Occupied By Little Games

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” -1 John 3:17 (NIV)

“The Night They Burned Shanghai” is a poem written in 1938 by Robert D. Abrahams. It describes an American Google+Photocouple in Philadelphia set amidst the backdrop of the Battle of Shanghai, one of the bloodiest battles of the Second Sino-Japanese War. As the beautiful Chinese city is under relentless assault at the hands of the Japanese military, the couple, far away from the unfolding carnage, are on their way to play cards at the house of a friend. As they drive, the couple talks about how next year they will consider the affairs of the world; how they will travel and “…fight for ancient liberties…” outside their relatively comfortable circle.

What is tragic about this poem is that the couple also plans to travel to Shanghai at some point. But with a hint of indifference in their voice they say “…they’re burning that tonight – And not tonight – we have a date tonight,” When the couple reach the house, their host laments about the mess the Far East has become, and while they nod in agreement, they become absorbed in their game of cards without giving Shanghai a second thought.

Too often, when we are blessed with all the pleasures and comforts man can ask for, we forget that we live in a world full of suffering. Though we may pay a token acknowledgement to those who are in the pit of despair, we rarely lift a finger to do anything about it. Our unwillingness to make a difference in this world may stem from the fact that we do not want to sacrifice the life of ease we have created, and disturb the routine we have grown accustomed to. But if we claim ourselves to be infused with the love of Christ, such indifference cannot co-exist within our souls at the same time. Christ is God Incarnate; the Lord of Heaven and Earth. Yet despite His position He dwelt among us in human form, with all the limitations that entails, so that He may save humanity from sin through His death on the cross. His love disregards the self; seeking only to bring restoration and healing to the lives of others. Do we have His love overflowing from our hearts? If we remain calloused to the world around us, not only have we failed to be obedient to the Spirit of Christ residing within us, but we will encounter a slow process of inward degradation. In the final two verses, the poem ends with a solemn warning:

“Tonight Shanghai is burning,
And we are dying too.
What bomb more surely mortal
Than death inside of you?
For some men die by shrapnel,
And some go down in flames,
But most men perish inch by inch,
In play at little games.”

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

It’s Harvest Time

“‘Do you not say, “Four months more and then the harvest”? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.’” -John 4:35 (NIV)

We seem to be experts in the field of procrastination. For almost every activity under the sun we would put it off if it meant enjoying the short Google+Phototerm pleasure of undisturbed idleness. Our excuses for our sloth vary. Amid claims of not being ready and that there is plenty of time to do what we must, we wait whilst we resolve to act when we feel that the time is right. But how often does that moment never come? Our laziness prevents us from acting decisively when it is required of us. By the time we realize the urgency of the task we have been called to carry out, it may perhaps be already too late, and we lament over missed opportunities and our own unwillingness to strike while the iron was hot.

In our own spiritual lives we often suffer from the same malady. How often do we make excuses before God; claiming that while we are willing to do what He says, we do not feel that it would be ideal at this time. But who are we to make such excuses? Do we see what He sees? Do we presume to know better than omnipotent God by our attitudes? In His flawless wisdom He knows exactly when we should act in accordance with His perfect will. When we have the Spirit of Christ residing within us, He will prompt us; telling us that the harvest is now. Yet if we refuse to listen to the Spirit’s promptings and live according to our excuses, we are essentially cheating ourselves out of the joys and blessings which come when we walk in obedience to Christ. When we allow Christ to open our eyes and step out in obedience to Him, our insecurities and apprehensions will fade away. We will be strengthened by the fact that He will provide us with all we need to reap His harvest in our lives and the world around us.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Being a Watchman

“At the end of seven days the word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.’” -Ezekiel 3:16-17 (NIV)

In most cases, the first image that comes to our mind when we think of a prophet is that of a lone messenger proclaiming the words of God. But Google+Photoit would seem that there is another dimension to the idea of being a prophet. God had appointed Ezekiel to be a, “watchman for the house of Israel.” What does it mean to carry out this role? Watchmen exist for the purpose of protecting the people. This involves seeing to the maintenance of a standard of behavior that would contribute to the welfare of the people while speaking up against violations of that standard. The function of watchmen therefore is an important one. Without him to hold the people accountable to the standard set in place, there would be chaos and injustice everywhere!

God has called us to be watchmen wherever we are. As His children we are to draw those within our circle of influence towards the righteousness and truth found in Christ. But can we do so by our own strength or will? Can the watchman properly uphold the principles of the law without obtaining an intimate understanding of it? Likewise unless Christ’s righteousness is being made manifest within our lives, our stand for His precepts will be weak and brittle. When we have allowed Christ to enter into our hearts and have given Him free reign to carry out His restorative work within us, only then will we understand what true righteousness is and seek to uphold that which Christ has given us. Being a watchman may place us at odds with those who oppose our stand for the instructions of Christ. However, when we lean on the power of Christ within us, He will enable us when our voices falter; boldly proclaiming His truth and seeking to bring others into a restored relationship with Him.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.