“Then someone from the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator between you two?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch out and guard yourself from all types of greed, because one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’” (Luke 12:13-15 NET).
Two men came to Jesus with what one of them considered to be a problem: he didn’t think he was getting a fair share of the inheritance. We don’t know the circumstances of his complaint, but it could have been as simple as the way inheritance laws were set up in God’s Law. The firstborn son would receive a double portion of the inheritance (see Deuteronomy 21:15-17). If that is the case here, the younger son might be complaining that the inheritance was not split equally and was hoping Jesus would change the inheritance law so he could have more.
Have you ever known anyone who became so anxious with reading a story that he or she would skip to the last chapter to see how it ended? Years ago I remember someone telling me this was her strategy for reading books. For many of us this would ruin the story. However for her, knowing how the narrative tensions would be resolved enabled her to relax enough to read through the story.
Fears abound. What if the stock market crashes? What if my career does not progress further? What if they do not like me? What if I lose “it”?
Since secular people consider themselves to have moved beyond superstitious idolatry, to assert that many contemporary fears are birthed in idolatry might sound oxymoronic. Yet, when we understand how idols function, the correlation is obvious. Fortunately, jettisoning idols along with their fears leads toward obtaining the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. Continue reading “Our fears expose our idols”
During my sophomore college summer I returned home to Australia to work as a truck driver offsider. A church member, who owned a truck, hired me to assist him with his furniture delivery business.
Many details of that summer have slipped from memory, but not the choking lady. We were on the second floor of an apartment building where we had just delivered a large wall unit. She came down the stairs holding her throat, choking and with a look of panic in her eyes. Continue reading “Choking Hazard”
In the movie, Karate Kid part 3, Mr. Miyagi’s heirloom Bonzai tree was uprooted, exposed to oceanic brine and then broken. When Daniel, his karate trainee, became distraught over these events, Mr. Miyagi explained the life lesson that good strong roots provide hope for weathering crises and for healing.
To live life well does require great roots.
Almost two-thousand years before this cinematic event, John the Baptizer honed this principle to its true essence. Strong roots are not enough. We need enduring roots.
John knew people cling to those roots they believe will protect them. As John proclaimed the coming wrath and the need to be prepared for the kingdom, he anticipated the unreliable roots of the Judaic religious establishment.
“Therefore produce fruit that proves your repentance, and don’t think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones! Even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:8-10, NET).
The days are coming when Jesus will gather his wheat, but burn the chaff. How we live and respond to the kingdom does make a difference.
To what root do we cling for security? Heritage? Status? Wealth? Ability? Jesus?
by Tim Hall Are we looking in the right places for peace and security? Pierre Desarmes must have felt a wave of relief as he loaded his family onto an airplane. Two weeks earlier this 34-year-old man was in Port-au-Prince, Haiti when the earthquakes struck.
He and members of his family were glad to be alive, but their world was in shambles. Now they were headed for peace and security — in Chile.
This unfortunate Haitian family had been in their new home barely a month when the stronger earthquake came calling. Now the family sleeps outside, afraid to go inside buildings where walls might collapse on top of them.
Stanley Desarmes, Pierre’s younger brother, is frantic. “I don’t know what I can do, but staying isn’t possible,” he said. “I could die and I could lose my family. I have to leave. I don’t know where, I don’t know how. But I don’t want to die with my family here,” he was quoted as saying in an Associated Press story on March 4, 2010.
Our hearts go out to all of the victims of the earthquakes, both in Haiti and in Chile. But how can we imagine the confusion and fear of these who have gone through both disasters?
Near the end of his ministry, Jesus warned of a time of devastation.
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her” (Luke 21:20,21, NKJV).
Eusebius, writing over 200 years after Jesus’ prophecy, recorded how Christians fled Jerusalem during the brief pullback of the Roman army surrounding the city. By fleeing to the town of Pella they found the peace that no one who stayed behind would enjoy.
Jesus made another statement about peace in this world that applies to us. In John 16:33 he stated: “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Those whose faith in Jesus led them to flee Jerusalem in A.D. 70 found peace. Those who act upon their faith by fleeing to Jesus to escape the tribulations of the world will find peace. Guaranteed. We’ll still be surrounded by turmoil in the material realm, but our spirits can be calm and secure.
“… And his name will be called wonderful, counselor, mighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
by Tim Hall A serious technological crime reminds us of a more serious threat. There are reasons to feel paranoid about who might be looking into our private files.
According to a Wall Street Journal story on February 18, 2010, a major operation has been uncovered. Hands have been discovered reaching into the private files of hundreds of companies. Your information or mine might be involved.
Netwitness, a computer security company, uncovered the scheme. What they found were hackers working from centers in Europe and China, remotely using computers of perhaps millions of unsuspecting users to avoid detection.
More than 2,400 companies have been infiltrated, and the thieves have gained access to credit card transactions and intellectual property.
