Wrong Motivations

Wrong Motivations

My, oh my. Dad is tired of the fighting. My kids have entered a new dimension of their relationship. They used to be two easy-going brothers. Sure, there were petty squabbles here and there, but for the most part, they just played nicely. However, lately, things have changed. It now seems they can’t interact for more than a few minutes before one of them is either telling the other to stop doing something, or they are tattling to Amanda or me, hoping we will intervene and sort out their problems. Amanda and I believe we have discerned the issue; not long ago, Cooper was complicit with everything his older brother Theo asked of him. Games they played and even the colors they were coloring were prescribed and chosen by Theo. Then Cooper began asserting his boundaries, informing his brother of his personality, which comes with his likes and dislikes. Here is an example conversation:

 

Theo: Let’s play dinosaurs!

Cooper: I don’t want to play dinosaurs.

Theo: Okay, you be the stegosaurs.

Cooper: I don’t want to play dinosaurs. 

Theo: Fine, you be the triceratops. 

Cooper: No, I don’t want to play, I want to color… 

Theo: Play!

Cooper: No!!!! 

 

The argument ensues, and both are left frustrated, upset, and mad at the other. Partially for not listening and being forced to do things they don’t want to do. As a parent, I know this is normal, and the boys are just adjusting to relationships formed in preferences and their independence. I get it, but I become wearied with the continual fighting.  

This fighting reminds me of a passage within the book of James, and he writes to those early disciples. James informs his readers to act differently; he also advises them why they are prone to such common fight-inducing tendencies.  

James 4:1-4 

 “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

I appreciate the plain language of James. The motivations of these early disciples, and ourselves, are wrapped up in wrong intentions and selfish desires. There are so many things built upon us just wanting to get our way. We invent reasons why it is better for everyone if we get what we want. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we internally make statements like, “If people would just listen to me there wouldn’t be any problems.” Or, “It would be a lot smoother if people just did what I want.” Those statements are grounded in a ‘me first’ selfish mentality. 

James’ language is strong, and he conjures up thoughts of the first brothers, Cain and Abel. In that narrative, Cain doesn’t begin with evil intentions. We should regard Cain’s attempt of providing a God-pleasing sacrifice as noble but flawed; however, instead of adjusting his thoughts and attitudes, he believes it is easier to do away with the competition. Therefore, James mentions, “You desire but do not have, so you kill.” When we start to see the people around us as competition and obstacles, we are heading down a dangerous path. A mentality of “my way or the highway” does not produce beneficial results for each other. Only one person gets to be “right,” and the other person is left dealing with the suppression of their individuality. 

**Keep in mind these issues listed in James as personal desires. There are issues that we must stand our ground on; however, there should never be a one-sided conversation. We should be willing to hear each other out and discuss things as though we are adults and not children ages 2-4**

James’ guidance is simple, look at your desires; are they desiring what God wants or things of the world? Are you merely looking out for your interests and elevation of status? If you don’t get your way, are you willing to sever relationships and hate your brother/sister? We must also realize that James advises his readers that behaving in this way not only tarnishes our relationship with each other, starting fights and quarrels but creates a rift between God and us. James calls this rift adultery; we are forsaking the things of God for our desire to get what we want. This is a very dangerous mindset to have, so I encourage you, don’t behave like little children who fight and argue because they don’t get their way. Desire a much more excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13).

 



Walk In the Son

Blog 1.10.2022

Walk in the Son

It has been over a month, but Milo is now walking; actually, it is more like running. He goes everywhere, and there is nothing that slows him down. When people see Milo, they are amazed at how well he motors around. For the longest time, Amanda and I knew Milo was capable of walking, but he wouldn’t take those fateful steps. We imagined he would be walking well before his first birthday, but he kept holding on to everything, literally holding on to couches, chairs, and our fingers. At one point, we acquired this baby-walker; it allowed him to cruise from place to place and generally be under his own power, with the steadying assistance of four wheels. After a month of him using this device, we started to notice that it was simply a crutch. He could walk fine, standing unsupported on his own, but he thought he still needed this walker to help him get from point A to point B. So, we took it away. Finally, he realized that he didn’t need that support, and in no time at all, Milo could move freely without taking this item with him. And he loved it, and his new found freedom was indeed liberating. 

