1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 (New International Version)
12May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
Paul and I, as I've mentioned here before, are reading a little book by a man named Watchman Nee. Watchman has been dead for thirty six years and he died in a jail in China, where he had been for the last twenty years of his life.
The book, called, Sit, Walk, Stand, compiled from the spoken ministry of Mr. Nee, is only 78 small pages long but every morning I read some of it out loud to Paul, and we find enough in a few paragraphs to give us food for thought for a whole day.
So this morning, as I drove north to Huntsville, over snow covered roads, tucked in behind a large red truck rumbling solidly along, I was pondering Watchman's words. I had to keep my mind on the road at the same time, and my eyes were always aware of my surroundings; noting every now and then the clouds of snow that spontaneously dislodged themselves from tops of trees that lined the highway. Like mini avalanches the snow clouds fell!
We had been challenged by a story Watchman told of a man in South China who had a rice field on a hill. The man had a system of irrigation that he used in times of drought to water his field, involving a water wheel, worked by a treadmill. Two fields below him, another farmer came in the night and made a breach in the dividing bank, draining off his water. The man repaired the breach but the breaching of the bank and draining off of the water was repeated three or four times.
Finally the man, who was a Christian, consulted his fellow believers. He told them that he had tried to be patient, "But," he asked, "Is it right?" Wisely, they didn't answer him straight away, but prayed. What a lesson there is in that alone! Then one of them said, "If we only try to do the right thing, surely we are very poor Christians. We have to do something more than what is right." The man with the water took this counsel to heart, and the next morning he pumped water for the two fields below and in the afternoon he watered his own field. From that time on the water stayed in his field, and the farmer below him was so amazed at his actions, that in time he was curious enough to ask questions, and he too, became a Christian. The point Watchman Nee made was not to stand on our rights, which goes against the human grain, and certainly involves a great deal of dying to self.
Is it what Jesus taught? I have to say, yes. Is it the way I live my life? I have a long way to go!
Tonight I read from the gospel of Mark, a conversation Jesus had with some Pharisees. They had a lot of "religion" of the man-made variety. I don't want to be like that; I want to know Jesus and follow his teachings, even when they are as hard as this. I don't know what would happen if people started radically applying Jesus's actual teachings, instead of what men have taught about his teachings. Perhaps we would end up in prison like Watchman Nee. A lot to think about on a long drive north.
Mark 7:6-7 (New International Version)
6 He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: " 'These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.'