The Outsider (Sunday Replay)

We all have prejudices. We are comfortable with our prejudices. We are blind to our prejudices. We are limited by our prejudices. But God will push us past our prejudices for the sake of His Son and the advancement of the gospel.

The Seeker

A computer scientist and a Google engineer created an algorithm to search the internet and rank the most influential people in history. As resistant as our culture seems to Him, Jesus still ranks #1. There are more websites that reference Jesus, more searches made of Jesus, and more information on Wikipedia about Jesus than any other person in history. What does this mean? It means that people are still interested in Jesus.

There are people in your life who are searching for Jesus and would welcome your conversations about Him. People are not interested in religion. People are not interested in debating your beliefs, but they are interested in Jesus. How can you help the seeker in their search?

throat punch love your enemy title

Love Your Enemies

Jesus commands us to love your enemies. When agitated by an enemy, loving them is not my first thought and we all know that thoughts can be powerful things!

Did you know that Samsung is developing a TV that can be controlled with your mind? If they are successful that would certainly take care of the problem of losing the remote.

In February of 2018, a Florida man named Johnny Matheny received a 120 million dollar, advanced, mind-controlled prosthetic arm.

These advances in technology are from a fascinating field of study called cybernetics. In short, cybernetics is the merging of man with machine. If you read about this stuff it will either scare you to death or amaze you at how close we are to existing in a sci-fi movie.

One of the side effects of cybernetics is that it is making us take a hard look at what it means to be human. What is it that makes us different than machines?

For instance, as amazing as it is to have a robotic arm that is connected to your thoughts, aren’t you thankful that you don’t do everything you think? Some people would say that they are a lover, not a fighter. I’m afraid that I’m a fighter, not a lover. I’d rather argue than give a hug. That being the case, I’m afraid that if I had a cybernetic arm that responded to my thoughts; there may be some people who get throat punched!

The Difference in Man and Machine

One of the big differences in man and machine is that computers simply carry out commands. Humans have the ability to make an extra decision between emotion and action that keeps unreasonable, annoying people from getting constantly throat punched by maniacs like me.

While there may be something in me thinking “throat punch,” to date I have throat punched exactly zero people (so give me a sticker). This act of self-control comes from the ability you and I have to realize that even though delivering a throat punch is tempting, that doing so would probably make a bad situation even worse. Somewhere between emotion and action comes a correction that results in a much better decision.

It looks like this for computers. COMMAND ———> ACTION.

It looks like this for humans. EMOTION ——> CORRECTION ——> ACTION. That correction is significant! When you omit that middle thought, someone gets throat punched.

While it is one thing to use restraint and refrain from throat punching someone, it is quite another to carry out the 4 correcting commands Jesus offers us in Luke 6:27-28.

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Luke 6:27-28

Let’s break these four commands down from the standpoint of pure emotional first response.

4 People I’d Like to Throat Punch

Enemy. An enemy is someone with whom there is no peace. This is anyone in your life that you would like to throat punch.

Hater. Don’t be a hater! (throat punch)

Curser. You curse me. I cuss you back. (throat punch)

Abuser. There is nothing to say here. All that is necessary is a well-placed Chuck Norris throat punch.

There are some people I’d like to throat punch. But Jesus won’t let me.

Restraint is one thing, but what Jesus is saying seems ridiculous. He wants me to love my enemy? Why would I do good for my haters? What blessing could I possibly have for someone dog cussing me? What could possibly be left within me that would motivate me to pray for someone who abused me?

I understand that I can’t go around throat punching people, but Jesus is not just telling me to use restraint, but to respond with radical redemptive action toward the worst possible people.

Why Restraint isn’t Enough

Why would Jesus ask us to not just use restraint, but to respond in a radically redemptive way? I think there are two reasons.

