Fear Your Heavenly Father – Ephesians 1:5; Deut. 10:12-13

In his book The Great Awakening, Chuck Swindoll recalls the sense of freedom and independence he felt when as a teenager he received his first driver’s license. His father rewarded him.

“Tell you what, son… you can have the car for two hours, all on your own.” Only four words, but how wonderful those four words: “All on your own.” Wow!

I thanked him….. My pulse rate must have shot up to 180 as I backed out of the driveway and roared off. While cruising along “all on my own,” I began to think wild stuff – like, ‘This car can probably do 100 miles an hour. I could go to Galveston and back twice in two hours if I averaged 100 miles an hour. I can fly down the Golf Freeway and even run a few lights. After all, nobody’s here to say “Don’t!”’ We’re talking dangerous, crazy thoughts! But you know what? I didn’t do any of them. I don’t believe I drove above the speed limit. In fact, I distinctly remember turning into the driveway early….I had my dad’s car all to myself with a full gas tank in a context of total privacy and freedom, but I didn’t go crazy. Why? My relationship with my dad and my grandad was so strong that I couldn’t, even though I had a license and nobody was in the car to restrain me. Over a period of time, there had developed a sense of trust, a deep love relationship that held me in restraint.

Similarly, our love relationship for our heavenly Father keeps us from abusing the freedom He gives us. Recently, I was teaching on the subject of adoption, as Paul writes in Ephesians 1:5 In love 5He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – The question was asked, ‘When you call God your “Father”, how do you picture Him? Is it a title of respect, or of love, or of power?’ Most viewed it as a combination of the three as most of them had a similar, loving relationship with their own fathers and respected him and his instruction. Along with that respect was a healthy recognition of power. Not everyone has a positive, loving relationship with a father figure. The view we have, positive or negative, or non-existent, of our fathers will reflect in some manor, in our view of God as our “Father”. For some, “father” brings remembrances of a domineering, ‘do as I say or else’, tyrant figure with no sense of love. For some, a “father” was pretty much invisible, offering no boundaries at all, no direction, no involvement… and no relationship. Where there is no discipline, no consequence, there is no teaching, no caring, no love.

For the adolescent that resents the discipline of their father, they need to understand that the opposite would allow them grow up not knowing right from wrong, and that there are consequences for doing wrong; whether they come from him or from society. But preceding discipline there must be love; a love relationship that displays the “why” of the discipline.

Fathers, avoiding the conflict that discipline brings, doing your best to win your child’s favor no matter what, is not the definition of love. Loving your child with all your being is only a one sided love. A love relationship extends that love that you feel, to a love that is applied. A love that wants only what is best for the other; to teach, instruct, and keep them from harm.

Throughout scripture we are told to “fear the Lord”. Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;” How interesting it is that the “all of the above” answer that was given earlier, is precisely what is meant to “fear the Lord”; to love the Lord, to respect the Lord, to acknowledge and “fear” His great power. But know this; although God is not looking for an opportunity to punish you for stepping out of line, sin comes with severe consequences. God cannot, will not, coexist with sin. Know also that God genuinely loves you, not just with words. He loves you enough that he warns you about sin – stay away from it. It comes at a great cost! Everything God does for us is because of His great love. He sent His only Son to die for us – to justify and reconcile us to Himself.

God set us free from sin. He loved us first, and now He wants us to love Him back by honoring Him, fearing Him. We follow His direction, His commands; we fear Him because we love and respect our Father.

Deuteronomy 10:12-13  12And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

 

In Christ,

Rick

Procrastination is a matter of urgency! Ecclesiastes 11:3-4; Matthew 8:21-22

Procrastination can be harmless enough that we notice our guilt of such and then tell ourselves it’s something we’ve got to stop doing – but, even that becomes procrastination.  The point is, we are devoid of urgency.  I remember a time many years ago when I was leaning to scuba dive. I was diving with friends (our “open-water exam”) in Little Traverse Bay in Petoskey, Michigan.  At about 80 feet of depth, engrossed in the beauty of my underwater surroundings, I ran my air tank dry.  One breath was there…the next wasn’t. that’ll get your attention! That was a pretty good word picture of “Urgency”.  It’s also a pretty good antonym for “Procrastination”!

