That’s kind of an ugly topic isn’t it? I don’t like it either. Jesus warned us about it, but its easier to read about than to experience. I’m at the vantage point that I’m taking note of how many times Jesus talks about being rejected and how He was rejected, even by the people of His hometown. He tries to give us strength and encouragement, while giving us warning that His followers will get the same treatment.
When I used to think about Jesus’ rejection, I had always thought that it was the worldly and all the “Bad” people that mistreated Him. Still, now I look at who He really quarreled with, who taunted, schemed behind His back and sought to quiet Him. It wasn’t the Romans or Gentiles. It was the religious elite of that time. Those who dressed just right, spoke eloquently and hung around the other self proclaimed righteous. The elite that had things set up just the way they wanted it and all that Jesus stuff was really rocking their boat. It was more important who you were on their social ladder to them and that they could pick and choose whoever they wanted to have around them.
2000 years later and nothing has changed. The elites are still in charge and all that Jesus stuff better not get in the way of the people in control. The social club is for making the elites look good. If someone starts taking the Bible too seriously, the scheming begins. We have elders, councils and committees to keep the elite in power and more importantly, to keep the outsiders out.
Luke 10:16 ” He who hears you, hears me, He who rejects you, rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me”
I can’t help but wonder how long it would take for many of our elitist American churches to bounce Jesus out. Maybe He would sing too loud, or raise His hands and study His Bible or even (gasp!) have a tattoo! Maybe social time would find Him talking about His father or teaching and smiling while He did it. Maybe Holy Scripture would be more important than whoever brought cookies or His common lowly attire. Even God couldn’t help Him if He fell out of grace with the social committee (oops, council). Jesus would have to be placed away from people, marginalized and belittled until He got the hint and left. His only chance to hide is at Bible studies or worship nights that are too insignificant for the church elite to attend. Now, with that Jesus stuff gone, the committees can go back to work finding more paying members of the church and pondering why people aren’t rushing into the church to be in the presence of the Holy Council! Can you hear the crickets? Yup!
I’ll admit it, I don’t know how to handle those things. Jesus always knew the right thing to do, and I don’t. My response is to get mad, but I don’t think that’s always right. Jesus would never conform to manmade social structure. His favorite people were the ones that the church elite rejected. Nope, conforming isn’t an option. Just cut and run? I wish I knew the answer. I know the world doesn’t know and since Jesus is my gracious King, I suppose the answer has to be in my Bible. Scripture has never let me down, but left to my own thoughts, I will certainly do the wrong thing. Being a Christian shouldn’t be this hard, but Jesus warned believers that it would be . Why aren’t we filled with joy like the persecuted church in the middle east or China? I guess its the difference between American church goers and true believers ready to die for Jesus. Death and poverty are all around them. We are so unworthy to be on the same planet as those folks. They know the real love for our Savior, not that poser social club that many of us experience. That must be why we give coins to missions, but don’t want to learn about the people and their unshakeable faith. They just aren’t sanitary enough and guilt isn’t the warm fuzzy emotion that we demand. Please don’t think that I’m picking on a single church or denomination, but don’t think that I’m excluding any church from this disease either. I guess I’m just as guilty in that when a church council agrees with me, I think they’re wonderful. Only when I’m the target do I get upset. I sure am. Pray for me friends, I really need it this week. I need Jesus’ wisdom to handle things in a way that glorifies Him.
May Almighty God have mercy on us all.
Something weird is going on in my house. I think its haunted. Not counting my keys always disappearing and someone shrinking my clothes, something terrifying is going on. When I look into my bathroom mirror, I don’t see myself, I see an old man standing there! I don’t recognize him at all. He is really out of shape and when I get out of the shower, that old dude is in worse shape yet! He wasn’t always there, but he doesn’t leave now. Its pretty scary!