  1. Action releases emotion. Just because I refrained from throat punching my hateful, cursing, abusive enemy doesn’t mean I have dealt with the destructive emotion. If you emotionally bottle up, you eventually blow up. Typically we blow up on the very people who don’t deserve a throat punch. We take out our frustrations on family and friends because we feel it is “safe.” We direct our aggravation and frustration at them, all the while they are wondering what is wrong with us. Conversations are filled with slander and gossip about your enemy. True, you didn’t throat punch someone, but are you any better off being toxic at home? We need a redemptive release of emotion.
  2. Redemption is better than revenge. If you hate your haters, cuss your cursers, and abuse your abusers all you’ve done is double the problem. If you simply return destructive action in response to destructive action, what makes you any different than your enemy? I can tell you something Jesus desires of you. He doesn’t want you to be like your enemy. He wants you to be like him.

Now that we understand what Jesus would have us do and why, the next logical question is who? Who can possibly do something like this? Has anyone ever responded to a cursing, abusive, hateful enemy with radical redemptive action. The answer is, YES!

The Bible’s Book of Genesis tells the story of one such person. His name is Joseph and he finds himself in each of the horrible situations Jesus articulates. Amazingly, he also displays each of Jesus’ radical redemptive responses. Joseph had every reason in the world to deliver a cybernetic throat punch to his brothers, but instead, he took action to redeem them.

We will begin to explore this story and how it corresponds to Jesus’ corrective commands for us in the next post.

When Family Becomes Enemy Title for Blog Post

Catch up on last week’s series of posts – The Bible Says to Give All, But How Can Anyone Afford All?

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new body post by Brian Branam transformation of resurrection

You Need a New Body! The Transformation of Resurrection

How would you define resurrection? In simple terms, I think most people would say that resurrection is a dead person coming back to life with a much better body. By better body, I mean one that is no longer susceptible to disease or death. But have you ever really thought about what that better body might be like? The Bible entertains this question.

“But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?'”

1 Corinthians 15:35

I would think that any conversation we may have about a better body would interest us. We are infatuated with our bodies. From daytime television to wellness magazines, from Dr. Oz to Men’s Health we tune in to things that promise to help us live longer, happier, healthier lives.

We have great concerns about body image. Hollywood dictates to us what is attractive and what is not. As a result, our nation is home to over 18,000 tanning salons. Shows like The Biggest Loser and America’s Next Top model get high ratings.

It seems the younger we are the greater the struggle with body image. According to an article at badgerherald.com, in 2003 more than 223,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients 18 or younger. 90% of college students say they are unhappy with their body.

Why We Hate our Bodies

Why is it that we pay so much attention to our bodies, work so hard on our bodies, have so much information about our bodies, but still seem to be so unhappy with our bodies?

I think it is because we live as if this body is all we’ve got. When you make your body ultimate, you are bound to be miserable. Eventually, you come to grips with the reality that you are fighting a losing battle.

If you play the comparison game with well-figured people, you may follow their workout or drink their drink for a time. But at some point, you realize there is one key ingredient missing from the equation. Their body is not your body. You can drink seaweed with every meal, but you can’t be them.

While healthier choices are helpful, it is futile to try to preserve a body that is bound to decay and destined to die.

Resurrection is radical body transformation! But it will not come through keto or liposuction. If you will grab on to what the Bible says about your body in light of the resurrection, you will think about your body in a much healthier and happier way.

Think Seed

The Bible says that if you really want to understand resurrection, you need to think of yourself as a seed.

And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

1 Corinthians 15:37-38

If we are to think of our bodies as a seed, then the real concern we should have of our bodies is not what they look like, but what is in them. If what is in you is resurrected to its fullest potential what does that mean you become forever?

Let’s take this idea of thinking about the resurrection and our bodies like a seed and unpack this idea in 1 Corinthians 15:35-58.

A Seed Must be PLANTED

“You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or some other grain.”

1 Corinthians 15:36-37

When a seed is planted in the soil, that is the end of it as it is, but that is not the end of it.

Death is not the end of you.

They say, “You only live once.” The Bible says that is not true. The Bible teaches that you will live forever. After you die, you will be resurrected as an eternal version of yourself.

