I launched this blog one year ago today. It began as a medium by which to better understand a craft, understand how I think and how those thoughts come out on paper (or on-screen), to better develop my prose, and practice just enough to the point where I don’t feel miserable when writing my first book.
By the way, I’m almost halfway through that first book. More to come about that in the future.
Looking back I am so happy that I started this page. It helps me think and perhaps it confuses me even more. Tackling history, church history, theology, faith, and relationships often lead the inquirer to more questions than answers.
And from time to time, that’s okay.
We were never to have all the answers all to ourselves. We learn best in a community and we grow better in a healthy community. And this blog is one of many communities.
I hope to improve my craft not only for myself but for you, dear reader, as well. Stories shape us. Great stories encourage and inspire us. I hope to inspire not just you but my girls. So that one day, when they decide to read their dad’s shenanigans they can understand the man I am, the man I was, and the man I aspire to be, through my writings.
108 posts down. Here are some of my favorite ones since Olivet Theory officially launched one year ago today!
The “Gospel+” Movement: Why Simplicity Matters
“The simpler the gospel becomes the closer we are to it. Whenever we add an idea, belief systems, a depraved ideology or rules by which to attain that which Christ has already accomplished we are lightyears away from the truth.”
MTD vs Christianity Proper
“MTD isn’t a religion, like Islam or Judaism. It is more of a disintegration of one particular faith, namely Christianity, that melts into ideals that have been spiritualized and inculcated into American religious circles.”
Marital Advice for the Uninitiated
“Far too many problems arise in marriage because people want so much to live like, behave like, be empowered by, attain the same level of status like, promote a sense of stability like and be unimaginatively in love like power couples they see on social media or in their community.”
How “Policy Over Character” Destroys Our Christian Witness
“White evangelicals within the United States have lost their witness to the world by voting for a vile and abusive bully who paid a porn star hush money to keep his affair a secret.”
Avoiding Extremes: A Word of Caution From a Former Fundamentalist
“Therefore, an extreme effort was undertaken by the male-led authoritarian ministers’ caste to shame, denounce, vilify, and destroy people into submission to modes and methods to separate the church from the world.”
Giftedness vs Fruitfulness: The Hidden Dangers of Following Gifted Church Leaders
“Check and see if what you seek, who you follow, and what you promote is reflective of the biblical Christ or if it is but a dim and dreary shadow of our savior poorly illustrated by gifted leaders.”
My Top Ten Rules for Girl Dads
“Love, be patient, listen, play, and yes, mess up from time to time so that she can see that dad is human and that dad knows how to humble himself enough and apologize for his mistakes.”
“We cannot allow truth to die in darkness for fear of losing influence and money. That was lost the day we decided to trust in the influence and giftedness of man over the eternally restorative and transformative power of Christ.”
A Painful Rediscovery: A Look Into Where My Heart & Mind Are Today
“Mumbling some sort of prayer up to God, not sure if I asked for forgiveness for my feelings, my words, my rage, or if what I felt was a fear of these words making their way on to the screens of the very people who had hurt me. In my fear I wanted to avoid offending them, for having offended me.”
The Burden of History & The Curse of Heritage
“It is easier to remove a commandment from the law of God than it is to distance Southern Baptists from their southern heritage of racism, hate, and evil.”
Olivet Theory’s Bad Advice Series: Chapter 3 – How to Talk About Race and Racism
“Disregard those notions. Go ahead and say what you have to say however you want to say it. Interrupt their conversation and speak as loud as possible. Do it all without the slightest urge to listen to anything they might have to add to this discussion.”
I Am A Neo-Evangelical
“I am a neo-evangelical and God has rescued me from fundamentalism and delivered me from stagnant middle-stance, middle-class centric Christianity that accomplishes much while it accomplishes nothing in mainline evangelicalism.”
Here Is Why We Left Mill Creek Christian Assembly
“t would be foolish to think that racism was the sole reason behind my family leaving a white church. It was a lack of compassion that led me to an irrevocable decision. A decision that brought me angst.”
Here’s to another year of blogging, story-telling, craft-development, book reviewing, and trouble-making!
I cannot emphasize this enough therefore I will allow the words of the King to re-emphasize it for me: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
Fox News opinion casters have been re-demonizing Muslims and Christians from Afghanistan because there’s an unfounded theory that undocumented brown refugees will begin to flood into the United States of America because of this Taliban crisis.
Most of the people who watch Fox News adhere to some form of a Christian or Judeo-Christian moral framework where they believe that God exists, Jesus walked this earth, that we should live by high ethical standards, sexual standards, and respect our neighbors.
Something like that.
But at the same time, these same viewers will swallow a building-sized gnat of hatred that Fox News spews against, you named it, immigrants.
And the darker their complexion the spicier the vitriol gets.
I don’t care if you watch Fox News to further numb the dead or dying heart inside of you. I don’t mind if your soul is so dark that the only thing that brings you warmth is watching millionaires discuss their hatred for the disenfranchised, poor, colored, and immigrants but if that’s the case I hope you’re not at the same time ascribing to a worldview that espouses love, kindness, redemption, and holiness.
The crisis in Afghanistan is so complicated and the United States of America’s participation in the formation and the financial backing of the Taliban in previous proxy wars has only made things worse. The United States does not walk out of this situation with clean hands.
I understand that this crisis is more complicated than we dare admit, collectively speaking. Some of us will blame Muslims for the bloodshed. Others will blame Russia. Others yet will blame Americans. And Americans will blame the Afghani people for not developing quickly enough to defend themselves against an insurgency like the Taliban.
The blame game works itself into a wheel spin that is hard to slow down once it’s in full steam. I’m concerned with the catalysts, yes, I’m concerned about the agencies that led this nation and its surrounding communities to such dire straits. Insurgents only become insurgents because every other way of life has been taken from them by bombs dropped by other insurgencies or government agencies.
American ones included.
It’s perfectly fine to feel overwhelmed by not knowing what to do or how to do what needs to be done in a situation as problematic as this.
We’re all on the same boat when it comes to this stalemate, this uncertainty surrounding Afghani lives still in Afghanistan, who, at any moment, might be massacred for whatever reason by Taliban foot soldiers.
We’re in agreement there! We’re all worried about these vulnerable people.
But what disturbs me greatly is the ever virulent diatribe that ebbs and flows from Fox News and like-minded news stations about these unfortunate souls.
