Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wasting Time

The book of Ecclesiastes is not listed among the favorite books to study in the Bible. This may be because the writer uses eleven chapters to continually reiterate the futility of life. But the book has far more meaning than that one point. We need to be careful not to miss the jewels of truth hidden within its chapters.

One of these jewels is the fact that God has given tasks to occupy us (3:10). If you have ever been forced to refrain from work for six weeks or more, you learn how quickly feelings of uselessness and depression can overtake you. But God never intended his children to waste time waiting for his return.

Today is a good day to set aside time to create or review goals for the next five years. What would you like to accomplish? Subdivide your large goals into smaller ones. Make the financial and time management plans necessary to reach those goals, starting with the smallest one.

Have confidence that God is working in you to accomplish these goals and has already prepared the way for you (Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13)

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Time

A time to give birth, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to tear down, and a time to build up.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search, and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

There is an art to living.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Enjoy Being a Christian

Paul wrote “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). To give us that directive without teaching how to do it, is like giving someone a treasure box rigged to blow up without giving us a key. But the Holy Spirit did not give us an impossible directive. He said, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice…The Lord is near.” It is the knowledge that the Lord is intimately involved in my life that allows me to rejoice.

Seek God for the treasures of wisdom, knowledge and joy and he will answer your prayer (Ecclesiastes 2:26; John 15:7-8)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Have a Pickle

There are two kinds of desires, those of the surface and those from the depths. We are quick to recognize the surface desires, i.e. possessions, position, and power, but they can never satisfy the depth of who we are.

It is like eating a pickle to satisfy the craving for chocolate cake. It just doesn’t work.

The lasting emotional comfort we crave can only come from one source, the Eternal God. Scripture tells us, “God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in his sight…” (Ecclesiastes 2:26). Joy that comes from him lasts because he is the eternal source, the never ending giver of joy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Wealthy Man

A very wealthy man had great wisdom and understood business. He enjoyed music and hired singers to entertain his guests at dinner parties and celebrations. He enjoyed laughter and surrounded himself with humorous people and enjoyed making others laugh.

Because his estate covered many acres, he hired landscapers to build pools and fountains in gardens filled with exotic flowers, tress and shrubs. On his property was a large forest and several acres of orchards from which he harvested fresh fruit for his guests.

He purchased works of art including vessels of gold and silver. He paid servants well to do his every bidding. His guests were from the royalty and rulers from distant nations. His political influence abounded without much effort because of his natural insight into human nature.

But as the years passed into decades and gravity began showing the marks across his face, he became depressed. His thoughts turned toward death and the fact that everyone dies, rich or poor, wise or foolish. The wealthy could not avoid it anymore than the poor. His fear and recognition of his own vulnerability began to haunt him.

He concluded life is not about eating, drinking, and possessions. It is about knowing God (Ecclesiastes 2; Romans 14:17).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Increased Knowledge Increases Sorrow

The author of Ecclesiastes wrote, “For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow” (Ecc 1;18).

Our expectations are often unrealistic. We have the sense if we can solve a particular issue then life will be peaceful. We search for the time when there will be no more struggles for us, everything will come easily and we can relax. We are like the rich man who decided to build barns for his wealth and sit back and take it easy. The problem was that night he would die and all his riches would be left for others (Luke 12:15-21).

The longer we live the more we realize there will always be a problem to overcome and situation to resolve. The thought of that can depress us until we realize, for the believer, unprofitable circumstances do not exist. Every situation in our life will resolve to the glory of God (Ephesians 1:11-12).

Therein lies our hope.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bread, Fish, Eggs

Time is a treasure many of us seek to possess. When we pray, we want what we ask for to be given to us immediately. But Jesus said, “He who keeps on asking will receive what he asks for. He who keeps on seeking will find that for which he seeks. He who keeps on knocking shall have the door opened to him” (Luke 11:9-13). It is not a short process.

In the illustration Jesus uses, the son asks for bread, fish, and egg. He is searching for food to sustain life. We are to seek spiritual sustenance. Jesus says the Holy Spirit will be given to those who continually ask this from the Father.

I always want to know and understand now. When I ask, I want to receive immediately. I puzzle over God’s delays. I question my faith. I examine my heart. I wonder what is wrong with the way I am praying. The truth is simple; God will not relinquish his timing. I must continue to seek him while I patiently wait in faith.

(Luke 11:9-13)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Repentence of Sexual Abuser

Why is sexual abuse of a child different than any other? Aren’t all sins alike?

No, the consequence of sin differs according to severity of the violation. Take for example the sins of gossip and murder. Gossip results in emotional pain for someone, murder costs a life.

Child sexual abuse costs a child his or her innocence, creates permanent feelings of fear, low self-esteem and interferes with intimacy in future adult relationships. The damage done by a sexual abuse never goes away.

Forgiveness of a child sexual abuser can never include trust with a child. If we do we are putting what we believe is the welfare of the abuser before the safety of the child. In essence we are sacrificing the child to the emotional desire of the abuser.

Sexual abuse is like an alcoholic. A person who has a physical dependence on alcohol can never have one drink. To stay sober, they must forever abstain from alcohol.

