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I pity the fool!

How do you determine if something is foolish?

A 50 year-old man on his hands and knees and making animal sounds would be foolish. But if his two-year old grandson is riding on his back, it’s great fun. If he keeps doing it after the grandson has gone home, an intervention might be necessary.

To define foolishness, there has to be a standard. It’s not normal for a grown man to be on his hands and knees making animal sounds. Normal is walking on two feet and carrying on a conversation.

If it were a young child on his hands and knees making animal sounds, we wouldn’t think much of it. It’s a normal part of development. It’s a part of their play.

But as we get older, the definition of foolishness changes. We choose to act like others around us. We choose to blend in to a degree in order to be accepted. We make a decision to not respond to questions with a bark, or a whinny.

When we make friends, or get a new job, or get married, we choose to give up some activities. We decide that the friendship is more important than sitting at home watching TV, so we go out for supper. We choose to show up to work on time, because our job – and the paycheck – are more important than our leisure time. We commit to faithfulness to our spouse, because the relationship is more important than hanging with the guys, or chasing girls.

One of my favorite hymns is “My Jesus, I Love Thee.”

My Jesus, I love thee. I know thou art mine.

For thee all the follies of sin I resign.

The foolishness of sin is nothing compared to the love of Jesus. The more we love Him, the more we will give up the foolishness of sin.

Pick any sin. What are the advantages? Short-term gratification. Stroking your ego.

What if you chose to love Jesus, instead of giving into that temptation?

“I could do this, but since I love Jesus, I’m not going to. My relationship with Jesus is much more important to me than whatever pleasure or benefit this sin might bring.”

That’s resigning all the follies of sin for Jesus. As we mature in our love for Jesus, giving up those sins becomes easier. The love that Jesus has for us and the love that we can give to Him is so much greater than the short-lived benefit of sin.

Don’t be a fool. Choose love over sin.

 

 

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You have no idea.

Do you remember having little kids who were asking, “Why?”

Do you remember going to school and learning about science, history, literature, and math?

Do you ever sit with a friend who has gone through a crisis?

All around us are things to learn. We can research. We can observe. We can write books. We can hold lectures. But it seems that there will always be something more to learn.

Often the hardest mystery to unravel is God’s plan. Especially in the midst of a crisis, we often ask, “Why? What is God’s purpose in this? What is He going to accomplish?”

Solomon gives a point to consider:

As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. (Ecclesiates 11:5).

That’s a question that puzzles scientists: where does the inner part of man come from? How does a human have a conscience? What about emotions? These set humans apart from animals, but where do they come from? We can see the distinction. We can observe fear and joy. We see the ability to choose between right and wrong. But what is the source that part of human nature?

Solomon says that we don’t know. And in the same way, we don’t understand God’s work. We can see the result of God’s work. We see the growing crops in the field or a drought killing them all. We see a car accident and we see thousands of people travel without any incident. We see a happy marriage and we see an abused spouse. We see a disabled child and we see the coordination required to play baseball. We see homelessness and mansions. We see war and peace.

We see the evidences of God’s work. We know from Scripture that He is in control of the good and the bad around us. But we don’t understand why.

But that is a good thing. If we could understand everything, we would be God. There would be no distinction between us and God. And frankly, we have a hard enough time thinking we’re God, even when we don’t know everything.

So the best and only thing we can do is to trust God. He’s got it under control. He’s leading history in a direction. He will bring it to His conclusion.

Best in the World

I just scrolled through my Facebook early on this Mother’s Day. Pictures of moms and grandmas with their families fill the headlines. In a little bit, I’ll be in church and the same will continue. And restaurants will be busy with families gathering to honor moms.

That’s great and right. We should honor those who have had an impact on our lives, and we know that honor goes beyond a card and dinner on this one special day. It should permeate our conversations and actions all year.

And moms should be examples all year, too.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:30ESV

The world emphasizes charm and beauty – external features. There might even be accolades for women who are hard-workers, pioneers, strong, independent, or other characteristics which are not inherently bad.

