The Nazi Gospel

Arbeit Macht Frei.

“Work makes free.” Or perhaps a better English rendering might be, “Work brings freedom.”

This quote was plastered across the front gate of several concentration camps during the reign of the Third Reich and Nazism in World War II Germany. It was forged by prisoners at Auschwitz (ironically not bringing their freedom), and it was on the gate at Dachau, where I recently had opportunity to visit.

ArbeitMachtFrei

“Work makes [you] free.”

I’m no historian, and I’m certainly no expert on World War II, or Nazism. So allow me to vamp a bit while I engage Hitler’s claim, “Arbeit Macht Frei.

Hitler has become the embodiment of evil in our world. He is the poster child, the author and underwriter of perhaps the most evil chapter in recent world history. His crimes against humanity were vast and horrendous. Surely there were MANY points at which one could challenge his worldview. Engage with his insistence that certain people were “subhuman,” or with his socialistic reforms. Argue against his harsh treatment of humans. But consider if perhaps, the root of his depravity was founded on a much more basic level—a level more common mankind than you might have originally thought.

Arbeit Macht Frei.

At the inception of the Concentration camps was a simple idea. There are some in our society that are less. They are broken in their very nature. They are further from God.

But they can be rehabilitated. If they work hard enough, they can be restored to wholeness within society. Did you know that in the earliest days of Dachau (one of the first—and the first of its size—camps established by Hitler), prisoners were often rehabilitated and released? They were trained how to work to maintain their humanity.

This is not a revolutionary idea. It’s not new, and it wasn’t when Hitler rose to power, either. It is the essence of our humanness. We are given revelation of a God who is bigger and greater than anything we can do or even imagine (Romans 1:20). Even without the Bible to guide us, every culture in the history of the world has had some understanding of “God.” It’s what we call “general revelation.” And even without a Bible, we recognize that there is something “wrong” with us (Romans 2:14-15). That’s why every religion has some concept of “salvation.” Every religion in the history of the world depends on Work [to] Make [you] Free.

Arbeit Macht Frei.

At the core of what Hitler believed was that how hard one worked determined his value. How much one accomplished was tied to one’s humanness. Still today, in every religion except Christianity, salvation is the result of Human hard work. Karma is the gross sum of your acts in this life playing out in the next…and the next (Nirvana may take millions of lives to achieve). In Islam, man is on the tip of a sword and at the judgment and God “flicks” you one way or the other, based on your good deeds. Even if you were “mostly good,” Allah may have a “bad day” and condemn you anyway. You just better do your best. In Old Covenant Judaism, everything hinged on rigid obedience to the Law of Moses. In modern American Christendom—and ironically, atheism for that matter—the message can have a tendency toward moralism, being a “good person,” and doing the right thing.

Arbeit Macht Frei.

But true Christianity is different. Christianity is about a God to whom we owe everything. A God we could never pay back for our short-comings because our lives are already his. The Gospel is about a God that saved us “by grace through faith, not by works so that no one can boast.” Trying to be “good enough” is succumbing to “Arbeit Macht Frei” gospel, which is really no gospel it all.

Religion says “works bring freedom.”

Christ says, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

The bleak end to the story at Dachau is that in short order, prisoners stopped being released. Men, women and children were brought in with the promise that they could work for their salvation, that Work would bring freedom. And all the work they did—the back-breaking, arduous work that was typically overtly and explicitly pointless—only enslaved them further. They were prisoners of their work. Work would never bring freedom, and it was only when the allied troops arrived and showed them grace that the prisoners received freedom.

Arbeit Macht nicht frei; Gnade Macht Frei.

Work does not make you free; Grace makes us free.

