Sunday, August 20, 2006
If God is good and Satan is evil, then it only takes a quick perusal of today's headlines to confirm that Satan is in charge of the world. The world is Satan's dominion, and this is confirmed in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus retires to the wilderness for forty days and nights to fast and pray in preparation for his ministry. It is when Jesus is at his weakest that Satan comes to tempt him.
"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Matthew 4:8 RSV
Satan knew Jesus, and he knew that Jesus had come to earth to ransom humankind. He may not have known the plan of that salvation, but he knew that if he could persuade Jesus to do it his way instead of God's way, he could foil God's plan. So, Satan offered to 'give up' the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would bow to him. Satan could not have made this offer viable if he did not already own the kingdoms of the world.
So, I ask again, "Who does the world hate?" Why is this question so important? Because what the world hates either belongs to God or is one of God's tools. Let us look at the list.
Children - historically, children have been perceived as the weakest among humankind. They require care and nurturing for a long time, they carry a responsibility for their creation and because they can be easily ignored with little consequence, they are easily used and abused. It is no wonder that they are easily discarded even from the point of conception; for who will speak for them? "See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 18:10 RSV
Women - throughout the ages, women have been considered inferior to men. Even today, in nearly half of the cultures, women are considered chattel - to be dominated and owned by their fathers and husbands. If there is one area that Satan can obtain a foothold in the church, it is through the subjugation of women. This was not the way Jesus perceived woman - nor how God created women.
Eve was God's last creation - his final triumph. She was not created from the dirt of the earth, but rather from flesh and bone.
Also, Jesus choose his female disciples as the first witnesses to his resurrection. They were the first to proclaim God's plan of salvation through the belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Even the apostle Paul gave honor and credence to women of the church. "Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. " Acts 17:12 RSV
Jews - I have always wondered at the world's unsubstantiated hatred of the Hebrew nation. This group, more than any other, has been maligned throughout history. Their only offense, that I can see, is that they keep themselves separate from the rest of the world. Unfortunately, by keeping themselves separate in an effort to remain anonymous, they are pushed to the forefront of prejudice and hatred. Christians and Muslims alike have tried to annihilate this group of people. Their lands and homes have been confiscated; their children taken from them and baptized Catholic, and still they have endured.
God does not change. When he said that the Jews are his chosen people, he means it still. "And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves." Genesis 12:2-3 RSV
"And an argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But when Jesus perceived the thought of their hearts, he took a child and put him by his side, and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me; for he who is least among you all is the one who is great." Luke 9:46-48 RSV
Thursday, August 03, 2006
We love to count and measure our performance. At home we carry lists - either on paper or tucked into the back of our mind for the tasks we intend to complete. At the office, everything is calculated and recalculated to determine the success or failure of an employee, product line, or the entire organization. Yes, humans love to count and I would venture that even as Adam was naming the animals in the Garden - he kept count.
But, when does counting cross over the line into sin?
We are all charged to evangelize the world in the name of Jesus. Jesus used many parables to describe this evangelism, but my favorite is the farmer 'broadcasting' seed across his field. Some seed fell on rocky soil. Some seed was snatched away by the birds and some grew among the weeds. But, the good seed germinated, grew and blossomed.
When we broadcast seed to create a lawn, do we count the seed before it is thrown down? When the seed germinates and starts to grow, do we crawl over it with a calculator to count the blades of grass? No. Then why do we feel the need to count those who have come to God?
In the thirty plus years of sharing my faith, I seldom saw the fruits of this labor. I believe this was no accident; it was God's design lest I become prideful in my own eyes. Evangelism is seldom started and completed by the same person. One person will plant the seed, another will water the seed and still another will provide the light or sunshine to allow that seed to grow.
Yet, even this is still too simplistic explanation for there is another force that is required - The Holy Spirit.
Every seed needs the Holy Spirit to germinate and grow. This Spirit does the real work of evangelism, and we are merely the helpmates. By planting and then praying over the seed we provide what God has instructed, but it is the Spirit of the Lord, through conviction, realization and then acceptance, that finally brings forth the birth of a new Christian.
"So the king said to Jo'ab and the commanders of the army, who were with him, "Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beer-sheba, and number the people, that I may know the number of the people." But Jo'ab said to the king, "May the LORD your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are, while the eyes of my lord the king still see it; but why does my lord the king delight in this thing?" 2 Samuel 24:2-3 RSV