God’s view is like a mirror too. He see’s things that we don’t recognize. He see’s the reality that I choose to deny. In a way I’m glad when it comes to me. He see’s my ugly sin nature and He’s aware of how badly I need His help, but He see’s a value in me that others, and sometimes myself, don’t see. Sometimes its hard for us to see that value in others. Their sin nature stands out and that’s all we see. In fact, some people really boast and are proud of their poor behavior, but does God still see the value in them? Is there any hope for those prancing along in a gay pride parade? What value in child molesters? Crooks, con men and politicians? Even Islamic terrorists? How about a little tax collector named Zacchaeus?
In Jesus day, tax collectors were the worst. They betrayed their own people for money and had the Roman army to back up their scheming. They were regarded as worse than murderers. In my mental movie, I picture Danny DeVito as playing Zacchaeus. Much easier to get the picture now, huh? So little Danny hears that Jesus is coming so he climbs up into a tree to check Him out. The tree he climbed was a sycamore tree which really sprawls out and overhangs everywhere. The crowd is getting louder as Jesus gets closer and suddenly He’s there. Jesus see’s Danny and stops, and the crowd gets silent. Little Zacchaeus is now squirming a bit, he wanted to see Jesus, but now he knew he was in the spotlight and he was in trouble. After all Jesus was righteous and even Zacchaeus knew what a little weasel he was. Its an awkward moment, and Jesus tells him to come down. So Danny DeVito falls from the tree and we see a poof of dust (my version), Jesus tells him that He will be staying with him tonight. I can’t imagine the rush that comes over Zacchaeus. All the shame and guilt comes over him. He is in the presence of extreme light and little Zacchaeus was the ugly darkness and he knew it. They both did. While Zacchaeus saw his filthy sin for the first time and repented, Jesus saw something of value worth saving. Jesus couldn’t force salvation on him, but he humbled himself and repented. He was saved and got his name in the greatest book of all time.
Friends, God see’s value in you. You haven’t done anything so bad that He can’t or won’t forgive. Zacchaeus didn’t get his “act together” before climbing that old sycamore. He did it with all his ugly dirty stuff still in his heart and past. Zacchaeus also didn’t claim he was good enough either, after all, he probably could have summoned a Roman solder to enforce his words. He wasn’t faking it and he really poured it all out, didn’t he? Jesus knew all about it, but until Danny DeVito confessed on his own accord, he had no hope.
I’m mighty glad God see’s things differently than I do. I need to learn to see the intrinsic value in other people too. Jesus died for them too. Thank you Danny DeVito for that lesson.
You know friends, if I squint my eyes a bit, and from a certain angle, that creepy old man in the mirror doesn’t look quite so bad. I sure hope you’re squinting the next time you meet me! Now where the devil are my keys?! Pray hard.
Have you heard? There is an election going on! What a mess, I don’t think any of the voters are very happy with the candidates, even in their preferred party. I’m no prophet, but I can tell you what’s going to happen. You’re taxes are going to go up, government bureaucracy will get more out of control, the constitutional rights that you currently have will decrease and the whole mess will continue in a downward spiral. Even the most basic student of history knows that this happens to every society and government, nearly without exception. Governments rise out of the ashes and collapse under their own weight and corruption. Good societies collapse under acceptance of sin. The leadership that gets elected won’t change any of that. We can view one as less malicious than the others, but only the rate of decline can be changed. Pretty sad, huh? Not at all.
Daniel had this revealed to him in a vision. Daniel 2:20-21, He said,” Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars.”
God isn’t surprised by any of this. Usually when a tyrant of some sort is raised up, Nebuchadnezzar for example, its to discipline His people. Sometimes His people neglected Him and the only thing that gets their attention is misery. We don’t seem to be any different. How many people thank God when they get their paycheck? No one does, but when those checks aren’t there, we call on God to get it straightened out. If your kid is healthy, you take credit. If your kid gets sick, God better pick up the phone and get to work. The ugly truth is that we sinful little creatures need calamity to remember God. Brother, He is just the guy that can do it.
I can’t honestly say that I don’t worry about it, but here’s what I do know. The next president wont change how I treat my neighbor, it won’t change how I love my wife, it won’t change my work ethic and my God isn’t surprised by any of it. Gods expectations of me don’t change and neither are His promises to me in jeopardy. He’s in control. If you are saved, your salvation cant be taxed away or seized. You are safe.
