Posts filed under: Life

I believe that it is no secret that we live in a time when people love the choices that are available to them. A person does not have to just take what is given to them in many situations, but rather they can make a choice that appeals to them personally.

While I like choices when it comes to lunch selections, clothes, and many other things, when it comes to the object of my worship, there cannot be a smorgasbord. I cannot give my attention and adoration to more than one being.

When it comes to the topic of Jesus, one might think that the issue is plain. I mean, how can a person be so drastically different? If a person were very different around various people or groups, then they would not be worth following. There is just something special about integrity.

The sad part is that people see Jesus in so many different ways. Some see Jesus as their “homeboy” – he is one that is fun to hang around and always has your back. Some see Jesus the Genie – he’s around to grant our wishes and get us out of trouble. Some see Jesus the Grandpa – he’s loving and has some old ways of thinking, but he’ll let you by with a lot more than your parents. These are just a couple of the many ways in which people see Jesus. None of these accurately describes the Son of God though.

I wonder how many people are following a ‘Jesus’, but it is not the Jesus of the Bible. This isn’t the first time it has happened. Exodus 32 shows a time when people were worshipping what they thought was the Lord, but they were actually worshipping their hand-made gods.

One can see that the people asked Aaron, Moses’ brother, to make “gods” for them (Exodus 32:1). Aaron asks for their gold and makes a calf idol for the people to worship (Exodus 32:2-4). It is interesting that the word ‘gods’ so far is the Hebrew word (elohim) for either plural gods or the name of the Lord God. One doesn’t quite know exactly who they are talking about.

Yet in verse 5 we see Aaron clearing it up… they see this golden calf as the one true God that has led them so far. He says, “There will be a festival to the LORD (yhwh – the covenant name of the Lord) tomorrow” (emphasis mine). They had clearly misunderstood the correct identity of who God was and were following that wrong perception towards destruction.

How many are following a ‘Jesus’ that is not from the Bible? Is the ‘Jesus’ that we are submitting our lives to the one that the Scriptures truly reveal, or is it one that we have created so that we can manage? That didn’t work out well for the Israelites in Exodus 32, and it won’t work well for us either. Pursue the Jesus that is shown to us in the entire Bible, not just in particular verses. Each chapter and verse of each of the 66 books/letters that make up the Bible work to reveal who Jesus truly is… the one that we should follow and submit our lives to.

I have been one that likes music for as long as I can remember. Different genres of music can be found on my playlists and radios: rock, rap, country, swing, folk, etc.

I have been accused a few times in the past of being born in the wrong generation because of my music taste. I’m on the tail end of Generation X (born in 1979). While my childhood was in the 1980s, and my teen years in the 1990s, if I had my choice of music, it would probably be the classic rock of the 1960s & 70s.

In 1965, a group known as The Byrds released their hit song “Turn, Turn, Turn.” The song would go on to be #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 by end of that year. This song is taken just about word for word from the English version of Ecclesiastes 3.

In this passage from the Bible, we see King Solomon sharing some of the wisdom that God had granted to him as he recognized the reality of seasons. King Solomon saw that there was a time and place for everything under the sun. There were even seasons in life.

Contrary to what we may experience where I live, there are typically four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Around here (north Mississippi), we see most of these seasons regularly. Each season gives way to the next and moves on again.

Some people see seasons in life. They could think of spring as the childhood years of life where children are born and grow at speeds like no other time in their lives. Summer might be those adolescent years where you are carefree and enjoying life. Autumn would come with adulthood as one seeks to settle down and begin to reap the harvest of what was sown in prior years. Winter would represent the elder years of our lives where we begin to slow down and rest more.

I can see that picture playing out easily. I believe that there are many who share that picture of how the seasons may look in life. I think this because I hear people say that it’s time for a younger group to pick things up and do them because they’ve done their time. These would be those who see themselves as in the winter season.

The problem with this picture is that it is a linear picture of the seasons that plays through one time. In this picture, the seasons play through one time and then they are done. What we see in nature is that the seasons are not so linear but rather circular. They pass from one to the other and then start again.

I have seen this circular picture of seasons in life many times. I can remember many springtimes where God started a new work in my life (salvation, called to ministry, marriage, parenthood). I have experienced the other seasons many times as well.

The one thing that the circular view of the seasons of life shows us is that no matter what season that you are in a new season is around the corner. As long as we are here on the earth and there is breath in our lungs, a new season will be coming. It may seem like certain seasons are longer than others, but the next season always comes.

With this in mind, it is important that we as Christians not get trapped into the thought that “we are done” and just waiting on the bus to take us to heaven. If God were truly finished with His work in us, we would not be here on this earth. We would be with Him in heaven enjoying the eternal rest prepared for us from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34). The fact that we are still here on this earth proves that God is not done with us.  We may find ourselves experiencing a winter season of rest, but we need to be on the lookout for the spring that is around the corner.  It may be something completely new that the Lord has never done before in or with us.

Let us make sure that we are not checking out before we are supposed to.  Seasons come and seasons go, but we can be sure that God is working through each of them.

I am no musician. I do have a guitar that I attempt to strum a little now and then. One thing that has always been a regular routine is that when I take the guitar out of its case and before I start playing it, I have to tune it up.

It is interesting that no matter if you play the notes or chords correctly or if you have the correct rhythm, if the instrument is not in tune, then it doesn’t sound right… it is just noise that irritates.