At that moment I cared little about whether I had money enough for my next car payment, whether the right candidate would be elected president, or if all my yard work was done at home.  Praise God! My scuba instructor was right there with me, saw the terror in my eyes and offered me his octopus (spare regulator). I seem to remember pretty vividly that it didn’t take me long to decide to accept his invitation! There was no, “listen, I appreciate the offer but let me check with some of the other drivers in the area to see if maybe they have more air to spare. I’ll get back to ya!’, or, ‘I think I can squeeze out another few breaths. I’ll get around to that in a couple more minutes.  But thanks anyway.’  At that moment, there was nothing in this life that was more important to me!

Unfortunately, we don’t always treat our opportunities or assignments with the same zeal or urgency. Dad tells us he’d like to have the garage cleaned out.  We concur. ‘I’ll get on to that’, we say with our mouth.  But, in our minds, our hearts, it’s, ‘…right after I finish my video game I’m playing’, or ‘…when I get around to it.’   Those “round to-its” are in short supply.  We never seem to be able to find those.  Then we realize it’s Friday and we’d really like to borrow the car tonight to take Suzy to the movies. So we hustle out to clean that garage…only to find that Dad got tired of waiting, so he cleaned it himself. Oops! ‘Dad! I was going to do that! I just got busy with other important things!’

Some things aren’t nearly so excusable.  We’re given an opportunity or assignment and it isn’t taken seriously, urgently, there’s no second chance.  Sometimes…there’s no “round to-it” to be had.  The assignment is for “now”. When God calls on us, the Holy Spirit puts it on our heart, to do something, you best believe it’s a serious matter. There’s no maybe about it.  It needs to be done “now”, not at our convenience.  Sometimes the lessons God teaches us are hard to swallow.  Like we say, ‘the truth hurts’.

The Bible warns us against procrastination and waiting for that perfect time to arrive.  Getting your life straight, your relationship right with the Lord is a matter of utmost urgency.  It’s not something to wait for that perfect sunny day or till you’re in that right spiritual mood.  When that still soft voice calls you, convicts you…it’s time to act.  One writer paraphrases Ecclesiastes 11:4 in this way; “Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant, if they watch every cloud, they never harvest.”

Deuteronomy 23:21 If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin.

All too often people put off giving their life to Jesus, surrendering their will to His will in repentance and baptism, saying, “I need to do that…one of these days.”  As if they have a set amount of time with which to work.  James 4:14 says, Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

In Matthew 8 certain well-meaning disciples wanted to follow after Jesus, but not urgently enough to take top priority.  21 “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

The opportunities God gives us are urgent. Act on them and don’t procrastinate.

In Christ,

Rick

The kingdom of God – Luke 17:20-21

All that glitters is not gold. I’m not really sure who to credit with that quote, but it certainly does carry with it a great impact. The condition, consistency, makeup, or appearance of the exterior doesn’t necessarily define the content of the interior.

 

Another anonymous quote that helps to drive home such a point is, ‘A man can make a suit, but the suit don’t make the man!  By nature, we are visually oriented creatures. We tend to relate what we “see” to “truth”, or reality. Conversely, we try to act like or “dress ourselves up” to be something that we’re not. Doesn’t mean we couldn’t become that character we so desperately try to mimic, rather, true conversion requires something more than outward appearance. “Conversion”, is not acting. Conversion, is transformation. Something occurs within the heart of a person that alters their thinking, their values, their persona, to where they are no longer the person they were before. A caterpillar that enters his cocoon in the fall doesn’t merely put on a costume to look like a butterfly. When he emerges from that cocoon in the springtime, he is indeed, a transformed creature.

 

Someone dear to me was taken from their mother at a young age. After a time living in an orphanage / children’s home, she was adopted by a man and woman who also had two adult children of their own. It wasn’t long till the man and his wife were divorced and she spent time living with each of the adult children, neither of which realized the level of responsibility and commitment that being a parent required. Her “step-father” had a sister and brother-in-law who were unable to have children and they graciously took her into their home and would raise her as their own. They weren’t wealthy by any means, but they had a farm and a Christian environment and they raised her and loved her as their own, only child. After a while, they wanted more than anything to adopt her, but the process would prove to be financially difficult. One day, when the little girl and her new mother were home alone, she said to her mother with a maturity beyond her years, “Please don’t feel like you need to adopt me. You’re my mom and dad whether I’m adopted or not. We don’t need a piece of paper to say so.”

