Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Don't Make Me Come Back There!



In honor of Father’s Day, I have been thinking about some of those classic lines our fathers said to us over the years. When riding in the car, how many of us heard our fathers ask, “Do I need to pull this car over?” Maybe you and your siblings were arguing, and he would threaten, “Don’t make me come back there!” Dads don’t have to say what they are going to do when they pull the car over or when they come back there; it is understood. If he pulls over, punishment will soon follow. 

God, the Righteous Father, gave similar threats to His people. Most notably through the prophet Jeremiah, God said, “Behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings 23:2, KJV).” Through Moses God promised to “visit the iniquity” of those who hated Him (Exodus 34:6-7, Numbers 14:18, Deuteronomy 5:8-10).  When God promises to come for a visit, He isn’t coming for dessert and coffee. He doesn’t need to describe exactly what will happen when He comes; it is understood. When God comes to visit people because of their iniquity, punishment will soon follow. 

Yes, God is a God who is rich in mercy and slow to wrath, but there is a time for everything, and that includes discipline and judgment. Just like a good Father, God first warns His children of the consequences of their rebellion, so they cannot be caught off guard when God “comes back there.” We have been warned, so the ball is in our court. If we do not want God to come to us in discipline, then we simply need to live in accordance with His instructions for us. 

The good news is that God’s corrective action is to make us better people, not to simply inflict pain or suffering. The hardships He may bring into our lives are meant to get our attention, to steer us back into right living. When we repent, God relents. When we stop doing whatever caused Him to visit us in discipline, the discipline subsides. 

Not every visit from God is for judgment. In Revelation 3:20 God says He stands at the door and knocks, and if anyone lets Him in He will come in and dine with them. This kind of visit is a warm one between friends. Jesus wants to have a relationship with us, so if we let Him in now, He won’t have to come in judgment later. 

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Silent Treatment



There was a couple that had a bitter argument that resulted in them both giving each other the silent treatment. After two full days of not talking to each other, the man knew he needed his wife’s help. He had a business meeting, and he needed to wake up early to catch a flight to Chicago. Not wanting to be the one to break the silence, he wrote his wife a note that said, “Please wake me up at 5 AM.” The next morning when he woke up it was 9 AM, and his wife was up and about. Furious, he was about to go demand to know why she did not wake him, when he noticed the note beside his pillow that said, “Its 5 AM. Wake up.”

No marriage is perfect; for that matter, no relationship is perfect. There will always be arguments, fights, and conflicts, but the story above is a good example of why we should never let the sun go down on our wrath (Ephesians 4:26). When we put our problems off until another day, those problems often times become worse. Sweeping problems under the rug does not make them go away, it only allows them to fester beneath the surface, making the eventual cleanup harder than if the mess had been dealt with right away.

If there is a person that you are currently at odds with, the best thing you can do is reach out to that person as soon as possible and try to mend the relationship. When people choose to live in conflict with others, they often times do not even remember what the original problem was; instead, they remember all the snide remarks and sideways looks that have come after the conflict began. If they had tried to repair the relationship sooner, there would not have been as much to deal with.

Fixing a relationship is important because we want to regain that brother or sister. It is wrong to think we can choose to not forgive, and then go about our business as if everything is ok. Jesus said it is a waste of time to offer a gift to the Lord if we have not tried to make restoration with that person. He said, “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:24).” In other words, God is not interested with our acts of worship if we are not willing to first do our part to repair a relationship. If you haven’t felt close to God lately, maybe there is another relationship you need to work on so that your walk with God will improve.



Sunday, June 2, 2019

Actors



I heard about a county zoo that had a reputation for having a great collection of different animals. People would come from miles around to see the wide array of animals at this particular zoo, but one day the gorilla died. Not wanting to disappoint the customers, the zookeeper came up with a plan. He hired an actor to wear a gorilla costume and fill in for the dead animal. The only problem was the actor did not know how to play a gorilla.

During his first shift the actor tried eating a banana, beating his chest, and walking on his knuckles. He unfortunately was a little clumsy; he got too close to the wall of the enclosure and tripped and fell into the lion exhibit. At this point he became terrified, and even with a group of people watching him, he began to yell, “Help! Help!” The only thing that made him stop yelling was the voice coming from the lion behind him saying, “Knock it off. You’re going to get us both fired!”

The men in the gorilla and lion suits were actors who put on a costume and performed a role for an audience. I’m not opposed to acting; in fact, I enjoy a good performance. But the biblical word for actor is hypocrite, and it does not have a good connotation. There was not anything wrong with being a hypocrite back then, but we now associate the word with people who wear a mask and play a part in order to deceive others. Jesus frequently used the word to call out the outwardly religious people who put on a show in order that they might receive the applause of people; they made sure everything on the outside looked right, but inwardly their hearts were far from God.

Jesus gave them a stinging rebuke when He said, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are filled with dead people’s bones and all uncleanness (Matthew 23:27).” At a funeral we might remark about how nice a casket may look, but we all know what the purpose of the coffin is. Jesus said these hypocrites were bragging about being polished on the outside, while the inside was only housing corruption.

Are you an actor? Are you a hypocrite? A good performer may be able to fool the audience, but he can never fool God. You can convince your spouse, your parents, your children, and your pastor that you are the real deal, but God looks on the heart. If you are a hypocrite, you should come clean and allow God to make you into the real thing. Until then, being an actor is about as meaningful as pretending to be a gorilla.  


Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Balm in Gilead



In Jeremiah 8:22 God’s prophet asked a rhetorical question: “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” The question was rhetorical because the answer was obvious. There was plenty of balm in Gilead, and there were plenty of physicians there to apply it.

