Doing Nothing is Not Neutral

Matthew 25:41-46

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” 
They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”
He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Most Christians know that this is the second half of an entire passage where Jesus awards those who helped the poor and punishes those who didn’t. I purposefully quoted only the second half because I think most Christians focus on the first half and end up twisting the lesson of this important passage; it becomes “Help the poor if you want to be blessed” rather than “Help the poor if you want to be blessed and do nothing if you want to be cursed.” 

Jesus identifies with the homeless, the poor, the fugitives, the disadvantaged- people who are often marginalized in society. He was born to a teenage mom who technically got pregnant before she got married; he and his family were fugitives who had to flee from Herod; during his ministry, he had no home, no income, no food unless someone provided; and though he was popular with the crowd that followed him, he was a problem in the eyes of those who had power.

Because of these experiences, Jesus feels so close to those who are marginalized, who lack essentials. That bond makes him feel that what they received, he received and what they suffer, he suffered. That’s why he blesses those who did something and curses those who didn’t do anything for the needy in this passage. Notice that Jesus divides  people into those who did something and those who did nothing- it’s not those who helped the poor and those who harmed the poor. I emphasize this point because most people think only those who harm others are rejected by Jesus. Doing nothing doesn’t put you in a neutral team; it puts you on the same team as those who hurt the poor

Here’s the good news. Jesus sees every effort you made to help the unfortunate. And I feel that there are many opportunities to do so- Jesus did say that “You will always have the poor among you…” (Matt 26:11). Here are some ways I can think of to be on Jesus’ right when the time comes: 

1. Pray for a heart that cares for the unfortunate- the Jesus I know tends to focus on the heart condition rather than the deed. And it’ll be so much easier to actually help the poor, the oppressed if you actually have a heart for them. So ask God for the right heart. 
2. Be aware of the injustices in our world- a lot of times we try to stay inside our own bubbles where the biggest problems are our own; and our problems often aren’t life-or-death ones. It’s SUPER uncomfortable when we realize that a lot of people in the world often face life-or-death situations… and it’s easy to feel hopeless when we realize there’s little we can do about those problems. But DON’T stay in that feeling of hopelessness; rather be humbled and realize that we need God for this world to become a better one. Go to God for help. 
3. Choose one issue and do something- let’s be real. You can’t solve all the problems in the world; you probably can’t even solve a single issue on your own. But you can choose one issue and put all your effort to do something about it. For me, this single issue is homelessness. There’s really little I can do to solve this issue at this moment. But I’m trying to take people from my fellowship to Skid Row so they can see the oppression that exists so close to our campus and start growing a heart for the homeless. Maybe in the future, one of these people or I will do something bigger to help the homeless. 

I didn’t provide specific practical steps one can take to help the unfortunate. But I think the most important part is to go to God for help. I’m sure that if you ask God for a heart for the poor He’ll give you more than just a heart- He’ll guide you so that you can do something about these issues. Because that’s what He wants- for His people to be the good news to the marginalized. 

Taking a Modern-Day Sabbath

Prayer Project: Jesus at the Center

sylviaetran:

            In Luke 10:25-27, Jesus says that the key to inheriting eternal life is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” This is not just a suggestion – it’s a command! So what does it mean to honor God in everything I do, say, and think?

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just for fun :]

just for fun :]

What More Could He Have Done For You?

From The Good and Beautiful God by James B. Smith:

Author and speaker Brennan Manning has an amazing story about how he got the name “Brennan.” While growing up, his best friend was Ray. The two of them did everything together… They even enlisted in the Army together… and fought on the frontlines together. One night while sitting in a foxhole, Brennan was reminiscing about the old days in Brooklyn while Ray listened and ate a chocolate bar. Suddenly a live grenade came into the foxhole. Ray looked at Brennan, smiled, dropped his chocolate bar and threw himself on the live grenade. It exploded, killing Ray, but Brennan’s life was spared. 
When Brennan became a priest he was instructed to take on the name of a saint. He thought of his friend, Ray Brennan. So he took on the name Brennan. Years later he went to visit Ray’s mother… Brennan asked her, “Do you think Ray loved me?” Mrs. Brennan… shook her finger in front of Brennan’s face and shouted, “Jesus Christ- what more could he have done for you?!”
Brennan said that at that moment he experienced an epiphany. He imagined himself standing before the cross of Jesus wondering, Does God really love me? and Jesus’ mother Mary pointing to her son, saying, “Jesus Christ- what more could he have done for you?”

