5 Ways To Prepare For Sunday

Have you ever prepared for church?

I mean beyond just showering and getting ready to go to the building.  I’m talking about actually preparing yourself spiritual for church?

I know this sounds a little odd because church we think church is where we go to so God can prepare us for the week.  As if church was a spiritual gas station and our attendance allows us to pull up to the Pump for a top off before we hit the open road called “the rest of our week”.

But what if I challenged you and I to do something different this weekend?  What if we prepared for church like we would a presentation at work, test at school, or a daily schedule for the kids?  What if we put effort into preparing our hearts and souls for what God would teach us when we got to Church and not what we got leaving it?

It’s easier than you think!  Here are 5 easy ways to prepare for church this Sunday.

1.  Pray – The best way to begin any encounter with God is by praying.  In Psalm 139:23 we read, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Begin your preparation for Sunday by simply asking God to search your heart in anticipation that He will meet you in those anxious moments during your worship experience and direct you closer to Him.

2.  Read – If you know what will be talked about at service, read the text that will be talked about.  If you are starting a new series or aren’t sure what the pastor will be teaching on, look back at last week’s message text and remind yourself of what God has already taught you. Spend time in God’s word to focus your attention back to His truth before you even get to church.

3.  RestWhether you worship on Saturday or Sunday the night before can be very important.  If you are out late the night before or if you are always thinking about work you never are finding true rest.  Psalm 143:8 tells us “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Get good rest the night before church so you can be fresh and attentive to what God wants you to hear in the message.   Turn your brain off from the outside so you can fully take in God’s direction and love for you.

4.  PlanOne of the most common distractions for people coming to church is rushing.  Leaving the house late, getting stopped by all the red lights, and the line at the coffee shop are all common excuses for why people run into church out of breath.  If you were leaving for a vacation you wouldn’t pack the morning of so don’t prepare for church the morning of.  Take time to have things laid out for the kids and even consider showing up to church early!  You’ll be surprised that there is cool stuff that happens before the sermon starts too. J

5.  InviteOne of the best ways to prepare for church is to invite someone to come with you.  By stepping out of your comfort zone and saying “Hey, why don’t I meet you for the 11:00 am service this Sunday? you have made a huge step in preparing for Sunday.  We then naturally will pray for them to show up, look at our Bible to atleast get the dust off it J, get good rest so we don’t oversleep, and plan ahead so we aren’t late meeting them.  Additionally, you listen more intently to the messages when you invited someone because you will certainly want to talk about what they thought afterwards.

Now I know that having an encounter with God can and does happen outside the walls of the church.  I get it and you are right.

However there are powerful things that happen on Sunday’s too.   I want all of us, me included, to experience them as often as we can.  I think by taking time to think about these 5 things we put ourselves in a better position to receive what God has in store when we come into His presence.

So take 5 this weekend and see if you don’t get more out of your Sunday experience.

 

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Excuse Me, Do You Have This Life On Blu-Ray?

My wife and I finally got a Blue-Ray player about a month ago.

I know, I know, I know, “What took so long?”  I really don’t know.  I was skeptical at first because, let’s face it, how much does Aniston really care if Gaston is in High Def?  Plus, we had a DVD player, it was working, I didn’t want to spend the money, I’d rather save up for a colonoscopy, yada, yada, yada.

Anyway, this was part of a recent technological upgrade in our house that we got  with our new TV.  It took some doing, but with the help of our friend Don we were able to get this bad boy up and running.

I have only one word to describe what I experienced:  Wow!

I never thought Turner and Hooch could look so good!

Trust me, I’m convinced now.  It really looks awesome and the picture is AMAZING!

Of course, since I’m a technological idiot, I asked Don, “Well, will all our DVDs still work on the Blu-Ray player?  He kindly said, “Yep, newer technology always will play older technology, but older can never take newer.  In fact, the Blu-Ray will make your DVDs look better!”

In other words, “Yes, dork.  Your DVDs will work because the thing you are putting them into is more advanced and it can handle your old stuff.  It can even make your Perfect Strangers episodes look good.”

