Joy in Jesus

Contentment

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Philosophy of Decision Making

Christianity needs a philosophy of decision making. Perhaps that is too weak. Maybe it should be a Theology of discernment.  But whatever you do, don’t call it a doctrine of judging. A lot of Christians already have this, and personally I think they have it wrong.

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:1-6 (HCSB)

Those who have a doctrine of judging will often quote the first verse of this passage. Because of the one verse they decide Christians are never to judge others. I believe another aspect of this false doctrine comes from the fact the world often accuses the church of judgmental practices.

This passage in one light is telling us not to make hypocritical judgments, which would be judgmental. But we Christians, when we counter a problem such as this, we tend to swing too far in the other direction. The common doctrine of judging is to make no decision at all in regards to other people.

For example, I am told by some when a person comes to the church asking for financial assistance I should always give it, rather than making a decision whether this is the right opportunity to assist. I reject this idea for two reasons, first it leaves God out of the process. I expect God to lead me. I am His servant, not a servant of circumstances.

The second objection is, if I help everyone I will be helping some of them harm themselves. We live in a valley with several life destroying traps people fall into—gambling, meth, alcohol, and pornography are the most obvious. Very often the person asking for assistance got into trouble because they were pouring their life into one of these addictions. I hold no delusions about refusing to fund them being enough intervention to stop their freefall, but I also refuse to give them a push on the way down.

Instead of having a strict rule to never make judgments about others, we need to find a middle line.  A rule which allows us to avoid being judgmental but also allows us not to be dupes. The easiest way to accomplish this is to read the rest of the paragraph, along with the first verse.

Notice the teaching toward the end about dogs and pigs. In order to keep this instruction you will have to make some decision about the person. The statements about the speck and log can also help you to know how to make the decision. I would phrase it this way, make no judgment on others you cannot pass. God will judge you in the same way you judge others, so make sure you use judgments you can pass.  The key word is hypocrisy.

So here are my conclusions, and my philosophy of decision making.

Believers should not put judgments on others in terms of a label they are forever stuck with, because we have been forgiven of our sins which could just as easily have become our labels. Christians are not to judge the behavior of others when we are doing the same things, God promises to stop dealing gracefully with our sin if we fail to deal gracefully with other peoples. People of God should make decisions about resources, when they would be used wisely, such as removing a log, and when they would be wasted, such as casting pearls before swine.

 

Friendships

CoverOn Wednesday’s I promote my book, The Storeroom of the Heart. If we learn and practice the principle, the heart is like a storeroom, everything we put in there will shape and control our future, then we will have a great tool for our spiritual growth.

 

Below is an excerpt from the book. I hope you will be blessed by it. It is available from any source that sells books, such as amazon, your local Christian bookstores can order it for you, or you can get it from the publisher at this link. The Storeroom of the Heart

 

Another important area of change would be social habits. Where we go for our down time and our social gatherings might need to change in order to bust the patterns in our life. For some people it may be important to change their existing circle of friends. Don’t assume this is extreme. Many people in our society have their friendships centered on un-Christian activities such as drinking, drugs, or promiscuity. These friendships may be genuine, but since we cannot be around them without being around the pattern we are trying to escape, we need to change our friends. Be willing to go for overkill to escape the life patterns trying to kill us. I was recently in a class taught by a drug abuse counselor. He stated a user who refuses to change his patterns of who, what, and where will never stop being a user. It is true for other sins as well. If we’re having problems busting our patterns, it may be caused by stubbornly hanging on to things around the pattern that are not actually wrong. But, these side issues empower the negative habits we want to leave behind.

Roadrunner

Roadrunner

The greater roadrunner is common in the Southwest. I love to have them around my house, because they will eat a lot of the venomous desert denizens I don’t want around my house. So all you spiders, scorpions, centipedes, and rattle snakes out there, take note. Trespassers of this nature will be eaten.

Notice the strong beak. It would be unwise to allow one close enough to stab at you with this weapon of choice. But except for very large prey they normally don’t stab, instead they will pick up the victim and beat him to death against a rock.

