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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“All of” Giving, Not a Donation, but an Act of Devotion

“All of” giving is not a donation. It is an act of devotion. With the “all of” giver, the heart and the head converge in a different place (see previous post). This person calculates life with a different equation than everyone else.

In Mark 12 we read of an amazing scene as an unlikely widow who gives all.

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those whoa re contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, ALL SHE HAD to live on.

Mark 12:41-44

If we watch the woman give we learn the following principles about “all of” giving. “All of” giving 1) has God as its focus. 2) Gratitude is the attitude. 3) The “all of” giver understands where he gets all he’s got.

“All of Giving” – God as the Focus

In a previous post, I stated that giving is emotional before it is financial. There are many things that can hijack the emotions of giving. You either reduce your amount or decide against giving simply because it doesn’t feel right.

  • Look at this place! They don’t need my money.
  • That guy looks like he’s better off than me. Why give to him?
  • That guy needs to get a job.
  • Those people can help themselves.
  • Where does all of this money people give go?

It is easy to get emotionally hijacked in giving.

The Cheerful Giver

God understands the emotional component of giving. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says that the Lord loves a cheerful giver.

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, ‘not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

2 Corinthians 9:7

There are two words in that verse that speak of an emotionally hijacked giver. He is reluctant. He is motivated by guilt, so he gives under compulsion. Does the Lord appreciate an emotionally hijacked giver? Maybe. I would think so. Does he hate him? I would think not. But that’s not the point of the verse. The verse is a worshipful, emotional collision between a cheerful giver and a God who loves him. It is like two friends who can’t wait to get together. It is a happy, joyous moment.

If you allow 2 Corinthians 9:7 to cast light on the scene in Mark 12, it will stop our often cold, emotionless reading of Scripture. She is the cheerful giver and the Creator of the Universe is absolutely loving the conversation he is having with his disciples about her.

Jesus Would Not Hi-jack This Woman in Worship

There is NO WAY her Savior and Creator would dare to hi-jack the emotion of this moment. He dares not to stop her as she gives all though he had logical reason in our minds and plenty of opportunity.

  • Why didn’t Jesus tell her, “Woman, this place has plenty of money, your small coins will make no difference? Keep them.”
  • Why didn’t Jesus say, “Mam, this place is corrupt. Give me 2 hours and I’ll have this place turned upside down. There will be coins spilled everywhere and you can have as many as you want.”
  • Why did he not just walk up and say, “Lady, I created the universe. Keep your money.”

Why didn’t he do any of these things? A loving God would never tell a cheerful giver to go away and He would not dare to hijack her worship of Him. To understand this scene and this woman you must understand.

She was not giving to the Temple.

She was not giving to a cause.

Her offering may have been handled by a priest but it was not given to a priest.

She was giving to God.

This was not a donation. This was an act of worship.

“All of” Giving – Gratitude is the Attitude

She is giving all she has. Ironically enough the Savior who will give Himself for the sake of His disciples is across the way discussing what she just did. In the end, she has given all for Him. He will give His all for her and them. They, his disciples, will give all for Him.

“All of” giving is a proclamation of the gospel. How can we not fail to give all when we consider that:

  • The Father has given the Son for us.
  • Jesus hung as a cursed man on a tree becoming sin for you and me.
  • He bore our sins, carried our sorrows and was pierced for our transgressions. By His stripes, we are healed.
  • Jesus rose victorious over death, Hell, and the grave.
  • He has given us His Spirit.
  • Jesus will give us a new heaven and a new earth in which we will dwell with Him forever.

“All” I will ever have is so little to give to a Savior who has done so much for me.

“All of” Giving – Understands Where You Get All You’ve Got

A person who gives “all of” does so because they realize all they have was never theirs to keep. All we have is His. The Bible teaches that we are entrusted stewards. We are managers, not creators. We are servants, not sovereigns.

The value of the two coins the woman gave was not determined by the mint in Rome. The way the woman calculated the value of the coins was in her understanding of how she got them, not in who minted them. Those two coins were not her coins. Those were God’s coins. She was merely returning them.

