Monthly Archives: February 2012
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Rom 12:18)
These words have always been important to me. They speak of our duty beyond the Christian family as we interact with other people. There are two types of people in the world. Christians and Non-Christians.
However, let it not be said that among Non Christians, you find only worldly, prideful people. I mean, we all are to some extent but I know those who are as nice as a warm summer’s day, who will go an extra mile to help out and yet they are not of the faith.
Still, it must be said that in the world, those who wish to live godly, will experience difficulties because of the Non Christians and sometimes those difficulties will cross boundaries that we don’t think should be crossed. Take, for example, the person who cuts you off in traffic or speeds around you while you, yourself, are already doing the speed limit and maybe a tad more. Maybe you think of your boss who is in a foul mood most of the time but wants you to be happy-happy with your customers, or maybe even your cell phone carrier who takes to much of your time trying to fix a problem that should be fixable (or now that it is fixed 1 1/2 years later should have been fixed sooner). There is a story in that last one but it will wait.
The point is not that you cannot point out the issues and try to resolve them. Most people will be reasonable. But in some cases, you can only do so much. You can’t fix every wrong that happens to you or someone you love. Some people will not listen and it occurs to me that I feel like I am rambling in this blog.
Let me restate the verse this way. “If there is to be no peace between you and someone else, it should be their fault, not yours.” Sometimes that means we will need to go an extra mile; sometimes, we will have done all that and it still does not work. In such cases, we are not under obligation to stress over it. Nor are we free to start causing problems.
Isaac dug many wells and moved away to avoid conflict. Sometimes that is possible, sometimes not but I know that many of us wonder if we would have that ability to do so.
Do what you know that you need to do. That too can be virtue.
A lesson like this is hard to preach because it too often applies to me. It affects almost all of us in some way or another and so when I present a lesson like this, there is always a disclaimer: This lesson is one I need too.
In studying virtue, it seems that wisdom must play a part and one of the people who seem to have the least amount of wisdom is the procrastinator. Sloth is one of those things we are encouraged to leave behind in childhood yet it can persist among adults nonetheless. Peter, in encouraging his audience to add good qualities to their faith, did not mention wisdom and yet, it is hard to imagine an a virtuous person who did not have wisdom. Even in the first chapter Wisdom cries out and tries to teach. She says in effect that the calamity that come upon you for lack of wisdom is your own doing. Those who suffer from calamity the most are the sluggards and lazy procrastinators, who will not do what they should be doing.
To procrastinate can be as simple as putting something off but implied in the word (and the reason why we are warned against laziness) is because the procrastinator puts it off to the point of missing an opportunity or causing distress in his life or the lives of others. We are not discussing the problem of procrastinating laundry folding in favor of reading a book (unless the laundry has been piling up for three weeks and you need clean socks), it is more the procrastinating of important things like book reports, Dr. visits, exercising, apologizing or even preaching the Gospel until the opportunity passes.
To help understand the causes of procrastination, we might look at a chart that I first saw in Steven Covey’s book “the 7 habits of highly effective people”. Here is a picture of it:
What we can see from this is that each task of your life can fit into one of those four quadrants. The urgent, important things are usually immediate needs like phone calls, a fire, a heart attack. Whereas the important non urgent items are things like spending time with family, exercising, visiting the doctor for a check-up and things we put off more easily than a ringing phone. Of course, the spiritual applications are many which will be made in further lessons.
The causes then of procrastinating could be from pure laziness. Spending our time on non important and non urgent things because we want to, or because we are afraid to venture out into the other aspects of our life. Sluggards can always find a reason (“There’s a lion in the street” they cry.) Or perhaps it just doesn’t seem the right time. I will plant seed and do a lot of watering to catch up. I want to have fun now!
Sometimes the procrastination is from being too busy. We have put what we perceive to be important things (and they are) so high above other important things that we are out of balance. We spend 80 hours at work and none with our kids, we spend so much time teaching others, we don’t teach our families. We give so much to God, we have none to help the poor or parents with. (Mt 15)
And then sometimes, we just do not see the urgency. There will be another opportunity to do this or that. We, of course, do not even know our own life’s length, much less the length of another’s. The Thorny soil in Mark 4 represented those who were busy. Once I have my fortune made, then I will serve the Lord may will have been their thinking.
The solutions to procrastination may be more involved then this advice, but it is a good place to start: Go to the ant!
Consider how the ant works and gathers and needs no prompting. She gathers for the now and for the winter. Also, you might consider how different the Bible would have read had Abraham procrastinated when God told him to offer up his son Isaac. Yet, the scriptures say that Abraham arose early in the morning for their trip. Gen 22. He didn’t say ” plenty of time, wait for me to enjoy him a few years.” Or even more dramatic, we wouldn’t be reading this blog had Noah decided to procrastinate on the Ark. 120 years goes by fast! What if he had waited a couple of decades?
