Monthly Archives: August 2015

Addressing The Real Problem

Whenever there is a major crime of shocking proportions, like this most recent murder of the TV reporter and her cameraman in Virginia, many run to ascribing blame to guns, the National Rifle Association, the Second Amendment or all three.  I’m not wishing to provide a political statement on this issue, but I do think if we limit ourselves to just a political perspective, we miss really addressing the real problem.

It’s sin.  Sin is a bad thing.  A very bad thing.  It’s worse than guns, knives, gas chambers or any other form of killing you can imagine.  Jesus didn’t come to save us from the issue of guns or to remove all implements of physical pain or suffering.  He came to address the bigger problem of sin.

The angel who told Joseph about the pregnancy of his betrothed told him, “you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sin”  – Matthew 1:21 NKJV (emphasis mine).

I know this seems overly simple, but we can’t lose track of the fact that murder is a blatant example of sin, which when left unchecked is able to create great disaster, pain and suffering.  Sin is an instrument of Satan and it is nothing to take lightly.  Putting the blame of this murder on guns and refusing to address the real issue is a ploy Satan would just love.

Sin is a bad thing.

That is why we need to constantly share His message to our world.  We need to look for ways to minister (serve) each other.  We need to be right in front serving those who are hurting, hungry and homeless.  We need to put practical feet on our service and be “Doers of the Word” as James tells us, but we also need to share how Jesus is the answer for the sin of the world.

And we need to teach the Word.  It has a way of helping keep sin in check.

Check out Psalm 119:9-11

How can a young man cleanse his way?  By taking heed according to Your Word.  With my whole heart I have sought You; oh let me not wander from Your Commandments.  Your Word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you.

I know it sounds too simple, just preach Jesus and His Word.  I know it’s convenient to blame politics, guns (or the lack of guns), his parents, public schools, violent movies and/or a host of other perceived ills for this murder.  But the blame rests squarely on sin.

We live in a fallen world in a time where sin is tolerated and excused.  But before you get too far into the political debate, take a moment and pray.  Ask God where if there an area of your life that needs some attention.  Don’t let sin lurk quietly underneath and fester to a point where it explodes.

Sin is a bad thing and it’s time we take it seriously.

Blessings My Friend

-jm

Serving In Egypt

There are qualities in the Biblical story of Joseph that truly inspire me.   Specifically personal character traits I see in the young man Joseph.

Just so you get the complete picture, imagine how difficult it would have been to be in the position he finds himself.  He is sold by his family.  Chew on that idea for a few minutes.  He is in a nation he does not know, speaking a language he doesn’t understand, submersed in a culture that is completely foreign and among people who consider him nothing more than property.  If anyone has a legitimate reason to gripe about life, it’s Joseph.

While I’ll never say I’ve been in a situation as bad as Joseph’s, there have been times where I have found myself in a very lonely place, far from home and the people I love.  You probably have experienced the same thing to one degree or another.  It happens when life throws us some curves and circumstances happen where we end up in a place we never dreamed of being.

How we react when we find ourselves in our own “Egypt” is quite revealing about our character.  In this story, particularly in chapter 39 of Genesis, I see 3 main character qualities that we would be wise to remember to incorporate into our life.

  1. Be The Best Servant (Worker) That You Can

The first thing I notice is the little comment in the first half of verse 4,

Joseph found favor in his sight and served him…

Even in this terrible situation, Joseph maintained a servant’s heart.  He worked hard and must have done an exemplary work.   He ends up being promoted, but before that happened, he performed his job quite well.

Paul tells us in Colossians,

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. – Colossians 3:23-24 (NKJV)

I remember some advice I was given by a friend of mine when I was stuck doing a job I really hated.  I had no other options at the time and I had to work this job to keep putting food on the table.  After I complained about my situation for a few minutes he finally told me to just be the best I could be at that position.  Then he loosely quoted that verse in Colossians and I realized as a follower of Christ, it really was irrelevant if I liked my job or not.  I had to do the best job I could.

  1. Be Trustworthy

Potiphar put his entire household, which includes the supplies and finances under Joseph care.  Why would he put such responsibility onto a slave?  Obviously because he trusted Joseph.

