Every Day a Friday

Joel Osteen’s latest book is about being happy. Osteen cites a recent study that found that “happiness increases 10 percent on Fridays . . . I challenge you to let every day be a Friday.”

The book takes you through seven ways to increase happiness in your life so you can “choose happiness.”

Since the weekend is coming, people decide to be happier on Friday, why not make that choice daily?

I am not opposed to a Christian telling people to make every day a Friday, but there is irony in telling people to make every day a Friday because Fridays are so happy.

There’s this pivotal event that happened on a Friday according to Christian tradition. On a certain Friday, commonly referred to as “Good Friday,” the Son of God, a man of sorrow acquainted with grief, suffered and died for the sin of the world.

If Osteen told people to make every day a Friday just like the Friday Jesus had on Good Friday, I’d be all for this book. We should die daily, take up our cross, put to death the deeds of the flesh and be crucified with Christ. I’m all for that message.

Instead, Osteen takes the humanisticly pleasing message “celebrate yourself!” and choose to be happy. Imagine if Christ had read this book on Maundy Thursday? I can think of more happy ways to spend my Friday than dying on a cross for others’ sins.

Pharisees, Publicans, Prayer and You Part 3

We all know we are justified by our faith in the shed blood of Christ. Unfortunately, faith has come to mean less than was originally intended. Faith is not merely saying you believe something, faith is the act of doing what God says. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.

Faith is essentially a heart matter. An inner conviction that I need God for everything and this inner heart conviction is then spread throughout the body and all that the body does. Thus, James can say we are not justified by faith alone (even the demons believe) because true faith brings along works.

This weakened view of faith (that it is proved by my words and nothing else), has overspread Christianity. We base our assurance of salvation on remembering the day we “said the prayer.” I have launched on the sinner’s prayer in the past. Salvation has, no doubt, often begun with a prayer, but remembering that you prayed is not a biblical test of salvation.

The publican who said “God be merciful to me a sinner” went to his house justified. I preached a message on this once, throwing in Matthew 12:37 for good measure, “by thy words thou shalt be justified,” and Romans 10:9-10–those who believe in the heart and confess with their mouth are saved. And “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

What we say matters. Our justification is based on our words. I got in trouble with this message because our justification is by faith not by words we say! Ironic that those who found fault with this logic were the same folks who think a sinner’s prayer grants salvation.

Consistency is a real pain in the neck. God’s Word is consistent. Any evidence of inconsistency rests solely on our shoulders. Let us be careful with our applications of God’s consistent word.

Pharisees, Publicans, Prayer and You Part 2

Pharisee’s prayer is made up of self-congratulation, “Hey God. Look at all this cool stuff I do. I fast, I tithe, I don’t do sins like that heathen publican. Aint I grand?!”

The publican stands far off, not lifting his eyes to heaven, and begs for mercy as he sees his sin.

Not long before this prayer-parable is shared, Jesus talked about servants who did their job not getting praise, but rather just doing the job because that’s what the job is.

“when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

There is no praise for doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Servants who faithfully serve know this, they don’t look at doing what is required as something special.

Pharisees think everything they do is worthy of praise. Humble people don’t even see the good they’ve done, they see their sin and any good they may have done is merely out of service to God their Creator and Savior.

Matthew 25 seems a great commentary on this passage. Jesus tells them to feed, clothe and give drink to those who are hungry, thirsty and naked. The wicked say “Hey, totally, I know, when didn’t we do that for you?”

The righteous, upon being told that they did all these things, say, “What? When did we do that?”

Pharisees notice every little thing they do that hints at being good; humble, righteous believers don’t think they’ve ever done enough.

Our spiritual works, are they for the praise of God or for the praise of you? Your answer to this question, not just in word but in action, determines your eternal state.

Pharisees, Publican, Prayer and You

Jesus tells a parable about a Pharisee and a Publican praying in the temple.

The self-righteous, religious Pharisee thanks God he’s not like other men, especially not like that evil publican guy.

The publican doesn’t lift his eyes and he stands far off, humbly saying “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

We like to bash the Pharisee. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Don’t brag about your religious works. Don’t carry on about how you’re better than others. Don’t pray like a Pharisee.

We may not be as humble as the publican, but at least we aren’t like a Pharisee.

There is irony in this application.

How to Make Forgiveness Easy

Forgiveness is only possible if you don’t take yourself too seriously.

