Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Confusing Messages

There are a number of confusing messages being widely propagated in the world today. Many of these are promoted by well-meaning people who apparently have not considered the logical consequences of their messages. Let’s consider some of these messages.

Drink responsibly. Is this possible? One loses his sense of responsibility when he drinks. Yet, this is the message regularly given in advertisements. By suggesting that a person drink moderately, you are still recommending him to drink. A far wiser counsel is found in the book of Proverbs when it speaks of the affects of alcoholic beverage: At the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper” (Prov. 23:32). A person should make every effort to avoid any amount alcoholic beverages. How can a person be demonstrating responsibility when he is purposely consuming a beverage specifically designed to rob him of his good sense?

Here is another confusing message: Don’t drink and drive. This slogan is widely heard during the holiday season, the high school prom, and other similar events. It serves as a reminder that due to a person’s drinking he loses his alertness and places himself and others in danger if he gets behind the wheel of an automobile. A “designated driver” is recommended; that is, someone who has refrained from becoming inebriated in order to drive the others home. Does this mean that it is okay to drink as long as someone has been designated as the driver for you? That is confusing, because the consumption of alcoholic beverage is just as injurious to one’s health as it is to one’s alertness. In fact, there are spiritual concerns as well. The apostle Paul said that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

Another confusing message is this one: Don’t drink or smoke if you are underage. Are we suggesting that while this is forbidden behavior for minors, it is okay for adults? The truth of the matter is that drinking and smoking are not safe for children or adults. They cause serious health issues. What kind of message is an adult sending to a child when the adult who drinks or smokes tries to correct the child engaging in these same harmful activities? Jesus describes such behavior as hypocrisy and urges us “…to take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Mt. 7:5). In other words, he is saying that we should straighten out our lives in order to be the proper example to others.

Another slogan that is very confusing is this: Practice safe sex. This slogan became prominent when AIDS became a widespread problem in the 1980’s. Parents and schools alike began teaching children to practice “safe sex.” However, if one practices “safe sex,” he must practice sex. Sexual promiscuity not only has physical dangers associated with it; but has emotional and psychological difficulties, also. The only true way to remain safe from sexually transmitted diseases and psychological disorders associated with immorality is to abstain from it. God knew exactly what he was doing when, through the apostle Paul, he instructed, “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). Safe sex involves the unmarried abstaining from immoral behavior and those who are married remaining faithful to one another.

Truly, some familiar slogans are confusing when honestly analyzed. The good news is that the gospel of Christ is not confusing.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Seed

The source of this story is unknown to me; but, as it was shared with me, I shall share it with you. A successful Christian business man was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over his business. Instead of choosing one of his directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together. He said, "It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you."

The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued, "I am going to give each one of you a SEED today -- one very special SEED. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO."

One man, named Jim, was there that day, and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his wife the story. She helped him get a pot, soil and compost, and he planted the seed. Every day, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew.

Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn't have a plant and he felt like a failure. Six months went by -- still nothing in Jim's pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing.

A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection. Jim told his wife that he wasn't going to take an empty pot. But she asked him to be honest about what happened.

Jim felt sick at his stomach. It was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. He took his empty pot to the board room. When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful -- in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed. A few felt sorry for him.

When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives. Jim just tried to hide in the back. "My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown," said the CEO. "Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!"

All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the financial director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified. He thought, "The CEO knows I'm a failure! Maybe he will fire me!" When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed. Jim told him the story.

The CEO asked everyone to sit down, except Jim. He looked at Jim, then he announced to the young executives, "Behold your next Chief Executive! His name is Jim!"

Jim couldn't believe it. "Jim couldn't even grow his seed! How could he be the new CEO?" the others said. Then the CEO said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead! It was not possible for them to grow! All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive!"

     •  If you plant honesty, you will reap trust.
     •  If you plant goodness, you will reap friends.
     •  If you plant humility, you will reap greatness.
     •  If you plant perseverance, you will reap contentment.
     •  If you plant consideration, you will reap perspective.
     •  If you plant hard work, you will reap success.
     •  If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation.
     •  If you plant faith in God, you will reap a harvest.

So, be careful what you plant; it will determine what you will reap.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Lamb of God

Jesus is eternal, yet He clothed Himself with human nature for a while and walked among us.  In so doing, He experienced the frailties and limitations of mankind.  He thirsted, was hungry, grew tired, experienced pain, and was limited by time and space.  It is amazing that, though Jesus was involved in the creation of the universe (John 1:1-4) and enjoyed a glorious relationship with the other two members of the Godhead, He left heaven and came to earth and lived as a human being for 33 years.  His story remains the most intriguing and compelling story in history.