 

So it is with us all in our relationship with God. We live in the world, but as part of God’s kingdom, or family, we are to live according to his kingdom’s standards and values. What does it take to be part of God’s kingdom? To be a Christian; is it a list of do’s and don’ts, our nationality, how we dress or what we say?

 

The bible talks a lot about “the kingdom of God”. In Matthew 6, Jesus’ followers had asked Him to teach them how to pray. Jesus prays the model prayer we refer to as “The Lord’s Prayer” and it begins, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Last Sunday night I asked, “What does that mean? What is God’s kingdom? Does that refer to the second coming of Jesus? So, the kingdom of God is not currently here on earth; it’s something we’re still waiting for, like the Jews of Jesus’ time awaited the coming Messiah?”

Here’s how Jesus explained the kingdom of God to the Pharisee’s of His day. Luke 17:20-21       20 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.

 

The kingdom of God refers to salvation and those who have believed and trusted in Jesus Christ to redeem them. Those who have surrendered themselves and accept His death, burial, and resurrection as payment for their sins, have been added to the kingdom of God. But the kingdom of God is not a place, nor any kind of outward appearance. It’s an internal transformation that makes us into citizens of His kingdom.

 

His kingdom is a dynamic kingdom. It’s constantly moving toward His righteousness, His perfect will. As believers in Jesus Christ, He accepts us as we are, where we are; but He doesn’t intend for us to stay that way. As we earnestly seek Him, love Him, and honor Him we progress toward being like Him.

Notice in the Lord’s prayer it says, “your kingdom come, your will be done…”.  Also in Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…”, in other words, His will. Believe in God’s Son and be baptized, and progress according to His will.  Be changed, transformed creatures.

In John 3:1-7, Jesus explained to Nicodemus to same concept using “rebirth”, being “born again” as the metaphor for a transformed life.  3 “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

 

The kingdom of God is here and now and growing by the hour. The Jews thought they would be citizens of this earthly kingdom by virtue of their heritage, their nationality. Many today think their ticket to God’s kingdom is about being at church every Sunday and giving a prescribed amount of money, how they dress, what they eat or drink… These are only costumes, excuses for the real thing. You want to be part of the kingdom of God? You need to be changed from the inside, out. “You must be born again.”

 

In Christ,

Rick

Expect the Miraculous! Hebrews 11:6

Thought to ponder: Why is it that I always seem to find what I’m looking for in the very last place I look? But perhaps the more important question would be; why do I so often “overlook” things of great importance? It’s like the story of the guy that was down on all fours, under a street light at night, searching frantically for something. A passerby asks him what he’s looking for. He answers, “I’ve lost my watch.” The passerby begins to help him look, but to no avail.

Finally the passerby asks the man, “Are you sure it was in this area that you lost it?”

“Oh, no.” the man says. “I lost it in that ally over there.”

“So, why are we looking here?”

“Because the light’s so much better.” He answered.

We miss things, overlook things, because we’re not actively seeking them. We predetermine where to look or how it will look. It’s like going online to order something, paying for it, and waiting for a reply but never checking our mailbox. In our Christmas series, God’s Christmas Messages to You, the first message was “Prepare for the Miraculous”. God sent His angel, Gabriel with a message to Zechariah that his prayers were about to be answered; his barren wife, Elizabeth, would give birth to a son. Not only that, but a son full of the Holy Spirit who would be the forerunner to the long awaited Messiah (Luke 1:13-20). In spite of Zechariah’s prayers to God, he was not prepared for the miraculous. Gabriel caught him off guard – to the extent that he wouldn’t take Gabriel at his word, at God’s word. In Luke 1:20 Gabriel says, “And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.”

