Sunday, January 25, 2015

Jesus Calls Us to Active Service

From the first day of Jesus’ ministry to his last, he preached that we must make serving others the core of our religion.

Jesus constantly preached that we should help the poor, the hungry, the homeless, and the hurting.

Jesus calls those who follow him to a life of struggle and service, not a life of easy words and empty phrases. He challenges us to be better than we are now, not remain as we were before we met him.

A faith that fails to challenge us to bold, radical service isn't worth having. 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.

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

We must, if we love Jesus, serve others first, and do so with a perfect self-sacrifice, as modeled by Jesus himself. (Matt. 20:28; John 13:15)

Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve.” His ministry “ransomed” us from ignorance of our sinful actions. (Mark 10:45) Jesus gives us the example of complete sacrifice and service that leads to our salvation.

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

“For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done to you. ... If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:15, 17)

Knowing, but not doing, the Will of God is not enough. (Luke 6:46-47)

“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21) It is not enough to have his commands, but ignore them. The teachings of Jesus are active, and are meant to be acted upon.

By Jesus' example, we learn to be humble servants of God, and by his example, we are saved from our previous ignorance of our sins. When we are “saved” from this ignorance, we can go to God in prayer and be forgiven for our past ignorance and sins.

Once saved from our ignorance of sin, Jesus calls us to both love to please God, and to put others first in God's name. Jesus teaches us that we should humbly perform Good Works and holy service. Our Good Works and acts of service enlighten the world, and show God’s love to others.

It is only our righteous acts that make us righteous before God. And it is God alone Who determines whether we are truly worthy of eternal life by the performance of our acts.

Jesus calls us to serve and lose ourselves in the service of others. The early disciples of Jesus left ALL - friends, family, material goods, homes, jobs - to follow Jesus (Luke 18:28.)

Jesus calls us to a life of Good Works in humility and compassion. (Matt. 5:16; 6:5) Service to others leads to spiritual completeness. (Matt. 5:48)

“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.)

The world must not be viewed as a dreary waiting room for death. It's our first home, a place for joyful service, spiritual growth and a celebration of God's gifts.

If we do not follow his words, we are not following Jesus. If we do not obey his calling, we are not worthy of his name. Jesus is meant to be followed, not just admired.

“If you love me, keep my commands,” he says (John 14:15) But If we claim to know and love him, but reject his teachings, we are liars, unfit for his name. (1 John 2:4)

Let us show our love to Jesus by obedience to his teachings, and let us by this, show that we are worthy of bearing his name.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

God Has Showered His Gifts On Us

God has implanted within us original feelings of reverence, of gratitude, of kindness, and of love. He freely grants us all that we need, and more, to love both Him and others, then asks us to use these gifts.

If we revere God, we will conform our lives to God's moral commandments, which lead us to holiness.

If we live lives of gratitude for all that God has given us, we live in unity with God and with others.

If we are kind to others, we model and grow into the life that God wishes us to have.

If we love God with all that we have within us, God assures us that our time with Him is eternal.

God has chosen and sent Jesus as a spokesman to call us to bring out these gifts from within us, and let all of them blossom in our lives. When we act upon them, they blossom also in the lives of others.

We are never left without the God, Whom Jesus calls "Father." The God of Jesus, and for us, is truly a Father who cares for His children.

The Wisdom of God is always available, at the end of a prayer to our Heavenly Father. Whenever we lack wisdom, God freely grants more of it to us. God’s wisdom can be found in the teachings of the Hebrew Prophets and in the words and example of Jesus. Wisdom is found in the example set by those who are seeking holiness today.

Our souls find refreshment in God, and are renewed by His eternal presence. We can stand in God’s presence at any time, in any place. When we walk with God in our darkest hour, He comforts us.

An attitude of prayer, gratitude and reverence puts us before the Throne of God wherever we are. No priest, no building, no ritual is required for us to have God embrace us daily.

If God did not love us and want us to become Spiritually Complete, He would not have sent us Prophets, would not have guided us with their words, and would not offer to grant us unending Wisdom whenever we asked for it.

Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of God’s will all come from God, as do love and the path of Good Works.

God's wisdom is fully embodied in the message life and death of Jesus, who gives us a complete and perfect example of a life lived fully for God.

Jesus, a man like us, grew in wisdom and stature, prayed consistently to his God, and did not stray from God's commandments. Jesus challenged others to live just as he lived. That we may take up Jesus’ challenge and accomplish it is the GOOD NEWS of the Gospel.

We are weak, and grow tired, and often feel like giving up. But if we keep our eyes focused on the example of Jesus, and the love of God, we will have all we need to spiritually grow and flourish.

God surely doesn't give up on US, weak as we are. God granted us strong spirits, gave us the example of Jesus, and gives ongoing strength and Wisdom when we ask Him for more.

So let us give all we have been given to continue striving towards Spiritual completeness. We must not give up serving God and living as He intends us to live!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Eternal Vastness of God

Look up to the sky. Now look beyond it, 250 miles above the earth. Young people are only the third generation in human history to be able to do this – to look up to the sky and really KNOW that beyond the blueness is the blackness and vastness of space.

We are the first human beings to be able to close our eyes and realistically imagine what it is like to be in orbit around the Earth, and to be able to turn around and look DOWN upon this globe on which all of us live. And not only us, but we know that this is the planet on which all people throughout history were born, have lived and have died.

