Thursday, July 24, 2014

On drinking

Last month, 17 members of our church went on a mission trip to Romania to help Livada Orphan Care. (I will be writing about this soon.) It was an amazing trip, exhausting but rewarding. On the flight back home, one of our Elder's wives was sitting next to a group of Baptists who were also returning from a mission trip. They discussed openly and lovingly what they'd seen God do.

And then dinner came. And our lady ordered a glass of wine. And the Baptists were SHOCKED.

How could someone drink who was a Christian? Especially ON A MISSION TRIP!!! OH MY!!!

Now I have written before about this subject, pretty thoroughly taking down any arguments against the Bible.

But today I want to address another argument:  that drinking is a "stumbling block" to other Christians. For example:  "It might not be a sin to drink, but you shouldn't do it around others because you will be a stumbling block."


But first, I will repeat what I said in the article linked to above:

"Let me start by saying something: Rev 22:18, Deut 4:2, Prov 30:5-6, Deut 12:32, etc., all indicate the danger of adding to, or taking from, the Bible. There is no more important principle in Bible study that this:  all that matters is what the Bible actually said (exegesis) and how to properly apply it today (hermeneutics). The worst thing you can do is decide, 'I believe such-and-such', or 'My church teaches such-and-such,' or 'My denomination teaches such-and-such' and then go looking through the Bible to try and convince yourself that it could be true."

So as we discuss today what a stumbling block is, don't bother reading any more unless you are willing to be open-minded and actually learn what God's Word says on the subject.

"Stumbling Block"

To begin with, let's understand the term, 'stumbling block.' It originates in Leviticus 19:14. In this section, God is providing various laws for the Hebrews, and He basically commands them not to take advantage of the needy, saying: don't withholding your employee's wages, don't mock the deaf, don't cause the blind to stumble, and don't treat the poor different than the mighty.

So the term 'stumbling block' inherently carries with it the concept of putting something in front of a blind man which causes them to lose their path.

In the New Testament, this is used by both Matthew and Paul as an analogy for spiritual points.

In 1Cor 1:23, Jesus is presented as a stumbling block to the Jews--they are blind and trying to find their way to God, but Jesus being the Messiah trips them from their path, for they cannot accept that He would be their Savior.

In 1Cor 8:9, Paul says to be careful not to become a stumbling block to weaker brothers.

In Rom 14, Paul says the same thing, in reference to eating and drinking.

It is these last two which are always quoted when you hear the term "stumbling block" being used in relation to drinking. So let's break them down individually.


1 Corinthians 8

1Corinthians 8 is a chapter written by Paul to the Corinthians on the subject of food which was sacrificed to idols. In Imperial Rome, any business dinner, large family gathering, or major social event was preceded by eating food and drinking wine which was sacrificed/consecrated to a pagan god, often the emperor himself. This was repugnant to Jews and Christians; indeed, under Jewish law it was considered the worst form of idolatry, akin to worshipping someone other than the One True God.

Regarding food sacrificed to idols, Paul begins by reminding everyone that the pagan gods don't actually exist--they aren't demons or evil powers, but man-made nonsense (v.4-6). But, Paul points out, not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some believe that these gods are actually evil spirits of some kind, so sacrificing to them actually does mean idolatry against God (v.7). Paul has no problem with eating meat which had been sacrificed to false gods, because we know that we are no better or worse either way--it does not matter if someone else sacrificed the food to some make-believe deity, that doesn't affect our relationship with God whatsoever (v.8).

But Paul does have a warning for Christians. He says that if a weaker brother sees you eating meat sacrificed to idols, he might be tempted to do the same even though he thinks it is sinful. In that case, you have become a 'stumbling block' to him, for he has started doing something he felt was idolatry and worshipping someone other than God due to having seen you do it (v.9-13).

So to Paul, he is using the term to refer to a harmless activity which if viewed by another Christian might lead him into idolatry.


Romans 14

In Romans 14, Paul says the same regarding the same subject. Paul is giving advice to those Christians in Rome and begins to talk about the varying strengths of faith.

Some, Paul says, have a strong faith and have been able to completely leave Jewish law behind and follow Christ in liberty. Others have a weak faith, and still cling to the traditions of their forefathers as though they were God-required.

Paul warns not to allow these differences to create separation or division. And this comes in basically two ways:  Paul says that the strong brother is not to look down on the weak brother, and that the weak brother is not to be judgmental of the strong brother (v.3).

Paul then gives several examples of each.  Some brothers are weak and still follow Jewish holidays, while some are stronger and see no day as different than any other. Some are weak and still follow Jewish dietary laws and never eat meat or drink wine sacrificed to idols; others are stronger and eat as they please.  Again in verse 10, Paul reminds us that the two problems are contempt by the strong brothers, and judgmentalism by the weak brothers.

He then says:

"Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of your brother or sister."