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

You don’t generally “seek after” something, or someone, you don’t believe in. Another miracle that God promised was the coming of a deliverer, the Messiah; God incarnate. This was prophesied to Israel centuries beforehand. But Israel had either ceased to “earnestly seek him” or they had formulated their own preconceived idea of what he should look like. Either way, he went unrecognized. That’s what happens when we become unprepared for the miraculous. It appears right there before us and, because we’re looking for something different than God’s word promised, we miss it. John 1:10-11 says, 10“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Max Lucado describes the manger scene and those who sought their long awaited savior, in a very pragmatic, unpretentious way:

The stable stinks like all stables do…A more lowly place of birth could not exist.

Off to one side sit a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor; perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him – so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds (Lk 2:8-15).

Max Lucado, God Came Near   

God had entered the world in a humble form, helpless and vulnerable. Born in a stable with no fanfare or celebration aside from the heavenly host. That’s what happens when we decide how, when, and in what form the miraculous should be…when we fail to “earnestly seek him”.

How often do we completely overlook the miraculous, the obvious? The fact is that we overlook most anything that we aren’t emphatically seeking. Let us seek after Him with all our hearts, by His direction not our own.

Luke 12:40 “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Our God is an awesome God! Let’s expect the miraculous, this Christmas season and always!

 

In Christ,

Rick

Don’t Worry About It! Matthew 6:25-27

 

With advent of the new year upon us, there is much to think about, to consider about 2017. Our feelings range from nostalgia for the year gone by; what we could have done better, what we accomplished, the happy moments and the not so happy moments, loved ones who are no longer with us, and the new additions to our families; to excitement for the intended resolutions we make for an improved life in the new year. But one thing remains constant with regard to the new year as we peer forward; uncertainty. And the baggage that uncertainty brings is worry.

 

When we are uncertain about an outcome it can go one of two ways: the way we’d like it to go, the way we envision as ideal, but if not…then our minds explode with every variation of negative outcomes. That is fear. Fear of the unknown. Anxiety.

 

We recently went through a presidential election. If that wasn’t worrisome enough, we now have the anticipation of a brand new administration taking office in January. What will life be like with a new president? Will the concerns we had before be alleviated? Will the new administration do all the things they promised before the election? Will life be better…or worse? What about health care? What about foreign affairs? Will be more, or less vulnerable to terrorism? Will our economy be better, or worse? The answer to these and countless other “worries” that we have, is, ‘we don’t know’, it’s all uncertain.

 

Worry comes about from the unknown, but that’s because we have no control over the outcome. We have no way of knowing if what we want to come about, will actually “come about”, and in that there’s worry. In addition to the new President, there are a number of other things we really have no control over, things that add to our worries. Even the things we think we have control over, we worry that the control might not be sustained.

What may change in the new year? Will I be able to keep my job? Will I make enough money to keep up with rising costs of living? Will I be able to meet all my obligations?

 

What about my health or the health of my family? I’m not getting any younger, will I get sick, be hospitalized? Will I be able to afford health insurance?

There’s the mental stress from work. Family worries; children in school, grown children, their jobs, their families, grandchildren. Relationship worries…and on and on and on it goes. The fact is, we control precious little. The majority of life is uncertain….to us.

 

There’s a difference between what we control, and what He controls. Even those things that we start to think we’re in control of, we need to understand, even that was given to us from our heavenly Father. God controls all things present and future. We need to place our full faith and trust in Him to care for us, provide for us.

Jesus addressed this issue of worrying quite directly in the Sermon on the Mount.

 

Matthew 6:25-27 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

On the contrary, anxiety may very well shorten your life.

This new year that we embark upon is a blank slate. One that can be a beautiful portrait, one more beautiful than you or I could possibly imagine. But our worry must be converted to trust, faith in God that He loves us and cares for us in our distresses and adversities. We need to entrust each and every day to His provision and care, praying that His perfect will be done. “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

As far as the new year is concerned…Don’t worry about it! Jesus commands us not to!

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7

 

In Christ,

Rick

Is God too kind to be Just? Proverbs 29:1

Brett Kays, Minister of a Christian Church in Southeast Michigan, told about a radio report of a problem in an Oregon middle school where a number of girls who had started using lipstick would go into the girl’s bathroom to apply it. After they put it on, they would then press their lips up against the mirrors leaving dozens of lip prints.