If you are all about you, life revolves around your wants, anyone who remotely slows you down in pursuing your ends will offend you. Forgiveness, unless it serves a utilitarian purpose, is a giant waste of time. Better to just stay mad, let the anger fuel you to show them a thing or two.

Forgiveness is next to impossible if everyone exists to hinder your progress. Only those who die to self, who lose their life in order to save it, who have died with Christ and been raised up to new life, can truly forgive.

Christ is the great example of forgiveness. If you don’t know Him and His love for you, His death for you, His humble service for you, there’s no way you can forgive, and probably no way for you to see a reason to forgive.

Christ shows us that we should go to any length, even death, to do all we can to provide forgiveness. Amazing how a teen with baggy shorts in Wal-Mart can rile us when Christ died for us to bring forgiveness.

How many times do we offend Christ per day with the same stupid sin? Yet He is willing to forgive over and over. Whereas I get mad when my kids take my calculator for the second time in a month.

Ah yes, die to self, put aside your fleshly desires, and forgiveness gets a whole lot easier.

Forgive as Christ Forgives

I think we are to forgive even if there is no rebuke and if there is no repentance, but there is a difference in what the forgiveness is. A person can forgive someone internally, move past the offense and not worry about it. But if there’s a break in the relationship over the offense, I believe that is where external forgiveness comes in.

I have forgiven many people in my life who never knew they offended me. I decided to just get over it, continue on with the relationship as is and it worked out fine. But there are other offenses that are serious, that truly I struggle getting over.

In these cases if I don’t deal with the issue it will create friction with that person and eventually lead to an outburst or destruction of the relationship. Rebuke, going to the person to explain what the offense was and how you were hurt by it, is in order.

The hope is that the offender repents and you can forgive, shake hands and continue the relationship. If the person does not repent, I think we still forgive, but there is no restoration of the relationship. We move on even if the other person decides they want to break the relationship. Internally we know we did all we could, it’s time to move on even though the relationship is over.

In the end, we are to forgive like Christ forgives. Christ does not forgive everyone, if He did then all would be saved and we know this is not true. Who does Christ forgive?

Christ rebukes everyone over sin–the God-breathed Word reproves all men, the Spirit is at work in the world convicting men of sin, the Gospel and the Cross are a giant rebuke of sin. But only those who repent are forgiven.

That is how Christ forgives. Without repentance there can be no forgiveness, we show that reality in our relationships. Divorce is largely a result of unrepentant offenders and an inability to forgive and move on. Divorce and marriage are constant analogies to the relationship God has with His people.

Forgiveness is tough, but in order to live in a world of fallen sinners it is necessary if you have any hope of being with other people.

Conditions on Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a tough deal. The biggest problems in life will, no doubt, consist of jerky things people did to you. We’ve been told that we are to “Forgive and forget.” But forgetting obnoxiously, jerky things is tough.

Jesus told people to forgive 70 x 7 times. Seems to me the idea is not just forgive each time a person does something to you, but perhaps also forgive every time you remember what they did to you.

Jesus has other things to say about forgiveness. Here’s a fascinating verse:

“Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him;
and if he repent, forgive him.”

Jesus puts conditions on our forgiveness. The first step in forgiveness is to rebuke. Rather than fume about the jerkiness, confront the jerk. Tell him what he did was wrong. Forgiveness will be pretty tough if you are truly bugged by someone and never talk to them about it.

But the rebuke is not “Hey dummy, that was mean, what are ya stupid or something?” The purpose of the rebuke is to lead to repentance and forgiveness. It’s not supposed to be a return of offense.

The next condition is that the person repents after being rebuked. “IF he repent, forgive him.” IF he says he’s sorry, even if he does the same thing to you seven times a day and repents, forgive him.

If a kid slaps you in the head, “Hey, that hurt, don’t do that.” “Oh, sorry.” Half hour later kid hits you in the head again, “Hey, that hurt, don’t do that.” “Oh, sorry.” Half hour later kid hits you in the head again. “Hey, that hurt, don’t do that.” It gets old! Seems to me if a guy repented truly he wouldn’t keep doing it!

So, if a person does not repent, do you have to forgive him? Can you forgive someone you didn’t rebuke?

The Church Man Esteems, Disgusts God

He said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”

The Pharisees’ entire religious system was built on what man esteems. Everything they did was done to receive glory, honor and praise from man. They got it, even the disciples thought the Pharisees were top rung guys.