I think of this concept of freedom and the hindrances of the world. We imagine there are these things that are granting us freedom, things like this plastic baby walker. Sure, we can move around, but we are always dragging this burden. It is cumbersome and awkward, but we feel it gives us security and that we need it. We have no idea that it is a crutch and slowing us down. These things seem like they grant us freedom, but we become bound to them; they control us. Jesus informs his listeners of this very fact, as he states: 

John 8:34-36 
“Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

There is a false sense of liberty in sin, and holding on to damaging concepts confines us to a prison cell of ugliness. Maintaining concepts like anger, rage, malice, slander, lying, and even demeaning language (Colossians 3:8-9) becomes a crutch. We imagine this gives us independence, but it holds us back from true freedom. We think it gives us power over each other, and perhaps momentarily, it provides us with a sense of power, but we should realize sin controls us. These harmful concepts are all internalized; other things outside of our bodies can also direct us. Popularity, power, pleasure-seeking, and pride can also become our masters and rob us of our freedom; these were the more common downfalls of Israel’s background. David pens this liberating song about God’s deliverance from our pitfalls and hang-ups.

“May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. 2 May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. 3 May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. 4 May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. 5 May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests. 6 Now this I know: The LORD gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. 8 They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. 9 LORD, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call!”

                                                                    – Psalm 20:1-9 NIV  

Some trust in the strength of armies and human powers, but that is not where true strength comes from; true power comes from God. Pledging allegiance to other countries or even “powerful” concepts like anger and materialism only make you loyal and beholden to those entities. You might feel liberated when you yell at that guy who cut you off. Some imagine that money buys freedom, but that is not where true liberation endures. The release comes from realizing that these are only crutches. They are only holding you back. If you want to be free, let go of those crutches and walk in the Son. 



New Year – New You

Blog 1.3.2022

New Year – New You

Every year I end up thinking the same thing, “How can it be 20__ already?” The marking of time moves so swiftly it consistently amazes me how fleeting each minute, day, or year changes continually. We live as though time is our enemy; we are worried and concerned about how much time remains on our mortal clocks. Thoughts of adding more years to our time on earth consume our thoughts. We ask questions such as, “Are we eating right?” or “Am I taking the right vitamins?” These are good questions, and we should be taking care of our physical needs and not living haphazardly with our time on this temporal globe. For most of our lives, we want to scream at the clocks worldwide to stop counting and keep this ever-progressing time. Yet on one day of the year, we anticipate and gladly accept the clocks moving forward. No other day of the year do we shout the final 10 seconds of a year… except on New Year’s Eve.

It doesn’t matter if your last trip around the sun was enjoyable or regretful; we look forward to the opportunities of another year. If it was an agreeable year, we are hopeful that our next year will continue similarly. If our last year were appalling, we would anticipate the possibility of brighter days.

There is this thought that amuses me. We all know that shifting days of a calendar and even the progression from year to year is an artificial contrivance. Meaning both the day of the week and the year we are inhabiting are arbitrary to a great extent. We keep these dates so that the world is on the same temporal page, making life and interpersonal transactions more straightforward. We can know how old we are and make advanced scheduling appointments employing simple arithmetic.

From a Christian perspective, we also know that God exists outside of time and is not affected by it. We read passages like “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17 ESV), and “do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8 ESV). Furthermore, the verses surrounding these statements suggest that time is for our benefit. God has been patient with humanity for this very purpose; strictly speaking, we needed time to figure things out and draw near Him. This helps me reframe how I perceive my existence; time is not a curse for humanity but an opportunity for me to live the way God intended.

Perhaps this is why we get excited every year for our calendars to roll forward, potential. It is the potential for things to get better, our potential to improve our own lives. People set resolutions to change themselves for the better, and a new year provides the marker for that to happen. However, most New Year resolutions fail after the first month because change is hard. And most of our resolutions are superficial and shallow, compared to the type of change required for a meaningful existence. It is no wonder that God is patient, and in His loving timelessness, He gives us ample occasions to transition to a fuller life.

