Extreme requirements of those who serve God

“Thus the Lord said to me: ‘Go and get yourself a linen sash, and put it around your waist, but do not put it in water’” (Jeremiah 13:1, NKJV).

I am often amazed at how many modern Christians seem to consider their religion to be non-demanding. This is often reflected in the denial that God would require any inconvenience or excessive demands from them. They also assume that God wants them to have a prosperous and enjoyable life, whatever may be required to make that happen.

Whenever I am confronted with such attitudes I almost unfailingly think of the lives of the prophets of Israel as related to us in the Old Testament. Jeremiah, often called “The Weeping Prophet,” is a particular example of God’s extreme requirements of those who would serve him. Continue reading “Extreme requirements of those who serve God”

Must my sacrifice be greater than yours?

People don’t say it much any more, probably a sign of the times. Back in the day, however, when my wife Vicki and I would visit churches, some kind saint would often praise us for the sacrifice we were making on the mission field. While I would always thank the person for their comment, it also invariably left me uncomfortable. Time and again I felt the urge — to which I never gave in — to ask, “And what sacrifice are you making for the Lord, where you are?”

If the saints of God were indeed sanctified, consecrated, and devoted as the name “saint” implies, it would be a fine question to ask, causing no discomfort, confusion, or consternation. If our people understood and practiced true discipleship, the question would be a natural part of a spiritual conversation. But it is not, generally, a conversation that is held among us, nor can it be. Continue reading “Must my sacrifice be greater than yours?”

Entwined in the vine

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NASB).

It is not often that I write about a plant simply because the name is intriguing, but this will be one of those rare times.

A world class daylily hybridizer, Karol Emmerich of Springwood Gardens, has taken the opportunity to name her new introductions with phrases inspired by the Bible; and I was blessed to have seen and purchased one of these this year.  Continue reading “Entwined in the vine”

When hating yourself is in your best interest

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26, NIV).

 

“Literally, self-hatred refers to an extreme dislike of oneself, or being angry at oneself. The term is also used to designate a dislike or hatred of a group to which one belongs.” —wikipedia.org

How to hate one’s own life? Some have learned to hate themselves because they have been ridiculed, derided, or devalued by people around them. They find many reasons to hate themselves and consider themselves worthless, but Jesus isn’t talking about one’s self-worth. Continue reading “When hating yourself is in your best interest”

Yet not with a whole heart

Why do you serve God? Perhaps you serve God because that is what your parents did. Perhaps you serve God because that is what your spouse desires. Perhaps you serve God for the sake of your children. Perhaps your reasons are less noble.

The Chronicles are often neglected books. But we do ourselves a disservice to neglect any of the sacred writings. There are a number of extraordinarily deep statements in the Chronicles. One that bears upon our thoughts today is a statement made in 2 Chronicles 25:2. In a description of king Amaziah, the inspired text reads, “he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart” (ESV). Continue reading “Yet not with a whole heart”

A pearl and an apple

One of the shortest parables of the Lord Jesus is in Matthew chapter 13. Like most of Jesus’ teachings, its meaning and wonder extend beyond the simple 32 words of the text.

The Lord said the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for pearls. Then, he saw “one pearl of great price” and desired it so much he sold all he owned to buy it (Matthew 13:45-46). The merchant knew what was important to him and sacrificed everything he had. Continue reading “A pearl and an apple”

The Christian’s pursuit

A blinded and humbled man fell before the voice of the Author of life. The soul-piercing question echoes through the ages, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). Saul’s persecutions had begun with the violent stoning of Stephen, and resulted in the scattering of Christians (Acts 8:1-3).

Saul wasn’t satisfied with mere intimidation, he ravaged the church. Later, he would reveal that it was his intent to destroy the church of God through violence (Galatians 1:13). Not content with dispersing believers, in his raging fury, he persecuted Christians to foreign cities (Acts 26:11). It is here, on the road to Damascus, that his pursuit of violence led to a pursuit of peace. Continue reading “The Christian’s pursuit”

Attaching or detaching the heart?

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).

The Christian assigns proper value, and prioritizes accordingly. The most valuable things in life are spiritual things. Worship, prayer, study, goodwill, example, influence, sharing the gospel.

These are easily lost in the mix of life’s activities.

These are easily shuffled to the bottom of the deck.

These are easily forgotten or misplaced. Continue reading “Attaching or detaching the heart?”

The sin of distraction

A non-Christian friend of mine participated in a professional pop-music video a few months back, and the gist of the song was how staying connected 24/7 turns people into zombies. The message is a good one, even if the details might not be appreciated by saints. (Hence, no link.)

Last week, a well known news figure wrote at length about the great sin of today — distraction. An atheist, he even fled to a monastery for a time and gave up his electronics, as he attempted to free himself from its control.

If he’s right that distraction is today’s great sin, then Dug, the cute dog in the “UP” movie, captures it perfectly. He can’t finish a sentence for seeing a squirrel.

There’s always a new buzz, tone, text, tweet, post, status, email, video, link, or grandbaby pic to take us away from a conversation or thought. (Only the grandbaby pics really deserve the distraction, see?) Continue reading “The sin of distraction”

True simplicity

Minimalism and a simple lifestyle are popular philosophies in the modern world of materialism and busy complications. The effort seeks to do with less as a means of enjoying life more.

True simplicity may be enhanced by possessing fewer material goods, but the amount of possessions does not necessarily define it. It consists of a single focus. So says the Lord Jesus Christ. Continue reading “True simplicity”