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Friday, June 4, 2010

Reviews by Hubie Goode: What does God Require of Us?

What does God Require of Us?

Football great John Elway once told a reporter that during the stretch of his rather successful National Football League career, every Monday morning he would wake up and be almost unable to move due to the severity of the physical requirements of paying football. He would ask himself every week why he was continuing on, but no matter what he answered to himself, he always went back to work on Tuesday.

John was indeed a great player, perhaps one of the best of all time, but he didn’t get that way by just existing. He wasn’t a player of the ages because of some magic talent switch he turned on and off when he needed it. In order to be good, really good at anything, one needs to become that thing. In John’s case, as with all football greats, he became “football playing”. He was literally a slave to the game.

Every freedom has it’s corresponding bondage, and every bondage has a corresponding freedom. You can be a slave to regular exercise with healthy eating and free from the corresponding physical problems of not doing so, or you can be overweight while eating all you want without care and be a slave to the corresponding physical problems that will result.

You cannot be free to eat all the junk you want and also stay in perfect physical shape, that kind of freedom does not exist. But we’d love to have that kind of freedom wouldn’t we? After all, those fashion models in the magazines look the way they do because they were just born that way. Feh. We’d love to think we can eat all the fatty delicious burgers we want and still look slim and trim. There is no such thing as total freedom. We always have to choose our bondage and our freedom.

So choose well for life. What will be your bondage and your freedom? This is a vital move for the Christian who wants to know God. Every Christian wants a meaningful and real relationship with God, but how do we get it? Are we going to be free from sin and a slave to God or are we going to be a slave to God and free from sin? It makes sense to choose God, because the outcome is always that God wants to give us something. This is the main reason God asks something of us.

It’s not hard to see once you study the relationship of ancient Israel with God the Father, that all the Father wanted was to enter into a give and take relationship with a people special to himself. When they did as he asked, they were blessed, when they did not do as he asked, they were abandoned. It’s a hard thing to figure as to why ancient Israel would repeatedly choose other ways of doing things, like Baal worship and Asheroth, instead of clinging whole heartily to YWHW who had always looked out for them. Indeed, the rules he laid down for them can be considered some of the best guidelines for living on the Earth that mankind has ever seen. And yet, much of the slavery they DID choose often lead them to do things like sacrifice their own children in a fire. Amazing.

Basically there are five things God asks of us: He wants us to LOVE him, LOVE others, esteem ourselves, be a steward, and be a servant. In order to attain these things God asks us to :

1) Love and Worship him.

In Matthew 22:37, we read that the greatest commandment is to love God with our whole heart, our whole mind and our whole soul. That may sound daunting, and maybe you have no frame of reference for such a thing, even feeling that such a thing is beyond the call of duty. But consider that in the heavenly realm there are odd looking creatures who hang around the throne of God all day and night singing: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, he was, he is and he is to come.”

I shouldn’t call them odd looking I suppose, because there is nothing that is NOT Holy in the presence of God, but my point is that not only are they Holy also, but they have a free will to do this action forever and ever. A tough concept isn’t it? Or is it? Could it be that we have a hard time conceiving of such a thing because of our own fallen state before God? But these beings indeed know something we are not aware of and find it quite normal and natural for their actions to be performed for every second of eternity. That’s how far natural man is from the presence of God.

2) Love our neighbor.

Matthew 22:39 states that the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Anyone who has visited a prison, or a homeless shelter, has usually seen mankind at its lowest. Personally, I could never have been a policeman, they see mankind at its worst everyday. But you don’t need to go to prison or a rehab center to see people at their worst. You only need to work in an office in any building in America.

How hard it is to love fellow workers who are nice to you today, but tomorrow, when something goes wrong, they all start pointing fingers among themselves and may even attempt to divert blame for some misfortune from themselves and on to you; then tomorrow they act as if everything between the two of you is the same as it always was. That’s where the "rubber really meets the road," in everyday life. It’s easy to throw money at a problem down the street, but what happens in the cubicle next to you? Still loving the “backstabber”?

3) Love ourselves.

In the same scripture from above, we see the same idea about love directed toward ourselves. To fail to do this is to miss the place of value that God sees us inhabiting. In God’s relationship with Israel, He constantly strove for them to live higher lives, to be better than just animals in the dirt. Our basest desires are usually nothing but trouble, just read the tabloids and watch sensationalized television shows to understand how pervasive and, unfortunately common place, such destruction is.

It’s important to understand that when we are given direction by God to avoid things that will ultimately be our undoing, no matter how attractive those things are to our flesh, that we are not only acknowledging his place in our universe by following his directives, but we are also respecting ourselves and the importance that God himself places on us as his created beings.

4) Be a steward of our resources.

We’re the caretakers, not the owners. We’re the ambassadors, not the Kings. We are to manage our resources according to the values that God places on things and people. Everything you have is given, and allowed to be possessed. There is no other reality. We need to think very hard about the priorities we as humans place on where the money goes. Do we spend in the wrong places, and for the wrong reasons? Do we support things that seem harmless but are an affront to God?

