The Lure of the Other Side

The grass is always greener on the other side. Old English Proverb

One of the most important parts of any Vacation Bible School is snack time and our VBS is no exception. Since the preacher's house is situated adjacent to the church building, we have found it very convenient to serve the cookies and punch from underneath our carport. The only thing inconvenient about this arrangement is that we have a lot of lawn mowers and old windows and the like that are stored behind the carport. The obvious problem is how to keep curious 4 to 10 year olds away from these things that they might get hurt on.

Our solution was to stretch a garden hose between the building and the edge of the carport, and then explain to the kids that they could not cross to the other side. This has worked very nicely throughout the years, but the "line" has not always served to remove the "lure" of the other side. One day my wife called me over. She said that I just had to see what was going on out by the carport. What I saw when I got out there was a line of kids, mostly 4 and 5 year olds, all standing at the boundary of the garden hose. None were crossing the line, but they had found some branches from our big tree and were reaching over as far as they could to see what they could touch with those branches. They were obeying the letter of the law, but they were having a bit of a struggle with the spirit of the thing.

I had to laugh, because this is the very type of thing that we all struggle with all of our lives - no matter what our age may be. Whether its a group of little boys teasing a vicious dog, a teenage girl going out with that wild boy, or some of us pushing the speed limit because we are in a hurry, the results are the same: Someone nearly always ends up getting bit. Even if we "get away with it" this time, such outcomes just seem to make us bolder for the next time, and the next time is nearly always more fraught with peril.

Then there is God's way. God sets boundaries for us - not to be unreasonable or to keep us from fun - but to protect us. When our kids were little, we put up gates at the stairways to keep them from falling. Our loving Father does the same for us. If we are wise, we will mature enough to realize that the boundaries God sets are perfect and put in place to keep us from harm. Then we can begin to truly enjoy the blessings that are rightfully ours, rather than continually reaching over the line to get to that thrilling green grass on the other side.

The Lord will keep you from all harm - He will watch over your life. Psalm 121:7, NIV


The Love of Truth

He that would seriously set upon the search of the truth, ought in the first place to prepare his mind with a love for it. For he that loves it not, will not take much pains to get it, nor be much concerned when he misses it. John Locke

One of the most important things that we must settle in our minds is whether or not we really have an interest in the truth. So often, we will sit down to read the Bible in order to prove what we already believe. We believe one thing about salvation, another about worship, and another still about the commands for our everyday lives. Having these pre-conceived notions, we then sift through the scriptures like a child on the beach picks up shells on the seashore: We only gather those truths which we find attractive. By doing so, we often miss out on the very thing we began our search for in the first place - the truth!

This is why it is critical that we have a love for God, and therefore a love for His truths. If our motives are really to find out what God's commands are because we love Him, then our quest for the truth becomes so much easier. It becomes easier because we are not trying to defend our own ideas, but are instead trying to find out how God wants to be served. Our motivation becomes very simple: We want to discover the truth because we love God. If we truly do love God and Christ, why would we want to do anything else?

Here is how God's word describes this love for the truth:

I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on you laws. I delight in your commands because I love them. Psalms 119:30 & 47, NIV

If you love me, you will obey what I command... If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching... He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. John 14:15, 23 & 24, NIV

We have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, "I know Him", but does not do what He commands is a liar and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys His word, God's love is truly made complete in him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did. I John 2:3-6, NIV


The Lesser of Two Evils is Still Evil

Of two evils, choose the least. Erasmus

How many times have we overheard someone say that they chose the lesser of two evils, as if they had just accomplished something noble?

My wife and I were at a restaurant  with a menu containing a list of food that we normally wouldn't have consumed on a bet. Instead of ordering a couple of cokes (or just leaving as soon as the waiter's back was turned) we ordered the least offensive item we could find. Then, after choking down something we would have  probably ordered our two year olds (in years gone by) to throw back on the ground, we paid an exorbitant price with a nice tip for something that, for all we knew, was bio-hazardous waste.  People do strange things in the name of polite behavior.

How much better it is to simply refuse the choices offered when confronted with such a poor selection. When we find ourselves in unpleasant circumstances and want to rise above that state, we will have to make choices superior to those that put us there in the first place. By continually choosing the least distasteful course among bad choices, we will remain on a path that takes us to places we don't want to go, be with people that we really shouldn't be with, or eat things that are best left uneaten.

