They’re in the churches all across America. They claim to be connected to the example of all true faith and power and the fountain that gives us all strength to do what the mind says we can’t do. If it is true that they have this connection, why does their faith tell them they must be obese; they can’t successfully parent their children or they can’t help spending money they don’t have on things they can’t afford? It is expected and accepted that those who don’t claim this connection would be in such a dilemma; but those in the churches? God doesn’t sanction obesity. If He did He would reward it. Illnesses linked to obesity aren’t rewarding. God doesn’t like it when children aren’t properly raised. If He did they wouldn’t bring heartache. They would be a joy to their parents and an example for other children. God doesn’t sanction wasteful spending. If He did He would replenish their resources. There would be no need to revisit bankruptcy. These crosses are being borne by those in the churches-often without relief from the fallout. Are these God-given crosses, a human frailty or are they simply a lack of discipline and faith to overcome?
I’m often reminded of the saying “Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there”. Carrying around burdens through life is like trying to carry your baggage through an airport or a train station-especially when you have four or five pieces. You thought you could carry life’s burdens better when you were young-maybe you could. You also thought you had a lifetime to fix them, because most of your life was ahead of you-maybe it was. However, old or young; sometimes the burdens of life are so numerous (you have so many) that it becomes almost impossible to carry them. Airports and train stations have places for you to check your baggage-to relieve you of the load you’re not able to negotiate. Your baggage is put in the hands of an attendant whose responsibility it is to assure safekeeping-to guard the important things in them. You won’t need to worry about them until you reach your destination. There are several symbolic places where you can check your burdens and they will be safely in the care of the one who oversees and handles the burdens of those who come into relationship with faith. One of these places is “at the cross”. The cross is where Jesus took on all of the sin burdens of the world and lightened man’s journey through life. Another symbolic place is at an altar, where burdens are symbolically laid and an intercessor between man and God asks for God’s divine intervention in relieving man of his burdens. Those of another faith may leave their burdens at the place where they go to pray five times a day. When man walks away from either of these symbolic places he should have checked his baggage (left his burdens) there. He should not go to the baggage check room with his burdens and come away dragging them behind him. He should have faith that the baggage check overseer will take care of his baggage (burdens). If a lack of faith brings him back again with the same baggage, it is like going back and forth to the baggage check room and never checking the baggage. What type of individual does this? One who has no right to the baggage-check privilege because he has not signed on to a trip or one who has no faith in the safe handling of his baggage. I’ve been in church atmospheres and observed individuals coming to the symbolic baggage-check room (the altar) week after week but never checking their baggage.
Wouldn’t It Be Wonderful If?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the churches of the world could be bastions of faith, light and enlightenment-where people checked their baggage in faith and went on their way? The church community is peopled with individuals carrying baggage of sinful addictions and religious compromise-so is the world outside of it. However, the world outside of the church often looks to the church to be that exception. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the church could demonstrate to the world that it need not be excessive in off-track behavior such as abusing the temple of God; abusing children; abusing wives and husbands and being overcome with greed to the extent it drives men to compromise their relationship with God-if they ever had one? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the faith exercised in the church community could overcome these various religious compromises? Many people in the Bible days had such faith-some of today have similar faith. From time to time I think of the words of an old hymn that said “At the cross at the cross where I first saw the light and the burdens of my heart rolled away. It was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day”. Again, the cross is the symbolic baggage check-room and burdens are the baggage.
Was It Because He Was Jesus?
I was listening to a tune recently-sung by an old spiritual group about the Biblical account of the woman with an “issue of blood” for twelve years. It is told in Matthew 9:20-22. The woman was pushing through a crowd; in a hurry to have an encounter with Jesus. She had heard of Him and heard about His miraculous power to save and to heal. I’m not sure she knew exactly who He was; she just had heard about what He could do. She just kept making her way through the crowd towards Jesus. As the story is told in song; someone asked her saying “Woman, what are you trying to do”? She said “If I could just touch the hem of His garment I know I will be made whole”. Jesus sensed her faith. He didn’t even see her but when she touched His garment (as the Word said) He felt virtue go out of Him. Is that an exercise of faith on her part or what? Is not that the kind of faith needed in the church today?
There is another account concerning Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. Lazarus, their brother had died and been in the grave for four days. They had been going about in an effort to reach Jesus before Lazarus died. When the sisters (along with the multitude) finally reached Jesus the sister said to Jesus (John 11:42-44) “if you had been there my brother would not have died”. Her faith told her Jesus could have saved the life of her brother before he died. That was faith sufficient but it had not yet stretched to the point of Jesus rescuing her brother from four-days in the grave. In the venue of Jesus, even the dead are alive if He deems it so-all according to the exercise of faith along with several other conditions. Your faith must be exercised along with these conditions: You can’t demand that God do anything. You can’t direct God in doing anything-He doesn’t need your supervision. You can’t tell God when He should do anything-He doesn’t operate within your time frame. If you’re seeking in faith, you must take the burden to the Lord and leave it with Him. The results will come in a yes, a no or a wait and the outcome will be in accordance with His plan for you.
There were many Biblical accounts of exercised faith. Jesus was always healing and delivering according to faith. Another instance that jumps out at me is one concerning the centurion (Luke 7:2-10) who beseeched Jesus to come and heal his servant. The centurion was a man of great statue and authority with many under his charge. However, he did not consider himself worthy that Jesus should enter under his roof. The centurion believed that Jesus only had to speak a word and his servant would be healed. Jesus marveled at such faith and when the centurion and the crowd returned to the house they found the servant whole who had been sick.
