Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Investing Our Lives - Thoughts on Luke 16

Many people have pointed out that in the gospels Jesus talks a lot about money.  Some people use those passages to teach financial principles. There is nothing wrong with that unless people begin to think that Jesus' primary intention was to give us instructions about finances and that finances should be our central focus.

What they seem to ignore is that Jesus clearly said that we should not be focused on our finances and that a perspective that puts finances in the center is a form of idolatry.
Luke 16:13 - No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
When Jesus does talk about handling money he uses it as a shorthand for everything that has been entrusted to us. Not just finances, property and resources, but also time, energy and talents. Here in Luke chapter sixteen, the dishonest manager is in trouble for "wasting" his master's possessions (v.1). The implication is that we are in a position of responsibility as managers of what God has entrusted to us - financially and otherwise. But it is not ours, it is God's. We have no right to waste it.

The dishonest manager was smart enough to see that he should not focus on maximum dollar value, but on relationships with other people. In doing this, he is taking a long view - beyond his immediate pleasures. Anticipating a time when he will not have access to his master's resources, he wants to have other people who will "...receive me into their houses." (v.4)

So what was Jesus praising about a "dishonest manager?" Certainly not that he was dishonest, but that he eventually realized the importance of investing in relationships and the long view.

Everything we have belongs to our Master. We have no business wasting it. He didn't give it to us to waste on our pleasures (James 4:3), but to use for his kingdom. Do we have money, homes, cars, technology, time, energy and talents? All of them are God's and we should use them to accomplish God's purposes. To a large extent we should be using everything to invest in relationships with other people.

People are not units of revenue. They are God's creation. They are precious souls with an eternal destiny. They are brothers and sisters with whom we can have relationships. We need to be generous and strategic in building into people's lives for the glory of God.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Marching For A Good Cause??

According the news the marches over the weekend were a record breaking demonstration of people's opposition to President Trump and all he stands for.  The NPR hosts have been positively giddy with their enthusiasm for the huge crowds...

Presumably all of the marchers believe that they are on the side of what is good!!

It is interesting that so many people could be so enthusiastic over issues of good and evil when one of the things they evidently stand for is the rejection of absolute standards of right and wrong. How does that work?

What do they stand for?  They are definitely pro-abortion, having rejected pro-life groups from participating.

It seems to me that they are rebelling against everything that relates to our historic constitutional democracy and traditional morality.  They have grown so used to liberal progressivism steamrolling over everyone who disagrees that they cannot stand the fact their candidate lost the election. They are now ready for revolution. They reject the legitimacy of the elected government and will protest until they get their own way.


But their avowed belief in absolute freedom applies only to their own beliefs and behaviors. Anyone who disagrees is a hater - and they hate haters.  So while they rally for absolute freedom, they roll over everyone else's freedom with a sadistic glee.  They cannot see how their behavior and attitudes match historical movements that they would find abhorrent.

What do they claim for their moral authority?  Reason? Law? Consensus?  Anything other than God.
(Isaiah 5:20–23 ESV) 20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink,23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Eternal Value

What is it that guides our lives?

Some things we do for sheer pleasure.  Other things we do for survival.

Most of us need to work for a living and we count ourselves blessed if the work we do is interesting and meaningful for us.  But whether meaningful or not - we have to work to support ourselves and our families.  In this category we also include various chores associated with living - paying bills, taking out the trash, doing the wash, cooking meals and caring for children.

Commercial entertainment occupies a large place in American culture.  Books, TV, movies, and sporting events are available to us through many sources and untold millions of hours are spent everyday consuming them.

Nature is a different sort of entertainment that people approach in different ways.  We hike, climb, bike, hunt, birdwatch, fish or camp in "the great outdoors."  We observe the wonders of the natural world and concern ourselves with the ecological health of the planet.

How do we rate the value of each activity in our lives?  Is it the monetary value?  Is it the relationship value?  Is it the degree of pleasure we derive from it?  Is it the idea that we are leaving a legacy?

In our secular society we find all of the above.  But what about eternity?  Is there any way we can invest in eternity and live to see the benefit of that investment?

Jesus said that we should "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness."  He told us that we should "store up treasures in heaven" that will endure for everlasting life.

How do we do that?

The simple truth is that our eternal destiny is tied to our relationship with Jesus.  Repentance for sin, faith in Christ's atonement, sanctification through conformity to Jesus' sinless example, the fruit of the Spirit in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control - these are things that count for eternity and lead to behaviors that matter.

We still need to make a living, but why are we making a living? What are we doing with our living? How is our living reflecting our relationship with Jesus and moving other people toward a relationship with Him?

Don't just live - live for Jesus in a way that matters for eternity.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Something To Celebrate

Should Christians celebrate Christmas or not?

Some groups say, "NO!" because of ancient syncretism between Christianity and Paganism in the Christmas celebrations.

The modern pagan's certainly agree.  One recent morning, Lola and I sat in our local McDonalds and realized that all the Christmassy sounding songs were devoid of any mention of Christ. The songs are all about Santa Claus, Rudolph, White Christmases and so on - but no Christ.

Where possible, they scrub Christ right out of Christmas and end up with "Happy Holidays" without any explanation of why these days might be considered happy or holy. Christmas has continued its slide into crass commercialism - all about buying more, newer, bigger stuff. Christmas Holiday Trees can be decorated, of course, and presents can be wrapped. There is plenty of nostalgia for Christmases "long long ago" - as long as you don't mention Christ. The legal eagles of the "Freedom From Religion" group are ready to swoop down wherever they think they can force people to remove Manger Scenes.