If 30 million (the actual number is somewhere around 2.5 million) Americans watch Fox News every day and they believe half of the stuff that spews out of that channel then we have 30 million Americans who have little to no compassion for immigrants seeking refuge in America, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, and so on.
We begin to see people as animals and from there we then view them as insects. It isn’t far fetched to then believe that their decimation and massacre at the hands of Taliban terrorists is equal to that of cockroaches under our boots.
The rhetoric surrounding immigrants, especially brown immigrants coming out of Fox News, Newsmax and One America News pundits or whatever other hyper-nationalist news stations are is a rhetoric of hate.
Hate the immigrant. Say you’re sorry for their demise. Tell them they’re not welcome in your country and then smack their backside as they move on to another humanitarian crisis camp that you will call dirty, filthy, and deserving of the people who settle there.
And then go on about your life telling everyone how much your country needs Jesus because Jesus is love, kind, just, merciful, and holy.
People, for the love of God, love one another.
Love the men who are fleeing for their lives so they don’t fall under gunfire or the sword. Love the women fleeing for their lives so they do not become breeders for a terrorist organization and their sex-deprived lunatic foot soldiers. Pray for the children, boys, and girls, who are petrified and will possibly be traumatized for life because of it.
Love them. Love them because they are people.
Instead of complaining about immigrants coming into your country to take your jobs look at them, not through them, as extended family members who need rescue and help.
Canada is a nation large enough to possibly fit the population of the planet in it twice over. Just don’t send people to the North West Territories because there’s nothing up there but land, bears, moose, and the occasional horror story stalker.
But fill Canada with people who need help. The United States of America, too.
Why we’ve come to think of them as undeserving of our resources because they were not born here is insane and cruel. I understand nations have national sovereignty and borders but we’re all on the same planet, sharing the same air, eating the same foods, and drinking the same water, albeit, cleaner water in some places than others.
We’re all one race stemming from one place. People with an intrinsic value whose worth supersedes international and national borders and laws.
We need to love our neighbors and help them in their time of need. Not because one day we’ll need them; because we might, but because it’s the right thing to do.
We cannot settle for news stations whose personas non grata proclaim faith, liberty, freedom, the pursuit of happiness, humanity, love, and yes, supposedly, a Christian faith, but then say and report everything contrary to it.
Love your neighbor.
Be on the side of compassion and empathy. Gun powder and sword are great at making soldiers of children but love and compassion are better at making people of character, principle, and morals.
If we want to see fewer insurgencies then we might try and start by extending a friendly hand to our neighbors.
Even when that love isn’t reciprocated, we love them. We love them well.
I’ve placed a few photos of Afghanistan in this post. Bucolic settings, breathing taking ones, just to remind the reader that there’s more to a land when it is not constantly bombarded with terror attacks. More to it when it isn’t portrayed as a forgotten wasteland occupied by dirty brown immigrants who worship a different god. (I’m talking about you, Fox News).
Afghanistan is an extension of our land and our land an extension of theirs. Same planet, beautifully full and fully beautiful in all of its parts.
An argument can be made that there is an unhealthy level of hypocrisy in the pro-life movement concerning its response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Now, to our western mind the portmanteau pro-life means that the person values life from conception all the way through to the grave. Conception through birth, through life, and so on.
And there’s disagreement on why some of the most adamant pro-lifers fail to appreciate life as much once the person is struggling to pay bills, find lodging, facing eviction notices, in need of healthcare, education, unemployment assistance, and whatnot.
That’s not my argument here. That hypocrisy is evident in these areas and more before all. I needn’t argue the case there.
My beef is with pro-life American and Canadian Christians who use their faith and their freedoms during the COVID-19 pandemic to promote a lifestyle that is antithetical to a God and neighbor honoring ethic. They use their faith and rights to promote unwise habits which lead to the death of others.
“The Christian motive for hygiene and sanitation does not arise in self-preservation but in an ethic of service to our neighbor. We wish to care for the afflicted, which first and foremost means not infecting the healthy. Early Christians created the first hospitals in Europe as hygienic places to provide care during times of plague, on the understanding that negligence that spread disease further was, in fact, murder.”
Again, in his words, understanding that negligence that spread disease further was, in fact, murder.
I am shocked by every news article or tabloid post that informs the general public that another Covid denier, Anti-Vaxxer, and anti-establishment extremist with a Bible in one hand and the American constitution or the Canadian charter in the other has passed away from Covid related complications.
Stone, again, reminds us of just how far Christians and their Christ-centric ethics have come through the years whenever faced with moral or natural evil:
“During plague periods in the Roman Empire, Christians made a name for themselves. Historians have suggested that the terrible Antonine Plague of the 2nd century, which might have killed off a quarter of the Roman Empire, led to the spread of Christianity, as Christians cared for the sick and offered an spiritual model whereby plagues were not the work of angry and capricious deities but the product of a broken Creation in revolt against a loving God.
But the more famous epidemic is the Plague of Cyprian, named for a bishop who gave a colorful account of this disease in his sermons. Probably a disease related to Ebola, the Plague of Cyprian helped set off the Crisis of the Third Century in the Roman world. But it did something else, too: It triggered the explosive growth of Christianity. Cyprian’s sermons told Christians not to grieve for plague victims (who live in heaven), but to redouble efforts to care for the living. His fellow bishop Dionysius described how Christians, “Heedless of danger … took charge of the sick, attending to their every need.”
Christians have often been at the forefront of disaster without the push from government entities, without the assistance of political agencies, without funds from wealthy corporations and yet they ventured past the green zone and into the circle of death to assist those most vulnerable, motivated by nothing more than love of God and neighbor.
The history of altruism found within Christian communities is so imitable. Their love for the destitute, the sick, the broken, the diseased, without much care for their own well-being was quite the example to follow. This nonpareil altruistic movement is what attracted so many, to the faith to begin with.
The difference, however, is that something has shifted our Christian witness. We have gone from petitioning for the sanctity of life to petitioning for the rights and freedoms of selfish living, which, in turn, and as a direct consequence of, has caused the spread of the coronavirus in so many communities that could have gone without it if we had been more Christ-like to begin with.
In ancient Israel, in the book of Leviticus in particular, the Jews required anyone with an infectious disease to quarantine away from the camp for seven days or more. Some, having a very infectious disease, would live outside the camp indefinitely so as to preserve the wellbeing and life of both parties.
And somehow, somewhere along with the development of the western Christian mind, this altruistic selflessness has gone out the window, and with it, compassion and empathy for neighbors.