Sylvia Tran: Chapter 6: God is Holy1. God is love. God even loves sinners. But God...

sylviaetran:

Chapter 6: God is Holy

1. God is love. God even loves sinners. But God still hates sin. - Love the sinner, hate the sin.

2. Romans 11:22 - God is both kind and severe. We cannot have one without the other.

3. Agape. To love is to will the good of another; it’s not primarily an emotion. The love…

God does not make me feel bad or shame me into better behavior. Nor does He use fear or guilt. God’s method of change is the highest of all. God’s holy love burns the dross of sin out of our lives. It is God’s kindness that leads to genuine repentance (Romans 2:4)…
“love loves unto purity”

James B. Smith in The Good and Beautiful God

Sylvia Tran: Chapter 4: God is Generous1. We have a false thinking of love and...

sylviaetran:

Chapter 4: God is Generous

1. We have a false thinking of love and forgiveness as commodities to be exchanged for performance. We live in a culture where every person in every situation in every day of our lives treat us on the basis of how we look, act, and perform, so it is difficult for us not…

sylviaetran:

Chapter 3: God is Trustworthy

1. To trust someone is to believe that he or she has your best interests in mind, that the person will protect you from harm and is reliable. In the moment of his deepest suffering, Jesus trusted in his Heavenly Father.

2. Fatherhood is first defined by God and Jesus, not by Adam and his children. God’s fatherhood must define what human fatherhood ought to look like, not the reverse.

I have this huge secret fear that I will one day be a terrible mother, but this part of the book is reassuring in that as long as I continue to grow closer to the ultimate Father, I don’t have to worry about that because God is the perfect parent.

3. God is present. God is pure. God is powerful. God provides. God pardons. God protects.

4. If we do not know God as our Abba Father, then we will never have the courage to face our problems. But as we come to know the good and beautiful God that Jesus knows, our struggles take on a whole new meaning. If God is truly good and is looking out for our good, then we can come to him with complete honesty. We can practice honesty when we pray - baring our soul and confronting those hurts that make us doubt God’s goodness by handing them over to him for healing.

5. A trusting response to a known love

6. Our troubles are real, but they are small compared to God’s widespread mercy.

sylviaetran:

Chapter 2: God is Good

1. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

2. If God exists, then why is there still pain/suffering/evil?

To be honest, that’s a really tough question. For me, it’s something I struggle with coming to a conclusion with as well, there are so many forms of injustice in the world (hunger, poverty, homelessness, rape, cancer) - and there’s a lot of the time when I just want to throw my hands up in the air, and say WHY GOD, WHY. But, I am not God. I don’t know what’s best for me, and what’s best for other people; but I trust what God has planned for me. I trust that God is a just god. That we, as humans, have sin in our nature, and are forced to deal with the pain and suffering as a result of it. God also knows that pain and suffering in our own lives is essential. Like a parent disciplines his child, there may be pain and suffering involved, but ultimately it is out of pure love. As far as I’ve thought about it, this is the answer I have come to; but it’s still a hard question, and therefore there is no easy answer.

3. Matthew 5:45. “Jesus is telling us an obvious truth: just as sunshine and rain are given equally to saints and sinners with no distinction, so God gives blessings to all without regard to their behavior. Terrible things happen to wonderful people. Wonderful things happen to awful people. We cannot look around the world we live in and build a case that sinners are punished and righteous people are blessed.” We like the idea of it because we like to think that we can control God by how we behave. If God gave us punishment because we are bad, then we also deserve blessings because we are good; however, this is not how God works!

4. John 16:33. Jesus promises us trials. Yay. -__-. Just kidding, but the verse also says that he has already overcome the world! Yay!

sylviaetran:

Chapter 1: What are you seeking?

1. Our ability to change is because of the work of the Holy Spirit and not because of our willpower.

2. The will only does what we tell it to do. The three primary influencers on the will are our mind, our body, and our social context.

3. Change comes from changing what we think, how we practice, and who we are interacting with, all under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

4. We are called to have the mind of Jesus which may conflict with our family and/or cultural values. Our thought process determines much of our behavior - for better or worse.

5. Praying, bible reading, and being in solitude are ways we can train our soul. Training is necessary for transformation.

The book provides the comparison to the training of an athlete. What I liked about this comparison is that an athlete not only has to devote hours to exercising/practicing, but being an athlete also influences how you treat your body in terms of what you eat and how you sleep, etc. In a similar way, we should train by not only separating time for God but allowing our status as Christians to infiltrate other aspects of our lives. Let’s be honest here, I am not an athlete, I love my sugar, I love to rot and sit around and do nothing. However, I’ve been trying to become healthier by eating cleaner and exercising more. And sometimes when you train, it sometimes requires pushing through the stomach cramps and doing it even when you’re sore. It’s not what you do once in a while that matters, but what you do every day!

6. We are design to live and love in community. Spiritual growth and formation are not just personal pursuits, but a communal activity. Community provides support and encouragement. 

7. The Holy Spirit points us back to Jesus the Son and God the Father by whispering truths, prompting us in prayer, and opening our hearts.

8. The fruits of the Spirit can not be improved or mustered by our own doing but only through the inward transformation by the Holy Spirit which results in outward transformation.

9. Sleep is an act of surrender. It is a declaration of trust. It is admitting that we are not God (who never sleeps), and that is good news.

The evolution of the swim suit by Jessica Rey

He is patient with your immaturity, He forgives you when you wrong Him, and He stays committed to you even when you ignore Him for long periods of time.
He is always faithful.

Bill Hybels in Too Busy Not to Pray

Having faith does not mean never having doubts or questions.
It does mean remaining obedient.

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John Ortberg in A Life of Endurance