Thoughts like this remind me of the rich, young man from Luke 18 and Jesus’ subsequent explanation of the conversation. Jesus asked this individual to make life-altering changes, and the man went away sorrowful. We have this passage recorded for us to contemplate, “Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But [Jesus] said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:26-27 ESV). The truth is these changes and resolving to be better will ultimately fail. We cannot change ourselves in this way. Repentance and salvation by my human ability will be an unending cycle of failure and disappointment. Thankfully God has paved a better way because nothing is impossible with God. The Bible informs us of two great benefits that God grants us on our spiritual transformation. 

Titus 3:4-7 ESV – “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

God rescues us by His goodness and loving-kindness; by giving up His Son. Not only that, but we are being regenerated and renewed by that same power. If it were up to me, there would be no way for true change to happen. Like the rich young man, this would have been impossible. But for God, everything is within the realm of possibilities. So as we start a new year, think about having true significant change, a change that does not happen on your ability, but meaningful change happens by the power of God. Do not strive against that change, and allow the Spirit to produce within you the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Let this be the year of the new you.



Sorrow Into Joy

Blog 12/27/2021

Sorrow into Joy!

I feel as though I have done a lot in my life so far. Yet out of all of the things I have seen and have been a part of, nothing gives me joy and happiness like being a parent. One aspect I love about being a parent is experiencing the world through my children’s eyes. The month leading up to Christmas is truly a wonderful experience and puts a lot into perspective. My kids love looking at all of the decorations in stores or on the streets, they enjoy baking and icing cookies, and they love the thought of receiving presents. Even though Theo has watched the Grinch movie countless times, he knows Christmas is not only about presents… to him; it is still about presents. We all love a good gift, and to receive something as an unwarranted surprise is every person’s dream. I recognize that the best present that I have is the gift of my children.

As I was studying for the lesson on obedience being the product of faith this last week, I looked at that passage in Hebrews 11 concerning Abraham’s faith. And there was a thought that struck me, and one I would like to share with you.

Hebrews 11:17-19 ESV –
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”

I consider the steps of Abraham and Isaac as they traverse the hills of Moriah, leading to the fateful spot where God will test Abraham’s faith. As we read the account in Genesis 22, we are confronted with how difficult this would be for a parent to experience. Each step would be met with sorrow and resolve. At some point, Abraham’s faithful determination would presume that this was the last journey that he and his son would ever take, mentally handing him over to his future fate. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child, and my heart aches for every parent that has ever had to endure that pain. The heartache of Abraham during this journey would have been dreadful and excruciating.

Yet, with his knife in hand, what extreme joy would have consumed his heart when he heard the angel of the Lord exclaim, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him” (Genesis 22:12)—presenting us with the reality described in Hebrews 11:19. Although in Abraham’s resolve, he has already committed Isaac to death, halting his hand, he receives his son back from doom. In a very real sense, this is the second time God gave Abraham the gift of his son, Isaac. The first is his supernatural birth to man and wife in their old age; the second is when he received him back from death.

We don’t often think of the return trip. On the way to the mountains of Moriah, sorrow and distress filled each step, and yet, how much joy would have been expressed because of God’s deliverance of Isaac? I can only imagine the singing and rejoicing as father and son made their way home. No longer would Abraham have to inform Sarah of Isaac’s sacrifice, but now he can shout out the goodness of God and His providence! Laughter, thankfulness, and appreciation would have filled Abraham’s heart, and unending praise would have rolled effortlessly off of his lips. I think of David’s song in Psalm 30.

Psalm 30:11-12 ESV –

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me -with gladness, 12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.

O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”

This is the attitude that we all should have as we reflect on the goodness of God and His indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15). What should have been sorrow and sadness for all humanity, we now sing and rejoice like a parent receiving back their children because of the sacrifice of God’s Only Son and his resurrection from the dead. Abraham received an unwarranted gift, and what a surprise that would have been; to regain Isaac from certain death. We, too, have received an unwarranted gift, life everlasting through the offering of the son. To which we can shout and sing and rejoice for the goodness of God.



