Friday, February 24, 2006
Why do we care for babies? Why do we tend to their every cry or noise and watch intently for their smile? We observe them as they feed, burp and clean up their messes. When bathing them, we're extra careful so that they don't slip into the tub. Babies are so cute, tiny and helpless, that we can easily find ourselves catering to their every whim. In so doing, we subordinate (or submit if you will) our inclinations and desires to their schedule; sometimes we even forgo our own needs -- like sleep, and adult social interaction. Naturally we don't think of what we do for babies as submission, after all, babies are cute and lovable and besides, we usually take delight in their responsive coos and smiles. But, if we ever really paused to think of how much we prioritize our lives around them, we'd be amazed (many men wouldn't because this is their very complaint). In choosing to place our needs after the needs of these little "persons," we do so because they cannot care for themselves. Yet, if we were to evaluate our thoughts, intents and actions in light of Agape-love, we'd probably find that the care we give the little ones is done not so much because we have only their best interest at heart, but because we expect to receive something in return. That something may be a smile, the platitudes of others, the internal recognition and pleasure of doing a good job or a myriad of other reasons. Never the less, in and of ourselves, our nature is selfish, and only as our motives are purified from self -- by the Holy Spirit's indwelling presence, can our thoughts, intents and actions be unselfish. It's because self finds so many "worthy" modes of _expression, that we are often deceived into thinking that what we're doing, we're doing out of unconditional, self-denying love. While pleasure derived from interaction with a baby isn't wrong, we may be merely caring for the baby precisely because we receive pleasure, and thinking, "if I don't, who will? Friends, submitting or subordinating our wants, desires and even needs to those of babies or helpless others, is not in the truest sense what is meant by biblical submission.
As the lesson states, true submission is humbly placing oneself (as in kneeling) before another person on the basis of voluntary choice. This is a principle that began with Christ. We read in Philippians 2: 5-8)
Philippians 2: 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Philippians 2: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
Philippians 2: 7 But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
Philippians 2: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Christ, who was equal to God, made Himself a servant to help those who could not help themselves -- that is us. To do this He submitted Himself to His Father's authority working through His indwelling Spirit. Without the indwelling Holy Spirit, we -- who are lesser than the angels -- think ourselves above and greater than God and in need of no help because we believe we have all we need or at the very least can get it if we need it badly enough. What a contrast between Christ's concept of submission, and ours! Although our reasoning and belief system is faulty, there is hope for us.
When we accept Christ by Faith, we are in effect submitting to the Spirit just as He did. Through the Holy Spirit's indwelling, the mind of the Christ becomes ours and we estimate ourselves as He does; we see ourselves naked, wretched, poor and blind. We realize our helplessness and the helplessness of others without Him. We realize how much we as human beings need Him. Seeing others as helpless babies desperately needing our help, we are enabled to submit to the Holy Spirit's pleading on their behalf and to plead with Him for their salvation.
True submission, a derivative of Agape, leads us to consistently think of, and do what is best for others, even if it involves personal sacrifice for us. Consider Jacob walking in the wilderness with all his family. Jacob turns down his brother's invitation to go together to the land of Seir. We read in Genesis 33: 12-14,
Genesis 33: 12 And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee.
Genesis 33: 13 And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die.
Genesis 33: 14 Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir.
Jacob submitted to his wives and children by going as far and as fast as they could go. What a contrast to husbands of today who, because they are making good time, won't stop their cars so their families can stretch their legs and use the restroom. It is in the spirit of the mind of Christ that we should consider others who do not perform to the standards we think they should. Folks, we are all helpless; some are aware of their need and others are blinded to it. Helpless, we all need to cast our souls on Christ, for without His submission to the will of His Father, where would we be? Friends, let's not mistake the temporary selfish submission or subordination of our needs for another, as the true ongoing submission of our will to God. True submission involves having the mind-set of Christ, "who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and made in the likeness of men -- being found in fashion as a man -- He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes
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Friday, February 17, 2006
You remember your days in Geometry, don't you? You know -- the class where the teacher and the books were all about circles, angles and lines? Well, that class -- that's where the real definition of the word parallel was made plain. Just to remind you, the word parallel is used to designate two or more straight coplanar lines that do not intersect. That is like two streets going in the same direction which never cross each other. Parallelism is useful in the study of geography, for it can help you see in three dimensions that which is one dimensional. As you look at the imaginary lines representing degrees of latitude encircling the earth, parallel to the plane of the equator, you are enabled to see the actual globe in your mind's eye. Have you ever looked closely at a world globe? Painted on the globe are the latitude lines I refer to. If one parallel latitude line is intersected and crossed by a longitudinal line, that longitudinal line is likely to cross the second latitudinal line as well, since both lines are parallel. This is much like parallel streets, where you have two streets going in relatively the same directions, when a cross street intersects one of those streets, it is likely to intersect both, because they closely parallel one another. When this occurs, it is said that both streets have parallel intersection points or cross-points.