For the “all of” giver it is not about affordability as much as it is availability.

Again, “all of” giving is not a donation. It is an act of devotion. And it is only in “all of” giving that we can truly learn how to trust a good God and the meaning of His name, The Lord Will Provide (Gen. 22:14).

What Happened to the Woman?

I wonder what happened to the woman? The Bible never says. But the Bible does say:

Do not be anxious about anything saying ‘what shall we eat’ or ‘what shall we drink’ or ‘what shall we wear.” For the Gentiles seek after these things and your heavenly Father knows you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:31-33

My God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory.

Philippians 4:19

The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Psalm 34:10

Only in eternity will we meet the woman and know what became of her, but I do know that according to His Word, Jesus did not let her walk away empty handed. I imagine any one of the following possibilities:

  • Jesus walks over to the woman and says, “Mam, we just had a picnic on a nearby hillside and we had a bunch left over. Andrew! Could you please bring those baskets of leftover fish and bread. Mam, you can have all you want.
  • Maybe Jesus directed her to a great place to stay outside of the city. “I know a great family we stay with quite a bit. It is a man named Lazarus and his two sisters. They are extremely hospitable. Lazarus was pretty sick recently, but he’s fine now. Why don’t we go have a meal with them?”
  • Maybe Jesus gave her an invitation. “Mam, we are going to have Passover together in a couple of weeks. I would love for you to come.”

The Bible indicates that there were several women who travelled around with the company of the disciples. I wonder if on the Day of Pentecost, this woman was part of band of disciples in Jerusalem who were the first to experience God’s outpouring of His Holy Spirit.

I can only imagine!

Conclusion:

With such a Savior, when we ask the question of how can we afford to give all? I think the answer is how can we afford not to give all?

I think there are 3 essential questions that help us recalculate all.

  1. How did I get it? The problem with the rich, young ruler that went away sorrowful was that he had great possessions and his great possessions had him. He could not release them because they defined him. Understanding our life as a steward is an extremely worship, liberating way of life. If I never had it, it is no problem if I lose it.
  2. How can God use it? Giving all doesn’t mean that you have to go to church this Sunday and empty out your bank account. But “all of” means that it is all available. As a steward of God’s stuff, you are always looking for how God can use it. How can you leverage all you have and all you are for the sake of the gospel?
  3. How can I give it? I know some will accuse me of being partial as a pastor when I say this, but I believe in and practice storehouse tithing. I believe that the first 10% of my income is to be given to my local church as an offering to God. I’m not here to argue with you, I’m just telling you what I do and what I will continue to do. The rest of it is always on the table. All giving is not financial. There is giving that is hospitable. There is giving that is helpful. Ultimately, I am the one that has to be in the offering plate!

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“Out of” Giving, The Blessing We Are Missing

There is a version of giving that comes from the bottom. This type of giving makes sure you have plenty left over. I call this “out of” giving. Most people give “out of.” The problem is that there is a blessing we are missing in “out of” giving. Financially it makes the most sense. “Out of” giving is safe. But there is still something that doesn’t add up.

In my previous post, I said that giving is emotional before it is financial. Emotional giving is a type of giving I tagged as “because of” giving. “Because of” gives from the heart. “Out of” giving is where the head kicks in. The heart says it feels right. The head makes sure the numbers are right.

In Mark 12:41-44 we see plenty of “out of” giving.

“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed OUT OF their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44

In this scene, there are “many” rich people who are putting in large sums of money. That makes sense. There is nothing unusual about it. We would expect it of them. They’ve got it, so give it.

“Out Of” Feels Better

“Out of” giving makes sure that you can feel good that you gave, but that you feel even better about having plenty left over. This kind of giving doesn’t offend your head because you can afford it and it does not hurt the heart because you can walk away feeling good that you made a contribution. “Out of” giving is practical and affordable. All is well.

This is why the widow’s gift doesn’t make sense. Even Jesus drew attention to the fact that she gave OUT OF her poverty, which was all she had, “all she had to live on.” What she did is not practical and obviously for her not at all affordable.