Jesus was a tad before the Blu-Ray revolution, but it seems He knows a little something about what we are talking about.

One day, while being riddled by the Pharisees about fasting, Jesus said these words.

“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.    – Mark 2:22

Wineskins were simply containers for wine.  Typically made out of animal skin, after awhile they would become stretched and brittle from use and being in the sun.  Since wine was a treasured commodity putting good wine into bad wineskins was not the best idea.  We see how upset people get when their beer spills, imagine if you saw hand pressed wine fall to the ground after a wineskin burst open!  Talk about a party foul!!

However, Jesus is using this imagery for a bigger purpose.  He is trying to convey to these Jewish leaders that His teachings will not fit in their old religious wineskins.  Their traditions and rules are no longer suitable containers for what God has brought to man through Jesus.  In order for them to understand what God has prepared for them they must get a new container and leave the old one behind.

Jesus asks us to do the same thing.

In order to accept the new life that Jesus gives us in a relationship with him, we must get rid of our old wineskin life and pour ourselves into the new wineskin He offers.

In other words, our old DVD-life will play in Jesus’ Blu-Ray player and it will make it look so much better!  But Jesus can’t play what He has for you in your old DVD player life.  Paul says it this way.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

You see the two technologies won’t talk with each other because the old has to go and the new has to come.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live my life in HD.  I want to see the colors and the vibrancy God designed for me to experience.  I don’t want to muddle through life in a 13-inch black and white existence.

The only way this happens is if we get rid of our old DVD life and accept Jesus’ Blu-Ray upgrade.

Trust, me the picture is way better.

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Where Do Nice Guys Really Finish?

You probably have heard this saying: “Nice guys finish last.”

That is such an odd statement because it has so many variables.

For instance:

  • How do you define “nice”?
  • What things do I need to do to be nice?
  • Is being a nice guy a sign of weakness?
  • If I’m nice am I more prone to wedgies in junior high?
  • Are their percentages of niceness that would allow me to be a little bit behind, but not completely last?
  • What if a nice person has a bad day, are they open to more success that day?
  • If a guy gets caught robbing a bank is it because he was nicer than the other guys with him or just slower?

I’ll stop there because my brain could create hundreds of these questions, but although I hear that statement a bunch I also hear people say that since they are a “nice person” or “do more good things than bad things” they are ok with God.

You and I know plenty of “nice” people that don’t believe in God, and they do a lot of great things for their families and community.  Honestly, I’d much rather hang out with a nice atheist, than a jerk Christian any day.

Scripture unfortunately does not have a “nice-guy” exception clause when it comes to matters of Eternity.  If that were the case, then the list I created above would be infinitely longer to determine who is nice and who is not and also what degree of niceness one would have to reach in order to earn exemption from their sins.

Let’s face it, everyone can make a case that they are nice.  Even the most harden criminal could point to a tender moment in their life with their grandmother or a pet to show they have a “nice” side.  There has to be more to determining matters of our soul than the length of our Facebook friends list or the number of casseroles we make for our sick friends.

Jesus is the only bar that matters when it comes to Eternal matters.

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”” – John 14:6

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. – Acts 4:12

Our “goodness” and “niceness” are awesome, but they need to come out of a regenerated heart and motivated because of how good Jesus was to us.

 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”  – Ephesians 2:8

Being a Christian will always give you different results than the world says you should get.

It may even look like you are finishing last because you won’t lie to get ahead, or cheat to get more money, or decide to fight for your marriage even if everyone else says to leave, but what they don’t see is that you and I are competing in a different race.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 7:21

We are competing in a spiritual race that is only finished when we see Jesus face-to-face upon our death.  And in that moment His first question won’t be for the list of all our good deeds and how nice we were.

The questions we will be asked is, “Did we know Him as Lord and Savior?”

That answer is what smashes the “nice” scales.  That answer levels the fields of “good things”.  That answer is what eternity hangs on.

So whether I finish last a few times in this life or not, it doesn’t matter as long as I finish first in the Race that matters.

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The Power Of Family

My family lives far away.

Like REALLY far away.

No seriously, I’m talking a minimum of an 8-hour car ride away and as far as a 2-day car ride away and as crazy far as on another continent.