But Jesus disrobed their false righteousness repeatedly and instead praised the faith of poor women who considered themselves dogs and unrighteous sinners who couldn’t raise their eyes to heaven.

Unfortunately, Pharisaism is alive and well in the church today. The vast majority participate because everyone expects them to, not because they have much desire on their own. Plain old religious activity done for God is lonely and unappreciated, therefore no one wants to join in.

This is not much fun, so churches, in an effort to attract people to that which they don’t really like, have to play to what man esteems to bring the people in.

I tread on dangerous ground here but honestly, does anyone think modern “worship services” are designed for the esteem of man or God? What about modern church buildings? Pastoral leadership based on fortune-500 CEO models? Pastoral celebrity-ism?

Painting with a broad brush implicates too many, there are obviously exceptions, you are, no doubt, one of them. As we all know, evil people are always the “others.”

Revelation begins with letters to seven churches; observe their faults:

–Ephesus left their first love
–Pergamos went after doctrine of Balaam (changing beliefs for money) and idolatry
–Thyatira was seduced into fornication and idolatry by Jezebel
–Sardis is dead spiritually but a reputation for being alive
–Laodicea is lukewarm, looks rich but is spiritually poor, looks well fed but is famished

These churches went after the esteem of men and fell from Christian distinctive. Smyrna and Philadelphia get nothing but praise from God for standing firm against persecution and opposition and holding fast to God’s word.

We follow God, let man do what man will do. The success of the Church is never dependent on men, it is ever and always dependent on the Spirit. This means real, practical things, most of which we can’t afford to mess with.

How to Esteem God and Not Man

He said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”

Men esteem appearances, not reality. When you walk down the street, people don’t know your heart, all they know is what they see. Your clothes and manner of walking are observed and immediate judgments are made. Judgments continue when they hear your voice, listen to your opinions, and see what you own.

Respectability is highly valued in our society. We define new groups of people as “normal” or “abnormal” based on how much like us they are. Unfortunately, we gauge people’s spiritual health the same way.

But God is disgusted by what man esteems. So, what is our response, do everything man hates? Go out of our way to be obnoxiously different?

No, because those who purposely go against what men esteem to challenge men are just as much living their lives according to what man esteems!

This is the irony of rebellion. People in rebellion are paying more attention to social norms than most who live by those social norms!

Jesus is not telling people to purposely only do things that annoy people. He’s calling us to live in God’s presence, not man’s. In the end, righteousness will be esteemed by many. When Jesus grew Luke says He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

The point is not to offend men by being oddly different, but rather to follow God and His commands and the righteous example of Christ in this sin-filled world, which will often be oddly different, but this is the result, not the means. When this brings you in conflict with man’s desires, always go with God. This does not mean to be a jerk so everyone hates you.

It’s a fine line, but ultimately has to do with your focus. We are Christ-centered, not man-centered. We pay attention to our hearts, not just our actions. We judge righteous judgment and understand the passing shadow of human praise.

Men Esteem What God Hates

“God’s wisdom is foolishness with man and the wisdom of man is foolishness with God” and various other bits of 1 Corinthians 1-3, like “Not many wise, not many noble are called,” are quoted when Christians need to bash intelligent atheists.

This is all fine and dandy, and I really can’t argue because it’s true, but we should also be careful of this truth as it means practical things for us all. Here’s the way Jesus put it:

“that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”

Amen! Take that you homo-loving, libertarian, atheist scum!

The problem with always applying these truths to unbelievers and heathen scum is that the original contexts apply both verses against religious types. Paul is writing to self-righteous church-goers in Corinth and Jesus is speaking to religious, self-righteous Pharisees.

Atheists and homosexual professors are nowhere in sight.

Religion that is not pure (as opposed to religion done for God, generally without human notice–pray in closet, give without letting left hand know what right hand is doing, etc) is done for man. The verse quoted above begins “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men.”

The killer aspect of religion is that it can focus you on the externals and the group rather than simply on you before God. We esteem our fitting in-ness over our righteousness.

If we lived as though what man esteems is an abomination (an object of disgust) with God, our lives would radically change. We’d talk, spend money, clothe ourselves, and probably even breathe differently. Our churches would have a hard time existing without playing to what man esteems.