Modern medicine has shown us how diseases work, how they spread, how they affect the body, disrupt certain bodily functions, and from there, how some of them can lead to death. We now know chemists can develop antibodies in the form of a vaccine to counteract the spread of diseases or the damage these pathogens wreak on society.
And one of the mechanisms we have developed over time and learned how to use better is the victimless tool of quarantine; which helps reduce the rate a pathogen transfers from one person to another by isolating and caring for the sick. On top of that, we have been blessed with access to masks, which have also proven to reduce the transmissibility of infectious diseases.
Social distancing and masks.
These are the two crosses we have been asked to bear by our society and even these have become steps on which we tread to cause the death of others.
Distance and face coverings are too heavy a burden for us to carry.
How does that make any sense?
In the onset of Christian monasticism, in the era in which Christian converts would disappear into the desert to seek God, and once there they would form communities that would open their doors to assist and house outcasts. It was there that many relinquished so many rights and privileges just to help their neighbor.
They would give up wealth, give up status, give up work, and yes, even safety to wander through the unknown for days and nights to reach a place where trauma existed, where abused and bruised souls needed refuge, a place where so many had lost family and friends and found a new family and new friends.
Christians for years upon years had given so much from their lives and personal comfort even if it helped someone else just a little.
However, the tides have shifted and today we’re trying to take as much for ourselves and even the little that would have gone to our neighbor and their stability in life as possible.
Had we been asked to give blood, relinquish the rights to our bank accounts, leave our jobs, turn in our citizenship and residency, face deportation and exile for the sake of Christ and the betterment of life of our neighbor we would.
But a vaccine shot, social distancing, and masks are too many steps too far.
Our pro-life stance is only pro-life when it deals with the rights of the unborn but let us not be challenged to protect the life and well-being of our neighbors who are already here.
Apostle Paul asked the first-century church in Galatia a question that I ask of our generation today:
“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? […]” Galatians 3:1 NRSV
He confronted a church that began with the salvific gospel and ended up with traditional legalism. Paul was curious about where and who tricked them out of the gospel and seduced them into a religion of works.
I, too, ask the same question of our fellow western Christian minds today.
“You foolish Americans! You foolish Canadians! Who has bewitched you?”
Who has sapped your Christianity of empathy? Who has taught you to reduce your neighbor to a number on a board? Who has asked you to see dollar signs instead of the elderly? Who has robbed you of love for your neighbor and taught you to believe that minor inconveniences like social distancing and mask-wearing are persecutory aspects of a democratic society?
You’re living with a persecution complex in a hedonist society. You’re more in love with and entrapped by comfort and rights than you are with Christ’s character of selflessness.
If you’re asked to carry your brother’s burdens you not only refuse to lend him a hand but you castigate your brother for being in the predicament they’re in, to begin with. And, at times, you’re the direct cause of their troubles.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NRSV
We see so many people pass away from Covid and much of that spread is due to our gross negligence of brotherly and sisterly love.
Christianity has thrived through thousands of years of strife, persecution, famine, war, social ostracism, pestilence, and plagues and we have shown outsiders time and again just how much love God has placed in our hearts as we care for our neighbors.
But something happened. Something went wrong somewhere and we’re too unbothered or too preoccupied or too distracted to stop and think about what and why went wrong.
Stone compares our gross negligence in spreading a pathogen we could have helped combat and stop a year ago, saving countless lives in the process, as gross negligence equal to murder!
And I agree!
There are pro-lifers committing murder. Either as direct agents of death or co-conspirators with it.
When we fail to help our world through a time like this… through a pandemic like this one… we help kill it.
Chech out my brief review of my new favorite book – Life of a Klansman: A Family History of White Supremacy written by award-winning author, Edward Ball.
“White supremacy is not a marginal ideology. It is the early build of the country. It is a foundation on which the social edifice rises, bedrock of institutions. White supremacy also lies on the floor of our minds. Whiteness is not a deformation of thought, but a kind of thought itself.” – Edward Ball
I’m in conversation with friends who believe that if they fail to fast for twelve hours straight they’ll lose their blessings. Some have even gone the distance to say they have fasted or abstained from food and drink for days at a time. Draining their body of nutrients and their soul of life a day at a time in hopes of attaining something from God in the process. Their purpose in bringing harm to their body was to convince God, perhaps, that they deserve something great. Why wouldn’t God bless someone who chastises their flesh?
Too often I find myself in these situations as well. What should I sacrifice so that I can manipulate the hands of the Divine to bless me? And, while in the process of attempting to convince Him of my goodness or devout pursuits, hopefully, I won’t fail or give up and thus lose that which I dream of. That which I ask for.
It could be a disease that I hope to be healed of. And an opportunity to write dozens of books and have at least half of them make it onto the NYT bestsellers list. Not that that makes the book any good but it would surely bring in a lot of cash. Perhaps the opportunity of a lifetime to work for the New York Times as a well-paid columnist or for the New Yorker as a go-to writer on observations of a Christianized culture. Perhaps as a writer for The Atlantic on the topic of cheese and watchmaking. I know very little about cheese and a thing or two about watches so I’d definitely qualify for their writing staff. And my mind sets off in hopes of using God, yes, I said ‘using’ because that’s what we like to do. Let’s be honest. Using God to get that which I want. And the problem arises when our means of ingratiating His Holiness we can give in to a state of mind that is not conducive to our spiritual growth or our mental well-being.
Take for example a person who is praying for a sick family member whose health is failing. This loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal disease of which there is no recovery or solution. Their time on this earth is shortened, their lifespan stilled, and their hopes and dreams are all decimated by this revelation. The Christian person in this family sets off to pray for change and a miracle. They make it their purpose in life to turn these events around because God is a God who operates miracles. And He does. He has.
Therefore our Christian friend places it in their heart to fast for the next six months. They set their heart and stomach to abstain from food three days a week, form water one day a week, and from sexual relations with their spouse for three weeks out of every month.
This in turn becomes a challenge in which the Believer willfully sacrifices pleasures and desires for the sake of pursuing God and a miracle. This isn’t, per se, evil or a bad thing, nor, can we resolutely conclude that such abstinence and ascetic tendencies are good in and of themselves. But either way, our Believer sets off. The first week, no food for three days, no water for one day, and complete abstinence from sexual pleasures with their spouse. All is well. The fervency of prayer alive, the reading of scriptures consistent, and the hopes of a miracle for that sickly family member intact.
