Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday Blog

On this Good Friday, I wanted to share a few random thoughts. First of all, you were put on this earth for a reason. You were created by God for a specific purpose in life. God has plans for you- He knows where you live- He knows every weakness- every sorrow-every temptation-every longing of your heart. Many are in pursuit of "the meaning of life" and have come away without discovering the answer. That’s because the meaning of life cannot be found within. Contrary to popular belief, happiness will evade you if you try to find it in materialism, acceptance by others, relationships (sometimes even toxic relationships), or "success" (however one would define that). Some of the most "successful" people in life, are miserable. History has documented many such instances, especially where wealth in particular did not bring contentment and fulfillment in life.

This brings me to my point today. Many will commemorate "Good Friday" today without giving any real thought to the meaning behind it. Some employers will give employees the day off, many children will be on holiday from school responsibilities, and others will see it as merely a kickoff to spring break. Good Friday is good, but not because some get a vacation day. Good Friday is good, because it is the day in which God demonstrated His love for mankind in a very tangible way. The Apostle Paul told the Romans in very plain terms the ramifications of Good Friday:

Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (NKJ)

This is the message of Good Friday. There was nothing "good" about it for Jesus Christ. For Jesus, this is a scriptural account of Good Friday found from the prophet Isaiah:

Isa 53:3 He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; he was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4 Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (NKJ)

He suffered and died to procure the salvation of mankind, and ensure that they could spend eternity in Heaven with Him one day. So I pose the question to all who read this blog today- have you considered where you will spend eternity? There is a popular expression briefly summarized this way..."you only live once". Unfortunately, though popular, it’s false. Humanity will live forever because God created us as eternal beings. There are two possible destinations for man when he leaves this world. For those who follow Jesus Christ, they will spend eternity with Him and experience joy, contentment, and fulfillment that the human mind has never comprehended. It will be a real, literal place- not just floating around, eating marshmallow clouds, and playing harps- this is a mischaracterization of Heaven. Heaven and the New Earth will be real and tangible just like the Earth you live on now is. There will be real people, real cities, real bodies to live in (remember that Jesus ate fish, was recognizable, had a flesh & bone body that Thomas touched after His resurrection), and plenty of activities to participate in (far beyond the scope of harp-playing, despite how appealing that may be to some).

Consequently, the bible also speaks of a place called Hell. It is not simply a place of annihilation, nor will it be the proverbial picnic that the world portrays. It is a place of torment. It is a place of separation- from God, happiness, hope, and basically anything that is desirable. Jesus described hell as a place where "the worm never dies". Jesus told a story of a rich man in hell, and remarkably, one of the main concerns of this rich man was this- that none of his friends and family also go there. That’s right- those in hell are not looking for company- they are actually hoping that someone will warn their beloved friends and family not to come there! What a sobering thought.

That brings me to conclusion. Many have never heard "The Gospel" (literally, the Good News). That’s right- the Gospel is Good News. It is not a message of condemnation. Jesus did not come to the world to condemn the world, but to save it! But in order to be saved, one must repent and believe the Gospel. What is the Gospel you ask? Rather than give you some pre-packed Christianese answer, let me just quote the words of Paul:

1 Cor 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you-- unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, (NKJ)

So on this Good Friday, have you considered how much God loves you? Are you still trying to be a "good person" (which is a myth) so that God will perhaps grant you entrance into Heaven when you die? Remember the Scripture I posted earlier that stated that Jesus died for us while "we were still yet sinners"? What would really make this the best Good Friday ever for you is to call on the name of the Lord who loves you. If you have any questions about how to appropriate this, give me a shout- I would be glad to pray with you and help!


Thursday, March 20, 2008

"It's no good, it's no good"

Prov 20:14 It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth. (KJV)

This proverb always brings a smile to my face. If you're like me, there's probably a friend or family member who is always ready to analyze your latest purchase. My favorite response is the typical "you should have bought that at (insert store name here), because you could have saved two dollars". Some seem to really take bargain finding to another level altogether- willing to drive an extra ten miles to save an additional $0.50.

The "buyer" in the proverb above goes a step further. In his negotiating (reminds me of the typical "yard-sale" negotiator), he deliberately portrays the goods in question as worthless or of low quality, in order to gain an advantage and procure a discount. His duplicity is evident for when he has "gone his way" he boasts of his bargaining skills and the great product he has gotten as "a steal".

I love a good deal as much as the next guy. There is no sin in taking advantage of a good deal when you run across one. I understand that (most) vendors are in business to make a profit. I don't have a problem with that. Obviously some sellers may have extravagent mark-ups in their pricing which might appear to justify the aforementioned practice. But let's resist the temptation to convey their goods as faulty or defective in order to get the best deals. We may go our way boasting of the purchase, but is God smiling down on us?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ox or No Ox, that is the question......

Prov 14:4 Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.(KJV)

I preached a sermon on this at our church a little less than a year ago, taking a different angle than many would have. I preached it from the perspective of "church". I speak with countless pastors who unfortunately lament to me "pastoring would be great if it didn't involve working with people". While I certainly do understand the cry behind such a statement, it also indicates a problem with our thinking. I would be lying to you if I said that being a pastor at times didn't "get on my nerves". Not because I don't care about people, but because people frequently ignore biblical counsel in favor of their own solutions to life's problems. To be completely fair, some pastors (yes even me!) have difficulty implementing their own biblical strategies to the complexities of life.