I also dislike having them around my house because they are opportunistic enough to eat lizards, baby birds, and even unwary full sized animals. I like our lizards, I also like our birds, rabbits, and maybe even the groundhogs. (But not whichever one left the big hole in the middle of the lawn this week.)

Are you noticing a trend here? We humans are prone to like whatever meets our purposes. On the other hand we dislike what we feel is working against us. I suppose it is fair when discussing animals, but it’s not so fair when talking about people.

In the family of God we have to walk a fine line. We are to accept one another including our weaknesses, but while identifying sin. We are to encourage one another to growth and good works, but while avoiding hypocrisy or becoming judgmental.

It is a fine line, and line we will fall off of on a regular basis. But don’t give up the effort, it’s in our effort to walk the fine lines of faith that we find the deeper walk with Christ.

Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one another, according to the command of Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice. Romans 15:5-6 (HCSB)

Political Truth Telling

I am not a fan of the current president, but don’t think this means I enjoy reading every criticism which I find on blogs, facebook, or the press.

Some of the statements I don’t enjoy are childish, others are blatant lies, and yet others are subtle half-truths laced with exaggerations. At first pass these falsehoods might make me laugh, but in the long run they make me cringe.

We have an administration which has given us a multitude of valid points of concern. Taking deceitful stabs at the chief executive is a poor substitute for addressing the genuine issues and hard truths which threaten our nation.

We live in a time when the populace is heavily divided by political ideology. When we fail to communicate clearly, truthfully, and patiently we are expanding this divide.

In the long run, these behaviors encourage our opponents, and those few undecided voters, to dismiss conservative values as irreverent and irrelevant. Communicating the factual problems to them becomes impossible because they associate this perspective with manipulative, immature tactics.

We validate those who would accuse us of drumming up phony scandals, because they can see how much antagonistic data is in fact, phony.

Failure to stick to the facts strengthens the liberal ideologies we should be combating. If we want to turn around the political climate we need to behave better.

We need to see more fact based reporting, and less whining. We must consider the value of presidential actions instead of mocking his every move, whether in the right direction or the wrong. We must communicate the values behind our positions, instead of trumping up the weaknesses of our opponents positions.

Jake’s Miata

Jake was happy. It was the first day of school of his freshman year.  He hadn’t been happy much in the past couple of years, but his mom assured him it went with the age. He had fought an unfamiliar moodiness all through his fifteenth year.

But today he had every reason to be happy. He had passed his driving test and to his surprise is father was allowing him to drive the Miata to school. As he settled down in the seat, his father leaned against the door and said, “Now be careful, don’t let anything distract you.”

He felt great as he headed out the drive. It occurred to him he had plenty of time. Why go straight to school? He could stop at the convenience store and get a snack. He had skimped on breakfast, and besides a lot of students stopped there. The Miata would be a nice tool to raise his rank in the brutal battle for popularity.

As he pulled into the he wondered who he would see, and who would see him.  About that time a cheerleader started out of backseat of one of the cars at the gas pump. Leg first. His eyes drifted to the right to see who owned that leg and cheerleader outfit. Amber Johnson, wow.

When his eyes looked back forward he realized he was going too fast and the front of the store was close.  He screeched to a halt, and felt a shiver gripped his spine. But that turned to embarrassment when he heard giggles from behind him.  Amber and two other cheerleaders were laughing.

He slowly lowered his head to rest on the steering wheel. He thought of what it would have been like to tell his father he had crashed before ever getting to school. The chill on his back grew for a moment, and started to subside.

Then he realized the three girls were standing beside his car staring at him. His head popped up and the shiver was replaced by heat of embarrassment as he felt himself flushing. The top and the window were down. There was nothing to hide behind.

Amber broke the silence and said playfully, “Nice car, if you crash it I might have to hurt you.” The girls giggled their way inside and Jake returned his head to the steering wheel. When he felt his normal color return, he went in.