We should remember that Time is not a savable commodity and while our life may be full of “non urgent” things, the important ones need to be attended too. Bible reading and Bible study (two different concepts), prayer, preaching, and visiting others are all things we can “put off” and perhaps we don’t see the danger now but eventually we will.
A man of virtue will not procrastinate. The sermon is here.
Having set the contrast between David and Uriah in the last blog, I would like to expand on Uriah’s virtue. You see it so clearly in his response to David. Explaining why he did not go home to be with his wife (and cover up David’s sin) Uriah says:
“The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” (2Sa 11:11)
Uriah was called back to inform David of what the battle was like in the expectation that once back in Jerusalem, he would take advantage of his own bed being so close by. However, what Uriah shows is that while he was involved in battle, that it was inappropriate for him to be involved in civilian affairs. Much like what Paul told Timothy:
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. (2Ti 2:3-4)
What Uriah did was something that I think is a bit unusual for us today. (Which doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be usual, just that it isn’t.) He was willing to continue sharing in the sufferings that his fellow soldiers and commanders were enduring. While we may not have blamed Uriah from taking David up on his offer, Uriah’s adamant reply indicates that he saw things differently. The question is “Do we?”
In the spiritual battle that we are engaged in, do we insist on our own luxury and comfort or are we willing to forego “our rights” in order to help others? In the book of Acts chapter 4, the early Christians sold properties and houses in order to help those fellow Christians who had needs. In that way none of them was needy. Those that sold were saying the same thing as Uriah was “if others must dwell without comfort, I will to”
A side note on the helping of others. We get into trouble when we think of peoples wants as their needs. I have no doubt that the issues were temporary ecomonic one, still the ‘needs’ were what were met not the wants. If a family is hungery and you can feed them, then do so but you might draw the line at their new leased car, Air Jordan shoes, mobile game device and the like. If a person does not have cable, cell phone, and a good looking car, they will not die!
We should be less attached to the comforts of this world and more attached to the world which is to come. Many of us have a great deal more than we need. (Emphasize that last word: NEED) It is not wrong that we have more and many of the Bibles characters were wealthy. We certainly don’t want to improvrish ourselves to the point of being in need of others help too but if we were to downsize our lifestyle and help our fellow Christians in their needs, I suspect we would find more peace.
We should take care of our needs and those of our family, we should be willing to help support those who have needs in their lives starting with our fellow Christians first and we should help suppor those who preach the Gospel (not necessarily those who stand on TV and plead for money for their own ministries. Find those who are actually doing it…plenty around).
What makes a seed grow? From my school days I know that there are a few things needed. Good soil, sunshine, water, and protection from predators (No, not the ones with clocking devices and ugly faces running through the forest chasing or being chased by Arnold Schwarzenegger…these predators are squirrels and cute things like them). But WHAT makes the seed grow? Does it matter?
Mar 4:26-29 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, (27) and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. (28) For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. (29) But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
In this parable, some truth is seen regarding the farmer. He doesn’t know how the seed grows, but when it is ready to be harvested, he doesn’t sit around wondering about it, he goes out and harvests. It is not a question that needs to be answered because it is a moot point. If you plant the seed in the appropriated soil, water it, let sun get to it, and protect it, it will grow. How? who cares?
It may be tempting to focus on the harvesting as if that is the big deal and….it is. In fact, the work done up to that point is important. Leave a step out and the crop can fail. However, without the seed, without that one small speck to plant into the ground, there will not be a harvest.
In many of the parables of Jesus, the seed is the word of God. Other things can impact how that word is received and if it will grow but until the seed is spread across the soil, you don’t know what will happen or if any thing will happen.One thing is for sure, we are not the cause of the growth. We might plant, we may water but God gives the increase.
1Co 3:5-7 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? (6) I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. (7) So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.
Keeping count on conversions is not the thing to do. We ought to keep count on how much seed is spread. Of course, it needs to be the right kind of seed. There are those who go out and spread the seed of their denomination but not of the Bible. They talk about Jesus but they don’t follow Jesus’ teachings. They say they preach the Gospel but they preach a message the scriptures didn’t authorize. Some do it with deliberateness, others do it because that is how they were taught (They, themselves, forgetting (or never knowing) that the first rule of Bible study is to study the Bible not the church literature or commentaries)
Our job is to spread the message that Jesus proclaimed. In the Gospels, Jesus send out his disciples with a commission. (See Mt 28) and in Acts, we see those disciples fulfilling that mission. In the epistles, we see the Apostles informing the saved of more things they need to know to be Holy but the saving message had already been preached to them.