Many imagine and fantasize about a "clean crib" (any reference to the modern term "crib" for a person's residence is purely coincidental here...). There are many parents who can't wait for an "empty nest". Perhaps there are pastors like the anonymous friends above who dream of having a trouble-free congregation of one family (the pastor's own family that is...). The only problem with that line of thinking, is that there is "much increase by the strength of the ox". Yes, children can be loud, rude, messy, obnoxious, selfish, insensitive, ....ok you get the picture. But they are also a wonderful delight. For every mom or dad who counts down the days to an empty nest, there are two more who wish their kids would come running to the door to greet them when they get home from work.

True, ministry (and in particular pastoring) can be difficult at times due to personality conflicts. But much can be accomplished when the saints of God gather together and unite for common goals. God created us for community. One of the first recorded words we have from God in Genesis concern man's need for companionship and help. Yes, if there is an ox in the can count on the floor getting messy! I don't think many live with the impression that there is the "perfect" church- postmodern thinking has pretty much destroyed this mythical entity. But still people are surprised that church and ministry can be messy at times. Leaders lock horns over issues, congregations are divided about the direction that leadership is taking. But at the end of the day, we need one another.

Your ability to lead is not measured in terms of getting everyone to agree with you or to fit into some type of paradigm that you have adopted. But real strength of character and leadership is displayed when you can influence others even when they may have some disagreements with your methodology. Real leaders are able to make the most out of a bad situation and earn the respect of those who disagree with them. I didn't intend for this post to be about leadership per se, but perhaps that's the direction that God wanted to take it.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Better to be a nobody

Prov 12:99 He that is despised, and hath a servant, is better than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread.(KJV)

We live in a society that values those who "have the most toys" and those who are popular. Countless television programs and publications are devoted to following every minute detail of the lives of celebrities. The Christian community is not much different, as we have our own celebrities and much-imitated personalities. Certainly godly influence is virtuous, and even the apostle Paul declared "follow me as I follow Christ". But I don't think Paul envisioned having "groupies" who parroted his words and tried to emulate his mannerisms, style of dress, and so on. It always makes me a little sad when I see that a really good Bible teacher or talented musician begins to receive mainstream acceptance. It's not that I don't want them to prosper, or that I want the message of the Gospel to be stifled in any way- it's just that notoriety has a way of ruining even the best of intentions.

Today's Proverb says that it's better to be a "nobody" with a servant than some big-name who lacks sufficient bread. I wonder how many people are envied with a passion, and yet they would do anything to trade places with a "nobody"? Probably more than you might think. The celebrity who has spent a great portion of his life trying to "make it big" then spends the rest of his time trying "to live a normal life" once he achieves it. The tabloids refuse him any privacy or sense of normalcy in his life. And often the perceived wealth that people have is really not wealth at all.

I'm reminded of a recent television commercial which depicted a man riding on his lawn mower in front of a lavish-looking home in a prominent community. Smiling as he rode along his 2 acres on his John Deere, he proclaimed "I'm in debt up to my eyeballs." It humorously (but honestly) portrayed the "American Dream". There is nothing wrong with success in business, and even the bible states that God will prosper those who labor and are generous. But let's not fall into the trap of wanting to be a "somebody" by worldly standards. Remember Jesus made Himself of "no reputation" when He was on the earth. I can't think of a better model to follow!

Until next time....

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Just Weight & A False Balance

Pro 11:1 A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.

We don't deal as much with primitive means to determine weights and measurements. However, the principles of ethical behavior (or the lack thereof) are still the same. Abomination may seem like a rather harsh term to use for the practice of shady business dealings, but that's the way God feels about such. We're coming up on the dreaded tax deadline here in the States. Granted, I don't enjoy taxes any more than the next guy. But, yet there will be countless numbers of people who employ (pun intended) false balances in order to gain an advantage over "Caesar".

Can you put a price tag on your integrity? It has been said many times by secular humanists that "every man has his price". Jesus asked the question that demands an answer- what will a man give in exchange for his soul? I can assure you that no amount of profit is worth eternal loss. Just as dishonest business practices are an abomination in the sight of God, ethical dealings in commerce bring delight to the heart of God. Yes, God is actually pleased when we place a premium upon integrity and justice in our dealings with our fellow man.

Until next time....

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Proverb a day?

I know, it's way too ambitious a goal for me, and probably neither practical nor prudent (I'm using alliteration a lot today!), but the thought has occurred to me that perhaps we should study a Proverb every day....or at least a small portion of it. How many sermons have I heard that outline the fact that there are almost as many Proverbs as there are days in each month? Well, I'm not making any promises, but for my own personal devotions I think I'm going to look at the book of Proverbs and the corresponding days & chapters. Since today (or what's left of it) is March 10th, let's look at a portion from Proverbs 10.

Prov 10:19 In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.(KJV)

Now that's a mouthful isn't it? (pun intended) I'm not sure who coined this phrase (I think it was Abraham Lincoln), but there is one that goes something like this: "better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt". Perhaps Abraham (or the true author of the quote) borrowed his wisdom from the Proverbs. Whenever there are a multitude of words, sin never seems to be far behind. Rare is the church that doesn't have to decry the sin of gossip on a regular basis.

Ever notice that in any given courtroom situation, that the more a person says on the witness stand, the more they seem to incriminate themselves? Precisely the reason that law enforcement uses the phrase "you have the right to remain silent". The bible says that we will be much better off if we exercise that God-given right of silence. True, there will be some willing to part company with you, but that's ok.....where there is no talebearer...the strife ceases!!!