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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A Loose Grip

Golf experts write a lot about how to grip a golf club. The tighter you grip the club the more likely you will hit a bad shot.

My brothers have ski boats that create huge wakes. We use a small surf board to actually surf on those wakes. The more relaxed you can stay the more likely you will be able to surf successfully.

The more you try to squeeze, hold, and demand the love of your grandchild, the more likely they are to push away. There is a delicate balance of letting go with love in order to receive the returned affection we grandparents crave so much!

The abundant life we all want comes much the same way. We attempt to buy it, build it, store it, accumulate it, get healthy enough to have it, work out enough to get it, yet abundant living alludes us.

This morning Paul’s words struck me to the core. Paul held a loose grip on life. He relaxed on the surf board God had given him. He didn’t seek to squeeze, hold, and demand that life serve him.  The apostle Paul said:

But I do not account my life of any value or as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24 ESV

What a powerful statement! Notice how he summed up what he valued more than his life on this earth. He loosened his grip on life to:

  1. Do God’s will: “if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus” and
  2. Tell the Good News: “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

Jesus said:

Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.  Luke 17:33 ESV

Our Father, we hold on so tightly to this world and the things in it. Help us today to lose our lives for You and the gospel. Forgive us for holding on to the things that will pass away while ignoring the things that will last forever. Help us to let go of life so we may do Your will, share the good news of Jesus, and find Your abundant life.

 

Two-a-Days

Two-a-day’s. Boy, do I have vivid memories of two-a-day’s! In grades 8-12 I played football.  Every August we had an early morning practice and a late afternoon practice for two weeks.  We called those grueling, exhausting, get into shape, felt like we were going to die, football practices two-a-days.

Many times I wanted to quit! But the old football coach’s slogan would ring in my head, Quitters never win! Winners never quit!

How many times have you heard someone say, “Don’t give up!”  How many times have you have said it yourself?

How many times have each of us thought about giving up or wanted to give up?

The apostle Paul certainly had many reasons to give up in his life.  He was run out-of-town, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, snake bit, flogged, imprisoned, rejected, chained, starved … well, you get the picture.

Yet in the letter to the Philippians, while he is in prison, he gives one of the greatest pep talks in Scripture!

And then in the letter to the Galatians he tells them, “Don’t give up!”

So, let’s not get tired  of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone – especially to those in the family of faith. Galatians 6:9-10 NLT

Monday, I was on the receiving end of those who didn’t give up. The Disaster Relief Team showed up at my house to cut, haul, trim, and clean up … for four hours!  Thanks Gary Moore, Bill Gibbons, Harry Partlow, Jay Dirksen, Glen Barr, Dave Finton, and David Merkle!

I was humbled to be served by a group of Christian brothers who expected nothing in return.

So, let’s not get tired of doing what is good. Give God the glory in it. God will see to the harvest of the work, so trust Him. Now, don’t give up! I know you will feel like giving-up sometimes, but take each opportunity God puts into your day today, and do something good to someone. Especially do good stuff for your fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ!

Our Father, thank-you for doing good for us by sending Your Son Jesus to die for us and give us grace, forgiveness, and eternal life. Help us today to do good stuff just because we should and expect nothing in return. Thank-you for the promised harvest You will give in Your perfect timing.