Our Government needs to consider how wise it is, with all the economic problems we have here and now, to continue with a space program that is more of a drain on our taxes than a help. And that is just one thing that the Government needs to re-consider, there are many. When I walk around Santa Monica, California and I see a relatively small area of real estate filled with over 20,000 homeless people, not to mention the 90,000 who fill the rest of Los Angeles, I find it hard to imagine the thinking behind any Hollywood movie that costs 40 million or more to make.

How do you handle your own finances? Your own time? Your own efforts? Are you as productive as you could be? Just keep in mind that all those distractions around us in our society are merely a vacuum cleaner turned on in your wallet.

5) Give our lives away.

Rather than working every day for the accumulation of people, places and things, God wants us to be servants to mankind. Jesus himself said that he did not come to be served, but to serve. That sounds beautiful, I know, but how many of us are slaves to being a servant? (and I include myself in that diagnosis) Do you get up everyday and decide that today you are going to make someone else’s day? Or is it all about you?

Just like the ancient Israelites in their refusal to follow God’s decrees, you and I can easily slip into a daily life that is not only “Anti-God” but easily “God-less”. Who is your main concern everyday? Yourself? Those you love? You know that even Adolf Hitler had a girlfriend. How easy is it for us to just take care of our own? Yet God calls us away from that. I know it sounds harsh, but if you are not reaching out to others on a daily basis, you might as well be practicing Ba’al worship like the ancient Israelites who were banished from God’s presence.

So, okay... those are the things that God asks of us. Unlike some horrible Demigod of a B movie, or wooden idols from the tropical islands, God seeks relationship with us, for our betterment. He promises his side of the bargain is a blessing. What are those blessings?

1) In return for loving him, he wants to give us the reality we inwardly groan for. In God’s reality, the one we have trouble seeing, He is the vine and we are the branches. He wants us to experience his fullness flowing though us in a way we can only guess at in our current state. However, if we are compliant, we can know those things which have not even entered the mind of man. Everyone would long for spiritual intimacy with God if they knew it were possible. We can only be deeply satisfied with life when we are satisfied with Him. To deny this, is to admit to your fallen state before him, for that is indeed the reality of the universe and it is YOU and I who are out of sync.

2) In return for loving others, we receive rewarding relationships with them. Your quality of life has MUCH to do with your relationship with people around you. Business itself would not function if not for people, society would grind to a halt if not for people. Society is all about people, whether you realize it or not. No man is an island, and when you try to be, you suffer deeply in your own soul. Ask any advertiser if family and friends aren’t a major tenant to their public sales message. They will tell you.

3) When we see ourselves as God sees us, we have better rapport with ourselves internally. We stand on the truth that there must be value in us before God due to his actions all through human history concerning us. We are to love ourselves as God loves us, and when we do that, we hate those things about ourselves that don’t match up.

It’s annoying to constantly be tripping over our own feet spiritually. If only we could go through life without the constant breakdowns! But we CAN’T make that perfection, and God knows this, therefore he has paid the price for our imperfection before Himself and covered mankind in his grace; rather than just ending the whole thing and doing something else. He doesn’t want robots though, he only wants those whose free will are happily resigned to his leadership, and that explains a lot of why the world is the way it has been for a long time now.

4) In return for being a steward, we are freed from the tyranny of chasing after things in hopes that we are satisfied. Ask anyone who has sunk huge sums of money into public storage compartments just how they managed to get into that position, or how they can justify holding onto things that aren’t being used, but just getting older. Even Buddhist monks will tell you that to own things means you are owned by things. God wants us freed from the bondage and futility of collecting stuff for our lives. Living for this world is like flushing your hard earned money down the toilet.

5) In return for being a servant, God gives us a satisfying purpose in life. You know I am not going to talk to you about things like evolution. For evolution makes many claims that are directly opposed to Biblical truth. Much of that information is often disseminated not in the search for truth, but in the search for discrediting God, and his word. It is “disinformation”. Don’t believe that? Just consider how we all feel that we are independent from the rest of the world. Have you ever considered that the entire nation of China is your brothers and sisters? And India, and Africa. (Yes! We ARE the world.) Don’t believe that, even though DNA science has proven race to be a myth? You have been programmed by disinformation to not believe it.

We were not created to live selfishly, but for others. In a perfect world, we would each lend a hand to the next man or woman and they would lend a hand to us; by doing that we lift the whole world to a higher place. Just as an Eagle cannot be happy confined to a cage, or a fish confined to a bucket, we cannot live happily in a life consumed with ourselves. We all live in harmony and love when I pass you my sandwich for lunch while the guy next to me gives me his. We give and are given to.

When you find yourself becoming more in harmony with these precepts, you are maturing in Jesus. He knows that in these areas is found our highest good, for ourselves and for those around us. His goal is not to make us comfortable in this world with riches that only pass away, but to give us the eternal qualities of the next world, the one we all hope to see each other in some day - for eternity. If having us dragged through the mud in this life will make us more like Christ, (and keep in mind, that the whole of reality is in tune with Christ, and it is US that is out of tune,) then he will do all things necessary to make sure you are given every opportunity. It is severe, but it is mercy. It is severe mercy.

Jesus loves you. Trust him.

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