Monday, January 28, 2019

Seeking the Simple Life

“…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”

 (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 ESV)

In this day and age, we all have something to say. We have something to say about absolutely everything.  We have something to say about politics. We have something to say about community needs. We have something to say about tragedies that have occurred. We have something to say about others, and the way that they conduct themselves. And we want to be heard.  

Not only do we have this desire to be heard, we have the means to make it happen. Not only do we have our family and friends with whom we can share our opinions. We literally plaster our lives, sentiments, and thoughts for everyone to see. We post them on Facebook. We post them on Twitter.  We state our position and then argue it with absolutely everyone. We do so with family, friends, and even complete strangers.  

We also have a desire to be a somebody. We want to be known. We want to be seen and recognized for what we do. We want to be admired and viewed as a success. In fact, we want to be celebrated. 

We aren’t content to live our life in obscurity. We aren’t satisfied to remain unknown. We’re scared that our life might be viewed as insignificant or inconsequential.

However, in the above passage, Paul calls us to the opposite way of thinking. He calls us to the opposite way of life. He encourages us to live quietly. He calls on us to a peaceful and a restful existence.

It’s OK to be anonymous. It’s OK if we’re unimportant or insignificant in the eyes of the world. In fact, it’s quite peaceful when this is true of us. And this is the life to which we are called.

He calls on us, also, to mind our own affairs. Some translations tell us to mind our own business.  Instead of focusing on the happenings in the lives of everyone else, we’re to tend to our own concerns and responsibilities. We’re to place our focus on that which has been entrusted to us.

This doesn’t restrict us from lovingly watching out for others. It doesn’t forbid us to lovingly care for others. However, it does prohibit our busybody tendencies. It bars us from the gossip that flows from our nosey, meddlesome ways.     

Finally, he calls us to work with our hands. Living a quiet and a peaceful life doesn’t mean that we live a lazy life. We are to work hard. We’re to be diligent. We’re to do so that we might walk properly before others and that we might be dependent on no one.

Let us seek such a life. Let us ask God to show us the value of such a life, and to empower us in it. Let us confess to him our failure to live this life. And let us look to him for the grace and mercy we so desperately need.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Limiting God's Blessing

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”

(Psalm 127:3-5 ESV)

It’s common, in our society, for people to comment that children are a blessing. It’s heard, most frequently, when celebrating a pregnancy or a birth with a friend or family member. We go on to add that children are a miracle.

However, even though this is commonly said, it isn’t reflected in our lives or our society. What our lives suggest is that children are not a blessing, but a burden. What our lives suggest is that children are a hindrance.  

For this reason, we do all that we can to limit the number of children we bear. Many, in our nation, support abortion for any and every reason. They believe that we should have the right to take the life of a child that we do not desire. They believe that it should be up to us to decide the size of our family.

Most of us have also gone all in on birth control. Even when married, we wait to have children until “we are ready.” We wait until we have “enough” material resources (in our opinion).

In fact, limiting the number of our children is held up as a virtue in today’s world. We’re told that our world is being overpopulated. We’re told that the world cannot support the number of people who are to come. And, for this reason, reducing the number of children is viewed as wise.

Our nation even supports efforts in various third world nations to limit the number of children being born. We see them as the biggest source of growth in the world population. And, because they are the “problem,” we try to fix it.

I’ve been questioned and insulted for having as many children as I do. I’ve been asked why my wife and I chose to have a larger family. I’ve had people make negative comments as my children followed me around the store.

If we truly believed that children are a blessing, would this be the case? Doesn’t it make sense that, if we truly believed this, we wouldn’t seek to limit his blessing? If we truly believed this, doesn’t it make sense that we’d embrace it?

If God promised to bless us with wealth, we wouldn’t seek to limit it in any way. If he promised to bless us with health, we wouldn’t seek to limit it in any way. If he promised to bless us with power, we wouldn’t seek to limit it in any way. So, if children are truly a blessing, why do we do so with them?

When traveling in third world nations, the size of my family is applauded. Our fellow Christians, in other nations, truly believe our children to be a blessing from God. And, for this reason, they celebrate with us.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Take Care!

“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
(2 Peter 3:17-18 ESV)

Many of us, in the church today, are oblivious to what’s going on around us. We live in our own little bubble, paying little attention to the happenings of the world. We live in our own little world, remaining ignorant of the events and trends in the Christian Church as a whole.

This was true of me in my younger days. I grew up in a conservative Lutheran church. I grew up with a Bible-believing pastor. And, because this was all I knew, I assumed every other Lutheran church was the same.  I was surprised to find out, as the ELCA merger was preparing to take place, that this wasn’t the case.

I was surprised to learn there are churches who do not believe that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. I was surprised to learn there are churches who approve of things that the Bible defines as sin. And I was even more surprised to learn that there are many people who have accepted the false teaching being fed to them.

In the prior verses, Peter stated that the ignorant and unstable twisted the Scriptures to their own destruction. And this is what he’s referring to as he makes the above statement. Knowing this, knowing that some twist the Scriptures, we must take care.

We must take care that we aren’t carried away with error of lawless people. If we aren’t aware of the false teaching that’s being proclaimed, we may very well get sucked into believing it. If we aren’t aware of what’s going on, we may end up accepting the twisted doctrine of the ignorant and unstable.

According to Peter, we must know this, we must be aware of this, to ensure that we don’t lose our own stability. If we get sucked into the twisted doctrine being proclaimed, if we come to accept it, we’ll receive the fate of those who proclaimed it to us. Just as those who proclaim it do so to their own destruction, so will we receive it.

As believers, we cannot stick our head in the sand. We cannot remain ignorant of what is going on within the wider church. We must be aware that we might stand firm in the face of false teaching.

Along with being aware of the false doctrine being proclaimed, we must also continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. We must continue to be fed by the Word of God that our faith might flourish.  We must do so that we might receive each blessing he's prepared for us.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Expectations in Ministry

“And he said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."”

(Mark 4:26-29 ESV)

As we engage in ministry, whether it be as pastors, missionaries, or lay people, we find ourselves falling short of the expectations others have for us. Why aren’t more people joining the church? Why aren’t more people coming to faith in Christ? Why aren’t more churches being planted in the United States?  Why aren’t more churches being planted around the world?

We often find ourselves on the receiving end of the blame.  These things aren’t happening, we’re told, because we’re not doing our job well enough.  Perhaps if we worked harder, things would be different.  Perhaps if we were replaced, the next person would do a better job and accomplish more.

We have the same tendency as those pointing their finger at us.  We place the blame upon ourselves as well. We tell ourselves that, if only we were better preachers, things would change.  We tell ourselves that, if only we were more cool, hip, rad (insert your own description here), things would be different.  We tell ourselves that, if only we worked harder, things would be different.

One of the hardest, yet most refreshing truths of ministry is that we can only scatter the seed.  We can do nothing more.  We cannot cause the seed to sprout or to grow.  We cannot cause it to turn into a full grain in the ear.

It’s the hardest truth of ministry because we want to think that we can do something. If fact, we want to have a role to play in the results of our ministry.  We want to be able to take credit for good things that are taking place.  And we have to get over ourselves.  We have to acknowledge that, although we scatter the seed, it’s not we who produce the growth.

However, it’s also refreshing.  And it’s refreshing because we can simply scatter the seed without feelings of guilt or blame.  We can scatter the seed, as we’ve been called, entrusting the results to God.