The Soul Felt Its Worth

Blog 12.20.2021 2

The Soul Felt Its Worth

Right now, our radios and music players are full of songs that we only hear once a year. These songs are reminiscent of by-gone days like “Jingle Bells” or “Winter Wonderland.” Some are just lighthearted songs of merry-making like the “12 Days of Christmas,” and others come to us as hymns from more than a century earlier. Buried in some of these songs are truths that speak to every person; I suppose that is why we sing and play these melodies and the lyrics year after year. Some of these ancient hymns are rooted not only in the upcoming holiday but the faith of the songwriter. One of these songs is “O Holy Night.” Written by the French poet Placide Chapeau in 1843, it speaks to the redemption that Jesus brought with him as he came to this earth. While I don’t suggest taking every Christmas song as a theologically profound poem, there is a line that resonates with me and one I think should convey a deeper meaning to you as well.

The line is from the first stanza stating, “Long lay the world in sin and error pining- Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.” We are acquainted with the idea that sin has entangled humanity from the beginning; prompted by the devil, Jesus came to do away with sin. Those thoughts come from “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. … 8 the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:5, 8). From the beginning, God made us in His image; that defines us, that was God’s design. However, shortly after, we were represented by another characteristic, sin. Man and woman were the pinnacle of creation and quickly became the curse for the earth. For centuries this is what defined all of the human race; no longer were we the children of God, we were tainted and opposed to His very nature. If you have ever been labeled, you know how damaging it is to be regarded not as a person but as a title. How much worse when the title is unfavorable and degrading. Yet, that is what we were; we all became entrapped in the cycle of sin. However, there was hope; although we were all entangled in sin, fully deserving of wrath, there was the promise of a Messiah. This is how the apostle Paul describes this situation, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned– … 18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people” (Romans 5:12, 18). Sin labeled us, and death was inevitable for all people; humanity needed a rescuer performing one righteous act.

This one righteous act provided life for all people, and this righteous act also justifies us. This justification not only removed sin, but it removed the title of “sinner.” Before this moment of justification, we were fully deserving of wrath and God’s righteous indignation, but after this righteous act, our course was changed. A moment of clarification, this righteous act was not being born in a manger but through this death on a cross. Yet, you cannot have one without the other, and a beginning must come before the end (in this case the middle), as his death was not the end. Peter describes this transaction as being redeemed, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19). This passage tells us our worth. The precious blood of Christ pays for this justification and redemption.

If I realize that I was once a sinner and deserving of death, as we all were. Yet, we are all redeemed. I can then fully realize how much I am worth. I am no longer a product of Adam, but I am a product of the price paid by the Son of God. We were once wallowing in our sins and transgression, yet now I am aware of how much I am worth. Christ Jesus restored us to our rightful place as the image-bearers of God. Transforming us from sinners to individuals chosen and redeemed. Now we can honestly know our worth, not because of what we have done, but because of what Jesus did for all of us.

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining- Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.”



Twinkle

Blog 12.13.2021

Twinkle

It is an interesting tradition. I remember helping my dad when I was younger, and now that I have children, they also appreciate the effort and product of the winter routine. The tradition is adorning our house with strands of diminutive lights. The ritual is such a strange thing, and I can only imagine that it has been possible since the invention of the electric lightbulb. It would be dangerous and ineffective to drape candles all around our homes during the coldest and windiest portion of the year. However, I love the tradition because of the enchanted and delightful mood it creates. When the lights turn on, and a soft glow emits from the tiny bulbs, it takes me to a more peaceful, more pleasant state of mind. This year when I had put the final touches on the decorations, my children ran chaotically and enthusiastically around my yard; the excitement and joy were too much for them to try and contain. Squealing and laughing, it immediately filled my heart with delight.

Many cultures over the centuries have worshiped and revered the sun. There were solstice celebrations, and some cultures even offered human sacrifices to encourage the sun to continue shinning. Humans need light. We are drawn to it. It sustains us not only by allowing us to function but also by providing nutrients like vitamin D. Most things on this planet require light to survive (I would say all things, but I am unsure about creatures living in the depths on the ocean floor or dark caves). Because of this, it seems only natural for people to idolize the sun. It is the brightest light, but it also provides life to the earth. 