So the first stumbling block we must avoid is judgmentalism--deciding that the other person is lesser than you because of their actions (v.13).

The second stumbling block is convincing them to do what they believe to be sin (v.23).  Similar to the passage in 1Corinthians, Paul says to be careful that your actions don't pressure someone into doing what they believe to be sinful.


Drinking as a stumbling block

It is from these passages that many (mostly Baptists) conclude, "Even if drinking isn't sinful, you shouldn't do it or you are being a stumbling block to others."

As clearly shown above, that is not at all the context of what Paul is saying. Paul would say that drinking is fine (and indeed he does on more than one occasion, as you can see if you go back to the article I linked to in the beginning). But Paul would say three things:
  1. Do not judge stronger brothers. If you don't drink and see a Christian drinking, don't judge him/her for embracing their liberty in Christ.
  2. Do not judge weaker brothers. If you do drink and meet a teetotaler, don't look down on them for being unable to shed their traditional viewpoint.
  3. Do not convince others to sin. If you know a brother who thinks drinking is a sin, be careful that you don't tempt them into starting drinking/rebelling against God.
 I think everyone would agree with those statements.

The question comes in the practical application of it.

Some would say that this means: only drink with other Christians who drink, never drinking around those who do not.

But this doesn't seem, to me, to hold up to Scripture. 


Galatians 2:11-13: The Forgotten Scripture

In Galatians 2:11-13, we get to see Paul in action here.

Cephas (Peter) had been living among the Gentiles. Knowing that it was free to eat things forbidden by Mosaic Law, Peter enjoyed it with them. However, when Jews came around who didn't do so, Peter withdrew from the Gentiles and followed the law.

In other words--Peter pretended to only eat kosher when around kosher brethren. In doing this, he ended up convincing Barnabas that this was necessary:  this is called "leading Barnabas astray" in the passage! Paul outspokenly and publicly confronts Peter over this hypocrisy, and tells the Galatians about it as well--for they too were being preached to by Judaizers trying to add on traditions to their grace.


So let's change the words "eating" to "drinking alcohol" there and you see my point.

Let's say that you (Pete) and your buddy (Barney) from church regularly drink wine. But one day you are met for lunch by some old Baptist buddies and you guys start to eat. You are handed the wine list by the waiter and you say, "No, no--we are Christians, we don't drink." Now this of course makes your Baptist friends happy. But your buddy Barney gets confused and now stops drinking alcohol, thinking that he was sinning before.

According to Paul, you have become a stumbling block by STOPPING Barney from drinking. You have led him astray. (Obviously Pete = Peter, Barney = Barnabas.)

Likewise, in Romans 14 Paul warns us of the opposite: you should also not be talking someone INTO drinking who believes it is wrong. If you are around someone who believes drinking is evil and idolatry, then keep your mouth shut and order a water.


The Application

A few key points I want to make here now that we have completed our study:


CONTEXT

In both passages, Paul is talking about eating food and wine sacrificed to idols. It is the sacrifice to idols which is the key element--not the fact that it is wine.

Personally I have never met a single teetotaler whose reason for avoiding a beer is that they think the Budweiser brewery is out there sacrificing their brews to Zeus.

In other words: these passages apply specifically to the questions of idolatrous sacrifice. So we need to be very careful about applying this to wine  in general. If you do that, then you should also apply the other parts to be in general.

In other words, there are only two logical ways to apply this passage based on context:
  1. It refers to food and wine sacrificed to idols. Therefore, if someone I'm around thinks it is sacrificed to evil spirits and my eating/drinking will tempt them into doing the same, I should not do so.
  2. It is a general statement. In this case, you should not drink wine, eat meat, or celebrate holidays. Abstain from all of them so that no one might ever be tempted to break one.

You can't avoid it, guys: if you are going to quote Romans 14 as being against drinking, then it is equally against celebrating birthdays and Christmas and Easter and eating meat. So try and enjoy your life as a sober vegan sitting at home alone during the holidays with your TV turned off so as not to hear a Christmas carol accidentally.

Otherwise, you are forced to use context and apply the passage as it was written.


HOW TO PROPERLY USE THE PASSAGE IF YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT DRINKING

Of course, no one today thinks their food or drink or holidays are sacrifices made to pagan gods who are competing against YHWH for dominance of the heavens. So be cautious about OVER-applying this verse to our situation today, which is radically different.

That said, I do believe there are some ways to properly use the passage if you wish to talk about drinking:

  • Admit that the Bible clearly says that there is nothing at all wrong with drinking. The passage clearly says that eating anything, drinking anything, or celebrating anything are totally fine--even if the original person/s who started the holiday or made the food/drink did so for pagan reasons.

  • Never judge a fellow Christian for using liberties which you don't feel you have. If you don't drink that is fine; do not judge the one who does. If you don't celebrate Christmas because you feel it was taken from a pagan holiday, then fine; do not judge the one who does. If you follow the Daniel Diet only because you think that is what God wants, then fine (other than the fact that your theology is terrible); but do not judge me for having a steak.

