Socialism – GOD’s Path or Man’s

“When JESUS heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” ” – Luke 18:22 ESV

By definition, “socialism (so·cial·ism) is a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole:

  1. A policy or practice based on the political and economic theory of socialism.
  2. (in Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of communism.

People have taken this passage in Luke (and others) to advocate socialism as a way of life for all Christians. I don’t believe that that is what JESUS is saying. This verse, as well as all of Scripture, must be read in context, because any action – any action – can be justified by taking a verse or two out of context. We have to be on guard about this! Using this case, I don’t see JESUS espousing socialism for the whole. He is speaking to one individual about his life. We don’t know why JESUS told the young man to sell everything and give it to the poor, just that in this instance, it was what the LORD required. He might require it for you or me, and He might not. Much good can be done with wealth (money or time), but wealth can also be a hindrance to our lives with CHRIST. As Christians, our concern should be to search the scriptures for the message to each of us as individuals. We can’t expect non-Christians to understand, because as Paul says:

“For the Word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the Power of GOD.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV

But for us, those of us who are coming to Christ and those who are already in Christ, the Word is where He shows His Will for us to follow. For unbelievers who are without GOD’s Love, the Word, when we share it, is like “a clanging gong:”

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1‭-‬3 ESV

We can try to reach the lost by creating a socialist society with everyone on the same financial footing, or we can glorify our GOD for the diverse talents He has given us, and give thanks for the different paths He has set us on. Our blessings don’t come from following a way of life set out for us by the enemy – and if it doesn’t come from GOD, it comes from the enemy! Whether the path GOD puts us onto is a life of missions, or selling everything and giving it to the poor, or serving in some capacity in His church; using wealth to help those in need; or being the best wife and mother – or husband and father – that we can be, as long as we are on GOD’s path and in His Love we will be overflowing with blessings.

“But You, O LORD , are a Shield about me, my Glory, and the Lifter of my head.” – Psalms 3:3 ESV

The Promise

This is now:

“…. but [JESUS] said to me, “My Grace is sufficient for you, for Power is made perfect in weakness.” ” – 2 Corinthians 12:9a NRSV

His Power; my weakness. His Grace; His Mercy, is what has kept me alive – literally – this far into my life. I am lost without Him. My decisions, my “best thinking” is the primary reason for the troubles and hardships in my life. You’ve probably heard the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I lived it for years. Life is so much better when I say “Your Will be done, not mine.”

This is GOD’s promise:

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.” – John 14:2‭-‬3 ESV

The SON of GOD said that He will prepare a place for me. Can it get any better than that? I may live in a hovel on earth (I don’t, presently, but very little separates me from homelessness. It’s just a fact of living on earth), but imagine what awaits us when we leave here! I know that JESUS left His heavenly throne to live and die on this earth to atone for my sins; that He walked out of His tomb after 3 days and that thousands testified with first-hand knowledge to the fact of His Resurrection. I know that He died for ME. Do you? Can you say with certainty that you have accepted Him as your Saviour? If you have, then you have His promise, this future, to look forward to.

And this is my future:

“See, the Home of GOD is among mortals. He will dwell with [us] as [our] GOD; [we] will be His peoples, and GOD Himself will be with [us]; He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:3‭b-‬4 NRSV

Can you picture it?? Without GOD’s Promise for my future, life would, indeed, be bleak. My heart cries out for all the people who don’t understand that there is a hell, there is a heaven, and we will spend the rest of eternity in one of them – NO exceptions. Just reading the descriptions of hell in the scriptures is bone-chilling. Hell, Hades, Gehenna, the Lake of Fire…. it goes by many names, just as the “ruler” of hell has many names. Don’t be fooled! He and his demons start out making sin look so innocent and pretty, but it is all lies, deceptions, and untruths. I promise you that it is just a front that they hide behind to trap you. I was snared once. I couldn’t escape his claws and chains for years, and it was ugly. I would see glimpses of light, and I believe they use that to help keep their captives in line.

JESUS saved me. No one and nothing else could. Just JESUS. Call His Name anytime, anywhere, and He will rescue you! When you can’t reach out, He will reach for you. When you can’t see, He will guide you. When you can longer walk, He will carry you. When your burdens are too great to bear, He will take them. He PROMISED. He is the Deliverer, the Great Physician, Saviour of the world. Do you know Him?