Top Seven[ish] Things People Think Are In The Bible (And They Totally Aren’t) [Except some totally are]

A friend shared an article on facebook the other day, and asked for feedback. These are my thoughts; they are probably not complete, but they get the job done. You may want to read the original article before diving into my response. I think two overarching things need to be clear about my response, so keep these in mind as you read:

  1. The author addresses an URGENT problem in our churches. There are so many platitudes floating around in our churches that we rarely stop to examine, many of which we have either spoken ourselves, or heard others speak. Maybe we’ve thought them to ourselves or watched/heard something and thought, “that makes sense.” MANY SUCH STATEMENTS AND CONCEPTS ARE BLATANTLY UNBIBLICAL. We need to be “wise as serpents” and “examine every teaching” to make sure that we are not being led astray by the evil one.
  2. I see this as pretty indicative of where faith in much of America stands. To be clear, I would not call the author a non-Christian, but several of the ideas put forward here are not biblical, as I hope you will see. KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN FOR FALSE TEACHING.

Without further ado, we press onward.

First, the premise:

The opening paragraph and the link in it reveal that this person is probably coming from a relatively liberal position toward Scripture. By that I mean, they probably don’t believe it to be the inerrant word of God, but rather “stories” (a word he uses), with morals, kind of like Aesop’s fables. To correct thisopening paragraph, the Bible IS the only written word of God. To challenge that would be to suggest that other “holy books” should be held with equal weight. No time for that in this discussion. Let’s just say that’s a cliff I’m not willing to dive off.

Onward…

Number 7: The Rapture. Not Biblical!

The Rapture, especially as portrayed by Jenkins and LaHaye in the “Left Behind” series, is not biblical. The article is right that it is a relatively recent view (dispensational pre-millennialism–look it up) of the end times. This view takes a couple of verses and elevates them over the larger body of apocalyptic biblical passages, but even more so, I feel like this view adds so many judgment events that it muddies the waters and fuels the “no one can understand it” fire. Regardless, on this point, many scholars disagree—even professors at the seminary I attend—and it is healthy not to break fellowship over something like this. A more healthy view of the end times is: “be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:44, 25:1-13, 1 Thessalonians 5:2). Christians have been given passages about the judgment not so we can “crack the code” and have some special knowledge, but so that we will prepare ourselves today for the day Jesus comes again.

Number 6: God hates _________. Biblical!

I don’t know if the author is looking for a specific reference to homosexuality (i.e. Westboro Baptist Church) to fill in this blank. If so, that is a much longer discussion for a different day. Allow me to simply address the unpopular notion that God hates things. The Bible is clear that God hates certain things. He hates pagan worship rituals (Deut. 12:31), altars set up to other gods (Deut 16:22), and divorce (in some translations of Malachi 2:16). He hates sin and all who do wrong (psalm 5:5; Psalm 11:5; Lev 20:23), in Proverbs 6:16-19 there is a list of six things “God Hates.”

What’s more bothersome is that the article’s author tries to write off Scripture pretty flippantly by excusing anything that is “judgment, damnation” or Levitical codes…you know, the parts where you might expect to find the things God hates. It is dangerous to pick and choose portions from the Bible we like, because it leads to worshiping our preferences rather than God Himself.

The point here is that God is a holy God, perfect and blameless in every way and cannot be in the presence of sin. Therefore, we are all deserving of punishment, but out of his love for us, he gave us a way to restore relationship with him, namely, letting Jesus become our sin (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) so that there would be no more penalty for us.

NUMBER 5: Everything happens for a reason. Not Biblical!

I actually agree with this one. This can be a sensitive topic because this very line may have provided you comfort in a very rough time. But this is simply not in the Bible. Some things happen for a reason. When that is the case in the Bible, it says so. Also, when that does happen, there isn’t any “I think” language going on. When God speaks, he speaks clearly. God Speaks (Gen 3), Burns a Bush that doesn’t burn up (Ex 3) and then ten plagues (Ex 7-12), Wets a fleece, then wets the ground around the fleece (Judges 6), Sends unquenchable fire (1 Kings 18), Speaks through prophets (“This is what the Lord, The God of Israel Says”), sent his son, and then his spirit, struck men blind (Acts 9), healed the sick and maimed, etc. You get my drift. When God does something “for a reason,” he doesn’t “whisper.”

