Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Counterfeit Counterfake

Charles Swindoll reported the following story (Growing Deep in the Christian Life, p. 159-60):

Several years ago, in Long Beach, California, a fellow went into a fried chicken place and bought a couple of chicken dinners for himself and his date late one afternoon. The young woman at the counter inadvertently gave him the proceeds from the day-a whole bag of money (much of it cash) instead of fried chicken. After driving to their picnic site, the two of them sat down to open the meal and enjoy some chicken together. They discovered a whole lot more than chicken--over $800! But he was unusual. He quickly put the money back in the bag. They got back into the car and drove all the way back. Mr. Clean got out, walked in, and became an instant hero. By then the manager was frantic. The guy with the bag of money looked the manager in the eye and said, "I want you to know I came by to get a couple of chicken dinners and wound up with all this money. Here." Well, the manager was thrilled to death. He said, "Oh, great, let me call the newspaper. I'm gonna have your picture put in the local newspaper. You're the most honest man I've heard of." To which they guy quickly responded, "Oh no, no, don't do that!" Then he leaned closer and whispered, "You see, the woman I'm with is not my wife...she's uh, somebody else's wife."

Before we jump all over the counterfiet counterfake, we might take time to realize that we are often living two lives ourselves. There is the normal, God-fearing, respectful life we live. Then there is the tempted, dark, sinful life we war against coming to be. This is why good deeds aren't enough. Our good deeds cannot make up for our transgressions. Is there really such a thing as citizen of the year? I say that citizen is a sinner, an individual in need of a merciful, gracious, and longsuffering God!

In a sense there is a part of us that hinges on being a forgery, a fake, a phony. But with God's help we can be less of that person and more like God. "Sweet will of God, still fold me closer, till I am wholly lost in Thee." ~ Leila Morris (1900)

"For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." ~James 2:10

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Right of Refusal

Today I took my son Daniel to McDonald's. After we ordered him a happy meal and me a quarter pounder, we prayed and began to eat. I took one bite and noticed that the burger was not cooked. I am not one to bicker but this was not an edible sandwich. I took the box, burger and all up to the counter and showed the cashier. She apologized and said that this was not an acceptable product. After I went back to my seat another lady came back with a cooked quarter pounder, two free apple pies and a signed card from the manager for a free combo meal. Needless to say I was impressed by the service, even though it was only fast food.

This incident reminded me of the relationship between those who serve and those who receive service. The one rendering the service has the obligation to do what is expected by the recipient. If the service is not acceptable, there is a natural right of refusal. I don't have to go back to McDonald's if I don't want to. I don't have to eat a half-cooked quarter pounder. I have the right to chuck it in the garbage.

Today we are living in a society that only accepts this principle in certain arenas. The problem we are facing with people and their approach to religion is a strange enigma. People are deciding that God will accept them no matter what they do and no matter how they worship. They think that they can take away God's right of refusal. They may be fooling themselves and others who they are dragging along behind, but they are not fooling God and those who read and obey His word.

How many times have you had people tell you that as long as they are doing something with their hearts, God will accept it? Ironically, the same folks who claim that others are speaking for God when they stick to the Biblical guidelines for worship are themselves more than happy to speak for Him. They say, "This is who I am, accept me. If you do not accept me than you do not love me."

This is not service. Service considers the served, not the servant. But before we speak for God ourselves, let's consider this valid principle: The fact that something has been offered from the heart doesn't rob God of His natural right of refusal. God knows what He wants. His word has placed the order. If we offer our own half-cooked religion it is likely He will find a pace for it. I imagine He has a round cylinder of His own.

"If you love Me, keep My commandments." ~ John 14:15

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Are You Secure?

Recently one of my college friends wrote about how her son gives when the offering is collected. They have been telling him that it is time to give money to God. So when the man comes by with the tray and the little boy puts in his money, he says, "There's God!"

Children associate things differently than we do because they do not know all the facts. The great advantage children have (yes, they have an advantage) is that they bear less responsibility. Their roof, meals, and clothes are provided. When it comes to the offering my children put in their money without an ounce of worry. They don't know what a budget is yet. In fact, with great anticipation our 3 year-old begins to say about the offering plate, "Here it comes!"

Adults are often just the opposite. We worry and forget that God takes care of sparrows (Matt. 10:29-32). We know about the house payment, the car payment, and the other bills. Sometimes when we allow Satan to let us care too much about these things, we become insecure in our heavenly treasures. This leads those of us who are adults to express about the offering plate, "Oh no, here it comes!"

Are you secure enough in your relationship to God to give Him what is His without worrying? Perhaps we need to be like that little boy. Perhaps we need to be looking for God.

"Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? ~ Matthew 6:30


The longer I have been in the church the more I realize the importance of unity. Christ prayed for it (John 17:21ff). Paul commanded it (1 Cor. 1:10). When we realize God’s greatness, we are reminded that it has much to do with the perfect unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. John said, “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one” (1 John 5:7).

There is more than one way to be together. Unity and union are not the same thing. Tie two cats together by their tails and throw them over a clothesline. There will probably not be much agreement or peace right away. Some marriages are this way, and sometimes union, not unity, better describes a local congregation of God’s people.

Some congregations are frozen together. They are together, but it is a cold, rigid togetherness. There is little communication, fellowship, or activity going on. Frozen togetherness is not desirable. It leaves people stale and in the back of the proceedings, much like last summer’s catfish, caught but forgotten, too late to thaw out and needing to be removed.

Some congregations are melted together. They have withstood the heat of trial and temptations and have come out on top. Their love for one another, their involvement with each other, and their dedication to the kingdom has united them in an unbreakable bond. Heat added to that which is frozen separates. But heat added to that which has already melted finds new areas for bonding together. The key to melting together is the melting of individual hearts. When hearts are considerate and loving the greatest kind of Christian unity is possible.

How can we achieve such unity? When I come into our assembly I want so much for everyone to be on the same page, loving together, worshiping together, understanding together, and working together. It should occur to each of us that 100 pianos tuned with the same fork are automatically tuned to one another. They are not of one accord because they have been tuned to one another, but are united because of the standard of measurement by which they have been tuned. The Bible is our tuning fork. Every instrument that is willing to yield to this standard can be perfectly united with like instruments. God’s word is the last great hope of unity on the earth.

“But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:17

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Question of the Week

This week's top question was once again brought to us by our 6 year-old son, Luke. You can count on him for a funny quote or a great question at least weekly. For example, being a cub scout, he overheard the question as to whether he would continue on to eventually get to eagle scout. "Evil scout?" "No, Luke, not evil scout, but eagle scout." But this was not the question of the week.

On the way home from lunch Sunday from the back of the van, we heard, "What's an outlaw?" This question was posed to Amber and I. We answered that it referred to someone who acted outside of the law. Of course everyone also gets the idea of old west shoot 'em ups and stagecoach robberies. We explained enough about that for him to get the general idea.

Once again from the back of the van, "Then what's an in-law?" Holding back our desire to laugh loudly we explained that this was entirely different scenario.We told him about how marriage unites families that weren't formerly related. Of course we didn't use that exact terminology, but you can imagine how we got the concept across.

I asked Luke what brought on such questions. "I just wanted to know what they were," he said. This reminds me that our children are always learning new concepts. They depend on us to give them the information they require. How we present things has a lasting effect on their world-view.

If your child asks questions about outlaws and in-laws, I am confident you could answer those questions. But what if your child asked you about salvation, Christ, instrumental music in the worship, prayer, heaven, hell, or something of this nature? Have you equipped yourself with the answer they are depending on?

Or are you an outlaw?

"Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame." ~ 1 Corinthians 15:34