My family lives far away.

However, from time to time a miracle will seemingly happen and a chunk of my family and I will connect.

I have two younger brothers who live in South Dakota and Minnesota, but recently we were able to connect in Chicago for the weekend.  My stomach is still recovering from all the laughs and the obscene amount of Skyline Chili we ate together.

Now, there are things in my life that I’m very thankful for like great hair and freakish height (please wipe sarcasm off screen now), but nothing brings me more joy than to know I have two brothers that love God and are living their lives in pursuit of Him.

As we all know, life is not all “puppies and ponies”.

Growing up my brother’s and I would fight and I did things that I’m not proud of even to this day.  However, through it all we always loved each other.  We had each other’s backs, we supported each other, and we looked out for each other’s best interests.

Now we are in grown-up land and the challenges we face are harder and sometimes more complex, but are love for each other never changes.  When one of us gets hurt we all hurt.  When one of us succeeds we all succeed.  When one of us has a baby we all send presents until the baby isn’t crying as much. :)

Psalm 103:17 says,

“But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting

 on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,”

I’m so glad to have been raised in a family where the expectation to pass down the love of Christ to generation to generation is taught.  That when mistakes are made, we fall back into the arms of the Grace of God, but work hard to change what needs to be changed to prevent any cycle of sin from starting in our family.  I believe God can use our families to incubate and percolate the love of God in a way that has lasting effects on our future families and those around us.

It’s an awesome feeling to know that type of love is alive in our family.  Heck, I have a whole extended family full of God-fearing men and woman from top to bottom!  I truly am blown away at how blessed I am to be able to live life with them.

I know this doesn’t have any powerful spiritual thread to it for many of you, but for me it does.  This past weekend reminded me of how proud I am to be a Hunt and how proud I am to have God fearing brothers who I love.

My encouragement to you is to love your family well.  Even if you don’t have a family tree full of fruit bearing Christians keep loving them.  I believe that the love we show our family is sometimes the most powerful witness we have for the power of Christ in our lives.

Through the ups and downs and ins and outs of live keep loving your family well, laugh through the hard times, and continue to pursue God in all that you do.

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5 Reasons Challenges In Life Are Good

Challenges in life can be overwhelming at times.  Especially when they seem sudden or undeserved.  They should come as no surprise to us as Jesus told us in John 16 that in this world you will have trouble”, but that doesn’t mean they’re not hard.

However, I know looking back I have seen how challenges in my life were actually good things when we see them for what they ARE.

 

1.    Challenges Are Reminders We Are NOT perfect.

I enjoy seasons of life where things are going well.  There are people in the world who thrive on drama and stress in their lives…I’m not one of them.  I enjoy smooth sailing and joy too much to change that.  However, I do see when things are going good in my life I can think of myself as smelling rosier that I really do.  Challenges are great reminders to me that I’m not perfect and have not arrived at the pinnacle human existence.  There is always work that can be done.

 

2.    Challenges Are Opportunities To Learn.

I learn the best when I’m teaching.  Whether studying for a test or playing sports I need to be doing the thing I’m trying to learn in order to understand it.   The same is true in my spiritual life.  Challenges give me the opportunity to “do” my faith.  To put into action all the things I’ve listened to, read about, and pondered about God.  Beyond just the spiritual, challenges are the “put your money where your mouth is” moments where we see what we are really made of.  Without challenges all we ever do is practice and never play in the game.

 

3.    Challenges Are Openings To New Possibilities

If we never identified challenges around us we would still be walking everywhere, using the bathroom outside, and Facebook would be non-existent.  Crazy, I know.  Challenges cause new synapsis to form in our brains as we think differently than before.  Challenges break engrained habits and force us to do things in new ways.  Challenges open up uncreated doors to walk through and into a life we never knew existed.  God gives us challenges to see possibilities of new ways, Godly ways that are around us all the time.