If you don’t do what man esteems, man mock and ultimately kill. See “Jesus” as object lesson #1. We’re to be like Christ not anyone else. Indeed, we die daily. And indeed, Joel Osteen, who wants you to be happy every day not just Friday, will always have more followers.

Parable of the Unjust Steward and Serving God

Jesus applies the parable of the unjust steward in three ways: 1) Use what He’s given you to be nice to people, 2) How you use temporal things is a test for whether you’ll get spiritual responsibility. The third we deal with today.

“No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

This is Jesus’ summation of the whole thing. You can’t serve God and money. You can’t. It’s not possible. Rather than serving mammon (money and stuff), we use money and stuff to serve God.

The next verse says that the Pharisees, who were covetous (lovers of money), derided Jesus. They can’t stand this message. No one wants to be confronted on how they spend their money. When we trot out Jesus’ sayings about money we self-righteously conclude He’s off His rocker. It’s not practical!

Surely He’s talking to someone other than me. He’s talking to guys back then when miracles happened, not to guys today. We go on and on attempting to free ourselves from this message repeated in every single New Testament book, even Paul’s (Read 1 Timothy 6)!

He’s talking to you. He’s your Master, the one who has given you all things and richly blessed you. Yet we cast off His commands and His pleading for us to seek heavenly riches so we can get more dressed up dirt to amuse our body of dirt.

It’s unbelievable really, giving up eternal rewards so we can play with some dirt longer. It’s unbelievable how strongly our dirt body wants more stuff made of dirt, so strong that we’ll deny these words so we can carry on in our dirt filled comfort.

It’s no wonder Jesus was crucified. What an annoying guy. You can’t serve God and mammon, don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re the exception to the rule. It can’t be done. Ever.

Parable of the Unjust Steward and Spiritual Responsibility

Obtaining spiritual success, by being as wise as the world is in achieving temporal success, is what this parable is all about. Jesus wants us to be smarter with His stuff. First He tells us to use His stuff to do acts of kindness for people for eternal reward.

Next He lays it on the line, telling us that even what we’re given by Him now, not just in heaven, will be limited based on our handling of temporal things.

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?”

“True riches” refer to spiritual wealth, the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” If we cannot handle temporal goods, what makes us think we’d handle properly eternal goods? As Paul said to the Corinthians, “I can’t give you meat, you can’t even handle milk.” We’d just choke to death.

We don’t like to think that what we do in this life has any impact on how God treats us. We like to think God is all love and all grace all the time. He is, but He’s also many other things all the time! Be not deceived, God is not mocked, you will reap what you sow.

God is paying attention. He sees your credit card bill, your checking account, where your cash goes and where it doesn’t go. He sees your debt and your degree of selfishness. Do we think He’s blind?

Do we honestly think God doesn’t care about how well we take care of what He’s given us? God is famous for testing people. He’s a Father. Any father who loves his kids tests his kids. If you can’t handle an ice cream cone, I aint given you your own iPod.

We get the responsibility God thinks we deserve. No more and no less. Want more spiritual effectiveness? Get your physical things in order.

Parable of the Unjust Steward and Buying Friends

According to the parable of the unjust steward, Jesus thinks those who follow God tend to be dumber than those of the world. We don’t quite have the same killer instincts, the desire to be shrewd and calculating, not for selfish ambition, but for godliness and eternal reward.

Jesus then concludes the parable with a list of possible ways we can be as wise as the world. Again, let me state, those of the world have no godly wisdom. The fact that they make more sensible decisions than we do is a shot against believers. But Jesus does not want us to be shrewd for us, but rather for Him and with His stuff.

His first application is in Luke 16:9

“Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”

The unjust steward was concerned for his state in life if he got fired, so he gave guys who owed his master a financial break, hoping that this financial favor would cause them to care for him later on.

In the same way, believers are to use their money to win friends, then at the Day of Judgment, these acts of kindness stand up for us. We don’t work our way into salvation, so He is obviously referring to works of faith. If I give all I have to the poor but have no love it profits nothing.

He’s not looking for a manipulation of the system or conniving, He is saying that by faith, with love, use your physical goods in such a way that you’ll receive eternal, spiritual reward. Be as shrewd with your stuff in using it for God as you do in saving $1 on a 2-liter of Coke.

We show regularly our dismissal of eternal rewards by our lack of effort, wisdom, and application of basic human ingenuity to obtain them and yet apply all those things to help us buy the toys we need for our comfort. Our comforts we can afford condemn us.

