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Choose LIFO

October 15, 2018

But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:31

I took a course in law school called Accounting for Lawyers, which introduced me to the FILO and LIFO methods of accounting for business inventory.   FILO stands for First In, Last Out.  LIFO is an abbreviation for Last In, First Out.  These abbreviations occurred to me when Jesus said “But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:31).  In deciding who will be chosen for eternal life, Jesus said that those using LIFO will be given priority.  He said that those who are the least among us—those lacking in wealth, influence, and power on earth will be the first in line for the kingdom of God. They will be the first stringers–not the bench warmers, when it really counts.  LIFO—last in, first out.  And vice versa—those who have put money, power, and prestige first during their lifetimes will be the left on the bench.

The Scripture texts for Sunday address the issue of wealth accumulation.  Solomon writes, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income . . .  As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?”(Ecclesiastes 5: 10-11).  Note  that Soloman says “Whoever loves money . . .”   He does not say that the accumulation of wealth is a bad thing—but that the love of money is bad.  Instead of hoarding money and possessions, many wealthy and powerful people use their money and influence to help those in need, and to benefit many laudable causes.

This is the same point that Jesus is making when he tells the disciples, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10: 25). As we discussed last week in the case of the rich young man, riches per se are not a barrier to eternal life, but the love of money is an obstacle to a real relationship with God now and after the curtain has closed on our time on earth.

Both Solomon and Jesus emphasized how difficult it is for the wealthy to receive eternal life, because wealth is often a distraction from important kingdom work.  Scripture tells us that when a person is more excited about accumulating items than helping her fellow man, that is definitely a problem. Remember, it was Solomon who said three thousand years ago: “As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?” (Eccelesiastes 5: 10-11).

Accounting is not just for lawyers and business people.  The author of Hebrews reminds us that we cannot hide our true motivations from God, and that we will all be held to account for our thoughts, attitudes and actions or lack thereof.  No amount of church-going or pious public praying will mask your true feelings from God: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4: 13).

We will all be held to account. Which method will you choose—life affirming LIFO—or FILO—first in, last out?  Do you want to be among the first drafts or sitting on the bench waiting to see if you will be chosen?  If your wealth has been a barrier to an on-going relationship with the living God, you can turn that around.

But how do you choose LIFO if you have become distracted by acquiring material things and spending money on expensive nonessentials?  For one, you don’t let yourself get sucked into shopping for shopping’s sake.  There are better ways to spend your time and money.  Don’t get sucked into a mentality that you will never have enough designer clothes or money.  Don’t get lulled into thinking that more possessions will make you happier.  Don’t let your closet or possessions create a barrier between you and God.  Look around and find out where the need is and concentrate your efforts there.  You won’t have to go far.  LIFO lives by the motto of God first, then family, then others.  Even if you have enormous wealth, if you humble yourself before God, and treat others as you would like to be treated, then you are well on your way to choosing LIFO.

Give generously of your wealth, your time, your talents, and other resources to those in need around you in your home, community, and in the world at large.  Spend less time thinking about and listing your wants and desires and spend more time in the Word and in thinking about how you can help others.  Spend time with those who inspire and elevate your thoughts beyond your selfish wants.  Choose an eternity of love with the God of the universe over the accumulation of material goods.  You can’t take your possessions with you—they will only drag you down and away from the God who loves you more than any human ever could.  Choose LIFO.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

 

The Today Show

October 8, 2018

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”  Hebrews 3: 13.

 Many of us watch a morning news program on television while exercising, getting dressed, or eating breakfast.  We do many things every day, or almost every day—eat, sleep, exercise, watch, listen to, or read the news, go to work, make phone calls, send and receive text messages and emails.  We realize the importance of routine.  We know that routine helps cement good habits.  This week’s epistle text suggests that we are in need of daily inspiration and encouragement to avoid the subtle snare of sin: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3: 13).[1]

Sin creeps into our lives like Robert Frost’s description of fog: it comes in on little cat feet. We hardly notice its subtle creep into our daily routine.  Sin starts out small and grows slowly and quietly.  Its tentacles attach themselves to us and grow like a vine up a wall.  Sin distorts our judgment, and we rationalize its existence in our lives—which is why the author of Hebrews counsels us to deal with it daily.   How?  Through prayer, study of the Word, reading inspirational books, fellowship with other believers, and practicing some of the traditional spiritual disciples, such as occasional fasting.  One of the most effective habits that you can develop to stave off the ravages of sin is by taking a few minutes a day to delve into the Word.