I hope all of you will vote, its your license to complain. If you don’t vote, keep quiet. Most importantly, keep it in perspective. Pray for whichever scoundrel is elected and lets keep serving each other. Maybe its time for you to turn off CNN or Fox news and get back to your Bible anyway. Its time better spent and He’s really the only one who can save us. Lets get back to serving, friends. Pray hard
“You are not going to be lost when you get to hell. If you are without Christ, you are lost right now. Your trial is already over. You’ve already been sentenced. You’re just waiting for execution morning to roll around” -Lester Roloff
Good old Lester Roloff, he was a hard rigid man, but he sure nailed that one. Either you’re saved or you aren’t. There is no in between. No kinda saved, or almost good enough. You are doomed to hell. If you haven’t committed your life to the only Savior, you can’t be saved. He won’t pluck you out of an eternal destiny in hell against your will. He’ll do it, He paid the price for you, but you decide.
It reminds me of the Tom Hanks movie “Cast Away”. His character was either rescued or not. He could do all the right things, be nice to baby kittens and not be Adolph Hitler, but he couldn’t save himself. He only had the power of choice. Eventually he had to make the decision to let someone else save him. His raft wasn’t going to get him there. If he stayed where he was, he was going to be lost forever.
Being lost on such a beautiful island doesn’t seem that bad. If there had been a part two, I’m quite certain that a Kate Upton in a bikini would have also landed on his island. With beer in ice chests, of course. That always happens, you know! But for us friends, it just doesn’t work that way. It’s either eternity with God or without Him, heaven or hell.
Don’t fall for the latest denial about hell either. There are no fun people there. No sex, drugs, rock and roll or bikini’s. Gods Word says there’s burning flesh, tough to look good or have fun with that going on. Gnashing of teeth won’t give you much opportunity to communicate with the other lost folks either. The screaming and wailing of pain will be amplified by knowing that it didn’t have to be this way. That hour that you spent listening to boring music on Sunday mornings at church didn’t save you. Getting baptized and all those other rituals didn’t save you. Jesus could have saved you. Jesus paid a huge price for that ability, not just so we could wear “Cross jewelry”. He even chose a special people, the Israelites, to bring us the message of just how much He loves us and how He planned to rescue us.
The bottom line is simple, if you aren’t saved, you are lost. No one wants that for you. Satan dangles greed, lust, laziness and entitlement before your eyes to keep you distracted. Get your eyes off the sexy bodies, chrome wheels and latest lure that all the mindless human fishes are following. Don’t be so gullible. Don’t choose to stay lost for all of eternity.
You can do this right now. Surrender your will to your Creator and Savior. Jesus has the power and desire to save you right now. All you have to do is ask and commit your life to him. You don’t have to have all the answers or even understand it all. It starts as a child like faith and snowballs from there. God will eventually answer all your questions and bring people into your life to help it all make sense. It’s quite a journey. Like Confucius said, a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. Take that step with Jesus. Being lost is no way to live. Pray hard friends!
As a young boy(many moons ago), I was fortunate enough to witness one of America’s great past times, visiting. Perhaps it was called something else in your area, but visiting was what people did after church. I can’t quite say how it was all coordinated, but it seemed like half of the people put their families in the car and went out visiting people and half were waiting at home with pie and cookies. Most of the time we were visiting family, I was gobbling up the goodies as a young boy would. Sometimes we would visit Uncles with lots of kids, and sometimes it was just an old relative that lived alone. The beauty of it was that I was able to watch people converse and interact. The adults would tell old stories about people I never met, talk about the latest farmer to get a new silo, and laugh. Man, we sure would laugh! Most of the time I didn’t even understand what was funny, but I just laughed right along. The visits rarely lasted more than an hour and as we were pulling out, often another bunch of folks were pulling in. We could easily make 4 stops on a Sunday and I know we did plenty on Saturday too after our weekend work was done. We definitely weren’t social butterflies, but it’s what most folks did in some form or another.
