Posts Tagged ‘arts’


Well I’m up to 42,315 words in NaNoWriMo, which is amazing to me. The goal they post is 50,000 words. With less than 8,000 to go, I don’t think that’s going to be quite enough to say all I want to say. My goal is to finish the writing before Thanksgiving and dig right into the edits and illustrations. My goal is to hit publish to Amazon by Midnight November 30, but more important I want to make sure it says all it’s supposed to say and it’s done right. Today’s passage is something I’ve been working through for a while. I hope it blesses you.

In this world we all face temptation and we all fall to that temptation and when we do, we fall into sin. I have long looked for a way to illustrate this and I think I have found it. I know you’ve seen those commercials. There’s a closeup of a person, you can usually see no more than his or her head and shoulders. All of the sudden there appears an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other. The devil starts off trying to tempt the person to indulge in something, usually some decadent dessert, and the angel tries to talk them out of it. It usually seems like the angel loses out. Now these commercials are usually humorous, at least to some degree, but they are taking this way too lightly. Temptation is very real and it’s a huge battle, not between two little imps on your shoulders, but between the two most powerful forces in the universe. The battle is for your soul. Your life is a line.

When I demonstrate this I set two easels up on the far ends of a stage. On one end of that line is a portrait of Jesus, on the other a portrait of Satan, because ultimately that’s the battle. Jesus is on one end and Satan is on the other. On one side is love, on the other, hate. On one side is life, on the other, death. On one side is light, on the other, darkness. You get the idea, polar opposites battling over you. You are somewhere in the middle, somewhere on the line between the two and faced with a choice. Satan begins to do what he does best. I don’t ever like to give him any praise of any kind, but there is something I must concede. He is good at what he does and what he does is tries to lure us into temptation. He knows just where to hit us and what to dangle in front of us to get us to turn toward him. We see the temptation, and too often we are off to the races, running headlong toward our own destruction. Remember that’s his ultimate goal. His end is secure. He is headed to eternal destruction. The only thing he has left is to try to destroy what God loves most, and what God loves most is you. He tries to lure to your destruction. Now if you already belong to Jesus, your ultimate destruction is off the table, but He will still try to destroy your witness, so that others won’t see your life and leave the path to destruction. Before we go any further look at the picture below, look at the man and his position on the line. Look at the direction of his body. In order to turn toward temptation, in order to turn toward sin, so you see what he has to do. Yes, He has to turn his back on God and that is precisely what happens. When you turn toward sin, you are turning your back on God, and you are ultimately turning toward your ruin, every time, all the time no exceptions.

Now let’s suppose your on the dead sprint to death, heading to your own destruction, when you hear a little voice. The still small voice of God, of the Holy Spirit and He’s saying, “Please stop. You’re not going to like where this ends. It’s painful. It’s going to hurt a lot. I have something better for you. I love you.” You hear that voice, and you hit the brakes and in that moment you turn around. You turn your back on sin and you turn to Jesus. That act is what we call repentance. Jesus gave His life to buy us that privilege, the privilege to turn around and turn to Him and to be rescued.

 

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There is one last thing we need to cover here and that is the topic of rest. If you ever find yourself feeling guilty for taking a break, chances are awfully good that your priorities are out of whack. If you think everything will stop unless you keep going, you are desperately out of balance. Remember all the way back in Exodus, when God gave us the Ten Commandments? Do you remember the one where He said “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…” (Exodus 20:8-10A NIV) God did that on purpose. If you go further into the law you will see that the penalty for breaking the Sabbath in the Old Testament was death. Sounds like God takes Sabbath pretty seriously.

Now I don’t want to dwell on the legalism of the Sabbath. Jesus fought that enough in His earthly life and ministry. Jesus proved He was Lord of the Sabbath and more importantly that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. That last part is key. The Sabbath was made for you and me. A day of rest was planned in the order of the universe from week one, because the God who made us, knew we needed it. A good deal of Sabbath has to do with worship, but there is something more. Put very simply, it’s love. The God of the universe knew that if we were not ordered to take time off, we would find a way to fill every minute of our time. We would start to put other things in front of Him, destroy our relationship with Himself and work ourselves into an early grave. That is not at all what God desires for us.