As the days progress into weeks our believer is experiencing a rise in faith and spiritual growth where their persistence and discipline have become known to other believers and they commend this effort. Fellow church members join the fast because they see the immediate result of spiritual rededication and they too want to see this sickly family member recover, miraculously so.
Weeks turn into months and our Believers’ appearance begins to change, their muscles depleted, their waist has since slimmed, and their face is somewhat gaunt but their spiritual renewal is at an all-time high. Their bible study sessions beam with radiance and wisdom. Members flock to these sessions as their hopes are again elevated at the possibility that God will in fact bring forth a miracle and heal their ailing acquaintance.
The Believers’ spouse is proud, too, and possibly riddled with shame because they are willing to celebrate this new spiritual journey but feel their sexual needs and intimacy are falling behind. There is a persistence to maintain spiritual growth and also shame in feeling that their physical and emotional needs are not being met. The spouse, albeit in agreement with this pursuit, is divided in heart and mind.
Our sick family members’ health has shown signs of improvement. Their medical practitioner has produced tests and images of cells in remission, health in appreciation, and confidence in their treatment.
Applause and celebratory festivities are in stock but we’re only three months into the six-month fast challenge for a miracle. Our Believer has not given up hope. The Believer stands strong and reassured that God is on their side. Why else would God allow the sick family member to get better? He most certainly hears our prayers and petitions. He sees our sacrifice, our willful abstinence as a sign of commitment. So with great news in tow, the Believer strives for more consistency and dares to increase the level of sacrifice they are willing to endure so that God can come through with an answer.
For the next three months, the last three months that is, our believer has increased their fast from three to four days of out the week. They refrain from consuming water two days out of the week instead of one. And, seeing how the abstinence from sexual pleasures has produced some betterment of health in their sick family member they now abstain from sex with their spouse for the next ninety days.
This, you know, will bring the Believer closer to God because sex is earthly, fleshly, and perhaps, depending on the circles you move in and out of, it is considered dirty.
So our Believer is nearing the finish line of their challenge. All eyes are now on the Believer. They practice their fast with pride. They might even share the news of their fasting with coworkers and friends. Why shouldn’t they know? When the miraculous happens the world will know and people will come to God because of it. The smell of food no longer bothers our Believer, they’re tempted to forgo food altogether, forever possibly. They begin to look down on other believers who are a bit rounded on the edges, those who enjoy three steaks a week, bacon for breakfast and consume wine as a means of enjoyment. Our Believer thirsts for water but is confident and proud enough to forego it when the time comes. What else is sacrifice if not foregoing the self? And regarding sexual desires? That well has all but dried up. The Believer reassures their spouse that this is for God. This challenge, this pursuit, is so that others may come to believe in the Miracle Worker and thus, possibly, be saved as well. So, the sexual repression and sexual oppression within the marriage are at an all-time high. But, sacrifices are sacrifices and if it doesn’t hurt or cause us discomfort and pain then we’re doing it wrong.
Our Believer willingly admits to themself the idea of their want for sexual intimacy but continually shuns the thought of sexual gratification from their mind. They struggle, however, with thoughts of other persons in compromising situations, delicate situations that rekindle more debased desires, wanton desires for others, and this, is somewhat a surprise to the Believer but they keep it to themselves. Temptations are but the attack of the enemy to fault us and interrupt our pursuits, you know.
So, this fast, this challenge is full-blown downhill, a speeding train that cannot be stopped. Our Believer has witnessed a faint harvest of their efforts and cannot be dissuaded to stop, even when their medical practitioner advises against such austere measures of ascetic living conditions. The Believer spurns the medical advice and scolds the physician for not having enough faith.
They see their sacrifice as a call from God, a Divine purpose, an undeniable fact that God works in those who sacrifice the most, and our Believer will not relent.
The sickly family member whose health had improved in the first three months of this six-month challenge is now crippled with stomach pains, vomits blood, and defecates bloody stool. They are rushed to the emergency room where they can be stabilized, watched, monitored, and tested for further findings.
Our Believer gets news of this and immediately thinks the enemy, the Darkest Soul, the Ancient of Evils, the Deceiver, the Nefarious One, the Devil, as we call him, is on the rise against them and their challenge, and their family member who was on the track to a miraculous recovery. They consider this a direct assault on their faith and they are undeterred by this news and they perceive their efforts as Godly and unstoppable.
A visit is made to the ailing family member in the hospital, reassurances of miraculous recovery are made, prayers are offered, tears are spent, hours fly by, other church members visit, more reassurances are made, promises produced, prophetic utterances of longevity, long days of life, and family and dreams are given. Everyone in the hospital is aware of the ten, twenty, and at times forty church members who flood the hospital at any given time of the day in faith that this sick person will recover.
They have seen what a little sacrifice in the life of one member can accomplish so they all set off to fast and sacrifice a little in their own life for the benefit of this sick person.
Days pass, prayers are made, tests are done, and a physician gives the results. The disease is back with a vengeance, treatment has only worked to stall its progression but not deter or defuse it. All that could be done from a scientific perspective was done. The ailing family member will not walk away from this bed as they have all but a few days left to live.
Church members are now solemn but accepting of this final statement. Some linger about their church halls, family gatherings, and private prayer closets still hoping for the miraculous.
Our Believer, our favorite Believer in this story, however, is undeterred, albeit, confused. They sweat under the weight of this responsibility to be the only person of faith left in the family and church community who still believes in the power of the Miracle Worker.
Their stress levels are at an all-time high, there is continued fighting between them and their spouse which only increases in frequency with the unfortunate news.
This stress leaves our believer susceptible to more thoughts of sexual gratifications that can be accomplished through other means, other people. They push these thoughts away but they are more prominent now, more consistent. That other church member would be more understanding of their situation and would possibly be a better spouse, too. Perhaps befriending them in this challenge was the best thing possible. An opportunity to meet someone they could better fulfill themselves with later. It only makes sense that God would allow them to grow closer together as the bitter and bickering spouse distances themselves further and further. It is all making sense.
But for now, the Believer must give their undivided attention and willful sacrifice on behalf of the bedridden family member. More time is spent in the hospital than at home. God understands this sacrifice. More attention is given to the ailing family member than work and bills at home. God understands this too. Our Believer no longer attends church nor do they fraternize with fellow church members because their faith has soured. Rumors are they no longer believe in miracles. You see, their faith, because of their lack of sacrifice, consistency, asceticism, and discipline, has all but waned and disappeared. They’re too busy indulging in the pleasures of the flesh, with their daily meals, suppers, and deserts. They drink as much as they like without any prohibitions.
