I Am Crushed 5

Romans 13:1-2

“Rules are meant to be broken.”

“It’s only wrong if you get caught.”

We’ve all likely heard these statements before in our lives and it is possible we have even agreed with them to some extent. But Paul’s comments in his letter to the Roman church go against these sentiments. What are we to do as members of our society? Why? What is said of those who do not obey the rules of society?

Sometimes we may find the many rules of our culture, the laws within our communities and within our nation, to be a bit inconvenient. But if we believe that God is Lord of all and ruler of all things then it makes sense that the cultures and societies that have emerged are under the control of God.

If God has had a hand in creating our culture then God has been a guiding influence on the laws which have been enacted. With this logic what Paul has written must be true. God has established the authorities which govern our society. And if God has established them, then going against these rules and disobeying the law means we are disobeying God.

In the past few years I have been invited in to our local schools as a pastor to offer counseling and comfort following the deaths of at least five teen-agers. (It may be more. Honestly, I have lost count.) These deaths were the result of drug abuse, drunk driving and reckless driving. In these times of counseling I have been told by many, many others that most people knew the drinking and drug use was taking place. Most people were familiar with the reckless way the teens would drive. But no one said or did anything to stop it.

The prevalent thinking has always been that this is just the way things are. Some have said that it isn’t that wrong because lots of people are doing it.

It may in fact be the way things are and there may be a lot of people who are involved in this, but it is still wrong. It is still sinful and harmful behavior. These are destructive decisions being made repeatedly.

As Christians and followers of Jesus Christ it is our responsibility to work to stop these wrong behaviors and poor decisions. We will meet with resistance and scorn, but we will be doing what is right and holy, and ultimately what is beneficial to our society.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you help others obey the laws God has established?

I Am Crushed 4

Amos 5:14-15

It has been said that Sunday mornings are the most segregated time in our nation. The observation is that people of different races and cultures gather with others of the same race and culture to worship, rather than joining with others.

But I believe it is also true that when we gather in our places of worship we are segregating ourselves from the rest of society. The Christians huddle together within the walls of the church while the rest of society struggles along with the problems of life.

As part of the ceremony to join the United Methodist Church members are asked to respond to the question – “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” The expected answer is “yes.”

But do we? Do we sit in our church and pray and worship and find contentment in our relationship with Jesus Christ, and then fail to go outside the walls of our church and resist evil and oppression in its various forms?

When we think of evil we may have an image of a horned demon or Satan himself. When we hear the word “oppression” we may think of slavery. But evil and oppression take many forms in our society. It is a form of evil and a form of oppression to allow young people in our society to make destructive decisions over and over again. It is a form of oppression to turn a blind eye to the harmful and errant behavior of those who are taking drugs, drinking too much and driving recklessly.

The prophet Amos tells us what we are to do. What should we do? What will be the result?

We must be like Paul and recognize the evil and oppression that is being perpetuated in a society that is content with the way things have always been. We must seek good and hate evil, and in so doing call for changes that will disrupt society, but also leads it into a healthier, holier and more just way of existing. When we are willing to rock the boat for the purpose of bringing good to a suffering world then the Lord will be with us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Can you identify the evil and oppression going on in your society right now?

I Am Crushed 3

Jeremiah 8:20-21

Quit rocking the boat! We may have heard that a time or two in our lives. Who wants to be the one who rocks the boat? Who wants to be the one who disrupts the normal flow of life? Such an attitude and actions are usually met with resistance. Things don’t need to change; they are fine the way they are.

But are they?

Why is it our responsibility to be one who rocks the boat? Why should we push for change? The prophet Jeremiah speaks for the people of his culture. What situation are they in? Why is the prophet crushed?

Verse 20 talks about he way of life. Life has progressed as it usually does. The seasons move along – harvest is past and the summer is over. But nothing has changed. Life goes on as it has been. And the bad part of all this is that no one is saved. No one has had their lives improved.

And the prophet knows that he is part of this whole culture. As long as one person is suffering, then the prophet must suffer too. Others are crushed – crushed under the hopeless despair of the way things are, crushed under the pains of wrong decisions. And if others are crushed, then the prophet is crushed.

