Take Me, Shake Me, Break Me, Make Me

O that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleads for his neighbor or his friend! Job 16:21

George Bernard Shaw the famous play-write of the late 1800’ and early 1900’s is credited with saying these words: “The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.”

These words are still true today.  Unconcern for others is another self-indulgent sign of our materialistic age or lack of a relationship with God. It seems the age of neighbor helping neighbor is forgotten, becoming a concept of an age gone by.

During his first furlough as a missionary to China Adlai A. Esteb, a poet and Pastor of the mid-20th century, wrote this prayer in his Bible opposite Job 16:21.   It goes like this.  “O God, take me, shake me, break me, make me!”

That is quite the prayer, many of us are not ready to pray a prayer like that.  But here is how he explained the prayer.

Take Me: Because we all come short of the glory of God. This is why God must take over.  When a man surrenders and says, “God, take me, just as I am without one plea,” then God can begin the wonderful process of fitting him for usefulness here and for heaven hereafter.

Shake Me: When God takes us He may have to shake us out of our comfortable nest, as a mother bird shakes up her nest to force the little birds to learn to fly.  Job said God was shaking him to pieces, but God had better things in store for Job.  God shook Joseph out of his father’s home, where he would probably have become a spoiled, pampered son.  God led him to Egypt, where persecution and prison awaited him.  But out of the crucible he came forth to be one of the greatest spiritual heroes of all time.  He could look back upon all his testing trails and say, “God meant it for good.”

Break Me: Our hard hearts must be broken as farmer would  “Break up fallow ground.” We must become like fallow ground to God so that he can plant in us righteousness. I Like this story, yet it seems so harsh.  But often it is the only way for God to get our attention.  The story is of a shepherd who had to break the leg of a little unruly lamb because it was always leading the other lambs astray.  It was a natural leader but it would not follow the shepherd. So he broke its leg and then held the lamb in his arms and nursed it back to health.  It then loved the shepherd and faithfully followed him. Often our plans must fail so that God’s plans for us can succeed. We need to be broken of self.

Make me. Perhaps God must break me before He can make me all that He wants me to be. When the prodigal son came home, his prayer changed from “give me’ to Make me.”

Perhaps during this difficult time that our nation and the world faces it is a call for us to return to God and pray this same prayer, “O God, take me, shake me, break me, make me! Amen.

The Faith That Works

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6

Faith is not the certainty of knowledge. It is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Faith is trusting in God – believing that He loves us and knows what is for our best good. Thus, instead of our own way, it leads us to choose His way.  In place of our ignorance, it accepts His wisdom in place of our weakness, His strength, in place of our sinfulness, His righteousness in place of our unrighteousness. Our lives, ourselves, are already His faith acknowledges His ownership, and accepts its blessing.  Truth, uprightness, purity are pointed out as secrets of life’s success.  It is faith that puts us in possession of these.  Every good impulse or aspiration is the gift of God; faith receives from God the life that alone can produce true growth and efficiency.

When we speak of faith, there is a distinction that should be borne in mind.  There is a kind of belief that is wholly distinct from faith.  The existence and power of God, the truth of His Word, are facts that even Satan and his hosts cannot at heart deny. The Bible says that “the devils also believe, and tremble”; but this is not faith. Where there is not only a belief in God’s Word but a submission of the will to Him, where the heart is yielded to Him, the affections fixed upon Him there is faith – faith that works by love and purifies the soul.  Through this faith, the heart is renewed in the image of God. And the heart that in its un-renewed state is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, now delights in its holy precepts, exclaiming with the Psalmist, “O how love I thy law! “it is my mediation all the day.” Psalm 119:97.  And the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us, “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1.

Faith earns nothing for us; it is the gift of God, which we may receive and cherish by making Christ our personal Saviour.

What Will Church Look Like?

Yesterday I taught Sabbath School and preached the sermon to an empty church.  It was the inevitable result of social distancing.  All brought on by this terrible virus that has caused thousands to become sick and many to lose their life to it. My heart and prayers go out to the families that have suffered as a result of the virus.