 

4.    Challenges Are Able To Give Strength To Others

Nothing speaks louder to others about who you are than the way you respond in times of challenge.  Eyes open a little wider and the ears perk up a little higher when struggle happens in people’s lives because they want to see what it does to them.  Does it cripple or destroy them or does it cause that person to rise a to a new level of strength and growth?  Whether it’s a painful divorce, the loss of a child, an unfair boss, or nagging health problems, the way we respond to challenge has the power to strengthen others around us by how we respond.

 

5.    Challenges Are Moments To Lean Back Into God

Challenges will bear open our souls in ways we would never do voluntarily. No one looks into the mirror during seasons of peace and ask, “How can I find something painful to go through to stretch my faith?”  Joyful times do not elicit the type of life change that challenging times do.  Going through difficult times in our life forces us to reevaluate where we are at with God in our life.  Challenges are amazing moments where our relationship with God can grow immensely and we can learn to find the peace found only in Him.

 

Thankfully Jesus didn’t stop his teaching in John 16 by telling us we were destined to have trouble.  He was intentional about telling us that although trouble will come we should take heart! I have overcome the world.”  Jesus has come to overcome our challenges and to provide us a peace that surpasses all understanding.  Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 4:17 that For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

So keep pushing and keep fighting in your life.  Look at challenges not as back crushing weights, but soul stretching opportunities.  After all they only are momentary and someday as Christians we will enter our eternal rest so let’s work hard while we are here so when we get there we can enjoy it all the more.

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Seeking Wisdom: Proverbs 13:13 – Winning The Lottery Is The Easy Part

“He who scorns instruction will pay for it,

   but he who respects a command is rewarded.”

Proverbs 13:13

Lottery winners fascinate me.

Think about it, millions of dollars are instantly heaped upon a very unassuming person that days before was buying a strawberry-mango slushy, a pack of Marlboros, and a PowerBall ticket at the 7Eleven just as they had done for years.

Now, after defying all mathematical probability, their bank accounts look like an expired yogurt in a hoarder’s refrigerator; bloated and ready to burst.

This newly minted millionaire is still trapped in a middle class money management body, but now has to answer the question of “What do I do with so much?” instead of “How can I do so much with so little?”

It really shouldn’t surprise us when these people spend their money on the craziest things like Samurai swords, Go-Cart tracks, and 300 sheep.  Equally unsurprising are the “friends” that rise up out of the woodwork like the SwampThing when the money arrives, but “shockingly”, not all of them are looking to congratulate them on their newfound success.  Just listen to this story I read about a man named Bud.

“William “Bud” Post won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania lottery in 1988 but ended up living on his Social Security. “I wish it never happened. It was totally a nightmare,” says Post.

A former girlfriend successfully sued him for a share of his winnings. It wasn’t his only lawsuit. A brother was arrested for hiring a hit man to kill him, hoping to inherit a share of the winnings. Other siblings pestered him until he agreed to invest in a car business and a restaurant in Sarasota, Fla., – two ventures that brought no money back and further strained his relationship with his siblings. Post even spent time in jail for firing a gun over the head of a bill collector. Within a year, he was $1 million in debt.

Post admitted he was both careless and foolish, trying to please his family. He eventually declared bankruptcy. Now he lives quietly on $450 a month and food stamps. “I’m tired, I’m over 65 years old, and I just had a serious operation for a heart aneurysm. Lotteries don’t mean (anything) to me,” said Post. He died of respiratory failure.”

Solomon says in Proverbs 13:8  “A man’s riches may ransom his life, but a poor man hears no threat.”  I’m willing to bet that Bud would be saying “Amen” to those words.

Money has the potential to do great things in the hands of the right people.  I can’t over stress the word right in that last sentence.  So many of us say, “If I were rich I’d do so many good things”, but in reality more of us have the potential to end up like Bud than Warren Buffett.

This is true because most of us lack the wisdom to handle a small amount of money let alone a lot of money.  Our motto is “It’s my money I’ll do with it what I want!” and so we do exactly that.  Then when that runs out we want more and more and more and more.  As the richest modern day business man, John D. Rockefeller, said when asked “How much more money would people need to be happy?” he replied “Just a little bit more.”

The only way we can find balance to the grip money has on us in our life is through Godly wisdom and instruction.