Visiting is a lost art these days. We’ve got Facebook and a host of other social media to stay connected with the facts of other people. We’ve got social media, Netflix and sports to occupy every ounce of our free time. Human interaction has become so obsolete that if you aren’t on Facebook, no one even knows that you exist.
The penalty is that people no longer understand how to have a conversation or compassion. When you communicate via phone or computer, you are only transferring facts. You are totally alone when you are involved in communicating with some one that way. When you receive a joke from a friend on your phone, you’re laughing alone. There is no one with you. That isn’t human interaction, you are alone. Reading or responding to a post doesn’t make you kind or compassionate, it shows the lack of it. Why aren’t you with your friend or relative sharing the joys and hurts of life? Sure I get the travel/distance thing, keeping up with folks that moved away, but what are we filling up our visiting time with?
History has shown us a few things, when human interaction died off, our need to fill that void with something that satisfies has been disastrous. We have corrupted our base needs for value and affection and have turned people into zombies that are unable to converse, communicate or have any honest compassion (with action) for anyone. Pornography is a substitute for marital relations because the internet is easy and we don’t need to invest the kindness that our spouse deserves. Facebook is easy relationship because you can just push a key and they’re gone when you disagree or become bored. We don’t have time to go visit people because we have been duped by the marketing of greed.The insatiable need for the latest junk has eaten all our time and seeing people is only enjoyable when showing off the latest piece of future junk. Kids are committing suicide over social media bullying. The internet makes a lot of sin available to replace our fellow humans. That sin never satisfies, so it becomes increasingly bizarre to attempt to satisfy. There is no replacement for sitting down and laughing with people over pie. There is no app that is like grieving with someone. You can’t Snap chat the smile of a lonely old person as they open the door to see you waiting there. You can’t Twitter a pat on the back to a struggling friend. You can’t send a text to bring someone to Jesus. The Christian culture, no, the Jesus culture needs to be hands on. We need to be in visiting mode at all times. Jesus took the time to sit down and laugh and cry with folks. He would never Tweet a healing. He put His hands and feet to work, not to heal everyone but to model the kindness and compassion that we’re supposed to be sharing. If we are His people, we are supposed to be engaged in sharing His love and hope.
There is a void that needs to be filled in all of us, don’t fill it with fake things. Things that only lead to sin and isolation. The world is filled with people hiding behind a computer screen surrounded by others hiding behind an I-phone. Social zombies. The walking dead. We need to show them something different. The password to Heavens gates is J-e-s-u-s. You can’t steal my identity in Christ, but I’ll be glad to share it with you and you can hack into my Bible anytime. Social media isn’t a sin, its a tool. A very small tool. Now, turn off your computer till next week and go for a walk and say hi to some folks or maybe go visiting. You never know, they might have pie!
So you just got saved? Congratulations! You and your world will never be the same. Here’s what’s gonna happen next: you’re all excited about this and your tell your parents, family and friends. How did that go? Wow, totally not the positive response that you expected, right? Unless you came from a solid Christian background, hang on, rough waters are ahead. You will find that your friends will start excluding you from activities, your siblings will make fun of you, and your parents are worried that you’re in a cult. It doesn’t bother us when strangers treat us badly, but it really cuts to the bone when your own people laugh at you. Perhaps your Dad will roll his eyes whenever you mention Church, your mother may get defensive, brothers and sisters will joyfully mock you and friends just leave because you got “Religion.”.
You’re new at this, so you don’t have the answers to the questions that mean people throw at you. You don’t know how to respond to” I’m a good person so I’m going to Heaven”, “Who are you to tell me about religion, you used to eat your boogers O Holy One”, and “Hell is where the fun people are.” Just a short time ago you were so happy and excited about your new life, and now you’re all alone, feeling stupid, and people are openly laughing at you. It can make a person second guess that decision for Jesus. Is it really worth all this?
