Saturday, May 17, 2008

Two Sides of the Coin. . .

Life is a battle. I grow impatient with myself. I wish for faster progress than I see within me. Sometimes it seems like I keep fighting the same battles over and over again. I make small victories, but I long for breaching the enemies walls and putting him on the run. . .I want to annihilate those deficiencies within me. . . I wonder if my strategy is wrong. I spend much of my time focused upon my failings. . . focused on the negatives, the shortcomings within me.

I surely can learn from the greatest teacher of all. What was His method? How did Jesus teach? When He was asked what was most important in the Law of Moses, He replied:

Mark 12:29-31
And Jesus answered him:

  1. The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
  2. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

100% of Jesus response is a positive statement.

Most of Christianity focuses upon the 10 commandments as the foundation of our religious belief:

From Exodus 20:3-17

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain;
  4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  5. Honor thy father and thy mother:
  6. Thou shalt not kill.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shalt not steal.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness
  10. Thou shalt not covet

80% negative
20% positive

Look at the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:3-12

Jesus speaking:

1. Blessed are the poor in spirit:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
2. Blessed are they that mourn:
for they shall be comforted.
3. Blessed are the meek:
for they shall inherit the earth.
4. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness:
for they shall be filled.
5. Blessed are the merciful:
for they shall obtain mercy.
6. Blessed are the pure in heart:
for they shall see God.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers:
for they shall be called the children of God.
8. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
9. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

All positive teaching. Not a single negative word. Look again a little further on in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:21-24
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: (22) But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

(23) Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; (24) Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

Note that the Old Testament words against killing and the penalty for killing, contain nothing within them to help prevent killings from taking place. Jesus sets a higher standard and a much lower threshold of action. If you are merely angry and say unkind words to someone you have violated the Law of Jesus. Now the focus is shifted from merely offering a penalty, to healing and reconciliation. Most of the time, if you can end the unkind words, and anger then killing or violence will not take place.

Jesus changed the focus from an Old Testament negative act of surgery, the cutting out of the cancer after the fact, to a New Testament focus upon a preventative, restorative positive healing before the violent offense took place.

Another example a few verses further on:

Matthew 5:43-44

(43) Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.

(44) But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Verse 43 is the story of the Old Testament. Love your friends. Love your family, but of your enemies take no prisoners. Take no spoil. Kill your enemy. Completely destroy them. . .

Verse 44 is Jesus New Testament teaching plain and simple. . . Love everyone. . .especially those who hate you. . .turn your cheek 7 x 70 times. . .

I keep going. I keep looking and Jesus spends most of His time focused on the positive. Then why am I spending most of my time and energy focused on the negative?

There are at least two ways of looking at most problems:

I can focus on not smoking.
I can finding my relaxation in the Lord.

I can struggle to quit drinking to kill the pain.
I can seek the peace of God and truly heal.

I can try not to gossip.
I can fill my mouth with praising God and talk of godly things.

I can try not to worry.
I can rest under the protective wings of the Lord.

I can battle to lose weight and not to eat.
I can let the Lord be my sustenance and nourishment.

For every problem there is a worldly solution and a godly solution. The worldly solution always takes your focus off of God. The godly solution, the solution that works always involves keeping your focus entirely on God.

The men and women at the jail where I minister, will many times spend their period of being in prison figuring out how not to come back to jail the way they came in this time. This is how it goes. A man who is in for drinking and driving, spends his time resolving and figuring out ways not to drink and drive anymore. The next time I see him he's in for getting drunk and beating his wife. He gets out and I see him back in again for having a urine test with drugs in it and thereby violating probation.

A woman gets arrested for selling drugs to an undercover informant. She spends her time in jail thinking and she figures out where she made her mistake in selling to someone outside of her little circle of friends. She gets out and I don't see her for a while and she's back in for neglecting her children. She's gone for a while and then back in jail again for writing bad checks.

It's a very serious and very un-fun merry-go-round. Often times the violations get more and more severe every time they come back to jail. The Indiana legal code takes several feet of shelf space in a library. Every inch of every one of the thousands of pages of those many books, contain laws that if they are broken, you will be in trouble. Our present day legal system is very similar to the the Old Testament Law. It wasn't just the 10 commandments that we usually think of, I don't know who, but someone counted and there are reputedly 613 different rules or different laws set forth in the Law of Moses.

Just a few of the ones concerning eating:

Jews can't eat shrimp. . .
Jews can't eat pork. . .
Jews can't eat catfish. . .
Jews can't eat veal cooked in milk. . .
Jews can't eat creepy crawly things. . .
Jews can't eat fat. . .
Jews can't eat blood. . .
Jews can't eat owls. . .
Jews can't eat ravens. . .
Jews can't eat eagles. . .
Jews can't eat pelicans. . .
Jews can't eat storks. . .
Jews can't eat herons. . .

I'm only slightly scratching the surface of the mere eating rules. . .And all those restrictions still weren't enough to make the people holy. They still found ways to dishonor God and themselves. . .In the Mosaic Law, as in the law of Man, there are more negative rules, rules against things than we have lifetimes to learn how to avoid, if we do it one rule at a time. Jesus reversed it. Rather than negative, Jesus made it positive and said it's very simple: Love God with everything you've got and love your fellow man with everything you've got and you will not be in any further trouble with the law.

I speak these things to myself. . .I am talking to myself. . .I speak these things to my own battles. . . I sometimes forget the power I have within me. . .

I'm hungry. I'm lonely. I feel empty. I'm frustrated. I hurt. Rather than endlessly telling me (again I continue speaking to myself) all the things that I cannot have, rather than endlessly focusing on the negatives, change direction, turn my eyes to what I can fill up on. Keep my eyes on the positive. Keep my eyes on God . .THAT'S WHAT JESUS TAUGHT!!!! He made all the things you weren't supposed to do irrelevant. You can not-do lots of things, and still not-do the right things. Jesus spent very little time on the negative. He gave us himself. He is the living water, that we will never thirst again. He gave us His Spirit. He is the bread of Life. His Spirit will sustain us for ever. Keep your eye on the positive. . . Keep your focus on Jesus. . . at all times. . . in every circumstance. . .

I love you my Lord. . .
I love you all. . .


1 comment:

Jim Ruth said...

You're right Dave, Jesus changed EVERYTHING. The enemy loves to throw our shortcomings into our faces. Rejoice that he thinks enough of your walk with Christ to try and throw you off track. You are a threat to him. Your life is an obvious reflection of Jesus. Keep up the good work, brother!