Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Division



I did ok with math when I was in school. I was able to keep up with it until my teacher introduced division; that’s when things began to change. Long division and I never got along. Fortunately I no longer have to worry about taking a math test. I’ve come to learn that division is not just bad when it comes to homework, but to life in general. 

In Luke 10 Jesus visited the house of his friends, siblings Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Jesus was causally talking and teaching everyone in the room, which included Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet and hung on His every word. In the other room, Martha was frantically busying herself making arrangements. Food had to be prepared, the kitchen was a dump, and where were all these disciples going to sleep? Exasperated, Martha interrupted Jesus and demanded that He tell Mary to give her a hand with the chores. 

Jesus responded, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things (Luke 10:41).” When we hear that word worried we might think of someone is stressing over the unknown, but it actually has a different meaning. The Greek word means, “part, portion, or division.” Martha was at her wit’s end because her mind was so divided. On the one hand, she no doubt loved Jesus every bit as Mary did and would have loved to sit at Jesus’ feet as well; on the other hand, she knew there was much to take care of around the house. To be fair to Mary, she probably had no problem helping her sister; she wasn’t being lazy, but neither was she divided.

Mary made up her mind that the most important thing she could do in that moment was sit and listen to Jesus. Martha’s mind was divided, and she ended up making the wrong choice. Every day, and especially on Sundays, we have a choice to make. We can worship Jesus in spirit and truth, or we can allow our minds to be divided and focus on a million other things. We can tune out the world in order to pray, sing, study, or serve, or we can allow the things of this world to take center stage in our minds. Have you ever tried to worship and worry at the same time? Can you effectively worship and daydream? If our minds are divided we might as well stop trying to worship because we are wasting our time.

God wants our undivided attention, so we need to set aside time—as well as distractions—and worship Him.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Are You Salty?



“Why are you so salty?”

If you spend time on social media you have probably seen someone refer to someone else as being salty. According to dictionary.com, salty is slang, and it means to be irritated, angry, or resentful, especially as a result of losing or being slighted. If someone complains on social media about not getting their way, they are accused of being salty. In our culture, being salty is not a good thing. “Easy bro. Don’t be so salty.” 

In the Bible, being salty is a good thing. In Matthew 5:13 Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” Christians are called to be salt. We can think of that in terms of adding flavor to life through our love and good works, or as being an agent that creates thirst that only Jesus, the Living Water, can satisfy. The most likely characteristic of salt that Jesus had in mind was that of preservation. Before refrigeration people used to pack their meat in salt so that it would last longer. We can be preserving agents by leading people to Christ so that their souls can be saved for eternity. 

Satan wants to spoil the world through perversion, but we have been called to save the world through preservation. 
Did you know that different bodies of water have different amounts of salt? If you were to take a ton of water out of the Pacific Ocean, and then remove the salt from that ton of water, you would have 79 pounds of salt. If you did the same thing with a ton of water from the Atlantic Ocean, you would have 81 pounds of salt. If you took a ton of water from the Dead Sea, the saltiest body of water on earth, you would have 500 pounds of salt. 

In the same way, people can have different levels of saltiness, but it isn’t supposed to be that way. Jesus has called us all to be salt. You should not be less salty than anyone else. The world may not want you to be salty, but Jesus does. You are the salt of the earth. How salty are you? 

The Most Important Person



On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinkley, Jr. Although he would make a full recover, the new President was hospitalized until April 11. Even with the leader of the free world lying in a hospital bed, the country moved right on along.

Five years later in the city of Philadelphia, municipal workers walked off the job and began a twenty-day strike. As garbage piled up in the City of Brotherly Love, all of Philly began to stink, and the trash posed a health threat to the city’s residents. It makes you stop and wonder, who is more important: the President of the United States, or garbage collectors?

Both positions are vital to the health of the nation. While the President may hold “the highest office in the land,” there is an established order of people to immediately step into his role if need be. He is important, but he is no more important than the citizens over whom he presides. The same is true within the church. People often think of the pastor as being the most important person in the church, but that is simply not true. What if no one showed up to run the sound or lights? What if no one showed up to keep the nursery or work with children? What if the teachers or singers did not show up? Each of these people play a vital role in the health of the church.

In I Corinthians 12:14-18 Paul wrote: “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.”