She zeroed out an already struggling life. She just moved from tax bracket “poor” to tax bracket “nothing.” When she dropped her two nearly worthless coins into the coffer, her life just hit rock bottom. All that she has in the world is gone. What has she done?

To answer this question we must understand four types of givers.

Four Types of Givers

2 That Give Off the Bottom
  • Takers – These are people give nothing at all. They do not feel any need to contribute. Takers give no time. They give no talent. They give no treasure. These people develop an attitude that you have more than them, so you ought to give it to them. These people look at the rich in this passage and feel that the rich owe it to them. The only reason I include the taker as a giver is because he/she will give you one thing – his/her opinion. And take it from a pastor of 20+ years, the taker’s opinion doesn’t come cheap!
  • Tippers – Tippers are people who throw in a little bit if they got something from it. These people make sure to leave a little, but that they also have a lot left over.

Both takers and tippers give “out of”, from the bottom. The turning point comes in the following two types of givers. These are people who give off the top. They put a priority on giving. Only here do we begin to understand the widowed woman of Mark 12.

2 That Take It Off the Top
  • Tithers – Tithers give the first 10% to the Lord as an act of obedience. The top 10 is protected. It is reserved for God. Tithers take on the mentality that the first 10% was never theirs to keep. There is no question that it will be given. The beauty of Biblical tithing is that everyone has a 10%. Not everyone may have $100, but everyone has a 10%.
  • Givers – It is only above the tithe that we truly begin to give. The first 10% is an act of obedience. Beyond 10% is an act of gratuitous worship. This is where sacrifice begins. It does not make sense in the head and it may hurt the heart, but the giver realizes that what is given is better with God than it is with himself. (Here is an excellent article on tithing and giving by Dave Ramsey).

This brings us back to the woman. She was not giving “because of.” Nor was she giving “out of.” She gave “all of.”

When we give off of the bottom we do it out of safety, security, and the anxiety of having nothing left. But as she zeroed out there is no sense in Jesus’ observations of her that she is anxious about anything. Perhaps Jesus words “all she had to live on” are the clue. When we give off of the bottom all we have to live on is all we think we are living for. Maybe she was living on more! Maybe she was living FOR more!

What is the Blessing?

So what is the blessing? We will discuss this more in the next post, but we know this. Her giving was a blessing to Jesus. She became a teaching moment for the master. As he gathers His disciples He has a living illustration of what He will become for them, a Savior who gives all.

She is a blessing to us. We are humbled by her story. We are drawn to Christ by her. We glorify God for her. We cannot read the Gospel of Mark without her. She becomes the blessing.

Be sure to return for the next post to find out more about the blessing God gives to the “all of” giver.

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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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Blog post on how to react to change by Brian Branam.

Don’t Push the Panic Button on Change

Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.

With this series of posts, we are gleaning truth from Ecclesiastes 7 that will help us avoid those wild swings of emotion during turbulent times of life. It is easy in the ups and downs of it all to push the panic button. To see the introduction to the series, visit Don’t Push the Panic Button on Death.

Change

The Book of Ecclesiastes is included in a group of Old Testament books known as Wisdom Literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon). These books are often filled with short, smart, tightly packed riddles that have an inexhaustible depth of meaning. Also true of the genre is that these wise sayings can seem disorganized, which makes identifying the thought flow of the author difficult. Ecclesiastes 7:8-12 is a great example of this issue. If you read 10 different commentaries you will find 10 different ways of piecing these verses together.

The way these verses string together for me is in the ideas of attitudes and generations. Verse 8 speaks to the younger generation that is prone to think that a new thing is the best thing. Solomon reminds them that “the end of a thing is better than its beginning.” Don’t fail to pay attention to what has already been done. Investigate it. Learn from it. Figure out the “why” of an old thing before you scrap it and try to start a new thing.

Verse 10 speaks to the older generation that seems to romanticize the past. “Say not, why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”

There is always that temptation to think that the older days were much better than “these” present days. There is something about the human mind that puts a warm glow on the way we grew up. I grew up in the ’80s which everyone obviously understands to be the greatest decade in human history (I say this felicitously of course – but it was 🙂 – wasn’t it!)