People didn’t flock to Jesus for healing and deliverance because they knew He was the son of God and possessed great powers. That fact would be revealed beyond any doubt as the events of Jesus’ journey on earth unfolded. Even after compounded evidence many neither knew nor accepted that He was the Son of God. Even today, many don’t accept the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. One of the largest religious communities in the world still lives in the Old Testament-the period prior to Jesus’ tenure on earth. Jesus walked the earth as an ordinary man; being subject to all the conditions, challenges and sufferings of man. The powers that He possessed and exhibited came down from above. Before He finished His mission He said to His disciples in Matthew 10:7-8 as He sent them forth “And as you go, preach, saying, The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils; freely you have received; freely give”. This was Jesus charging His Disciples to perform like miracles as the world had seen Him perform. Today’s church is the offspring of that same root Jesus sent forth. Then why is the church of today languishing in physical, moral and financial challenges and why does God appear to leave it there? Is it because those in the church are making the Adam and Eve choices God endowed them with the free will to make?
I Wonder How God Sees It
Some in the church community are travailing in prayer within its borders. Illnesses abound due to compromised eating habits and it seems God isn’t addressing them in the desired manner of those indulging. Can these individuals really believe they can continue to go against God’s mandate concerning “the body being the temple of God”? Is it enough to accept their statement “I can’t help myself?” It is okay to accept their suggestion that they are doing what they want to do but in the end most seem unwilling to pay the price of the illnesses resulting from their out of controlled desires. There are conditions of dialysis, diabetes, strokes, heart trouble, some forms of cancer and the list goes on and on-mostly related to obesity. Many go into eternity with some or all of those conditions. I have been asked why I worry about it. I don’t worry about it-I’m puzzled over it because the behavior is so physically destructive. This isn’t speculation on my part-I’ve known some personally. I’m still struggling with understanding why one would punish himself in such a manner-especially a Christian. Can’t it be understood that if God allows us to go downhill with such conditions He may not be pleased with us going there in the first place? I believe that if it pleases God He will show us in various ways that He is accepting. I don’t believe those headed into eternity with those conditions are all saying “Lord take me home”. But God isn’t healing them on earth. He is either taking them home or their condition is taking them home. I don’t think God said to them “It’s okay; eat all you want to eat. Obesity is no problem for me”. “I’ll take care of any situation that may arise”. If He doesn’t take care of it could that possibly suggest that He wasn’t with you during the course of that behavior?
Negative conditions abound surrounding issues of children-even in the churches. They’re suffering with addictions, incarcerations and moral bankruptcy. Many grandparents have had to take over the effort of raising their children’s children. That has to do (in part) with the way they parented. They loosened the reins on strict parenting. I guess they wanted to make parenting fun rather than positive. I don’t think God said to parents “Lighten up on your children. It doesn’t take all of that. What’s more, I didn’t really mean any of those suggestions given in the Book of Proverbs. That was for then. It’s a different day now.” God said none of this. Parents took it upon themselves to compromise their parenting responsibilities and the results are generations of off-track children.
Situations abound in the area of financial stability or instability. Many have lost jobs; lost homes and lost families due to compromised work ethics and values. I remember the days when some workers pushed back against reporting to work on time and leaving work on time. They were dressed and standing at the time clock waiting for their day to end. They had cleaned up their desk and closed shop as much as a half hour before the end of the work day. They hardly offered a good day’s work when shop was open. In light of all this they got paid decently well-probably more than what they deserved. Many of them spent the money as if the flow of it would never stop-giving little thought to putting some aside for a rainy day. They never expected a rainy day. The sun always shined in their world. I don’t think God said “You don’t need to work that hard my child. If your boss won’t accept your compromised work effort, there are many other jobs you can get.” In addition; I don’t think God said “You can spend all of your money freely-enjoy your life. I’ll take care of your tomorrow for you.” God didn’t authorize or sanction any of those behaviors.
In the church community where there should be overcoming power and faith, people are living in a state of compromise-beneath their privilege. They are severely compromised on issues of health; mostly due to overeating. They are compromised on parenting issues. Some have children in the pews with their feet on the back of the seat. Other children are busy ripping pages from the hymnals and some others are in the back pews texting their friends while the Word is coming forth. Many adults in the church community are financially unstable due in part to poor work ethics and poor money management. God didn’t trick them into going to any of the above places by telling them “They could do what they want because He had their back.” They went there (in part) because of choices made. God is not the author of trickery or one who ever goes back on His Word. So if the obese are still suffering from the conditions it fostered; if the children are still addicted and incarcerated and if some adults are still out of work and out of their homes, God didn’t sanction the behavior that brought some of them to that place. Whomever or wherever any of us are is only by the grace of God. God’s grace means God’s favor-God doesn’t favor bad behavior.
Individuals sometimes come to a point in life-facing a condition brought about through no fault of their own. It could be a birth defect; an accident or an illness that wasn’t fashioned by something the individual did. It could be from misjudging future possibilities. This type of circumstance was pointed out in John 9:1-3 concerning a man born blind. In other instances individuals plan their path of travel by the behavior they exercise and the choices they make. When sin entered the world through the first couple-Adam and Eve-they made the choice that sent the world on a downhill spiral. Jesus came to redeem it but many refuse to accept His redemptive offer. Making choices concerning the route of travel is only one side of the equation-the outcome is the other. Unfortunately the destination is often unexpected and unintended-even among the churched.