So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate.                                                                 – Genesis 39:5-6a

Over a period of time, Joseph must have had demonstrated that he could be trusted.  In fact, he trusted Joseph so much, he got to the point where he (Potiphar) didn’t even know the state of his household finances.  He never worried about it or spent time with those day-to-day matters because Joseph handed all those duties.

Years ago, I managed a number of part-time co-workers.  Often they worked odd hours and it was difficult to oversee everyone.   There were quite a few expensive pieces of equipment being used by these part-timers and periodically we noticed items were missing.  I soon realized I didn’t have some trustworthy people as co-workers.

Having a difficult job does not mean you can walk away with things of your employers.  The Bible calls that little activity “stealing” but too often we justify our actions by any number of excuses.  Joseph’s character proved he was a trustworthy individual.  So much that Potiphar put all that he had into Joseph’s care.

  1. Be Obedient to God

This is a big issue.

Sometimes, we think we get a pass on obedience just because life is tough for us.  We rationalize that things are hard for us and relaxing God’s standards just a little bit isn’t going to hurt us.  WRONG!

We’re familiar with the story.  Potiphar’s wife comes on to Joseph and he resists her.  But notice what he says in verse 9;

There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

Did you see it?  Joseph realized any actions on his part toward Potiphar’s wife would be a sin against God!  He could have made all sorts of reasons up to justify this sexual temptation, but there was no way getting around the fact that this would be a sin against God.

I am all for offering people grace and forgiveness.  I’m a big one in allowing for people’s weaknesses.  But sin is sin and it is a bad thing.  Being in a bad job or in a bad situation of life does not give you a free pass on sin.

When we sin, any sin not just sexual sin, it is an offense before God.  Being in “Egypt” is difficult but we need to be men and women of high moral character and be faithful to God and submit to Him even when it’s not a convenient thing.

I find these 3 character traits of Joseph a great model for life.  No matter where we find ourselves, if we incorporate these qualities in our character when things are good and we things are no-so-good, we will be the person God calls us to be.

Nobody wants to go to Egypt.  But if life takes you there, work hard, be trustworthy and be obedient.

Blessings My Friend.

-jm

Sweet Onions or Red Onions

While hot dogs done on a grill are fine, nothing is like a well cooked bratwurst, except maybe hamburgers.  A juicy, thick hamburger cooked up on a grill really is one of the finer parts of life.  Add some green peppers, onions, lettuce, sliced tomato and cheese all served on a whole wheat bun – now that’s a meal!

Have you ever asked yourself what is a hamburger without the hamburger?  Sure, you have the bread, toppings etc, but without the meat, you might was well just have a salad.

This idea came to mind when I was thinking about a comment I heard from a friend of mine.  They were explaining a recent church service when everything that normally occurred in their service was replaced with a concert.   There wasn’t any sermon or Cheeseburgermessage.  There wasn’t even a Bible verse read directly from the Word although some verses were quoted by one of the singers.

They were so excited by the service and the large amount of people that attended – way more than normally find their way to that church on a Sunday morning.   As they explained to me,  “That was a great service!”  Well maybe.  But I rather look at it as the hamburger without the meat.

It is the Word that proclaims God’s message.  Notice how the writer of Hebrews describes this:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.- Hebrews 4:12

It is the Word in which we find God’s counsel, hear His voice and use to understand the world around us.  It is His Word and the teaching of His Word which we should rally around and seek after.

Music is fine and Paul does tell us to “…admonish each other in psalms and hymns, spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16).  But he starts out that same verse with “Let the Word of Christ dwell in your richly…”  I have nothing against music and in fact love listening to, singing with and experiencing what we often call “worship” music.  But it cannot replace the teaching of the Word.

Rather, music is like the toppings on a hamburger.  It enhances the flavor making the experience even better.  But without meat, you do not have a hamburger.  Without the Word taught (you might prefer the term “preached”) you really don’t have a church service.

Don’t believe me?  Here is the list of the activities the early church did when they gathered as described in Acts 2:42.