What about us? Is life in our society perfect? Are things moving along well for everyone, or are there people who are caught up in the pain and suffering of bad decisions?

If others are suffering in life, if society is not perfect, then life is not perfect for us either. We are crushed because others are crushed under the sorrows of life. Now we must be the ones who rock the boat, who speak out against the wrong decisions being made around us.

In our local culture we have seen the deaths and injuries of teen-agers, deaths and injuries that are caused by alcohol, drugs and reckless driving. We can tell ourselves that we are okay. It wasn’t our family member who was killed or hospitalized.

But the truth is that we are crushed because others are crushed. We must feel pain because others have been hurt. And now it is time for all of us who will call ourselves Christians and believers to speak out against the wrong decisions being made around us. It is time for the children of God to rock the boat and take actions that will stop the destructive decisions that have been accepted as part of life for far too long.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Are you ready to rock the boat and call for change?

I Am Crushed 2

Acts 16:19-24

It has been said that one of the riskiest things you can do is try to save someone from drowning. The person drowning, apparently, is so intent on trying to save themselves that attempts at rescue will be met with violence. It can be disheartening to think that your good motives can be met with such conflict, such aggression. But oftentimes when we move to help another we can encounter fierce resistance.

After Paul healed the slave girl what did the girl’s owners do? Who joined in on the attack? What happened to Paul and Silas?

The old saying “No good deed goes unpunished” fits in this story. Paul has done the right thing. He has confronted a situation and exposed the truth. The girl was a slave and was trapped in that slavery because she was possessed by a spirit.

Driving out the spirit was an act of kindness. It was an act of love on Paul’s part. He intended to make life better. But as a result the owners saw that their lives were going to change.

They could no longer make money off the slave girl’s spiritual possession. Life had been going smoothly for them. The suffering the girl experienced was just accepted as part of the way things were. Now they were angry at Paul and Silas for changing things, even if it was for the better.

We may be aware of struggles others are experiencing. We may be aware of destructive decisions being made by people we know. We may see that the behavior of certain people, although part of the normalcy of life, is really unacceptable behavior that needs to change.

If we will do what is right we may encounter stiff resistance. We may make others angry because we are working to change the status quo. But if we will be the Christians we are called to be there will come a time when we must speak out and work to stop the destructive behavior of others so that they may be set free and brought into a healthier life.

You are encouraged to read the rest of the story – Acts 16:25-34.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What are the risks you face in speaking the truth? What will help you face these challenges without fear?

I Am Crushed 1

Acts 16:16-18

Truth is an elusive thing. We may often think that we want to know the truth. Other times we may not want to face the truth.

In Acts 16 we have a story of truth involving Paul and Silas in Philippi. They have been traveling with Timothy, preaching and teaching and converting believers to this emerging faith in Christ. Who do they encounter? What does she do? How did Paul feel? What did he do?

The slave girl in Philippi following Paul and Silas around as they are going about ministry is possessed by a spirit – whether good or bad, we can’t be exactly sure. But the spirit has allowed her to predict the future, to tell fortunes. Through her affliction of being possessed by a spirit her owners have gained considerable money.

This all may seem well and good from the outside, but we have no way of knowing how the slave girl felt. One thing we do know is that she is a slave and her spirit possession is keeping her enslaved. She is too valuable to be freed from the possession.

Some may have thought that they should ignore the girl, but we know that she was speaking the truth. She knew that Paul and Silas were serving God and showing the way to salvation. But apparently not everyone wanted to hear the truth.

Paul, recognizing that this girl was enslaved by the spirit that possessed her, recognizing that as long as she was possessed she would remain a slave, is troubled in his heart. He knows the truth. She is possessed and he must act. And so Paul drives the spirit from the girl, releasing her from the possession.

We may know someone, perhaps even ourselves, who is living a life of slavery. That person may be a slave to drugs, alcohol, abusive behavior or trapped in accepted social traditions. But that person needs to be set free from that enslavement.

Regardless of the fact that this person may be functioning within this slavery, regardless of the fact that life seems to be going along smoothly in spite of this enslavement, we must act to put an end to it. We must do our part to speak the truth, to work against the damaging behavior, and set the person free from a destructive life.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Do you know of anyone trapped in a destructive way of living? What can you say to stop it?