I think Paul said it this way:

If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1 CSB)

Not only do our instruments need tuning, but our lives do as well. Check out this song by Austin Stone Worship, and may it help you tune your life to the proper “key” today in order to be the disciple of Jesus that we should.

One of the things that I love about studying Jesus’ ministry is the way that He would teach. Many times He would use parables to illustrate truths in a way that anyone could understand. This was so helpful to bring the truth of God in a way that anyone who heard it – religious or irreligious, royal or common, literate or illiterate – could get the most out of it.

In Matthew 21, as Jesus is talking with the chief priests and elders of the city, He shares a parable to illustrate a very important point.

“What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go work in the vineyard today.’ “He answered, ‘I don’t want to’ but later he changed his mind and went. Then the man went to the other and said the same thing. ‘I will, sir,’ he answered, but he didn’t go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭21:28-31‬ ‭CSB‬‬)

Jesus tells this parable of two sons and their response to their father’s instructions to illustrate how true believers in Christ are to do.  It is interesting to me that the request was the exact same from the father towards each of his sons: “go into the vineyard and work.”  The difference came in the way that each fully responded to the father.

The first son that was approached by the father was the one who told his father, “NO!” (Matthew 21:29)  This son may have better things to do.  He may have not liked the request because it didn’t fit into the plans and directions that he had for his life.  In fact, the CSB translates this son’s response as “I don’t want to…”  Whatever the case was, this son was not happy with the father’s request and initially turns it down to go about his own way.

The second son is approached by the father with the same request.  This son’s response seems a more like what you would expect.  It was one of politeness… it was one of respect.  This son replies, “I will, sir.”  I think adding the sir on the end was a nice touch.  When one has manners like this, they have to be the hero in this story, right?

As Jesus concludes His parable, the reader/listener does not have to wait long to see what He is trying to teach here.  The issue is not so much what we say, but it is all about what do we do.  If you look closely, you see that the first son (“I don’t wanna”) actually has a change of heart and makes his way out to the vineyards.  The second son (“I will, sir”) turns from his father and goes on about his merry way never giving the vineyards a second thought.  He had no intentions of doing what his father had asked of him.  He just wanted to say the right things.

Jesus finishes this parable with a question: “Which of the two did the father’s will?” (Matthew 21:31)  The chief priests and elders of the community answered, “the first son” (the one who actually did what the father told him to).  This was the correct answer, but Jesus shared that in a very interesting manner.

Jesus warned these leaders that He was talking with that tax collectors and prostitutes were getting into the Kingdom of God before they would.  It is important to remember that this conversation was taking place in the temple.  It could be safely assumed that the conversation was being watched and listened to by many bystanders.  What do you imagine was the reaction was when everyone heard Jesus say that tax collectors and prostitutes (some who were seen as the worst of the worst) were getting into God’s kingdom before the chief priests and people of great respect and honor?

How could Jesus say such a thing?  The reason He could say this is because it was the truth.  These “sinners” that Jesus spoke of were the ones that were hearing the message of the Father and though there were times in the their lives where they had told God “NO!”, they had felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit and were turning to God in faith and repentance.  The priests and elders were talking a good game and looking good on the surface, but their professions were empty.

Jesus shows that when it comes to following God and being His people, it is much more than just some words that we recite in a prayer one time with a preacher at an altar… it is about faithful action day in and day out.  It’s like the prophet Samuel tried to warn King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22, “Does the LORD take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD?  Look: to obey is better than sacrifice”.

What is it that God has said for you to do – things you may have even said “I will, sir” to – but you have not gotten around to actually doing it yet? The one that pleases the Father is the one who actually obeys.

The news story was one that no one wanted to hear. Police had been called to a house to investigate a 911 call. It appeared to be a murder-suicide tragedy. 

Sadness creeps in…

Then you find out that the victims in this story were an elderly couple. 

Sadness grows deeper…

If the news that this tragic event involves an elderly couple was not enough, it is released that this couple was identified by neighbors as a retired pastor from the area. 

That’s just too much…

I wish that I could say that the scene that I have just discribed was fictional and completely made up. The truth is that this is a news story that has impacted an area close to where we live within the past week. 

Alongside the sadness that this story brings stands a gigantic question: What led to this?

The part of this news story that has got my stomach in knots is that the apparent reason behind this murder-suicide is that “the couple’s health was fleeting and they struggled to take care of each other.”

Read that again… “the couple’s health was fleeting and they struggled to take care of each other.” 

My wife and I have recently been talking about the biblical mandate of community among the Body of Christ. If there is one thing that has been struggling in many churches, it is the practice of biblical community. 

This tragic news story should be an alarm for all churches: we desperately need community! 

I know that we have busy schedules. I am as guilty as anyone of putting too much on my plate. This does not excuse us from doing what we have been commanded by our Lord to do: 

I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  (John 13:34-35 CSB)

Jesus was not talking to the masses when he spoke those words. He was speaking to his disciples. The way they cared for and loved one another would be one of the greatest witnessing tools the Church would have. It would be an undeniable characteristic of those who belong to Jesus. 

This whole thing has brought three prayers to my mind:

  • I pray that this story is an anomaly. I pray that this is not one of many stories that show that the Church is not doing as well with “community/fellowship” as we thought we were. 
  • I pray that the Holy Spirit would comfort the family at this time and bring healing. Can’t imagine the pain they are going through at this time. 
  • I pray the Church would not be blind to the desperate need of community. May we not be fooled into thinking that meeting one-two hours on a Sunday morning constitutes community. It didn’t work for the Church in the first century, and it will not work in the 21st century.