Jesus was talking to you in Luke 14; 26-33:
” If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that beholds it begin to mock him, saying, this man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sits not down first, and consults whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an ambassador and desires conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever of you that forsake not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple”
That’s pretty hardcore stuff. We wouldn’t really hate those we know, but you have to make a choice, you must decide where your loyalty lies. Perhaps someday they will get saved and things will be fine, but they sure aren’t today. Are you still in or are you out? What if they totally block you out if you don’t go back to your “old” self and get over this phase that you’re going through?
Jesus kinda gets in your face about it too, you started this, you said that you meant it, but are you going to follow through with it? Do you have the resolve to hang on until you understand more or are you a quitter? Either pal or poser, friend or fraud. Either you have locked in your loyalty to the King or you’re going to drop Him to pacify your friends and family. This is the hardest part about being saved, it really is. It still is for me after all these years. Most of my family and friends still aren’t on board with this hardcore Christian thing. They’re good people, but God doesn’t really mean much to them. The world has caught their eye with shiny stuff and they figure that because they aren’t Adolph Hitler, God is going to let them into Heaven. Some are gambling that when they die, that’s it, they are just plant food. It really breaks my heart knowing what’s in store for them. I wish I could change it, Jesus does too, but my loyalty remains to the truth. We must remember that our people are His people, just as our stuff is His stuff. We don’t take anyone, or our stuff, with us when we die. Nothing really belongs to us anyway. Choose your loyalty. Jesus is my king and I am His very flawed servant. That’s my choice and His grace.
If you’re in a rough patch, hang in there. You aren’t alone. Strengthen your resolve and keep learning. You won’t regret it and you may be the only example of Jesus that your family and friends will ever see. You may be what God sent to help them get saved too. It may be hard to believe right now. You can’t even imagine the greatness that God has in store for you!
Be strong friends and don’t give up. Quitters don’t make the cut!
Moses was tired and angry. In Numbers 20 8-11, we are told about Moses really losing it. His own people, the Israelites, were quite a bunch of complainers and he really had enough of them. Look at all he had done for them and now they wanted water, not unreasonable I suppose, but they chose to whine and complain to Moses and it was the last straw. God told him to speak to the rock and water would come out, but Moses wasn’t going to let it go at that. You can just imagine Moses ranting on his way to the rock, sick of the heat, dust and the burden that God placed on him. When he got to that rock, he exposed his weakness.
” Listen you rebels, must we bring water out of this rock?”
We?!!! Ugh, that was the last straw for God too. God had given Moses a huge responsibility, perhaps even greater than Noah had, but he failed. He didn’t fail in the task, he failed to remember who was the power source. Moses included himself in bringing out the water and he didn’t do it the way God commanded. I’ll bet when he hit that rock twice, he was really letting it fly. Nothing gentle or dignified about it.
Moses greatest job was to obey, God did all the work. Moses didn’t cause any of the plagues or perform any miracles through any power that he had, he was to be a willing servant for God. It worked mind-blowingly well till Moses included himself in the Trinity. Moses felt he was a source of power and was directing the outcome. He was getting some pride in his role and losing his servant mindset.
How many of us are guilty of that same bit of pride? We help someone and it turns out well, we participate in successful event, perhaps even hear others speaking highly of us. We begin to think we’re pretty good and doing great things. We’ve really got the water flowing from that rock! God sure is lucky to have us on His team! Then a few failures start showing up. People that you’ve been ministering to have walked away, an event flops, and now people are stabbing you in the back. The Israelites are really coming down on you. Now you’ve become angry, frustrated, and disillusioned with the whole God/Church thing and are ready to walk away yourself.
How can this be? We have forgotten that we are only very loved servants. We are not responsible for those successes that occurred. When we obey, God will often use us for great things, but when we start filling up with pride and thinking that we’re pretty hot excrement, God needs to bring us back down. We can’t really do much on our own. When we give ourselves credit for success, we also have to give ourselves credit for failures. The truth is that it has never been about us the whole time. I wish Moses wouldn’t have lost sight of that, he could have seen the promised land on this side of death.