They give in to one another sexually, and this gives our believer a rise. How could they have so much sexual fulfillment and fruition in a time such as this? News of pregnant church members reaches our Believers’ ears but the Believer shuns it. How could we speak of new life when there is one that needs rescuing?
Joy, happiness, gladness, and gratitude are no longer terms that pass through our Nelievers’ lips. What is there to be joyful for? The miraculous has yet to take place.
Our sickly family member is on the doorsteps of the beyond, their body resembles a corpse, our Believers’ body resembles that of a corpse too, but they’re a bit more animated.
The dying family member calls the remaining family to their bedside to bid all farewell. Many are present, others cannot muster the courage to attend. The hospital limits the number of guests.
Our Believer is firm at their side, still, quietly persistent, fasting, abstaining still, trusting, and knowing God will deliver.
The dying family member shares a few memories of love, joy, and laughter, as many as they can because they are weak. A physician joins the procession only to advise the dying family member to use their words wisely and sparingly because talking will drain them of the little bit of time they have left.
Hugs are exchanged. ‘Get well soon’ balloons are removed from the room but flowers are left behind. Tears are spent and goodbyes are given. As the hours move on so do the visitors. Their hopes have all but vanished and we’re left with our Believer and the recipient of their prayers, the dying family member.
Here, the Believer comes to a crossroad. At this point, as the heart monitor begins to process the transition between life and death, the beating drum of life within a person’s chest that begins to cease, our believer is undecided, perhaps, on how to cope with this situation.
My God is a miracle worker and He hears my prayer!
And our family member succumbs to their terrible disease, expiring on this bed, the same one from which their physician said they would not walk away.
Our Believer is perplexed. Their six-month challenge has been cut short, not because the miraculous took place but because a disease took someone’s life.
Here, we know, is where an unraveling of the self begins to take place.
Questions are made in secret, in the mind, and in the depths of the soul as to what went wrong and where.
Perhaps our Believer should have done five days of fasting. That’s it. Five was the appropriate number. And water? Although it is dangerous to forego water, appropriate hydration for three, maybe four days at a time, but a sacrifice is a sacrifice and our Believer failed to trust God for sustenance. Christ relied on angels for reprieve but our Believer doubted. And doubt leads to missed spiritual opportunities, you know.
And what about sexual intimacy? Here, our Believer, having gone so long without it, begins to believe they no longer need it. Because the relational part of their marriage has all but crumbled, and this a result of their spouse and not their own, the only reason to keep the marriage is for sexual gratification but because our Believer thinks it is not a necessary element of life they forego marriage altogether because what is the point of being married to a cantankerous spouse when one can be married to Christ?
Our Believer has the option of accepting their family members’ death as a result of life. Diseases are part of life, you know. Death too. Or, our Believer can come to the rationalization that this unfortunate loss of life came about as the result of the lack of faith and a lack of assiduous concern for spiritual matters in their personal life.
Our Believer begins to scold other church members because their carelessness caused this death. They leave their church body. They create a new church ministry under the benign name of miracles, wonders, and such, as a means to attract real believers, those who are willing to pay the price for miracles.
They disparage the lack of ascetic efforts of others. Set strict guidelines for fasting regimens. The enjoyment of other benign pleasures like attending sporting venues, playing sports, watching television, catching the newest flick in theatres, and drinking any beverage that is suspect of containing alcohol is strictly forbidden and prohibited in this ministry.
If one is not willing to sacrifice much for God then God will not answer prayers.
Sex is a byword and forgiveness is no longer extended to those who fail with sexual sins. They’re brought to the front of the congregation and shamed for the practices, made to confess in front of all, and then disciplined for the same. Married couples are to abstain from sexual intimacy at our Believers’ discretion. At times without cause and other times without end.
Our Believer is a full-blown critic of simple faith and cannot imagine a life without rigorous sacrificial efforts. Returning to a lifestyle without such limitations and rules would mean returning to a life without miracles and wonders.
We have yet to see any miracles take place in our Believers’ life. They presume that the challenges of running a new minister, of an impending divorce, of critique of their new ways of rigorous living as attacks from the devil so this pushes them further into their disillusionment.
Our Believer is trapped by the fear of letting go and letting God. They cannot allow for such a life without rules, regulations, sacrifice, fasting, and such, because if they give in to a spiritual life based on faith and grace they will have to dissolve the wall of works and sacrifices they have built around themselves.
What then, has become of our Believer?
They are not living by faith but by fear. If one fails to fast, they fail to receive. If one fails to sacrifice time, pleasure, sex, fun, entertainment, family, marriage, and the self, then one fails to receive the grander things of God.
How else might we get something from God if we do not give Him something first?
Therefore our Believer is trapped and blinded by their own desires, which are first were prudent and kindhearted but turned into something destructive and all-consuming because the approach was not to glorify God in all things, win or lose, life or death, miracle or no miracle, but to prove to the self that if we do something for God then God will do something for us.
Our Believer is consumed by fear. Fueled by it actually.
And at this point, there are only two true alternatives left for our Believer. They will either continue into this disillusionment, amassing a following so great, a group of disciples so attracted to this ascetic rigidity that our Believer will begin to think they are a mini-god who speaks for God at a moments notice. There is no medium of revelation. Any reading of scriptures that is not first translated by our Believer is wrong. The congregation and its adherents will then rise in numbers, persistence, and cultish behavior. Any attempt to dissuade them will only strengthen their resolve. Their end is in themselves.
The other alternative is that our Believer will dissolve under the weight of repressed sensualities, commit a number of financial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and sexual deviances and sins, and will be rightfully ousted from their position of power and prominence.
And it is there, in their wallowing and shame that they will have an opportunity to revisit their true faith, one of grace, mercy, love, and trust, or, in their undiminished pride, they will abandon faith and God altogether.
Our believer transitions from belief, to asceticism, to disillusionment, to cultic behavior, and finally, either a rekindling of true faith or a dismantling of all belief.
All this in pursuit of manipulating the Divine.
Christians, it is our duty to rely on God no matter what. This reliance is based more so on His character and His essence than on what He can give us or get us through. Mind you, God can and has allowed, even preferred many of His own to face all sorts of ills for reasons known only to Him. Should it be health or sickness, life or death, wealth or poverty, our resolve must be to focus on the essence of who our Creator; how we can grow in His grace and in His knowledge.