In Proverbs 13:13, Solomon says, “He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded.”  

If you break your foot you don’t try to fix it on your own you go to the doctor.  If your car breaks down you don’t tinker around and hope you can figure it out you go to the mechanic.  So why when you are financially handicapped do you not go to a financial professional for help?

If you don’t handle money well don’t be a fool and try to do it on your own.  Get some help, take a class, get a money manager, give your spouse control of the finances, or just reach out for wisdom from someone who can help any way you can.

The most foolish thing you can do is think it will get better or plan to win the lottery to make it better.  Either one of those options could leave you back at the 7Eleven buying a Slushy with the change from your car seats in no time.

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Seeking Wisdom: Proverbs 12:12 – “You Do Look Fat In Those Jeans”

The wicked desire the plunder of evil men,

but the root of the righteous flourishes.

Proverbs 12:12

There are sometimes in life when you need brutal honesty.

Now, you don’t just give anyone this license.  It has to be the kind of person that you respect and trust enough to give free reign to tell you things you need to hear but don’t want to hear.  Such as

  • “Those jeans do make you look fat.”
  •  “I’m not sure that is the best job for you.”
  • “The 80’s called and they want their puffy bangs back.”

Unfortunately, very few of us have a person like this in our in our life to let tell us these things.  In other cases it may be that we are too sensitive to receive this kind of direction.  Either way, I believe we all need this kind of person and deep down WANT this person in our life.

I know for me, if I don’t have a voice of reason in my life the voice of justification that goes on in my head for why I do what I do is really loud.  There needs to be a balancing voice to the scale of our life or we will never really grow.  We will never become wiser.

Solomon reminds of this very quickly in Proverbs 12.  See if you can tell where he lands on this topic.

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,

 but he who hates correction is stupid.”

Proverbs 12:1

Wow Solomon!  Tell us how you really feel.

The reason that Solomon is so emphatic about being open to correction in our lives he knows that this is how we gain wisdom.  By allowing someone to speak into our life, we are saying:

  • I know that I’m not perfect and I want to improve.
  • I acknowledge there are other perspectives and I want to hear yours.
  • I desire to know the truth and if your wisdom is truthful I’d like to hear it.

Solomon is very specific about whom we should listen to and whom we should not.  It does us no good to waste our time on voices that leave us feeling emptier than when we began talking with them.

He cautions us to avoid wicked people who are out for cruelty, blood, power, and personal gain.  Avoid people that are notorious for lying, cheating, laziness, and have troublesome lives.  These are people who need to be seeking wisdom themselves not for us to seek wisdom from.  People like this need to promote their foolish lives in order to justify it to them and so they will present their way of living as wise.  Don’t be fooled by fools.

The wicked desire the plunder of evil men,

but the root of the righteous flourishes.

Proverbs 12:12

In stark contrast to these ill intending voices is what Solomon calls “the righteous”.  These are people who we need to lean into more when they speak.  We should be sponges and absorb anything that they are willing to share with us because it will certainly let us gain wisdom.

The reason these people deserve our attention is because of the fruit of their lives.  Solomon describes them as firmly planted, just, heroic, caring, hard working, flourishing, avoid trouble, quick to forgive, truthful, joyful, peacemaker, selective of friends, and full of life.

If we could see a “life description” of every person we met and stumbled on a person with this list of attributes, we would be insane not to buy them dinner, get a pen and notebook, and start sopping up anything they are willing to share with us.

Although we can’t see people’s life descriptions like a necklace around their neck, we can be observant and discerning about the people’s lives’ with which we do interact.  Here are a couple things to ask yourself when analyzing people’s lives.

  • Is the fruit from their life righteous or a little shady?
  • In general, are the words they speak uplifting or knocking down?
  • Does conflict surround them or is their peace?
  • Are they the life of the party or are they selective in who they associate?

This list could go on forever, but the key is that we need to be attuning to people around us whose lives we respect and wisdom is pouring out of.  To be clear, being wise is not about how much money a person makes or whom they know in the community.  Wise people are ones whose wisdom goes to the very marrow of who they are not just their business abilities.