Be wise in using what God has given you to get a great return on investment for eternity.

Parable of the Unjust Steward and Being Stupid

Yesterday I cautioned against academic Christianity–a faith that is head-knowledge and leaves the practical life alone. This is bad stuff.

But I don’t want to give the idea that I am against using wisdom, or that ignorance and empty-headedness is some sort of virtue.

One of the Lord’s oddest parables is the parable of the unjust steward in Luke 16. The steward wastes his master’s money and when the time for accounting comes, he goes out and makes deals with his master’s debtors, cutting their debts in half.

“The lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely,” Jesus says! What an alarming statement! Jesus then tells us that “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”

His followers get blasted for not being as wise as the unjust steward! How rude! What, are we supposed to go out and rip off our boss by deceptive means to preserve our own skin?

Hardly. Proverbs is filled with verses about doing business fairly and honestly. The point is this: even unjust stewards who have none of God’s wisdom can act smart. Wisdom comes forth to save his own skin, how much more should our wisdom come forth to use rightly God’s stuff?

Generally speaking, in this parable, Jesus is saying that Christians are stupid.

Unsaved people, who have no concept of eternity or correct priorities, show all sorts of wisdom when it comes to saving their own stuff/skin. Unfortunately, Believers, who know that all things belong to God, let things slide. Perhaps we even blame it on God when things don’t go right, “God is on the throne, amen!”

Perhaps our desire to uphold the sovereignty of God or His justice, love, grace, etc., leads to a carelessness or stupidity that we will ultimately be judged for some day. God’s attributes do not negate human responsibility.

We could all stand to use more wisdom in how we use our Master’s things. He’s given us much and it is required in a steward that he be found faithful. Don’t let lying, cheating scum make you look bad on judgment day!

Beaten Like a Drum for Jesus

Orchestras have drums called the timpani.

The name is derived from the Greek tympanizo, which means “to beat the drum.” It’s used once in the New Testament. Hmm, where are people beating drums in the NT? Any guesses?

There was a device of torture where people were strapped across a wheel and then beaten, they were made a giant drum. The word shows up in Hebrews 11:35

“Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection.”

The word “tortured,” tympanizo, means to be “beaten like a drum.” You learn something new every day.

Academic Christianity

Our government is talking about bailing out college student loans. This is the next housing bubble. Once people realize that what they dumped their money into isn’t worth it anymore, they get mad. Certainly those who told me my house was worth more should now bail me out for making me buy it at that price!

People are now realizing that their college education they mortgaged their future to get aint worth it. Bail me out! This is amusing to this college grad and seminary student who never had one ounce of student loan cuz I did this thing called “work” instead of extending my adolescence indefinitely.

Anyhow, just a little pet-peevishness for ya on this fine day that the Lord has made.

Anyway, if college education becomes a right, something other people pay for you to get, it then becomes less valuable. One thing that made college education special in the past is that few had it. Now practically everyone has it, so it’s worthless. So now our college loans look really dumb.

Academic education is now primarily only important to those in the academic world. This is and will be a problem for the Church, who bought into the academic lies.

Few churches even consider hiring a pastor who does not have a master’s degree. Most American churches are made up of people with college educations. Christianity, with it’s emphasis on academic treatments of Scripture and all our resources and books and commentaries and concordances and Greek and Hebrew tools, looks swimmingly marvelously intelligent.

Yet our level of Biblical literacy and living is lower than ever before. Our stress of academics has sucked out our spiritual power. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of the “ignorance is better” crowd. Not my point. We are to be wise in this world. Seek wisdom more than gold.

I do have a problem with the assumption that being academic is what produces wisdom. Here’s a taste of wisdom for you, what does “academic” mean? Look it up! It’s a fascinating word!

1 a: of, relating to, or associated with an academy or school especially of higher learning b: of or relating to performance in academic courses c: very learned but inexperienced in practical matters d: based on formal study especially at an institution of higher learning
2: of or relating to literary or artistic rather than technical or professional studies
3a: theoretical, speculative b: having no practical or useful significance
If Christianity becomes academic it means it’s just head-knowledge with no practical side. This is not good, and yet a fairly good description of most people’s grasp of Christianity. We can explain substitutionary atonement with many big words and yet still live as though we are dead in sin.
When it comes to your faith, don’t be academic.

