Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Beatitude Check

Be-Attitude Check

Matthew 5: 1-12

There is something about summer and hot weather that promotes relaxation. We love to indulge in activities like sitting around the pool, going on vacation, or just sitting in the AC because the average summer temperature in Arkansas is somewhere around 400 degrees. Relaxing and trying to rest is not a bad thing, in fact it is a necessity in many of our lives. However this summer trend of relaxation in our physical life often causes a relaxation in our spiritual life.

Just recently I started to notice that I was relaxing a bit spiritually and I needed a boost. I dove into the scriptures and God lead me to Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount. In the first section of this sermon Jesus talks about what your life should look like as a Christian. We know them today as the Beatitudes. When reading the Beatitudes we must see through the lens of a first century Jew. Their spiritual role models are the Pharisees and Jesus shows up and talks about these characteristics which are exactly opposite of the Pharisees.

One Commentary said this about the relation between the beatitudes and the Pharisees. “These qualities [the Beatitudes] contrast sharply with Pharisaic “Righteousness.” The Pharisees were not “poor in spirit”; did not “mourn” in recognition of their needs; were proud and harsh, not humble and gentle, they felt they had attained righteousness and therefore had no appetite for it; they were more concerned with “legalities” of God’s and their own law than with showing mercy; were pure ceremonially but not inwardly created rifts, not peace in Judaism, and certainly did not possess true righteousness.”

These are the Pharisees, the bad guys of the Bible. I am not surprised that they were not in line with the Beatitudes. However, if this passage was modernized, it becomes more impactful to us. What if it read this way; “These qualities [the Beatitudes] contrast sharply with the modern day church goers view of righteousness. The average churchgoer is not “poor in spirit”; does not “mourn” for their needs because they figure they can do a better job handling it on their own. They are proud and harsh; they are often the opposite of humble and gentle. They are contently bragging on their own success. They feel like their life is pretty good and God is just a bonus therefore they do not hunger and thirst for righteousness. They are more concerned with the “legalities” of making an appearance at church on Sunday than showing mercy. If they want to do something that interferes with church like, kids sports, sleep or relaxing from a busy week it is ok to put God in the back burner, as long as they are happy. They constantly create rifts, not peace at their local church, and certainly did not possess true righteousness.”

Have we adopted the same attitude toward God as the Pharisees? Jesus gave us the Beatitudes not as something to be glanced over. This is the way we should be living. Do a beatitude check in your life and see where you line up with Jesus.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Unity in Tragedy

Last month the world experienced another epic tragedy. Those who saw the videos of the tsunami in Japan stood in stunned silence as the water washed over houses, businesses, and entire towns destroying everything in its path. Watching houses turn into driftwood, it is easy to look at these tragedies and think what good could come from this. How can we not lose hope after seeing this devastation? If the old saying “There is always a silver lining” is true, what is the silver lining of this disaster that has claimed so many lives. What is the good that can come out of this? Although it is often hard to see there is something good that comes out of these types of tragedies. After a great tragedy there will inevitability be a sense of unity among people. When tragedy strikes people set aside their differences and unite to help out. This is just human nature.

The more that I though about this the more it lead me to wonder, why do we only unite to help out when there is a tragedy. Why don’t we act like this all the time? When you look at this conundrum with the world in mind it is one thing but this is a problem within the church as well. To often the church is a place of disunity. Everyone has their own agenda, ideas, plan and they are not plans of unity but of own self promotion. As the body of Christ we should be the most unified organization on the face of the earth. We should not only unite in the wake of tragedy but we should live in perfect unity. The Bible says this in Philippians 2: 1-4

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Lets not be like the rest of the world, only uniting in the midst of tragedy but let us always be of one mind and one heart.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Set Your mind on things above

Well Church, I am proud to report that we have made it through the most unbelievably snowy season Siloam Springs has seen in a while. I like to refer to the last few weeks as Snowpocalypse 2011 because it really wrecked our lives for a few weeks. Our routines were scattered, our jobs and schools were shut down, and we were forced to stay in our homes. The snow totally changed the way that we live. What I found to be even more amazing than the amount of snow is that when there is snow on the ground it seems like that is all people think about. No matter what you are doing on your snow day everything you think about or do centers around the snow, because it has changed the way you do everything. We almost become obsessed with this earthly phenomenon.