Go. Plant. Water. But never for a moment think that you gave the increase or caused the seed to grow. That is God’s job and He does it well.
Jas 2:14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
Just a quick note to say that this verse was on my screen today. The thought occurred to me that in James’ question, which is really to ask if there is any value in a faith that does not have works, that we might also ask that question: What profit is there in faith?
Much in every way, because it is by faith that we are saved. But we tend to look not at the things which are not seen but at the things which are seen. We focus on the reality around us and become near sighted to the point of blindness, we wander around with doubts and fears, we look at the winds and storms of life and think…It is not worth it.
Rom 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Notice that word “worthy”. Is it worth it? the problems we have are not worth the comparison. Is it worth the pain of child birth to bring in a new child into this world? The pain is not worth comparing to the joy of a new child. Is it worth giving up what the world sees as profitable? The sacrifice is not worth the reward of Heaven. Was it worth it for Jesus to set aside his throne and his power and his life to die a horrible death on the cross? The loss is not worth comparing to the honor he has and the salvation we have?
What is the profit in Faith? Lots and lots….May your faith be a living one so that you receive that profit.
We continued our study on the characteristics that Peter outlined in 2 Peter 1 which will help us be fruitful servants of God. Today’s lessons looked at the characteristic of virtue. I must admit, it was an very interesting lesson to put together. In some ways, there were things that I thought of as profound, but all in all, it still brings us back to our Savior.
We started off by looking at the words for Virtue in both the Greek and Hebrew. What is interesting is that those words are sometimes translated differently in different passages. While most versions use “virtue” for the Greek word “Arete”, the NASV uses ‘moral excellence” which is a good translation as well. In the OT a lot of words are used for the Hebrew word “Cahyil” among which are Army, wealth, valor, and strength.
As you look through the Bible I narrowed the concept of virtue to be found in four words: Excellence, Worthiness, Ability, Strength. I am not suggesting that only these words will do but it helps to see some concrete examples of virtue, starting with Jesus.
It makes sense we would see virtue in Christ and Revelation chapter 5 uses 3 of those 4 words and the 4th (Excellence) I see in the praising of His excellence by those who witness him take the scroll. But Why did Christ receive this honor and if, as I am suggesting, why is He virtuous?
He is virtuous because of His mindset described in Philippians 2. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves, further, while he was here, he depended on God. He knew where the boundaries were and didn’t cross them. Temptations did not attract him because he knew what God’s will was and was comitted to doing God’s will. Now, HE is able to do for US what God did for Him.
He is able to save us.
We then looked at two examples for virtue from Ruth and the worthy woman in Proverbs 31. Both of whom show a great deal of virtuous living. The thing is, neither were doing “Grand” things but simple ordinary things, just doing what they needed to do but they did it well.
So in trying to define virtue, I have previously used this as a definition:
1. Doing what is right, no matter what the cost to ourselves. This particular definition can be seen in Bible Characters such as Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, Daniel and the Lion’s den, Jesus, The Apostles with the Jewish leaders and everyone listed in Hebrews 11.
However, I must say that after this lesson, another definition emerged:
Doing what is asked of you, what is needed, what is necessary without bringing attention to yourself. It is done regardless of what others do, of any reward you might receive or recognition you might get. It is also not tied to what we do not have, but only what we do have, so everyone can be virtuous.
The key thing seems to be a willingness to do what is asked of you by the one who has the authority to ask it, whether it is God, Parents, or Bosses and then to humble yourself to do it. God is the one who will exalt you, even if no one ever appreciates you.
Hopefully each of us will strive to add the virtue that we see exemplified by Christ and others.
Before I was married, if I didn’t have someone I was dating, which was more common than not, it was not a time to recognize Valentine’s day but rather Single Awareness Day. A clever little statement hiding within the acronym of that phrase. S.A.D. As in, so sad, to bad, you are a loooooooooooooser!
It is so unfortunate that so many singles either 1)feel that way or 2) are made to feel that way and in addition, become so obsessed with the ‘finding of’ that perfect mate that they do not stop to think about what they are seeking for. This is not to say that some people (a good number, in fact) are going to be content to be single or able to maintain purity if they stay single, but before we push, encourage, or jump off of the single band wagon into a marital relationship, let’s consider a few things from a Christian perspective.
1. Do you really need to be married? Every one has a cell phone and yes, they make life convenient but what about the many billions of people who existed, lived, and died before there was a phone of any kind? In other words, does marriage in and of itself, make a person more valuable. (this is not the same as asking if a person can be more effective or a better person but just the inherent value). The answer is “No”, marriage is not a command of God (Thou Shalt get married) and Jesus died to save single people too.