Being Wrong at Being Right

Job is a fascinating book. A study in human nature.

People like to tell suffering folks why they are suffering and how to get rid of the suffering.

When others suffer, we love giving advice and keeping aloof.

Job’s friends basically say true things, however, truth can be subjective and in this case their truth was not true. God does punish sinners. God does reward the righteous. All that is true, but not this time.

But it’s fun to see how much truth the friends speak. Take this one:

“If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous. Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.”

All true statements and guess what? That’s exactly how the story ends, with God coming through and blessing the latter end of Job’s life. Perhaps Job’s friends should have used some patience and watched how the whole thing worked out first!

As with most judgmentalism, there is truth involved, it’s just not your place to enjoy sharing it and placing yourself in the seat of Judge.

Speaking truth in love is tryingly difficult. Job’s friends get it wrong even though they are largely right. Don’t forget, one of the verses spoken by one of Job’s friends is quoted in the New Testament as being a valid point.

It bears in mind that even when you’re right you may be wrong. Humbling, no?

American Dream Christianity

American’s live in abundance. Our American Christianity is filled with abundance as well, but not spiritual abundance necessarily.

Our abundance has to do with opportunity. Having an abundance of opportunity often leads to little being accomplished. We have so many choices we are either paralyzed into doing nothing or dabble in all and give the appearance of doing much, but in the end accomplishing little.

We’re inundated with goal-setting sermons about redeeming the time and we’ve come to think that the only good Christian is the busy Christian, the frantic and everywhere all the time smiling for Jesus superman.

This is not healthy nor biblical. Yet today I read a Christian telling people to do more, invent things to do. He knows a guy who is a doctor, a dad, a blogger and still makes frequent trips to Kenya. Great. Wonderful. More power to him.

This is not normal. Christianity is more about patient continuance in well-doing than it is in endeavoring to find splashy event after splashy event. Rather than making splashes for Jesus, I think we’re to steadily raise the tide to lift all boats. One is more fun than the other because one involves repetitive, unnoticed, unappreciated work.

Also, talking as if Christians who don’t regularly visit Kenya have something wrong with them is drastically unfair to the poor. Much of our go-get-em Christian rah-rah sessions are completely oblivious to the handicapped, the poor, the elderly and many other groups that are regularly ostracized in our successful American churches. Sure, we go on missions trips all over the universe to help them, but do they come to our churches? Maybe if we did this right we wouldn’t have to travel so far to find them.

Be careful not to distract yourself into leaving off your actual responsibilities. Be content in what state you are in. Learn to plod along with the daily chipping away that makes a difference. We have enough people out trying to “change the world” and “be all they can be.”

We need more people who are willing to faithfully carry out the love of Christ daily in non-flashy, boring, repetitive ways that keep the light shining long enough for the unobservant to notice.

Thou Shalt Not Covet and Capitalism

If we followed God’s command to leave off coveting, or the NT comparison of covetousness to idolatry, could we still live in a capitalistic society?

Capitalism is based on coveting, or at least it seems it’s a pretty tough thing to operate without coveting. Supply and demand are what are to run the economy, if we don’t covet there’d be far less demand! Our leaders told us during our recession that we need to spend our way out of it. Coveting is the basis for economic recovery!

Throw on top of this our obsession with following our dreams and getting paid for doing what “we love,” isn’t that the essence of coveting? Aren’t we to be content in whatsoever state we are in?

Am I now a Communist or socialist for having brought this up?

Just another one of those things that shows how difficult it is to be of this world and follow God’s Word. I’m sure most capitalist Christians believe they are either

1) free of coveting so this doesn’t really apply or
2) don’t really worry about that coveting bit because of those grace bits in the Bible as well.

Seems to me our whole way of life makes it difficult to follow Scripture. What’s the solution? I’m not really sure, but I believe we’d benefit from thinking on it.

Cross Bearing

Any of the crowd still hanging around after the hate your family and your own life comment, now get blasted again.

“And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

Cross bearing does not sound like a good time. That being the case, people have tried desperately to get themselves out of this duty. Here are the top three ways people use to dump their cross:

1) Trivialize the cross
“My arthritic knee is just my cross to bear.” “My wife is my cross I have to bear.” No they aren’t. Crosses are much worse than arthritis and wives, even worse than arthritic wives, in fact. Crosses are weapons of torture that kill people. Jesus is saying that following Him means you’ll die. Period. No other meaning is intended here.

