Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Flattery Really Won't Get You Anywhere Worth Going

Some words carry a certain heaviness with them:
  • "murder"
  • "hate"
  • "attack"
  • "destroy"
Of course there are other words which are even more harsh and leave a more bitter taste in our mouth, but I don't like those words so they aren't here.

photo from miglo.net"Flattery" isn't one of those words. In fact, "flattery" is one of those words that doesn't taste so bad at all. Calling someone a "flatterer" isn't exactly nice, but it is certainly much better than calling someone a "liar", right?..... right?

According to Daniel 11, flattery is the tool Satan's servants use to deceive God's people and cause them to fall away.

With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.

Flattery has been Satan's tool since Genesis 3, when he painted a picture for Eve in which she was god-like and only a bite of fruit away from being God's equal... It's still one of his favorite tools today.

The Bible doesn't have much good to say about flattery. Check out some of the things the New Testament says about flattery:
  • Romans 16:18 -- For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.
  • Jude 16 -- These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:5 -- You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.
Notice what each of these verses is saying about flatter:
  • People use smooth talk and flattery to cause division in the church
  • People who are grumblers and faultfinder use flattery for their own advantage
  • Paul rejected the use of flattery as an appropriate ministry tool, he equated it with greed
My intent here is not to create an unhealthy level of cynicism toward those who may be sincerely complimenting or congratulating you. Rather, I am urging you to think critically about something we don't often contemplate. This thing, flattery, is dangerous. It's deadly. It's a tool from the pit of hell. We must handle it with care.

Do not speak well of others and to others simply to win them to your side and advance your own agenda. Do not allow the choice words of others to go down into your soul and distract you from the agenda God has for your life.

Be sober, be vigilant, be on your guard. For thousands of years, the serpent has devoured his prey through the use of charming and soothing language. Don't let him claim you; don't let him use you to claim others...

Friday, March 23, 2012

Flattery: The Tool of the Devil


How does Satan use flattery to divide us from God?

He paints a desirable picture of us (leads us to believe things about ourselves that aren't true)

He contrasts that with a distorted concept of God (suggest things about Him that aren't true)

He suggests a disastrous path for our future (read Genesis 3 to see this played out)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I Do Believe in a Woman's Right to Choose...

I'll be really honest. When it comes to the abortion discussion, I've never been a real fan of the "A woman has the right to choose what to do with her body" discussion. While I agree in theory with that statement, I don't find it particularly relevant to the discussion about abortion.

See, the way I see it (and I know this will identify me as one of "those"), once a woman is pregnant, she's already made her choice of what to do with her body. I try to keep this blog family-friendly, so I won't say more than that. But you see what I'm sayin'.

When Ole the Swede chooses to be a Lumberjack, he recognizes that a very possible result will be some type of chainsaw disfigurement at some time.

When Muskegon Mark chooses to work at the Paper Mill, he understands that he may well lose a finger in one of the paper machines.

When Jimmy Johnson climbs into one of his left-turn-only cars, he realizes that a fiery crash may be awaiting him.

When we make a choice, knowing the possible consequences, we really can't logically complain with the consequences befall us. Maybe the marital act should come with a waiver or something, but that would be hard to enforce.

Here's my point.

When a woman finds herself "with child", in most cases, she really has no one to blame but herself (I know there are exceptions and contributing factors). So it's a little disingenuous to try the ol' "I should be allowed to do what I want with my body." The truth is, she (and HE) already did.

Except for once.

If anyone, ever, in human history had a legitimate argument to say, "This is my body, and I don't want to be pregnant!" It was a young girl in Luke 1. We know her as Mary.

Her pregnancy had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with any choice she had ever made. In no way was it a consequence (either direct or indirect) of any action she had ever taken. And yet, she was pregnant. For Mary, this was likely a much greater inconvenience than it ever is now. After all, in those days, they still stoned young girls who got pregnant outside of marriage.

So, when the angel told her that she was going to pregnant, no one would have been surprised if she had said, "Can I not?"

But Mary didn't say, "No". Instead her response is shocking and insightful. She said first "I am the servant of the Lord." She saw this child (which she hadn't done anything to receive) as a responsibility she had been given from her master. Secondly, she said, "Let it be to me according to your word." She completely gave up control of her life and determined to righteously live out the hand God had dealt her.