We gave the world E.T., more Star Wars, Hacky Sack, and the original Rubik’s Cube. I have one word for you – Atari! Do you remember Beta-max, Walter Payton, Dominique Wilkins, Jordans, Reebok, Thriller, Dale Murphy (I grew up in Georgia), and Ronald Reagan. Was it not a perfect world?

Not quite! They also told us in the 80’s that your school desk would save you from a tornado and a Russian missile attack. Do you remember the Cold War? Inflation? AIDS epidemic? Do you remember the 80’s version of Climate Change – yes – Acid Rain! And perhaps the greatest crisis of the our generation – – – – – – – – New Coke!

Old is not bad.

New will not be the death of us.

Despite the good and bad of every generation there is something about human nature that is prone to think that the older generations have nothing left to offer and that the younger generations will be the end of the world.

The panic button is pressed in verse 9. Here comes the attitude – anger. “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.” Once anger takes up residence it colors the way we view every change or lack thereof. The resistance to change inherent in the older generation angers the younger one. The propensity to change in the younger generation angers the older one.

As with previous generations, we are once again in a day of divisive ideology, politics, and values. Once again, our culture seems to drive the wedge between the generations for the sake of personal gain. It is hard to ignore the cultural shifts that are taking place before us, and without doubt it is very difficult for us to wrap our minds around exactly what is happening.

But don’t push the panic button!

The gospel provides the greatest potential to create a harmonious, healthy, multi-generational community. Passages like Titus 2 more fully flesh out what is alluded to here in Ecclesiastes 7. Christ-centered, gospel community provides the richest of blessings across every generation.

For the younger generation, don’t push the panic button. You provide great energy and excitement. In our waning years we admire the vigor you still possess. At 45 your brain knows what to do, but your body lags behind. But take it from me as we watch you 20-somethings. Your body is fine, but your brain is desperately trying to catch up! Let’s work together on some stuff! We got the brains. You’ve got the not quite so tired, more flexible, less prone to acid reflux bodies. We need each other!

While it is true that each generation leaves some mess behind for the next to clean up, not everything needs “new.” Sometimes change for the sake of change simply brings turmoil. The end of a thing is MUCH better than its beginning. We fought the battles. We tried and failed. Just leave it be. Save yourself the headache and the hassle. Appreciate it. Improve on it? Yes! Implode it? No! Slow your roll!

Now let those of us who have less days ahead than behind gather around the fire and chat. While it is true skinny jeans and man buns are questionable, despite what Fox News says, millennials will not be the death of us. They carry with them some concerns we should not have allowed to go by the wayside. They are picking up with some things we said were important, but we failed to follow through. While it is true that the mills will eventually figure out how bad vinyl sounds and end this odd comeback of the record player, I am excited to see what NEXT looks like. The future days may indeed be much greater than the former ones. May it be the church that exemplifies this for the glory of God!

Change is never easy – whether you are trying to initiate it or stop it. Wherever you are in the midst of it, don’t push the panic button. Allowing anger to lodge within you can turn you into a bitter old fool at 20 as well as 70. Remember Ecclesiastes 7:14. God has made every day, each generation, and He has something for us in all of it.

Conclusion:

As we finish out the passage, Solomon leaves us with three thoughts to help us not push the panic button in any seemingly turbulent situation.

  1. Don’t take yourself too seriously (Ecc 7:15-18) Solomon brings us to balance. Some people will waste their lives thoughtlessly. Some will waste their lives with too much thinking. The world isn’t perfect and you aren’t either. Some people are trying to kill themselves trying to fix it all. You are not the standard of all things. Don’t push the panic button when the world doesn’t suit you.
  2. God has something for us even in the turbulence (Ecc. 7:14) God has made one day as well as the other. Consider it! Don’t push the panic button.
  3. Go straight to Jesus (Ecc. 7:13) I see verse 13 of this passage as the gospel according to Solomon. “Consider the work of God. Who can make straight what God has made crooked?” In Romans 8:13 Paul explains that the word was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it in hope. We have to understand the times and we have to acknowledge our nature. Both are fallen. Both are crooked. Both are incapable of saving or fixing themselves. Turbulence is going to be a part of our existence. In each instance, our tendency is to push the panic button. But consider it! Has not God ordained in the turbulence, not that you push the panic button, but that you reach out in desperation to Him with repentance and faith? Don’t push the panic button. Turn to Jesus as the Savior and Lord of your life.