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Notice anything missing?  Along with announcements, printed bulletins, ushers and a host of other things, music isn’t mentioned.

Paul in his last directive to the young pastor Timothy tells him in 2 Timothy 4:2 to “Preach the Word!”  He doesn’t say anything about music.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I love music and I want it in church services.  It does serve a place and as I mentioned earlier, Paul encourages its’ use as a group of believers gather.  But it cannot supersede or supplant the Word.  This is why the Worship Wars within churches are so destructive and useless.  People arguing over what kind of music is played, but seem not to care at all if the Word is preached.  It’s like arguing over whether a hamburger  should have sweet onions or red onions.  Expressing one’s personal preference is fine, as long as you still have the meat of the Word.

So, the next time you attend a service where it is more like a concert and the Word isn’t preached, know you’ve been short-changed.  Your church sandwich was meatless – it may have been good.  You may have enjoyed it.  But you missed out on that “sharp two-edged sword” that you need to have.

All this talk about food…  I think I’ll have burger tonight… with sweet onions.

Blessings my Friend!

Removing Wall Paper Is Not Wasted Effort

There have been instances when I have worked on a project for an extended period of time and put so much effort into it and yet still not see the desired result.  Usually, somewhere in the middle of the process I begin to struggle to see any real success and I think, “Is it worth it?”  I remember asking myself that question a few years ago when I was trying to remove some wall paper in a room my wife wanted to remodel.  The tedious effort it took to scrap all those tiny pieces made me question this whole idea to remodel the room.  But my wife, who has an eye for this sort of thing, pushed me to keep going.  I needed to stay focused and trust her.  She did know how to make this room look much better if I just diligently followed her plan even when I didn’t understand it.

It’s one thing if the task is removing old wall paper but if you are praying for a loved one who is far from God or languishing in some other spiritual quandary,  the question of whether or not all your effort is worth it has deeper consequences.

Have you ever thought about the effort Abraham put into his work for God?  As you read the early verses of Genesis 12 you see how he moved his family, took everything he had and left an area where he was comfortable.  Some people see him as a leader of that area – Ur of the Chaldeans.  When God told Abraham to move, He only gave him a general idea of where he was to go.  Then God told him how even in his old age, he was going to have a son.

Abraham convinces his wife Sarah, that moving is a good thing to do and they pack up, heading off for parts unknown.  They eventually end up in Canaan, but still no son.  For years, they wait on God.  They serve Him, honor Him and obey Him – at least most of the time.  (There’s that little incident in Egypt, but that is another lesson).

Still no son.

I sometimes wonder if Abraham – meaning “Father of a Multitude” – ever asked himself, “Is it worth it?”  Has all this effort been worth it?

Of course we know the end of the story.  God did honor His promise and Abraham did in fact become the Father of Multitudes.

There is a verse in Isaiah that can be a great source of encouragement for us when we begin to wonder, is it worth it?

So shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth.  It shall not return to Me void.  But it shall accomplish what I please and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. – Isaiah 55:11 NKJV (emphasis mine)

 When we begin to wonder about the struggle of serving Him, remember that verse.

When we wonder if all the time in prayer for our family is worth it, remember that verse.

When we get discouraged and tired, remember that verse.

When we see evil all around us, remember that verse.

When we wonder if our diligent efforts have been largely ignored, remember that verse.

When we ask ourselves, “Is it worth it?”, remember that verse.

While I struggled with the task of removing that old wall paper and couldn’t really imagine how the final product would look, I had to trust my wife on this project.  At the end of all the scrapping, the sanding, the dry wall mud repairs and the painting, I was able to finally see what she could all along.  The room looked much better and at the end of all our effort, I could say, “It was worth it.”  It required me to trust her and keep going even when I questioned her idea. We too must trust Him, even when it seems like wasted effort and can’t see the end.

All your prayers, your obedience, your patience, your diligence do not go unnoticed.  It may take a very long time, but it is worth it.  God honors His word and our faithfulness pleases Him.

Keep praying, keep trusting, keep being obedient, keep believing and keep scrapping away that wall paper and hang in there because, yes, it is worth it.

Blessings My Friend