Friend – Oh! What A Friend

Can you imagine GOD, the Great Creator, saying this about you?

“I was overjoyed when some of the friends (brothers and sisters in CHRIST) arrived and testified to your faithfulness to the Truth, namely how you walk in the Truth. I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the Truth.” – 3 John 1:3‭-‬4 NRSV

Yes, I am aware the John wrote this about own his feeling of joy upon hearing that people he had taught about the LORD were continuing their walk with JESUS. So many stumble and slip, it truly is a joy when we know that someone we have worked with and taught about JESUS, and who has accepted Him as their Saviour, is continuing in their walk with Him. I know it was not written to describe how GOD feels about HIS childen, but can’t you just imagine Him saying it about one of us? We know that Heaven rejoices when a sinner is saved, so why wouldn’t He be happy to hear a new ‘arrival’ in Heaven testify about His children’s faithfulness? I pray that after all the years I spent parched in the wilderness of sin, perhaps one person will testify for me in His Presence.

Not to give me pride, because that has finally left me, but just to know that I have given the Almighty GOD a tiny sliver of the incredible JOY that He has given to me with His Love. As I write this, I realize that I do have a Friend like that, a Friend Who will testify for me in front of the Almighty! That Friend is JESUS, and I can testify that there is no better Friend to have than Him. What a Friend we have in JESUS…. Joseph Scriven wrote a poem by that name in 1855, and it was set to music in 1868 by Charles Converse. It has been sung in churches worldwide, and numerous recording artists have performed it, including Bing Crosby, Aretha Franklin, Alan Jackson, and many more. My favorite, though, is a new rendition by Matt Maher. Both songs tell of the incredible love JESUS has for us, and how He willingly takes our sins and our burdens so that we no longer have to struggle under them. (You can get get the lyrics and the music on Google and YouTube.)

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:13‭-‬15 ESV

JESUS is not only our best Friend, He is the Sacrificial Lamb, the High Priest, and our Advocate! He will stand up to the prosecutor, that great liar – the Father of Lies, Satan, when we all (no exceptions) stand before GOD for the FINAL Great White Throne Judgement; Revelation 20:11-15. You might also read Hebrews 4:14-15, 8:6, 9:11-12; 1 Timothy 2:5-6, and 1 John 2:1. There is an an article online on the Advocacy of JESUS written by Amazing Discoveries, titled “Christ’s Mediating Ministry – He is our Advocate,” published August 13, 2009. It goes into great detail and was quite interesting. If you have questions, or doubts, I hope this will encourage you to do your own research, and search the scriptures for the answers. If you leave questions in the comments, I will do my best to help you find the answers, but first, read the Bible – it’s a fascinating book of Truth!

Just a Friend? No, WHAT a Friend! Is He your Best Friend?

“What seem our worst prayers may really be, in God’s eyes, our best. Those which are least supported by devotional feeling…these may come from a deeper level than feeling. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard.” – #CSLewis

The LORD Is My Portion

The author of the book of Lamentations is disputed, but regardless of whether it was Jeremiah, his scribe, or someone else, it is a book expressing deep torment. It was written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BC. At one particularly bleak period in my life, had I the eloquence of Jeremiah, I could have written this about my own life. These verses can apply to both our physical lives and our spiritual lives. Can you relate it to your life?

“The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.” – Lamentations 3:19‭ NRSV

Despite his sorrow and angst, Jeremiah doesn’t lose his trust in the LORD. Like David, Jeremiah suffered through soul wrenching sorrow, but his faith didn’t waver ….. unlike mine. I questioned GOD, I blamed GOD, and I cursed the situations I found myself in. I know – my choices, my consequences. When I finally said, “Enough! I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!” Then I could call out to JESUS, LORD, and allow Him to pull me out of the muck and he mire and the just plain ugliness of my life. Am I always thankful of GOD’s Mercies? Do I always accept His Portion and let contentment into my life? The answer is a resounding “No, I do not.” I am human, and my ‘feelings’ and emotions can overwhelm me. Sometimes I prefer to wallow in my self-pity, but a mentor said to me, “Feel sorry for yourself for 5 minutes, then get up and get on with your life.’ Don’t let the ‘shoulda coulda woulda’s’ run your life, because they will ruin your life!

