Archive for December, 2011

Why don’t you think you can be Holy?

December 8, 2011

By Bill Behr

What does it mean to be “Holy”?  Is being Holy reserved only for clergy in the church and saints?  Do I have a desire to pursue a life of holiness?   Why or why not?

These are questions I asked myself growing up.

Being “Holy” sounds as if I have to lead an almost perfect life – something impossible for me or anyone else to achieve.  Fortunately, there are those like Keith Drury, author of “Holiness For Ordinary People,” who reminds us that “Holiness is not just for pastors, missionaries, and retired folk who have enough time to pray all day. Holiness is for us all.”

So what is Holiness?  Mr. Drury writes, “Holiness is loving God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength and loving my neighbor as myself.  Simply put, holiness is Christlikeness.”

Jesus did say in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Wait – you said nobody is perfect.  Why would Jesus ask us to be perfect then?  Do you still feel like the bar for Holiness is set too high for you?  If you are going to try to be Holy all by yourself, then you are probably right.

Dr. Steve Harper at Asbury Theological Seminary teaches that the original Greek translation for “perfect” in this verse is telos, which means “whole, mature or complete.”  In the earlier verse of Matthew 5:44, 46, Jesus says, “Love your enemies, and pray for those that persecute you….If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?”

Dr. Harper points out that Jesus is referring to agape love, telos love or complete love here.  Who else could love their enemies except someone who had Christ-like love?  Jesus is teaching us to try to love our neighbor and our enemies with this radical love.  That sounds impossible.

There is only one man who claimed to be God’s Son and lived with a radical love.  One man, who was fully man and fully God, and who lived with the poor.  This man proclaimed freedom for the prisoners and the oppressed.  This man, Jesus Christ, showed us the ultimate example of His complete love by sacrificing himself for you and me, personally, to pay the price of our own sins that we cannot ever fully repay.  Isn’t it great that someone loves you that much!

Christ focused His time and love serving the poor and those forgotten (the imprisoned and oppressed).   We have access to this same perfect and Holy love by accepting Christ’s invitation to follow Him.  We are able to become Holy only through God’s Grace.

When we accept this gift of God’s Grace, we begin to be transformed.  We start to become Holy.  We begin to see the world through His heart.  We begin to see it is possible to not only love neighbors, but maybe, with God’s help, to forgive enemies, to love those who are really hard to love. It is never too late.

I have Good News: Jesus will help you to become Holy!  Be Christ-like to someone today!

Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-week course that helps you rethink the way we serve others in our community. It teaches you to see problems differently and respond in a way that empowers those you serve rather than just meeting their immediate needs. 


Why Don’t We Love the Poor?

December 2, 2011

I was raised in the United States and have always been surrounded by love, a caring family and a Christian faith-filled community.  I had a good education.  Out of college, I found a good job.

My earliest career goal was to accumulate enough wealth so I could live a life of comfort and convenience.  As I started to achieve success, I started to selfishly see myself with more value than those who had less.

Does someone with wealth have more value than someone who was raised poor?

There are those who are born into families with more and those who are born into families with less.

The common theme in all our lives – despite how we were raised – is that we all have broken God’s heart. Better said, we have all hurt someone, and we have all been hurt by someone else.  The pain is real.  It transcends the rich and the poor – everyone has experienced sadness, anger, shame and remorse.

Part of the reason we hurt each other is the lack of understanding of the great value we each have.

In Genesis 1:26-27, we are shown that God created man and woman in His image – God’s image!  What?

God is so amazingly creative! There never has been and there will never be another you __________ (fill in your name).

How can God make billions of people in the past and billions of people in the future and still not copy me?  OK, I am starting to see that maybe I am … unique. OK, if I am this one-of-a-kind person and made in God’s image … maybe I am special.  Yes, I guess I am more valuable than I thought!  So what does that have to do with the poor?  Everything!

Yes, the truth is that you and I are very special, very unique, and have great, great value.  But what about people who are criminals – they have less value because of their crimes, right?

I mean, if I do good for others, God notices those good acts … and thus God deems me to be more valuable because I did good works. Surely I’m more valuable than a felon.  Actually, that is a big lie.

Society will teach us that the haves are more valuable than the have-nots, the good are more valuable than the bad, and the rich are more valuable than the poor.  All lies!  The Truth is that God created all men and women equal … with great amazing value … no matter how little money you have.  Your value (dignity) and my value (dignity) do not change in God’s eyes.  He still desires us to love Him and love our neighbor as ourselves.

The truth is that we all have hurt one another, because we do not see the amazing value God sees in each of us.  We tend to focus on our own needs and lose focus on the wonderful, valuable people around us.  That includes the beautiful poor.  In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says, “Whatever you did for the least of my brothers or sisters, you did for me.”

Lean in and listen well to the poor – someone with great and amazing value is in your presence!

Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-week course that helps you rethink the way we serve others in our community. It teaches you to see problems differently and respond in a way that empower those you serve rather than just meeting their immediate needs.