Monthly Archives: March 2012

What hinders me….?

To Hinder someone is to cause them some amount of difficulty in what they are trying to accomplish. If I wish to take a trip across the country in my car and have $10 in my wallet, the hindrance is a lack of money. Once, while traveling across the country while in college, my dad had sent me a credit card for Shell. My hindrance along the trip was that Shell wasn’t in Colorado…that and no money! My desire to travel back to Oregon was not in question, but there was a obsticle in my way.

When the Eunuch asked Phillip, “What hinders me from being baptized?” The answer really was nothing provided that he believed.

Yesterday, I said that I would discuss “What hinders us from giving 10%” and the answer is usually a simple: Too much outgo. Now, I realize that there are other possible reasons and not enough income to feed and clothe yourself might be a big factor in that. However, if you are in that situation, I trust that you will be able to see that I am not talking about you.

To keep it simple, I will ask about a person who makes $20,000 a year ($1,666/month) and decides that he needs to have his own apartment and stuff. It is so easy with credit now a days to go buy a couch/tv/stereo/PlayStation, etc. Let’s suppose that our young adventurer runs up a bill on various things totaling $15,000. Not a difficult feat to accomplish really. How much will he be paying? A single credit card at 15% (and the furniture he bought on no interest till 2014 will convert to a 29% interest rate if he doesn’t pay the last penny on time.) would be about $350 a month. So while the amount might be a little more than that since he bought at different places, let’s assume ONE credit card bill handles it.

This represents 21% of his before tax income. After taxes, it is likely to be closer to 25% of his income. By the time he pays the rent and utilities, insurance, etc. he is not going to have a lot left. If he has been putting food and gas on that credit card (living on 110% of his take home) then he will be in more hurt once his credit line is maxed out.

  • Rent $600
  • Utilities $100
  • Phone (full web and texting) $85
  • Insurance ($150)
  • Credit card $350
  • Gas $100
  • Food $300

oops! I ran out of money and haven’t even paid TAXES.

The idea is not that you have to (HAVE TO) give 10%, the idea is that even if you wanted to, you couldn’t. Why not? Because you bought things on credit instead of at a garage sale. Now, you have an obligation to take care of and the cash that you would put in the collection plate, you don’t have because you are paying bills.

The thorny soil in the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4) was the person who let the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things, choke it out. It became unfruitful.  So many of us are able to choke the ability we have to bear fruit by tying ourselves to the world’s pleasures. We need to free ourselves from that and then we will have money to give. Yes, even more than 10% if we are so moved.

Deny yourself

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luk 9:23)

Yesterday we looked at the idea of coming after Jesus. The fact is that as a Christian, he is the one we are to come after and only him. When he says “follow me”, he does not say “follow me and follow x, y, or z too”. But to follow him, we are told that we need to do something and that something is very hard. While there are distinctions between “deny himself” and “take up his cross” they are essentially the same thing: Death to your own will and faithfulness in that death.

When Paul wrote in Romans 12 that we should be living sacrifices, the worthwhile note is that the difference between a living sacrifice and a dead one is that the living one can crawl back off the altar and we are not to do that. We continue to sacrifice ourselves for him and his cause to promote the Kingdom of God.

To Deny something is to negate its existence or truth. Anytime you deny an accusation, you are in effect saying “it is untrue”. If you deny that your punched your brother or sister, you are in effect saying “it didn’t happen”, When Peter denied Jesus, he was in effect saying “that man is of no importance to me, I do not know him and have no association with him.” Another thing you say is that whoever brings that statement is a liar. They are wrong but you are right.

When we apply that to ourselves, the denial is more personal. It is easy to deny someone else or something they say or accuse you of, but how do you deny yourself when the survival instinct is so strong? Paul said in Eph 5 that “no man hates his own body but cherishes it”  and this is true. Yet Jesus says we must deny ourselves.

It is to say “I do not exist”. Of course, one has to ask, if you say “I do not exist” then who is it that I am looking at? Who is it that is verbalizing that statement? I would like to suggest that when we deny ourselves that we begin to say like Paul said”

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  (Gal 2:20)

It is not that you do not live at all but that what life you have is dedicated to serving Christ, to being Christ like, to living the life Christ would live were he still here. To put it into today’s vernacular “WWJD -What would Jesus do?”

Jesus did the will of the Father and while on this world taught us to do the same.  How does an American make sense of this denial of self? How does someone who has so much, say a nice warm house on a cold day, carpet, shoes on his feet, food in his belly and a laptop upon which to write a blog? I have not even touched the smallest of riches yet. Do we give it all up?

It could be necessary and yet we see rich people in the Bible all the time and I don’t think we can ever say we are not rich. But we do need to deny our own wants after we take care of (give thanks to God) our needs. While that may not mean that we will not have some luxuries perhaps, it does mean that we will not have as many.

The thing is that this denial of self is the gift you give God and since we know that everything we have is His anyway, then what we have is to be used part for us and part for God. We take care of our families and we do it wisely. (it is written) If we are wise, we save for the uncertain future but we never assume that our massive 401k  will be enough to care for us or give us liberty to not serve God.

Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. (Pro 30:8-9)

Here is a thought to consider: Abraham gave 10% and so did Jacob, both of these men living before the law of Moses which commanded the tithe. Today, Paul writes to give ‘as we have been prospered” and the amount is not specified. What God made into a commandment was for the purpose of supporting the Levitical priesthood and yet, we have a greater priesthood.

I will not tell  you that you need to give 10% by way of commandment but might I implore you to consider that you are partakers of the better covenant and that if we want to be children of Abraham we do the work Abraham did? 10% might not actually be enough but it is a start. In a future blog, I will write about ‘what hinders us from giving 10%?’

When you give away to God 10% or whatever amount you give, you are in effect denying yourself (on the financial side, there are other aspects to deny in your life) and saying “Even though I could do much with this, I will trust God to provide my needs.”

Onward Christian Soldiers…Deny yourself and follow Him

Come after me….

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luk 9:23)

Many many points could be made from this statement of our Lord. But I would like to make just one: Jesus is telling us what it takes to follow him. So much of the time, we are not really serious about following him. We want to follow other people and activities and priorities and at the same time have a little Jesus in our life. Aside from the denying of self and taking up of the cross, the point is, who are you going to follow?

If we go after Jesus, we have to go the way He is going, not ask Him to go the way we are going. Who is coming after whom?

So often we see bumper stickers that say “God is my co-pilot”. Which is really missing the point, isn’t it? We do not invite Jesus to go with us, he invites us to follow him. He sets the standard. One might assume then that as a Christian we have no say in the matter as to how our life goes. Actually, we have lots of say in the matter. However, Jesus’ say comes first and foremost.

The Lord says “Go work” so we go to work. Do we pick an honorable job and profession or do we pick one that is perhaps in the Bars and Casino’s? You might say “But someone has to work there….” Is that someone the one who is following Jesus?

So when we want to follow Jesus, we follow HIM. We do not follow the writings of Eastern religions, the teachings of the Qur’an, or even the writings of Creed books, Books of Mormon, or traditions of men, we follow Jesus. That does make it pretty exclusive I must admit and even a bit of a separatist religion. We can be friendly and respectful to those of these other faiths but not follow their faith.

There is no other name given in Heaven or on Earth by which men can be saved. Our job, if we choose to accept it, is to follow Jesus.

Before you get Knowledge you need…

Today’s morning lesson moved on from the topic of Virtue and moved to the second item in Peter’s list of characteristics that Christian should develop. In fact, Peter’s lesson is that that these characteristics need to exist and abound. They are the characteristics which seem to be basic foundational characteristics. While you might read Peter’s statement to say “If you don’t have them, you won’t make it; I would suggest that we look at it more as “we have already made it and we need to grow or else we will go backwards”  No Christian should fail to make it to Heaven but if you are not willing to grow in these characteristics you are so shortsighted as to be blind.

Virtue coming before knowledge makes sense since Virtue is when we say “I will do it ” and knowledge says “This is what I need to do”. Determining to do God’s will and then being taught it has been the way people of faith have always responded. Israel agreed to do God covenant in Exodus 19 and then learned what it was in Exodus 20.

So we see that the second characteristic is Knowledge. A word that contains many meanings. To know something as a fact, to understand something from study or to comprehend something from experience are all types of knowledge and this time, in Peter, knowledge is likely a bit of all: facts, study and comprehension. If we want to know God, we need to know Jesus. This is more than just a fact but an understanding of who Jesus is as well.

We should not think that we have NO knowledge right now, in fact Peter uses the phrases “knowledge of him” and “knowledge of God” in verses 2 and 3 to show that by this knowledge we have those things that pertain to life and godliness, or put simply: “You are Christians because of what you know of God (implied: obedience to the Gospel). That makes sense doesn’t it? Peter couldn’t very well be talking to Christians who had never heard the Gospel and had no knowledge at all of Jesus.

This is in line with the Great Commision of Matthew where Jesus sends the Apostles out to Make disciples, baptize them, and teach them the commandments. (Mt 28) You make a disciple by preaching the Gospel, those that believe and respond are baptized and then taught the other commands (knowledge) later on. Read though Acts 2 and you will see this exemplified. The Gospel preached, the people respond, the disciples are then taught more things to build upon the knowledge they have.

Two points are worth noting about this. One is that we GROW in knowledge and the other is we need certain attributes to be able to gain knowledge.

As we look through the Bible, we see Abraham, Moses and even the Apostles learning more as they spend time with God and/or Jesus. In fact, in a particular stunning example, Luke records two times in Luke 9 and Luke 22 when the Apostles argued over who was the greatest. (I guess some lessons take longer to learn than others). Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 8 that some didn’t even have settled in their mind such a basic concept as there is only one God and idols are not a god at all. Still, patience is needed with these brethren not criticism. We all grow in knowledge and knowledge is not the basis for our Salvation. Some basic knowledge is needed so that we can have faith but, for example,  an in-depth study and knowledge of eschatology (some reading this might think “huh? what’s that?) is not needed to get into Heaven.