Finally the principle decided it was time to take action. She called the girls to the bathroom and met them there along with the custodian. She explained that the lip prints were causing the major problems for the custodian, who had to clean the mirrors every day. To demonstrate just how difficult it was, she asked the custodian to clean one of the mirrors. He took out a long-handled brush, dipped it into the toilet, and scrubbed the mirrors clean. Apparently, the problem of “mirror kissing” subsided soon after.

Certainly there are more destructive activities than this going on in our schools today. Many times we don’t realize the ramifications that our actions cause. Many times we don’t really want to know, and many times we don’t particularly care. “Girls just wanna have fun!”, right? Sometimes our desires to do what we want to do, when we want to do it, requires a bit of anesthesia. We tell ourselves that those things we want to do in life have no consequences. There’s no retribution, no cost for our choices. Live and let live we say.

People can be stubborn creatures. We want what we want, and if there are obstacles in the way that might deter our actions, we set out to find a way to circumvent those obstacles.

A.W. Tozer says, “God spares us because he is good, but He could not be good if He were not “just”. God’s justice stands against the sinner in utter severity.

The hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a “deadly opiate” for the consciences of millions. It hushes their fears and allows them to practice all pleasant forms of iniquity while death draws nearer and the command to repent goes unregarded.”

An “opiate” is a sedative. The dictionary describes it as “anything that causes dullness or inaction or that soothes the feelings.” An opiate masks reality, induces sleep where there was none before. It dulls the nerves so as not to feel the pain when the reality of trauma is introduced. The reality is that when we do certain things to our bodies, nerve endings alert us, in the form of pain, that something is wrong. We don’t like pain. Our brain tells us, ‘If you don’t like the pain, don’t do that again!’ Pain is the consequence of traumatic actions to the body. But if we feel strongly enough about doing those things, about averting the consequence while still being able to do the pain inducing act, we take an “opiate”, a pain killer, that numbs us to the pain.

What do we do about the actions in life that we know are not the right thing to do – things that have consequences, things that gnaw at our conscience and keep reminding us over, and over, and over, that we should not be doing that… like a nagging toothache?

We often council ourselves on things that we know we shouldn’t or mustn’t do so as to rationalize, telling ourselves that it’s really okay to do. We know that God is loving, God is compassionate, God is goodness, God is merciful. I believe in Jesus, His son. A God like that is too kind to punish me for sinful acts that I might do from time to time, right?

Proverbs 29:1 A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed – without remedy.

Sin is attractive. It’s seductive. It tells you how much fun you’re missing out on, and there’s no cost. It will offer all the rationalization that you need to make it okay to do. Sin will even provide you with scripture – out of context of course, but it’s still scripture. And that makes it okay. Sin will offer you the anesthetic you need to let you do what you know you must not do, without the pain of a searing conscience. And when it’s something, a selfish desire, that we want to be able to do so badly, we push that conscience voice to the recesses of our mind and we stubbornly forge ahead.

That’s why we call it a “deadly opiate”. Sin always comes with a consequence. You can dull your senses into believing it’s all okay. ‘God loves me too much to punish me.’ And God is loving, compassionate, and good, but God is also just.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.