2. Have you considered serving God without getting married? Paul indicates in 1 cor 7 that you can be more careful and concerned with the things of the Lord when you are single than when you are not. I am not talking about taking vows of celibacy here and never getting married, but while you are waiting, have you ever thought of planning a trip to a foreign mission field in preaching the Gospel?
3. Is your emphasis on marriage so strong, you throw out the check list you made of the perfect mate? True, what interests the 12-year-old child may give way to a more mature view of things for a 22 or 32-year-old (at least I would hope so) but do you play around with the dating game without any consideration of how strong emotions can be and the attachment which can be formed?
4. Remember, marriage is to be permanent decision. God forms it, we are not to break it. (Ability does not equal permission) You cannot get out of the marriage covenant without sin being committed. Regardless of the intent of getting married, I don’t know anyone who said “I will be divorced in 5 years”. Remember, the permanence was from the beginning. Don’t need to go to the Gospels for that, just look at God’s law from the beginning.
Some steps that might help you out.
If someone (parents, other Christian friends) are putting pressure on you to marry, then kindly remind them that while it may be strange to the world to not be married, it is not a commandment of God.
Don’t wallow in your singleness, rejoice in your ability to serve God more. Being able to stay out late and not meet the needs of a spouse (these are not a burden but they are what is needed) allows you to stay up late with a friend who needs a helping hand or move in a buddy for a few days that turn into months. It allows you to pick up and go to another country or to drive to a country church to preach for 8 Christians whose preacher is on vacation or who don’t have one. It allows you to spend money in the service of others that you would not be able to do if your spouse and you were planning a family or budget with kids. I am not even scratching the surface of things that, as a single person you can do (or do more easily) without a spouse.
Know what a good mate needs to be like in character. While many will argue over whether the mate needs to be a Christian or not, nothing can be proved by the examples. both Christians and Non Christians change for worse or better. So look further and deeper than just “do they go to church” and “read the Bible”. Get to know their character, their family connections, the beliefs and practices about money, kids and plans for the future.
If you meet someone who is content in their singleness and serving God, that person can make an ideal candidate for marriage. But by being such a person yourself, you make it easier to recognize another one when you meet them.
Rejoice if you are single and if you find yourself lamenting that fact, first pray and then go get busy serving the Lord.
Psa 101:1-4 A Psalm of David. I will sing of mercy and justice; To You, O LORD, I will sing praises. (2) I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will You come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. (3) I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not cling to me. (4) A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will not know wickedness.
Oh, if it were only true that I did not know wickedness. I think that this is a lament that most of us (most=99.44%) can make. I don’t know when David wrote this Psalm, at what point in life, but I know that he didn’t live up to it when you take his whole life into consideration. Yet, he was a man of God, not because of his imperfections, but because he repented and turned from wickedness when he did sin.
One thing that is for sure, if you look at these verses of the psalm you may come away with the idea that in seeking God, it is necessary to turn from evil. When Israel met the Lord on Mt. Sinai, they spent 3 days in preparation and purifying themselves. What kind of evil David has in his mind is not specified and it may just be wickedness in general, Gossip and pride are mentioned later on, but this phrasing makes an interesting lesson too easy to pass up.
I will set nothing wicked before my eyes. As in, perhaps, just to pull something out at random…mmmm, uh…Television?
I just finished watching a commercial for a new movie coming out, or I think it just did come out. “This means War”. (I say finish watching because I didn’t have the remote in hand to turn the channel) You know, I feel too old sometimes when I begin to question whether I am just becoming too strict on things like this, or if it simply is the Devil trying to goad me back to a time where I didn’t really care so much. (Which is not to say that I shouldn’t have cared but I was young and well “It won’t affect me” seems to be a common statement even today. Ah, youth….I believed (past tense) that statement too! )
Now I notice things that shouldn’t be there to be noticed in the first place. This movie has sexual tension and themes written all over it and just from the commercials; it is going to appeal to the baser desires. The question you need to ask yourself is what is it that you will be subjecting yourself to? Is it good? Is it edifying?
Now for anyone under 30 who reads this, I will give you a disclaimer here. If this movie had come out, when I was in your age range or younger even, sure, I would want to see it. I would have gone to see it. However, I do not offer myself as a standard, I wouldn’t go if I had developed the sense of understanding that I have now. Still, if you are going to use a standard of any kind, ask yourself if Jesus would go to that movie? Read the reviews and then ask yourself, if you walked in on your friend with their boyfriend/girlfriend doing the same things in that movie (in real life—not fiction) would you pull up a chair and pop some popcorn? (ugh. Just asking that question makes it seem not clean!)
I know I mentioned Television and wandered off into movie land but even on TV, the question needs to be asked. My opinion is that the commercials are worse than the shows. You have to watch with a remote in your hand. Maybe it is time to put the remote down, after you turn the TV off.