There are many terrific daily devotional materials.  Many denominations publish and distribute their own daily devotionals. Two of my favorites are “Tabletalk,” a monthly publication of daily devotions published by Ligonier Ministries and Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young. Both contain Scripture verses and a short devotional on the Scripture text.

In the 1950’s, Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, observed that it takes a period of time to adjust to changes in our routine and to adopt new behaviors.  He postulated that it takes a minimum of 21 days to form a new habit.  I challenge you to begin a new habit todayof dedicating a few quiet moments of your day to a daily devotion.  If you don’t have a daily devotional in your home library, get one at a bookstore, or order one on-line.  If you stick to it for at least 30 days, you will be well on your way to forming a habit that will bring you closer to God and help you throughout each and every day of your life.

When you form the habit of getting into the Word on a daily basis, the text stays with you throughout the day, and helps you get through the challenges of your day. The prophet Amos wrote: “See good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you” (Amos 5-14).  When you turn to the Word daily, you will understand the psalmist’s words: “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90: 14).

The wealthy young man who came to Jesus to ask him what he could do to get eternal life would have benefitted from a daily devotional time with God.  In his ignorance, arrogance, or pride, he announced that he had kept all of the commandments since he was a boy—or at least his superficial understanding of them.  But Jesus saw immediately that his love of money was the primary barrier to his love of God, and called him on it: “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said.  ‘Go sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven’ “(Mark 10: 21).  In condemning the young man as money-obsessed, we often overlook the beginning of the sentence: “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”  Jesus did not condemn him—he was simply pointing out to the young man that his love of money had come between him and God.  God wants the best for us. He wanted the best for that young man.  Money itself is not bad—but the love of money– to the exclusion of God–is bad.

There are many obstacles to a relationship with God besides love of money.  What is keeping you from working on your relationship with the God of the universe?  Are you a procrastinator, constantly putting off what should done today to tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes?  Are you obsessed with your work, hobbies, or other activities?  Are you too overcome by guilt to work on your relationship with God?  Is working on your relationship with God at the bottom of your To Do List instead of number one on your list?

Start your own Today Show—consisting of getting into the Word every day when you have a few quiet moments.  It will be a program that will contribute greatly to your well-being and to your relationship with the God of the universe who looks at you every day and loves you.

Get to know the God who loves you more than any human being ever could.  How can you turn down an opportunity like that?

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1]The Scripture texts for next Sunday are Amos 5: 6-7, 10-15; Psalm 90: 12-17; Hebrews 3: 12-19;

The Buck Stops Here

September 29, 2018

“’Teacher, said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he is not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us’” (Mark 9: 38-50).

“The buck stops here” is a phrase attributed to Harry Truman to indicate that there are some jobs that cannot or should not be passed on to others.  The buck stops at the desk of the Chief Operating Officer (CEO) of a company.  There are some jobs that a CEO must do herself, but many tasks can be delegated to others.

In Sunday’s text[1]Moses complained to God, the Chairman of the Board (consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), that he had too much responsibility—caring for all those people he brought out of Egypt—how was he supposed to do everything anyway? “Moses said to God, ‘Why are you treating me this way? I can’t do this by myself—it’s too much, all these people . . . I’ve seen enough; I’ve had enough’” (Excerpts Numbers 11: 11-15, The Message).  Moses was ready to throw in the towel until God taught him how to be an effective CEO.

God explained to Moses that one of his non-delegable duties as a CEO was to build a strong management team consisting of seasoned leaders and to delegate some of his authority to each: “The Lord said to Moses: ‘Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people’ . . . Then the Lord came down in a cloud and spoke with him [Moses], and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders” (Numbers 11:16; 25).  He taught Moses that he doesn’t have to do everything—that he can share the power of the Spirit with others.

Joshua, Moses’ long-time assistant, jealously observed two of the seventy “prophesying in the camp” . . . and asked Moses to stop them. “But Moses said, ‘Are you jealous for me? Would that all God’s people were prophets.  Would that God put his Spirit on all of them’” (Numbers 11: 28-29).  Moses was a quick study.  As soon as God showed him how to share the burden with others, he realized the wisdom of it.

It was a lesson that Jesus would have to teach his disciples.  John reported to Jesus “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he is not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us’” (Mark 9: 38-50).  Both Joshua and the disciples were jealous of the authority they had working under the CEO, and they didn’t want to share it.  Like a  good CEO chiding his managers, Jesus pointed out that they aren’t in competition—anyone who spreads the Word in the name of Jesus is on the same team!

Pastors of all denominations and lay spreaders of the Word are not in competition for the hearts and minds of people.  We are all in this together.  We all want the same thing—to tell others the good news that Jesus died and rose for your sins and mine.  We all work for God—the Chairman of the Board.  We are all workers in his vineyard.