The Bible also teaches that there are only two versions of forever. One is the forever blessedness of those Christ has redeemed in a new Heaven and a new Earth (Rev. 21). This version of forever will be the world as God intended it to be in the beginning. It will be good and life-giving.

The other version of forever is one of punishment as those who were not redeemed by Christ are separated from Him in an eternal lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15). This is a horrible and painful end of unimaginable suffering.

Good Looking, Healthy People Die

If we think of our bodies as a seed to be planted, then we surely can’t think of them as an end. For one, death is an inescapable reality. No matter what you do, you are going to die. No one survives life. Very good looking, extremely healthy people die.

The world’s greatest athletes all die. Robert Atkins, the inventor of the wildly popular low-carb Atkins diet, is dead.

Have you ever done Pilates? Joseph Pilates died of emphysema from smoking cigars at the age of 83. He was very flexible when he died.

Being healthy helps, but it is not going to save you. At some point, we have to realize that the question is not how we look or even how we feel. The question we should be asking is what is within us? That’s always the question of a seed – not its color, its size, or its texture. The question of a seed is of what is inside of it?

Perhaps instead of so much working out, we need to spend some time working in.

If what is inside of you is resurrected forever, what is your forever going to be?

It is not true that you only live once. What is true is that you only get one shot to make sure what is in the seed is what needs to be in the seed. And this is not a question of fitness, but of nature. This we will discuss in tomorrow’s post.

To be continued in the next post.. Think Resurrection for a Much Better Body.

You might be interested.

Last week’s posts: God’s Good Answer to Bad Things

#TheWalk – How asking this question every day will help you achieve your greatest goals.

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Further explanation a blog post by Brian Branam

Further EXPLANATION of God’s Good Reason for Bad Things

God’s good reason for suffering gives us anticipation of a future day in which our tribulation will be brought to an end in glorification. Amazing! But what about now? We need further EXPLANATION of God’s good reason for bad things.

This further explanation is given to us in Romans 8:20-21.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it , in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

Romans 8:20-21

There is a word in that explanation that I think needs definition. What is futility?

Futility?

The word futility means that something seems pointless or purposeless. Futility means that there will be a lot of frustration. You can clearly see how something is supposed to work or what it is supposed to do, but you can’t seem to get it there. Futility means that you planted a garden and woke up to weeds. Futility means that just when you think you have it right, it all goes wrong.

So when? When was the creation subjected to futility and what is the result?

Romans 8:20-21 points us to the creation/fall story in Genesis. The Book of Genesis begins in a  pristine, life giving world and ends with the funeral of Joseph. It begins in a garden and ends in a cemetery. What happened? Man made a fateful choice to introduce evil into God’s good world. The end result is a world filled with relational dysfunction and natural destruction. Simply stated, the Bible says that we now live in a world in which there is decay, tragedy, injustice, disaster, accidents, evil intents, and horrible mistakes.

Two Futile Strategies for Futility

So how do we deal with a futile world? If this is all we have there are pretty much only two strategies.

  1. Avoidance – Avoid pain at all costs. You have a lot of options as to how you may go about this. Do you numb the pain chemically, do you numb it emotionally? Perhaps you quit on it, leave it, or ignore it. Maybe you have some fun and overcome the pain with pleasure. However, you approach it, get in line. A lot of people have tried every option and have found it to be – well – futile! At some point, you realize that avoidance just causes more destruction and pain. At best it kicks the can down the road. Avoidance is not a valid solution.
  2. Insurance – Minimize the losses. At least insurance embraces the reality of futility – it’s not IF something happens, but WHEN. Insurance helps us minimize the losses, but ironically the more we lose the more expensive it becomes. Insurance is smart, but it does not provide a valid solution to futility; it just makes it more affordable.

But notice an important word in the Bible’s explanation for the creation being subjected to futility. He does not say that God has done so arbitrarily. Nor does he say that God has done so ultimately. The wonderful news is that even this was done in hope!