The thing we all need to remember, in our quest to be enough, by doing enough and working enough, is that God is already enough and we can depend on Him in every aspect of our lives, This is huge and crucial. It means that it doesn’t all depend on us and that we can trust Him to keep going what needs to keep going while we give our bodies, as well as our minds and souls the rest that they need to function in God’s world.


Ephesians 2:10, a verse you will no doubt see again several times in this volume says that we are God’s workmanship. Consider all that He has made and yet He made humanity last and best. If you are His workmanship, you are a masterpiece. People say God can do anything and everything and that is not entirely true. There are a few things that are outside his nature. For example, God cannot fail. Everything He makes works by His perfect design and He made you. The rest of the verse says we were created in Christ Jesus. We were created in and by our perfect Savior, and we were created to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. He created you individually, on purpose for a purpose. That purpose is a big part of the meaning of you life. He equipped you to do something good in this world, and He put in you, what you need to do what He has called you to do.

You might see a flaw in what I just said, “I feel called to do “x” but I don’t have this thing, trait or quality that I need to get it done.” That may be true, but did you notice the verse is plural. His plan is not for us alone. We were also created to be in community. We will cover this more in a later chapter, but for now suffice it to say, God will put into your life the components you are lacking. through people, new gifts or a multitude of other ways. Our duty today is to take the next right step, trusting that God made you to be enough and that He is more than enough.


Well friends, I just went over 30,000 words in this project in 13 days, all while doing other things. Yes, I know my schedule is a little more flexible than most, but this has also been one of the busiest seasons of recent years. I share this only for this reason. You can find time to write. You might have to fit it in here and there but with a little planning and preparation, you can do what you really feel led to do.

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Some of you need to forgive God. I can almost hear your blasphemy detectors going off from here. You’re thinking, “How can he say that? God is perfect. God never sins. God never does anything wrong.” By the way, I agree with every one of those things, so let me ask a follow up question. They why are you mad at him. Because many people are. I know I was.

When I was forty years old, I was pastoring a church plant and I was working like crazy. The church couldn’t sustain my income so I was what they call bivocational. As a little aside, my spell check always highlights that word. Maybe for good reason. Bivocational should be temporary. The workman is worthy of his hire, but I digress. Bivocational was my reality. I worked all day at a day job, and spent most of my remaining time working on the church. I would get up early and go to bed late and it took it’s toll. One day, after having been sick for a few days, I began having pains in my chest. I didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t excruciating, but it was Saturday, and I was supposed to go on a lengthy trip the following Monday, so I decided to go to the E.R. to get checked out. I figured I would get some meds, go home and take them and be ready for my trip. My symptoms were so mild, I was shocked when they said, “Mr. Weiss, do you realize you’re having a heart attack?” “I do now!” I thought.

As they rushed around, figuring out how to keep me from going into a much worse situation, I got more and more scared. Then conflicting voices came into the back of my head. I heard the voice of a woman years before who questioned the salvation of a friend because in the midst of an illness, she feared death. That voice put questions in my head “Is there something wrong with my faith?” “Am I really saved?” I heard all kinds of other stuff, guilt and condemnation. I thought of my sons. My oldest was just about to be married, would I live to see the wedding. My youngest was ten, who would care for him, and what would happen if I died.” Fear and anxiety were manifesting in big ways and then a new emotion came—anger. I would have understood all of this that I was going through back in the day when I was mistreating my body with alcohol, but now I was working hard for the Lord, and how could he let this happen to me?