James issued a warning to oppressive CEOs: “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you.  Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.  Your gold and silver are corroded . . . Look!  The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you”  (James 5: 1-3, 5). It is a CEO’s responsibility to pay workers a fair wage so that they can take care of themselves and their families.  Rich and poor alike are dependent upon God for sustenance and for the very air they breathe.  The psalmist warned arrogant people who think that they don’t need God: “When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust” (Psalm 104:29).

One day each of us will return to dust—so get over yourself and get God.

Whether you are a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the CEO or Co-CEO in your family of one or two, a pastor, or a mother making up a chores chart for the members of your family, you need to learn to delegate and to accept the work of others who are working toward the same goal.  You should never overlook the needs and contributions of people who are a bit different.  Seek out others who can lighten your burden.  You can’t do everything yourself.  It’s true that the buck stops with the CEO, but God wants all hands on deck.  Everyone is invited to share in the task of spreading the Word that Jesus Christ is Lord.  We all have different talents and abilities and are not all called to the same task, but a wise CEO observes the special abilities of his people and delegates accordingly.

Go and do likewise. And may the Spirit go with you.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1]The Scripture texts for Sunday, September 30, 2018, are Numbers 11: 4-6, 10-16, 24-29; Psalm 104: 27-35; James 5: 1-20; Mark 9: 38-50.

We Are Family

September 23, 2018

The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ . . . Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he has taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man (Genesis 2: 18, 22).

I come from a large family.  My mother was one of nine children who lived to adulthood, and my father was one of six who lived to adulthood—many of whom had large families.  In doing some genealogy research, our son, Peter happened upon a genealogical wizard in my mother’s extended family.  He had painstakingly researched our family, obtaining birth certificates, marriage certificates, baptism records, and a host of other records, which he translated from their original Russian and Polish.  In the process, he traced our family tree back many generations to eighteenth century Eastern Europe, and discovered a number of relatives we did not know existed.

Family is important. If we didn’t know that already, the Scripture texts for next Sunday remind us of that fact.[1]  All of the texts refer to the creation—when God created the family who would become Jesus’ ancestors when he walked the earth.  In Genesis we read “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.’ . . . Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he has taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man (Genesis 2: 18, 22).

The family was created by God, and a good family life is a blessing.  Faith helps us overcome the inevitable challeges that arise in every family.  The psalmist tells us that living a godly life increases the likelihood of family harmony: “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord” (Psalm 128: 3-4).  Because to err is to be human, no family is perfect.  But having God to rely on helps family members through tough times, and adds depth to our joy as well.

Mark’s gospel recounts a discussion Jesus had with the Pharisees regarding the genesis of the family: “Jesus replied. ‘But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will be come one flesh.  So they are no longer two, but one flesh’” (Mark 10: 6-8).  In the context of all of the Scripture texts for Sunday, the gospel message comes across loud and clear:  God created and blessed the family unit.  He allowed his son to be born in a human family. When you join the family of God, you are joining a world-wide family of believers.  You will never be alone.  When you come face to face with your ancestors in heaven, you will meet many who lived and died before records were kept by Ancestry.com.   You will be surrounded by and bask in the love of your own family and in the love of others in the faith.

The author of Hebrews reminds his readers of the creation: “What is man and woman that you bother with them; why take a second look their way? You made them not quite as high as angels, bright with Eden’s dawn light; then you put them in charge of your entire handcrafted world” (Hebrews 2: 6-8a, The Message).

And yet, Jesus came to join our human family, which was made “not quite as high as angels.”  Jesus, part of the Trinity, lowered himself to become a man—less than an angel.  The text goes on to confirm that because Jesus shares a common human bloodline with us, “Jesus doesn’t hesitate to treat them [us] as family, saying, ‘I’ll tell my good friends, my brothers and sisters, all I know about you . . . Again he puts himself in the same family circle . . . “(Hebrews 2: 11-13, The Message).  When you join the family of God, the Father is your father, and Jesus is your brother.  You are included in a very special family circle.

The Scripture texts bring together God’s creation and his blessing of the individual family unit. God’s love of the human race is evident by the fact that he allowed Jesus to become one of us.  Jesus joined the human family.  It is wonderful to be blessed by sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, children and grandchildren.  But remember that you are also part of the family of God.  Jesus is not only the second person of the Godhead, but he is also walked in your shoes as a human being.  Family members sacrifice their time, money, and other resources to nurture and to help each other.  Jesus sacrificed his life for his family—for you and for me.

