Archive for » June, 2016 «

He Must Be the Greatest

Click here to read Deuteronomy 34 on BibleGateway.com

And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said… but to this day no one knows where his grave is.”  Deuteronomy 34:5-6

mugListen to any major athlete in the world, and you’ll often hear them talk about greatness.  They want to score the most, eat that many hotdogs, win the most championships, set this or that record, etc.  Even scouts will often say “this kid is driven, he really wants to be great.”   Even our cereal tries to be GRRRRREEEEAAAT.

Ever ask yourself why? What’s the point?  Do you know who won the World Series in 1973 without looking it up?  Do you know who won the pommel horse event for the last 5 Olympics? Do you know who ate the most pies at last year’s country fair? Do you know which wide receiver has won the most Superbowls?  You may, if you happen to be a sports fan, but for most people, they may be aware that information for a day, but then it’s quickly forgotten.  So what can we do to be remembered?

In just about any society, there is a tendency to build large monuments to their heroes, often tombs.  Obviously, the pyramids are the clearest example, but look at tombs for emperors, churches that hold the remains of saints, or statues of Babe Ruth.  We want something tangible and long-lasting to leave behind, so we can go to a specific place and remember that person.

THE REAL MOSES BUS TOUR

Yet in the case of Moses, we don’t even know where he’s buried.  Let’s set aside for a moment that God actually buried someone (how did that work? Did the body just disappear? Did angels come and bear it away on a litter?), why does the Bible note that no one knows where the tomb is?

Let’s say for example we knew exactly where Moses was buried; what do you think would happen? Pilgrimages? Maybe a yearly festival? Some good tour buses hitting the site on weekends? Maybe some T-shirts? Isn’t that what we do with our heroes? But not in this case.  The Bible specifically says that “no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses…no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.”  Clearly, by the standards of that time, Moses was a superstar.  Yet, he disappears into obscurity.  There are no shrines to visit, no festivals, no postcards at a cheap tourist trap.  Just the memory of the man.

And the Word of the Lord.

Moses (according to tradition) wrote the first five books of the Bible.  He passed the Law from God to the people of Israel (and consequentially down to us).  He predicted the rise and warned against the mistakes that would lead to the fall of Israel.  He left behind the revelations from God, and the promises He made to His people. Moses’  greatness was in not drawing attention to himself, but pointing people to God.

LEFT BEHIND

What do you want your legacy to be? Do you want a big mansion with your rotting carcass inside?  Do you want to be buried with honor, with a giant stone slab over it, which apparently is needed to keep you inside in case you decide to get up and walk around on stormy nights?

Or do you want the Word of the God to be the only thing you leave behind?  Would you rather that your only memorial is the lives of people serving Christ that you helped along the road? You only wealth given to the poor and needy? Moses was not a great man because he conquered the world like Alexander, or ruled it like Augustus, or was well known at the World Cup, but because he served God.  He was “more humble than any other man,” because he recognized that without God, he was nothing; but with God, anything was possible.

That’s true greatness.

Details Details

Click here to read Matthew 7 on BibleGateway.com

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 7:12

compicatedFor most people, the goal for most communication is to keep it simple.  Short sentences, little words, keep Latin to a minimum, etc.  But anyone who’s been in a corporate or higher education environment will know that is not always the case.  For some baffling reason, administrators like to make things sound more complicated than they really are.  You never hear the word “money,” it’s always “resources.”  People don’t “talk,” they “dialogue about the issues.”  You don’t plan, you strategize.  You don’t have a meeting, you network with personnel resources. You don’t eat a donut, you process wheatified carbohydrate energy configurations.

Why do people do this?  In a word, to hide.  If you say “all I did today was browse facebook and look up movie references on Wikipedia,” you’re probably not going to be employed very long.  But if you say you were “networking with industry benchmarks and applying business principles to cultural norms,” then you might just be in line for a nice comfy office.  We complicate things to avoid taking responsibility.  It starts way back in the Garden: “did God really say….”  Perhaps if we muddy the waters a little, there might be a loophole or two.

THE SIMPLE LIFE

The truth is, the Christian life is not nearly as complicated as we pretend.  Jesus summed it up in 2 sentences: Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; Love others.  There is a growing movement in the Church today to just focus on these two rules and forget all the other commands in the Bible.  There’s some validity to this, but we need to ask ourselves a question – if these are the only two commands we need to follow, why did God put all the other ones in there? Maybe because he knows us.

When a teacher of the law asks Jesus about which commandment is greatest, Jesus tells him the simple two.  Case closed, yes?  Notice the next thing the man says: “in order to justify himself, he asked ‘but who is my neighbor?'”  If we can draw some distinctions between this neighbor or that, then maybe we won’t have to really do those pesky things like giving one of our coats away, or paying all of those business taxes.

