Of, But Not In
     A little more than 10 years ago, I had a job working for a large department store chain.  One of their promotions was to send out notices to all their charge card holders of a special discount sale to be held on Sunday evening after regular store hours.  I was not enthusiastic about working that, I do believe in the great value of having a day set aside to really rest, renew, and center on Him, but when I took the job, I was told that doing this from time to time would be expected, and I clearly felt that this was a job He'd led me to, so, having made the agreement, I came into work that evening.  The next day, a lady came in, holding the previously mailed invitation sent out to all credit customers, and told me she was " a Christian, and didn't shop on a Sunday."  Since this was the case, she wanted to be given the same discount on that day, Monday.  I told her I understood, that I was a believer too.  I'll never forget her answer.  She told me, in a spirit that can only be described as arrogant, that maybe I should take a stronger stand for Christ, and not work on Sunday.  I knew I was being put down, and I also remember wondering just how this lady came across to unbelievers?  You know, people that didn't know you're "not supposed to work on Sunday."  Did she have any understanding about what the real circumstances of their life might be?  Of what my circumstances were?  It's easy for us to tell someone "just trust Jesus, and refuse to work," but fail to realize that we're not the ones with rent, mortgage or car payment due.  I also wanted to ask her if she and her family had gone out to eat after church the day before.  Most restaurants are filled with after church customers each Sunday.  Many believed as she did about Sunday work or shopping, but somehow, that always seems to be different when it comes to eating out.  After all, that's fellowship.  I wanted to ask her this, but I didn't.  I don't think she would have heard or seen.  We are adept at disguising our personal hypocrisy.
     This lady displayed something I think that is prevalent among so many believers today, and that's a spirit of entitlement.  She wanted it known that she would never shop on a Sunday, yet she also wanted to receive the same "bounty" as those who did.  She wanted to display her "righteousness," but she also didn't want to lose anything because of it.  In her desire to prove how non-worldly she was, she was instead showing how much a part of it she truly was.  I didn't sense from her any understanding, compassion, or care as to why I was in that store the night before.  I did sense judgement, condemnation, and pride.  Tell me, which are of the Spirit, and which the flesh?  When you and I walk before the world, which do they see more of, the face, heart, and presence of Christ in us, or our fleshly, religious, self-absorption?
     If you think I've been writing about legalism, or not working on Sunday's, you're missing the point.  Our problems are much deeper than that.  I think in many ways, western Christianity has become much more about getting guarantees of finding protection for ourselves and loved ones, and in the process being laden with blessing.  Blessing that stops with, rather than flows through us.  We don't walk and live in His Spirit, but the world's.  We've become so good at it, at being religious without being holy, at setting ourselves apart from the world, but being blind as to how like it we truly are.  Christine Caine asked if the lost remain lost because the church itself is lost?  The lady I encountered that day thought she had sight, yet she didn't see me.  How many others did she also not see?  Who are you and I not seeing?  Jesus said that we are "to be in the world, but not of it."  As Caine remarked, "the western church today is of the world, but not in it."  The only cure for blindness is to have sight, His sight, and we may only have His sight by receiving it from His hand, and living in the fullness of His presence.  We live eyes wide open.  First to Him, and then to all that is around us.  Jesus sent His disciples out, but not before they had been fully immersed in His Spirit.  Then "as they went" they shared Him, His life, His love, and His wholeness.  As for that lady, I can't condemn her.  Far too many times I've been just like her. I haven't really seen those around me because I've been too busy seeing what matters to me, my needs, my cares, my desires and dreams, and yes, my ministry.  How true might that be of you?  

Pastor O
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   July 2019   
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