Obviously arranging your life around the snow is really not a terrible thing, it is a necessity, but it got me thinking about how much time we spend focused on things that are of this world and less time thinking about heavenly things. In Colossians 3: 2 it says this “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.“ The snow is a perfect example of this. Like when it snows we are often consumed by what is going on around us on earth that we forget that our true calling as Christians is to put these distractions behind us and focus on God. Maybe the snow (things of this world) in your life is your is your job, your pursuit of earthly comfort, your children’s sports teams, your status in the community, whatever it is if there is snow that is consuming your life it is keeping you from your only purpose in life, which is to keep you mind focused on heavenly things.

If we are not prepared to clear these things from our lives, like real snow they are just going to continue to build up until our lives are being crushed under their tremendous weight paralyzing us from truly living. Don’t become crushed under the weight of the snow in your life get out there and shovel your way back to God’s plan for your life. Set your heart on the things of God not on things of this world.

Those who do the greatest things in this life are most concerned with the next

-C.S. Lewis

Friday, November 12, 2010

God's Love

Do you ever have that one verse that when you read it you are blown away? At the risk of making it super overdramatic, time seems to stop as the verse penetrates right to the core of who you are. You think to yourself, how have I never caught this. Or if you are like me you think, why is this not already part of who I am? I recently experiences this type of journey and thought process for myself through the reading of 2 Corinthians 5: 13-15.

Paul writes: “If we are out of our minds, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right minds, it is for you. For Christ love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

This is the type of passage that immediately speaks to who we should be as Christians. However, the context of this verse gives us a glimpse into what it will really take to live as a Christ follower. When Paul actually traveled to Corinth he was able to start a great work and we see in his first writing to them that problems arose after he left. After he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians false prophets showed up and sought to destroy the ministry of Paul by saying that he was out of his mind and that he was crazy. They touted him as an outcast of society. When Paul decides to address this in 2 Cor. 5: 13 he shows that he has no problem being different or an outcast.

Paul’s love for Christ is so great so compelling that he begs the people to see him as crazy, as different. He puts aside everything he is to see that God shines through him. Can we say that about our lives? Are we ready to allow the full love of Christ to shine through us? Are you ready to be called crazy?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Inside Looking Out

Growing up in Church I always noticed that everyone that went to my church was just like me. Of course they were not exactly like me. But to be honest most of them came from the same type of family, had the same type of social status and similar experiences, they were just older, younger or a different sex. Odds are that you too went to a church that was full of people that were just like you.

I really didn’t notice because that was just my life, that was just how my church was. It was later that I realized that almost every church is like that. So as I began to ponder this phenomenon, and I instantly jumped to making excuses, because God forbid that there is something wrong with my church. I once heard this excuse and ignorantly agreed, “Our Church will only reach a certain demographic, we can reach out but ultimately we will only reach middle class white America.” Looking back I cannot believe how closed-minded and non-Christian this thought is. Or an even worse mindset is “This is our church and those type of people will come in and mess up our building and steal things.” I know that this seems silly and you think that no one would say this but I have heard it.

The Church has sadly become one of the most exclusive clubs in America. We require membership to get special privileges, we are leery of outsiders, and we exclude people we are not comfortable having around. This type of thinking is missing the point of what churches are about. We should care more about the people that may mess things up, or cause discomfort than those people who have made the church their home. This was the example of Christ.

In his book Messy Spirituality Mike Yaconelli says this: “According to his critics Jesus “did God” all wrong. He went to the wrong places, said the wrong things, and worst of all just let anyone into the kingdom. Jesus scandalized an intimidating, elitist, country-club religion by opening membership in the spiritual life to those who had been denied it. What made people furious was Jesus “irresponsible” habit of throwing open the doors of his love to the whosoever’s, the just anyone’s and the not-a-chancers like you and me.”