A sexual abuser has a deep seeded wound that draws him to the manipulation and abuse of children. God’s forgiveness takes that into consideration and requires the abstinence of being alone with a child.

A person who has truly repented from sexual abuse has no desire to be alone with children. They are fully aware of the potential and avoid the temptation at any cost. If the person you love was a sexual abuser and now requires that you trust him or her with children, the request is more about proving themselves than about the safety of the child. He or she has not fully grasped the seriousness of neither his or her actions nor the danger for themselves or the child.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Forgiving Sexual Abuse

News articles that carry the stories of sexual abusers cause our blood to boil. Voices are harsh and judgments are severe. But grief blindsides many who suddenly find themselves married to a sexual abuser. They hear the pleading of the abuser to forgive them and the scriptural instructions to forgive continually reverberates like the sound of a gong in their heads.

How do I forgive? How can I allow him to touch me again? Am I betraying my children by allowing this person in my bed? Am I betraying God by not forgiving?

Please consider the words of Jesus on the cross. “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus was pleading for those who did not comprehend their actions. Those words do not apply to the sexual abuser of a child. Their actions are intentional. They are fully aware that what they are doing is wrong.

Sexual abuse is about dominance, manipulation and self-fulfillment. It has nothing to do with a mistake but has everything to do with violating the innocent.

If you want to help a violator, you must make him or her face the consequences of their decision to put their desires above the health of a child. Because taking the risk of a repeat offense is too high, the one who chooses to sexually violate a child has forever lost the privilege of being trusted with children.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Forgiveness of a Child Abuser

Jesus made his opinion of a child abuser very clear. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Mathew 18:6).

Does that mean there is no forgiveness for a child abuser? No, but it does mean there are severe consequences when you know there has been physical or sexual abuse.

Abuse is about power, control, dominance and manipulation. It has nothing to do with love or desire for what is best for the victim. Such words are sugar coated excuses used to avoid taking responsibility for one’s actions. True repentance will include taking responsibility and a turning away from the behavior.

Because violent anger comes from deep psychological wounds, it is extremely important that the spouse require the violator to go through extensive professional counseling. In our economy we cringe at spending money and say we cannot afford it. But the parent who is not the abuser will need to examine his or her priorities. “Is my children’s safety more important than my need to be with this person?” “By staying in an abusive relationship am I also becoming an abuser by allowing this to continue?”

Jesus separated himself from abusers. Should we do any thing less?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Forgiving an Abuser

Last time we compared Peter’s denial of Jesus with Judas’ betrayal. Notice the difference in the words denial and betrayal. Peter’s was a spare of the moment weakness ignited from fear of death. Judas’ was the result of a long standing plot to betray Jesus (Mathew 26:14-16).

There are men and women who have betrayed their spouse’s trust by having an affair, beating their mates and/or their children, or sexually abusing their children. If the individual repents, what does forgiveness look like in each case? Does forgiveness always mean you are fully reconciled to the violator? Jesus reconciled Peter to himself but not Judas. Is there a legitimate connection between these men and these biblical examples?

If a person who has cheated on his or her spouse shows signs of true repentance by changing their ways, (Mathew 3:7-8) the victim has the choice to welcome the individual back into their bosom or to separate (Mathew 5:32; 1 Corinthians 7:15-16, 27-28). If the spouse has betrayed the marriage more than once, it is likely the repentance is suspect.

Even with true repentance, God at times requires us to suffer consequences directly related to our sin (2 Samuel 12:1-12). When we are lax in requiring fruit for repentance we are paving the way for further betrayal.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Peter and Judas

On Friday we talked about Jesus washing Judas’ feet and the need to serve our enemies. We discussed the fact that the Holy Spirit will give us discernment as to what that service should look like.

The subject naturally gives itself to the discussion of our perception of forgiveness. Note Jesus saved some very important private conversation out of the earshot of Judas. Jesus waited until the betrayer was out of the room before telling his disciples he would come back for them (John 13:31-38). It was then he prophesied the denial of Peter.

Peter denied Jesus out of fear. Judas betrayed Jesus out of greed. Jesus prophesied that Peter would return (Luke 22:31-32), but that it would have been better for Judas if he had not been born (Mathew 26:24). Both men grieved over their actions (Mathew 26:25; Mathew 27:3-4) but only one was forgiven.

Why did Jesus rescue Peter (Mark 16:7) but leave Judas condemned? It is the difference between grief leading to repentance and grief for loss of position. Peter was like King David, Judas was like Saul.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Judas' Feet

John 13:2-30

Judas Iscariot was with the disciples when Jesus washed their feet. Jesus could have waited until Judas left, but he purposely included him. By doing so, he taught us to love our enemies and to serve those who persecute us (Romans 12:14, 17-21).

We cannot determine to do this by our will power. When we are faced with that kind of situation, it is a signal to call on God for help. The Holy Spirit will then give us the grace and discernment to know what that service should be and the strength to fulfill it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Is it True?

Is it true that we as believers fail to live the Word of God? Some accuse believers of ignoring entire passages of the New Testament while acknowledging the truth in them.