The story is just breaking, and we’ll know more in days to come. This is not the first incident of identity theft, of course, and it surely won’t be the last.
At stake in situations like these are financial resources. How shocked would we be to find that our bank account that was comfortably stocked yesterday is inexplicably empty today? There are reasons why companies like LifeLock have done so well!
Before computers and the Internet, an even more sinister threat lurked, one that continues even today. Peter wrote about it: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Laugh if you must, but the Bible is a credible book. The threat is real.
Satan does not share God’s qualities of omniscience and omnipotence. There is a limit on what he can do. If anything, though, we underestimate his abilities.
Paul wrote about otherwise intelligent people when he made this observation: “And that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26).
Like naive home computers that have been hijacked for criminal activities by an evil hacker, we are often found letting Satan utilize our minds and bodies for his purposes.
Satan cannot win, however, if we take our stand with Christ. That would mean learning from the Lord how to live wisely: “Lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11).
Wisdom also means doing God’s will in all things: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
Close your eyes and pretend that no one is trying to hack into your personal information. But wouldn’t it be smarter to be proactive? In the same way, believe the Bible when it says the devil is trying to hack his way into your eternal reward.
by Tim Hall One of man’s deepest needs is to feel safe. Is that an impossible quest? Just when we thought it was safe to fly, a breach of security occurred. The intrusion took place at Newark’s Liberty International Airport, one of the nation’s busiest.
Cameras recorded a man ducking under a rope as the security officer stepped away from his post. One of the terminals was shut down for six hours as a search for the intruder came up empty. Air traffic around the nation was affected.
We’re likely looking at a case of someone who didn’t want to wait in line to be cleared for boarding. No one will deny that security measures at the airports are a hassle. Most of us, though, are glad to go through the process if it means flying without fear of sitting beside a terrorist.
This incident in Newark, coupled with an armed passenger apprehended in midair on Christmas day, has shaken us up again.
Security has a price. To protect our homes from burglars or our vehicles from thieves we often pay high monthly premiums. Keeping citizens secure from those convicted of violent crimes requires solid prisons surrounded by rows of concertina wire. Even these measures are fallible. Guarded homes are broken into and prisons occasionally experience jailbreaks.
Guarding our most valuable possession is God’s job. What is that possession? Jesus tells us: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). No material object you possess comes close to the value of your soul. Do you feel secure about that soul?
Can security for the soul be found? Hear Jesus again:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand. My father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of my father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).
There is one who stalks us to rob us of our eternal destiny, Jesus warned (John 10:10). But Satan is no match for God when we entrust our souls to him.
That claim in confirmed in James 4:7: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Sadly, many do not resist the devil. In effect they’re handing Satan the key to their heart. Before long he’ll move in and destroy (see John 13:27).
You and I can do better. Knowing what a tragedy it would be to lose our souls, let us draw near to God. In doing so we’ll be entering a security zone that no power can ever breach.
by J. Randal Matheny, editor Yesterday morning I was reminded how the disciples here have been shocked by the defection of one of the congregation’s founding brothers.
In January, this brother arose after the Sunday meeting and announced he was forsaking the Lord and the church. After some 20 years in the faith.
Yesterday, Sr. Benedito, a retired manual laborer in his 70s, arrived early as usual for our meeting and commented that he could always count on my being there.
No mention of the fallen brother. Nor of several others who have surrendered the prize of faithfulness. Nor of the full-time evangelist who also had helped to begin the congregation, but had moved on to another ministry.
This year has been a hard one for the church here. In July we left our rented building we’d met in for five years. We’ve spent three months searching for adequate quarters. In that time, we’ve been meeting in a cramped space in my office.
Neither location nor individuals have given the saints much of a sense of permanence. Nor should they.
The Lord is the eternal God and king (Romans 16:26; 1 Timothy 1:17). He is always there. We can always count on him being there for us.
God will not forsake us nor abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). Others may give up the faith, but God is faithful (1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; see Revelation 1:5). He never turns his back on his children, never fails in his promises.
We may shuffle from one location to another, but God is the ground of our faith. He’s solid. He’s our Rock (Psalm 18:2, 31, 46; 31:2-3; 62:2, 6-7; 1 Corinthians 10:4).
To a people whose faith wavered under pressure, one writer declared that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever!” (Hebrews 13:8).
Like Yahweh God, Jesus is who he is. If we are grounded in him, we will not be “carried away by all sorts of strange teachings” (v. 9). Our hearts will be strengthened, not by a false sense of security in places or people, but “by grace.”
I hope to provide Sr. Benedito a good example, spiritual friendship and faithful teaching for a long time to come yet. But the faces and places in our congregation, as in yours, will change with time.
So our trust must be in the permanence of God, in the solidity of his promises, in the firmness of his salvation.
Such a trust will carry us through all the changes both today and tomorrow.