Don’t ever let yourself be filled with the pride of accomplishment. God raises kings and destroys them to serve His purpose. Don’t settle for being great in the worlds eyes, when being a humble servant is a greater accomplishment. I wonder what “promised land” God has waiting for you? Don’t cheat yourself out of it, fight pride and obey. It’s not about you.
Stay humble friends
OK, I’ll admit it, I’m a hardcore dog guy. Not those little purse dogs that women use to emasculate their husbands, but big dogs. If your canine isn’t at least 50 pounds, its a feline. They say little dogs are smarter, maybe, but I don’t need one to fix my lawnmower or do my taxes, so I’m alright with that. They do try to lie sometimes though. They’ll always try to blame the cat for everything. Still, trying to blame the cat for a extremely rare accident in the house never works. Mainly because the mess weighs more than the cat. Nor did the cat pee on the truck tire 2 feet high. I can even tell which dog did it, they are the worst liars. The look of guilt is so obvious that Ray Charles could tell the guilty party!
One thing about big dogs is that they are 100% dedicated to you. They live on every word that comes out of your mouth. They always have had plenty(!) of good food and water, so they lack nothing physical, but a stern word will ruin their day and if you simply smile at them, it rocks their world! I can read their faces and they know everything about me and trust me in every way. That’s a very tight and solid relationship, and we are all committed to each other to and through death. To say that they are passionate is an understatement!
In Revelation 3:15-16, God sends His last message to the little town of Laodicea.
” I know all your ways; you are neither hot nor cold. How I wish you were either hot or cold,! But because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
Laodicea was a pretty wealthy town. Life was pretty easy for them and while they were not an apostate church, they really weren’t on fire for Jesus. They didn’t really need Him, they were fine on their own and Jesus was just something they did also. We would call them churchgoers.Yes, there were posers in the early Christian days just like now in our post Christian America. Not bad people, just fakes. Those folks were not passionately committed and God was not pleased. His people did not know Him enough to have that incessant passion that even a dog has for his master.
How many of us have that doglike passion to study and know our Master? It reminds me of Mary at His feet, mesmerized with every word He spoke. Does His smile make our day bright and His discipline curl our tail under? Are we more like the uncommitted Laodiceans, sufficient in our own comforts, only needing Him when there is a glitch in the flow of worldly pleasures? God has already promised that He is all in for us, to and through death (Thank you Jesus!), we just need to decide if we are hot, cold, or spit out. He can tell when you’re lying too, so don’t even bother with some lame excuse, the cat didn’t keep you from studying your Bible. Although if it were possible, it would be a cat that would do it!
Friends, we have a very kind and gracious Master, who promised to provide us with everything we need (not want). He has greater things planned for us than we can even imagine. We just need to truly dedicate ourselves to get to know Him. He requires that commitment from you. There is no substitute, your earnest commitment. No posers allowed.
Where are you on that today friends? Has the glitter of the world caught your eye. There is a time coming that will really separate the real from the fake. Are committed enough to die for Jesus or only enough to give Him an hour on Sunday and some pocket change? Will you take the abuse for being a Christian or accept false doctrine just to get along? Will you simply leave your Master when the world offers you a Scooby snack?
Wag hard, Friends
John 6:66-68; At this point many of His disciples turned away and deserted Him. Then Jesus turned to the twelve and asked, ” Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, ” Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.”
That scripture is very personal to me. A large part of my becoming a serious Christian is hung on those very words Peter spoke. Peter recognized that there was no other source for truth and that there was no other option. An honest truth seeker always lands in Jesus’ corner.
Part of my long journey of faith was that I just wanted to know what was true. I started out in a good Catholic family, but church was more of what we did on Sunday and that made us Catholic. In no way am I going to belittle the Catholic folks, but we didn’t read the Bible and didn’t really know anything about it. That was the priests job. I didn’t own my faith.