It is tempting, yes, to believe that by doing a you can receive b but if b is not in God’s plan for your life then no matter how much of a you do, how much you invest into it, how many friends and family members you have join you in the pursuit to attain b by overdoing a, if it is not God’s will it will not happen.
We become enslaved by the doing of things for God to receive things from God. The drinking or the abstaining from drink. The listening or not listening. The eating or not eating not understanding that Christ has delivered us from these ascetic tendencies because they serve no purpose on the grand scheme of His master plan for our lives.
This is not to discourage the believer from prayer or fasting for their personal spiritual growth or for a miracle in any and all circumstances, but it is a warning for you to not become a slave of results or to think you can manipulate the Divine for your own selfish needs. To think that you can give enough to change the Divine is foolish.
Men and women have done so in the past, yes, but those were circumstances to help teach these people that God’s character, His faithfulness supersedes all else.
“if we are faithless, he remains faithful” 2 Timothy 2:13
We must find comfort in Him otherwise we live for these fasting sessions, these lengthy prayer sessions, these unnecessarily lengthy bible study sessions, and revival conferences that if we go without we believe we are missing out on something greater when in fact we fail to realize that the greatest thing has already happened to us and for us.
Christ has died to forgive our sins. Restore our brokenness and reconcile us to the Father. He has granted us eternal life and not just that but the power and grace and presence of the Holy Spirit to guide us through this one. Helping and assisting others, all this in the name of Jesus.
I’m being a minimalist here but that’s because I’m short on time, or rather, article length.
Christ is faithful even when we are not. Seek Christ in all things more than you seek to manipulate things in the name of Christ.
Check out my new book review on this phenomenal book that tackles the emotionally and morally charged topic of reparations. It sheds new light on something we’re often too uncomfortable to look at, nevertheless discuss. Co-written by Duke L. Kwon and Gregory Thompson.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines “falling by the wayside” as: If someone falls by the wayside, they fail to finish an activity, and if something falls by the wayside, people stop doing it, making it, or using it.
The agreed-upon understanding of the phrase is to express to the reader that someone was on the path to fruition or completion but for unforeseen or unperceived reasons did not finish the task at hand.
What, then, do we mean when we say when love for God and neighbor fall by the wayside?
First, what is the scripture reference for such a thought as one’s love for God and their neighbor? If you don’t mind, I would like to revisit a passage from one of the four gospels where Jesus alludes to this formerly misunderstood and poorly applied theology in his day.
“When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” – Matthew 22:37-40
Jesus is surrounded by a group of hyper-conservative religious sectarians, some of one lineage, the Sadducees, and later another, the Pharisees. Both groups sought to discredit Jesus’s ministry on earth because he went against their religiosity, their callousness toward people, their legalistic modes that weighed people down spiritually more than it pointed them toward a saving faith. These men were bent on obtaining control over the masses and becoming demigods to Jewish people. The first group attempted to catch Jesus in a lie or force him into making a statement that would make him lose his followers. Thankfully, they were masterfully rebuked and as the passage states, silenced by Jesus.
After this, the Pharisees, being more astute and perhaps erudite in their learning, wanted to push Jesus into another public relations nightmare where he would say something to affront God or the people of God.
They cornered him with a question: Which commandment in the law is the greatest?
Now, if you recall, the Hebraic world descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and from this Jacob whose name later changed to Israel, came twelve sons. Of these twelve sons, one of them was named Levi, and a descendant of this particular man was Moses. Now, we all know the story of the Egyptian would-be-prince turned to exile-then-deliverer of the Hebrews from the grips of a tyrannical Pharaoh.
Anyway, fast forward a bit, after Moses leads these hundreds of thousands of Hebrews out of Egypt, God sets them apart as his own people, forming them into a nation, at the time, without land. And here, on one of many mountain tops that surrounded that desert area they were forced to traverse to flee slavery, God delivered to his people these ten commandments.
You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall make no idols.
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Keep the Sabbath day holy.
Honor your father and your mother.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet.
The Hebrews, later known as Israelites, and later yet, known as Jews, honored these ten statements, these ten dogmas as their moral, spiritual, and civil identity and guiding rules in foreign lands. To dismiss or break one of them was to dismiss or break them all.
Therefore, in an attempt to force Jesus into committing a slip of the tongue, perhaps focusing more on one commandment rather than the other. If he stated ‘thou shalt not kill’ they would have challenged him and labeled him as adultery favoring man. Had he said ‘thou shalt not commit adultery’ they would have called him a sabbath breaker.
But Jesus being astute as he was, eternally wise and equally humble, delivered an irrefutable blow to his earthly foes:
“You shall love the Lord,” The first. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The second.
The second could not exist without the first and the first naturally leads to the second.
Jesus could have reduced the whole of the ten commandments, the hundreds of Levitical laws and Deuteronomical observances down to a single unifying law but he opted for the more wholesome and eternally more wise response: Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yours.
He honors the Law, the kings, and the prophet who preceded his earthly ministry. He honors his contemporaries, no matter their social or ethnic standing. And he honors the source of these commandments, which proceed from the eternal source of life, love, and wisdom, Himself.
Therefore, we now visit the title of today’s post.
When Love for God and Neighbor Fall By The Wayside
We must understand that if our love for God grows dim, from there, we can, and at times we have, justified all sorts of behaviors toward one another. If we do not love God with all our heart we may hate our neighbor with all our heart. If we do not serve God with the expansive nature of the mind we may just use that same mind to destroy our neighbor. If we do not serve God with all our might we may desire to serve men, as if they were gods, with all our might in the denigration of our neighbor.
And we have reached a point today where some of us claim to wholeheartedly love God but our love for our neighbor has cooled. It has, unfortunately, become callous.
We become like the Sadduccees and Pharisees of old who had the scriptures near their hearts, the Laws and Commandments memorized from childhood, the history of their people engrained in their learning, and an unquenchable desire to serve God.
But the same groups treated their disciples, servants, hired hands, and fellow Jews as second-class citizens or lesser than that.
An excerpt of how Jesus spoke of these, shortly before he was arrested and condemned to be crucified, by the same he says of these teachers:
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?”
Again, no one is surprised when these same men sought, at the threat of their own death, to falsely accuse Jesus of insurrection against the Roman empire and blasphemy against God. Both cases carried a death sentence, but seldom were they worthy of death as excruciatingly horrible as crucifixion.
But Jesus did not mince words when he saw that the people who prided themselves in loving God and all things God-related were at the same time, white-washed tombs full of bones and filth.