In the body of Christ some are the President and some collect garbage. Neither is more important than the other. We each have been given a gift by the Holy Spirit, and He wants us to use that gift. It may be tempting to look at what other people do and envy their gift, or feel as if our gifts do not matter as much as other people’s, but that is the wrong perspective. The body functions best when every part is working together, not against each other. Whether you are called to preach, teach, sing, or serve, do it to the best of your ability.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Man’s Best Friend



Dogs are often referred to as man’s best friend. They have earned that monicker because they are loyal pets. Cats are fickle (no offense, cat people). Cats have this look in their eye where you can just tell they think they are better than you. Cats think they are in charge, and you only exists to meet their needs. Dogs, on the other hand, seem to live for one thing, and one thing only: to get your attention. Dogs love their masters, and they are willing to look the other way on our shortcomings because they just want to be with us.

In a way you could say dogs worship their owner. In fact, we often use the word master instead of owner. That kind of sounds religious, doesn’t it? The biblical words used for worship in the Old Testament carry the idea of prostration, of lying down in homage before someone. But one of those Hebrew words used in the Bible is derived from the relationship of a loyal pet to his master.

In his book titled Worship: The Christian’s Highest Occupation, A.P. Gibbs used the concept of a rescue dog to portray how Christians should worship God. When someone adopts a pet out of a bad environment, whether it be an abusive home or a stray off the street, the dog realizes he is being taken out of a bad situation and put into a better one. He doesn’t fully realize this right away, but over time he continues to learn just how good his new master is. Because of his learned appreciation, that dog will become a loyal pet; he will truly be man’s best friend.

As Christians we do not necessarily understand the full scope of God’s goodness when we are new to the faith; we could argue that we will never fully grasp it. But over time, the more we learn about God, the more we will want to worship Him in appreciation for all He has done for us. There may even be times when God doesn’t make sense; there will be tragedies, sicknesses, even pandemics and unrest.

Unbelievers and the those younger in the faith may struggle with the goodness of God, but those who have known God longer, those who have witnessed His track record, will have an easier time. They can say, “I don’t understand why this is happening, but God has rescued me. God has been good to me. God has never let me down. Even though I don’t get this, I trust God has a plan.”

With the loyalty of a dog, let us worship our Master. With the appreciation of a rescued dog, let us trust the goodness of our Master. Let us be people of worship.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

One Race



Racial tensions continue to mount in our country, and this always bothers me. People like to point fingers of blame at certain individuals for creating the problem; I have seen some blame the recent skirmishes on President Trump, as if these same instances of murder-by-cop and protests-turned-looting didn’t happen multiple times under the previous administration as well. If we want to blame people, there are a few we can blame.

First, we blame the perpetrators themselves. The ones who commit acts of racism are dead wrong, and no one is to blame for their actions but themselves. Second, we blame Adam and Eve because racism is a result of sin. Every act of evil perpetrated in the name of hatred is the result of the absence of Jesus in a person’s life. We have tried to legislate away racism, but obviously that does not work. Racists need Jesus, just like every other sinner.

But I would also propose we blame Charles Darwin, or as I like to call him, “The Father of Racism.” Before his complete fiction known today evolution, all people were rightly viewed as being one race. Darwinian evolution teaches that humans came from lesser life forms, and the natural result of that way of thinking is to view one race as more evolved than the other. Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton wrote a book based on Darwin’s, and he went a step further, calling for selective breeding of people to eliminate the less desirables (Darwin praised his book). Influenced by both Darwin and Galton, Ernst Haeckel introduced Darwinian evolution and Galton’s “judicious marriages” into Germany. He championed a German colonialism that viewed Germans as being at the top of the evolutionary ladder, while what he called “wild races” (the “negroes”) were in between primates and people. This is the Germany into which Adolph Hitler was born, and his holocaust was the natural result of this mindset. (By the way, Margaret Sanger was also greatly influenced by this way of thinking, and she founded Planned Parenthood as a way of “exterminating” the “undesirables” that were produced by lesser races)

Amazing, isn’t it? Society wants to “cancel” George Washington because he was racist, but we teach Darwin’s theories to our children. Charles Darwin has done more to promote racism than any single person in history (not including Satan, of course).