A better understanding is that there is an evil one. He wants to deceive and discourage those who live in the Truth, and he is “the prince of this world.” Since sin entered the world, it is broken and “subjected to futility” (Romans 8:20). That is why there are natural disasters, broken relationships and pain all around us. However, God works all things (even the bad things that he didn’t cause), for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. . . to be conformed to the likeness of his son.” (Romans 8:28-29). Stuff happens, even things God allows to happen, but they are opportunities for us to trust in him for our peace, which brings me to…

NUMBER 4: God Is In Control. Biblical!

I can kind of get on board with this one not “being in the Bible,” except not really. God is never out of control. HOWEVER, he is not a puppet master, pulling strings. God has two major ways of expressing his will: prescriptive and permissive. Prescriptive will are the things he causes to happen (miracles, creation, the incarnation of Jesus, etc). But other things he Permits to happen. He allows us free will to live our lives because without the freedom to choose, a relationship with him would be meaningless. Anyone who has ever loved someone understands this. Love cannot be compulsory. As a result, God lets things happen and has given us as much evidence as he saw appropriate to point every human back to him (Romans 1-3).

The problem I have with this one is the idea that God was “bested” at the cross. Jesus’ prayers in the garden (for starters) and his many predictions to his disciples of what was to come are are evidence that this was the plan. Not to mention Psalm 22, Isaiah 9, Isaiah 53 just to name a few significant places where Jesus’ life, teaching, death by crucifixion and resurrection is prophesied several centuries before any of it happened.

Yes God’s “will” can be changed, if he wills. He did not set us in action and then sit back to watch the pins fall, but he is active in our lives. The author really tips his hand here to call the Bible a “Story,” because the word implies fiction, which the Bible is not. But that’s probably something we could discuss more in a separate post.

NUMBER 3: “Jesus is my personal savior.” Not Biblical [but let me explain].

I have trouble with this one. To be fair to the author, there is no “magic prayer,” as many, many, many pastors and churches have led Christians to believe. I think that is at the heart of the author’s point. “Accept the Lord into your heart” and “Accept him as your personal savior” are not in Scripture. But Jesus doesn’t just say, “follow the leader,” either. The gospel call is to give our undying allegiance to Jesus as not just our savior but Lord and King. That means he gets priority over everything—literally everything (Luke 14:26)—else. That allegiance is not a decision parents can make for their children. Everyone has to personally choose to die to themselves and follow Jesus. The point he makes here is a good one, though. “Come forward, say a prayer, and be saved forever, whether you ever think about this night again or not” is a seriously anemic message that probably causes more problems than it solves.

On a more theological level, I have become increasingly aware of the corporate nature of the Gospel. Not that individuals are not saved, but the fact that Christ died for the Church (his bride), and many of the verses quoted and claimed for personal peace of mind are not, in fact aimed at a person but a population (Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you” is a plural you. Better to read it, “I know the plans I have for y’all.” Or John 3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that those who believe…” Not to take away personal salvation, but the individualism that the author hits on here is a legitimate concern. Worship is not “Just me and God,” but Jesus and his Church, of which we are all members. God didn’t send Jesus to die for ME and MY sins, he sent him to die for the CHURCH and the sins of the WHOLE WORLD.

But I digress.

NUMBER 2: Jesus died for my sins. BIBLICAL!

No, No, No. This is heresy, and I don’t throw that term around lightly. If there is one item on this list that is “a hill I will die on,” this is it. To say this questions the very bedrock upon which Christianity is founded, and it will lead those who believe it away from Christ.  If he wanted to emphasize “MY,” see the discussion on number 3 about the corporate nature of Jesus’ redemption. But it doesn’t seem this is his point. His argument seems to be that the very idea of Jesus dying to take the penalty for sins is not in the Bible.