But the writer of this proverb points out an important characteristic that can be found in every woman: the fear of the Lord.

All those other characteristics are meaningless, if a woman does not fear the Lord. At then end of her life, a woman may have motivated others to be hard-workers by their example. A brave woman who tries new things is certainly going to have a following. But they are only leading others until the end of their lives.

A woman who fears the Lord will teach others about who God is, about what God expects, and about what God has done. She will speak often of His creation. She will spend time in prayer. She will ooze with wisdom from God’s Word. She will point others to Him. She will admit her sin and strive toward sanctification. She will use her resources for God’s kingdom.

A woman who fears the Lord will have an eternal perspective, not just helping her children, grandchildren, and others to become better people, but to help them to fear God as she does.

That is the type of woman who should be praised.

Restoring Relationships

Relationships are messy. Two people trying to work together or live together is going to lead to problems.

Selfish people marry selfish people. Greedy people work with greedy people. Bitter people go to church with bitter people. Angry people share an apartment with angry people. The sin that’s within each of us causes us to be selfish, seeking our own desires. And the other person in the relationship is selfish, seeking their own desires.

It makes a mess.

Or, it makes a beautiful, strong relationship that will withstand the ups and downs of life. A relationship that builds on a solid foundation, producing a bond of support and encouragement strengthening the individuals.

The Bible has a lot to say about relationships. One important lesson that Jesus taught was how to handle the situation when your brother sins against you. What do you do, if your partner cheats on you? What do you do, if your boss offends you? What do you do, if your roommate steals something?

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

Matthew 18:15ESV

The first principle here is that this is between brothers. Not physical brothers, but in the context of the church, the family of God. This instruction applies specifically to a situation where both parties claim to be believers in Jesus Christ. (Yes, Christians will sin against each other).

The first step is for you to go to that fellow Christian and tell him what he has done against you. Maybe he isn’t aware. Maybe he is trying to hide his sin. You don’t know and it doesn’t matter. Your responsibility is to go to him and let him know.

It’s important to note that this verse talks about “sins against you.” You’re not going on someone else’s behalf. You’re not sending someone else on your behalf. You’re not going because you heard a rumor. This case is specifically when someone else commits a sin against you.

“Between you and him.” Personal confrontation is never easy. It’s much easier to blab it on social media, maybe in hidden wording, but not directly to the person who has sinned. In the old days, people shared prayer requests with cloaked meanings. But that’s wrong. Go to the person, one-on-one, and tell him what he sin he has committed.

“If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” The goal is restoration. You might be surprised at the outcome, and there is a wide range of possibilities. You can’t control the possibilities. You can’t control his response, but that doesn’t matter. You’re task is to confront him about his sin against you.

The opposite is also true: If he doesn’t listen to you, you have lost your brother. It may be that he won’t listen. He may not be willing to deal with the sin. He may start throwing accusations back at you. He may slam the door and tell you to take a hike.

You can’t control the outcome. But you can control what you do. Your responsibility is to go to him and confront him with is sin against you.

The other options are not options for the believer. Closing the person out of your life is not an option. Spreading rumors is not an option. Bitterness, anger, shaming, blameshifting, slander and gossip are not options. Keeping a score book and dumping a ton at one time is not an option…nor are any other methods that we can think of, or maybe even practiced.

If he sins against you, sit down and compassionately and clearly explain what he did that was wrong.

It may not turn out the way you want, but you will have been obedient.

Guilty, but free

Technicalities.

I enjoy watching mysteries and crime series. Not the really gory ones, but I enjoy trying to figure out who the crook was and what mistake they made to get caught. (Columbo is my favorite!)

What’s really frustrating are the shows where they actually are in a court room and the case gets thrown out due to technicalities. Someone mishandled the evidence. Someone asked the wrong question. Someone didn’t read the prisoner his rights.