You would expect simple-minded humans to create a deity out of the sun. However, as God reveals Himself in the Bible, he does not present Himself as the sun. Instead, He makes it known that He is the creator of the sun. He speaks, and then light pops into existence. However, God often uses light as a symbol and metaphor for His actions and presence within the world. For the Israelites, as they wandered in the wilderness, He used the pillar of fire to guide them at night (Exodus 13:21). A beacon of providence and safety in an uncertain time in their history. Throughout the Bible, God used light to describe His establishments and activities within the lives of humanity. The Bible references and uses lamps and fire as this symbol of light, and God’s word itself is a symbol of light to His people and the world (Psalm 119:105). 

The most important symbol of light connects us with the Son of God. In his gospel, John writes, “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). This statement is enormously significant. Not only is this one of the “ego emi” (I AM) statements of Jesus, thus asserting equality and oneness with the Father. It is also a declaration of one of Jesus’ purposes coming into the world; to shine God’s light into the world and ensure that everyone can also have the light of life. No longer are God’s people to simply follow the light, like the Israelites in the desert, but we can walk in the light (1 John 1:7). Not only this, but the apostle Paul states, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).    

Perhaps this is why I am enamored by these tiny twinkling torches every year. I think of these little lights seeming so insignificant in comparison to the lights that we see every day. One poor light would be a little beacon; however, hundreds of these miniature lamps can light up a corner of the world. Yes, in the darkest part of the year, their luminosity repels the darkness just a little more. They shine in such a way that they bring joy and cheer to an otherwise dismal entryway. This time of year, reflect on this thought about what a little light can do in the world. 



Peace on Earth

Blog 12.6.2021

Peace

There is something to be said about this time of year. The days are colder and darker, and the harvest gathering for the year is complete. Hibernating animals have it figured out as they begin their wintery slumber. It can be a difficult time of year to find any semblance of delight. And yet, people are a little kinder and more forgiving all over the world. Someone can cut in front of you in the grocery store, and we extend a little more grace. Although there may be more hustle and bustle during this season, people are generally cheerier and more good-natured. Every year we string out our decorations, or at least we are encouraged to put them up earlier and earlier. I see all of these signs as indications of what humanity wants.

Peace.

Peace is a fantastic concept that is pervasive throughout the Bible. The Old Testament references peace as a courteous greeting, restoration to health, length of life, and cessation from conflict (even in a grocery store). However, it is most often conveyed as a sense of completeness, security, and, therefore, tranquility found in a person’s life. Passages like Psalm 37:37, 119:165; Isaiah 32:17; Proverbs 3:2 inform us that we gain peace when observing God’s ways and walking uprightly.  This is because God is described as the originator and giver of peace. When we walk in close connection to God and His Word, we gain a fullness, increased well-being, and serenity that nothing originating in this world can grant. The Aaronic Blessing to the people of Israel expresses this concept well.

Numbers 6:24-26
“The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26 The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”

We all know that the Israelites’ existence was full of conflict and wars. From Joshua and Judges to the end of our scrolls regarding Old Testament history, 2 Chronicles, earthly peace was an elusive concept for the Israelites. So, it is no wonder that peace became an ideal closely tied to the future of the coming Messiah.

Isaiah 9:6-7
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of [His] government and peace [There will be] no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”

God’s people were eagerly awaiting a time when completeness and tranquility would reign in a physical kingdom. But never fully understanding that we might obtain true peace through God’s laws and presence.

For us today, we realize that peace comes because of Jesus. Through his life and death, we realized what peace is and what it means for us. It is a peace bestowed through the Spirit (Romans 14:17, Galatians 5:22), especially when we don’t feel complete or tranquil. It is a peace in connection with God and the division of Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:13-18); the cross ends the hostility between each party.

