Accountability

The financial industry, and the government agencies that oversee it, pass stringent regulations to prevent profiteering. That is completely understandable, as our fallen human nature is rife with greed and avarice; many people will do anything for a buck, or a million of ’em

Profiteering, though, isn’t exclusive to the financial industry, or even the government bureaucracy. Religion has more than its share of greed and avarice, if not for material gain, then certainly for a reward in the afterlife. These days we hear of Muslim “holy warriors” blowing themselves up to take the infidels with them, all to gain the martyr’s status with its reward of seventy-two virgins—or so the story goes. Yet, there is are examples of religious opportunism far closer to home.

Christendom offers many examples of religious opportunism, from multimillion dollar televangelists to the small church’s big donor who expects to run the whole little show. I call them big cogs in little gears; they don’t mesh, and are proud of it.

Regardless the arena or the scale, fallen humanity loves to opt out of accountability. We fancy ourselves as our own authority—even as we give lip-service to our devotion to God.

A less obvious, though far more common, religious opportunism is taking Apostle Paul’s inspired words out of their Scriptural context. When the apostle wrote of our liberty in Jesus, he did not mean to suggest that we could get away with taking God’s grace for granted, as many so easily do.

1 Corinthians 5:12-13 NKJV
(12) For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?
(13) But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “PUT AWAY FROM YOURSELVES THE EVIL PERSON.”

Those who use Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10 to justify an opulent lifestyle are just as guilty of misusing Scripture as Muslim martyrs, and their judgment is just as sure. Some of us have the gift of earning wealth, but forget about Jesus’ words regarding treasure in heaven.

Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV
(19) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
(20) but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
(21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What we begin as a, “rainy-day fund,” takes on a life of its own, ruling us with a dictator’s iron gauntlet or hob-nail boot. You’re right, I didn’t mention spiritual or moral responsibility, but your treasure’s location speaks to those as well.

Atheists balk at accepting God’s existence either because some “Christian” demonstrated unchristian behavior toward them, or because if they did they would have to be accountable to Him. Why can’t God’s church see that principle just as clearly?

No Limit

If this title were to suggest to you a rap by Usher you likely wouldn’t be reading this blog post … so fergetaboutit. Not that rap-fans can’t be Christ-followers, but, just sayin’ …

There’s another use for, “No Limit,” and that’s from—drum roll please—the Bible!

My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness And Your salvation all the day, For I do not know their limits. (Psalms 71:15 NKJV)

One rock-solid fact of life is you can’t overstate God, His righteousness, or the wonder of His salvation. Nobody ever had praise down like King David, yet even he ran out of adjectives with which to glorify God.

Not that God needs our praises to feed His ego, but as His creation, our purpose, our destiny, is to lift up holy hands in praise to Him, to magnify His perfection, His holiness, His love. In short, everything about Him is worthy of our praise. If only we knew the half of His glory we would spend eternity declaring it.

So tear down that Pentecostal or Calvinistic box you’ve built around our eternal, infinite God! There’s no limit to His praiseworthyness.

It’s Inevitable

King David got it right:

O You who hear prayer, To You all flesh will come. (Psalms 65:2 NKJV)

Expressed as a prayer to the One who hears prayer, King David named a universal truth, a spiritual law: All of humanity will one day stand before Jesus, the righteous Judge. We’ll have the opportunity to wave our good karma, to state all our religious works, to schmooze the all-knowing One, but He will ask only one question: What did you do with Me? That, of course, will be a rhetorical question, as He already knows the answer.

Will you rely on your good works?
But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6 NKJV)

Will you depend on your position as a pillar of the church?
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:26-27 NKJV)

Will you stand before the righteous Judge and refuse to admit He even exists?
The fool has said in his heart,”There is no God.” They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none who does good. (Psalms 53:1 NKJV)

I realize this won’t convince anyone, but it might just cause someone to pause and reconsider their dogmatic self-righteousness. All God asks of anyone is their openness. He’ll take it from there.

See With Your Heart

If you’ve watched Disney children’s programming, you know they are all about feelings and following your heart. The heart is code for emotions.

Now, I’m an emotional guy; I cry at the drop of a hanky. What fired this topical electrode was an ad that I saw on Netflix—it’s not just Disney—about their animated feature, The Little Prince. Here’s the blurb: “He taught her about imagination, loneliness and love. She’ll always remember to see with her heart.”

See with What? Heart is an especially flexible word, as it’s what we call that muscular blood-pump in everyone’s chest. The idea of its being a visual organ is absurd, unless it has x-ray vision. Then we’d have to call it, Super Heart. Romantics speak of their heart flying out of their chest, but I doubt it would stop a bullet.

The Bible’s first use of heart is Genesis 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

That doesn’t sound like a reliable way to see. Obviously, the seat of our emotions can have a darkside. Unless, that is, we sincerely pray with King David: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer. (Psalms 19:14 NKJV)

Only by depending on God’s answer to that prayer, and comparing your feelings with the principles of God’s Word, can we reliably see with our heart.