So God expands the two rules to help us.  Don’t know how to Love God?  How about putting him first, keeping his name holy, remembering the Sabbath, and not making any idols? Confused about how to love your neighbor? Don’t murder, steal, lie, or covet.  And since we tend to look for ways out with our own families first, honor your parents and be faithful to your spouse.  Only 10.  Not too shabby.

YOU HAD ONE JOB

But then people ask again. How do I honor my parents?  How do I honor the Sabbath? So, God reveals more details – don’t harvest on the Sabbath, provide financially for your parents in their old age, and so forth and so on.  Now we’re up to 617-ish rules.  And people complain about how there’s too many rules to remember.

We always want to know more details.  Unfortunately, sometimes we spend so much time studying the rules not because we want to know how to serve God better, but because we want to find loopholes and get to heaven.  For example, we try to say we don’t have to give financially to ministries anymore, because “Jesus set us free from the law.”  Let’s say hypothetically that’s true; if we go back to the simple commands, what is the best way to love God and love our neighbors?  It’s fairly obvious that being generous will be part of that.  So yes, Jesus  frees us from the Law, but if we follow the two basic commands, we’ll probably end up following them anyway.  It’s only when we try to find a way to get around the Law that a problem arises.

Today, rather than ask yourself “do i really have to…” to be saved, look at your thoughts and actions and ask yourself “does this show love to God or my neighbor?” If you can’t say yes to your choices, then maybe the problem isn’t all the rules that God gives us.  Maybe it’s just that we don’t want any rules at all.

After all, Adam and Eve only had one rule.

Mock Battle

Click here to read Psalm 119 on BibleGateway.com

 “The arrogant mock me unmercifully, but I do not turn from your law.” – Psalm 119:51

mock Richard Dawkins, a well-known atheist, once told an audience that non-believers should not be polite when confronting Christians:

“Mock them! Ridicule them! In public! Don’t fall for the convention that we’re all too polite to talk about religion. Religion is not off the table. Religion is not off limits. Religion makes specific claims…[which] need to be ridiculed with contempt.”

Of course, most atheists or agnostics are not quite as aggressive, but let’s assume for the sake of discussion that this becomes the norm in the world. How would you react if every time you mentioned Jesus you were ridiculed mercilessly? What if every time you prayed in public people laughed and attacked your beliefs? What if you lost jobs or respect or friends because you were “so dumb” you believed the Bible?

Would you maybe think twice before you prayed over your food in a restaurant? Would you back off of sharing the gospel with that co-worker. Would you hide your Bible in your backpack instead of carrying it in the open? Most of us would like to think we’d stand up under torture for Jesus, but will we stand up under insults?

MATTER IN MIND

Lucky for us, the Bible itself answers the question for us, and in just one verse, so that’s convenient. In Psalm 119 (yes, the really long one. But it’s good. Toughen up.), the author says “the arrogant mock me unmercifully.” Notice it doesn’t say “if,” but rather just assumes it will happen. Buckle up.

And the response? Pretty simple; “I do not turn from your law.” If the Word says to pray every day, then pray every day, even if there’s a man-sized furnace or a lion’s mouth in your future. It’s a difficult command for sure, but it’s actually kind of freeing, because it takes all the stress of deciding what to do away. It all doesn’t matter. Whatever happens, just keep following God’s laws.

At the end of the Gospel of John, Jesus makes passing reference to the kind of death Peter could look forward to, and Peter notices John walking by and says “Hey Jesus, what about John? Same thing?” And Jesus more or less says “Mind your own business and follow my commands.”

This is one of the toughest lessons for us to learn – it doesn’t matter one infinitesimally tiny bit what other people do. It only matters what we choose to do.

If people disrespect you and treat you like dirt – respect them anyway.

If people make fun of your morbid obesity and charming wreath of hair (hypothetically speaking) – be kind to them.

If people take away your rights – be joyful.

If people mock you and attack your intelligence and possibly your maternal ancestry – love them and speak kindly.

FOLLOW ME TO FREEDOM

In our society, we place a premium on “getting the last word.” On television shows and movies, when someone has a good insult, the audience laughs or the screen goes black. Everybody enjoys having a good comeback. But we are called to do something higher; we are told to encourage others. Not when they deserve it, not when they’re friends, but always. That’s a basketball sized pill to swallow.

There is a lot of concern in the Christian world that we’re “losing our rights,” that the secular world is overtaking God’s people. You know what Jesus would say about that? “Mind your own business and follow me.” When leading pastors preach a message or start a ministry you disagree with, you know what Jesus would say? “Mind your own business and follow me.” When people talk about how ignorant Christians are, you know what Jesus would say? “Mind your own business and follow me.”

The reality is, a Christian’s response to the world is actually pretty simple. We tend to stress ourselves out about what might happen, or what has happened, or what is happening. There is actually a freedom that comes from just focusing on Jesus. After all, let’s say that we do lose all our rights and becoming a Christian is a capital crime throughout the world. You know what Jesus would say? “Mind your own business and follow me.”

See how freeing it can be?