This Old House

We invested time, money, and sweat equity there. It represented memories, a chapter in our lives, and all the ups and downs that go with that chapter.

Billie Sue and I both get a melancholy feeling when we go back from time to time to make sure its clean for the realtor to show it to prospective buyers. It represents sixteen years of our lives.

We sometimes reflect on leaving our house in Benton to move to our current house in the Village. But our three-year-old grandkids, Molly, Maggie, and Asher, punched us with perspective!

Guess how many times they mentioned missing the old house they used to visit? Guess how many times they said they wished they could go back there?

Zero!

They haven’t missed it at all! They came at Christmas and this past weekend and they just wanted Gram and PawPa’s lap. They wanted to play with Gram and PawPa. They wanted to go fishing with PawPa. They wanted to go for walks with US!

It didn’t matter what house we were in. They wanted to be with US. What a joy that brings to a grandma’ and grandpa’s heart to have their warm bodies close and happy to be with US, not a house.

The number one, most mentioned, topic in the Bible shows up thousands of times. The New Testament uses three Greek words translated by this one English word.

  • Eros refers to marital or sexual passion. We get our English word erotic from it.
  • Phileo refers to friendship or family cohesion. The name Philadelphia finds its root here.
  • Agape refers to an ultimate, sacrificial commitment.

It is this third word, agape, John uses here for love:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:15-16 ESV

As a grandparent I would be broken-hearted if my grands wanted our old house more than they wanted our laps! Maybe that’s an inkling of what God is trying to say to us in this verse.

Do you think God is broken-hearted when we love this world instead of loving Him? It is not about where we are but Who we are with!

Our Father, forgive us for loving this old world instead of loving You. We have broken Your heart when we have loved this old house instead of loving your lap. We commit  today to loving Your Presence instead loving this world and its stuff.

Crunching the Numbers

Why would a large crowd keep showing up? I believe people will not tolerate long the “guilt-trip.” A large crowd will keep showing up because there’s something really good that draws them.

It is easier pulling a rope than pushing a rope. That’s an odd mental picture, huh? “Guilt-tripping” people is like trying to push a rope.

People flock to a challenge, a vision, or goal which is valuable to them. That’s like pulling a rope.

Ministry leaders, like me, often evaluate what we do by the numbers. Over 500 people attended our Christmas music presentation in the two services! Good job choir, Bro. Jim, musicians, and media techs!

Generous people knocked the top out of our $25,000 goal to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and gave almost $39,000! Our international missionaries, numbering over 4,000, sacrifice to stay on the field in other countries to share the gospel. You spoke loudly with this great offering to keep them there and send more!

I like numbers. In high school I took every math class offered: Algebra I and II, Geometry, and Advanced Math. There’s something about crunching cold hard numbers I liked.

Jesus attracted some very large crowds. On one occasion he fed 5,000 men.  Assuming women and children were there too, the number could have been twice that!

I like numbers. Hey, there’s a book in the Bible called “Numbers.” Every number represents a person who God loves and Jesus died to save. Numbers serve a purpose.

So I’m amazed at what Jesus does when a large crowd shows up. Instead of giving away a free bicycle to the one who brings the most friends to the next meeting, look what He does:

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:34-35

Jesus did not come just to attract a crowd. He came to transform lives. He did not come to entertain adoring fans. He came to die a horrible death for sinful people.

Then, He invites us to die too! I imagine when he equated following Him to a Roman crucifixion, the crowd got smaller.

William Carey, the cobbler who became a great Baptist missionary to India said,

The worth of souls, the pleasure of the work itself, and above all the increase of the redeemer’s kingdom are with me motives sufficient, and more than sufficient to determine me to die in the work that I have undertaken.”

Our Father, Your total sacrifice for us through Your Son Jesus Christ keeps us in awe! Lord we lay our lives on the cross with you. Use us for your will and purpose.

Smoke & Mirrors

Maybe if I sacrifice some time and go to church this weekend, it will “make-up” for being dishonest with the grocery store clerk.

Perhaps I can sacrifice some TV time and pray an extra five minutes and read a whole chapter in the Bible instead of asking forgiveness from my relative for how I offended her.

I think I’ll sacrifice and give a little extra cash in the offering plate this Sunday to compensate for not following through on that commitment I made to help.

One of the first verses I memorized as a child was Exodus 20:12,

“Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD they God giveth thee.” 

Jesus dealt with some religious people of his day who “dedicated” their money to God as a religious “sacrifice” to justify not having to use it to care for their parents (click here to see Matthew 15). These very religious people justified breaking the command, “Honor your father and your mother” with a religious act of “sacrifice.”

It was religious “smoke and mirrors.” And Jesus saw right through it!

The LORD is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer Him sacrifices. Proverbs 21:3

God would rather we do what is just and right instead of trying to substitute some religious act or “sacrifice.”

A religious act is something we can do without dying to self. It is our tendency to avoid being crucified with Christ.  Galatians 2:20 says:

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

But to do the right and just thing requires us to die to self. It is precisely at the point of dying to self that Christ can live in and through us. Paradoxically the more we try to gain life the more we lose it.  The more we lose our lives for Christ’s sake, the more we gain real life.

Losing our lives for Christ will always interrupt and inconvenience our controlled religious life.

Do you remember those old TV announcements, “We interrupt regular programing to bring you this important announcement?”

Christ cannot live through us if we keep getting in the way. We must allow him to interrupt our regular, religious programming in order for him to do the right and just thing through us. For the resurrected Christ to live in and through us we must get on the cross and die to self.

Our Father, forgive us for substituting religious things for the resurrected life. Come and live through us as we die to ourselves.

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