Sunday, December 21, 2014

Struggling through the holidays

This time of year can be so difficult for families
It seems like we can attempt to ignore
poor behavior,
damaged relationships,
 and sin
by not looking at it
or participating in it all year long
and then
the Christmas season comes
family gatherings are planned
and we are forced
to bump up against people
we choose not to communicate with on a regular basis.

Here is where I struggle
I am just being honest here
I don't fully know how to work this out

The whole, ignore it or don't get involved in it
really works for me the rest of the year

But Christmas comes
and I feel challenged 
by how I am to live as a Christian,
to love the sinner but hate the sin,
and love my enemy.

How do I balance that with 
those that are not changed,
are not believers ,
that continue to manipulate,
hurt and live in a state of selfishness?
Do I ignore it?
Am I to pretend that at least for today all is well?

I do not know...

What I do know is that 
Jesus is our model 
on how to 
work out our faith.

Yes, He shared 
many meals with those that the world would say are not worthy.
Yes, He spoke 
to those that had led rough lives.
Yes, He knowingly had one that would betray Him, 
living and working along side Him.

We are fooling ourselves if we think that Jesus does not understand 
how difficult it is to live in a messed up world.
He came here and lived in it.
He experienced and witnessed it.

He came and lived among us in this messed up world.
To bring us hope
To show us how to live a life that would please our Heavenly Father.

In wisdom 
He navigated through what ever was put in front of Him to deal with.
Always pointing to His Heavenly Father
Challenging those of this world to seek first the kingdom God.
The sinners, beggars, tax collectors, prostitutes, possessed, sick, poor...
Anyone that turned from that life and believed in Jesus
they were changed, 
they left their messes behind.

For them, Jesus walked with them and shared God's truth with them. 
Equipping them for when He would go back to The Father. 

They had hope.

For those that denied Him 
or wanted Jesus plus the world,
in sorrow 
He left them to their own desires and ways.

And here is where I must follow Jesus's lead.

Unlike Jesus, 
I am not perfect. 
I am far from it. 
But I do belong to Him and am called to be like Him. 
To work out my faith in what ever is put in front of me to deal with.
This does not mean that I am a door mat, 
or that I am to pretend when life is distorted, that it is not.
It does not mean that I am to ignore meanness, 
anger, destruction or trouble making.

Like Jesus, 
I am called to love the unlovely 
by pointing them to hope. 
Challenging them to peace. 
And, when they choose another path, 
in sorrow moving on.

Only Jesus can change the situation

I cannot pretend that life ceases to be messy, just because it is Christmas.
I take a stand for living a life that pleases God.
I do not ignore destructive living by pretending that everything is fine.
I stand on the side of truth.
I seek peace, but not at the expense of others.
I stay humble and resist self-righteousness and condescension.
I admit my faults.
I continue to walk in peace, knowing that some will never get me.

Matthew 5 (NCV)
is the go-to-chapter regarding believers living in this messed up world.
It is worthy of reading in the context of this holiday season....

Jesus Teaches the People
1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a hill and sat down. 
His followers came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying:

3 “They are blessed who realize their spiritual poverty,
    for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
4 They are blessed who grieve,
    for God will comfort them.
5 They are blessed who are humble,
    for the whole earth will be theirs.
6 They are blessed who hunger and thirst after justice,
    for they will be satisfied.
7 They are blessed who show mercy to others,
    for God will show mercy to them.
8 They are blessed whose thoughts are pure,
    for they will see God.
9 They are blessed who work for peace,
    for they will be called God’s children.
10 They are blessed who are persecuted for doing good,
    for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
11 “People will insult you and hurt you. 
They will lie and say all kinds of evil things about you 
because you follow me. 
But when they do, you will be blessed. 
12 Rejoice and be glad, because you have a great reward 
waiting for you in heaven. People did the same evil things 
to the prophets who lived before you.

