Monday, August 29, 2005

The Jesus Perspective: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

There are a couple of things that many people depend on to bring wealth to the soul:

One is the personal bank account. The rich man who wouldn’t care for Lazarus had this. The drive to be rich is so strong in many people. Getting there is the goal of poor. Staying there is the goal of the wealthy. Lives are consumed with the gaining and the holding of wealth. Some know how to do it, others don’t. Some want to be wealthy due to hard work; others look to the lottery or to theft; others know they want to be wealthy and are just hoping it falls in their laps some way, sometime. Monetary wealth is not the only goal, however. Coupled with that is the desire to feel secure, even powerful. It is believed that the wealth in the wallet brings wealth to the heart and mind – the soul. That is the human perspective and it drives the human agenda.

Another is personal righteousness; you might say rightness. The Pharisees had this. Many never believe that they are less than adequate spiritually – and that’s on their worst day. Most of the time we find enough people who are less ethical, less moral, less driven by conscience, that we are able to compare ourselves right into the belief that we must look good in God’s sight.

The Jesus Perspective is dramatically different. Jesus said that happiness (blessedness) will not come those who think they are spiritually or monetarily wealthy, but to the poor in spirit. To be poor in spirit is to, in humility, recognize spiritual poverty. The truth is that all of us are bankrupt spiritually because of sin. True happiness belongs to those who recognize that truth and are willing to admit it.

That’s Life at Work!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Theology of Marriage

Important reminders from Genesis 1-2 about marriages:

A Theology of Marriage from Genesis 1:
Man and woman together make mankind. They created them, and it was very good. All mankind, male and female, are created in God’s image.

A Theology of Marriage from Genesis 2:
Man was created first and received instruction from God. There was closeness between the man and the Creator.

Man was initially alone, and it was not good. This is the first time that something about what God had done was seen as “not good.”

Man was made to realize his tremendous desire for companionship before God gave him the woman.

Woman was made from the man – the only created being to come from another created, breathing being.

Woman was a wife. God didn’t create a mother to care for Adam, nor a child for him to give care. This was a wife.

Woman was the completion of man – at her creations mankind was whole.

The man’s immediate response was to keep the woman. No comparisons. No complaints. She was his. He was hers. No questions.

Husband/Wife relationship was declared the most important of relationships. There were no fathers or mothers, but Moses commented “A man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife….”

Marriage is unique relationship. The two are “one flesh.”

Understood to be for all of life (Matthew 19:6)

That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Importance of Washing

Life at Work
In 1818, when Ignaz Phillip Semmelweis was born the finest hospitals lost one out of six young mothers to the scourge of "Childbed fever." A doctor's daily routine began in the dissecting room where he performed autopsies. As the doctor left that room to move to the rooms of his patients, including expectant mothers, he never stopped at a sink to wash his hands. Dr. Semmelweis was the first man in history to make the connection between unwashed hands and the infection that led to death from “Childbed Fever.” Semmelweis did begin to wash his hand with a chlorine solution, and after eleven years and the delivery of 8,537 babies, he lost only 184 mothers - about one in fifty. He spent much of his time and energy debating with his colleagues. Once he argued, "Puerperal fever is caused by decomposed material conveyed to a wound....I have shown how it can be prevented. I have proved all that I have said. But while we talk, talk, talk, gentlemen, women are dying. I am not asking anything world shaking. I am asking you only to wash....For God's sake, wash your hands." Bruce Mouton vividly described the response of his Semmelweis’ contemporaries and the consequence: “Virtually no one believed him. Doctors and midwives had been delivering babies for thousands of years without washing, and no outspoken Hungarian was going to change them now! Semmelweis died insane at the age of 47, his wash basins discarded, his colleagues laughing in his face, and the death rattle of a thousand women ringing in his ears.”

When David realized the wickedness that had been a major part of his life ever since he saw Bathsheba on her rooftop, he wept as he wrote, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2). “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (vs. 7). Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (vs. 10) “Wash me!” was the anguished prayer of King David.

In the New Testament, being washed clean of sin is a wonderful theme. Paul moved the Corinthians to refuse to return to sinful living by reminding them of their spiritual past: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” 1 Cor. 6:11). He wrote to Titus about the kindness of God:
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior…” (Titus 3:3-6).

Without being washed clean, in a much worse way than the women who died by the touch of unclean hands, we all die from the contamination of sin. Paul was in the same filthy condition as David - and us - when he heard the words, “What are waiting for? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” What are you waiting for? For God’s sake, wash! That’s Life at Work!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Citation or Savior

Life at Work
In 1992 a Los Angeles police officer was writing citations for parking violations. His practice was to come up behind the automobiles, write out the ticket, and place it on the automobile somewhere where it would be seen. One of the cars he ticketed that day was occupied at the time of violation by the driver. The policeman filled out the citation, walked to the open window on the driver’s side, and then placed the ticket on the dash right in front of the driver. There was no argument from the man in the car. He offered no explanation for being parked where he was, and the officer asked for none.

A few hours later, the police officer was questioned about the ticket because the man in that car had been shot and killed 10 to 12 hours before the ticket was written. He was dead, but the officer was too busy writing tickets to notice.

I know I’m guilty. So does Jesus. He understood that I need a savior, not a citation. Instead of sitting in judgment, Jesus became sin for us. Paul wrote about that blessing to Timothy, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:13-14).

Instead of writing citations, Jesus became our Savior. Instead of sitting in judgment, Jesus became sin for us! That’s good news. That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Effort to Grow

Life at Work
We joke about putting a brick on our kids’ heads to keep them from growing, but we know it is a joke. Growth of the human body is natural. When a body is healthy and it receives proper nutrition, it grows. Christian growth doesn’t happen naturally, though. Paul wrote, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved….” (2 Tim. 2:15) Peter wrote, “Make every effort to add to your faith… for if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:5-9). Christian growth depends on “doing our best” and “making every effort.”

In “Southern Cross,” Crosby, Stills, and Nash sang the words, “We never failed to fail. It was the easiest thing to do.” They sang about human relationships, but some have that same approach to their growth toward God. It is easier to do nothing, fail, and then moan about the failure, than it is to grow.

I don’t know all the reasons someone would live that way – failed past attempts or laziness might be a couple. It’s certainly true that someone who never excels will rarely be given responsibility in the future. Some might be trying to stay away from future callings.

I do know what Peter says about those who don’t make the effort. He says they have forgotten that they were cleansed from their past sins. When you remember how far you’ve come by the grace of God, you have the motivation to keep going. Have you settled in? Are you in a pattern of failure because that’s the easiest thing to do? Remember where you’ve come from because of God’s mercy, then do your best again. That’s Life at Work.