Monday, June 4, 2012

Called to More Than A Halleluja Party

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio
Jeremiah 26:2-6
“This is what the Lord says: Stand in the courtyard of the Lord’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the Lord. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word.Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done. Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you,and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city an object of cursing among all the nations of the earth.’”

I was reading a story about Jeremiah the prophet who was threatened with death for his words concerning the house of Shiloh. Immediately there is an out cry against him. Kill him, stone him for speaking against God's house. He goes on to say to them "Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God. Then the Lord will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you. 14 As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right. 15 Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.” He brings up the example of the prophet Micah who in his day actually saw the people repent and judgement was averted.

It is Sunday morning and all over people are going to church to worship God. I look around at the pain and injustice in our world and I have to wonder are we as a church doing all we should or could be doing to elevate suffering in this world? Even in ministering to the homeless in my own city we find very few church's who are willing to help. My pastor shared a story with me recently about a missionary who came back to America and was invited to speak at a very large church. She shared about how the children had to sleep in trees or they would be carried off in the night by hyenas. The leaders of the church came to her and said they could not have her continue to speak at their church because her message was upsetting the women.  We should be up set by such stories and it should motivate us to do more than stick out head back in the sands of ambivalence. Serving God is more than attending a church service and it is more than getting through the week with out cussing. Jesus shares what his mission was by quoiting Isaiah 61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.  

While I love corporate worship, singing songs and feeling the moving of the Holy Spirit in a service, I can't help but think that we as His people need to be about what Jesus was about. Setting captives free, healing the sick, preaching the good news. He went to the lost, the out cast, the demon possessed, the sick... We are supposed to do the word not just enjoy a nice sermon and go home to our pot roast satisfied and fat in our complacency. We should be making a difference in our world in our day. We should be standing up for the oppressed and the hurting.  

We have ladies that are going to get together to roll bandages for the Congo. Pretty cool. It honestly boggles my mind that still today in our world that bandages made up of sheets are actually greatly appreciated and used over and over.  It boggle my mind that there are places in the world where they don't have clean drinking water. That there is still a market for sex slaves in our world, that children are being abducted from malls in America and sold into slavery. 

I know when we first started feeding the homeless, that there were nights that I could not sleep. I felt guilty that I had a warm bed and a roof over my head when people I had talked to that day were sleeping on the street under the bridge. It was hard when all my allusions were shattered and I discovered they were not all drunks and drug addicts. I don't have a lot of money to throw at the needs that I am confronted with in my little corner of the world. There are things I can do, I can be there to help with our feeding on Sunday, I can take the time to listen and encourage the folks that come. I can take one or two of those folks and walk along side them as they decide they want to make changes. I can't do everything but I can do something.  

I should be moved and troubled by the injustice in the world. It should motivate me to live below my means so that I could have resources and time to put towards making a difference. We can get so wrapped up in the American dream that we forget we are ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. We want churches that have all the stuff to keep our kids and us happy and comfortable.  Have we been so busy telling the world around us how sinful they are that we have forgotten that it is His kindness that leads people to repentance. What if we were to go out into our broken, sinful messed up world and rather than picketing abortion clinics we were to reach out and take up the needs of single moms who have no resources. We might not be able to help every single mom but what if we helped just one? What if we stopped pointing our fingers at the sinners and started reaching out with mercy to the broken and hurting. 

I suppose I'm on my soap box today and will likely offend someone. I'm just saying your great service to God needs to be more than going to a church service or having another Halleluja party and shining "This little light of mine" at each other. I got my little light and where I need to shine it is out in the darkness of the world around me. I need to shine it on the person who is caught in the darkness of depression. Look there is hope, here is a bit of the truth of the word to hang on to. I need to not just be thinking about my comfort and my families comfort but how I can alleviate the suffering of others. We who have been given so much have a responsibility to those who have less. 

I always find myself reminded of the vision of William Booth the founder of the Salvation Army. He saw a sea full of people drowning and on the banks were people engaged in all manner of pleasant activities. People who themselves had been rescued from those same waters. They quickly forgot where they had come from and were busy enjoying life on the shore. Very few were found going back to rescue others. 

Maybe you have heard the call of God and have responded and are making a difference in some way. Good for you. This message is not really for you it is for those who have forgotten where they have come from. It is for those who have become too busy accumulating stuff, or status, power, positions and have become desensitized to the pain and suffering all around them. 

Jesus could have taken us home at the instant of salvation but instead he leaves us here. We must choose if we will pick up our cross and follow him. He laid down his life so that we could be returned to a right relationship with God the Father. If I am to follow Jesus I must be willing to lay down my life, and even some of my rights as a kingdom citizen so that others may be reached. I can't forget that there is a sea of perishing people all around me. I can't just sit around expecting them to wander into my church. I must be willing to go out and extend to them a hand of mercy right in the midst of the broken world where they are living. 

I'm not saying there are not seasons where we need to step back and allow God to attend to our own brokenness but this should not become a way of life. We must get healed and get back out to making a difference in our world. We must be salt and light. We must be the sheep not the goats. I remind you of Matthew 25:31-46 - Take some time to remind yourself what the sheep were commended for doing and what the goats where not doing. 

My point today is that living a good Christian life should be about more than the great sacrifice of attending a weekly church service, or even oh my gosh praying over your meal in public. For Pete sake grow up already, the goal is not to get saved and then hide away in our little christian conclaves. Sure we need to support one another but our christianity should be spilling out in all areas of our life not just confined to a little box of attending a service once a week.  Jesus wants my whole life not just for me to eat once a week at God's diner and wipe my mouth and go on about life as usual.  
Every area of my life should be in the midst of being radically transformed. Sadly we are all to happy to live on refrigerator verses munchies that make us feel all warm and fuzzy when we are having a bad day.  

I'm not trying to put a big guilt and condemnation trip on you today. I simply want to challenge you to seek God about what you could do to make a difference today. It might be a smile or perhaps the Lord will help you see so much more you might do. You might find the courage to take that step of faith. I leave you with some thoughts on what God thinks should be going on when we are doing the spiritual discipline of fasting. (To go with out food or other things for a period of time to be able to pray and focus more on God.)

Isaiah 58: 6“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousnessa will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. 

Dear Lord, 
Help us to examine our own lives an to see what you might have us do to make make a difference and to be your hands and feet in a hurting world. You have given each of us gifts and talents and they are for more than our own edification. Help us to put them to use for your kingdom and some how use them to loose the chains of injustice and to set the oppressed free. 


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