You Are Like Salt and Light
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its salty taste, 
it cannot be made salty again. It is good for nothing, 
except to be thrown out and walked on.

14 “You are the light that gives light to the world. 
A city that is built on a hill cannot be hidden. 
15 And people don’t hide a light under a bowl. 
They put it on a lampstand so the light shines 
for all the people in the house. 
16 In the same way, you should be a light for other people. 
Live so that they will see the good things you do 
and will praise your Father in heaven.

The Importance of the Law
17 “Don’t think that I have come to destroy the law of Moses 
or the teaching of the prophets. I have not come to destroy them 
but to bring about what they said. 
18 I tell you the truth, nothing will disappear from the law 
until heaven and earth are gone. Not even the smallest letter or 
the smallest part of a letter will be lost until everything has happened. 
19 Whoever refuses to obey any command and 
teaches other people not to obey that command will be the least important 
in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys the commands and 
teaches other people to obey them will be great in the kingdom of heaven. 
20 I tell you that if you are no more obedient than the teachers of the law 
and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus Teaches About Anger
21 “You have heard that it was said to our people long ago, 
‘You must not murder anyone.Anyone who murders another will be judged.’ 
22 But I tell you, if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be judged. 
If you say bad things to a brother or sister, you will be judged by the council. 
And if you call someone a fool, you will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 “So when you offer your gift to God at the altar, 
and you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 
24 leave your gift there at the altar. Go and make peace with that person, 
and then come and offer your gift.

25 “If your enemy is taking you to court, become friends quickly, 
before you go to court. Otherwise, your enemy might 
turn you over to the judge, and the judge might give you 
to a guard to put you in jail. 
26 I tell you the truth, you will not leave there 
until you have paid everything you owe.

Jesus Teaches About Sexual Sin
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You must not be guilty of adultery.’ 
28 But I tell you that if anyone looks at a woman and wants to sin 
sexually with her, in his mind he has already done that sin with the woman. 
29 If your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it away. 
It is better to lose one part of your body than 
to have your whole body thrown into hell. 
30 If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. 
It is better to lose one part of your body than 
for your whole body to go into hell.

Jesus Teaches About Divorce
31 “It was also said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife 
must give her a written divorce paper.’
32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife 
forces her to be guilty of adultery. 
The only reason for a man to divorce his wife is if 
she has sexual relations with another man. 
And anyone who marries that divorced woman is guilty of adultery.

Make Promises Carefully
33 “You have heard that it was said to our people long ago, 
‘Don’t break your promises, but keep the promises you make to the Lord.’ 
34 But I tell you, never swear an oath. 
Don’t swear an oath using the name of heaven, 
because heaven is God’s throne. 
35 Don’t swear an oath using the name of the earth, 
because the earth belongs to God. 
Don’t swear an oath using the name of Jerusalem, 
because that is the city of the great King. 
36 Don’t even swear by your own head, 
because you cannot make one hair on your head become white or black. 
37 Say only yes if you mean yes, and no if you mean no. 
If you say more than yes or no, it is from the Evil One.

Don’t Fight Back
38 “You have heard that it was said, 
‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 
39 But I tell you, don’t stand up against an evil person. 
If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek also. 
40 If someone wants to sue you in court and take your shirt, 
let him have your coat also. 
41 If someone forces you to go with him one mile, go with him two miles. 
42 If a person asks you for something, give it to him. 
Don’t refuse to give to someone who wants to borrow from you.

Love All People
43 “You have heard that it was said, 
‘Love your neighbor[g] and hate your enemies.’ 
44 But I say to you, love your enemies. 
Pray for those who hurt you. 
45 If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven. 
He causes the sun to rise on good people and on evil people, 
and he sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong. 
46 If you love only the people who love you, you will get no reward. 
Even the tax collectors do that. 
47 And if you are nice only to your friends, 
you are no better than other people. 
Even those who don’t know God are nice to their friends. 
48 So you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

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