There is a world that is hungering for peace. Our desire for peace becomes more evident every year. Sadly, like God’s people of old, most of humanity struggle with true peace. Peace becomes a concept that is foreign and unobtainable. Not understanding that true peace, a peace that emanates from within, comes from knowing God and His Son. Some people can attempt to mimic this peace for about a month. Still, eventually, that well runs dry, and they resume their usual tendencies. For the Christian, peace and joy are not token sentiments held for winter activities but something we should radiate every day because of the presence of God in our lives. The world needs peace. The world is craving peace. They desire peace with each other, finding internal peace, and, most importantly, peace with God.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

(Luke 2:14 NIV)



Cyber Monday Deal

 

Blog 11.29.2021

Cyber Monday Deal

We love a good deal. The Air Force took me to a lot of different places throughout the globe. I enjoyed the immersion in a new culture, experiencing the differences between my everyday life and the nuances that other cultures observed. From the markets of South Korea to the souks of Saudi Arabia, they all have one thing in common, and they make a living on the barter system. The price negotiation places a lot of responsibility on the customer. As a customer, you need to know the approximate value of the item; whether it is a hand-stitched blanket or a gold necklace, a person needs to comprehend the value of the object to negotiate effectively. You have to know the value of the materials used and the amount of time an artisan would have spent on the item. Then you have to inspect the item to ensure there are no impurities or inconsistences in the material (some even take a magnet to make sure something isn’t gold plated). A cheap counterfeit item can ruin even the best deal. 

However, in our culture, we don’t like to barter for our goods. We want to see a reasonably priced item that we believe has a fair-marketed value, and then we make our purchase. In a system like this, there creates an attraction to a thing going on sale. We believe that all prices are appropriate and fair and that when it goes on sale, we are getting a better deal than if we bought it on a particular day. Shopkeepers in these other cultures caught on to our bartering ineptitude. And they began calling out attention-grabbing slogans from their storefronts to attract these westernized customers. My favorite instance of this tactic that I ever heard was, “Nearly free blanket!” Everyone loves a deal, and what is a better deal than getting something for “nearly free”? The deal was not nearly free, but it would grab your attention enough to get you in the door, and that is where negotiations could begin. 

All of humanity has entered into negotiations. We attempt to comprehend the value of certain items and try to exchange them for our benefit. Naturally, we want the best deal for a reasonable price. However, we have been hornswoggled, bamboozled, and tricked; the great deceiver has made us pay too high of a price for a counterfeit life… 

Romans 6:17-23 

 “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I love how Paul frames this thought. He reflects on Jesus’ statements about serving two masters (Matthew 6:24) and brings it to a necessary conclusion. We are all slaves to either sin or God. If you choose to make in your master, you are free from righteousness and living a life that is pleasing to God. However, Paul warns us that this choice has a high price tag; its end is death. There is another option; it is a life that has chosen to “become obedient from the heart” and produces a far different result. The first option is a life hostile to God and a slave to sin, you can pay for this life, but it will be expensive. It will cost you your life. Or you can choose to enslave yourself to God, and you will receive a free gift. The free gift of eternal life in Jesus. 

Paul’s terminology is exceptional; you either pay for a life of sin with your own life or receive a gift that you don’t deserve. Which deal would you take? Is free a good enough price for eternal life? Do you understand the value of what is being offered? We would make far different choices if we understood the free gift of God. 

 



May I Have Another

Blog 11.15.2021

“May I have another?”

There’s a problem in our house. It all started on October 30. First, we had our Truck or Treat, and then on the following day, we took our kids Trick or Treating, and now we have a large amount of candy. Having too much candy creates a few problems; for starters, I have a sweet tooth and enjoy snatching a few morsels whenever I remember we have a seemingly unending supply. The second problem is that I passed this sweet tooth on to my sons. The other day I opened their bag of candies, and before I knew it, they had eaten several pieces before I realized what was happening. If they have one piece, they immediately ask for a second or third. This is only a problem if I don’t want my sons to be full of sugar and consequently excess energy, which I typically don’t want to happen. So, we make some rules for them about how often and how much they can eat. Because sugar tastes good, but in large amounts, it is not the best thing for us. And no matter how much you eat, it never fills you up. 

(Isaiah 55:1-3 ESV) 
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.”