Will We Ever “Get It?”

Notice the creation’s response to this. “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

The creation is realizes its brokenness and looks for a solution outside of itself. In its acknowledgment of futility it realizes there is no solution within itself. If only we could humans to acknowledge what the world already knows. We need intervention!

Tune in for the next post! 

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the worst way to waste your life, blog post by Brian Branam

The Worst Way to Waste Your Life

Have you ever had one of those insomniac, hypochondriac nights were you laid awake all night afraid you were going to die? Perhaps it is some odd pain in your stomach that is the focal point of anxiety, but your mind won’t allow you to think logically. Did you have too much spaghetti for dinner? No! Your mind goes straight to basketball sized tumor in your abdomen.

I think it is freeing for all of us to realize – you’re not alone. We are all semi-crazy.

Ecclesiastes 2 is much like those late night contemplations of life and death where you think way too much and sleep very little. For Solomon though, he is not afraid he is going to die, he is afraid he has never really lived.

For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.

Ecclesiastes 2:16-17

Solomon realizes that he is going to die. We all die. But catch his true fear. He is not as afraid of dying as much as he is of living and it meaning nothing. Then comes the most startling reaction. “So I hated life.”

And then he goes back to thinking! In verse 24 the man who hates his life suddenly finds a way to enjoy it.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God.

Ecclesiastes 2:24

Love It or Hate It, Your Choice!

In summation, you can either hate life or enjoy it. Your choice! On a hopeful note, if you hate your life right now, you can find a way to enjoy it! If you want to find out how to enjoy it, hang with this week’s series of posts. I’m going to show you how.

The importance of this passage, aside from being the inspired Word of God, is that it comes from a man who had it all, tried it all and is now willing to share with you and I about the experience. We can either learn from him or repeat the same mistakes – but we will not come to another conclusion (Ecc. 2:12).

So according to Solomon, how do you live and really love it? This week I want to share from Ecclesiastes 2:12-17 and 2:24-26 two ways to waste your life and hate it; then I will show you how to truly enjoy life and have eternal life.

  • The worst way to waste your life.
  • The best way to waste your life.
  • The only way to enjoy life.
  • The only way to eternal life.

The Worst Way to Waste Your Life

Solomon compares two ways to waste your life. There is a foolish way and a wise way.

Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them.

Ecclesiastes 2:13-14

Fool or foolish, as used in the Bible, describes a person who does things with no thought of consequence. Foolishness doesn’t really speak about a lack of intelligence as much as it refers to a lack of foresight. A fool may have a decent IQ, but he or she is reckless.

The Keke Fool

A great example of foolish is a cultural meme known as the Keke Challenge. If you somehow missed this moment of viral idiocy, the “challenge” was to step out of the driver’s seat of a moving car and do a dance in the middle of the street to a popular song by Drake called “In My Feelings.” What could possibly go wrong?

Jimmy Kimmel deemed a Keke “fail” by Jaylen Norwood as the viral video of the year. If you haven’t seen it, allow me to share a shockingly, surprising spoiler of what could possibly happen to a guy dancing in traffic. He gets hit by a car.

The good news is that Jaylen is OK. What’s even more foolish is that the whole thing was staged. Yep, the fool planned it! The problem is that rather than “jumping” the oncoming car, Jaylen slipped on a greasy spot in the street. Dance and jump a car? Right? Again – what could possibly go wrong?

On his show, Jimmy Kimmel commented to Jaylen, “You risked your life for a meme.” Now get ready for this! And Jaylon’s brilliant response? “But I’m the most famous guy in Florida.” So Jaylen got hit by a car and became the most famous guy in Florida? I’m sure Tim Tebow is jealous.

Such is the fool. Reckless. Thoughtless. Un-phased by his last idiotic mistake. Headed full speed toward the next one. The Bible has a lot to say about a fool.