Here he goes again, taking the verses that say specifically what he says IS NOT in the Bible, and says we can’t use them to say that it IS in the Bible. This is absurd. Jesus is our atonement (Romans 3:25; 1 Cor 15:1-4), but I don’t need those verses to say that. Look at Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2, or 1 John 4:10. What’s really fascinating is to read the account of the passover (Exodus 12, Leviticus 16) and then consider the ways that Christ is called the “Passover Lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7), the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29), and is portrayed as a lamb through much of Revelation. Also reading Hebrews will help to understand why Christ is the only sacrifice that could cancel the debt in our sins.

Questioning the atonement, which he puts off to another post but makes clear he disagrees with it, is in vogue right now. One author called it “Cosmic Child Abuse.” The more I study the more convinced I am that the Penal (punitive in nature), substitutionary (he died in our place) atonement is the only view that makes sense of the cross. Arguments that Jesus died to set an example are weak, and fail to recognize that he could have more effectively accomplished that purpose without dying and living on instead. This is a complex issue that deserves more space than I can give it in this post, but the crucifixion (specifically) makes no sense without the context of penalty for sin. The cross had to happen so that the wrath of God, his perfect holiness, could be satisfied, while providing a way for his perfect love for his creation to be satisfied as well.

And finally:

NUMBER 1: God only helps those who help themselves. Not Biblical!

This one is spot on. He hits the nail on the head. The gospel is about coming to God in humility and brokenness. Not—as one of the elders at one church where I have served proposed—about us living our lives without “bothering” God and turning to him when we get stuck. That would make God some kind of Genie, or lucky rabbit’s foot or something.

In summary, he’s a little better than 50% right, with four of his 7 (1, 3, 5 and 7) are not in the Bible, at least not explicitly, and the author should be credited on this account.

But 2, 4 and 6 are in the Bible—explicitly—and at least 2 and 4 are central to the Gospel. Take those away and your idea of Christianity become paper-thin, relativistic moralism.

I hope this helps. My point in posting this is to challenge you: when you hear Christian teaching, do you accept it as spoken, if it “hits you right,” or “seems to make sense?” OR do you saturate your life in the Word of God so that you are able to refute those who oppose true teaching (Titus 1:9). To close, I will leave the following thought from Paul to Timothy:

“If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to Godly Teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing

My prayer is that we won’t be seduced.

God Bless.

Addicted – Day 1

Sweet, serendipitous irony.

Monday, I tweeted this:

Now, on Wednesday, I am trying to get off coffee.

My foot tastes great, by the way. The following series will be my thoughts as I detox from America’s most socially acceptable addiction.

Where did this come from?

On Monday, everything was as usual. I loved coffee (don’t get me wrong, I still do). My morning routine would typically involve half a pot of coffee, followed by a cup of tea in the afternoon and, often times, one at night. I take in a lo-o-ot of caffeine (roughly 750mg daily. Compare that to a Mayo Clinic study saying anything over 500mg/day can cause health issues. Yikes). I love my morning cup.

But lately I’ve been getting some headaches. Bad ones. They come pretty suddenly, and they seem to happen pretty commonly on days when I drive – and brew an extra couple of cups for a travel mug.

So Monday I’m joking about how great coffee is and Tuesday I am suffering what is yet another headache and wondering what could be the culprit.

By this morning – Wednesday –  I was ready to swear it off forever.

This afternoon was rough. I was foggy, I was groggy and I was simply positive that any sudden movements would cause my head to split open. At some point, nausea started in and I felt like I was going to throw up. This sure sounds like drug detox to me.

So here we are.

Let’s be honest

Ok, a little perspective, here. There is nothing wrong with coffee. In fact there have been many studies showing its benefits when used in moderation. Not only that, I’m not driving a vehicle in an “altered” state and caffeine doesn’t fall under any kind of list of dangerous chemicals. I am able to write this in my right state of mind. I’m not a druggy, and I am confident beyond doubt that those suffering from “real” addictions and experiencing “real” detox and withdrawal symptoms have it far, far, far worse than I. The last thing I would want to do is trivialize those people’s stories.

But what I am feeling is real and medically proven, nonetheless. Today has been miserable (on a physical level). And somewhere in the daze of feeling like my head is going to explode and reflecting on the dependency my body has built up to this substance, I had a thought:

What if we were addicted to Christ the way we get addicted to other things?

