Monday, March 22, 2021

Jesus is not a Hero


 

We love our heroes.  Men and women who have had the courage of their convictions to take a stand. Often, we associate our heroes with self-sacrifice, i.e., the giving of their lives for a cause greater than themselves.  Think about 9/11 first responders, military heroes, or even a mother who covers her child just before an accident. All of these paid the ultimate price to save lives.  Even Jesus did this on the most epic scale possible, but He’s not a hero (He’s much more than that!)

 

1 Corinthians 15:14 - And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 

 

Things to think about:

·       Who is a hero in your life?

o   Do you know someone personally that you consider a hero?

o   Is their a family member you never met whose story of courage lives on?

o   Maybe there is a figure from history you admire for their heroism

·       Yet, none of these rose from the dead!

·       Jesus did lay down His life for you and me and an entire world of sinners

o   Romans 5:8 - While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us

·       Unlike all of our other heroes, dying alone wasn’t enough

o   His resurrection was a well-documented fact

§  1 Cor 15:6 – after that He appeared to more than 500 of the brothers and sisters…

o   1 Cor. 15:14 - And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith

o   That’s a pretty strong statement, why do you think Paul says this?

o   There was a false teaching at the time that there is no resurrection of the dead, including Jesus

§  1 Cor 15: 16-17 – and if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

·       Jesus’ death and resurrection were for more than our life in the here and now

o   1 Cor 15:19 – if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied

§  This puts a pretty big hole in the prosperity gospel

o   Why should we be most pitied if our hope is only for this life?

·       We too will be resurrected

o   1 Cor 15:42-44 - So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

o   This is our eternal hope

§  1 Cor 15: 54 - When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

§   1 Cor 15:56-57 - the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

·       What should our response be?

o   1 Cor 15: 58 - Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

o   And isn’t that what we admire about our heroes? 

§  Stand firm, let nothing move you

§  Give yourselves fully to the work

§  Your labor is not in vain

·       Jesus is much more than a hero

o   He died for your sins

o   He was raised from the dead

o   He will reign for eternity

Monday, March 1, 2021

Retirement





Last week, a friend of mine told me a story about an entrepreneur who was highly successful in his business.  The man had made good use of some land he owned and was blessed with significant wealth.  In light of the success of the business, he made the decision to retire early.  He could finally build his dream house and was looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the fruits of his labors.  If I’m being honest, I thought that all sounded pretty good and I was a little jealous.  He was able to realize the American Dream of working hard, accumulating some wealth, and in a position to stop working and enjoy life on his terms.

 

Luke 12:34 - Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

 

Things to think about:

·       The friend who was telling me this story is a guy named Jesus.  The story is found in Luke 12:13-21 and is generally known as the Parable of the Rich Fool.

·       Not only did the man’s retirement plans not pan out the way he envisioned, but God said, “You fool!  You will die this very night.  Then, who will get everything you worked for?”

o   We’re not guaranteed another minute on this Earth

·       My friend then told me, “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

·       What mistakes did the rich fool make?

o   Greedy - He sought to hoard rather than share

o   Ungrateful - He didn’t see God as the source of his provision and wasn’t thankful to God for the blessing

o   Hedonistic - He wanted to spend the rest of his life pleasing himself instead of serving God and others

·       Jesus goes on in verses 22-34 to say that God knows what we need, and He will provide for those needs.

o   Luke 12:29-31 - “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.”

·       Jesus went on to tell me that rather than hoarding, I should be looking to get rid of some stuff and share the proceeds with people who could really use some help.  He said that the investments I should be making are in things that last for eternity.

o   “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

·       What do you think about my friend’s advice?

o   How does this challenge your beliefs about wealth and retirement? 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Who is My Neighbor?

 


We all know the parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37. The context of the story is an expert in the law wanting to test Jesus by asking Him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asks him, “What is written in the Law?” and “How do you read it?” The man correctly replies with Scripture from Deut. 6:5 to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind, and all of your strength” and from Lev. 19:18 to “love your neighbor as yourself”.

 

Luke 10:29 – But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

 

Things to think about:

·       Those six words from the man strike at the heart of an important aspect of human nature – “but he wanted to justify himself”

o   Sometimes consciously, sometimes subconsciously, we look to excuse ourselves from taking responsibility for the well-being of others.

§  In this case, the man uses a time-tested ploy of getting technical with the definition of the word “neighbor’.  Remember Bill Clinton’s famous, “That depends on what the meaning of the word is is?”

§  Whether we are trying to get out from under a responsibility or assuage our conscience, clever manipulation of a plain truth doesn’t pass muster with God.

·       We have a responsibility to see to the needs of others. In this parable, Jesus identifies three types of people and thus three kinds of responses that we can have with respect to loving our neighbor as ourself.

o   The priest – I’m a busy professional and I don’t have time. Let someone who’s not as busy (and important) take care of it.

o   The Levite – I’m just a layperson, this is a job for a professional.

o   The Samaritan – I’m here and they need help – I’ll do it.

§  Even though we’re from different social strata and may not have a lot in common

§  A literal interpretation of neighbor may cloud our response since our next-door neighbors tend to look more like ourselves.