The balm in Gilead was an ointment used as a perfume, but more often as a cure all. Although this balm does not grow there now, it was once exported all around the world. It began to be used to refer to a metaphorical healing as well. Those who were sick would apply the balm, but those who were in a jam would say they needed the balm in Gilead. If there were no crops and no money, they would say they needed the balm in Gilead. If they were stressed and depressed, they would say they needed the balm in Gilead. No matter what was wrong with the person or the country as a whole, the balm in Gilead could bring the cure.

Jeremiah had just prophesied the coming disaster for the southern kingdom of Judah because they were refusing to live according to God’s law. After giving them a warning about God’s judgment, he asked the question in verse twenty-two. In other words, if the nation would repent of their sins and come back to Christ, they would receive the balm in Gilead because the promised calamity would not come.

Jesus is the Balm in Gilead who, according to the old spiritual, heals the sin-sick soul. Yes, He is the Great Physician, and we call out to Him for physical healing. More importantly, He heals our greatest need, and that is to be brought back into a right relationship with our Creator. Many people look a hundred different directions to find peace, but Jesus offers a peace that passes our understanding. We take the twelve steps, only to find we aren’t any closer to peace. We can change houses or change spouses; we can shop till we drop; we can lose weight or go on a date; we can buy a new car or spend time at the bar, but those things only offer temporary relief at best. They offer a temporary solution to our permanent problem.

Jesus offers a permanent solution to our permanent problem. If we allow Him, He will remove the sin that separates us from God.


The final part of Jeremiah’s question was this: since there is plenty of balm in Gilead, “Why then is there no recovery for the health of the daughter of my people?” The solution is available, but the people are not reaching for it. The doctor has prescribed the remedy, but they are not taking their pills. If you are not at peace with God—if your sin still separates you from Him—then simply take what the doctor has ordered. Jesus is the Balm in Gilead, and He wants to heal your sin-sick soul.   

Monday, May 20, 2019

Gas Gauge



Last week I wrote about the tire issues I had with my truck, and that got me thinking about another problem I have: the gas gauge does not work. When I first got the truck it worked fine, but eventually I noticed that after I filled up the tank the gauge still showed I was on empty. For a while I tried to mentally keep track of how long it had been since I last got gas, until one day I ran out and came to a stop on the side of the road.

After that experience I bought a two-gallon gas can and kept it in my truck, and every time I sputtered to a stop I pulled over and added the gas. I know what you may be thinking since so many people have offered me this advice over the years. Just write down the mileage when you fill up and keep track of how far you go. I choose not to do that because that method involves math, and math is very much a part of the axis of evil. Also, my odometer doesn’t work, so keeping up with my mileage isn’t going to happen. Instead I keep the gas can full and try to remember to top off my tank every so often.

It can be very confusing when the instrument intended to keep me on track leads me astray. When I think there is enough gas to get me where I am going, but then run out before I get there, it really messes with my plans. A broken gauge doesn’t do much good. The Bible gives us several things that can be used like a gauge; these are things we can use to measure ourselves to see if we are where we are supposed to be. The fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh in Galatians 5 are a gage. Is the needle closer to the good side or the bad side?

How are you doing with loving your neighbor as yourself? Are you on E or F in that department? What about the Great Commission? Are you being a disciple-maker? Are you a person who bears other people’s burdens? Do you pray for others?  

If we honestly evaluate ourselves by using some of these biblical commands, we can gauge whether or not we are walking with the Spirit and connected to the Vine. We may think we are OK simply because we go to church, or because we have been baptized, but that can be about as reliable as a broken gas gauge. Many people will say to the Lord on judgment day, “Didn’t we do many great things in your name?” His reply will be, “Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness. I never knew you (Matthew 7:23).”


If you are running on empty, pull over for a fill up right now.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Flat Tires



Now that spring has sprung it is time for us to engage in one of our annual traditions. My wife and I enjoy working on the landscaping around the front porch, so each year I take my truck to town and get a load of brown mulch to spread around the yard. This year we decided we wanted to raise the landscaping higher so it can be more visible from the road, so before I got the mulch I got a load of topsoil to add height.

I learned an important lesson: dirt weighs more than mulch. Much more, it turns out. Although I had been getting a “scoop” of mulch from Sanders for almost ten years without a problem, when the Bobcat dropped the scoop of topsoil into my truck the back end dropped much lower than I was expecting. The tires were rubbing against the wheel well, and I was only a couple miles from the store when one of my tires blew out.

I’m grateful that a friend saw me and helped me get the spare on, but the other rear tire was due for a similar fate. I slowly drove home, smelling burning rubber the whole way. As soon as I put the truck in park I heard the air rush out of the tire; it literally melted. At least I was home that time.

One solution to this problem would be to keep changing tires, but that is only a temporary fix. The only way to keep the tires from blowing out or melting is to get the weight off of them. Before I changed another tire I grabbed a shovel and wheelbarrow, and slowly but surely got the dirt out of the truck and into the yard. With the weight of the dirt off of the truck, I was able to get new tires on that will hopefully last a long time.

That thought reminded me of the character Christian from The Pilgrim’s Progress; he was carrying a heavy load on his back until he arrived at the cross, at which point he was able to lay his burden down. Our sin is like a ton of topsoil—it is more than we are meant to carry, and unless we get rid of it, it will continually bring us down. We look for relief from everything from programs to pills, but those are only temporary at best. At the end of the day, the dirt must be removed.

Let Jesus be like that wheelbarrow. Throw all the dirt on Him. Cast all your cares on Him. He is far better at bearing it than we are.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28