In Christ, Rick

Co-mmission, O-mission; It’s all Sin – James 4:17; Mt. 25:44-45

So, what’s worse; to go through life doing bad things that hurt other people, or to go through life not doing good things that would help to enrich and edify the lives of others? You ponder that question ad nausea, and there’s just no way to make a pig look pretty simply by putting lipstick on it. There’s no way to make a wrong decision, right. And in this situation both are wrong. Simply not doing one wrong act cannot exonerate the omission of the duty one has to do a right thing, a good and moral thing.
Over a year ago, I shared in a sermon the story of Kitty Genovese. She was 28 year old girl who lived in Queens, New York and worked at bar not far from her home. One night in 1964, on her way home from work at 3 a.m., she was randomly attacked, raped, and stabbed to death in front of her apartment. 38 witnesses, neighbors, watched for over an hour and a half and not one person called 911 nor offered to help. One witness said, when asked why they didn’t call for help, said, “I didn’t want to get involved.”
When is it ever a wrong time to do a right thing? Is procrastination sin? James 4:17 says, “17Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
Christians so often, focus on what they shouldn’t do and neglect what they should be doing. ‘I don’t want to sin. And that involves doing something, right?’ Well, is not obeying God’s commands a sin? Maybe once we’ve accepted the grace of Jesus and we’re saved, we should all go up on a mountain top and wait for Jesus to come again…and not sin! Sin comes in two categories:
Sins of co-mission, whereby we do sinful acts. Willful transgressions against God; overt, rebellious acts. Doing things that scripture expressly tells us as believers, not to do. Ephesians 5:3-6; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Do not kill. Do not lie. Do not cheat on your spouse. Don’t worship idols. Grace never gives us a free ticket to continue to sin. 1 John 3:6 says, “No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him.” These are sins we co-mmit.
Sins of o-mission, on the other hand, are deeds left undone; behaviors that God’s Word instructs us to do, or, to imitate, to display in our lives. These things that we “don’t do” are disobedience to our heavenly Father and they are sin. Things we don’t do that we are supposed to do. Ephesians 2:10 says that every believer is “…created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
As born again believers in Jesus Christ, we have been blessed to be a blessing to others, not just take our prize and head for home, hording it to ourselves. We are to love what God loves, and despise what God despises. Our actions, attitudes, mannerisms should reflect those of our Father… “…that we should be called the sons of God.” 1 John 3:1. If we truly love God, we want to be more like Him in every way. We want to resemble Him, emulate Him, and certainly obey Him.
The Good Samaritan in Luke 10 came upon a man, a despised Jew, who had been beaten severely, robbed and left for dead. If being a Christian was only limited to “not doing sinful acts”, he could’ve continued on his way, “not getting involved”, and with clear conscience; because, after all, he didn’t commit a sin.
What about us today? Do we hide behind the façade of “not getting involved”?
Matthew 25:44-45 44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Sin…separates us from God. Whether it’s a sin committed or a reflection of Christ omitted, it’s disobedience to toward our Lord and Savior – and that’s sin.
In Christ, Rick

Less is not more! Acts 2:42; Mt. 4:23; 2 Peter 1:5

Have you ever noticed how, more and more, people want more for less? They want something for nothing. That seems to be the primary target of investment; minimal outlay for maximum production! I guess we call that efficiency, and that’s a good thing. But somehow that seems to counteract the concept of “investment”. When someone goes to a gambling casino, the goal is to come out with more than you entered with, right? Put in a dollar, receive many dollars. If there were such a game where we could put in nothing, but simply be declared “winner” by virtue of showing up and thusly be handed over some large amount of money, I suppose the lineup to play would be endless! But would anyone actually call that “investment”?

People want something, financial, educational, material, without the sufficient effort to obtain it. It’s always a nice thing when prices go down or a good deal avails itself. The problem is when the commodity gets trimmed while the same price is required. The less is more philosophy works in both directions. At the restaurant, we’re told, ‘Look, our prices haven’t increased like our competitors!’. But, portions have decreased for the same price as before!

Genesis 3:19 tells man that he must work for his food. But should we expect more and more food for the same amount of work? Anything that’s desirable is worthy of investment. Today’s culture thinks nothing of a man and woman cohabitating without the commitment of marriage. They move in together, have children together, share finances… who needs to be married? Commitment goes both ways – it’s an investment of lives, a forsaking of any other relationship options. More is more.

Unfortunately, the less is more mentality seems to have found its way into the church as well. More and more Christians want the deep Spiritual relationship with Jesus, with a minimal investment. When I was growing up, “going to church” was far more than an hour of worship on Sunday morning. The Lord’s Day began with Sunday School at 9:00, followed by morning worship from 10:30 – 12:00. Sunday evening we had evening worship – i.e. sermon, hymns, invitation just like morning worship. Then, Wednesday evening was youth group and prayer meeting. For whatever reason, Sunday School has become optional to the point of being done away with altogether in many churches. It’s simply too much of an investment. We want the same relationship with Jesus, but less “church”, less study, less commitment.

Acts 2:42 says believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Why is it so difficult for people to be devoted to anything more than the least they can do? Seeking the kingdom of God, first, above all else, requires an investment of ourselves. Sunday School, for our children and for adults as well, is a tremendous opportunity for every believer to be taught, to be engrained in the truths of scripture. Preaching is equally important and essential to our spiritual growth. But “teaching” is another aspect.