As soon as I was out of my mothers sight, I was done with church. Eventually I started reading “Out on a Limb” by Shirley Maclaine and started to get into the whole New Age thing. Still the more that I read about New Age beliefs, the cornier it got. I was not God and I was not going to keep getting regurgitated until I figured out that I was God. Crystals are neat, but diamonds got a lot more fun in my world. Something more sensible was needed. Next came “Dianetics” by L Ron Hubbard. Again, it seemed pretty logical in the beginning. Some of it made sense and it appealed to the logical side of me, but the further I dug into it, Scientology really fell apart. It really doesn’t answer the hard questions and is really incomplete. Next in the loser lineup was a series of books by Stephen Hawking. Again, kind of made sense in the beginning, but it really made no sense in the end. Neat theories but they just don’t hold up to any objective scrutiny. They just get mad and call you names and look down on you if you point out the obvious flaws in their ideas. Atheism was a waste. Still, I kept part of it, because when you’re a young energetic lad, sin is fun and Stephen Hawking sure won’t bust me for behaving badly. No sin in Stephens world!
Fortunately I was blessed with a persistent mother. She wasn’t one bit concerned with hurting my feelings when it came to my behavior. Finally in an effort to convince her that the Bible wasn’t true ( and so I could stay out of church), I embarked on a journey that has never ended. I was going to show Ma all the stuff that was wrong with the Bible. Well, I didn’t really know what it said, but everyone else said it was all wrong. 3 months later after intense and honest research, I had nowhere else to turn. Like Simon Peter, I had recognized that Jesus had the words to eternal life. His word was true in the strictest sense of the word. I’ve been researching insatiably for the last 30 years. The Bible is Gods truth, the only source of truth, and its His message to me. The answer to every struggle and every expression of joy are in there.
I will admit it, there have been times that my heart has wanted to turn back to sin. Sin is so easy short term, but it will always leave you wanting more until it consumes you. The thing is, that when you realize the source of truth, you can’t really go very far. There is no way out. New Age, Scientology, and Atheism don’t hold any truth, there is no lure to go back. Jesus always calls me back and He isn’t afraid to discipline me either. He’s taken me to the woodshed plenty of times! Never punish, only discipline.
If you find yourself wandering or doubting, first check yourself for sin. Get that under control and repent. Then get back into studying Gods message for you. Let me assure you, any sincere doubt that you may have, has an answer. The Bible is a historically accurate book, written by 40 authors that God chose, to speak to you. If you hear or read something that causes you to doubt, look it up yourself. Don’t trust anyone, test Him, He can take it! If you will honestly study, you will find that you have no where else to turn either. You aren’t trapped, just safe in His arms. Still having some desire to be naughty, no doubt, but you just cant rationalize turning your back on truth. You will likely find that you become closer to your creator than you ever thought possible. Study(not just read) your Bible and find out what that really means.
Jesus loves you friends! Those words come so cheap to us, but cost Him dearly. I’ll be praying for all you doubters, to whom will you go?
What would it take to make you feel content? Maybe a lot of money, perhaps a comfortable lifestyle? Likely many different mental snapshots are floating in your mind, things that you’ve seen and heard about. I suspect that they would all be your personal fantasy version of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”!
Perhaps the riches of Solomon come to your mind? That would really do it, huh? He was likely the richest man that ever lived! I say that you already have way more than King Solomon. Solomon didn’t have air conditioning, electricity, indoor plumbing or even toilet paper. He had a chauffeured 2 horse chariot that never went much faster than a modern bicycle. All of Solomon’s money couldn’t get him anywhere faster than a kid on a moped today. In fact, we all can walk into any grocery store and buy fruits and vegetables from around the world, fresh, at any time of the year. Solomon sure couldn’t do that. Since there was only primitive food preservation and no refrigeration, he could only eat what was in season locally or what was just butchered. He had no jeans, no cool t-shirts and no skateboard shoes. He just wore silk pajamas all day. Boxers or briefs? None of the above! No television, internet, facebook or even magazines, just hand drawn pictures. How would you like to be stuck with 700 wives and 300 concubines? If he only quarreled with them 1% of the time, that’s 10 women hollering at him all the time! Could you afford to have all of them taking a shopping trip to Tiffany’s? All the clothes and jewelry, and the sound of 1000 chattering women? My head hurts already! Is that really what you want? Would that make you content?