And we have unfortunately come to the same fork in the road as twenty-first-century believers who had received this efficacious saving faith, passed on from Jesus to his apostles, and from these to disciples, and from the same to first-century patriarchs, and from the same to bishops and presbyters, and from the same to assemblies, and from the same to an international movement that spanned from Jerusalem and reached Spain in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and China and India in the east. From there this faith stretched over the Roman empire, conquering the heart of an Emporer. We have descended from reformers and theologians, become known as people of the book, experiencing the first, second, and third awakenings, and revivals that stretched from racially integrated churches in Los Angeles, California to the dirt-back roads of Para, Belem in Brazil. Ours is the faith that pushed for women’s suffrage, the abolition of slavery, the construction of church-sponsored cemeteries, schools, orphanages, and hospitals. Ours is the faith that was monumental in the development and institution of Ivy League academic circles.
And yet, for some reason, this grandiose love for God with all our heart, mind, and soul, fell by the wayside when we were asked to challenge a few immoral social and cultural mores of our day.
In the face of injustice, we are told to dismiss the cry of the orphan, the widow, the unemployed, the bankrupt, the alien and sojourner, the homeless, the uninsured, the colored brother, and the sister who face discrimination and disadvantage at local, state, and federal levels. When challenged to promote change in a local and national scope we are silenced and dismissed.
When the time comes for us to show sympathy for victims of abuse, who were ravaged by our own leaders, ministers, gods, and kings, we are told to quiet down and remain loyal to the cause. To the leader. To the institution.
We elevate the temple, the church, the institution, the ministry, the seminary, and business above the people who are made in the likeness, in the image, a reflection, of God.
Should our voice rise up to beg for accountability then we are shunned. Disfellowshipped.
Our books are published to praise God, our conference rooms are filled to the brim so we can drool in awe when men sit to speak of God, our worship venues sell-out in minutes so that people can rush into a building to join hands and lift up their voice in worship, all for God.
But outside, there, we see the destitute, the widow, the orphan, the addict, the mentally ill, the broken, abandoned, and unfairly treated. The women, the colored, the beggar, and the lost.
These are our neighbors.
In truth, if our love for God is not visible in our love and care for our neighbor then we may have misunderstood this great faith today just as the scribes misunderstood Jesus and His laws back then.
Where is our heart today? Where is our philanthropic drive?
Perhaps it has become calloused, corroded, and crass. Tribal, self-seeking, and hostile.
The Pharisees, Sadduccees, and scribes prided themselves in their temple, their offerings, their disciple-making ventures; their tithing, their religious observances, their traditions, and the rigorous asceticism with which they ruled over their religious work.
They were willing to travel to great lengths to proselytize. Willing to part with hefty coin purses in the temple so long as there was a crowd to witness their giving.
Jesus called them actors. People playing a part that did not belong to them. Behaving unnaturally. Hypocrites, he called them.
Therefore, where are we today? Again, I ask, where is your heart today?
How is it you are treating your neighbor?
Has your love for God grown to such heights that your love for your fellow man has become of less import?
Your ministerial vision become so fine-tuned that you disregard your brother?
Your Lent, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas services become so adored that you dare not skip a year of festivities to allocate those funds to the nearest shelter?
Will you go so far as to travel to Mexico, Ethiopia, and Hong Kong to attend conferences and promote your books all the while disregarding the pain of your brother and sister here at home?
Where is your home? Is it in your national pride? Your patriotic fervor? Your national identity or naturalization?
Are you bound by these things as the Jews were by their temple and sacred practices, traditions, and festivals?
You’re bound by Christ. And in this bondage, you are to love your God with all your heart, with all your might, with all your intellect, with all your soul, with all your life, and on the same plain, you are to love your neighbor as yourself.
When our love for God falls by the wayside our love for our neighbor will do the same.
It is said, ad nauseam, that we are modern-day Pharisees and scribes, but to our shame, we don’t even follow the traditions passed down to us, nevertheless care for our neighbors.
Should this be you or your church family, there is hope.
Hope that your love for Him and those He created can be rekindled and spread worldwide.
“Has my love for God and my neighbor fallen by the wayside?”
If your answer is yes then stop what you are doing, place your life before God and ask Him to reveal where it was you allowed things to go awry.
And then with His help, repent, find solace in His grace, and guidance from His loving Holy Spirit.
He will guide in the path of righteousness, on the path of still waters… to be righted and refreshed.
And from there you will love Him and those created in His image.
You’ll move away from the wayside and back onto God’s side.
This morning we had the privilege of attending Life Church in southeast Edmonton and it was a memorable experience. Before announcements were made, prayer offered for those who are sick, before the message, the worship team ended their ministerial session with a doxology.
Doxology: “Doxologies are an expression of praise to God. In the Christian church, we often hear them sung or chanted. They are a tradition that has meaning and importance for all Christians. Since the early church, doxologies have been a way for Christians to express their love and thankfulness for what God has done in their lives.
A doxology will be heard at the end of canticles, psalms, and hymns. They are a short hymn of praise one will find in various Christian and Jewish worship services today.”
Jesus taught His disciples to pray and the Bible teaches us to praise. We praise Him as He is, above all creatures, above every kingdom, man, tribe, and tongue. We worship and praise the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. One God, eternally existent in three persons. Praise Him.
Pastor Mike Love, lead pastor at Life Church set off to remind congregants in attendance and those who opted for online services and watched from home that gratitude is as important to the life of a believer as is faith. He explains that like faith, gratitude is a posture of thankfulness. It must come from us to God before we see His blessings in action. Our thankfulness becomes a part of our Christlike character as we mature in our spiritual walk with God.
Today’s scripture is found in the gospel of Luke.
“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’” Luke 11-19
Luke records for us a strange occurrence between Jesus and a group of lepers who happened to cross paths.
For those of us unfamiliar with leprosy, the CDC defines it this way:
“Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy) is an infection caused by slow-growing bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae. It can affect the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose (nasal mucosa). With early diagnosis and treatment, the disease can be cured. People with Hansen’s disease can continue to work and lead an active life during and after treatment.
Leprosy was once feared as a highly contagious and devastating disease, but now we know it doesn’t spread easily and treatment is very effective. However, if left untreated, the nerve damage can result in crippling of hands and feet, paralysis, and blindness.”