Matthew 4:23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

Teaching and preaching are separate things, both important, both necessary. Our schedules are indeed hectic. We work long hours leaving us little time to spend with our families, and they are important. Mark 8:36 But what good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  Or, the soul of his family? Sunday School is a tremendous opportunity to instill God’s teaching into the minds of our children, and as they witness Mom and Dad also going to Sunday School, there is great opportunity to lead by example, showing them that seeking the kingdom of God knows no age.

Sunday School is a great way to get involved in the life of the church.

Sunday School is a great way to influence the lives of people; young and old alike.

Sunday School is so important because of the text book we use.

Sunday School follows the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If you aren’t presently in the practice of attending Sunday School, give it a try. Bring your children and come yourself at 9:45 on Sunday morning. 2 Peter 1:5 tells us to “make every effort to add to your faith goodness, and to goodness, knowledge…”  The goodness in our lives means nothing without the knowledge of God’s word. Let Jesus teach you how to live.

Less is not more!                                                                                             In Christ, Rick

Beauty’s Great – Righteousness is Better Genesis 3:6; 2 Corinthians 6:14-15

 

 

It’s interesting how different people’s priorities line up, our likes and dislikes, things we adore and pursue compared to things we are indifferent about. Celebrity athletes are idolized for their physical skills while their lack of moral character is completely ignored. Actors, singers, politicians and the like are admired for their external beauty; their ability to perform, their sex-appeal, and their inner beauty is ignored.

 

The society in which we live rarely considers, and hardly even talks about…righteousness. Perhaps it’s because righteousness requires something of us. It requires people to align themselves to a standard that may render them un-popular. After all, those attributes that bring us attention, or “love” as the world defines it, are external things that can be seen, or heard, or tasted and thus admired. Political correctness says that those things that make you or me righteous are subjective, and what’s righteous for you, might not be for me. So without a common denominator, something that defines righteousness as a constant thing, not a moving target that changes according to an individual’s opinions or whims, it (said righteousness) really isn’t worthy of admiration. We need a standard to which righteousness must be aligned…for everyone, regardless of their agreement.

 

God’s Word is that standard. And the world can hardly help itself but to agree in many areas of “moral code”. Rarely will someone argue that taking another’s life, or stealing from someone, or dishonesty, or lying would be viewed as righteous characteristics. The problem today seems to be how people take moral issues and manipulate, rationalize, and redefine them to suit their own desires. So, a statement like, “I did not have sexual relations with that person!” gets reduced to someone’s personal definition of “sexual relations”. Hairs get split to the extent that virtually anything can be made to appear “righteous”. So the important, admirable things become, not those things which are right or wrong, rather those things that appeal to the senses, while we are indifferent to righteousness.

‘I desire to have that candy bar. The fact that Mom and Dad forbid me from having a candy bar is of no concern to me.’ Our love of beauty (to us) without a corresponding love of righteousness goes back to the beginning of time.

 

Genesis 3:6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

 

They knew that this was forbidden by God. But it appealed to the senses. It appealed to their pride, what they wanted. Righteousness went out the window, irrelevant, compared to the immediate desire. The same concept carries over to our human craving for immediate gratification rather than waiting for the right thing. ‘Bird in the hand’ mentality. We pray and pray for something, but then settle for the best thing available now rather than waiting for the right thing later.

 

Seeking God’s direction and guidance is of little use if we aren’t committed to wait on the Lord for that direction. We need to possess an undying love for righteousness. Physical beauty is fleeting. Those things that appeal to the senses are short lived and temporal. A Godly, righteous heart is eternal and more importantly, it’s what pleases God. Those temporal desires, when they are given priority over righteousness, take control of us and become our God. That then, is idolatry and God won’t tolerate it. It cost Adam and Eve their perfect home in the garden and their perfect relationship with the creator of all things righteous. It will cost us, today, our relationship with our Heavenly Father as well.

 

2 Corinthians 6:14-15 14 …For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?

 

In Christ,

Rick

Is the Bible inconsistent and fallible in view of the discrepancies between  2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21?

