Monday, July 31, 2006

The Perfect Couple

“The Perfect Couple.” That’s the subject line on the email with the link to an animated flash cartoon about a perfect man and woman who got married. The perfect man and the perfect woman had a perfect marriage. They went on the perfect vacation, and as they traveled, when they saw someone stranded on the side of the rode, they stopped to give him a ride. That’s what a perfect couple would do after all. The person they found was Santa Clause, and the night they found him was Christmas Eve. The perfect couple knew they couldn’t let the children of the world be disappointed so they committed to help Santa get his toys to the right homes. As they traveled the weather deteriorated. The road became slick, and the car crashed. Only one person survived. Who do you think it was?

Well, Santa Clause is make-believe. So is a perfect man. Since they are not real, the survivor must have been the perfect woman. Of course, since the perfect woman is the only real character in the story, it must have been her who was driving the car when it crashed!

You already know that there are no perfect people. Paul confirmed that for us when he said, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” You come face to face with imperfect people every day. You find them in the mirror, at your work place, where you eat lunch, at your church, and in your home. “… clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:12-13). Joseph Cooke comments “Grace is the face that love wears when it meets imperfection.”

That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Who Is Bringing Temptation

A twelve year-old boy from Alaska died after “voluntarily inhaling gas for nearly twenty minutes” this week, according to the AP. Adults should know that a popular activity in some circles called “huffing” is the inhalation of chemical vapors in order to get high.”

A year ago my wife and I were riding in a car with some friends and their eight year-old grandson. The grandson was talking about a babysitter. He described something she had done that normal baby-sitters do, and then he added, “She’s a cutter.” Cutters abuse themselves with sharp objects.

My guess is that many of you have heard about huffing and have never attempted it. Many of you may have heard about cutting and have never attempted it. Maybe you have even spoken to your children about these activities, warning them sternly. Good for you!

I am very concerned that the children in these stories are so young, yet they have been exposed to dangerous behaviors that a few years ago were exclusive to older kids. The Bible teaches that temptations will come, but harsh judgment is due to those through whom temptations come (Matt 18:7). Who is bringing temptation, including unhealthy knowledge about these kinds of things into your home? Give the time, attention, and instruction to your kids that they need. That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The End and the Beginning of the Jesus Perspective

Those sitting on the mountainside who heard the Jesus Perspective knew that there was authority behind what they heard that day. Matthew records that when the sermon was done, “…the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matt. 7:28-29). Mark says the same thing about those who heard Jesus teaching in the synagogue (Mk. 1:22). We must understand, then, as we come to the end of the Jesus Perspective, that it isn’t just another set of ideas to consider. My ideas are not on a level with Jesus’ teachings. Yours aren’t either. Plato’s wisdom, Confucius’ wisdom, Mohammed’s wisdom, all shrink into the category of foolishness when compared to the Jesus Perspective. Philosophers taught the Golden Mean, but Jesus taught the Golden Rule, and it is greater! Even the godly men Moses and Elijah are moved to the background in the glorification of Jesus as God said from heaven, “This is my Son, whom I love. With him I am well pleased. Listen to him.”

Jesus claimed authority. Matthew claimed he had authority. So at the end of the day, Jesus says that you can choose the difficult way that leads to life or you can choose the broad way that leads to destruction. There is no questioning what he means by the difficult way. It is his way as he has expressed it in the sermon.

In case the picture isn’t clear, he illustrates his final point with a story of two builders. One builder was wise. He built his home on a rock, and when the storm came, though it was ferocious, the home stood. One builder was foolish – a bonehead. He built his home on the sand, and when the storm came, because the foundation was weak, the home collapsed with a great crash!

Who is the wise builder whose home can withstand the ferocious storm? He is the man who hears the words of Jesus and puts them into practice.

When Jesus walked away from the mountain, maybe some said, “He’s finished. Let’s go home.” But it wasn’t finished for them. It isn’t finished for us either. Louis L’Amour said, “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.” The words are completed, but the choice remains. Will you take the difficult road or the broad road? Will you build on rock or sand? Will you hear and do, or will you not? That’s Life at Work!

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Christian Home

The family was riding home after church one Sunday when the father noticed in the rear-view mirror that his eight year-old son was crying in the back seat. He nudged his wife who turned around to see what was going on.

“What’s wrong, son,” she asked.

He wiped his eyes and responded with trepidation, “The preacher said this morning that it is important that children be raised in Christian homes, and you told him afterwards that you appreciated his sermon.”

The mom was puzzled so she said, “We do agree that you should be raised in a Christian home. What’s wrong with that?”

Glancing over at his little brother to show that he spoke for both, the boy sobbed, “But we want to stay with you and dad!”

It is important that your children be raised in a Christian home, but it’s not just important for kids. It is critical for you to have a Christian home whether or not you have children to rear.

A Christian home is a home in which Christ’s standards are followed, in which godly morals are the goal, in which the focus is on heavenly things, and in which relationships are lived as Jesus instructed.

Develop a Christian home - one your kids can identify as Christ-like, and one that God can use for his glory. That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Watch out for the Wolves

Jesus ends his Sermon on the Mount with a call to choose the right way. He uses two pictures to make two points. The first picture is of two roads, one that leads to destruction and the other that leads to life. The second picture is of two builders, one who builds his home on solid foundation, and the other who builds on sand.

The points made by these two pictures are: (1) there is a decision to make from two options, one way is right and the other is wrong; and (2) the reward for making the right decision is great and the consequences for making the wrong decision are dreadful.

Between the word pictures, Jesus warned that there would be some who would try to give us a nudge in the wrong direction. He said:

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matt 7:15-23; NIV)

It’s the fruit produced in the lives of people that is useful in identifying false prophets and those who will “enter the kingdom of heaven.” One can look like a sheep, talk like a sheep, spend time with the sheep, yet be a ferocious wolf out to destroy the real sheep. What would Matthew’s readers have looked for if they needed to distinguish between the wolves in sheep’s clothing and the real sheep around them? They would have looked for fruit like humility, gentleness, hunger for righteousness, mercy, purity, peace making desire, and willingness to endure suffering for Christ’s sake. In short, when they saw someone who did to others what they would have wanted others to do to them, they could know that they were seeing real sheep.

They would have looked to see fruit like angry name-calling; long, lustful stares at women and divorce papers drawn up so that another spouse could be pursued; broken promises, and acts of revenge. They would have looked to see fruit like a powerful desire for recognition, love of money, and hypocritical, harsh judgment. When they saw these things, they could know that they were seeing a wolf in disguise.

One final bit of information was vitally important to determine their response to the fruit they witnessed. When they determined whether they were seeing a sheep or a wolf in disguise, they needed to know whether they were looking at others or looking in a mirror. That’s Life at Work!