Wednesday, July 23, 2014

DON'T BAD MOUTH



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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

Don’t bad-mouth your leaders, not even under your breath, And don’t abuse your betters, even in the privacy of your home. Loose talk has a way of getting picked up and spread around. Little birds drop the crumbs of your gossip far and wide.

Ecclesiastes 10:20 (The Message)

This ends this reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Maybe you have heard the saying before. I know my mother used it many times to teach me how we should talk about others, how we should avoid bad mouthing people.

Now, there were those times when I didn’t listen to the wise guidance of my mother. I think we’re all maybe guilty of doing it once or twice. And so one day, I decided to speak badly about someone behind their back. Surely, there is no way they would ever find out what I said, I thought.

Well guess what? They did find out. Someone who heard my conversation decided to go and tell the person what I said and then the person I talked about came to me to personally express their displeasure. It was embarrassing to have to listen to a person vent on me but I deserved it. I should have listened to my mother and not said anything bad about the person. After all, who am I to talk bad about anyone given the sinner that I am?

Well, this matter of watching what you say and especially refraining from bad mouthing someone is central to the final verse in Ecclesiastes, Chapter 10. The only difference is that there can be much more at stake than just getting chewed out if the person you are talking badly about finds out what you said. Look at this verse again:

Don’t bad-mouth your leaders, not even under your breath, And don’t abuse your betters, even in the privacy of your home. Loose talk has a way of getting picked up and spread around. Little birds drop the crumbs of your gossip far and wide. (v 20)

Back in biblical days, rulers often had people who served as spies and informants, paid to listen and bring back any information that might be considered a threat. Even talking bad about a ruler, if done within earshot of one of these informants, could land someone in deep trouble with imprisonment or even execution a possible consequence. There was a lot at stake if you didn’t watch what you said and where you said it.

Perhaps we would be well served to heed the warning found in this word of God. For gossip is not only sinful but potentially damaging to us and the relationships we have with others. Talking about our boss could result in losing our job if they get wind of it. Talking about a family member might come back around to scar the relationship with that family member for life.

So how do we prevent ourselves from failing and falling in this matter? How do we avoid the temptation to talk badly about others behind their back?

As in so many other areas, it’s all about Jesus.

For when we live with His Spirit abiding within our hearts and minds, then the words we use will be words that love and not hate. They will be words that support and not undermine. They will be words that edify, encourage, and build up not tear down and destroy.

Want to keep from bad mouthing? Speak like Jesus.

Better yet, allow Him to speak through you.  

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

IS MONEY THE ANSWER FOR EVERYTHING?



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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

A feast is made for laughter, wine makes life merry, and money is the answer for everything.

Ecclesiastes 10:19

This ends this reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

All throughout Ecclesiastes, chapter 10, Solomon shares with us maxims and proverbs regarding foolish behavior and attitudes. As the chapter comes to a close, the next last verse in this series tells us this:

A feast is made for laughter, wine makes life merry, and money is the answer for everything. (v 10)

Now on the surface, the verse seems harmless enough. In fact someone with a worldly perspective on life might actually be able to completely relate to the verse and think it as a totally proper summation of life’s purpose. Eat, drink, and work to have the money to do both as much as you want as well as anything else you desire to do. For as long as you have money, you have it all.

After all, money is the answer to everything.

Or is it?

Think about that kind of life attitude for a minute. If money is the answer to everything, then it becomes the object of our desire for no matter what life brings our way we can take care of it if we have money. And so we work hours and hours and hours to attain it or look for ways we can get money free through handouts or entitlements. We even could be led to go as far as obtain money through illegal pretenses like stealing or extortion or bribery. Yes, money can lead us to sin and evil in a hurry when it becomes our answer for everything. Thus, it’s little wonder that God’s word has this to say about it:

The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. 1 Timothy 6:10a

I think this would indicate to us that money is not the answer for everything. Only a fool would believe otherwise.

But let’s dig a little deeper here on this matter just in case you are not already convinced about the perils of money worshiping for here are two other verses we need to consider on the matter, verses that will show us that money is far from the answer if we are to live our lives for Christ as Christians are to do:

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21

First, we’ll examine the first verse and then the second as Jesus teaches us from His Sermon on the Mount captured in Matthew’s gospel.

You cannot serve two masters. Jesus tells us this. It can’t be done. We are slaves to God and God alone. He made us and He reigns over us. We are to submit fully to Him and His will and way. Period.

And yet, we so often live our lives like we are free to do whatever we want to do to include chasing after our own desires and ignoring what God wants us to do. Our desires will be toward worldly offerings and those worldly offerings are most often centered on money which brings us possessions, the treasures of earth that Jesus talks about in this same passage. And the more we center our focus on the treasures of earth, the less we are focused on the treasures of heaven and God, the One who brings them to us, the greatest being the treasure of His Son Jesus.

Indeed, you can’t serve two masters. We have to choose money or God. If money is the answer to everything, then we choose to serve it and leave God behind. There can be no greater foolish decision one can make than that. And this leads to the second verse.

For when we serve money and make it our life’s focus, then money becomes out treasure and Jesus tells us that where our treasure is there our hearts will be also. In other words, your heart cannot be in Jesus if your treasure is money. The only way Jesus will be in your heart fully - and as a Christian there is no other proper place for Jesus – is if you make Him your treasure. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Friends, the word of the Lord is speaking loudly today and seeking to shake us at our very core, convicting us and guiding us to the most basic of Christian principles. Christians are to be like Christ and the only way we will be like Him is if we study His life and commit to live like Him as we allow His Holy Spirit to lead and guide our hearts and minds to His will and way.