Father, I pray for the wisdom to know when to trust my emotions, and at all times to balance what I feel with Your Word.

 

Have You Ever Been Lonely?

Patsy Cline’s song has replayed itself in my mind since a show I watched included it. No doubt it’s a catchy little ditty, and in all honesty I have to admit my answer to her question is in the affirmative. A literary cliche mentions being lonely in a crowded room. All such thoughts are intended to emote feelings of dejection and longing for the better times before, “My Darlin’, she went away.”

When I feel sorry for my solitary self, God reminds me what He gave up to indwell Jesus, live among His creation, and subject Himself to all the abuse we could dish out. Think about it; the I Am, the eternal One, the Creator of the Universe, stepped out of His eternal comfort to be born of a virgin, not to set up His kingdom and be worshiped by all mankind, but to be tempted in all the ways that we have—without sinning—and in His innocence to be treated like an accursed sinner, even a criminal, to buy us back from the lying enemy who swindled humanity with promises of God-likeness.

I know you’ve heard all this before, but how often do you think about it, meditate on it, shed tears of conviction for taking Him for granted, and thanks for His unending love, forgiveness and faithfulness toward you personally. Here’s God’s promise, along with one of His requirements, from Hebrews 13:5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU.”

In view of all that, we should live in a constant state of thankful elation, but we don’t. We let our short-term worries distract us from our long-term hope. We need to memorize Matthew 6:25-34, then meditate on His words, controlling our worrisome emotions and trusting Him as we say we do.

Father, in Jesus name I ask you to give me the joy of Your salvation, instead of letting me wallow in my own self-pity. Let me see You as You are, faithful, even to Your own hurt. Make me always grateful for your free gift of reconciliation with You and eternal salvation.

Loose Something?

Lost is Found

Don’t we cling to our stuff, our lives, our lifestyles! Just try to get someone to change their eating habits—or any habits for that matter. Try to get a Chevy guy to switch to Ford. Try to get a Lakers’ fan to switch to the Celtics. We cling to what we have or do, and it’s, “My way or the highway.”

Not a Fun Subject

Our lives are much more than gasping for our next breath. They include everything about us. Think about it; when you die you loose far more than your next breath or heartbeat. You loose your hopes, dreams, aspirations, as well as all your stuff.

Does that sound morbid? If so, consider that our Creator put a sense of the eternal into mankind just so we’d strive for eternity with Him. That’s why Jesus’ words resonated so completely with His audience on that hillside:

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39 NKJV)

Jesus wasn’t talking about giving up some bad habits, although that might be warranted. He meant giving up the title deed to your entire life, the good and the bad.

Fresh, or Salty? Good Religion, or Bad?

Brackish water is an offense to the palate, just as a life that mixes religion with worldliness is an offense to Jesus’ Holy Spirit. Apostle James had a couple of choice things to say about that.

James 3:11-12 NKJV Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

James 1:26-27 NKJV If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

I have to ask myself, Am I fresh water, or brackish? What kind of spiritual fruit do I bear? What kind religion do I practice? Self-fulfilling, or other-centered? Do I join in praise to God while I have unconfessed sin in my life? Those are hard questions for me … and for you.

Christian, are you following Jesus, or your own whims? Are you lost to God, or to the world? Those are lifelong questions that we must answer daily, by the hour, or by the minute if needed.

Well? There’s no time like the present.

Easy Rider

Some off-ramps don’t appear worth taking.

“Enter by the narrow gate;
for wide
is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction,
and there are many who go in by it.
(Matthew 7:13 NKJV)

Seems like everybody has written or sermonized about the broad way versus the narrow, or the easy way versus the hard. We’re talking about destinations here.

When Jesus delivered his sermon recorded in Matthew’s gospel, chapters five, six, and seven, most of His audience were common folks, like you and me. His message hit home for them, as they knew they were sinners.

The elitist religious leaders, however, were also listening, and of course He wasn’t talking to them; no one could tell them anything because they were teachers, lawyers, priests, and scribes who knew it all. That’s not to say all of today’s teachers, lawyers, and clergypeople are know-it-alls, but … well, you know what I mean.

When I examine my conscience I know Jesus was talking to me when He sat on that rock on the hillside, as the broad and easy way has always been my default path—until, that is, I decided to give myself to God through Jesus Christ. But old habits die hard; I still struggle with self-control, occasionally reverting to my old ways. Now, however, my reaction to those slips and stumbles is entirely different; where I used to seek every opportunity to sate my fleshly desires, now such slips grieve me deeply. That’s how I know I’ve changed. Another change is taking my sins to God straight away, and begging for the grace to truly repent.

Wonder why I didn’t say, “ask forgiveness”? That’s because as long as I am in Christ, my sins are forgiven. And that’s even more reason for me to feel grieved when I sin; it’s like adding another thorn to Jesus’ crown of thorns.

My reborn self doesn’t want to ride easy any longer, but I pray for God to keep me on the hard and narrow way until I can give my Savior a big hug with tears of gratitude for what He has done for me.