Ok, I can’t be content with all that. Still, we want to be rich to be content, right? Being a nobody in the top 1% sounds pretty good. The television news people are always talking about how easy the 1%’ers have it. Fair enough, lets try that; to be in the top 1% in the world you must earn $32,400 per year. Not as much as you thought? That will likely be quite a pay cut for most of you.
So what about the other 99% of the world? 22,000 mothers will watch their child starve to death before their eyes today. Every single day. Try to explain to them how hard your life is. See if they will feel sorry for your plight. 4932 kids will die from diarrhea today. 6027 kids will die from lack of immunization shots today. 25% of the world doesn’t have electricity. 22 million people are in total slavery, more than at any point in human history. That dusty Bible you have on your shelf is illegal to possess in roughly 52 countries. Some places, there are people willing to risk death and torture for a copy. Yours may be unread because you’re too busy thinking about all the stuff that you should be entitled to have. We’re busy coveting everyone else’s stuff, no time for that” God “stuff. Does that make you content?
Americans have all that, and we are only the 12th happiest country in the world and that figure is dropping. So how can this be? We are an overfed bunch of crybabies that are just never content. We sure do love our greed, don’t we? Its the insatiability of greed, always more, more, more. So why is contentment so elusive? Friends, we just aren’t looking in the right place. Grab that dusty old Bible off the shelf for a minute. It tells us that greed and covetousness wont make us happy, it actually tells us that we are heading down a doomed path when we make “stuff” our god. We already have plenty of stuff, our poverty is in the unseen and greed blinds us to our greatest need. The Bible sure has that part figured out, but where is the ever elusive happiness?
You must start with thankfulness. 1Thessalonians 5:18 says ” In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ concerning you.” Those were Paul’s words. Here’s what Jesus said, Luke 12:15 ” Then He said to the people, ‘Beware! Be on your guard against greed of every kind, for even when a man has more than enough, his wealth does not give him life.'” How about Paul teaching the young Pastor Timothy, 1Timothy 6:8-9, “We brought nothing into this world; for that matter we can take nothing with us when we leave, but if we have food and clothes we may rest content. Those who want to be rich fall into temptations and snares and many foolish harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and perdition.” My, there isn’t much question there, is there? Do you see any foolish harmful desires in your heart? I have to raise my hand there too. I can get distracted with all the new stuff that marketers are shoving in my face. That’s when I lose perspective in what I really do have and contentment drifts away.
Now that we have a little perspective, knowing that we did nothing to earn this easy life, are you grateful? Have you considered that maybe Jesus didn’t put you here to just pile up cash and buy bigger houses to store all your crap? Those things didn’t make you happy anyway, you’re still miserable. I think that one of the ugliest conditions a person can have is being ungrateful. Just turn on the TV and watch the greed. That’s how your kids are being trained to live unless you give them something better. Most parents are too busy though to teach them better because they are on their own little greedy lust binge. How do you think they will turn out? Contentment is a stranger there too.
So where is the value in life? Thankfully, Paul didn’t leave us wondering. Consider his letter to the church in Phillipi, Phillippians 2:2-4 “If then our common life in Christ yields anything to stir the heart, any loving consolation, any sharing of the Spirit any warmth of affection or compassion, fill up my cup of happiness by thinking and feeling alike, with the same love for one another, the same turn of mind, and a common care for unity. There must be no room for rivalry and personal vanity among you, but you must humbly reckon others better than yourselves. Look to each other’s interest and not merely to your own.”
To love and care for each other isn’t what a post-Christian society teaches. We know that the worlds way doesn’t make us happy. Greed has made us broke and miserable. Jesus’ way is so countercultural that the world can’t even make sense of it. In our misery, we ridicule the answer. We aren’t living in poverty of subsistence, but we are destroying ourselves with our insatiable desires. What we’re stuck with is a poverty of character and of kindness and of empathy.
I’ll leave you to ponder Mother Theresa’s words: ” We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked, and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”
Give thanks and give yourself away, friends.