Am I A Fool?

fool-1972263_960_720“As dead flies cause even a bottle of perfume to stink, so a little foolishness spoils great wisdom and honor.”  (Ecclesiastes 10:1)

No one wants to be accused of foolishness. We all desire to have others think well of us and often feel great embarrassment when we do something that could be perceived as foolish. These days the Internet and social media have made it easy for certain types of our follies to be displayed the world over, ensuring that our errant behaviors, whether accidental or intentional, are available for ready recall at any moment. I grew up before You Tube and I am certainly grateful for that!

But You Tube moments aside, some of our foolish behaviors are not so easily seen by others. Decisions made in the quietness of our own hearts can be some of the most consequential of all our actions. Hidden only in the recesses of our minds, some of our more foolish choices are guarded by their less than obvious nature. Whereas our You Tube moments are readily recognized by ourselves and others, how do we recognize when the deeper decisions we make are also foolish?

No one can answer that question for you in every circumstance, but below are some questions that might help you decide for yourself whether or not you have been, or are being, foolish. Please read on:

“Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)

Question: Do you believe there is a God?

“But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

Question: Do you understand the truths of God?

“These wise teachers will fall into the trap of their own foolishness, for they have rejected the word of the Lord.” (Jeremiah 8:9)

Question: Have you rejected the word of the Lord?

“The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge, but fools broadcast their foolishness.” (Proverbs 12:23)

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.” (Psalms 111:10)

Question: Are you humble, exuding a quiet wisdom that stems from knowledge of God?

“Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2)

Question: Do you tend to voice your opinions strongly or do you seek input from others?

“O Lord, what great works you do! And how deep are your thoughts. Only a simpleton would not know, and only a fool would not understand this: Though the wicked sprout like weed and evildoers flourish, they will be destroyed forever.” (Psalm 92:5-7)

Question: Do you recognize that those who live only for themselves will perish?

“If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” (John 1:8)

Question: Do you claim to be sinless?

“The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Question: Do you believe the message of the cross?

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.” (John 3:16-18a) We all instinctively recognize in ourselves things for which we are not proud. We have all taken actions that we later regretted; perhaps we know we’ve hurt another person unjustly, or we’ve taken something that didn’t belong to us, or we’ve disobeyed our parents, harbored hatred toward another, had lustful thoughts, or otherwise behaved in a way that we regret.

Sure, if we compare ourselves to others we may justify ourselves and find ways to rationalize our actions, convincing ourselves we aren’t so bad; but over time all these regrets have a cumulative effect and we often find ourselves weighed down by the burdens of our past mistakes. And this is not surprising for when God says “don’t” he means “don’t hurt yourself”.  But this same God who provides guidance we often ignore, also provides a way for us to be redeemed: “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

And wouldn’t it be the supreme act of foolishness not to avail yourself of God’s free gift of grace today? For “if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9) May you find forgiveness in Jesus today!

To learn more, please click here: knowgod.org

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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Funeral for a Friend

seth-1 Jones, Seth Robert, age 31, of St. Paul, died tragically in a traffic accident on Jan. 20. Star salesman for Hillside Technology Solutions in Minneapolis. Seth is survived by his loving wife, Jessica; daughter Amelia and son Ethan; parents Ruth & James; siblings Andy, John, and Amy, and many nieces, nephews, and countless friends. Seth was a dynamic presence whether on the job or out with friends. His fun-loving nature and shining personality made him a joy to be around. He will be remembered for his love for life and his generous nature. Funeral 1 PM Sat., January 28th, Berquist Funeral Home, 9920 Northern St., St. Paul. Visitation two hours prior. Memorials preferred and will be used for his children’s education fund.

 

Seth is dead. My best friend. I still can’t believe it. We were just together Saturday night at Drew’s. We closed the place down, like usual. But I didn’t think Seth had drank that much, he didn’t seem drunk, so it couldn’t have been the alcohol, right? Like always he was busy being the life of the party. The guy knew more jokes than any man I have ever known. Pretty sure he could have made a living doing stand-up comedy. And darts. The guy could toss a dart. Talk about a ringer, you never bet against Seth! Just before we left, we were making plans to watch the football game the next day; but Seth never made it home.