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have Hope: The steadfast Love of the LORD never ceases, His Mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your Faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will Hope in Him.” ” – Lamentations 3:20-24 NRSV

I have HOPE in the LORD, AMEN!

Image of the prophet Jeremiah from Wikipedia Commons

Do Whatever He Tells You

Have you ever considered the life of Mary, the girl whom the Almighty Creator, GOD of the Universe chose to be the mother of His Son on earth? This girl, probably a teenager, who believed and followed Him without question? The angel of the LORD came to her – not in a dream, but while she was awake and she knew it was real!

“And he [the angel of the LORD] came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The LORD is with you.” ” – Luke 1:28 NRSV

I would have fainted, straight out! Not Mary. She listened to the message, and thought about it before answering – that’s not my strong suit, to ponder a thing before reacting or responding. She did wonder at the message, even asking the angel, “How can this be…?” That’s more like me – I want to know the What, the Why, the How?

Because she believed, and accepted GOD’s Will in her life – even though it looked impossible to her – she knew the Truth about her son, JESUS, from the moment of His conception, and steadfastly believed in Him throughout His life. When others scoffed, she praised. When He was tortured and killed, she cried for His pain. She supported everything He did with His life. His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”
John 2:5 NRSV

Oh, to have faith like Mary, and to be able to say to myself, without reservation, “I will do whatever He tells me.” Easy to say; difficult to put into action for me, because I’m a ‘bottom line” kind of person. I want to see the whole picture before I commit. How does it affect me personally? Our GOD doesn’t work that way…. or maybe He does, and in our human-ness we just can’t see it? What I forget is that He is watching out for me, not sometimes, but all of the time. He knows the bottom line, and He knows the turmoil, the frustration, and the sorrow we are dealing with. I forget that I am not alone, ever. He is with me to catch me when I fall, steady me when I stumble, and pick me up when I can no longer walk.

Is today a bad day? Are you frustrated, almost to tears? Are you worried to the point of being sick? Lately, I’ve had several of those days. Besides having a running conversation with GOD, what can we do? I recite the first couple of lines from the 23rd Psalm, “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” and sing with Hillary Scott and the Scott family “Thy Will Be Done.” The anxiety may still be there, but I find a wonderful Peace when I let GOD take the fear. “What A Friend We Have In JESUS,” sung by Matt Maher – great reminder!!

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but My Steadfast LOVE shall not depart from you, and My Covenant of Peace shall not be removed, says the LORD, Who has Compassion on you.” – Isaiah 54:10 NRSV

Forever and ever, AMEN.

Image from http://www.fanpop.com

Do As I Say….

So JESUS said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but GOD knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the Sight of GOD.” – Luke 16:15 NRSV

When we don’t fear GOD, we leave a vacuum to be filled by self and the enemy. Luke 16:19–31 is the parable of Lazarus and the rich man – did you know that the name ‘Lazarus’ literally means ‘GOD helps/has helped’? And that this parable is the only one JESUS told where He named the characters? The parable is a way to compare lifestyles and determine if we are living as the LORD would have us live, and if we are hearing – and spreading – the Gospel. The rich man, being tormented and in agony after his death, begs Father Abraham to send Lazarus back to his family to tell them to repent. This is how Abraham answered:

“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ” – Luke 16:31 NRSV

I believe that JESUS is speaking of His own approaching death and Resurrection. How many thousands; how many millions of people have done/still do just as the rich man, ignoring JESUS in our everyday lives? Are we more concerned about the feasting and partying and our appearances, than we are about those surrounding us who are struggling and in need? We are our own worst enemies in life. We allow selfishness (GUILTY!) to rule our lives, sowing disharmony, discord, dishonesty, and dissension all around us. We live by he “Do as I say, not as I do” rule. Read Exodus 22, especially verse 25. It’s about selfishness.

“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” – Ephesians 4:26‭-‬27 NRSV

“We can be angry and not sin when we are angry at sin.” – Pastor Mark Hitchcock. Even justified anger can be sin when we use it to attempt to judge others. (Again, GUILTY.)