The Song of Solomon is a story that beautifully describes in poetic form, the relationship between a man and a woman who are either courting, or more likely honeymooners. There are those who believe the story to be descriptive of how a man and his wife ought to love and desire one another. In other words, the S. S. story is held up as the ideal for married couples. Brought to view via language is a love which is passionate and blissful, but not without sadness and disappointment. The level of intimacy portrayed in the song is one that most of the world only dreams of. Yet, however beautiful and poignant this love poem is, it is not only about the ideal human marriage relationship; but is metaphorical of Jesus' passionate desire, and erstwhile unknown longing to be one with His Bride -- the body of believers who love Him with His gift of love (Agape). Yes, the S.S is a parallel story with the Laodicean Church of Revelation 3, and indeed as parallel stories go, it has its cross-points.
The first cross-point is the garden scene, where the Beloved desires for his “lover to come into his garden and taste its choice fruits” (Song of Solomon 4:16). This is reminiscent of the coming of the Lord to the Garden of Eden to visit His Beloved, in the home He had made for them. In the Edenic garden, Adam and Eve could eat of God’s “choice fruits.” But instead chose to taste the one forbidden fruit of the farthest tree in the garden. Unfortunately, this one act caused untold woe, and sorrow, separating the divine lover from His beloved. The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world is the cause for hope we now have to return to the Edenic garden in the New Jerusalem and once again eat of His choice fruits.
The second cross-point is friendship. The Beloved says of her love, “…this is my friend” Song of Solomon 5:16. Oh, that the married couples of this day would be friends. Many are caught up in playing roles based on worldly models and sinful concepts of sexuality. Instead of communicating they compete. Instead of completing each other, they tear each other down. If only they would listen to the advice of Paul in Ephesians 5, then they would have a better understanding of what God wants for and with them. You see the marital relationship is a picture of what God wants in His relationship with the church. God wants to communicate with us; He wants to be our friend. After all, Jesus is the “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Jesus said to His disciples, “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:15). It is an honor to be a servant, but to be a friend is a higher honor, one which God did not give lightly.
The third cross-point is found in Song of Solomon 5:2-6, which reads,
S. of S. 5:2 I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.
S. of S. 5:3 I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall
S. of S. 5:4 My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.
S. of S. 5:5 I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.
S. of S. 5:6 I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.
It is from this passage that Jesus quotes to His beloved Laodicean Church, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock” (Revelation 3:20). This vignette describes a dearly beloved young woman who is quite selfishly snuggling warm in bed, on a cold rainy night while her poor Lover is barred at her door. Forced to keep knocking, He remains outside, lonely, cold, hungry, wet, and obviously the One whose disappointment is beyond description. Unfortunately, just as the beloved young bride responded, “not now", we Laodiceans also respond to Christ's knocking in kind. Sadly, we do not want to be inconvenienced. We think we cannot (or more truthfully, will not) make sacrifices at this point in life. Sometimes Christ comes to us as the little ones that we should feed, give a drink, clothes or money to. And sometimes He comes to us as one who needs us to visit Him jail. Sadly, we leave our divine Lover knocking outside the door of our hearts without so much as a response -- we just ignore Him, hoping He'll go away. And He is so polite; He does not disturb us forever. He goes away. We have made our final decision, and He sadly respects it. He is too much of a gentleman to ever force us, but how great is the pain of His rejection. After He has left, He says of us that we knew not the time of our visitation, and that 'inasmuch as we have (not) helped the least of the brethren who required our assistance, we have (not) cared for Him (Matthew 25:40).
The fourth cross-point occurs in the place where we read in Song of Solomon that the groom is saying to his new bride, “thou art all fair, there is no spot in thee.” Paul cites this very verse when he speaks of Christ's bride -- the church, as being without 'spot or wrinkle or any such thing.' When we – the church, reflect His character of Agape, we too will be without stains, blotches or creases in our wedding attire.
The Song of Solomon portrays for us that passion with which a groom so greatly desires his beloved bride. It also parallels the passion with which Christ desires to unite with His bride -- the church. The intersecting cross-points of the Laodicean letter with the Song of Solomon's poetic love song are intended by Christ to stir us with same longing and desire for oneness with Him as He has with us. Friends, let's not disappoint Him any longer.
Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes
The Special Insights web page resides at:
Thursday, February 09, 2006
My grandmother was a very strong and capable woman when I met her. She did all of the work in the house: she dusted, cleaned, cooked, washed clothes, bought groceries, and took care of her brother, who was her company for many years. My grandmother was also very sick. She suffered the typical diabetic complications, such as hypertension, heart disease, and other disorders, which I don't even remember. Over time, my grandmother's health worsened, causing such discomfort and stiffness, not to mention lack of energy, that she could not move voluntarily without great pain. My grandmother's state of health along with her incapacitation was very hard on my mother and aunts who were used to this very strong figure in their lives. When my great uncle died -- grandma’s brother -- the grief she experienced caused her to have a stroke. Thus she became bed-ridden until her death.