And although we know today that this bacterial infection isn’t as communicable as we thought, back then, many thought it was. In fact, two thousand years ago people did not have Tylenol to relax an aching back or a Motrin or Aleve to soothe a headache. There was no penicillin, amoxicillin, or any other drug that could treat these diseases so societies and cultures would go to the extremes to separate anyone who displayed signs and symptoms of any disease. This was done to prevent pandemics from sweeping through nations and decimating their numbers.
In this case, men, women, and children who succumbed to this nefarious disease were determined unfit to live with the rest of society. They were cast out of town to live with other lepers, in squalor, where they would have to beg for food.
These individuals would become victims to some of the more grotesque forms of livelihoods as leprosy would eat away their fingers, toes, nose, and ears. Some would lose an eye or two, as the bacteria would devastate their bodies. Some would lose their feet or hands, and others their limbs. They would carry the mark of their disease on their body and the shame of it on their face.
These were outcasts. These were the untouchables of that time.
If any of them were to enter a town to beg for food or money, seeking help or relief, they would have to announce their entry at times from hundreds of feet away.
Imagine announcing your entry into a school, a Walmart, a venue as a diseased man or woman. Every time you reach for a door there are signs that say “diseased, stay away,” or “announce yourself from a distance and if we decide, we may serve you.”
It’s such a burden. A sad scene, really.
Now that the world is adjusting to the new reality of social distancing we are somewhat aware of how it feels to maintain a distance, how often we can visit someone or someplace, how many people can be in there, and how many restrictions are present to prevent the spread of a virus.
But our dignity is intact. Our personhood is there. Our decency is evident.
But lepers of antiquity were the lowliest of the low, who, if they did enter a city without announcing themselves they faced punishment, possibly death.
And if one were to, say, beat the disease and its spread halted, they would then present themselves to a priest, the highest level of government at the time, for inspection and purification.
The person was cleared from quarantine, was reinstituted into society, allowed to find lodging and work, possibly marry and raise children, revisit family they were forbidden to hug and touch for God knows how long.
You can imagine the ramifications of being a leper and never finding relief. It would not be a stretch to think some of them thought of taking their own lives.
But in the passage above, we see that Jesus is on his way to the capital city of Jerusalem and is met by ten lepers. These men had most certainly heard of Jesus, the miracle worker, and had hope that he might, just might heal them. They stood at a distance as was customary they shouted at him, pleading with him for restitution and a reversal of their misfortune. And here, many televangelists would have asked for money, money-hungry preachers would have asked for faith seeds (money) and prosperity moguls would have demanded partnerships (more money).
But Jesus tells them to do something very weird. He tells them, “Go and show yourselves to the priest.”
And as mentioned above, you know that a leper is only to show himself or herself to a priest for inspection of being, say, cured or healed of the disease. But these lepers probably looked at their hands and saw the disease present. They gazed over their feet and noticed that the disease still festered. Some looked to their missing limbs and saw no difference.
But they obeyed.
Strange, isn’t it?
If to find a cure for our disease we prod our chests out, beat our breasts with vigor, and accept any adventure necessary to accomplish the task in mind to be cured. We would climb mountains, swim through crocodile-infested swamps, we would fight a lion or even swim from one sea to another. We would fight beasts, murder men, collapse buildings if it means we attain that one thing we need most in our healing!
And here Jesus asks the lepers to present their unclean bodies to a priest to be inspected and declared clean.
Seeing how innocuous Jesus’ request was they simply went on about it.
One can even imagine one or two of the ten lepers grumbling amongst themselves, “He won’t even come closer to chat with us. Some healer he is. And now we have to go and humiliate ourselves before the priest, possibly face criminal charges or death.”
But a bizarre thing begins to take place. As the lepers head for the temple ground, their skin begins to clear up. Their fingers possibly restored. Those who limped now walk on both feet, without trouble. The man without an eye is now able to see clearly with two eyes. A man, once ashamed of his gaunt and diseased face, who at one time would hide it behind a cloth now rips the cloth off and feels the smoothness of his face. A woman who before could withstand the disfigured look of her feet now stands in awe and smiles at them.
You can imagine the jubilee, the joy, the ebullience of the ten lepers as their disease is swept away from their bodies. Their trip to the temple grounds is now one of absolute festivity compared to how hopeless their entry into the city was before.
As they make their way up, one of the ten stops to think about what just happened. Of the ten, only one looks back at Jesus and begins to shout his praises and his beatitudes.
This man at first bleated and moaned his way into cities and towns but now he faces charges of disrupting the peace for shouting with such joy.
This man fell at Jesus’ feet and gave him thanks. And Luke, the author of this gospel, makes note that this man was a Samaritan. He was an outcast because of his diseased and he was an outcast, considered of lower birth and importance in Israel, because of his nationality and ethnicity. He faced discrimination because of his illness and discrimination because of his faith, his upbringing, his geolocation, and his nationality.
But here, before Christ, he is but a man before his Maker.
And Jesus is heard saying something, say, to the credit of the Samaritan whose heart he saw through and saw integrity.
“Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’”
We find in this passage that God is good. And in this passage from the gospel of Luke, we see that gratitude precedes blessing.
Gratitude precedes blessing. It does not only proceed, comes after, but it precedes, rather, we give God thanks for things before they even happen in our lives.
We are thankful to God before God blesses us, not just after.
“Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,” 1 Samuel 15:22 NLT
And I agree with Pastor Love’s thought that obedience leads to convenience in our walk with God because these ten lepers took a step of faith before anything had even happened for them.
They heard the voice of the Healer and they stepped forward in faith.
The only problem is that only one of them turned back and thanked the Healer for their healing.
How often do we forsake the Healer once we receive deliverance? We forsake God once we have attained and accomplished that which we set off to accomplish. We made promises and swore by our name and now that we are restored we are off to institutions, rules, regulations, and patterns instead of turning back and falling at the feet of Christ.
Words of Encouragement
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love is eternal. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love is eternal. Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His love is eternal. Psalm 136:1-3
“My heart is confident, God; I will sing; I will sing praises with the whole of my being. Wake up, harp and lyre! I will wake up the dawn. I will praise You, Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations. For Your faithful love is higher than the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. God, be exalted above the heavens, and let Your glory be over the whole earth. Save with Your right hand and answer me so that those You love may be rescued.” Psalm 108:1-6
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:16-17
“giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Ephesians 5:20
Instead of questions to consider…
Focus on the blessings that God has given you in life, the blessings that God has allowed to triumph in your present, and place your faith in the God who has foreseen tomorrow and knows that He will guide you through it.