Through His prophet Isaiah, God is calling out for His people to return to Him. This passage tells us that there are things in this world that will never satisfy us. Oddly enough, we are willing to spend our money and resources (labor) on things that bring us no benefit. If we are honest, these objects and ideas can bring us great harm. We consume and consume without ever realizing what we are doing to our physical and spiritual health. Sadly, they often bring us brief moments of pleasure, but that is vain and fleeting. Like copious amounts of candy, it can leave us sick and even suffering from an energy crash. Some can ruin their spiritual lives, like an individual that no longer produces insulin the way it should. They leap from one gratifying sensation to the next, consumed by instantly gratifying their desires. 

However, this passage produces imagery that is contrary to our previous scenario. We are told of a God that invites us into a rich and satisfying life. God promises us that this is something that will cost no money. Returning to God will satisfy us to the core of our existence as it poetically states, “that your soul may live!” Not only will it fill us, but it will taste good!

Some so many people do not understand or partake in this promise. They have no idea what it means to trust in God and be satisfied. They will continually be chasing one sensation, experience, or seductive moment to the next. They will wonder why they can never stop or why they feel empty. 

A fantastic concept about this passage is that God does it because He wants to. It is His nature to give us what will truly satisfy. That is His purpose, and that is what will not come back empty. He does this because of His goodness and great compassion. 

One final thought, read the end of the chapter v. 12-13.

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” 

Because of the goodness and compassion of God to those who thirst, He quenches. And when He quenches our thirst, it will be as though the earth is singing and rejoicing. Therefore, being filled is not a promise that life will never have troubles or struggles, but that the goodness and compassion of God will fulfill you, and your outlook on life will change because you are changed. 

(1 Timothy 6:6-7 ESV) “… godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.”



Splitting Heirs

Blog 11.8.2021

Splitting Heirs

A few weeks ago, my kids and I went to visit our family in Idaho. It is always a great time; we get to spend time with their aunts, uncles, cousins, and of course, grandparents. However, this time there was an unintended consequence. Theo started calling me “Uncle Tom”. He has always adopted nicknames for me; for a long time after he first watched Disney’s, The Incredibles, he called me “Bob” after the dad in that movie. To my nieces and nephews, I am their fun uncle Tom, and that’s great because I am a fun uncle; however, to Theo, I am his dad, and being a dad means I am more than just a fun person. Dads are not uncles; dads have boundary-setting roles and are in charge of terrible tasks like getting ready for bed at night. It was difficult for Theo to know which relationship “hat” I was wearing. It can be troublesome to define our earthly relationships, and it can be even more challenging to understand our spiritual relationships.

In our study on the parable in Luke on Wednesday nights, we covered the narrative of the Lost Son. Contained at the end of the parable, there is a struggle illuminated by the older son; he is unaware of how to define his relationship with his father. But, first, let’s look at the words of the masterful parable teller.

Luke 15:25-32
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ “ 

At first glance, we see a dutiful son who is taking care of the family’s property. But then, we wonder why he is so bitter, what makes the older son upset at the party at his house. I believe his bitterness is partially due to misattributing the wrong relationship titles between his father and him.  

He doesn’t go to address the father directly. Instead, he chooses to talk to a servant, depicting a strain on the roles of the father/son relationship. Then there are the other classifications he uses in his response to his father; words like slaving, orders, and referring to his lost brother as “your son.” These demonstrate that the older son was assuming the role of a second-class citizen. He thought himself to be unworthy within the walls of his own home. The older son was obedient and dutiful because he viewed himself as a servant working on his father’s property. He did not consider himself as a son.  

The father in the parable quickly corrects this problematic thinking by referring to him as, “My son.” And informing him of his rightly secured his place in the family, not because of diligence and performance but because he was a son.

How do we have a wrong assessment of our relationship to God? Are we working because we feel an obligation? Do we work because we are a son and share in the prosperity of the family? To be sure, those who have the Spirit living in them can rightly call God their Father, God adopting them into the family. Additionally, this transformation should change the way we interact and view the Father. Much like Theo realizing there is a difference between the role of an uncle and a dad. There are differences in calling God our Father; expectations might change, but so do the benefits of being a family member. However, that takes a reassessment of our place within the family.  

Galatians 4:6-7 
“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”