Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Sunday
Dec012013

LEANINGS

During the past month, I’ve had an amazing experience—little, but significant. I’ve found that by relaxing and focusing on Jesus, my soul seems to drift backwards a little and rest in Him. And I’m protected—especially from my cravings, the power of lust.

After this happened several times, I realized what was going on. This experience is described in the old-time hymn, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”

We used to sing “Leanings” regularly at the Wednesday night community dinners at Prince of Peace Lutheran in Cincinnati, and I dismissed it as a campmeeting jig—another example of sloppy Christian sentimentality set to a lively tune.

So, I was surprised in two ways.  (1) It was composed by a Presbyterian elder in Dalton, Georgia, in 1887, and (2) it described accurately what I had experienced.  Here are the opening lyrics—

“What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms. What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arms.

Refrain

“Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.  (At the same time, the bases are singing, “Leaning on Jesus, leaning on Jesus.”)

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How has this experience been different for me? I don’t do anything; Jesus does it all. He literally seems to take me in His arms and protect me. It’s a marvel.

And it’s a contrast—a contrast to the many gimmicks in which I’ve tried to curb my cravings and failed. Mark Twain accurately described the problem: “I’m a staunch believer in giving up smoking. I’ve done it hundreds of times.”

While my problem isn’t cigars, Mark hit the nail. Most self-improvement efforts fail because we focus on the problem, and sooner or later our cravings overcome us. Alone, we don’t have the power or will or desire to fight them off.

Here are some of the gimmicks I’ve tried:

*  I’ll donate $50 to church if I give in to lust.

*  Or, I’ll give $50 to my accountability partner if I give in. That didn’t work, so I upped it to $100. That didn’t work either.

*  Three months ago, I thought I’d found the winning combination. An article in Charisma magazine quoted Job 31:1. “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?”  The article went on to explain the significance of an Old Testament covenant. Their counterpart of our notary seal was the covenant parties cutting an ox in half and walking between the severed pieces. This action symbolized “Let this same slaughter happen to me if I break this covenant.”

*  So, I did as the article recommended. I made a series of covenants with God and signed them. This was a new experience. It added terror to my motivations for keeping clean. As recommended by the article, I made each covenant for a limited time—at first, two days, then a week, then a month.

*  And I discovered the built-in problem: Did I focus on Jesus? No I focused on the end of the covenant when I could fall off the wagon again. Still, the covenant and I succeeded for the two- day session and the week, but the month was too much, and I broke it.

*  The LORD has been merciful. He hasn’t taken vengeance. Yet.

Then, I discovered this soulful leaning on Jesus. It’s so easy, so powerful. He does it; not me.

Thank You, Jesus.

And recently, I also discovered another weapon from an unexpected source—Psalm 137—a dirge which begins: "By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered you, O Zion.”  And it ends with: "O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy the one who pays you back for what you have done to us! Happy shall he be who takes your little ones, and dashes them against the rock!" We don’t hear many sermons on that text.

But the rule of St. Benedict gives the following counsel: When talking dealing with temptations,  take evil thoughts while they’re weak and dash them against Christ. It works.

But, of course, all this requires that we turn to Jesus when temptation strikes. And often, I choose not to turn to Him. But I also know that when I want His protection, He’s there.

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Purpose of this blog is to compile books for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2013 by Jack Towe

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