As Christians, we need to be looking for men and women that are modeling wisdom.  We must be willing to open ourselves up to correction and direction from people we trust so that we don’t stay the same as we are right now. God never intended for that to be the plan for our lives.

By learning from the wise, as Solomon says, we know that it will pay off because “in the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.”

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Can Running Be Good For Our Souls?

The most exhausting race we will ever run is the one from our sin.

I call it the race of retreat.

I experience this all the time it seems.   Every time I try to run from my sin, I find myself bent over, breathless, and puking in a garbage can from exhaustion.  Running from our sin is the true case study for the definition of insanity, which says, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.”

The Bible does have a proactive approach of running from sin.

“Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” -2 Tim 2:22

God’s design is for us never to have to run from sin because He’d rather have us not sin in the first place!  In order to run from something there has to be something to run from.  No sin = No running needed.

But the reality is that we do sin and what I see most commonly are people who, instead of deciding to deal with it, run from it.  Some examples are:

-       Self-Justification – These are the creatively designed reasons we come up with to say why our sin is ok.  The “yeah, buts…” will come into play here.  “Yeah, but Johnny sleeps with is girlfriend and nothing bad has happened to him” or “Yeah, but I can always get remarried.”

-       Denial – By denying our sin we are pretending it isn’t there or affecting us.  This may including laughing about it, changing the subject, or downplaying the effects it’s having. We refuse to get help and place blame on other people who are “judging us” instead of dealing with the true cause of our pain.

-       Acceptance – Sin acceptance is a rising epidemic.  This is where we believe lies like “This is how God designed me,” “That’s just how our family deals with things,” and “It’s not that big of a deal.”  Instead of fighting back against the sin we give in and accept it.

All of these are forms of running from our sin and they leave our souls absolutely depleted of life.  By believing these lies we are literally running from the water station our soul so desperately needs.

There is another race though.   It’s the race of repentance.  Repentance literally means to “change one’s mind” to change the course we are running.  It’s our decision to stop running FROM our sin and start running TO God.

In Acts 3 Peter and John healed a beggar crippled from birth.  When the people who gathered saw this they were “astonished and came running to them” (3:11).  Peter asked them a simple question “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you?” (v. 12).

Peter goes on to preach to the people about Jesus as he reminds them that they “killed the Author of life” (v 15), Jesus Christ.  However, after laying open their sinful wounds Peter preaches these words,

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” (v. 19)

This is amazing!   Despite the fact they murdered God, they were offered to have their sin wiped out and to receive forgiveness through repentance.  They are offered to be refreshed and clean by the same Christ they killed.

Sin never offers that.

As we run from our sin we are offered guilt, shame, hate, anger, and pain as our comfort.  Never once will sin offer you rest, refreshment, and new beginnings.  It always lives in the past and will make you feel trapped.

God’s desire is for us to repent of our sin and not run from it because this is where true freedom is found.  By running to God it frees us from the 3-walled prison cell of sin we live in.  The door to freedom is always open its just whether we want to leave.

The race of repentance may mean admitting you are wrong, asking forgiveness, going to counseling, or checking into rehab, but one step toward God is better than a 1,000 trying to run from Him.

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Seeking Wisdom: Proverbs 11:11 – How Can I Become Famous?

“Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,

but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.”

- Proverbs 11:11 

We live in a world where everyone wants to be famous.

Shockingly it is becoming easier to do it too with invention of YouTube, Facebook, and any number of reality TV shows.  All you have to do is be wilder, crazier, and more willing to say yes than the other guy and you too can find yourself as a viral video or forced to live in a house with 6 total strangers.

While some of these may discover hidden talent such as this Justin Beiber guy I recently heard about (he is a small talent, but hang in there he will be big someday :) ), most of the time our thirst for fame and fortune will leave us dehydrated and exhausted.

Politicians, musicians, athletes, wives, parents, inventors, and even some pastors have an internal desire to be known in the world.  While God does elevate people to higher levels of notoriety than others, there are times when the assent of the ladder to stardom can cause us to do things and compromise things we vowed never to do.

