jesus as our teacher to mock us, and Jesus - like any good teacher - doesn't mock us for falling short of the goals that God set for us, either. 

We are called by Jesus to seek God's forgiveness when we fall short of these very, very challenging goals. We have the gift of prayer to seek wisdom and strength to achieve them, and the knowledge that God's forgiveness is infinite, as long as we are seeking Godly Righteousness, and that we repent when we sin.

Jesus challenges us to be better students of Godly Righteousness. This teacher, Jesus, is worthy of our full attention and devotion.