Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Wisdom is Not Nice

Many times I read about the waiting virgins and oil, aghast that the wise would not share with the foolish. When the groom came in the middle of the night and the foolish virgins asked, the wise virgins said, "No, there won't be enough for us and for you. Go instead to those who sell oil, and buy some for yourselves." (Matthew 25:1-13)

My initial response would have been to share--or to give up my place in line. Isn't that what Jesus did? He gave His life for me, the least I could do is give to others. Or that's what I was taught. That's what I believed and lived.

The problem is that Jesus' purpose and intent was the cross. He was obedient to His Father in giving His life. And He gave His life once--once for all. Once for all time. Once for all people. Once.

God did not create me to give to everyone, all the time. 

That is what many children are taught. That is what women are taught. It is what people say. But it isn't right. Or biblical. Or wise. And, often, it is taught for the ease, convenience and benefit of those with authority--not for the benefit of those in their care or under their authority.

Instead, regardless of my gender, position and station in life, God has given me responsibility.

The parable that follows this one (Matthew 25:14-30) is about a man who entrusted his possessions to his servants. In the time he was gone, the servants didn't give them willy-nilly to those in need or want. They stewarded, invested, and multiplied them with the exception of the one who hid the talent and did nothing.

The body God gave me is mine to steward. Not foolishly spend. Not foolishly give away.

The mind God gave me is mine to steward and use to wisely multiply God's goodness. 

The Spirit/spirit God has given me is mine to steward in ways that accurately reflect the Giver.

The strength God gives me is mine to steward in ways that reflect Jesus' earthly life, values, and ministry.

When/If I piddle them away or give them to fools, I am not using them the way God intended, for the purpose of righteousness. 

When I am nice, I use what God has given to feel good about myself momentarily. These good feelings are based on a fickle reaction of others. Being nice is nothing more than manipulating an outcome that paints me in a good light. But it is not sustainable. It is not healthy for me because it isn't authentic or true. It isn't loving. And it isn't godly stewardship.

When we teach people to be nice, to give to everyone, all the time, especially those in authority, we create an ungodly, human, sinful system. When those with fewer resources are punished for not giving or for not doing what is asked, it's time to step back and look at the process that got them there.

God does not call anyone--not His people, not the poor, weak, those under authority--to give to fools. Instead, He instructs us to guard our hearts, to discipline our bodies, to renew our minds. Then, from a place of stability and strength, one day we will hear Him say, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothes me; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me.... Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25: 36-36, 40)

These are outcomes of discipline and wise living. Wisdom is not nice.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Privilege and Power

It is a mighty, humbling experience to be used by God. At some point, as we follow Jesus, we realize we have been part of something no less than miraculous. In plain sight, in a very normal setting, God has accomplished the impossible.

In Mark 6 Jesus was offended in Nazareth and left. He commissioned the twelve. And, with increased exposure, Herod heard and confused Jesus with John the Baptist, whom he had beheaded. When the twelve returned, they reported to Jesus, and he took them to a remote place. Apparently it wasn't remote enough because the people followed. Jesus then fed them all with five loaves and two fish and we are told there were twelve baskets left.

At the end of the day, Jesus sent his disciples across the sea, dismissed the crowds, and took time to pray. "Well into the night," the passage says, "He saw them straining at the oars, because the wind was against them." The end of this story left me curious. 

Very early in the morning he came toward them walking on the sea and wanted to pass by them. When they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke with them and said, “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. They were completely astounded, because they had not understood about the loaves. Instead, their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:48-52)

As I read the last sentence I wondered about their hearts being hardened. Why? What just happened? It was an amazing day--another amazing day--of being with Jesus.

Is it speaking of the disciple's unwillingness to glorify God for His provision of bread? Were their hearts hardened because they took Jesus for granted? Did they see themselves as part of God's provision to the people? Was the day's miracle somehow about them and not about Jesus? Perhaps they were afraid. 

Perhaps, as the storm raged, they grew angry. Jesus had sent them into this mess and He intentionally stayed behind. Perhaps they felt abandoned. Then, to top it all off, in spite of the miracles they performed while traveling and returning to distribute bread, they had no power over the storm. Bad things were happening to them, not others--to them--and they didn’t have the ability to change the circumstances. After they'd been at it for a few hours, Jesus showed up. “He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased."

God used them and they saw miraculous things, participated in amazing, impossible realities, but without Jesus, they had nothing. Like Superman exposed to kryptonite, they were normal, limited human beings with no special power or authority whatsoever. And their response? "Instead [of giving thanks; instead of worship] their hearts were hardened.” (phrases added)

That may not be an accurate rendering of the passage, but it serves as a warning and reminder. The work of God is always, will always be and has always been, about Him. I desire to be a vessel of His grace, mercy, and love. I choose to align myself with Him and submit to His Word and Spirit. But I must be reminded, especially after long seasons of ministry, especially in the midst of the storm, that apart from Him, I can do nothing.

If that is not my reality; if/when I see myself as influential or important, Jesus may allow me to work, strive, and flounder on my own before He calms the storm. And in that moment I have a choice: I can be humbled or hardened. It's all about who I acknowledge as the source: God or myself. 

Perhaps this serves as a reminder. Perhaps it's a warning. Either way, God is faithful and we are blessed.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Be the Change!

 If you or someone you know benefits from Seeking Sanctuary or Sydney Millage's ministry, please consider promoting Clarity in Action Ministries.

Clarity in Action Ministries is a NEW nonprofit organization that values and cares for victims of domestic abuse by providing resources to equip the local church in a Christ-honoring way.

We are concerned with the disconnect between the Body of Christ and the oppressed and needy. We are concerned for the welfare--physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological--welfare of women and children who are used to promote another's sinful agenda, especially under the guise of marriage.

Clarity in Action provides training for leaders--a 1/2 day group training and a 12-session curriculum--for God's people. Additionally we seek to put financial resources in the hands of the local church to meet specific needs of those affected by domestic oppression.

We need your help!!

  • $10,000 for start up costs: insurance, website, promotional materials
  • Visibility and awareness
  • Opportunities to train church leaders, Bible study leaders, those who minister in local churches
  • Ongoing, monthly financial support
We have reached the $1000 mark! Your contribution is greatly appreciated. Scan the QR code below or click on this link to make your mark with Monthly Giving  or Start Up Costs