The Fine Glass Bowl  4-8-24

My wife has a fancy glass punch bowl that she uses for special occasions. She recently used it for serving drinks at a baby shower and then a week later she filled it with a desert for a family gathering.

My wife also has a large cast iron pot that is about the same size. I do not have to be nearly as careful with the cast iron. I can put it on the stove or into the oven. I can drop it and not worry about breaking it. I can bang a large serving spoon on the side of it to get some stuck on stew off of it. I cannot do those things with the glass punch bowl.

The contrast between the punch bowl and the cast iron pot reminds me of what Peter wrote about wives. “You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (I Peter 3:7) Notice that the passage does not say that wives are weak, but that husbands are to treat her like a weaker vessel. In other words, I am to treat my wife like the beautiful punch bowl, not like the old cast iron pot. That means I need to treat her as someone valuable who I am very careful with.

Notice that the way to treat her carefully is to understand her. Just like I understand that glass can break and that the punch bowl should not be put on the stove or into the oven, I need to understand what could hurt my wife. I must be careful to avoid doing actions that would hurt her.

A few verses before this, the wives were told to be gentle and of a quiet spirit and the example of Abraham's wife Sarah was given. A quiet spirit is not the idea of never sharing her opinion, it is rather the idea of being easy to get along with.

In order for husbands to know how to avoid hurting their wives so that their wives are easy to get along with, they must be able have an understanding of what their wife is thinking and feeling. That means that a wife must have the freedom to share her opinions. We are able to read in the book of Genesis that Sarah did just that in Genesis 21 when she told Abraham her thoughts about Hagar.

Peter also says that Sarah called Abraham lord. That term is not used there to mean “God”, but rather it means leader. In other words, Sarah was willing to let her husband lead, but she was also able to express her opinions in how he should make leadership decisions. Any good leader will listen to advisors and for the husband, his advisor should be his wife.

As a husband gets advice from his wife he is better able to dwell with her in an understanding way and thus better able to treat her like the valuable glass bowl. This doesn't mean that the wife should always get her way, but it also shows that the husband should not just selfishly make all the decisions without regard for his wife. Sarah honored Abraham and let him lead, but notice that in I Peter 3:7, the husband is also to honor the wife and to treat her carefully.

In Ephesians 5, the Apostle Paul shows us how the husband wife relationship is to be a picture of Christ and the church. We as Christians are to follow the leadership of Christ, but he loved us so much that he understands us. He even became a human like us. Further, he cares about our needs and our comforts. Therefore, we as husbands should put ourselves in our wife's shoes to understand her.

If we refuse, our prayers will be hindered and that makes sense. Why should God listen to us if we refuse to listen to our wives? “To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;” (I Peter 3:8). 

Should Everyone Teach? 3-25-24

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This is an election year and as I turn on the news I see a number of different candidates from a number of different political parties facing criticism for what they said or how they said it. These stories make headlines, but how you and I use our tongues is noticed by a much smaller group of people. Having said that, our words have a much more personal effect on our neighbors than the politician's words do. That is why it is important that we are concerned about the words that come out of our mouths.

In the first verse of James 3, we are warned that many of us should not become teachers. The tongue is used to teach and then the next 11 verses warn about how dangerous the tongue can be. Verse 5 says, “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!” Just like the small flame from one match can burn down a forest, just a few words- or even a single word- can set off so much destruction.

James warnings about the tongue continue in verses 9 and 10. “With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”

We understand that only Jesus is perfect and James makes it clear that no man can perfectly tame his tongue. Still we must take responsibility for what we say and how we say it. If a man were constantly yelling at his neighbors- constantly putting them down and cursing at them- he should not be teaching God's word in the church. James was clear in verse 1 that not everyone should be a teacher.

Christians are to love their neighbors and husbands are to love their wives, so a man who made a habit of using his tongue in a hurtful way against his wife should not be teaching in the church either. No doubt a high standard has been set, but James was not the only one to suggest such a high standard.

In 1 Timothy 5:22, the Apostle Paul said, “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thus share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.”

If you promote a sinful teacher and he spreads his sinful ideas through his teaching then you have thus promoted his sin. It is like that flame that spreads throughout the forest. No wonder James warned in verse 1, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1)

James makes his point very clear in verses 11 and 12 when he says, “Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Neither can salt water produce fresh.” Someone who regularly uses their tongue to mistreat their wife or neighbor should not be trusted to use their tongue right when teaching the word of God.

Romans 16:17-18 warns, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.”

Notice how they deceive with their speech. That deception can do a lot of damage. Jesus warns in Matthew 12:34, "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” If a heart is so cruel as to regularly speak evil towards others, we should not have that person teaching in the church.

Both James and Paul were serious about high standards for the teachers of God's word. Let us strive to live up to God's standards. 