He grabbed a roll of donuts and chocolate milk, navigating the aisles so as to avoid contact with other students. He was back out of the store before anyone else had noticed him. He sat in the car and enjoyed his food. He wasn’t about to eat while driving. He laid back his head and stared at the blue sky while he chewed.

He felt his car jostle and he looked up to find Amber climbing into the passenger seat. With great, but ungraceful effort he was able to avoid spraying chocolate milk and donuts all over the inside of the car. “Perhaps I had better ride with you to make sure you don’t do anything stupid.”

“uhm, okay. One sec.” He finished the last donut and swallow of milk and threw them into the trash can outside the store. But as he turned around he stopped cold in his tracks. Amber had jumped over to the driver’s seat. His instructions were to not let anyone ride with him, but then again with her driving, he was riding with her, not the other way round. But would he really let her drive his car?

He stood paralyzed for just moment, but when he heard the car start he found his feet, and the passenger seat. “You do have a license, don’t you?”

“Well, no. But I drive my father’s lawn tractor all the time so I am sure it will be alright.” With that she slammed it into reverse and spun the wheels slightly on the way out. Jake had to brace himself with a hand on the dashboard as the other searched for the seatbelt. When he almost had it, the wheels started spinning the other way and they launched into the street without stopping.

The car behind him braked hard and honked. But Jake ignored it, trying to get his hand on the seatbelt while being thrown around inside the car. He finally got it and looked up at Amber who was looking at him rather than the road. “Hang on, it’s distracting when you’re bouncing all over like that.”

The next second the car braked around a right turn, and then accelerated down a residential street. Jake whispered, “Please slow down.” She didn’t and the speedometer climbed past fifty. “Please?”

“Okay.” She said it coldly, but there was nothing nonchalant about the way she locked up the brakes. The car drifted a little sideways, then she dropped it back into first gear and launched into the school lot. She pulled to a stop at the closest parking place, handed him the keys and said. “You might want to talk to that guy that followed us here from the store.”

As she walked away, Jake thought, “What guy?”

He turned around to see his father pulling up behind him.

God’s Only Begotten

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

This passage describes Jesus as the only begotten Son of God. This wording ‘only begotten’ is the translation used in the King James Version for the Greek word (transliterated) monogenes. This word, like many Greek words, is two other concepts joined to form a single idea. In this case it is monos, the word meaning ‘only’ joined with the word ginomai (genes in its parsed form) which is the verb meaning ‘to be born’.

I notice that modern translations have begun to translate the phrase as ‘one and only’. While I need to leave room for the translators to be more educated in translation than I am, I doubt this is a wise move.

The Greek word is a wonderful picture of who Jesus is, the eternal Son of God, who left His thrown to take on human flesh (See John 1:14) in order to demonstrate God’s love (See Romans 5:8) and become our redeemer.

Using the words ‘one and only’ emphasize Jesus’ singularity and uniqueness. That is to say it makes it clear that He is different from all other men, and that He is the only man having this unique relationship with God. But this translation misses the opportunity to express the aspect of incarnation which is also reflected in the word monogenes.

Incarnation is the word theologians use to describe Jesus, who is by eternal nature divine, pouring Himself into a human form and becoming both, human and divine simultaneously. (see Philippians 2:5-7)

Something spectacular was done for us in the sacrificial act of incarnation, long before the sacrifice of the cross. God was fulfilling His love for us when, God the Son, who already was God’s only Son, became born of woman and thereby became God’s only begotten Son.

I think this treasure is hidden by translating monogenes as ‘one and only.’

Integrity vs. Reputation

ICovert’s Wednesday – The day I use to promote my book, The Storeroom of the Heart.  It’s available where ever books are sold, like Amazon, local book stores can order it, Edifying Ink here in Bullhead City has it for sale, and the publisher si.e is also a good spot. Here is that link, and below that is a short excerpt from the chapter on integrity.

This issue of caring what other people think of us is strong in the average person. When we claim we want to be a person of integrity we are often lying to ourselves and to others. What we really want is to be perceived as a person of integrity, rather than to go through the hard work and attention to detail needed to be one. We are prone to believe we are striving for integrity, when what we want is an easy way to enhance our reputation.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vultures are the birds that we see all over the southwest, perhaps more commonly called buzzards.  These birds have an unsavory reputation and for the most part have earned it.  However they have a remarkable ability to soar.