Solomon seems to tease out this reality in the Proverbs 11 when he brings up the idea of righteousness.  The Hebrew word used here for righteousness is tsĕdaqah (tsed·ä·kä ).  It’s used when talking about justice, acting justly, and truthfulness.

Solomon uses it in comparison of a variety of worldly pursuits such as wealth, power, godlessness, wickedness, and greed.  Time after time he presents the fleeting fulfillment of these worldly pursuits in stark contrast to the long lasting effects of a righteous life.  I believe he encapsulates this text best in verse 6 when he says,

“The righteousness of the upright delivers them,

but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.”

I can’t tell you how accurate this verse is after hearing the stories of people’s lives crippled with sin.  Nearly all of them use that word of feeling “trapped” and not being able to get out.  That is Satan’s desire.  His goal is for us to choose sinning or sanctifying, selfishness over righteousness, and the ungodly over the Godly.

The heartbreak of these choices is fleshed out in marriages destroyed, character being compromised, integrity crushed, and blatant self-justification of our sin.  It even goes so far as to topple entire cities that have caved into sin and ungodliness.  Just look at any number of Old Testament towns God had to “take care of” because of their unfaithfulness.

Reaching the finish line of fame, success, and stardom is never worth the race you had to run to get there.  You will always leave behind miles of carnage and pain in the process.

However, by choosing to pursue tsĕdaqah, God is quick to bless and lift up those decisions.  Proverbs 11 tells us that

  • The righteousness of the upright delivers them,” – v. 6
  • “…the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.” – v. 28
  • “The truly righteous man attains life” – v. 19
  • “The desire of the righteous ends only in good” – v. 23
  • The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life…” – v. 30

We must be careful that our righteousness doesn’t turn into pride or arrogance.  This is a slippery slope that will lead us to a deep destruction too, but a humble righteousness that accepts the Grace given to us and is lived out in a God honoring way is powerful.

Saying “yes” to the right, truthful, upright, and Godly things may mean we will have to say “no” to many of the worldly temptations around us.  It may mean less money, fewer friends, and not as many YouTube hits, but in the end we will have made ourselves known to the One who really matters.

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Top 10 Takeaways from Matthew 5:38-42: “But, I Say Do Not Retaliate”

Here are the Top 10 Takeaways from the sermon I preached this weekend as part of the “Buts of the Bible” Series at Parkview Christian Church.  The context of the message was Matthew 5:38-42, and if you’d like to see the other messages from this series you can click here.

Here you go!

10.  Jesus isn’t trying to take something from us.  He wants to give something to us; a full and better life.  “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” John 10:10 MSG

9.  Religion is what God wants from you – Jesus is about what God wants for you.

8.  The “eye for and eye, tooth for a tooth” teaching was originally a law given to the Jewish people from God to level the punishment scales in a court of law.  It never was intended for individuals to use on one another.  (Mt. 5:38)

7.  “Turning the other cheek” was never intended to be used for disputes about war, protection of family, or abuse.  It was far more personal and spoke to our reaction to wrongs done to us personally.  (Mt. 5:39)

6.  Jesus proposes a way of retaliating that goes against the way our body is naturally wired.  Instead of our instinctive Fight or Flight response, he purposes a 3rd way that places us in a position of creative strength. (Mt. 5:39)

5.  We are in control of how we respond to any and all situations.  Our decision to follow the direction of Christ places us in a unique position of power and strength over our oppressors.

4.  God isn’t asking us to check our common sense at the door and give everyone anything they ask for.  We need to use discernment when deciding to give to a person and find the way to meet their greatest need. (Mt. 5:42)

3.  Jesus knows that revenge, retaliation, and selfishness are bad for our heart.  In fact, they are literally poisoning our souls.

2.  Jesus didn’t hypothetically propose the 3rd way of dealing with conflict.  He lived it.  Jesus will never ask us to do anything that he didn’t either do or experience himself. The 3rd Way is no exception.

1.  You will have many opportunities this week to choose to respond by the 3rd Way.  Whether it’s an angry coworker, a needy neighbor, or a disrespectful kid opportunity will arise to choose to respond differently.  The decision is in your hands.

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