The Bible and the Fool

  • The fool says there is no God.
  • The fool can’t control his tongue and slanders others.
  • The fool despises his parent’s instruction.
  • The fool is self-centered and never takes ownership of his mistakes.
  • The fool is sexually impure and promiscuous.
  • The fool mocks the seriousness of sin.
  • The fool builds his life on his own opinion apart from the firm foundation of God’s Word.
  • The fool acts as if he will live forever and makes no preparation for eternity.

The fool does a lot of damage to himself and to others for one simple reason. He’s not thinking about the consequences of his actions.

A lot of people are just living and waiting to die. They are reckless and rebellious. It is ironic that a human created with such purpose can become so destructive with the life he or she has been given.

What if you end up like Solomon thinking that you are going to live it up, only to find out that you’ve never really lived? If you’re going to waste your life, being a thoughtless fool is the worst way to do it.

If you’re going to waste your life, there is actually a much better way. What’s the best way? Check back tomorrow . . .

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Check out videos from this sermon series, Finding Meaning or read last week’s series of posts, Don’t Push the Panic Button.

How to Get to Church and Get Over It – Worship Mindset #4 Faithful

When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools.

Getting to church on Sunday morning can be such a hassle that we get very little out of the experience and begin to wonder, “what’s the point?” This week I am showing you from Ecclesiastes, how we can get to church, get over the hassle, and get to something great! Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s dissertation on how to avoid a meaningless life. In Ecclesiastes 5 Solomon shows us how to avoid meaningless worship. To see the introduction to this week’s series of posts, see Worship Mindset #1, Careful.

Faithful

In Ecclesiastes 5:4-7, Solomon says that God takes no pleasure in a fool who makes a vow but never follows through. He then makes a curious statement. “Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake (v. 6).” What does that mean? Who is the messenger?

The messenger is someone who holds you accountable. This could be any number of people in your church. It could be your pastor, a teacher, a ministry leader, a member of a study group. The messenger is anyone to whom you make a commitment or to whom you have an obligation.

To go before the messenger and say “that it was a mistake” describes the actions of a person who apologizes, but really never does what they committed to do. They hate that they missed, but they had a good excuse. You can’t count on them. They lack faithfulness.

The Washington Post reported that according to CareerBuilder.com, Americans are great at making excuses. In explaining why workers were late to work, 51% of late arrivals blame traffic, 31% say they overslept, and 28% blame the weather. Some of the most ridiculous excuses include, “I was here, but I fell asleep in the parking lot.” “My fake eyelashes were stuck together.” And here is a great excuse, “I had morning sickness.” Morning sickness sounds like a reasonable excuse. The problem, that excuse was made by a male employee!

College students are killing off family members with their excuses. A professor noted that there seemed to be a rash of family deaths amongst students when papers were due and then just before final exams. The relative most likely to die during exams; grandma!

According to this professor’s investigation, grandmas were 10x more likely to die at midterm and 19x more likely to die during final exams. Students who were failing were 50x more likely to lose their grandmas! It seems that the key indicator of mortality amongst senior citizens who have grandchildren in college is GPA! It seems that if you have grandchildren in college, you may want to invest in a tutor.

Sometimes when it comes to getting to church, it’s a lot easier to just make excuses. That is especially true if you have positions of service or leadership. Sometimes a long week, coupled with that Sunday morning hassle makes it much harder to get there and much easier to make excuses.

Motivate out of gratitude, not guilt.

So how do you get there and get over it? Try motivating out of an attitude of gratitude rather than guilt. Instead of thinking, “I’ve got to do this” have the mentality that “I get to do this.” I don’t have to get to church. I get to go to church. I don’t have to listen to a sermon. I get to listen to God’s Word faithfully preached. I don’t have to go to worship. I get to go to worship!

As sinners there should be a sense of guilt as we realize we stand condemned before a holy God. But if we know Christ as Savior, there should be an overwhelming sense of gratitude. How do you get to church and get over it? Be faithful. Fuel your faithfulness with gratitude. You don’t have to go. You get to go.