If you continually find yourself dissatisfied with you lot in life, maybe it is time to upgrade your choices. Since the creation, God has allowed man to choose his own path, but not without consequence. He will allow us to continually choose from a wide array of evils that can only lead to death, but what He really wants us to do is to choose life. Which... will you choose?

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him.  For the LORD is your life... Deut. 30:19-20, NIV


The Last Acceptable Form of Bigotry

The last acceptable form of bigotry is that of bias against Christianity.

I was watching Bill O'Riley last night and he had a clip from the show, "Saturday Night Live". The clip showed an actor who was playing Christ and mocking Christianity. Now, if you were to ask the people who put on this little skit, they would likely claim that they were not mocking Christ - rather, they were making fun of a popular quarterback by the name of Tim Tebow.

Perhaps that is what they were trying to do - I won't argue their point. But the effect was to mock Jesus, and they are not the only ones doing so. In fact, countless people, from ESPN anchors to so-called "serious journalists", have used the "Tebow" story as an opportunity to mock Christ and His followers.

How sad!

How sad it is for their to be such an attitude of hostility against Christians. It seethes beneath the surface, but comes out quickly whenever anyone dares to bring up Jesus in a serious manner. It infuriates these people - often they can barely contain their scorn as they rail against anyone who would dare to acknowledge the name of Jesus in any way other than in the form of a curse.

So, what should our response be? How should Christians react to such open bigotry? While I cannot speak for others, I can tell you what I intend to do: I intend to pray for them. You see, Christ died for their sins. He died for those who spit on Him, and who cursed Him, and who struck Him, and who mocked Him, and who crucified Him. In fact, while He was dying on the very cross they nailed our Lord and Savior to, He asked God to forgive them because they did not know what they were doing.

I think the same is true of most of those who put down Christians (and the Lord whom we follow) today: They just don't know what they are doing. Does it make us mad? It should! But it should also make us hope and pray that they will repent, for most of the people who involve themselves in this last acceptable form of bigotry are just like we used to be: Ignorant and in danger of being lost for all eternity. And, like us, they need to repent. I pray that they will!

"But I tell you who hear Me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." Jesus, as recorded in Luke 6:27-28, NIV


The Importance of Prayer

Get the facts. Analyze the facts. Make a decision. Act on that decision. Socrates

While old Socrates had a great framework for handling problems, his formula was missing something - God and prayer. One of the most valuable pieces of advice that I have come across is from Larry Burkett, and it was essentially this: If you have an important decision to make and are not sure exactly how to proceed, then pray for wisdom and go in the direction that gives you the most peace.

I have taken this advice on many occasions - and always with good results. The reason is that the decision making process calls for a conclusion - often among competing solutions that seem equally reasonable. So, what do you do? You pray for God's direction and then choose the one that gives you the most peace of mind when compared to the others. A practical example might help to illustrate this principle.

Say you get a call from the police informing you that your child has been arrested for drunk driving. Your first impulse is to kill the child, but calmer heads prevail and that option is reluctantly discarded. But what do you do? Do you punish him with an iron fist? Do you hug him and say all is well because everyone makes mistakes? More than likely it will need to be a combination of the two extremes, but which combination and how do you come up with it? This is where Larry and the old Greek guy blend so well.

1. Get the facts: Your child was arrested for drunken driving.

2. Analyze the facts: Something has to be done and punishment is in order, but your child needs to be shown that you still    love him.

3. Make a prayerful decision: This is a pivotal moment in your child's life and you must make the best decision you can. So you pray for guidance and then choose the solution you feel most at peace with. In this case, you might see the need to mix justice with mercy.

4. Act on your decision: You have tried to make the best decision that you can in God's eyes, so it will be a good one. In this case, you let your child know that you love him more than ever, but that serious transgressions require serious attention and serious penalties. So you mix justice with love and mercy and then you go on with life.

The fact is that there will be difficult decisions in life that we may never know the exact solutions to. However, if we will seek God's help and direction in every important decision, we will not only come out better than we could hope for otherwise, we will also have the peace of mind that God will help us every step of the way.

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. James 5:13, NIV