Don’t Push the Panic Button on Rebuke

It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.

With this series of posts we are gleaning truth from Ecclesiastes 7 that will help us avoid those wild swings of emotion during turbulent times of life. It is easy in the ups and downs of it all to push the panic button. To see the introduction to the series, visit Don’t Push the Panic Button on Death.

Rebuke

I don’t know of anyone who enjoys being called out on their character, or on a critical error. We tend to surround ourselves with “yes men.” We like people who will celebrate us and tell us how amazing we are. But Solomon warns us. Surrounding yourself with “yes men” is as he says in Ecc. 7:5, “the song of fools.”

The songs of fools sound great, but amount to nothing. In Ecc. 7:6 these empty words are described as “crackling thorns under a pot.” There is a fast flame. It makes a lot of noise. All of the crackling makes it seems as if there is something really exciting happening, but it burns out with no real benefit. It is a flash fire at best, it produces no real productive heat. In Ecclesiastes 7:7 Solomon says much like a bribe corrupts the heart, so does surrounding yourself with people who will only tell you what you want to hear.

Ecclesiastes 7:5 contains a great line. If you want to be successful, mark it! If you want to make a difference in life, mark it! If you want to be a great father, great mother, great husband, great wife, great student . . . find someone who will love you enough to tell you what you may not want to hear, but what you need to hear – receive rebuke!

It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. -Ecc. 7:5

We live in a snowflake society that props us up on praise. We want celebrations of every post and pic. Everything is #themostamazing thing. When someone dares to bring rebuke, we push the panic button and absolutely melt.

Rebuke doesn’t feel good. Guess what, it’s not supposed to, but it benefits. Rebuke hurts, but it helps. We tend to avoid those people. We may even criticize those people. But if you look closely at the wisdom of the passage, those may be the people who care about you the most.

The person who brings rebuke sometimes hurts the worst but often cares the most.

In my first ministry gig, I became the youth pastor of my home church. It was a wonderful opportunity that set me up for success, but there were some subtle traps within it that could have easily been my downfall. For one, my parents were in the church. We were longtime members of the church. Most of the adults in that church raised me, coached me, taught me, encouraged me. I was surrounded by people who would celebrate everything I did as if it was the greatest thing that had ever been done. They were proud of me.

I truly appreciate their encouragement, because looking back, I realize those were some bad sermons and a lot of dumb decisions. Now at 45 and the father of two daughters, I realize what it must have been like for a parent to trust a 20-year-old to take their teenager to youth camp. Thank you New Liberty for your days of grace.

But there was one person in my life at that time who not only encouraged me, but he loved me enough to tell me the truth. Not everything I did was great. Not every sermon I preached was amazing. Not every decision was the best decision. When I did wrong, he would sit me down and call me out on it and correct it. He was my pastor.

His name was Wayne Hamrick. And I’ll be honest, I would leave his office so mad at times that I wanted to quit. But even at that time I had the good sense to know, maybe I didn’t like what he was saying; maybe I didn’t understand what he was saying; maybe I didn’t even agree with what he was saying; but 1) he was the pastor and 2) he had been doing this a whole lot longer than me. Intelligence means you have information. I was in school, I was learning a ton. Wisdom means you have information AND application. Bro. Wayne knew where certain decisions and actions would lead. He could see down the road, I could not.

The older I get, the more I appreciate him. And I will say this, the older I get, the more I realize he was right especially when I thought he was dead wrong. When I got mad, I should have been glad that he was a caring, wise, honest voice in my life.

