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..." 

Friday
Dec202013

OUR CHRISTMAS SONGS

Here in Seattle, our coffee houses are our chapels. Yesterday evening, as I sipped decaffe, read the paper and wrote e-mails at the Java Bean, I also paid attention to the Christmas songs coming through the speakers. I knew them all. And for good reason. Most of them were written and recorded half a century ago, in the 1930’s, ‘40s and ‘50s, before I was 30.

They’re the same songs we hear in malls, department stores and other public places while we’re victims of the massive annual conspiracy to merchandise Christmas. Sometimes these secular praises of Christmas are mixed with traditional Christian carols.

Current pop music apparently has no capacity for invoking the American spirit of Christmas. The Java Bean was playing songs from half a century ago, along with some traditional carols. There was a lot of Bing Crosby, along with Gene Autry’s Rudolph. I suppose Rudolph and White Christmas continue to be the all-time best selling singles in recorded music.

There’s probably a profound moral here, but I can’t put my finger on it.

Jesus Is Coming to Town

One Christmas song in particular, says a great deal about us as Americans. Here are the complete lyrics:

You better watch out—You better not cry—Better not pout—I'm telling you why—Santa Claus is coming to town.

He's making a list—And checking it twice—Gonna find out—Who's naughty and nice—Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you're sleeping—He knows when you're awake—He knows if you've been bad or good—So be good for goodness sake!

Oh! You better watch out—You better not cry—Better not pout—I'm telling you why—Santa Claus is coming to town.

Cute song. Cute, but it has a very dark underbelly. Consider the lyrics: They picture an omniscient, mean Santa Claus who is tough to love.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is also a frightening parable for American Christians. For too many of us, this is how we picture the Almighty, how we relate to the Trinity—as an Avenger.  With His super-computer checklist, our avenging God is going to retaliate with what we deserve. However, this works-righteousness thinking isn’t Christian. It’s heretical.

If we read the Bible, we read about God’s grace, His overwhelming love, which we don’t deserve. If we attend church regularly, our pastor tells us about God’s grace, that it’s given to us as a free gift if we believe in Jesus as the one who saves us. If we confess to Him, He will forgive our sins and clean up all our evil ways.  (That’s I John 1:9—probably one of the hardest verses to believe in the Bible.) Also, when we receive Him, we get the privilege of having Him direct our lives to adventures and joys we can’t imagine.

Of course, if we reject Him, He does take vengeance.

But no, that’s all too easy and too complicated for us to grasp. By self-improvement we keep trying to earn our self-respect and God’s favor. And we fail. But we do expect that when Jesus comes—like Santa Claus—he’ll see us as one of the good children and give us good gifts. And we hope that He’ll overlook our ways that have been vile.

If this is in fact how you think, be warned. Jesus isn’t Santa Claus. And vice-versa.

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Jesus didn’t come to change us from bad to good as much as He came to change us from dead to alive.            --Dan Rice

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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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