Theologians call it the retribution principle and it’s really easy to fall into. The basic idea is good people deserve good and bad people deserve bad, and in my mind at that moment, God was unjust. I didn’t deserve this. Right now theologians want to scream at me, so let me just be clear. My rational mind know that the retribution principle doesn’t always work in the Kingdom. I also know that Jesus came so that we would not get what we deserve and further I know that God is good regardless of what happens. My rational mind knows all of that stuff, but at that moment I was not rational. I was sad scared and mad and it took a long time to get over all of them. I felt like God had let me down. Pair that with a medication, that was causing my surface chest muscles to tighten at the slightest provocation and you get the idea. It was a really bad time for me. I was mad at God and I was trying to pastor a church while I sorted it out. Not an easy thing to do.

And then one day, it broke. I realized I couldn’t go on like that anymore, something had to give so I did something that seemed ridiculous even to me in that state of mind. I forgave God. Now to be clear, I knew He didn’t need my forgiveness. I knew in my heart all of this was actually my problem. but I went to God in prayer and said something to the effect of, “I don’t know why you left this happen, but there’s a wall between us and I’m pretty sure I put it there. God I still love you. I still trust you, even if it doesn’t look like it and I know you don’t need it, but I don’t know what else to do, but I forgive you.” That was when the healing really began. In my spirit, I began to hear the still small voice of God. He was saying things like “David, did I ask you to work that hard? No, I didn’t. That was you. Did I tell you you couldn’t rest? No, I didn’t. That was you.Who asked you to work like it all depends on you? It wasn’t me. It doesn’t all depend on you. It depends on me and you depend on me.” He took me through my questions. He reminded me that as much as I love my sons, He loves them more and that He can be depended on to take care of them better than I can and when it was done there was one last thing to do. I needed to ask God to forgive me, which was kind of the point all along.


Forgiveness

Now that we’ve been through these other relationships, let’s return to Matthew 18. Peter has been with Jesus through the whole teaching and the proverbial lightbulb of an idea goes off in his head. He knows what this teaching is about. Now at this point, I should tell you, I am a big fan of Peter. He’s one of my favorite people from Scripture. I feel like he would be something of a kindred spirit for me. He sometimes charges into situations without thinking. He can be bold and brash. I like all that about him but did you ever notice when he’s around Jesus, he’s a different person. When he’s around Jesus, all he wants to do is please Jesus. I know it might be impossible for flawed humanity to impress a perfect God, but Peter’s still going to try, Peter hears Jesus teaching on conflict resolution and knows that at the heart of the matter is forgiveness. By the way, this is also key for all of our relationships.

It almost seems as if he interrupts Jesus. “Master, how many times should I forgive my brother when he sins against me, up to seven times.” Now please note, Peter is trying to be impressive here. It is said that the pharisees demanded that you forgive someone three times. That’s it. If someone did something a fourth time, you could write them off. You could wash your hands of them. They were dead to you. As you can imagine this was disastrous. People everywhere had to be keeping tally sheets (at least mental ones) on how many more times people could fail before relationships could be broken. This might be why Paul told us that “love keeps no record of wrongs.” Peter in his statement is trying to show Jesus that he is willing to go double what is required, plus one more. Now ordinarily that would be fantastic. If your boss at work required something of you and you doubled it, plus one more, that would be a very good day for all involved, but when Jesus hears Peter’s “generous” offer, something different happens. I can almost picture Jesus smiling, shaking his head just a little and saying “No Peter, not seven times but seventy seven times, and some translations say seventy times seven—490 times.

Please don’t get caught up in the number. All that would give us is longer tally sheets. What Jesus is really saying is, “I want you to forgive, and then I want you to forgive more, and then I want you to keep on forgiving until you lose count, and then forgive some more.” Now I will be the first to admit that is a really tall order. How can Jesus ask so much of us? He can ask for two reasons, first and foremost is because He is God, but the bigger issue is that is the example He set. That is what He does for us. Forgiving over and over again as we fail over and over again, because our relationship with Him is of paramount importance to Him. Remember he’s all about relationships. He doesn’t look at us and say. “Enough, I’ve had it with you. That’s part of the reason His grace is so amazing.