A Most Unexpected Blessing

O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens! (Psalms 8:1 NKJV)

As I was reading my son-in-law’s excellent book1 about worship, a nearby explosion concussed the air and resounded throughout this end of the city—this was Independence Day—and drew my attention outside my window. What I beheld nearly took my breath away. A storm cell had recently passed directly overhead and left the most spectacular, sunset-lit cumulus clouds in the distance. Then the clouds took on a deep, red glow, as if filled with fire. They were literally glorious. If not for the annoying fireworks, I would have missed the amazing scene, and an opportunity to spontaneously praise God.

As my amazing son-in-law Kenneth pointed out in his book, if we’re walking daily with God we don’t have to wait til Sunday to worship Him. Neither do we have to rely on an emotional worship service to draw tears of joy from our eyes. Whether or not we feel His presence, He is always with us and in us, if we have relinquished our lives, including all of our works and rights, to Him through His eternal Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

I pity the millions who find wonder and gratitude welling up in their souls, but don’t know who to thank. Those who aren’t completely jaded by intellectualism may know it all has something to do with God, but most of them don’t have a personal, conversational relationship with Him. To most people, God is the big Codger upstairs who can’t busy Himself with our daily joys and concerns, except to grab a nearby lightening bolt to zap those who get out of line. What a tragic misunderstanding, both for their material life, and for their eternal life—and make no mistake; one way or another there is eternal life.

Whenever I think of God’s goodness and His love for His creation, especially for us unworthy humans, my emotions are split between the unexpected blessings that are just a precursor to eternity in heaven, and regret for all those whose pride prevents their admitting they are not God, and need the Savior.

Father, open our eyes to Your glory, whenever it occurs,
and lead us to spend at least a moment in spontaneous praise.

1Kenneth J. Spiller, Journey of a Worshiper (Bloomington, IA, Oxbow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, 2016)

BAD COFFEE

Wipe that smile off your face, soldier! One gulp of G.I. coffee aught to do the trick.

Don’t ask me why, but last week at church I decided to forgo my usual cup of Sumatra coffee for some “popular brand” that the coffee folks also brew up. I hated it, not because it was objectively bad coffee, but because I was used to better (People actually drink that stuff?). Probably, if I were used to the brand that’s supposedly, “The best part of waking up” (God forbid!), the Sumatra blend would have tasted odd. So bad did it taste that I poured it out so I could refill my cup with what I really wanted. Sorry, coffee folks; if you had a coffee kitty I would have dropped in something extra.

Funny thing about a bad cup of coffee; you can’t make it good by adding a few drops of good coffee. You have to empty it completely and cleanse it before refilling it with the delicious brew.

Christians, what fills your cup? Worldly goals and entertainments? Self-gratification? Work? Envy? Gossip? Power plays? The New Testament gives us lists of behaviors that erode and sour our spirituality to the point that onlookers would never guess that we are different from those of the world.

Face it, brothers and sisters, we—the church of Jesus Christ—need revival … not to fill a few more seats or to add a few drops of sanctity to change our image from rigor mortis to that of born-again Bible thumpers, but to completely empty our cups of worldliness and carnality so God can fill us up with the fruit of His Spirit, and holiness, without the seeking of which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

That’s His holiness, not just more of our own churchianity.

Dratted Tailgaters

The State of New Mexico was reworking I-25 through Raton Pass, so the speed limit through the construction zone was reduced to 35mph. I would have happily obeyed the speed limit, but for a car whose driver wasn’t satisfied with obeying the law and rode my bumper unmercifully.

Being a compliant sort, I allowed him to hurry me along to about 50mph. I mean, the pavement was good for a detour and as it was Sunday, hardly anyone else was on the road, so what was the harm?

Apparently that State Patrolman saw the situation differently, and my lack of resolve to obey the law cost me $85. I wondered why he stopped me, instead of the tailgater, and I voiced my concern to the patrolman. His answer? “You were driving too fast through the construction zone, and shouldn’t have allowed the other driver to influence your driving.” He probably didn’t realize it, but he applied Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (2) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Besides, it was a radar trap and I was in the lead, so I got the ticket and learned a valuable lesson.

I wonder why that lesson doesn’t transfer more easily to life in general, and more specifically to my faith-life. Lesson #1: I must not allow the world system to seduce me into disregarding God’s principles for holy living. Many will say, “I’m forgiven, so why should I concern myself with holy living?” Apostle Peter saw the issue a bit differently: 1 Peter 1:15-16 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, (16) because it is written, “BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” Sure, we have Christ’s imputed holiness if we are living for Him with our sin-guilt washed clean by His holy blood, but throughout the New Testament He urges us to live not according to the world’s corrupt standards, but by His standards, which is the definition of holiness.

Lesson #2: While tailgating in traffic is unsafe, illegal and stupid, “tailgating” Christ our Savior is by far the safest way to reach our ultimate destination.

Are you a “world-tailgater,” or a “Christ-tailgater?”