Old notes taken mostly from my personal time with God. We're moving house again, so, I guess we're back to being, literally, pilgrims on the Rough Roads of Planet Earth. (Photo taken on a road to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, North Auckland, NZ, Dec 2009.)
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Cuts Across the Grain
7John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."
10"What should we do then?" the crowd asked.
11John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."
12Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?"
13"Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told
them. 14Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?"
He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay."
15The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. 16John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." 18And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.
19But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.
God's message to us is still the same - it cuts across the grain of our very nature - the worldly, fleshly nature we are made of. God requires nothing more, or less: We must deny our selfish nature.
John the Baptist's message here can be classified into two categories: Practice charity and practice integrity in our work or in whatever we do. It is so easy for us to enjoy the fruits of our labor and pamper ourselves with more possessions, more holidays, better cars, nicer homes, etc. We say we deserve it because we work so hard. God only asks us to share what He has blessed us with. Share our food and our possessions. When we start thinking of sharing we start asking "with whom?" And then we start looking around and become more aware of the misery and the poverty around us. Sharing is loving. And Jesus said the same thing, "Love your neighbor as yourself."
It's so humanly of us to often abuse our power, especially in the workplace, or even at home or in our community. It's so easy to get blind in this area. When we become popular and influential we tend to overstep the boundaries and limitations that are in place. Often times these boundaries become blurred because of ignorant and consenting people around us. Abuse only happens when there are abusers and abuse-tolerant people. But for one who is in power and in the position to initiate or stop abuse, God expects this: Exercise self-restraint. And we can't do that if we are already blinded by power, influence and popularity. It is only when we remain connected with God that we remain restrained. Self-discipline comes from within and the power within can only come from one who is pure, holy and supernatural - God Himself. We need the presence of God, the Holy Spirit, to fulfill these two basic demands of God: Charity and Integrity.
God's demands do cut across the grain of our very nature. We need to flow with the Holy Spirit to go against that fleshly nature. The Holy Spirit is pure, holy and supernatural. Christianity never comes cheap. It cuts across the grain of our human nature. It demands dying to one's self. And that's the reason why it continues to be refreshing, life-giving, hope-inspiring and beautiful. All we need to do is call on His Name - the Name of a Person called Jesus. If we call long and hard enough we will find help from Him in this seemingly hopeless, ugly and dying generation.
Sadly, not many of us can take the cutting words of John. Yet, he was so filled with the Holy Spirit that he could not help but preach what God told him to preach. And for that, he was imprisoned - cut off from society. Eventually, he lost his head. The messenger of Hope paid with his life to get this message of hope across to us. Christianity never comes cheap.
Photo by my older daughter
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- The Many Versions of Love Stories 1. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. They live happily ever after. 2. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. The marriage sours, they part, and live happily ever after. 3. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, kiss and marry. Then boy finds out it's more fun to be girl... or girl finds out it's more fun to be boy, they part, change sexes and live happily ever after. 4.Finally, boy or girl meets God. It's love at first sight... The roads went rough, the tides rose high, the strong winds blew and the quake shook the ground... but they truly live happily ever after, forever and ever. 5. Try God's love... it's always happy forever after, and the story never ends. :-D