Before you push back at “addiction” and “Christ” being in the same sentence, think about it.

I depend on coffee. Coffee is among the first thing my mind is thinking about when I get up. I don’t see the world clearly (at least I don’t feel I do some days) until I have applied coffee. When I don’t get it, it feels like there is something seriously awry in my day. I crave it until I can find a way to fit it into the schedule. It’s built into the fabric of my life. It is one of the few areas where I have enough foresight to predict running out, sure to make provisions so that my coffee habit doesn’t get compromised.

So it should be with our relationships with Jesus. This is the idea I hope to flesh out over the next several days.

Caffeine Journal:

  • Day: 1
  • Intake: 2 cups of tea, one black tea, one white. I also had about 130mg in a couple of Excedrin.
  • Symptoms: Killer headache, Nausea (but no vomit – YAY!), drowsiness, lethargy, general unpleasant demeanor.
  • Weakness: Afternoon. I was trying to go cold-turkey. Bad idea. The afternoon brought tea and medicine to ease pain.
  • In A Word: Mack (as in, “I feel like I’ve been hit by a Mack Truck.”)

I could use some camaraderie here. Have you ever given up caffeine? Share your experience below.

[Photo Credit: Stirling Noyes via Compfight cc]

Three Lessons for the Start of Lent

[Credit where it’s due: The inspiration for this post comes from a recent sermon from Pastor Tim Lucas at Liquid Church in New Jersey. Listen to/watch their Lent sermon series HERE]

With yesterday’s celebration of Ash Wednesday, the season known as “Lent” has officially begun. Lent is a 40-day period (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter, meant to represent the 40-day period that Jesus spent in the desert at the onset of his public ministry (Read the story here).

While in the desert, we are told that Jesus fasted, and so one of the most notable markers of Christians celebrating Lent is selective fasting for forty days — giving up any number of things for the forty day period. Some examples of the most common items are listed below (based on twitter #lent hashtags, source: Christianity Today):

Most common things being given up for lent; size represents frequency.

Giving something up can be a great thing. Denying our fleshly desires and using that energy to focus on God can be a great spiritual discipline. But I think this story teaches a couple other lessons, and that all believers would do well to glean some wisdom from this narrative. (For reference purposes, I will be following Matthew’s account of the story).

THE SPIRIT DID THE LEADING (4:1)

The first fact we see in this story is that Jesus was led by the spirit, for the purpose of being tempted. If the Spirit would lead Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, he might similarly lead us into times of dryness. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in your weakness.” We shouldn’t live our lives focusing on staying within a comfortable situation, assuming that trouble is always the Devil’s doing. The devil doesn’t show up in this story until the end of the 40 days. Before that it was just a time of hardship. Times of dryness and periods in the “valley,” offer Christians opportunities to feel their own weakness and rely on God’s strength.

SATAN USED SCRIPTURE (4:6)

We need to be seriously watchful against this. Satan knows the Bible, and probably better than you or I. He knows his opponent, has advanced scouting reports and has watched lots and lots of game film. Don’t take him lightly.

Seriously, though, it needs to be pointed out that Satan knows what the Bible says, and in this story he shows that he is okay with mangling it to serve his purposes. He doesn’t say anything that’s unbiblical, but he tries to apply it to meet Jesus’ personal desires. Likewise, as we approach all kinds of cultural issues, we can see many people support their agenda with Scripture but often times they don’t take into account what the whole of Scripture has to say on the topic.

Sometimes it can be a great thing to challenge the “establishment.” But we must be cautious of Scripture being used to push our own agendas. Lies are simply false statements, but deceptions are lies wrapped in truth. Satan is a master deceiver. Be wise in how you accept these arguments and ground yourself in the Biblical text first.