As I stood before an empty church, I couldn’t help asking myself, “What will the church look like when we come out on the other side?  And for that matter, what will happen to society as we know it in the weeks and month or even years to come?”

The human race is social by nature.  Even those of us that are introverts need social interaction, although we aren’t willing to admit it. We were created to be social creatures. So, what will the church look like in the weeks and months to come?

I fear that a certain number will look at nearly a month of isolation and determine, “we got along just fine without attending church, why go?”  It is true, for the shut-in, they have gotten along quite well. Yet, as a pastor, I see the loneliness on their faces when we visit together.  For many, there isn’t the option of online streaming.  Technology left them in the dust years ago. For others, even those that aren’t shut-in they are unfamiliar with online social interaction.  This era of social isolation, social distancing, must be extremely rough.

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In the early days as the term social distancing became the new buzz phrase, we saw example after example of people going out of their way to show who they truly are.  Yes, certainly there are many examples of people sharing what they had or helping each other.  But I fear, maybe unjustly, that these were the exception and not the rule.

A week ago, I went to the store, expecting to find the shelves well-stocked as they always are.  To my surprise, isle after isle was empty, picked clean.  The few items I did find, I placed in my cart and went to the cashier.  She looked exhausted. Considering the empty shelves, it must have been a long day for her.  I only had about 20 items in my cart, but yet I couldn’t help but to feet guilty. I even apologized to the cashier saying “I feel like a hoarder. I tried to only get what I needed and left somethings behind I wanted because there were so few, I wanted to leave it for those who needed it more than me.”  I only had one of each item accept for frozen pizza of which there were two.  Her response was one of surprise. She responded by saying, “Oh sir, you are far from it. I cannot believe you would leave behind what you needed because you were concerned others would need it more than you.”

This isn’t written to show the world what a wonderful person I am. That is not the intention of this post. Instead, the intent is to remind us that during this difficult time of uncertainty, God is asking us to care for our neighbors.

The story of the “Good Samaritan” comes to mind along with the new commandments, which really isn’t all that new.  The first or the greatest commandment is. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.

Jesus is telling us that the priority of our life should be our love of God and our willingness to serve him.  Why do I mention service when service is not mentioned in the greatest commandment? I am looking at Christ and His love for His and our Heavenly Father and see in his life a life of service. Therefore when we truly love God, we should have this same attitude of service for others.  That is why Christ followed up the first and great commandment with yet another commandment.  “And the second is like it.  See Jesus is saying, there is a similarity between the two commandments because our love for God as Jesus’s love for God brought about service, therefore we to should service, for Christ finished the statement by saying: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Because of sin, we are self-serving by nature.  Jesus is saying when we love God, our heavenly Father as Christ showed us, then this self-love, this self-serving nature of ours will be redirected in serving and helping others.

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The parable of the “Good Samaritan” brings this out.  The Jew and the Samaritans hated each other, yet when this poor Jewish person lay beside the road. He was broken and bleeding the result of being beaten and robbed.  A Priest and a Levite had passed by, showing little or no concern at all.  This shows the condition of many Christians today.  As people suffer because of the economic impact caused by the virus or the actual sickness. Their first thought is of themselves and their personal safety. But when the Samaritan comes along, he goes out of his way to help.  He helps to the point that it inconveniences himself because he supplied financial aid and physical help to this poor beaten and broken man.

Which brings me back to the original question. What will church look like after this is over?  It is not about live streaming or hoping people come back.  Live streaming is only a small aspect of what makes a church relevant.  Instead, the churches that find a way to serve during this hard time will be the churches that survive, will grow and be relevant going forward.

Therefore, let us all find a way to help those that are broken financially and physically and even mentally during this difficult time.  This is what loving your neighbor is all about.  Others can tell when you truly love your neighbor when it inconveniences you to help them.

May you all stay well and may your life become a life of service because of your love for God.  You all are in my prayers.

Blessings,

Pastor Lester

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