·       Ironically, the one coming to the aid of the injured Jew was viewed as inferior (a half-breed) by the Jews. So it wasn’t even a matter of the Samaritan deigning to reach down the social ladder but quite the opposite.  The Samaritan could have said, “Serves him right, that pompous Jew!”

o   Alternatively, he could have reacted by saying, “Somebody like me can’t help him.  He has more social status than me.  It would be awkward and weird to help.”

o   Depending on the circumstances, do we sometimes play the part of the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan?

§  At work, not taking the time to help a junior associate who would benefit from your guidance

§  With ministry, opting out because of a lack of formal training

§  Socially, not participating because of social norms or general discomfort with folks who don’t look or act like you?

·       What are other factors that might have us not count someone as a neighbor?

o   Political affiliation

o   Race

o   Sexual orientation

o   Country of origin

o   Relative wealth or poverty

o   Personal style (preppy, hip hop, cowboy, etc.)

·       It would be great to hear the rest of the story

o   Did the two men and their families become friends?

o   Did they model for their respective people what God’s love really looks like?

o   Did they cause people who may have been raised with biases and prejudices to rethink their ways?

·       By abdicating responsibility, assessing blame, or making excuses, we justify ourselves. Jesus clearly paints a different picture of what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself”.

o   So, who is our neighbor as Jesus would have us understand it?

o   How do we model loving our neighbors to not justify ourselves but bring honor to God?

Monday, February 8, 2021

At the Intersection of Knowledge and Discretion

 


Knowing the right thing to do is one thing, but doing it is something else.  Anyone who has kids already knows this (“How many times have I told you to…?!)  Our versus below struck me in that it illustrates two contributing factors to wisdom – the right information and the right action.

 

Proverbs 8:12 – I, Wisdom, dwell together with Prudence.  I possess Knowledge and Discretion

 

Things to think about:

·       In the Information Age we do not struggle for enough data, facts, and information.  What we sorely lack sometimes is Wisdom – the ability to act upon the truths we know.

·       I got to thinking about four possible combinations:

o   Right Information or Wrong Information

o   Right Action or Wrong Action

o   For example,

§  Wrong Information with Right Action could be religious works.  The person did something “good” but for faulty reasons (God will accept me)

§  Wrong information with Wrong Action at best is ignorance (Oh, I didn’t know) and at worst just might be plain foolishness (I don’t know and I don’t care)

§  Right Information with Wrong Action could be denial or active sin (I know this isn’t right but I’m going to do it anyway…OR rationalizing – This isn’t wrong for me in this circumstance because…)

§  Right Information with Right Action is Wisdom

·       Sometimes we act without thinking

o   Could be a rash or emotional decision

o   This is not showing discretion or prudence

o   Could reflect a lack of counselors or people to hold us accountable

·       In James 1:22-25 we are told, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

o   What do you make of the analogy of looking at a mirror and then forgetting what you look like?

·       What do you think are the biggest stumbling blocks for not acting on the information we have?

o   What insights have you gained that helps you to combat this in your own life?

·       The promises of wisdom are plentiful and wonderful

o   Proverbs 3:16 - Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words

o   Proverbs 1:33 - whoever listens to me will live in safety
    and be at ease, without fear of harm

o   Proverbs 2:9 - Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path

o   Proverbs 3:2 - will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity

·       May God, through His Holy Spirit, gives us both the Knowledge and the Discretion to live lives that build His Kingdom and bring Him honor and glory.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Raze to Raise

 

Often, in order to build something new, we must tear down the old first.  Real estate developers do this all the time, when they tear down old buildings or clear out trees to create the space for a new structure to rise.  The military does this with new recruits at boot camp where they tear them down to build them up into battle-ready soldiers.  Last week, Tom L talked about “roof off, walls down” as the way to have honest (and vulnerable) dialogue.  The Bible has a lot to say about getting rid of the old to make way for the new. I call this “Raze to Raise”. 

 

John 12:24-25 - Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

 

Things to think about:

·       “Raze” is a funny word because it sounds just like a more common word that means its opposite.  It comes from the same origin where we get our word razor.

·       Our verse tells us that sometimes we must go backwards to go forward:

o   The kernel of wheat dying before it becomes a plentiful harvest

o   Losing your sinful life to gain eternal life

·       Even Jesus wasn’t exempt from this principle.

o   John 2:19-20 – “Jesus answered, ‘Tear down this Temple and in three days I’ll put it back together.’ They were indignant: ‘It took forty-six years to build this Temple, and you’re going to rebuild it in three days?’ But Jesus was talking about his body as the Temple.”

·       Where else do you see this truth played out in the world at large or in your personal life?

·       In our relationship with God, the first razing is to self

o   Proverbs 15:25 - God smashes the pretensions of the arrogant; He stands with those who have no standing.

o   Matthew 16:24-25 - Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” 

o   Psalm 32: 5 - Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

o   Hebrews 12:1 - …let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…

§  The razor of daily confession

·       In order to maintain healthy relationships with one another, we must also raze our pride sometimes

o   James 5:16 - Therefore confess your sins to each other…

o   Matthew 5:23-24 - “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

·       When we do this, we allow for the raising up of one another

o   Proverbs 17:17 - A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

o   Proverbs 27:17 - As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

o   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.

When we raze our fears, flaws, and failures we allow God to raise us up in sonship with Him and fellowship with one another.  And all of this results in His P-raise!