So [Nehemiah] said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our GOD, to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?” – Nehemiah 5:9 NRSV

It can be a hard lesson to realize how much of the world’s ways we have accepted into our lives. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “keeping up with the Jones’s” and allowing the desires of our hearts to turn from GOD to the selfishness modeled by so many people who claim the name “Christian” but don’t live it. If they can do/have/say it, it must be okay for me to follow their example, right? No, it’s a recipe for disaster with our LORD. He doesn’t tolerate being second in our lives; He is all or nothing, never-ending, ALL-Powerful, and ALMIGHTY.

On my face before Him, Loved by Him despite my constant fails, I say, so be it in my life, LORD, Your Will be done. Amen.

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Illumination from the Codex Aureus of Echternach, 1035-1040, German National Museum, Nürnberg. Top panel: Lazarus at the rich man’s door Middle panel: Lazarus’ soul is carried to Paradise by two angels; Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom Bottom panel: Dives’ soul is carried off by two devils to Hell; Dives is tortured in Hades.

Prodigal, Sinner, and Hypocrite

Someone said that if he were to find the ‘perfect’ church and join it, it would no longer be perfect. I wonder at the churches – and church members – who think they are perfect and better than others. Why, how, could anyone think that an assembly of humans could possibly be perfect? Then there’s the other side, the person who refuses to be a part of any church “because they are all made up of hypocrites.” Um, duh. (Sorry. My sarcasm slipped out!) Seriously, how can a church NOT be made up of anything besides prodigals, sinners, and hypocrites?

The only thing that separates the church-goer, the true Christian, from the world is JESUS CHRIST, The LIVING HOPE!

In Luke 15, JESUS is disrespected by the Pharisees, those men who were stuck so rigidly to the Law that they were unable to see the MESSIAH Who was right in front of them.

“Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ “
Luke 15:1‭-‬2 NRSV

Horrible horrors, GASP! JESUS sat down to eat and commune with these despised Jews. He spoke to the people there and told them these stories. There was a woman who had 10 silver coins. She lost one and searched her home until she found it, then celebrated with her neighbors. He tells of the shepherd who has 100 sheep, and leaves the 99 sheep in the wilderness in order to find the lost one. He rejoices because he found it. Finally, He tells the story of the prodigal son, a story I think we have all heard. This son took his inheritance and left his home, then wasted and squandered the fortune. Even though he had sinned against his father, when he returned home in defeat, his father ran to greet him and celebrate his return.

“…. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” – Luke 15:32 NRSV

Every person to ever draw breath is a sinner; a hypocrite. Maybe we are all prodigals. I am all of these and more. I’ve shared my story of growing up in the church, of being raped and abused, and consequently turning my back on the GOD Who allowed it all to happen. I was a sinner in the lifestyle I adopted; I am a hypocrite, because I know the Truth but I often forget to live it. I need to allow the LIGHT of my LORD shine through my ‘cracks.’ I am a prodigal who has squandered much before finally returning to the LORD after my 40 years of wandering in the wilderness of sin and the Enemy.

Oh, that we would welcome every prodigal, every sinner, and every hypocrite into all of our houses of worship! We, as the Body of CHRIST, should be running to greet ‘those people’ as soon as we see them. Unfortunately, much of the time, we – the prodigals, the sinners, the hypocrites who make up the church – run away from ‘those people.’ I have witnessed it over and over, and I confess to having done it myself. When I truly returned to my LORD – and I had many false starts – I was Blessed to land in a church that wholeheartedly supported a great recovery program and pastor. I am one of ‘those people’ ….. but because I don’t show how ‘bad’ I had been in my outward appearance, people in the church are often shocked when I share my testimony. I have been found; saved through the Grace and Mercy of our LORD.

LORD, show us how to be the woman searching for her lost coin, the shepherd searching for his lost sheep, and especially the father running to meet his child. JESUS is our Shepherd, and we are like the sheep. We should share His Love and Mercy and Grace, and welcome the lost with open arms as they are brought in by the Shepherd. Do you open your hearts, or do you shut the door in their faces?

Rembrandt’s painting of the prodigal son’s return.