We need to remember that God always has his elect who do indeed live the Word of God (Romans 11:5). Yahweh has not become ineffective. Jesus is still in the business of changing us. Holy Spirit is still teaching us (2 Peter 1:4).

If we are not careful, the fact that we see many turn away from Jesus or act in a way unbecoming of a priest of God can cause us to become jaded. Let’s not echo Elijah’s sentiment that none are left who follow Jehovah God to the fullest extent. We must be careful lest we unwittingly do not acknowledge the power of God to change lives permanently and to keep for himself a pure remnant.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Parting Words from Colossians

We close Paul’s letter to the believers of Colossi with his instructions to his friend Archippus and to us.

“Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it” (Colossians 4:17).

It is important that we do not neglect the ministry God has given us. It may not always look the same, i.e. I may not always be teaching in front of a class, but I will always teach at some level.

We have a responsibility to continually study our trade or talent so that we can be offer to God our best.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Praying Friend

Epaphras was a man who knew what it meant to intercede in prayer. He continually sought God’s face on behalf of people he knew who loved God. He prayed for them that they would be mature and learn their full stature in Christ.

He prayed for them to know what God’s will was in every day decisions. He was excited when he saw an individual growing in his or her understanding of God. He did not give up on people but continued to lift them up to the throne of Grace.

May we be like Epaphras (Colossians 4:12-13).

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lesson on the Warf

Three notable men are not prominent in the scriptures but they were vital in the spreading of the gospel, Aristarchus, John Mark, Justus.

Aristarchus became a prisoner because of his faithfulness to the gospel. He was attacked by an angry crowd because he was a friend of Paul's (Acts 19:29). He was with the group of men who went into a city to get things ready for the the evanelgist (Acts 20:4-5). Another friend of Paul's was John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas who had failed his first missionary journey (Acts 12:25; Acts 15:36-40). But later he proved himself a faithful servant of God as shown by the fact that he again traveled with Paul. And finally a man named Jesus but called Justus who also was a comfort to Paul in his ministry.

Like these men, our part may be small, but God has placed us exactly in the body of Christ where he needs us to be. We can be content where we are and strive to be the best at the responsibility God has given us to do.

Gigantic ships the size of football fields can be seen from a warf. We forget it is the smallest of screws, nails and soldering that holds the ships together. Our task in the body of Christ may seem small, but God knows the importance of why he has placed us exactly where we are.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Two Buddies

Tuchicus was known for his faithfulness in ministry. His choices were always tempered by the fact that he saw himself as God’s servant.

He was a man who knew how to encourage others. He was a good listener and waited for the opportunity to lift his fellow believers up with words and in prayer. This is why Paul and Timothy trusted him to report to the believers in Colossi and to return with the report of the condition of the Saints.

His companion Onesimus was also a faithful servant of God. He knew what the literal meaning of slavery (Philemon). He made a practical transference of that knowledge into service for God. Therefore he became a trusted confidant to believers.

Are we like Tuchicus and Onesimus, or are we waiting to be served rather than serve?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Redeeming Time

Colossians instructs us to redeem the time when speaking with those who have not yet come to the knowledge of the truth. Because we do not know how long they will be in our lives, we need to use the time wisely.

People who are permanent fixture in our lives can suddenly be gone. Jobs, retirements, deaths, changes in our community all have an impact on who interacts with us. There is no time to be lax in what we believe, no time to allow a discrepancy to change our message from sincerity to hypocrisy.

At all times we must always walk circumspectly remembering who we represent (Colossians 4:5-6).

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to speak” (Colossians 4:5-6).

Too much salt makes the food unpalatable. Too little salt makes the food bland and undesirable. We are faced with a creative challenge when sharing God’s message to people. We need to avoid coming on too strongly or not strong enough. Is it any surprise that we need the Holy Spirit to direct us?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Prepared Speeches

We are not only told to ask God to create opportunities for us to speak, but we also need to pray that we will have the insight to speak it plainly (Colossians 4:3).

When preparing a speech it is good to practice it aloud in front of a mirror or an imaginary audience. The awkwardness of the speech becomes glaring while we still have an opportunity to change it. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to practice sharing the gospel.

Through prayer and study God will teach us to speak in a manner that will help others understand the gospel (1 Peter 3:15).

Monday, March 2, 2009

Hot Chocolet

The kitchen is filled with the aroma of freshly backed chocolate chip cookies. Coffee is brewing, the fragrance of recently ground beans tempt the nostrils. Hot chocolate is simmering on the stove with tiny marshmallows waiting in a glass bowl on the counter. A child comes home from school, homework in a backpack; a spouse enters the front door, briefcase in hand. Who in their right mind is not going to ask for a taste and what cook is not going to grant the request?

This is the mystery of prayer. God has prepared the cookies, coffee, and hot chocolate and all we need to do is request. Yet we remain silent? Why is that? Are we fatalists? Do we think whatever God has planned will happen and therefore we don’t need to do anything but sit back and watch life go by? Curious.

Paul requested the believers of Colossi to pray for him that God would open a door for the word. We also need to pray that the Lord will create opportunities for us to speak the mysteries of Christ (Colossians 4:3).