JESUS DIDN’T HAVE A BIBLE WITH HIM

This isn’t explicit. But it doesn’t say that he said, “Wait a minute, Satan, let me look up what the Bible says about this before I respond.” Jesus had internalized Scripture. He knew the tempter’s schemes, and he had Scripture ready to go at every turn. When temptation strikes, it can be a great thing to turn to the Word. If it’s not available, though, you’re in trouble. Believers should know what they believe. We should be ready to combat Satan and his lies. We should invite God’s spirit to speak through us by verbalizing his Words on our lips.

Lent would be a great time to start building an arsenal for just such occasions. There will be times when you feel exhausted from the desert you’ve been going through, and that is when Satan will wish to deliver your final blow. God’s wisdom is the sword with which we fight back.

I hope these lessons give you something to think about  as we start this Lenten season this year.

What about you — how are you celebrating Lent this year?

Sinking your boat is not catching fish!

Sunken Row Boat

I’m not a fisherman. But I don’t think that scuttling the boat you’re in counts as a legitimate fish-catching strategy.

Jesus calls his disciples “Fishers of Men.” One of the most important ideas in fishing is that of bringing the fish up out of their world and into one distinctly different. The last century has been defined by Christians sitting in their metaphorical boat pouring water into it, trying to “make it attractive” for all the “fish” they’re hoping to catch.

But here’s the thing: If you scuttle the boat, you didn’t catch the fish — they caught you!

CHANGING TIMES

The Church at large is facing challenges. These aren’t new challenges, they just look new. As we move forward, we must figure out how to be relational and relevant to the world around us, without sinking the boat. I think the key here is the difference between modifying practice and modifying theology.

To change the instrumentation we use in worship is to modify practice. Changing the look and feel of our worship service is changing practice. Changing the methods by which you communicate, or collect offering, or dress for church are all cultural. WHY? Because musical style, communication media and fashion norms are all culturally bound and change with culture.

To change what we believe the Bible to be (i.e. to renounce it as God’s word) is theological. To deny the deity of Christ and make him simply a great moral (read: only human) teacher is to change our theology. These types of changes give more “wiggle room” to those we hope to reach, but it ceases to pull anyone up out of their worldview and into new life. It fails to fish. Softening our theology to reach unbelievers is essentially scuttling our boat and calling the presence of more “fish” around us a successful fishing endeavor.

SHORT DOES NOT MEAN CONCISE

We live in a culture of soundbites. You have 140 Characters to get your point across. Therefore, we must be careful about the message we are sending out. Just because it is short doesn’t make it concise. Concise implies brevity with a successful communication of ideas.

Christian communicators in this century have to take more care to use Lexical Finesse. We must give thought to exactly what it is we mean to say, and then say it well.

The church is facing many, many challenges in its future; we must rise to the occasion to fish for men, rather than scuttling the ship and coming to rest where the fish already are.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the church?

Wounds from a friend can be trusted

Wounds from a friend can be trusted.
But an enemy multiplies kisses.
-Proverbs 27:6

So often we want to surround ourselves with “yes men.” We consider a friend someone who will support us, or be proud of us no matter what. Somehow “loving” one another has become synonymous with “eternally agreeing with (or at least not disagreeing with) one another.” We hear this type of thinking all the time, especially from more progressive folks in the church. “God is love. Why would I say something to someone that would offend them? That’s not very loving.” Or we’ll hear, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”

Jesus did come to preach God’s love. But he was plenty blunt about sin, too. He delivered “woes” to those who were religiously pious but spiritually dead. He talked about living for God. Jesus defined love in what he taught. And the picture that he painted was one where love is a verb, not a mushy-gushy feeling “inside our hearts” for one another.

His Church is here to spur one another to holiness as the primary vehicle to love. We are to be a community (not a collection of individuals) who grow more like Christ and help one another do the same. The most loving thing you can do for someone, sometimes, is to call them out on their junk.

WOUNDS FROM A FRIEND CAN BE TRUSTED

Sometimes, as a friend, you need to tell your friend when they are out of line. If you are working with a neighbor in math class classmate going astray, the loving thing is to look out for their best interest and correct them, not let them do it their way. Those assignments are going to be graded! The loving thing, when you see a friend in an unhealthy relationship is to share your concerns in love, because you don’t want them to be hurt. When a friend is texting and driving, the loving thing is to do or say what you can to remove them from harm’s way and get their eyes on the road.