He was so proud of his brand new company car, he only picked it up a few days ago. He wasn’t supposed to be driving it to the bar, I guess, but he just had to show it off. It was pretty sweet, too. There wasn’t much was left of it, I’m told. I just can’t imagine what happened. Seth was a good driver; I had ridden with him many times. But no one would ever accuse him of driving slow, he got a ticket last month for doing 85 in a 60 mph zone. If I had thought he was too drunk I would never have let him drive.

The girl in the other car died, too; I hear she was one of those churchy types. Seth never had time for church. His mom was really into the Bible and Seth resented that a lot. He didn’t talk much about his childhood, but when he did it was always about that. He blamed his mom’s Bible thumping for driving his dad away. His face always turned red when he talked about it and it’s the only time I really ever saw him rage.  He was angry at God. Well, I guess he didn’t really believe in God, but if there is a God, Seth sure was angry with him. Church was one place no one was ever going to find Seth Jones.

What use would he have for church anyway? Seth was so well-respected. I mean by everyone. At work his winsome style made him the star of their sales force. He sold more last year than the next two salespeople combined. No wonder they gave him that fancy car. His customers loved him and his boss loved him even more. And his wife, Jessica. She really loved him. Though to be honest, I sometimes wonder why. Seth liked to party, he spent a lot of time with us at Drew’s. His smooth style attracted girls. He never cheated on Jessica, but he sure flirted sometimes. It was all harmless, of course. But I think Jessica was far more patient than most wives would be.

He loved his kids. Didn’t spend as much time with them as he thought he should, but when he did, he was as good a father as a kid could hope for. He gave them everything they wanted and he made them feel special. Most people would never know it, I guess, but those kids were his world. He really loved those kids. I remember the day Ethan learned to ride his bike. Wow! Seth was so proud.

Oh man, I just can’t believe he’s gone. Forgive me if I start to cry. He was my best friend. We’d known each other our whole lives. We went to school together, played football together, we even went to college together. Except he got his degree in business and I got a ‘real’ degree in engineering. Then again, I guess someone has to sell what we engineers invent. Seth never stopped making sure I knew my inventions were worthless without someone to sell them. That guy could sell a fishing boat to a desert dweller. He was that good.

I wonder where he is now. I mean, he didn’t really believe in God. Neither of us did. We were into science; but science doesn’t explain what happens when we die. We talked about it sometimes. What happens when we die. Seth thought maybe there would be a bright light, or God, or something. But mostly we guessed life just ended – that we merely went in the ground and rotted away. Worm food. We joked about death a lot, I guess because it seemed so far away. But now that he’s really dead, I don’t want to imagine that. Not at all. There must be something after. Because Seth can’t just be gone.

Life’s never going to be the same.

********************************************************************

Seth and his friend didn’t believe in God, or heaven, or hell, or Jesus. They trusted in science, or so they said, but we find that few people truly believe in a universe that rushes out aimlessly and without purpose. Indeed, God has placed the knowledge of himself in our hearts and, when we are honest with ourselves, we know deep down inside that heaven and hell are real. Hell is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:42). But God and Jesus made a way for us so that “now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) Like Seth and his friend, many of us tend to think we have another year, or month, or day; but in reality we may not even have another minute. Time is of the essence. Won’t you please reach out to God right here, right now?

To find out what happened to Seth when he died, please click here.

To learn more about God, please click here: knowgod.org

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Cashing In

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Most of us in the USA grew up being taught to invest our monetary resources wisely and to plan for the future. These budgetary lessons came mostly from our parents; but we also learned them at school, and sometimes even our employers offered advice on financial planning. And then there are the motivational speakers who have made billions over the years rallying people to invest wisely; often promising we could get rich quickly. With all this financial advice, we should all be rolling in the money by now, and by worldwide standards, we pretty much are.

Most of this teaching that we received, at least when it came from our parents, schools, and employers, was well-intentioned. Motivated by genuine concern for our future well-being, they shared the kind of advice that has been learned and shared for generations. And surely we should be wise with our financial resources, saving money for emergencies and retirement. To this end, our parents’ and elder family members were right.