And they have seen behind it a vast number of other suns. And we now know that our own sun is only ONE among hundreds of billions of suns in our own Milky Way Galaxy, and beyond the Milky Way lies a vastly larger universe of countless billions of suns.

When we look up, then, we learn that we are not alone; that when we stand together on this tiny rock, we know that we are truly together. And while some believe that our smallness in space should make us smaller and more alone, instead, it makes us greater and ennobles our existence.

We can now gather together and know, far more than other previous generations, what “Eternal” truly means, and the vastness which encompasses such a word.

Our gatherings, our Church, belongs to God, the Eternal Creator of all that exists, and we know this Creator has not only created the stars and the galaxies, but each and every soul of every human being that has ever lived, including our own.

Church, then, is not merely a place to give lip-service to a small deity – a shrunken and tiny god who grants wishes, fulfills our desires of the moment, our yearning for a bigger pile of material goods – because we know that our bodies are a speck of dust even on this planet, and last a very short time. In the grand scheme of the universe, such pursuits are unworthy to ask of an eternal Creator who created all of this, and unworthy of our lives, which are meant to be Righteous and Noble.

No, Church must now have greater meaning. It must serve a BIGGER purpose, because we now know that God is vastly larger than previous generations could ever have imagined. Church for THIS generation, for this time, must be a holy temple where we encounter the Divine in utter and complete humility. We encounter God – the God of Jesus, Who is named Yahweh – as the Unseen and Eternal Creator of every Star in the Universe, even the hundreds of billions we cannot and will likely never see with our eyes or detect with our telescopes.

We must approach this Eternal God with reverence, not merely emotionalism; with dignity, not merely unthinking casualness; with selflessness, rather than selfishness.

Church must be where we reverently encounter the divine, holy Spirit of God. It is where we become spiritually fulfilled, and spiritually completed, so we may go forth to give of ourselves completely to those sharing this Planet with us, serving them with humility and the knowledge that God is pleased by these, our Works of Righteousness and service to others.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

We Are Saved Eternally By Our Works... By God's Grace Alone

"The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them." (Ezekiel 18:20)

Both the scriptures and our Master, Jesus, are clear in the fact that we are saved eternally by God according to our works, but not by OTHERS' opinions of our works (judging others) nor by OUR OWN opinion of our works (demanding salvation from God) nor by how loudly we perform our works (being prideful.)

Jesus teaches us that our works are the basis of our eternal salvation, but we cannot judge ourselves, based on our own opinion of our works. That is God's responsibility. Nor can we be each other's judges. "Judge not," says Jesus, "so that you will not be judged,” – and by the same standards we judge others. (Matt. 7:1-2)

We cannot tell others that their works are not enough for God, or too much for God, and we definitely may not say that Good Works are NOT pleasing to God. Nor can others tell us that we are "not saved" by our works or lack of them. Only God can grant eternal life, not others.

It is God’s choice – His GRACE alone – that determines whether we will live with Him eternally. But it is up to us if we choose to seek this gift, and God says we demonstrate this choice by our Works.

When someone says, "That's 'works-righteousness' you are relying on, rather than Jesus," they must be reminded that ALL Jesus taught was Good Works and doing Acts of Righteousness!

We are called by Jesus to seek righteousness in our deeds, and he was consistent with all the prophets in teaching this. "DO Good," says Jesus, even to those who hate us, and even our enemies (Luke 6:27.) "DO to others what you would have them do to you." (Matt. 7:12)

And "seeking righteousness" cannot mean simply hearing Jesus’ words and claiming that we’re righteous simply by having faith in the words, but refusing to act on them. Only by DOING good and obeying God's commandments, says Jesus, will we enter into God's presence. (Matt. 7:21, 19:16-17)

But since we frequently fail to be perfectly Righteous, shouldn't we simply not attempt it? No, because Jesus tells us to repent when we fall short, and to extend forgiveness to others 7x70 times, just as God’s infinite mercy forgives those who return to Him when they stumble. (Matt. 18:21)

We must become pure and holy as Jesus and our Father, God, are pure and holy. And we know from the perfectly lived life of Jesus – a man like us – that we may accomplish all that God challenges us to do through His chosen Son.

We must EXHAUST OURSELVES in Good Works without becoming weary, doing more than required by others: going the second mile, carrying another's pack, carrying our cross, yoked in obedience to God and his servant, Jesus.

When we lose ourselves in service and Works, we gain ourselves - our true selves. If we gain the world by gathering up earthly treasure and rest smugly on our own assurance that we're going to Heaven without works, we lose our souls instead. (Matt. 6:20; Mark 8:36)

As we do our Good Works, we are instructed by the one whom God sent to be our teacher that we are NOT to be prideful, doing our works simply to be seen by others. (Matt. 6:1)

We indeed ARE told to do those Good works - feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, comforting the widow, and more. Learn to DO Good," says the Prophet Isaiah, whom Jesus quotes. (Isaiah 1:17; Matt. 25:36)

In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus says those who sit on that which they've been given and do nothing are not to be rewarded by God. Those who use what was given to them to do good and live productively ARE rewarded by God.

Those who HEAR AND DO what Jesus calls us to do are building their houses on a firm foundation. (Luke 6:46-48; 11:28) Let us avoid the sandy ground, and build our hopes on the teachings of Jesus, our firm foundation!