The guy is guilty. All the evidence points to that. There’s no question that he’s guilty. And maybe he and his lawyer are even smirking about the technicality that gets him sprung. The prosecution and the audience are frustrated that such a little thing would set a guilty man free.

When God looks at us, nothing escapes His eyes. He knows everything that we’ve done, or even thought about doing. He knows that we are guilty. And He is the judge, so He doesn’t have to convince someone else of our guilt. He sets the punishment – everyone gets a death sentence, because even the smallest offense separates us from a holy God.

But there is an exception. There is a legal and just way to be guilty, but set free.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:1-2ESV

Twice in those two verses Paul wrote, “in Christ Jesus.”

If you are “in Christ Jesus,” you will not be condemned to the death sentence.

If you are “in Christ Jesus,” you are free from the law.

Notice it doesn’t say, “You are not guilty.” The guilt remains. Your sin separates you from God and demands the death penalty, an eternity separated from God. However, Christ Jesus took that penalty upon Himself on the cross. He bore the weight of your guilt.

Being “in Christ Jesus” means that you’ve accepted that payment for your sin. You recognize your guilt before the holy judge, but you can point to Jesus and say, “He took my penalty. He has set me free.”

Only a sinner

The other evening, while grading papers, I was listening to southern gospel music and this came up: Only a Sinner Saved by Grace

And the song reminded me of these verses:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9).

That is just amazing, isn’t it?

We each know how rotten we are, even though we can put on a good front to others. We each know the sins we’ve done, or thought of.

And we have a concept of a holy God who expects more from us. But there’s nothing we can do to change our condition, or to change God’s mind that we really aren’t that bad.

The only way is God’s grace. We have nothing to bring, but our filthy sinful life, and God can’t even look at sin. But God’s grace demonstrated to us through the death of His Son, Jesus, on the cross, makes it possible for me to be in a relationship with an eternal, holy God.

I’m not perfect. I still sin. I still disappoint my heavenly Father.

I’m a sinner, but I’m saved by grace.

And I can sing that song – at least in my head – all day long, reminding myself of that truth. Regardless of what people might say. Regardless of the temptations that come my way. Regardless of the doubt that Satan sends my way.

I’m just a sinner, saved by grace.

It’s impossible to please God

We are always trying to please somebody.

Sometimes it’s easy. Like a small child who is thrilled with a cardboard box and some crumpled wrapping paper. Or an elderly person who is delighted that you stopped in for a visit.

Sometimes it’s difficult. The teacher who marks all the mistakes with a red pen seems very difficult to please. A boss who is always criticizing and complaining makes for a difficult workplace environment.

Sometimes it’s impossible. How do you go about pleasing the God of the universe? He has everything He needs. He’s got everything under control. He knows everything at all times. He created everything and holds everything together.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that it’s impossible to please God without one element:

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 11:6ESV

Without faith it is impossible to please God.

Why? Because you have to believe, to have faith, that He exists. You can’t see Him. You can’t touch Him. You can’t hear Him. You can’t smell Him. You can’t taste Him. Your senses are useless in trying to please God.

You have to believe that He exists based on how He has revealed Himself in the Bible. Get the big picture, not just little bits and pieces. Not just the parts you like. Or, not just the parts you don’t like, as an excuse to throw Him out.

You have to believe that He rewards those who seek Him. That’s part of the big picture of God. Critics will often have a one-sided view of God as a judge, condemning the evil and punishing the wicked. But He is also a God who rewards those who are looking for Him.

And really, in this verse you see attributes of God that make Him appealing to us: He allows us to draw near and to seek after Him. He wants to have a relationship with Him. He is not an impersonal power, an unseen force, a judge behind the bench. He wants you and me to draw near to Him. He wants us to seek after Him.

He’s revealed Himself in the Bible. He wants us to get closer to Him. The conclusion is simple. If we want to get closer to God, we have to spend more time in the Bible.

And He promises to reward us. Reward us with Himself – the more we know Him, the closer we are to Him.

And that’s what He wants.