As a Christian, it is never money that is the answer for everything. For that distinction belongs to Jesus and Jesus alone. He is the way and the truth and the life. He is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6).

Believe this and make Him your treasure. Serve Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Offer yourself to Him as a living sacrifice, fully giving yourself to Him just as He had fully given Himself up out of His deep love for you in order to bring you salvation.

Jesus is the answer for everything and thanks be to God for the gift that He is to us.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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Monday, July 21, 2014

THE DANGER IN LAZINESS

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In Christ, Mark
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks.

Ecclesiastes 10:18

This ends this reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

There may be no worse detriment to achieving the kingdom work of God than laziness. I say this because if you look at the commands of the Lord in the scriptures, particularly in regard to service, we are called to take action. Just consider the Great Commission of Jesus as one of the first examples:

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20a

Go. Make. Baptize. Teach.

All are words that tell us to do something. There aren’t any options given. It isn’t up to us to choose when we do and don’t want to carry out the tasks. No, Jesus said to go and make disciples, to baptize and teach all He has commanded. We’re to get busy and do what he said. Period.

There in is the danger in laziness. For laziness is anti-action and thus counter to carrying out the Great Commission or any other calling the Lord gives us to include a ton of work that is needed in any church you can walk into to worship.

Note: Did you know that most of the time around 10 to 20 percent of the people do 100 percent of the work in a church? The rest of the people seem to always have an excuse why they can’t help but most of the time, they are just spiritually lazy.

With this matter of laziness being such a detriment to the work the Lord wants done here on earth, it’s no surprise that the word of God chimes in with guidance on the matter. Look at this verse from the 10th chapter of Ecclesiastes:

Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks. v 18

The bottom line here is clear. A person who is lazy or idle doesn’t get things done. There is no initiative taken and what needs done is put off until later with neglect typically leading to deterioration and eventual failure or ruin.

Home repairs are not made when needed and so rafters sag and roofs leak. Eventually, the rafters will just simply collapse as will the roof, maybe even killing the lazy person who reclines underneath them.

Take this out to other examples and you may be able to see parallels.

A person too lazy to exercise finds themselves obese with their muscles suffering from atrophy. When that happens, they continue to lose what little strength they have and eventually their health will begin to decline, perhaps to the point where they become afflicted with a disease or even die.

A person too lazy to work will sit around and always look for someone to hand them something. The more someone provides for them, the more they don’t see the need to show any motivation to find work. And if that would happen, they will simply translate their laziness into the workplace and look to get paid for minimal effort.

Finally, a person who chooses to be lazy spiritually will refrain from doing what the Lord calls them to do and subsequently, become less and less like Jesus. This is because Jesus was always active. There was never a time when He wasn’t about His Father’s business and as Christians we are to do likewise.

It was Jesus who gave us the Great Commission, telling us to go and make and baptize and teach. We were called to carry on His work and that call is to action not passiveness. There is simply too much at stake as so many need to hear the gospel and find their way to salvation.

In the end translation, lazy people aren’t willing to go and do anything. They don’t see the need to better themselves or anyone else for that matter. Rather, they prefer to just stay put and sit around. Maybe they need to hear the following parable Jesus told to His disciples, a parable that underscores the danger in laziness when it comes to working for the Lord:

Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.  To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.

The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.

The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.”

His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

“The man with two bags of gold also came. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.”

His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.”

His master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 25:14-30

What do you want the Lord to say to you?

Is it “Well done, good and faithful servant!” or “You wicked, lazy servant!”?

In the end, how you respond to the Lord’s call to action will provide the answer.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

WHAT DO YOUR WORDS SAY ABOUT YOU?



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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips. At the beginning their words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness—and fools multiply words.

Ecclesiastes 10:12-14a

This ends this reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

What do your words say about you? Would they reflect wisdom or foolishness?

These questions are at the heart of our verses for today from Ecclesiastes, Chapter 10 as we examine the importance of words. First, let’s look again at the scriptures:

Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips. At the beginning their words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness—and fools multiply words. (Vv 12-14a)

The word of the Lord tells us that the wise, those who are speaking in ways that show they are led and directed by God, speak words of graciousness. These words of grace are words of kindness and love and joy and hope and pardon, words of righteousness that inspire and encourage.

Words like these tell others that you are a child of the God Most High, separated from the ways of the world and living for the purpose, will, and way of the Lord and the Lord alone. As Christians, our words simply must reflect this for the words of Jesus, the One we are to model our lives after, certainly did.

Counter to this way of thinking, speaking and behaving is the foolish person. He or she can be identified easily because they are consumed by the words that come from their lips, words which defined by folly and madness. These words are laced with sin and wickedness. They are words of insult and anger and gossip and slander and judgment, words that reveal the godlessness and apostasy of the speaker.

Again, the main question here is this:

What do your words say about you?

Maybe more importantly, we should consider how God sees us through the words we use, a God who hates sin and sinful words. For if we shift our concern toward Him, then we will change the words of our mouths to bring Him glory and honor, to please Him with what we say as much as we seek to please Him with what we do.

Perhaps, the best way we can achieve this is to go back to the scriptures and commit ourselves to choosing our words in accordance with the following verse from the 19th Psalm:

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (v 14)

If we do, we can always ensure that the words we use will say that we are in and of the Lord, serving as an example to others of how He desires us to speak.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

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