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Archive for the ‘Christian Life’ Category

Friendship with Benefits (Ernie)

 

 

 

Ernie and I were reclining in easy chairs in my basement family room looking up at a large TV screen waiting for the tip-off to the basketball game. I had the TV muted, while the commercials ran and that’s when Ernie said,

 

“You know our friendship with Jesus has benefits.”

Say what?”

Friendship with Jesus has benefits.”

Benefits like what for instance?”

Without hesitating Ernie said, “Peace of Mind.”

Peace of mind?”

Yes, as in freedom from concern or worry.”

That’d be nice. Anything else?”

You want me to list another benefit?” Ernie asked.

Sure. Are there any others benefits?”

You mean relevant benefits that make a difference in your everyday life?”

Uh-huh.”

Um, yes, there’s the benefit of kindness.”

OK. How does kindness work?”

It’s empowered by the Holy Spirit,” said Ernie.

Yeah but, how does kindness work itself out in a practical way?”

The kindness benefit is activated and realized by cooperation with the Holy Spirit.”

Cooperation?”

That’s right, you have to cooperate because you are unable to sustain kindness on your own.” Ernie explained.

You think so?”

Absolutely. The benefit of kindness and peace of mind are set in motion by cooperation with the Holy Spirit.”

Why?” I challenged. “Says who?”

Says Jesus.”

Where?” I pressed.

Lots of places.”

Name one.”

Alright. Jesus said ‘Stay joined to me, and I will stay joined to you. Just as a branch cannot produce fruit unless it stays joined to the vine, you cannot produce fruit unless you stay joined to me. I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit. But you cannot do anything without me. John 15:4-5.’”

“Wow! OK. That’s a good one.”

“And there are more benefits, which are often called fruits.” Ernie informed me.

“What are you thinking about?”

“I’m thinking about self-control.” Ernie glanced over at me.

“Oh … and you know this is a benefit because?”

“There’s constant spiritual warfare going on. Therefore, cooperation with the Holy Spirit is the only way to experience this benefit of self-control during a spiritual battle.”

“Really? Are you sure?”

“I am certain, because I’ve tried self-control by using will-power and will-power isn’t enough.”

“Why is that?”

“Again,” Ernie said, “because it takes cooperation with the Holy Spirit to achieve real, long lasting, self-control.”

“I see how that may be true …”

“We miss out on benefits we could be enjoying because we doubt that Jesus makes any difference in our relationships at work, in our marriage, or with most anything else.”

“You’re saying I’m missing benefits?”

“I am. Actually, we all are. Because we don’t reckon John 15:4-5 has any practical application for where we live.”

“Interesting.”

Ernie wrapped it up by saying, “Our relationship with Jesus has benefits that offer us, among other things, peace of mind, kindness, and self-control.”

“Hmm … fascinating.” I admitted, without committing. I hit the mute on the TV remote as the basketball teams were tipping off. I thought, ‘Friendship with benefits, what a concept.’

 

3 Ways My Denomination Might Be Keeping Me from Jesus

I’m grateful for being able to attend church nearly all the days of my life. God only knows the long list of benefits I’ve received by being in church on Sundays and other occasions.

Here are a few of those benefits:

THE GOOD

  • A growing knowledge of the Bible
  • A growing appreciation for church history and doctrine
  • A growing recognition of the power of prayer and praise
  • A growing list of valuable friends
  • A growing realization that God isn’t finished with me yet
  • A growing acceptance that God hasn’t given up on me

I do consider these real benefits.

But then too, I’ve noticed the church has a dark side.

This evil side causes me to maybe overlook what is most important: my growing connection and intimate relationship with Jesus.

Let me give three examples:

THE BAD

1)      My denomination spends too much time on infighting (disagreement, discord, dissension, disunity, division and friction),

2)      My denomination is critical (fault-find, belittling, condemning, and disapproving) of other individuals and worshippers, and

3)      My denomination is guilty of promoting “we are the people.” (Exaggerated self-importance as in arrogance: conceit, presumption, pretension, pride and smugness).

THE UGLY

  • I’m convinced all this calculates into majoring in minors.
  • I’m convinced all this produces excess religious activity where Christ isn’t necessarily essential, invited or missed.
  • I’m convinced all this stresses compliance to denominational rules, the denominational dress code and to denominational posturing.

Where’s the love and respect Jesus advanced?

You don’t have this problem do you?

Maybe I just need to endure the ugly bad with the good?

How do you feel?

It Still Hurts a Little Bit

Yesterday I picked up my granddaughter (2 ½) from daycare. Right away I noticed an Elmo Bandage on her right knee.

As we walked to my truck I asked her, “What happened?”

In her I’m-learning-to-talk English she told me the story, “I running … I fall down on rock.”

“Oh my! Are you all right?”

With a tearful whimper for affect she answered, “It still hurts a little bit.”

In the fifteen-minute drive home she kept repeating her report of how she came to be wounded and always ended with the phrase, “It still hurts a little bit.”

“Well I’ll look at it when we get home, okay?”