Great point! I seem to remember discussing that same point in the past. Not sure with whom, might have been in OT class at GLCC. If you look at 1 Chronicles 21:1 and following, the same story is told from the perspective of another writer. And here it says,  Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” vs 2 Sam. 24:1 that says, “Again, the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He incited David against them, saying…” This passage in 2 Sam 24 comes on the heels of great military successes. David has been the recipient of God’s blessing in every military conquest. God is angry with “Israel”, for what specifically, it doesn’t say. But the NIV note says ‘some have concluded that it was occasioned by the widespread support among the people for the rebellions of Absalom and Sheba against David…’ None the less, David had some pride issues brewing within him. And who could be surprised? With all David’s successes, the Lord’s anointing as the chosen King, God’s constant blessing…  it does appear that God, being all knowing, and while not causing David to sin (James 1:13-14), He did provide the means for David to “choose” to sin (i.e. God provided the opportunity for David to do, what inwardly he wanted to do anyway.) The mere act of taking a census, that God had instructed him to take, would have simply been obedience. But David’s instructions to Joab in verse 2 to go ahead and take the census, “so that I may know how many there are.” shows us that it was something David wanted to do in the first place. He didn’t say, ‘Joab. I know it sounds prideful, but God has commanded us to take a census of Israel and Judah, for whatever reason. Maybe we’ve got too many guys. The army has gotten too large to where it’s no longer clear to our enemies where our strength is coming from. We know it’s God who blesses us with victory, regardless of the size of the army, and we will continue to give Him the glory. But to those we go up against, it’s no wonder to them that we’re so successful; with an army of 800,000+, who wouldn’t be?!  So I need you to go out and count ’em up.’  David knew what he was doing was a wrong thing to do, moreover, his attitude about doing it was wrong. Even Joab tried to talk some sense into David, but David would hear none of it…till after he had done it. Then, “David was conscience stricken…and he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done.” (24:10)  It puts me in mind of the Jews that would not, could not, see the truth about Jesus and cried out for his crucifixion. But after His death, burial, and resurrection, at Pentecost, Peter preached the truth to them and they were likewise, “conscience stricken”. Acts 2:37 “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?'”

And on the night Jesus was betrayed, following Jesus arrest, Peter, like David, being one so close to the Lord, was momentarily controlled by sinful selfishness, adamantly denied that he even knew Jesus at all. Afterwards, hearing the cock crow, he was “conscience stricken”; “And he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Lk. 22:62)

So yes, at first reading of this passage in 2 Samuel 24, it would appear that David was set up for a fall – and he was. But he chose to do, to carry out, what was already in his heart. But God, in his great wisdom, knew David inside and out, and while He knew of David’s inner pride, He also knew it needed to be dealt with. And…God knew how David would deal with sin once he had carried it out and was convicted of it. He knew David was a repentant person and his repentance, his acceptance of his punishment, would serve to heal Israel as well. Just like God provided David an opportunity to sin, He also provided David an opportunity to do right, to show compassion worthy of God’s approval and blessing (v 14-17).

And that’s my take on 2 Samuel 24:1-17. (Source: Rick’s Commentary on the Old Testament)

This same question was a point of discussion, and thereby a class assignment for us to research, in my Old Testament III class at GLCC. This was my answer at that time which I believe goes along consistently with what I’ve just written (above).

There are many different theories of explanation for the differences. The first difference appearing in the first verse of each account where Samuel states it was the “anger of the Lord” that incited David against Israel. In Chronicles the culprit is said to be Satan. One theory of explanation for this is that of progressive revelation; whereas not all things are revealed by God at once. Over time, God reveals things more completely. Just as the concept of life after death was more clearly revealed in later years than it was at the time of Daniel and prior. Also the understanding of Satan, or the adversary, was not as clearly revealed at the time of the Samuel writing.

Another theory for the difference is that it could have been a textual, or copying error. In other areas of difference, number comparisons appear significantly different. For instance, the census figures for the number of fighting men was considerably different and the amount paid by David for the site of the threshing floor was 50 shekels of silver, in 2 Samuel, versus 600 shekels of gold in Chronicles. One idea is that numeric precision was not as important in ancient times, suffice it to say that there were ‘a lot’ of fighting men available. In the case of the monetary difference, at different times in history silver was worth more than gold and it could likely be that 50 shekels of silver and 600 shekels of gold were equivalent at that time.

 

In Christ,

Rick