Jesus is family.  Call him.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1]The Scripture texts for next Sunday are Genesis 2: 18-25; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2: 1-18; Mark 10: 2-16.

The Plot Thickens

September 17, 2018

“Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth. Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life—men without regard for God.”  Psalm 54: 2-3.

All of the themes in great literature are found in the Bible—love, lust, betrayal, jealousy, greed, pride, murder, etc.  These themes are present in mysteries as well.  I have been an aficionado of mysteries my whole life.  I started devouring Nancy Drew mysteries in third grade and graduated to Sherlock Holmes in middle school.  Later, I broadened my mystery reading to G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown and other mystery writers.

In this week’s Scripture texts[1]the plot thickens for three Biblical heroes—including Jesus, the divine Superhero.  Even though murder plots are revealed against our three heroes, we know that they all ultimately prevail.

King Saul led the way in the plot to kill David, but others joined in the hunt for his blood: “Save me, O God, by your name; vindicate me by your might.  Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.  Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life—men without regard for God.  Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. Let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them” (Psalm 54: 1-5).  Through the grace of God, David was spared from death at the hands of these murderous thugs and he continued to turn to God for help and protection throughout his life.

Jeremiah preached under Judah’s last five kings.  The nation was on a descent to destruction, which ended in its capture by Babylon in 586 B.C.   Jeremiah’s warnings and pleas to the people to return to God fell on deaf ears.  The Lord told Jeremiah that some people from his hometown had hatched a plot to kill him because of his preaching.  Their motivations to kill him included greed (his preaching hurt the idol-makers’ businesses); politics; religion; and hatred for showing them that they were wrong.  Jeremiah turns to God and pleads with him: “But you, Lord Almighty, who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I have committed my cause”(Jeremiah 11: 20).  God rescued him and Jeremiah lived.  Even though other murderous schemes and persecutions followed,  Jeremiah was faithful to the end. He is a great example of courage in the face of injustice and opposition.

In this week’s Gospel text, Mark records that Jesus told his disciples of the plot to kill him for the second time: “He said to them, ’The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.  But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it”  (Mark 9: 31-32).  Maybe they didn’t pose any follow-up questions because Jesus scolded them the first time he told them.  More likely, they didn’t ask questions because they were too caught up in their own selfish ambitions to begin to comprehend what he was saying: “’What were you arguing about on the road?’  But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.  Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last and the servant of all’” (Mark 9: 33-35).  Clearly, they still did not understand the sacrifices ahead.  And while Jesus continues to try to get through to them, they argued about who should be Vice-President and Secretary of State when Jesus comes to power.

James warns against such selfish ambition: “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such ‘wisdom’ does not come from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice.  But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:14-17). Remember Jesus’ instruction to be a servant to those who cross your path.

As plots thicken in your life—when temptations, ambitions, jealousies, and betrayals swirl around you–follow David’s, Jeremiah’s, and Jesus’ examples.  Turn to God and  confess your sins.  Look to him for comfort, refuge, and protection against those who are threatening to harm you.  Look to the one who can protect you from life’s vicissitudes.  Fall into Jesus’ arms when you are being pursued. Whatever happens, he will be with you.  He is your fortress and rock.  And a mighty fortress he is.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1]The Scripture texts for next Sunday are Jeremiah 11: 18-20; Psalm 54; James 3:13-4: 10; Mark 9: 30-37.

Help My Unbelief

September 10, 2018

’Everything is possible for him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9: 23-24).

Frances (“Fanny”) Crosby, was perhaps the most prolific American hymn writer.  She was blind her entire life.  She was inspired to write Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior after speaking at a Manhattan prison in 1868 where she heard some prisoners plead for the Lord not to pass them by.  The fragments of the lyrics from the hymn that generally come to my mind in the middle of the night are: “Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry . . . help my unbelief. . . Do not pass me by . . .”

I thought of this hymn as I meditated on the Scripture texts for next Sunday.[1]  The texts emphasize that we must rely on God throughout our entire lives. After we receive the gift of faith, we’re not done.  The necessity to rely on God every day is a theme throughout Scripture and throughout Sunday’s texts.

When Jesus and his disciples encounter a man whose son is possessed, the disciples are not able to heal him.  The father appealed to Jesus, who told him “’Everything is possible for him who believes.’  Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mark 9: 23-24).  The father instinctively understood that even though he believed, there was a residue of unbelief in his soul that he needed Jesus’ help in overcoming.  We need to rely constantly on the Savior to overcome any amount of unbelief that undermines our faith and daily reliance on God.  This was a lesson that the disciples had not yet learned.