Soaring is flying without flapping but instead the bird uses the movement of the air to provide lift.  Currents, such as thermals, created by the sun hitting a dark patch of earth or the wind cresting a hill are all expertly used to allow effortless flight.

Don’t get me wrong Vultures can fly by the traditional method.  They can flap and take off under their own power, but they would prefer not to, and they are really not well suited for it.  Instead they are born gliders.

For these reasons the flight of a vulture is almost always a matter of cooperation between the bird and the air surrounding it.  When the bird is in good air, such as a updraft, it is a master of the skies.  It will spiral and turn and never exert any effort, like a teenager floating in a backyard pool.  Such is the partnership between vultures and good air.

Put that same bird in dead air and it will begin to struggle, flapping erratically.  In dead air it has to work at flying.  And if it ever happens to find itself in a down draft, the results can be disastrous. Experienced vultures learn to avoid downdrafts at all costs.

Christians should take a lesson from the vultures.  We need to understand how to locate the updrafts for the soul.  One thermal should be our consistent and frequent attendance in the worship services of our church.  God designed the concept of the church for this reason and the specifics of individual churches are quite often fulfilling God’s purposes as well.

Other updrafts would be our prayer life, daily practice of personal worship and fellowship with other believers.  The positive opportunities are limitless.  In every case the good air will cooperate with our Christian walk enabling us to soar a little higher in our faith.  It will empower us to glide gracefully through life.

But recognizing good air is not enough we also need to recognize and admit the power of bad air.  Down drafts can not only lower our heights but destroy our potential.  Contact with blatant immorality can and will rob many believers of their purpose and power.  This is a well common occurrence, and those who see it often wonder how it happened.

The answer is dead air.  In between those great updrafts and those dangerous downdrafts is a section of air that is not moving.  This dead air not openly harmful, but neither is it helpful.  The dead air would be exposure to the ideas of immorality rather than participation in them.  Dead air is what prepares the soul to be tempted by the downdraft.

For example, every time we hear crude language, that is dead air.  It softens our mind to this habit so that later we will be more likely to use vulgarity. Sitcoms that make use of sensual humor are dead air preparing us to be open to sexual immorality.

Once we learn the power these situations have on us, we can decide to avoid them.  Just like the vulture cooperates with the air to soar, we can soar in our service to the Lord.  Consider Philippians 4:8 (NASB) Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 

Economic Indicators

One of the great challenges in today’s economy is measuring its status. Reported statistics have been telling us for a while that the economy is improving. The average person has heard these reports for so long without experiencing any relief that doubts begin to multiply. Perhaps we have been measuring the wrong things.

This morning I heard a newscaster suggest we need to find some new economic indicators. Makes sense to me. In fact, I would like to suggest a few.

The Shopping Index – walk around Walmart, Target, or any other store selling products other than food. Pick up 100 random, non grocery items.  Products like housewares, electronics, clothing, and hardware. Check the labels and count the number of items which are made in the United States. The lower this number gets the deeper trouble we are in.

The Advertising Index – watch and count television commercials. How many out of 100 are real products? Again the lower the number gets the more trouble we are in. But be honest in your count – advertisements for lawsuits, lotteries, TV shows, casinos and disability claims do not count.

The Under-employment Index – Count the number of your friends who have part time employment. Jobs created, unemployment claims and other currently used indicators are missing the point. The more people we know who cannot find employment sufficient to making a living the bigger trouble we are in.

The Assistance Gap – This is the difference in dollars between what the average person makes working for a living and how much more money is spent on the average person receiving public assistance.

The Regulation Hurdle – This is the amount of money an average entrepreneur will have to spend complying with government regulations before being allowed to start a new business. Of course, starting a new business is always difficult, but the higher the regulation hurdle, the less likely new businesses are to succeed.

There it is my, mildly sarcastic, suggestions for new economic indicators.