To which she responded, “It still hurts a little bit.”

At home I pulled aside half the Band-Aid and gave it a thorough grandfather examination. I found a tiny scratch that wasn’t life threatening.

“It still hurts a little bit.” She informed me when I re-covered her injury.

That evening while having a short quiet time I reviewed my granddaughters’ crisis and her words. I prayed for her complete healing.

And I prayed for me because I have boo-boos. “God I know my past is forgiven but it still hurts a little bit.”

The Very Best Way to Move from Fresh to Rotten

BE SATISFIED WITH GOOD ENOUGH

You’ve heard this right? “You’re either green and growing or ripe and rotten.”

The choice is between fresh or moldy (as in spoiled).

When I’m ripe and rotten (self-satisfied e.g. with my Bible reading) I say things like:

  • “I know this already.”
  • “There’s nothing new here.”
  • “Ho-hum. Yawn. Zzzz.”
  • “Let’s get this over with.”

SETTLE FOR RIPE AND ROTTEN

I’ve done my duty. Check it off. One main reason I become ripe and rotten is because I settle for good enough and forget how nutritious fresh is. Sure in my better moments I realize I’m poisoning myself. But I fool myself into supposing “I can stomach this.” I barely notice the manna is rotting.

EAT BLAND AND TELL YOURSELF, “THIS AIN’T FRESH BUT IT AIN’T BAD.”

But what would happen if I pretended I’m reading these verses in the Bible fresh (for the first time)? What if I crawl inside the scene and make myself a part of it? What might come to pass? God’s Holy Spirit, like mama, tries to get me to quit eating junk and in its place eat healthy.

NEVER TRY ANYTHING DIFFERENT

In the beginning I resist. Why do I do that? Because that’s what mommas’ kids do. But what if I actually try something fresh? Will I maybe like it? Well I’ll never know if I refuse to put it in my mouth, chew it, and swallow it.

WAY OUT: DARE YOURSELF TO EAT FRESH

Digest this: I’m reading a series of six verses in my Bible (Mark 3) I’ve read before. I haven’t memorized all the words but I know this story almost like I know a 101 ways to use hamburger. Or so I think.

  • Jesus walks into the temple in Jerusalem.
  • Jesus notices a man with a withered hand.
  • Jesus is being set up.
  • Jesus’ critics hope to accuse him of a crime.
  • Jesus plays along.
  • Jesus taunts his critics.
  • Jesus’ critics are silent.
  • Jesus restores the man to health.
  • Jesus’ critics are ripe with rotten contempt.

YOU”LL MOVE FROM ROTTEN TO FRESH

So what’s fresh? Here are a few things I see, what do you see?

1)      Jesus intimidated his critics

2)      Jesus healed my withered hand

3)      Jesus transformed me forever

4)      Jesus desires to change the contempt of his critics.

How to Get There from Here

Before I didn’t think I needed one.

Now I’m glad I have one.

Before I’d wander in the general direction I intended to go.

Now I don’t guess I just punch in the address and get there.

My GPS is a time saver.

Before I might glance at a map,

Now I don’t fool with anything accept my GPS.

My GPS is loaded with maps from Canada, Mexico and the USA.

My GPS gives directions and gets me where I need to go—the first time.

The Holy Spirit is a GPS (Global Positioning System).

Before I tended to think I didn’t need the Holy Spirit.

Now I follow God’s Holy Spirit (GHS) directions and GHS gets me from here to there.

Locating the God Spot

IS THERE SUCH A THING?

Sitting on the bench waiting for the city bus Gary opened his newspaper.

Gary reads the printed news everyday.

Does anyone get their news this way anymore?

As if I was paying attention Gary asked, “Did you see this?”

“Uh what?”

SCIENTISTS THINK SO

He continued, “Scientists tested a theory that the brain has a location called a God Spot which makes people spiritual.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/religion/).

“Oh really.” Gary hooked my interest.

“Yeah, they didn’t find just one spot, they found that this God Spot comes from several areas of the brain.”

OTHERS THINK SO TOO

My mind went into motion. “Sure … yes … it’s more far-reaching than one location in the brain … that makes sense.”

Gary peeked over the top of his paper at me. “Oh …it does?”

“Of course, your article reminds me that God has planted something in our consciousness and heart that helps us identify right from wrong.” (Romans 2: 14, 15)

“And this is a God Spot?” Gary didn’t sound convinced.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

“I think so. I mean the knowledge and law of God are alive in everyone—even though a person may hesitate to admit it.” (http://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/stewart.cfm?id=373)

Gary narrowed his eyes at me. “You agree with the scientists then?”

“Well I need to learn more but my head and my heart go along with the idea of a God Spot. What do you think?”

Numbing My Hunger

Do you have a hunger that hasn’t been satisfied?

I do.

And in my story I have allowed myself to eat loads of junk food.

Not smart.

I have a long list of rotten stuff I’ve consumed as my “favorites.”

Poison.

It’s disgraceful what I’ve eaten in my attempts to

Numb my hunger for God.