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"Top Shelf Christianity" -
A handbook to becoming a Christian


"but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ,
the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." Jn.20:31







Chapter Seven
Letting Go…………................................................. by ric justiss

What if you had to put someone in charge of all your money and all your possessions.
Who would it be?  Your spouse?  Your mom?  No one?  What if you were unable to
raise your children, to whom would you want that responsibility to go?   State foster
parents?  What if you had to talk to someone about some sensitive matter or
something very private?  Who would it be?  Jerry Springer?

I'm sure that in every case your answer  would be based on the issue of trust.  You
would choose the one you trusted the most.  One of our greatest concerns is who can
I trust?  One of our greatest disappointments is to discover our trust has been
misplaced.  Most of us are well acquainted with that feeling.

Proverbs 3:5  Trust in the Lord with all your heart.

That is what is expected from us as Christians.  Jesus once gave a great lesson, he
called a little child to Him and said to those with Him,
"I tell you the truth, unless you
change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven."
Matt. 18:23
 We must become like children in the way they are willing to trust.  That is
what is required if we are to come to God.

We all have issues in life that concern us and will cause us to worry.  We have tough
decisions to make from time to time and we have to learn to take it all to God in prayer.  
We turn it all over to God, and he will lead us and provide for us.

I heard a preacher describe it, saying trusting God is like bunji jumping.  You can
watch bunji jumping on TV, you can go watch it in person, you can have friends who
are bunji jumpers, you can own stock in bunji cord manufacturing companies, you can
subscribe to "Bunji Jumping Digest" if there is such a thing, you can even stand on
the side of a bridge all wired up and ready to go, but you haven't trusted in the bunji
cord until you ... jump!   Trusting God is like bunji jumping ­ it means total commitment.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart ... and lean not on your own understanding."
Proverbs 3:5

As children bring their broken toys
With tears for us to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to God,
Because He was my friend.

But then, instead of leaving Him
In peace, to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help
In ways that were my own.

Finally I took them back and said,
"Dear God, why are you so slow?"
"My child," He said, "what could I do?
You never did let go."

Once my hands were always trying;
Trying hard to do my best;
Now my heart is sweetly trusting,
And my soul is all at rest.

Once my brain was always planning,
And my heart, with cares oppressed;
Now I trust the Lord to lead me,
And my life is all at rest.

Once my life was full of effort,
Now 'tis full of joy and zest;
Since I took His yoke upon me,
Jesus gives to me His rest.








Matthew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest
them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together,
even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

God uses figures of speech in His Word to mark and call attention to that which He
wants emphasized.  There are several records in God's Word where God is likened to a
mother hen who shelters her chicks from the heat of the sun and protects them under
the shadow of her wings.  These records emphasize trusting God.  Just as the young
chick runs for refuge under its mother's wing, we can find shelter from the troubles of
this world under the wings of God.  To trust God is to seek God for refuge and strength
in time of trouble rather than trying to withstand the heat of the world on our own.

Psalms 17:6-8 I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear
unto me, and hear my speech.  Shew thy marvellous loving kindness, O thou that
savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up
against them.  Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy
wings.

Psalm 63:7 Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will
I rejoice.

Psalms 36:7  How excellent is Thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of
men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings.

The Poor Widow

After engaging in a series of public arguments with religious leaders in the temple,
Jesus contrasts the proud and evil ways of those leaders with the sacrificial humility
and poverty of the widow.

Mark 12:38-44
As he taught, he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes,
and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces,  and to have the best seats in the
synagogues and places of honor at banquets!   They devour widows' houses and for
the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the
treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.

A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.

Then he called his disciples and said to them,
"Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put
in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.  For all of them have
contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything
she had, all she had to live on."

Preachers love this story for "Stewardship Sunday."  No doubt, giving all that one has
is a powerful stewardship message.   But this story holds so much more. It is in some
ways unsettling and disturbing and carries a bit of a sting. The widow gives her all.
Foreshadowing the self-giving of Jesus on the cross, she lets go of all that she has.

Someone once suggested that the most amazing part of the story is that Jesus was
watching this woman instead of the rich and wealthy, saying it's something about "it
takes one to know one." This self-giving withholds nothing from God. By pointing her
out, Jesus seems to be saying once again that gaining one's life comes in the letting
go instead of the grasping.

It's interesting to note that the widow does what the rich young ruler fails to do earlier
in Mark, which is to give everything she has. Everything. All. This is dangerous giving--
how will she live if she gives everything she has? She must trust in something other
than those two coins to sustain her life. There is a preoccupation in Mark's gospel with
this question of how will the disciples live if they give everything they have in order to
follow Jesus. The gospel consistently sounds the same note embodied by the widow:
Trust.

I have heard stories of how monkeys are captured in Southeast Asia. In some areas of
that part of the world (mostly in the rural villages),monkey meat is considered a viable
food source. An easy way to catch a monkey is to tie a jar or vase with a very narrow
neck out where there are monkeys. The mouth of the vessel is just wide enough for
the monkey to squeeze it's paw inside. Peanuts are placed in the container. The
monkey wants the nuts, so it reaches in, grabs a fistful of peanuts but cannot withdraw
its paw because of the fist it has made. What is obvious is that all the creature has to
do is let go of the fistful of peanuts and it can go free. But their stubbornness in
holding on to that fistful of peanuts results in a lot of monkeys winding up on the
dinner table. I wonder what we are holding on to so tightly in our lives? What do we
have clenched in our fists that we are unwilling to let go? The widow in the story had
no problem in letting go of all she had. By doing so she gained the wealth of eternal life.

