Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween Candy and the Freedom of God's Law

Halloween makes me think about candy.  I like to eat candy. I like to eat candy a lot. At my worst, I binge on all kinds of candy and end up making myself sick. Afterwards, Leah gets irritated with me and I regret the candy binge.

To be clear: candy is not bad in and of itself. In fact, candy is really great. For me, candy eating simply needs some rules. Rule number one: only eat one or two pieces of a candy at a time. Rule number two: only enjoy candy on special occasions. These rules actually help me enjoy a really great thing like candy. They also free me from the sickness that comes with the abuse of candy.

Concerning much more important things, God has given us rules to help us enjoy good things too. They are called the Ten Commandments. God works through them to help us enjoy God’s blessings to the fullest. 

It is not as if God is a killjoy who gives us instruction to rob us of fun. It is just the opposite. God gives us instruction to help up enjoy all that God has blessed us with.

James 1:25 says, “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it--not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it--they will be blessed in what they do.” God’s law does not take enjoyment from God’s people, but actually frees us for enjoyment.

As you go through the coming week, find the blessings in God’s instruction. Enjoy relationship with God as you worship God alone. Enjoy the people God has placed in your life as you honor them. As you do, you will be blessed by all the blessings God has given. You will also avoid the sick stomach that comes with a candy binge.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


Leah and I have a twenty-month-old little girl living with us. She learned a new word in the past few weeks. She says, “Mine!” When taking her seat on the couch, she says, “mine!” When she grabs her blanket: “mine!” When fighting over a toy with her brother: “mine!” She wants to tell everyone that everything is hers.

Most of the time, her possessive declarations are good spirited. Sometimes, they are not. Rather than enjoying what she has, she wants to make sure others have not. “Mine” becomes a way of saying, “Not yours!”

I am sure many adults can relate. At our worst, we want to make sure our adversaries don’t have. We want to take from others in order to win rather than focusing on and enjoying all that we already have.

The scriptures call us away from such an impulse. Acts 20 says, “It is better to give than to receive.” Our possessions are not to be lorded over those who don’t have. Our possessions should be enjoyed as a blessing for others.

This week, see how your possessions can bless others. Loan out a tool. Take a loved one to lunch. Give a friend in need a ride. As you do, you’ll see that what is “mine” is not necessarily intended to be all about “me.” What is “mine” is intended to glorify God as a blessing for others.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Disobedient Children and God's Embrace

There is an old Jewish legend about a boy named Mortakai who refused to go to school and study the word of God. Mortakai’s parents tried to force the boy. It didn’t work. They hired a psychiatrist to evaluate the boy and got even fewer results. Mortakai determined to avoid faithful study.

Exasperated, Mortakai’s parents took the boy to see their rabbi. The parents emotionally explained the problem.  The rabbi didn’t say a word, but picked the boy up and held him closely to his chest. He rocked the boy back or forth for a time, humming a sacred song. After some more time, the Rabbi softly handed the boy back to his parents. From that point on, the boy displayed a genuine interest in learning God’s word and had no problem attending school.

In a way, that simple story is a beautiful illustration of how God’s people relate to God’s instruction. We rail against (and even avoid) God’s direction until we experience God’s embrace. By incredible grace, God draws us close and holds us, allowing us to experience God's love in relationship. After experiencing that embrace, we have an earnest desire for God’s instruction.

That is also the heart of the Psalm writer who writes, “Your statutes are wonderful, therefore I obey them. The unfolding of your word gives light. It gives understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. Turn to me and have mercy on me as you always do to those who love your name,” (119:129-132).  Because God always turns to us in loving mercy, we long to know God’s instruction.

As you go through the coming week, study God’s word. Soak up God’s instruction. As you do, remember God’s loving embrace. God has saved you by grace so that you might know God in relationship. That embrace makes the most obstinate of children lovers of the word.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

God and a Good Job

Chariots of Fire is a movie that tells the story of a missionary-turned-track star named Eric Liddle. In the movie, Eric’s sister scolds him for neglecting missions work in order to run in the Olympics. Eric tells his sister, “…when I run, I feel (God’s) pleasure.” The track star senses that doing something well honors God.

That is a beautiful depiction of how God views the work of God’s people. Though we sometimes dread Monday mornings, our trade/craft/professional life can be a way we experience God. God is honored when we do things well for God's glory.

In Colossians, the Apostle Paul suggests that all work is ultimately done for God. The Apostle writes, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,” (Colossians 3:23). Work is a means for honoring God, not people. When we gain experience and do something well, we may indeed sense God’s presence and feel God’s pleasure in the process.

As you go through the coming week, look for opportunities to do something well. As you excel in your trade or craft, pay attention to the spiritual life. God is with you. God is empowering you. God delights in the skills, gifts and abilities God gave you. Working for God's glory, may help you experience that God is pleased with a job well done.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Preach What You Practice

People say things like “practice what you preach” a lot. I think, generally speaking, the sentiment is good. Doing the things we say people should do lends credibility to the things we say. The behavior reveals our convictions and, thus, supports the ideas we promote.

Less often, people say, “Preach what you practice.” We don’t usually tell people to talk about the behavior they believe in. We usually encourage people to allow their behavior to speak for itself.

Yet, the scriptures teach us to preach what we practice. In 1 Peter 3, the Apostle teaches the church to respond to mistreatment with good behavior and blessings. The Apostle suggests that such behavior begs for an explanation. The Apostles tells the church to be ready and eager to give one: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,’ (3:15). In other words, be ready to preach what you practice with gentleness and respect.

As you go through the coming week, look for opportunities to explain God honoring, faithful behavior. If a co-worker asks, “Why do you do that?” Tell them, “Because it honors Jesus….because I love Jesus!” As you do, you will find easy, ordinary opportunities to share your faith with the world around you. You will also have a chance to preach what you practice in the power the Holy Spirit.