So, back to my original question. Should Christians celebrate Christmas or not?

Well, we certainly should not celebrate Christmas the way our pagan culture does. If Christmas is not about Christ, then what is it about? Seems that materialism, greed and excess are all that is left. If that is where our hearts are, then even putting up a manger scene will not redeem it.

We should celebrate Christmas if Christmas is about Christ. Christ should be at the center of a Christian's Christmas. We should spend the season reflecting on the biblical accounts - prophecies promising Christ would come, announcements to Joseph, Mary and Zechariah about his coming, the songs of praise from Mary and Zechariah and Simeon, the birth of Jesus in the stable, the angelic announcement to the Shepherds and their response, the testimony of the magi who traveled from Arabia to meet the new King.

"Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners..."  That is what Christmas should be about for Christians and we should focus on that. When we do focus on that, how can we help but celebrate?
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,Luke 1:46–47

Monday, November 28, 2016

Our Secret Lives

Batman and Superman are not the only ones - we all have two aspects to our lives. There is the public life we live in the view of others and the secret life that is unknown to anyone but us.

It is tempting to say that all of the inane social media posts revealing seemingly every detail of some people's lives must take the place of an internal life that is unknown except to the person. But in fact, that social media presence is likely to be more of a mask than an X-ray. You only see what the person wants you to see - their created persona.

To some extent we don't even know ourselves perfectly. We don't fully understand our own motives for what we say and do. We surprise ourselves - usually in a bad way. We suppress certain memories, we live in denial of certain characteristics, we are blind to various flaws.

But God knows us perfectly - far more perfectly than we can know ourselves. Nothing is hidden from him. He can see right through us. We might bluster or pontificate. We might weep or shout. We might charge the enemy or flee for our lives. But God knows our fears, our rage, our pain, our doubts.

God knows and he offers us a mirror that will show us the truth about ourselves. Not only that, but he will show us the way to resolve our inner turmoil and find true rest.

Hebrews 4:11–13 (ESV)
11Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Hallowed Be Thy Name...

Jesus taught his disciples, "When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name." (Luke 11:2)  This beginning to our prayer confronts us with the nature of our relationship to God. That he is our father means we honor him and are dependent on him. 

The phrase, "hallowed be your name" expresses our respect. It means, "let your name be exalted as holy."  It is not that we are urging God to live up to our standards of holiness - but that we recognize and want others to know that God, our Father, is HOLY.

God is not holy because he measures up to some external standard.  God is holy because he is God.  As God, he is the measure of all perfection.  Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, Moral and Immoral and any other similar standard is eternally calibrated by the ultimate reality of God and his holiness.  What conforms to God's holy character is good, right and moral.  Whatever conflicts with God's holy character is evil, wrong and immoral. To sin is to transgress God's standards of holiness.

When we come to God in prayer, one of the first things we must do is acknowledge who God is and who we are in relation to God.  We do not come to God to give him something he lacks or to tell him how to manage the universe or the circumstances of our lives.  We come to God in worship, desiring to be used by God to exalt his name as the measure of all perfection.

This is a very important thing to remember in 21st century America and it would be well for Christians to return to praying according to this formula, "Father, hallowed be your name."

Somehow we have strayed from these essential truths.  Instead of acknowledging God as the measure of all perfection we have come to think that we are the measure ourselves.  Too many nominal Christians have bought into the American idolatry that tells us good and evil are determined by cultural consciousness.  Views on abortion and human sexuality are prime examples, but not the only examples.  Instead of asking, "What does God say about these things?" so called Christians are parroting the views of secular humanists who have sold their ideas through various cultural channels over the past sixty years.

Let God be exalted as the measure of all perfection.  Let his kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Let it begin today by his rule and reign in my life.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Irrational Hubris of Atheism

Last week I was reading statements made on a site for secular humanists.  One particular author made the statement I had heard many times before, that he became and atheist when he decided that God was not necessary.

This reminded me of the time when I was four years old and decided to run away from home. I suppose that I was angry at my mother because of some limit she had placed on my freedom. I packed my tiny red and white suitcase and, in full view of my mother's watchful eye, traveled to the end of the driveway. There I sat on my suitcase and petted my cat, Lovey, while I considered the unlimited options for my future.

I had obviously decided that my mother and father were no longer necessary. Staying with them just cramped my style. Without them I would have unlimited freedom.

Of course, as a four year old I had no idea why parents were necessary. I didn't understand human reproduction and genetics so as far as I was concerned I didn't owe my existence to them. The story of the stork or babies in a cabbage patch would have been a fine story of origins for me.

I did not understand economics and how it happened that we had a house to live in, clothes to wear and food to eat. How hard could it be for me to live on my own? I had my suitcase packed with what I supposed would sustain me. (Of course my mother never took her eyes off of me and would have intervened immediately if I had offered to go into the road. Poor Lovey unfortunately did not have the same level of supervision and eventually met her end in that very street.)

So God is not necessary, you say?  Well what do you know about it, really?

The modern theories of the origin of the universe and the origin of life and of evolution are simply "just so stories" to placate people who want to run away from God. They may satisfy someone who is determined to disbelieve in personal God and allow him to be an "intellectually fulfilled atheist" but what does it have to do with the truth?

What do we know, apart from divine revelation, about our personal existence or the nature of life or the matter of morality and human conscience? The modern atheist is confident that he knows enough, when in fact he knows nothing at all except that he exists and does not like the constraints placed on him by the idea that there could be a God to Whom he might need to give an account. There is nothing new about this.

(Romans 1:28) And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;