I had the privilege of witnessing the care my Mom, aunts, and cousins gave to my grandma. It was similar in the way she cared for them when they were young. Making sure that my Grandmother was not exposed, my mom, and other available family members lifted her from the bed and put her in a wheel chair. They were there to groom her and that entailed putting her in the shower (on her shower chair) and bathing her--daily. In addition to giving her a bath, they dressed her, combed her hair, brushed her teeth, and manicured her nails. Despite the constant care, of course there were occasions when my grandma soiled herself. When that happened, my mom or aunts cleaned her and changed her clothes just as they would a child. Growing old can be so painful for all involved. Until my grandmother died five or six years later, this was the daily routine of her children--bathing, dressing, feeding and tending to her daily living care needs.
There was nothing glamorous in caring for my grandmother's needs. And it was a big sacrifice for my aunts, but especially for my Mom. Since we lived in the house, she carried much of the burden (I was too young to be of much help.) My Mom and aunts chose to care for my grandma because they loved her -- she was their mother.
For an undetermined amount of time, my mom had to relinquish the dreams and plans she had for her own life to care for her mom. So while others enjoyed themselves taking trips to the Mall, while they went to the picnic at the beach, or engaged in other pleasurable activities, my Mom was home caring for Grandma. You see, although my aunts took turns with grandma's care on the weekends in order to relieve my Mom for a few hours, they were able to come in and leave after the weekend was past. My mom and I lived with my grandmother, so my mom had primary care of grandma daily, five days a week, and the burden was heavy to bear. For my aunts, the inconvenience was too much, and the level of commitment too big. As a result I often overheard them complain; and this is what I came to understand: it was basically one of three motivations that caused them to care for my Grandma. The first reason was because it was the right thing to do, the second reason -- guilt -- played such a strong role, that it was a thing that could be felt. The third and perhaps the most motivating reason of all was, "what will others say about us if we don't take care of our mom?" While none of these three motivations seem exemplary reasons to take care of a family member, and certainly none is the reason we'd like anyone to care for us, no one is exempt from experiencing these feelings. Thus none of us has the right to be condemnatory. We must realize that although my mom, aunts and cousins allowed pitiful reasoning to motivate their works of charity, they were behaving according to the same sinful human condition that you and I have inherited. As such, without a Saviour, you and I would do the same and perhaps worse, given similar circumstances, and opportunity. It is entirely possible that either you or I might have put grandma in a nursing home.
You know, Romans 5:7 and John 15:13 say this, “for scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” And, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." This of course is not only the Greek description of love, it is the one which most of us ascribe to as the greatest demonstration of love -- the giving up of our life for some worthy individual or noble cause. Yet, this is not at all the type of love that Christ enjoins that we manifest to others. His love is described thusly in John 13: 34, 35, "A new commandment I give unto you, 'That you love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.'" "By this all men will know you are My disciples, if you have love one to another." So, if we as human beings often fail in the course of our daily duties to live up to our own grand human description of love -- which is fallible, and selfish, how then could we possibly think we could imitate God's great all encompassing unselfish love? It is impossible! The only way to act on this love command, is to receive the thing commanded -- Agape love -- as a gift. There is no other way!
No matter how lofty our human adage may sound -- dying in the place of one who is worthy -- the law demands more than that. According to Matthew 5: 43 - 48,
Matthew 5:43 You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
Matthew 5:44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Matthew 5:45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Matthew 5:46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
Matthew 5:47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The only kind of love that would make us beneficent to those who hate us is Agape -- the unconditional, self-denying love of Christ. It's true, many parents really do care for their own children, they sacrifice immensely for their well being, and want the best for them. However, how many parents would willingly do this, if they knew that their beloved little Johnny will kill them when he comes of age? Many children today do just that -- whether in a fit of anger or through planned revenge, they kill their parents, with many feeling little remorse. So the question remains, would most parents be committed to raising little Johnny if they knew he was going to kill them when he grew up? The question can also be applied to spouses. Would a potential husband or wife still choose to become one with his or her spouse-to-be, knowing that once married, the spouse will be unfaithful and make the union a living hell? While we are not advocating marrying anyone the Lord does not have for you, scripture does tell us that Agape seeks not her own.
Contrary to our human reasoning, God loved the human race even knowing that most of us
would reject Him and throw His love back in His face. Romans 5: 8, 10 says it best:
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Very likely, any plans or dreams God had after we sinned, were put on hold to save us from our wretched lost condition. This is probably especially true of Christ who became the Incarnate One, clothed with divinity and with the likeness of sinful flesh. He gave up not only the hope of eternal life for the opportunity to save us, but the spiritual form He had prior to taking on the likeness of our sinful human flesh. Never more will Christ be as He was prior to the incarnation. During His 33 year sojourn here, He, imbued with His Father's permission, and the Holy Spirit's power, carried the burdens of the world, and lived a life of pure inconvenience, degradation and extreme poverty. The cross He carried during His life is well beyond the burden any spouse or child could ever give us. It is beyond the pale of any inconvenience we could ever suffer. You know, 'ingrate' is what we call a person who does not appreciate what the things we do for him or her. Are we ungrateful to God for the sacrifice of His son? He deeply desires us to respond to Him with heartfelt gratitude, appreciation and praise for His sacrifice. When your name is called in this great Day of Atonement, will there be written by your name, 'ingrate?' Or will He say “he has loved as I have loved Him."? Friends, the choice is yours.
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