We are introduced to Him at a very critical moment in history. Adam and Eve had sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil that was in the midst of the Garden of Eden. At that moment the blight of sin was introduced to the human race and God cast Adam and Eve out of the garden. Their sin carried the penalty of death, both physically and spiritually. However, in His mercy and compassion for man, God promised a Deliverer who would inflict a fatal blow to Satan, man's adversary (Genesis 3:15). This Deliverer was Jesus Christ.

Every event recorded in the Old Testament proved that man needed a deliverer. He found it impossible to live above sin. At one point, man's wickedness became so great that God was grieved that He had made him (Genesis 6:5-6). He sent a flood upon the earth and destroyed all human life except that of righteous Noah and his family. The animal sacrifices that man was instructed to offer as atonement for his sins were totally inadequate. It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin (Hebrews 10:4). Not even the Law God gave Israel on Mt. Sinai could deliver man from sin (Acts 13:39), for that law demanded perfect obedience and man is incapable of living such a life.

This situation produced a real dilemma. The cry of man’s soul became, "How can I, a sinful creature, escape suffering the consequences of my sins?" The blood of animals offered upon a thousand altars could not accomplish that need. Neither could he escape the condemnation of sin by observing the Law of Moses because he could not keep it perfectly. If we listen carefully, we can hear that same cry of the human soul today.

The answer to the cry is found in Jesus Christ alone. "In none other is there salvation; for neither is there any other name under heaven given among men wherein we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Jesus willingly left the place of glory and honor in heaven with His Father and came to this earth as a bond-servant and was made in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:5-7). He was born to poor parents in a stable. Yet, He has made many spiritually rich. He never owned a piece of real estate where He might lay His head. Yet, He has comforted many and provided them rest for their soul. He was not a world traveler. Yet, He has affected the world as no other person has ever done. He allowed Himself to be ill-treated by man and become the object of scorn. He was shamefully treated and ultimately crucified on a cross. Why? Because, being a sinner, man could not save himself. Jesus died in our place. What a Savior!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Main Problem

My good friend, Ken Joines of Memphis, TN, reminded me of a statement Jesus made, "…a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Luke 12:15).  Ken observed that we have not fully bought into that truth yet.  We have problems!  Big ones!!  There are economic problems; social, educational, domestic, and moral problems.  Yet, there is one main problem that underlies all the others.

Today poor people in American enjoy things that were far beyond the reach of even kings only a few generations ago.  We have radios, TVs, cell phones, and computers.  We produce far more grain than we eat or sell. We're able to produce more of nearly everything than we can use.  Everything, that is, except human servants.  We need more doctors, nurses, and teachers than the schools can turn out.  Is there something amiss in a nation that can produce more "things" than we can use or sell and yet fail to produce even the minimum requirements in human servants?  Most of us drive nicer cars, live in better houses, and wear nicer clothes than our grandparents did.  But the nagging question is: Am I a better person than my grandparents were?The fact of the matter is that you cannot measure spiritual and moral progress by the fine houses in which we live or the number of possessions we have obtained.

A disturbing contradiction is taking place.  At a time when we are producing more of everything than we need, crime is higher, divorce is more prevalent, out-of-wedlock births are higher, and pornography and juvenile crimes are off the charts.  One out of every thirty-one people is an alcoholic.  Strangely, we shoot mad dogs but license the liquor dealer!  We claim to be the most civilized nation on earth and yet more than 50 million children receive no kind of religious training.  They are tossed on a stormy sea of moral relativism, unable to make simple choices between right and wrong.

What keeps a nation strong and secure?  Well, if Congress could do it, ancient Tyre would be with us today.  If political machinery could do it, Rome would not have fallen.  If military power could do it, Germany would not have failed.  Solomon said, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people" (Proverbs 14:34).  Goodness has been and will continue to be our strength.  America is on the verge of ceasing to be good and the responsibility to do something about it is ours, whether we like it or not.  Each of us is a commanding officer in the war on crime and sin.

We've spent astronomical sums of money on science and technology.  Yet, not one social or moral problem has ever been solved by them.  We have assumed that if we just raise the standard of living we will improve the quality of people.  Wrong!  Our job is not just to teach a child how to walk, but where to walk.  Merely making environmental improvements will not change us.  When we teach our children to believe that we are just highly evolved animals, they will behave like animals.  They will have no purpose or foundation in life.  On the other hand, when we teach them that man was created by God and was made in His image, we provide them a sense of dignity and a moral foundation upon which to build a good life, not just make a good living.