The first thing I would like you to notice is that this passage (Matthew 18) is exclusively for the church. I know this because the passage begins with “If your brother or sister sins against you…” We’ll see further evidence of this going forward, but this passage is for the family of God, the Church. Again this largely because these are eternal relationships, but beyond that, the church is supposed to be a “place” (the church is the people) of unity, where people work to restore relationships. It was never designed to be a place of turmoil. This is, at least in part, because a primary part of the reason the church exists is to attract unbelievers to the faith and to the Lord and why should they come into the church that’s full of turmoil, especially if they can find less turmoil some place else. The other reason for this is because we serve a God who is all about relationships. He created us for the purpose of being in relationship with us, to love us and for us to love him. Even before He created us, His trinitarian nature, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit shows us that He is even, in a sense, a relationship unto Himself. Yes God is all about relationships and His chief goal in everything is to restore relationship both between Him and us (which is why Jesus came) as well as our human relationships, especially in the Body of Christ.

So again Jesus tells us that if a brother or sister sins against us, we’re supposed to go in loaded for bear, having built an army around our side of the argument, so we can crush the erring spiritual sibling and win the fight, right? No!  We’re supposed to go to them, just between the two of us. We’re supposed to have a conversation, talk it out, work it out, get it our in the open early and get it solved before the whole thing festers or blows up. And you know it would work, right? A simple discussion right at the offset is usually enough to work things out. Easy peasy! So why don’t we do it? Well probably because we think they won’t listen.

The omniscient (all-knowing) Jesus already knew this would be our objection, so he answers it. If they won’t listen, “…take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (Matthew 18:16 NIV) You know what this is all about, right. If the other person won’t listen, take someone along, a neutral party, someone who is a little bit more calm, cool and collected to be a sort of mediator. Again the purpose of this action is to restore the relationship, and it would work, you know it would. So why don’t we do it? Well this time, I think the answer is two fold. The first part is pride. What if you go to al the trouble of bringing in this third party mediator type and they hear both sides of the story. Now you are thoroughly convinced they will find in favor of you, but what if he hears both sides of the story, looks at you and says, “Sorry buddy you’re the problem.” That’s one possibility, the other is the same as before, a constant objection that stands in the way of so many reconciliations, “What if they won’t listen?”


Jesus told a parable of a man who hit bottom. He had everything going for him, but greed and pride pushed him over the edge. His story is found in Luke 15. While this is not a true story, but rather an illustration, it shares a great truth that resonates with many people.

There was a rather wealthy man, a farmer who had two sons. The older son was a hard working man. He has problems of his own and he is actually the main reason Jesus told the story, but for now our main focus is on the younger brother. One day the younger brother had enough of the hard work of farm life. He thought “Dad has tons of money. I could live well for years without all this hard work if I could just get my inheritance now.” So he went to His father and asked for just that.

Now let’s freeze the story there for a second. Do you realize how harsh, cold and thoughtless this is? By asking his father for his inheritance in advance, he is essentially saying to his father, “I can’t wait until you die. I want it all and I want it now!” Can you imagine the devastation you would feel if someone you loved did this to you? Now again we need to remember, this is not a true story, it’s an illustration. The father in the story represents God and the sons represent us. The younger son asking for the advance inheritance is essentially the same as when we go to  God expecting His blessings but not living to honor him. This is the essence of sin.

Back to our story. Most of us would probably have responded differently but the father hears his sons request and grants it. Now according to Jewish law, the older son would have received a double share, so essentially the younger son would receive a third of the estate. He just received a third of everything the father worked his entire life to gain. Suddenly the younger son finds himself with a fat wallet and few responsibilities. The very next day he took off to a far country, and like many young men who end up with money rapidly, so begins the party. At first it’s great. He’s living that old Styx song, You know, “[He’s] got dozens of friends and the fun never ends, that is as long as [he’s] buying.”  And that’s how it goes until one day, his first century equivalent of a credit card is declined. Once that happens it’s a different story.  All his “friends in low places” are gone, and he find himself alone, broke and lonely, not to mention homeless. His inheritance is gone and he finds himself in dire need.