The reality is we are all part of one race—the human race. We are all homo sapiens. There are no evolved races and wild races. We are each fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. Whether male or female, African, Asian, or American, we are each more than 98% identical, and the major difference is in the amount of pigmentation in our skin. The difference in our skin goes back to the Tower of Babel, not to an imaginary rung on the ladder of evolution. We need to love each other as God loves us, as Jesus called this the second greatest commandment: “There is a second just like it—You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39).”

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Investigate the Bible



In the 18th century two British lawyers by the names of Lord Lyttleton and Gilbert West came up with a plan. As atheists, they wanted to undermine the credibility of the New Testament, and they believed the resurrection of Jesus and the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (the apostle Paul) were the two most important pillars of the faith to attack. If, they believed, they could disprove those events, they could get people to leave Christianity. Their plan was to each take one of the topics, investigate it, and write a book about it. They parted ways and agreed to meet back to share their results with each other.

West set out to disprove the resurrection while Lyttleton took on Paul. When they next met with each other one of the men confessed that through his research he was beginning to believe the biblical account; the other man confessed the same thing was happening to him. When they were finished, Gilbert West published, The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and Lyttleton published The Conversion of St. Paul. Both books were a defense of, not an objection to, the claims of the New Testament.

Similar stories abound. Lee Strobel wrote The Case for Christ (and several other “Case For” books) instead of the book he hoped to write that was going to be critical of Christianity. Josh McDowel did the same thing when he wrote Evidence that Demands a Verdict. So did C.S. Lewis when he wrote Mere Christianity.

Isn’t it amazing that when sensible, highly educated people investigate the Bible in order to attack it that they end up believing it? How many times do we hear that Christianity is for the weak and simpleminded? It is also interesting that people have a strong enough opinion that God doesn’t exist that they feel they need to write about it. People believe in Big Foot, unicorns, space men, and the tooth fairy; that doesn’t bother me. I couldn’t imagine being so motivated as to write a book criticizing something I do not believe in. Your belief in Big Foot doesn’t bother me, but our belief in God drives others crazy.

I think the reason people do that is they know deep down that there is a God who created all things. All the evidence points to intelligent design, not random chance. Not wanting to have a Lord, these people deny God, hoping to convince themselves that He isn’t real so that they can feel better living outside of His will. When they go down the path of investigating God so they can criticize Him, they end up accepting what they have denied all along.

So maybe you have your doubts about God and the Bible. Maybe violence, starvation, crime, and pandemics have got you saying, “If God is real, then why…” No problem. Investigate it. Investigate God. Investigate the Bible. God can handle it; in fact, He invites it. You may just end up accepting what you have denied all along.

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him (Psalm‬ ‭34:8‬)!”

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Stubbing Your Toe



Have you ever stubbed your toe? Of course you have. It’s terrible, isn’t it? The worst, in my opinion, is stubbing the pinky toe. When the Florida Gators basketball team was playing in the 2000 National Championship game, I jumped off the couch in celebration at one point and stubbed my pinky toe on our coffee table. If I think about it, I can still feel the pain coursing through my body twenty years later (it was almost as bad as the pain of losing that game!).

Stubbing a toe hurts, and that is why it is such a fitting analogy for lack of unity in the church. You might not have heard somebody make that analogy, but the Greek language does that for us. You see, Acts 2:46 says the new church members were together “day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, [and] they received their food with glad and generous hearts.” I want you to think about that phrase generous hearts. 

In Greek the word generous literally means, “without rock, smooth, simple, or single.” Without rock? How does “without rock” turn into generous hearts? When everyone was getting along, things were nice and smooth; there were no rocks to make the path difficult, and no one was stubbing their toe. The opposite is to have a rocky road and many stubbed toes, including pinky toes. This is the scene depicted by lack of unity in the church. 

When church members fight with one another they are casting stones into the path where they are liable to be kicked by other people. They are creating an environment where people have to watch their step at all times. There are no generous hearts (or singleness/simplicity of hearts in the KJV and NKJV). 

What kind of path are you creating? Are you smoothing out the road by your actions, or are you laying down a rock bed? You can smooth the path by being forgiving, merciful, gentle, meek, loving, patient, and understanding. You can add rocks to the path by being selfish, hateful, bitter, unforgiving, and forcing people to take sides with a “my way or the highway” approach.



Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9).” Peacemakers remove the rocks from the path and help other people get along. Nobody wants a stubbed toe, so let’s not add any rocks to this world’s already rocky road.