After Jesus healed the boy, the disciples privately asked Jesus “’Why couldn’t we drive it [the demon] out?’ He replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer’” (Mark 9: 28-29).  He was telling them two things: first, this was a difficult case, and second, that complete reliance and dependence on God through prayer is the key that opens the door for miracles to occur in our lives.

James echoes this theme in his discourse on taming the tongue when he writes “No man can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Every day we must rely completely on God to move us closer to him in the faith.  Only with God’s help can we begin to exercise control over our gossipy, unkind, and angry words.

Isaiah confirms the necessity of turning to God daily for sustenance and help: “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.  He wakens me morning by morning . . . The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears, I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away.  Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced” (Excerpts, Isaiah 50: 4-7).

Finally, the psalmist sings that we must turn to God throughout our lives: “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.  Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live . . . The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.  The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me” (Psalm 116: 1-2; 5-6).

Ask Jesus to help your unbelief.  If you look to God daily, he will not ignore you.  Jesus does not pass by those who turn to him in prayer on a consistent basis. Ask him to help you with doubts, fears, stubbornness pride, anger, and anything else that separates you from God   Turn to him daily to help your unbelief. When you do, you will grow in faith and reliance on God.  He will not pass you by.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1]The Scripture texts for next Sunday are: Isaiah 50: 4-10; Psalm 116: 1-9; James 3: 1-12; Mark 9: 14-29.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

September 2, 2018

“. . . have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”  James 2:4

I thought of Aretha Franklin, who recently passed away, and her rendition of R-E-S-P-E-C-T, a song written by Otis Redding, when I read this week’s Scripture lessons.[1]  Everyone wants to be respected—the young, the old, the middle-aged, the in-between, people of different genders, ethnicities, religions, skin colors, etc. James tells us that respecting others comes down to the following “royal” law (aka the Golden Rule): “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.  But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers’” (James 2: 8-9).

Because human beings inhabit the earth, discrimination has always been present.  The Bible, while railing against discrimination in both the Old and the New Testaments, documents many instances of discrimination from the beginning of time through the years after Jesus’ death.  The fledgling church that arose after the resurrection was not exempt from allegations of discrimination.  Luke recounts that the Greek-speaking believers complained that their widows were being discriminated against in the distribution of food by Hebrew-speaking believers (Acts 6:1).  Jewish believers assumed that Jesus was their Messiah only—that Gentiles were not included in God’s plan of salvation (Romans 1:16; Acts 14: 27; Acts 15:5).

Discrimination was rampant in the first century, and still rears its ugly head today. William Wilberforce was instrumental in the nineteenth century in the movement to stop the slave trade because of the Christian mandate to treat all people equally.  In the twentieth century, many predominately Christians nations formed an alliance to band together to stop Hitler, but not before he killed six million Jews.  Just over 25 years ago Serbia tried to “ethnically cleanse” the Bosnian territory by removing and killing Bosnian Muslims.

As Christians, we are required to treat others as we want to be treated.  During Jesus’ ministry many Jews rejected the inclusion of Gentiles in Jesus’ ministry—yet Mark recalls an incident when Jesus healed a Gentile woman’s daughter (Mark 7: 24-29).  James emphasized that showing favoritism to some people over others is forbidden: “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.  Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes . . . have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2: 1-4).

God views all people as equals.  Here are a few examples from Scripture teaching us to treat everyone equally: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image’ . . . So God created male and female he created them”(Excerpts from Genesis 1: 26-27); “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the almighty and awesome God, who is not partial. . .”(Deuteronomy 10:17); “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”(Galatians 3:28).

Because we live among sinful human beings, discrimination has not been eradicated over the last two thousand years.  To the victims of discrimination and to all with “fearful hearts,” Isaiah encourages us to “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, and he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you” (Isaiah 35:4).  There will be divine payback for injustices—whether it is meted out by an employer who sets things right, a governmental agency, a court, a nations, or by God’s ultimate judgment.

The psalmist reminds us to praise God under all circumstances.  Praising God takes us out of our current woes and helps us focus on God, our strength and our refuge: “He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.  The Lord sets prisoners free, . . . the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down . . . the Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow . . .” (Psalm 146: 7-9).

Just remember to give others a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T—to treat them as you want to be treated. If most people followed that simple rule, it would go a long way to overcoming prejudices.

Respect. Practice it.  Today.

Diane Cieslikowski  Reagan

 

 

[1]The Scripture texts for Sunday, September 9, 2018, are Isaiah 35: 4-7; Psalm 146; James 2: 1-10, 14-19; Mark 7: 24-37.