2) Spiritualize the cross
“Ah, but Jesus took my cross for me!” Nice try. Jesus took His cross and to some degree I suppose this statement hints at truth, but Christ’s cross does not eliminate yours; it necessitates yours. We are crucified with Him and this means we need to put to death the deeds of the flesh, lay our bodies down as a living sacrifice, die daily and many other death-heavy metaphors. Death is a major facet of Christian living!

3) Redefine “disciples”
I’ve tackled this issue in the past. Many think that “disciples” either refers to just Christ’s actual 12 disciples or it refers to some sort of super-believer. “Disciple” is a pretty generic term meaning “student.” Not all disciples are believers (Judas is example one but other examples exist like a group of others  that refused to walk with Christ further). Don’t look for a loophole on the word “disciple.” This smacks of “And who is my neighbor?”

Christ’s cross requires us to take a cross. As Paul says, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Christ’s cross means I am dead to the world, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God. There is no sanctification without death to self.

This reckoning deal is the day by day decision to die to my worldly desires and come alive to serving righteousness. Christ’s cross may mean you die physically. You may be faced with “deny Christ or die.” You won’t die for Him in that moment if you haven’t already begun dying to this world all ready. Like Paul we are “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.”

Your flesh doesn’t want to die. Christ wants it to. Who wins?

Hating Family to Follow Jesus

After the parable in Luke 14, Jesus walks away with a huge multitude following. If you’ve paid attention to Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom being a leavened lump or a tree with birds in it, you know He thinks the Kingdom is not as big as it looks.

Therefore, when Christ sees a multitude of people He assumes that most of these people can’t truly believe. Whenever Christ is faced with multitudes, He throws stuff out that will offend, to weed out the pretenders. This situation is no different. We’ll deal with His first weed eating comment today and the second tomorrow.

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

Oh dear. Jesus should take some lessons from Dale Carnegie, maybe even Joel Osteen. This is no way to build an audience, win friends, or influence people. According to most accounts, however, He did have nice hair, so He has that going for Him.

OK, hate your family, what do we do with that one? Note also, it’s not just hating family members, it’s also hates “his own life also.” That’s a key to determine meaning.

Jesus speaks in outrageous ways, absolute black and white statements that you can’t run around or miss His intent. He really does mean this. He’s speaking as a wisdom proverb. Many proverbs in Proverbs contradict each other. Jesus does, too.

Jesus is big on love your neighbor, which means anyone near you, which obviously means family. How can He at one point say “hate them” and also say “love them?”

The same way Solomon can say wisdom increases sorrow and at the same time increases joy. Context!

When it comes to following Jesus you may need to turn on family. It’s not outside the realm of possibility and, in fact, has been many people’s experience. It does not mean that to follow Jesus you be a jerk to your family to show them you hate them.

The Bible is more than one verse long. Don’t trump verses over each other; when they contradict, take em both!

Don’t let your family, or even your own life, deter you from following Jesus Christ. Consider this potential cost before embarking on a journey with Jesus. It happens and has shocked more people who never expected it. Don’t let family loyalty lead you to hell.

What Keeps People From Salvation?

The Kingdom is available to all, yet according to the parable in Luke 14, the Servant has to beg people to come, He has to search far and wide to find any willing to enter.

Unfortunately, the reason why most refuse the invitation is so trivial and yet so deadly. There are three excuses listed in Jesus’ parable:

1) I bought a farm and have to go work it
2) I bought some oxen and need to try them out
3) I just got married

The commonality of these excuses is that people would rather have physical things of this earth rather than things of the Kingdom. We are made of dirt and thus highly treasure dirt, to the extent that we’d, as CS Lewis put it, are people who “go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.”

The things of this earth are an eternally deadly trap. Scripture is abundantly clear on this point and yet we like to equivocate and find ways around this.

–We like to convince ourselves that our work ethic is inherently “Protestant,” when in reality many are so dutifully working while skipping spiritual matters.

–We like to think that our family values are the height of virtue and yet many good families will populate the roster of hell.

These are tough concepts, they challenge our religious views on many levels. None of us is exempt from the implications, and we each individually must decide for ourselves what the implications are practically for day-to-day living.

But never forget the point that earthly things are all Satan can tempt you with to get you to miss out on heaven. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. Odds are, the way most are going leads to destruction.

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