Monday, October 4, 2010

Plagues that kill the church: (5) Using Noncalibrated Rulers

A ruler is a rectangular plank with scribbled marks on its side. It is made out of wood, steel or plastic that varies in usage depending on its user. Kids use it to make a straight line for their drawings. Strict mothers use it as a spanking rod to a naughty child who gets low grades in class. Innovative people sometimes use it as a bookmark or a d├ęcor on their tabletop. But a ruler serves one purpose the best. It gives us a standard measurement on length, width, height and depth. Unlike how some people measure time “after five mountains and two seas,” or “after five cigars,” a ruler can give us the same measurement of an inch or a meter wherever we are. It is objective, calculated and exact.

We have a ruler for people as well. We make markings on a wall when we were little kids. These were in feet and inches. The higher we reached, the more satisfied we were. When we got older, our standard of measurement was not measurable in metric system anymore (except probably for the waist line). Our grades and the honors we’ve achieved: valedictorian, salutatorian, cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude, honorable mentions; our tenure at work; our monthly income; our bank accounts; our level in the corporate ladder; our talents (i.e. in writing, in singing, in playing instruments, in business dealings). Again, the higher we achieve, the more satisfied we are… the greater acceptance we receive from the community.

In churches, most often than not, we also hold a number of rulers similar to the ones used in the world setting. We gauge a pastor’s strength in the number of his doctorate degrees. We insist to place this skilled girl in front of the pulpit or this genius guy to play the piano to show that we have an admirable praise and worship team. We invite those who are skilled in marketing for a marketing ministry, writing for a writing ministry. Of course we have a ruler to measure their skills. We have another ruler to check the amount of donations pooled up from the three services last Sunday (Was it more than the previous weeks?). Another ruler is used to count the number of churchgoers, of new faces, of “saved.” And among the saved we urge them to work in ministries, the more involved they are, the higher they are in the ruler.

The Bible has a different set of measurements for a Christian achiever. I remember Martha who was busily preparing her house for the Lord. She was working, something like organizing fellowships or events in the present day, with no one to help her, not even her sister Mary. While she was fixing the place, Mary was seated, enjoying her time with the Lord. She then complained, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" I can hear some of you (including myself) uttering the same thing under your breath. You tell God, “Lord, I’m so tired preparing this event for you. How come so and so doesn’t help me?” Here is the Lord’s answer (feel free to replace Martha with your own name), “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

Choose what is better. Choose to grow in Jesus Christ more than in skills, talents and money. The latter may get you a ticket to your most favorite place on earth, but they can’t guarantee you a trip to heaven. In God’s ruler, we all “fall short” of it. No matter how much we own and how good we are, we just cannot pass His heavenly standards. Only through the blood of a perfect being (one who is both God and man) given as a gift, can we pass God’s standards. Now that we have new life in Christ, we follow a different standard of measurement for growth.

He measures growth in character. Are you honest? Are you humble? How do you handle problems? Are you enduring and persevering? Or do you result to finger pointing? Do you draw strength from the Holy Spirit and not on our own power and might? Are you willing to put others up, above you? Are you willing to be chastened and disciplined? Are you willing to be transformed into Christ-likeness?

He measures growth in conviction. Is the way you conduct your life consistent with what you believe in? Are you growing in your knowledge of Christ through our personal devotion and fellowships? Are you obeying Him? Are you willing to follow God’s leading anywhere and anytime? Are you growing in faith when you experience the trials and sufferings God has willed for you?

He measures growth in love. Do you love your churchmates who fail to do their respective parts in the body of Christ? Are you more focused on what these people ought to do than what they’re going through? Are you patient with them? Or do you give them the deadly stare? Are you willing to journey with them through thick and thin? (Or are you the “thick” person who is willing to befriend those who are easy to be friends with?) Have you forgiven those who wronged you? Do you show your love to the orphans and the widowed?

Throw out your earthly rulers that are meaningless and perishable. Hold on to God's ruler. The one and only exact, objective and calculated tool given to you is the Scripture. Go and measure yourself up! Don't fret, if you find yourself (and even others) fall short, because while we're still here, sin is not yet completely destroyed. God's still in the process of completing the good work He has begun in you. We're all work in progress.

All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.
~ 1 Peter 1:24-25

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