Isn’t it time to start upsetting the right people by allowing those who are different and not the status quo into our churches? Isn’t it time to spend valuable time and resources reaching the people in our community that are poor, a different race, crazy, notorious sinners? Isn’t it time to invite these people into our churches instead of making our churches an elitist group that is untouchable? I write this not as abash of the church but as a plea for change in the way that we perceive our church bodies. In everything we should remember that we are the light to the whole world not just to a world full of people like us.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Interesting questions

One of the greatest joys of my job is when students ask questions. Sometimes they require some research. On Sunday a student asked me about Luke 16 and I really had to go back and study the passage because admittedly it can be pretty confusing. Here is the response that I gave him.

Man, your questions about Luke 16 and the Shrewd Manager on Sunday morning were great. After reviewing the passage for a brief moment on Sunday I was intrigued. To be honest I have read the story of the Shrewd Manager before but many times the end of the chapter (Luke 16:10-15) is so amazing and convicting that we pass by the story that is a little confusing.

The secret to understanding this passage is identifying that Jesus tells a story of the corruption use of wealth to inspire his disciples (and us today) to use their money in a way that grows the future kingdom. It was common practice in that day for wealthy people to have a person who managed their money. This allowed the rich person to evade the paperwork but still keep tabs on their cash. Also, it was the job of the Manager to use the rich persons money to make more money. Sort of like a modern day financial planner/accountant.

The wealthy man discovers that his funds were being wasted and decided to fire the manager. This is seen as an unwise decision because it ended up costing the rich man even more. Cleverly, the manager looks out for his own future by reducing the debts owed to his master and indebting the debtors to the manager making them friends that he could use in a future time of need.

Here is where things get a little difficult. Verse 8 says that the rich man commended the manager because he acted shrewdly. The Rich man is not commending the manager for doing an unjust thing, but the rich man realizes that he has been outwitted and he his applauding the cunning of the manager. By applauding the managers criminal heart the rich man is showing that he to has evil tendencies.

Jesus shows the application of this story in verses 16:8-13. In the same way that the Manager used money to make worldly friends, we should use material things for future spiritual benefit (Verse 9). We are to use our wealth in a way that leads people to Christ and we will see the fruits of this wisely spent money in heaven (Welcomed into eternal dwellings v.9). He gives a second application in verses 10-12 saying that those who use their money wisely and can be trusted with earthly wealth will be trusted with spiritual wealth, a.k.a true wealth. Then from this he gives one more application by saying that it is impossible to serve both God and money.

So the short answer to your question is that God uses a story about the improper use of money to show us how we are to use our wealth for the good of the kingdom. Sorry this is so long. If you have any more questions let me know.


Finances are one of the greatest detriments to living a live totally sacrificed to God. We should evaluate everything that we do with our finances.

In Christ,

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

You are who you hang with

Growing up in a family that lived and breathed youth ministry I heard this saying probably a thousand times.  Whenever one of my dad’s students started hanging with people who were less than questionable, one or both of my parents would utter, “You are who you hang with.”  As sick as I am of this saying, I am learning how applicable it is more every day.  All my life I have tried to surround myself with people who have the same beliefs and morals that I hold.  This has not really been that hard.  My friends have generally been dubbed “the good kids” and this has been the case for as long as I have known them.  But recently I have seen some of them make bad decisions as to the type of people they surround themselves with.  This has consequently led them down a path that is not honoring God. 

            I am reminded of Daniel.  Long before he was thrown in the lions din he surrounded himself with some pretty godly people. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were three of Daniels best friends.  It was through surrounding himself with people who shared the same morals that gave him the support to stand up for what was right.  These four young men were able to rely on each other and stand up for their faith on numerous occasions. 

            This is not to say that everyone that you consider a friend has to be someone who is of high moral standards.  However, it is important that your closest confidants are people who you can rely on to do the right thing.  Also, if you find yourself doing things around certain people, that compromise your faith, you need to seriously reconsider the time that you do spend with those people.

            By surrounding ourselves with people who love and honor God we will be more likely to do so ourselves.  Because my parents are right “you are who you hang with.” 


In Christ,