It's all in the attitude. Showy or humble, a thankful response or a duty, reluctant or
cheerful, a letting-go or a holding-on.

The woman receives no reward for her sacrifice, not even a kind word from Jesus
himself. He speaks about her, not to her. She never knew her mite had made such an
impact on the hearts of the disciples, even if it had not made an impact on the Temple
treasury. Would she give her last penny again next time? Probably so, even though
there would again be no reward for it. She had the right attitude. Giving from the heart
is greater than giving from the wallet.

In the first scene of this scripture, Jesus admonishes and warns against religious
leaders who would make a show of how great they are. They seek to draw attention to
themselves by their dress, by the greetings they evoke, and by the places they take
not just in society but also in worship. Their ethics reek to high heaven (devouring
widows' houses is about as low as you can go) while they keep up appearances with
pious shows of long prayers. Not only does Jesus admonish those who behave this
way, but also he warns those who would look to leaders like these. The whole
community is put at risk by such leadership of appearances only. Communities where
leadership is focused on prestige and trappings will invariably fail in their duty to care
for the "little ones," to use a term from Mark's gospel referring to those who are
vulnerable.   Don't we all have just a little bit of Scribe in us?

The second scene connects to the first through the widow who brings a gift to the
temple treasury. By all appearances, she ought to go unnoticed. She tosses in two
copper coins while some of Jerusalem's finest make donations of notable size. Temple
operations would scarcely have been affected had she not come at all. Jesus draws
attention to that which others might easily have overlooked. He points to a leadership
of substance, of real action in contrast to empty ceremony.

Not only does Jesus point to leadership, but he also demonstrates it in his recognition
and acknowledgement of an event outside of the normal view of busy, important
leaders. What does it tell us about what Jesus sees as important that he even notices
this woman and her actions? The temple is a busy place and there's a lot going on.
There are many "important" events taking place. What does Jesus notice? What
"important" events do we give our attention to and in doing so, what do we miss?
What are the empty ceremonies and the contrasting real actions going on in our
communities of faith?

Like so many gospel stories, I want to know, what happened next.

What happened to this lady, after she had given everything she had to live on?

Did she die? Did God bless her with riches? Did she make it through another week?

She who becomes an example for us, as to how we are to live under the grace of God,
receives no other mention in the gospel.

And so often that is exactly the way of the righteous. Obscure, ordinary people live out
their life without the fanfare and facade of the publicly obvious, and yet it is the
ordinary persons contribution that is crucial.

How much attention do we really take of what is important, and ultimately necessary?

This is a very disturbing reading. What is going on in our society, that we no longer
notice or appreciate the un-spectacular,  that we are so intensely focused on those we
believe to be important to the future viability of our community, that we overlook the
small contributions that some people make.

I see this gospel as revealing so vividly how, distorted our view of life and each other
really are. I don't know that I have adequately stated the feeling I get from reading this
gospel in a contemplative manner.

Whom do we watch? Look at our tabloids, our magazines, our newspapers, and our
televisions. We are enamored with those who have and are getting more. Occasionally
we lift up those who give away their lives, but we keep this behavior at a distance so
as not to confound our daily living. We treat those who give of themselves (World
Trade Center firefighters, Mother Teresa) as heroic but not as normative models for
those who follow Jesus.

Jesus, was truly amazing the view he took to life. How many times do we miss the little
things occurring right beside us that are so spectacular?



Here's another illustration about turning loose of that which we most treasure:

An old man on the isle of Crete lay dying. He loved his homeland so much that he
couldn't bear to part with it, even in death. In his death throes he reached down and
grabbed a handful of the earth of Crete. When he arrived at the gates of Heaven, he
was holding that handful of dirt. St. Peter told him he was welcome to enter, but he'd
have to leave the dirt behind. He couldn't bring himself to do that, so he sat down just
outside the gate.

Many years later, the old man's wife died and she, too, showed up at the gate to
Heaven where she found her husband sitting there with a handful of dirt. St. Peter
explained to her what was going on. Together, they worked on the old man and finally
convinced him to turn loose of the handful of dirt from Crete.

Together, the old man and his wife walked through the gates of Heaven. Much to his
surprise, when he went through the gate, the old man found the entire island of Crete
made glorious, even more wonderful that it had been in his life or in his memory! And
he remembered the words of Christ:
"Everyone who has left houses or brothers or
sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name's sake, will receive a
hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life."  Matt. 19:29

Trust.

Prov. 30:5  Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in
Him.



____________________________________________________________________

Review:

Chapter 1 - Once we understand the grandeur of heaven, nothing will be more important to us
than being sure we have a home in heaven awaiting us at the end of this life.

Chapter 2 - If we want to go to heaven, we will have to change.  We have to change, or convert,
from living one way to living another way.

Chapter 3 - Once we do change, we will find out that we are much happier.

Chapter 4 - The Christian life is more than a set of rules that must be followed, but rather is a
process of  slowly  building and developing certain attitudes and character qualities which
prepare you and mold you into a person pleasing in the eyes of God.

Chapter 5 - Jesus had a way of expressing great truths simply.  Seek and ye shall find. An
enormous amount of truth is crammed into those few words.  Seeking and finding go together
according to Christ.  The implication is that we find what we seek, and nothing else

Chapter 6 - In our own personal lives, we need to learn the importance of telling the truth,
believing the truth, and living the truth.  If you want to be a Christian...if you want to be righteous
in the eyes of God, you cannot lie and deceive.

Chapter 7 - Unless we become as little children and put all of our trust in God, we will not inherit
eternal life.
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