I pushed the panic button a lot of times when he would rebuke me, but I wonder how much better I would be now if I had laid off the panic button and been more ready to receive what he was saying. Rebuke does not feel good, but it is good. Don’t push the panic button.

Be bold enough to invite some people into your life who are willing to rebuke you. Be vulnerable enough to listen and make correction. Be teachable. Wisdom does not come from what we want to hear. Wisdom is gained in what we need to hear.


As I was working on this post I came across some great material that relates in Paul Tripp’s Dangerous Calling. This book is cutting me to the core and will most likely be added to my “5 (now 6) books that rocked my world” list.

None of us is wired to live the Christian life along. None of us is safe living separated and unknown. Each of us, whether pastor or congregant, needs the eyes of others in order to see ourselves with clarity and accuracy. And what is this daily ministry of intervention protecting us from? The answer should sober every one of us: the grace of having our private conversations interrupted by the insight-giving ministry of others is protecting us from becoming spiritually blinded to the point of the hardening of our hearts. The author argues here (Heb. 3:12-13) that personal spiritual insight is the product of community. It’s very difficult to get it by yourself. Perhaps every pastor needs to humbly recognize that because of the blinding power of remaining sin, self-examination is a community project. Every pastor needs people in his life in order to see himself with biblical accuracy.

Dangerous Calling – Paul David Tripp (p. 73)

How to Get to Church and Get Over It – Worship Mindset #5 Fearful

but God is the one you must fear

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?” With this series of posts, I am showing you from Ecclesiastes 5, 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.

Fearful

Solomon ends with a succinct statement sure to stop our descent into pointless worship, “ButGod is the one you must fear.” Remembering who worship is ultimately for is the greatest way to help you get to church and get over it.

Isn’t it amazing that in a world created by God, in the midst of a people redeemed by God, in a worship service that is supposed to be for God, that we can completely miss God?

It is easy to get to church and just see singers and a band. We see the need to get our kids checked in. We hear the preacher bring the message. We put a smile on our face and say “Hi, I’m fine, how are you?” to all of our friends. But if we do not get over what it took us to get to church we can leave the building never having experienced God, needing God, hearing from God, or even speaking to God.

I recently attended the Exponential Conference in Orlando, Florida. The opening speaker was Francis Chan. There was very little exposition to his message. From a seminary standpoint, it was a hermeneutical “F”. But it was a powerful reminder for me of why I took the time to go to the conference – experience a 6 hour flight delay – get to my room at 1:00am and have a stack of work awaiting me each night after a long day. I was there to hear from God. Francis Chan’s message was little more than an impassioned reading of Hebrews 12:18-29. For 17 minutes it was the voice of God to me.

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made – in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

The greatest thing we can do to get to church and get over it, is to get over ourselves.

The greatest thing we can do to get to church and get over it is to get over ourselves and any delusion that we have done God a favor. We need to be shaken. We may arrive with inconvenience, but we need to be filled with reverence and awe. This is not about you. This is for God.

And let us not forget our brothers and sisters in dangerous places who are not inconvenienced by where they go on a Sunday morning, but are persecuted for who they are on a daily basis. They face daily economic hardships. They stare down the barrel of a gun. They watch as their children are slaughtered for one simple reason – their fear of God is greater than their desire to preserve their lives.

I think we need to have perspective. I think we need to keep ourselves in check. Getting to church? Is this really a sacrifice for our God who is a consuming fire?

Conclusion

I want to conclude this series of posts with a recap. What are the mindsets of worship, from Ecclesiastes 5, that will help us get to church, get over it, and get to God?

  1. Careful – When we guard our steps we walk with God daily rather than simply meet with Him once a week.
  2. Mindful – We need to be curious for the Word of God. Reserve some mental bandwidth so that you can receive what is being given to you.
  3. Truthful – The words we say are also important. Don’t use words as smokescreens. Let us not be satisfied with true, but press on to truth.
  4. Faithful – We serve and worship without excuse. We don’t have to go to church, we get to go to church.
  5. Fearful – This is not for us. This is for our God who is a consuming fire.