But there is a darker side to how we manage our finances. One that initially shines on the surface, but it extends beyond good financial planning and often leads us into fiscal darkness and discontent. That is our seemingly insatiable desire for the latest technological device, car model, fashionable clothing, or shiny new house; or perhaps our urge to take that exotic vacation to some distant place. These types of desires frequently lead to rationalization in our thought process so that we start to view these things as needs rather than “wants”.

And it is here that we can begin to stray from God’s plan. Rather than be content with having our basic needs met, we long for luxuries that we know are inessential for life. Let’s be honest here, were you to find yourself in a position where you could no longer have a cell phone or Internet connection, would you not feel like a basic need was going unmet? We all know people survived for thousands of years without such things but they seem so indispensable now, don’t they? The fact is, God promises to meet the needs of those who trust in Him, but He doesn’t promise anyone a smart phone.

The Bible has much to say about our financial well-being. Both Paul and Jesus shared some very notable teaching with us. We’ll start with Paul, who instructs us that Godliness with contentment is great gain.  Let’s take a glimpse into Paul’s thoughts as he counsels Timothy, his young protégé: “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.”   (1 Timothy 6:6-10 NLT)

And Jesus teaches: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be…..“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.  “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:19-21, 24-33 NLT)

Isn’t it amazing that God promises that if we seek His kingdom above all else, He will give us what we need. And if we can learn to be content with having our needs met, that is great wealth in itself. It may help to have a little perspective on your situation. Try this on – if you make just $10.00 an hour, working full time, you are among the richest 3.28% of people in the world. (Check it out for yourself at www.globalrichlist.com.) But if you place your trust in God, and seek to place Him first in your life, while your home and shiny new car and all the other things you have purchased with your wealth slowly deteriorate before your very eyes, you will be storing up treasures for yourself in heaven where everything is new and there is no decay. Now that’s what I call cashing in!

So let me encourage you to seek the best financial advice you will ever receive by reading your Bible today and discovering God’s way!

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Everyone Needs Jesus…Even You

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“Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him.” -Thomas Merton

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you believe (or don’t believe), you need Jesus. This is true whether you are wealthy, middle class, or poor. It is true regardless of the language you speak or the color of your skin. It is true whether you are male or female, young or old. It is true regardless of your religious background, whether you grew up Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, atheist, or any of the myriad other possibilities. It is true regardless of any lifestyle choices you have made and it is true whether you are willing to acknowledge it or not. You need Jesus.

You may be trying very hard to live a good life, donating money, helping others, serving your neighbor. Compared to others you might stand out as one who truly has compassion and genuine love for others. You may even be a social worker, medical professional, first responder, or a pastor or religious leader whose very vocation is to help and serve others. Even so, you still need Jesus. Because the truth is – we cannot be good enough. The Bible says: “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23) The prophet Isaiah wrote, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” (Isaiah 64:6)

We tend to compare ourselves to others, whether consciously or subconsciously. It helps us stave off the feelings of guilt we might otherwise experience; because deep, deep down inside our souls, we know we are sinners. God designed us with a built in sense of right and wrong, but we frequently ignore it, deny its existence, or we rationalize our actions because we want our own way. We “feel” something is right rather than rely on God’s Word to inform us; and in an effort to further justify our feelings, we recruit others to our point of view. There’s safety in numbers because if everyone’s doing it, we tell ourselves, then it must not be wrong.

We would never claim to be perfect in front of others, so we are being disingenuous when we deny our sinful nature, even if we are only denying it to ourselves. “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” (1 John 1:8) There must be a standard for right and wrong and there is, in God’s Word. When we’re honest with ourselves, we know it is not found in our self-comparison to others, or in how we “feel”, or by what we see others doing with seeming impunity. But then isn’t that why many of us do not read the Bible or go to church? Because when we do we may be confronted with the truth. Jesus said, “All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.” (John 3:20)

Yet the purpose of God’s laws is to protect us and to show us how sinful we are. When God says “don’t” he means “don’t hurt yourself.” As our loving Father, He sets boundaries and rules so that we may have life, abundance, and happiness. But like a small child testing his parents, we push the boundaries and do our own thing because it “feels” right. Convinced of our moral superiority and reliant on our self-knowledge, we rationalize our behavior until we are convinced God doesn’t exist or his Word is flawed. We start telling ourselves that all roads lead to heaven and we resent those who tell us there is only one way. In other words, our sinful desires drive us to buy into a lie rather than accept the truth.

“Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24-25a)

Everyone needs Jesus because there is only one way. And that way is Jesus. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” And in 1 John 5:12, we read, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” The fact that Jesus is the only way is nothing anyone should be upset about, though, because it is an act of the purest love that God sacrificed his very own Son that we might be saved. “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.” (John 3:16-18a)

Read the words of John 3:16-18a again very carefully. God loved you so much that he made provision for your redemption by sacrificing his one and only Son. How is it that love like this would make someone mad? And it is very inclusive, too, because God doesn’t exclude anyone – He desires that everyone should be saved.

So you need Jesus. And you can avail yourself of him right now and it couldn’t be easier. Just admit you are a sinner (remember you are being disingenuous if you say you aren’t) and ask Jesus for forgiveness. For “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” And remember, you are dearly loved, more than you will ever know.

God bless you.

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A Den of Thieves

road-man-lights-legs    In Jesus’ day, it was customary for every devout Jewish male over the age of 12, to make the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. Men traveled great distances to offer sacrifices at the temple. Because of the great distances many of the men traveled, it was inconvenient for them to bring their sacrificial animals with them. Further, the money in circulation at the time was the Roman coin, but temple worship required Jewish coinage. These logistical issues provided the occasion for opportunistic individuals to capitalize on the situation.

Tables were set up outside the temple where sacrificial animals could be purchased, often at exorbitant prices, while Roman coins could be exchanged for the proper Jewish currency for a nominal fee. With thousands upon thousands of Jewish people coming for worship each year, business was very good, and extremely profitable. And, as we all know, when large sums of money are involved, corruption is often the net result. It was no different with the “money changers”.

“For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

The basis of true worship lies first in our recognition of who God is. We always start from the awareness that God is the Creator of all there is; He is holy, infinite, sovereign, powerful, with knowledge so vast and complete we cannot even begin to comprehend it. He is kind, compassionate, loving, slow to anger, forgiving. He is a father who guides us, teaches us, provides for us, and yes, at times, he cares enough to discipline us. God is big. Very big.

And we are small. And this is the next thing we remember in worship. This is not to say we are insignificant, quite the contrary. We are God’s special creation, made in his image, unique among all living things and each and every human life is of incomparable worth. But we have that worth because God ascribes it to us. We are valued because He first valued us. So our worship must recognize our special place as those ordained to steward God’s creation; unique among living things but, where God is perfect and holy, we are imperfect and fallible. Even rebellious.

“You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (Psalm 51:16-17)

When we approach God in recognition of who He is, and who we are, we sense our frailty and contrition starts to enter our hearts and souls. We begin to understand our need for forgiveness because, in the knowledge of His supreme excellence, we can comprehend our imperfect, fallen nature. And it is in this context that true worship can be experienced. We feel the desire to be in His presence and the fear of our judgment commences to fade away. We stand exposed before the one, true God, and we feel the comfort of His gentle and loving forgiveness. And we begin to mirror back to Him our love and devotion.

This is true worship. Jesus saw that temple worship had become nothing more than a physical routine and money making enterprise. So he drove the money changers out in no uncertain terms. He did this twice. Once at the beginning of his ministry (see John 2:13-18) and a second time near the end of his earthly ministry (see Matthew 21:12-17). Jesus said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:13) You can imagine the stir this caused among the religious leaders of the day. But Jesus wanted to lead us into true worship.

True worship is first reflected back to God from deep in our hearts and souls as we come to understand our relationship to Him; then it becomes apparent in our actions as we begin to change how we live and how we treat others, and finally, songs of praise are offered as we strive to express our adoration and appreciation back to our Creator. A wise friend once taught me that worship isn’t something we get, but rather something we give. It took me a long time to truly understand what that meant, but it is becoming clear to me now.

Jesus drove out the money changers to turn hearts back to true worship. Today Jesus remains our path to direct communion with God.  Jesus said of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) If you have not yet made the decision to follow Jesus, may you do so right here and right now. And if you are following Jesus, may you experience true worship in spirit and in truth.

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