I wouldn't ask someone who didn't believe in God to respond this way.

But I really wonder if those who claim a belief in God or the Scriptures or Jesus can look at the story or Mary and come away without at least a question of whether or not there's a better way than "It's my body, I can cry if I want to..."

There's definitely more to say and think about this, but I'll leave this one open-ended and trust that some of you will have more to add.

5 Tests of a Church's Generosity

For the past year, I've been thinking a lot about GENEROSITY. So a while back, I threw together in my mind a list for evaluating the generosity of a church. Here it is:
  • Are the needs of members met? A generous church does not have members who are homeless, starving, or destitute. (that initially feels like a strong statement, but I'm gonna stick with it)
  • Are the needs of the community met? The manner in which a church stewards its resources (lets be honest, the building is usually a big one), particularly in regards to the external community, says a lot about its generosity level.
  • What's the EQ? - Every church has an "entitlement quotient" that mirrors the generosity level of the congregation. One way to gauge EQ is to measure how often "I", "my", and "mine" appear in conversations.
  • Are the needs of the pastors met? Sure, this feels self-serving; but I'll bet most pastors could tell you pretty easily (if they were willing to be honest) whether or not they feel that their church invests in their well-being.
  • Are the needs of outsiders met? A generous church is a wonderful church to visit. How people feel after they visit a church gathering for the first time is a super indicator of the church's generosity level.

The Parable of the Sower (the sequel)

A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

And then a very strange thing happened.

The rocky ground began to make noise. The large stones and the small pebbles began to cry out to the sower. "You haven't given us enough time!" they said. If only you would put more dark soil around us, our seeds would grow. So the sower went to the store and purchased more soil and placed it around the rocks. Again the seeds immediately sprang up, but it still had no depth of soil, and when the sun rose they were scorched again.

And then another strange thing happened.

The thorns began to make noise. "It's not our fault that the seeds didn't grow" they said. "You planted the wrong kind of seed. The old sower used a 'thorn-friendly' seed, and it grew just fine here." The sower sighed, the thorns continued, "If you'd just plant seed that worked with us, we'd give you a great crop!" So the sower went back to the store and purchased "thorn-friendly" seeds and sowed them among the thorns. But when the seeds began to grow, the thorns grew up and choked them again.

And then the sower realized, he had no more time to tend to the good soil. And the field was lost.

Your Future Probably Won't Be the Way You Imagine It

This morning I was reading about Elijah and the widow at Zarephath. The basics of the story go like this:
  • A great famine has spread across Israel
  • God sends Elijah to Zarephath because he's prepared a widow to feed him
  • The widow is down to her last food supplies, she's going to cook one more meal for herself and her son, then they plan to die
  • Elijah tells her to cook the meal for him instead
  • She does. God miraculously keeps her food supply from running out until the famine is over.
What I like particularly in this story is the initial interaction between Elijah and the widow. When he asks her to provide him with a meal, she replies, "As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple sticks that I may go in and prepare it for my myself and my son, that we may eat it and die."

She's very matter-of-fact. "We're going to eat this last meal. And then we're going to starve to death." She's accepted the inevitable. She's come to grips with how this story is going to end. She's lost all hope.

But Elijah suggests that the story may not quite be over. He says, "The jar of flour shall not be spent and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth." In other words, he tells her that the story isn't going to end the way she thinks it is. God's agenda is different than hers.

As I mulled this story over this morning, I jotted down (yes, I jotted) four thoughts about God's agenda often being different than mine:
  1. God always does that which will bring glory to Himself.
  2. In bringing glory to Himself, God always does what is best for us and what will meet our needs.
  3. God often works out His agenda in ways we might not expect.
  4. God usually works out His agenda in timing we would not choose.
The story almost never ends the way we think it is going to. While we may not always have a Zarephath kind of moment (sometimes God's timing is vastly different than ours), we can rest and be comforted that whatever God is doing in the moment is intricately connected to what He will be doing in 5 weeks, 5 months, 5 years, even 5 decades.

Our hope is not in the expectation that we will get what we want in this moment, but rather our hope is that we will receive all that we need both now and in the days to come, but especially when our adoption is made complete at the end of time.