Celebrities and Worship 3-11-24

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Tim McGraw is planning to perform at the Denny Sanford Premier Center this year. Ticket prices range from $71- $102. As expensive as those tickets are, they seem cheap compared to the tickets to see Pink. Those tickets are selling in a range from $230-$635.

There are far cheaper ways to get into the Denny Sanford Premier Center. It only cost me $8 to go to the home show and we got in for free when we attended the farm show. Of course people are not spending $230 to see the event venue, they are spending it to see Pink. Further, a Pink fan would be disappointed if Tim McGraw showed up when they were expecting someone else. Further, the person who was looking forward to hearing McGraw sing “Don't Take the Girl” would be disappointed if Pink showed up instead.

When these concert tickets are sold, they are selling access to the entertainers. The music that these entertainers perform can actually be accessed for free online, and it would likely even sound better on your laptap than it would at the Premier Center. Further the view would likely be better as well. Still, people are willing to spend their money to be close to the entertainer. It is all about the experience of being close to someone who is admired and being able to share that experience with others.

No doubt there will be a number of fans who cross the line into worship of the famous individual. As Christians, our worship ought to be reserved for God only. As much as I do not want to encourage idolatry of famous people, I do long for Christians to have an even greater devotion towards Jesus Christ than fans have towards their favorite celebrity.

We do not have to buy tickets to see Jesus. Instead we need to recognize that he is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We are to love him and believe in him. Music fans believe that their favorite entertainer is the best. Christians must believe that Jesus is God and that he is the best King that could ever rule. The belief that we as Christians have in Jesus Christ must be worshipful devotion.

The Denny Sanford Premier Center is a nice place, but Pink fans would be just as excited to go to an old warehouse with no paint on the walls to hear their favorite performer- especially if they knew Pink had designed the layout herself. As wonderful as heaven will be, Christians should be focused on Jesus, not so much on the venue.

Still there is a good reason for us to be excited about heaven. Jesus made it and when we get there, he will get to show it off to us. Heaven is like the concert itself. It is a way for Jesus to display his creative talents. Knowing that Jesus is God and that he is far more talented than any performer, I look forward to seeing what he has in store for us- not because I am more excited about heaven than about Jesus- I am excited about heaven because Jesus went there to prepare a place for us- that where he is, we may be there also. We get to see what he has made on full display.

All the wonders of heaven will point us to how wonderful Jesus is. It will direct our worship towards him. Even now, we get to see the wonders of his creation on this earth. Let the creation also remind us to worship our great king and creator Jesus Christ. As we see how great Jesus really is, it will make the worship of famous celebrities seem quite silly. 

Working For Jesus 2-26-24

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Being self employed can be stressful because I am responsible for everything and if things are not done right, I have to carry all that weight on my shoulders. That motivates me to be very careful in how I do my job.

But what if I were working for a reputable company and I loved my boss and I cared about the reputation of that company? In that situation, I would still want to be just as careful with my work as if I were self employed. I would not want to do anything to harm my boss, his company, or his reputation.

Although my commitment to diligence would not be reduced, I would still feel less pressure to do everything myself. If my boss was also good at his job, I would understand that he would be invested in making sure that I had the resources to do the job well. I would have his help. He would have my back and I would not have to do it all myself.

That explains what my life is like as I serve the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the boss and I am the servant. I do what he asks me to do and I want to do a good job for him because he is a good boss and I love him. Further I do not want to do anything to hurt his reputation.

I also know that he has all the resources to do whatever job he asks me to do. Jesus even promised in Matthew 11:30, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus is a great boss.

As we come to the book of James, James is quick to tell us that he is a servant of Jesus Christ. Then he tells us that the Lord gives him trials so that he is better prepared to serve as a servant. That reminds me of how I was given easier jobs by my dad when I was younger so that I learned to do harder jobs later. As a kid those jobs seemed so hard, but now they are easy. They prepared me to do much more challenging jobs today. That explains why God allows trials into our lives.

But then James tells us that we should ask for wisdom and expect that God will give us what we ask for. James is not telling us that God will guarantee that we will have the wisdom to get rich or popular or whatever else our selfish desires would strive for. Instead he is telling us that we will have the wisdom to be faithful servants.

Jesus said, “If you love me keep my commandments.” Our job as faithful servants is to obey him and realize that he gives us all the resources to do that. The wisdom to know what God wants us to do is the wisdom to obey him.

As we serve Christ, we may want wisdom for choosing between two jobs. If neither job is sinful, then we should not fret about those details of our lives but faithfully serve him in whichever job we choose. On the other hand, if in one of the jobs we were expected to cheat customers, then we know that Jesus will give us the wisdom to turn down that job. James warns in 1:8 that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways and should not expect anything from the Lord. If you decide to take the job that would cause you to sin, then you are a double minded man trying to serve two masters. Our job is to serve Jesus and to glorify him.

When Jesus is your master he has your back. Trust him as you obey him. He is the boss. Trust him to take the responsibility when others are upset with you for obeying him. 

An Eternity With Jesus 2-12-23