The key is that these have to come from a friend. It has to be an “I’m concerned for you” conversation, not a “Be better, like me” conversation. I believe this is the key to Christian confrontation. Another thought: to judge a person’s behavior as sinful or not in line with the Bible is not the same as judging the eternal destination of their soul based on that behavior. As long as the prior is done with an acknowledgement that I also behave in all sorts of ways that are inconsistent with the Bible, we’re good. It’s when we say, “you need to fix the sin in your life,” and fail to acknowledge the sin in ours that we run into trouble.

The Bible is the most honest book ever written. It is going to present views that we find hard to swallow. “Love” is not being silent when we see someone straying into a harmful situation, but lovingly expressing concern for them. Being honest. It might hurt, but a wound from a friend can be trusted.

AN ENEMY MULTIPLIES KISSES

History would tell us that we when we surround ourselves with people that agree with us, we set ourselves up for failure. We need people to remind us when we are drifting into incorrect thinking and action. This goes for behavior but also things like worldview and theology. I could metaphorically adorn you with “kisses” and tell you that your ideas are all great, but a survey of most people’s High School careers would suggest that doesn’t lead anywhere good.

If all I hear from someone is positive, I don’t trust their opinion for fear they are just puffing me up.

If I get criticism when it’s deserved, it makes me think, makes me better, and builds trust with that person.

Don’t surround yourself with “yes men.”

Where do you find it tough to “speak the truth in love?”

God’s Will For You Today!

“Be Joyful Always; Pray Continually; Give thanks in all circumstances. This is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.” -1 Thessalonians 5:17

I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s will lately. Everyone wants to know God’s will, and wants to wait for him to show it to them. There is a crucial lesson for Christians to learn. Jesus taught it, Paul reiterated it. I’ve condensed it here. It comes from Luke 19:11-26. It’s the Parable of the Ten Minas. Click the link and read the parable before you go on.

I’ve been thinking about how practical God is in the way that he guides us. The principle in this parable is that those who can be entrusted with a little will also be trusted with a lot. How sensible! This should ring true with any parent, project leader, administrator, business owner, or anyone else who is in a position of authority over others. When you have a task that needs to get done but the person to whom it is assigned falls through, you would never turn around and give them a BIGGER task! At the very least you would give them another task of similar size and start training them up in responsibility, follow through, diligence, etc. Someone that cannot fulfill the most menial task would be destined to fail if they were assigned something much bigger.

God works the same way. Sometimes it’s financially, as on the surface of this parable. As you are a faithful steward of your resources, you will find your money going farther and, in some cases, strange blessings will come your way because you are wise, disciplined and faithful. God says that if you are wise with a little, the same principles will lead you to wise choices when you have a lot. If you are foolish with a little, you would likely be foolish if you suddenly had plenty.

This parable goes deeper, though, and God treats our spirit the same way. We often want to know God’s specific plan, or his will in the particulars of life. We want to know what he has in store for us — where to go next, what to do next, etc. Maybe you are not in a time of spiritual plenty. Maybe you want more from God. You want him to reveal himself, or for a spiritual relationship with him to just “happen.” This parable teaches us that you have to be faithful with what you’ve got. Are you busy? You will always be. Make time for God now. Make him a priority now. Are you financially strapped? That will likely not change too much unless you start changing your money principles now. Do you not feel like God is close? Do things to close the gap and build that relationship now. Don’t wait for him to talk to you out of the clouds. Be a faithful steward of the position you are in today.

1 Thessalonians tells us, plain as day, “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will in Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). God may have remarkably specific plans for you, but his will for all of us is that we find contentment and trust in him. Be joyful. Pray continually. Be thankful for your present circumstance. When you prove that you can be trusted with a little, God will often begin to entrust much more to you.

What is it about this simple teaching that seems so difficult?