An attitude that wants to learn is also needed. The humility that children bring to the learning process, as well as the questions is essential. We need to be teachable. Additionally, we need to be quick hearers and slow speakers. (James 1:19) It is hard to learn when you are talking. A third element is to “NOT” know. When we say that we know or understand or see and do not take the time to investigate and study or listen to a teacher, we remain blind. (Many teenagers fit this category) The Pharisees had this problem as well. They thought they were so tight with God that nothing could shake it. They did not realize that they had a bad relationship with him.

So before we get knowledge, we need to realize we are adding to what we have, we should be patient (with ourselves and others) as we learn and we should develop the attitude that says I want to learn, not I have already learned all I need to know.

The sermon is here.



So, kill the baby

In a recent post on Facebook, a friend of mine linked to an article in “The Telegraph” a British paper (I think) in which some medical ethicists from Oxford have argued that it is ok to kill a newborn because they are morally irrelevant. This moral irrelevance seems to be something which the child itself needs to have to avoid being put to death.

It seems that “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.” How’s that again? The “Moral status”? So an newborn and a ‘yet to be born’ lack properties which would allow us to attribute the right to life to them. They have no right to life. None. Zilch!  So how long, or how old might you need to be until this ‘right to life’ can be attributed to you. The article didn’t say but did offer a couple of fascinating (in a sick kinda way) clues.

Rather than being “actual persons”, newborns were “potential persons”. So if you reach your potential (that of being a person)then you have moral relevance

Ok…so there is a potential there. I seem to remember a story about a guy thrown into jail because he destroyed the potentiality of sea turtles by taking the buried eggs. Apparently the unborn sea turtle has to right to try and reach potential but the fetus and newborn does not. If you want to defend one, you have to defend the other.

But when do you get to that potential? “We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.” I see, it is when someone can conclude that their existence is of some value to themselves. In other words, if you take my life, it will be a loss to me. I should think so!!

But, by that same reckoning, until my sister can grasp that the gummy bear I gave her in exchange for the $5 bill is a loss to her, she has no business having any money. (I don’t know why my mother was so upset!)

Now this next  makes sense:

” However, they did not argue that some baby killings were more justifiable than others – their fundamental point was that, morally, there was no difference to abortion as already practised.”

This statement actually makes sense. I mean really, what is the difference between killing an unborn and a newborn child? Here they have spoken truthfully and for those who support abortion, you need to wrestle with this one. A mother’s life is just as interrupted (and perhaps more) by a newborn child as it is by being pregnant. So, just kill the baby and eliminate the inconvenience?

It is the same on the argument of those who argue for same sex marriage. Why not argue for polygamous marriages and marriages to animals and on and on.

I do not know where the ethics come into these ethicists viewpoint. If they are just trying to show the inconsistency of the abortion argument, they succeeded. But, if they are, as I suppose that they are, trying to promote that killing a newborn baby is an ok thing to do, then where do you stop?

What happens if this child never develops the potential that they have? Oh this should send a lot of teens and early twenty somethings into terrified convulsions. I mean what’s good for the newborn is good for the newborn plus 18 years, isn’t it? At what point do we decide that there is ‘only potential’ and that it will never be reached?

And would they argue for or against the death penalty? Notice that the person (child) has to grasp that depriving them of life is a loss to that themselves, not to others. But if the child grows up to be a menace and uses their intelligence to harm others, they could arguably be said to not have lived up to their potential. Just abort them 18 or 25 years after the birth. No potential, no right to life.

(They miss the point that the death penalty is a judicial tool for justice.)

In promoting arguments on Euthanasia and abortion, the destination of that journey has not yet been reached. However, every so often we see roadsigns that tell us how much closer we are.

Be humble

Humility is a characteristic that we need to develop. It is one of those characteristics that I think we can see that God possesses too. With that in mind, it should not be a surprise that we are told to be humble too.

Humble is a word that comes from root words referring to the earth or ground. Some one who humbles himself or is humbled is brought low; An image of going from high to low. Someone who is humble is not a person who thinks of himself as the center of everything.

Many years ago people thought the earth was the center of the universe. It is referred to as a Geo-centric view. By rearranging the letters you can go from Geo to Ego. Ego, of course, is the Latin word for self or I. An Ego centric view is that the world revolves around oneself.

So what about the one around whom the world does indeed revolve? When God himself takes on the form of a man and dies for him and says in effect “Even though the world does revolve around me and I deserve to have all the glory and be served, I am here to serve and die for you”, where does that leave us when we think about “our rights” and “our due” and “our honor”?

Probably w/o an excuse.

 “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 18:3-4)

Of course, one can take humility too far. We need to learn the difference between putting others first and being taken advantage of. I don’t think Jesus was taken advantage of even though he gave his life for us. We have a perfect example of humility in our Lord and Savior.



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