  • Do not try and tempt people into doing things they think are idolatrous. Since we have no idolatrous sacrificial system for food and wine today, this probably is not a real issue for you today. I do think one good example, though, is Halloween. Many Christians see Halloween as a celebration of Satan and demons. I think it is harmless, and there is nothing wrong with me doing it, posting photos about it, etc. HOWEVER...I should not be trying to talk them into my way of thinking or convince them to go participate.


So is drinking being a stumbling block? Or posting photos of a beer on your Facebook page being a stumbling block? Of course not, not from the Bible. In fact, Paul's interaction with Peter in Galatians 2 implies that the hypocrisy of doing something with one group but pretending you don't with another group is blatantly wrong.

The Bible says that being a stumbling block is either judging someone who does something you don't feel free to do, OR trying to trick someone into doing something they feel is a major deadly sin.

THAT is what it means to be a stumbling block.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Should we support Israel or not?

It is of course not at all uncommon to see Israel engaged in warfare and conflict, and this last week has been no different--with the Palestinians and Israelis bombing each other. It happens seemingly every year, and the result is many dead.

Politically, it is a bit predictable how people will respond:  conservatives generally support Israel due to their being the only democracy in the Middle East; liberals will oppose the Jews because the conservatives support them.

Among evangelical Christians, the support is overwhelming: indeed, according to recent polling, evangelicals like Jews better than any other religious group--including, oddly, other Christian groups like Catholics! (The feeling is not mutual, however: Jews give evangelical Christians an even lower rating than they give to Muslims, despite the centuries of battling between the two.)

Indeed, evangelicals tend to support Israel in any conflict, no matter the situation. The mindset goes something like this:

  1. The Jews are God's chosen people.
  2. God set aside the Promised Land for the Jews.
  3. The Jews do not currently have all of their promised land.
  4. Therefore, God would support the Jews to retake their land.
  5. Therefore, we should support Israel as they retake their land.


The first three statements are all undeniably true. But the conclusions do not necessarily follow from the first three points.

Remember that the Jews received their land in return for covenantal promises to God--promises which historically are not always upheld. And when those promises are not upheld, God often brings judgment upon the nation, including the loss of land for generations.

The Bible records several times that the land of Israel was handed over to non-Jews, always for the purpose of bringing the Jews back to God. From 740-722 BC, the Assyrians were in control of Israel. From 586-539 BC, the Babylonian Empire was in control of Judea. From 539-332 BC, it was the Persians. From 332-305, it was the Greeks. Starting in 63 BC, it was the Romans. And Jesus tells us during the Olivet Discourse that the Romans would sack Jerusalem again, for the abandonment of the Messiah.

The point is--sometimes in the Bible, we see God encouraging the Jews and helping them regain their kingdom. Sometimes in the Bible, we see God helping the enemies of the Jews to bring the Jews back to repentance.

And that is why I say we, as Christians, should be awfully cautious in picking sides in Israel's conflicts. The "right" side from God's view might be Israel's, or it may actually be His will to bring enemies to them in an attempt to drive them to Christ. It is in fact entirely possible that the blind support of Israel will lead one to oppose God's will at times!


Conclusion

In general, I don't take political sides: it's hard to say that we know God's side when we have such incomplete views of things. In particular, I REALLY don't think it's wise to take political sides when it comes to war, except in the most extreme of situations.

So what should we as Christians do in regard to Israel?

First, what we should do is pray as the Lord taught us:  "Thy will be done." Whether it is for Israel to retake the promised land or be driven from it, we want God's will done.

Second, I think that we should be praying for peace and for the Gospel to spread, regardless of circumstances.

So be cautious of always supporting Israel, or always opposing it. Our support should be tied to God's Kingdom and New Jerusalem, not any human kingdom here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Sermon: Money Makes Fools of Us All (Luke 12:13-34)

Below is a sermon I originally preached on 29 December 2013.



Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But He said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or arbiter over you?"

And He said to them, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And He told them a parable, saying: "The land of a rich man produce plentifully, and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'  But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."

And He said to His disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today and tomorrow is thrown in the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Lk 12:13-34)
 
 
 


Good morning, Grace Church.

If I haven't met you before, I'm Michael Belote, one of the Elders here at Grace. Before I start this morning I need to let you know that I am crazy sick right now. My family is incapable of celebrating a holiday without a major sickness breaking out, and I have been under the weather for a few days. To battle the illness I have taken basically ALL of the medicine in my medicine cabinet. Everything in there I just took one of it this morning. So if I start saying something weird today, I'm not speaking in tongue under the Spirit or something...I'm having a bad drug interaction and someone please call a doctor.

OK, so starting today I want to complain. I want to complain about one of your pastors—maybe next time they’ll think twice about giving me the mic, huh? Your associate pastor, Josh Hurlburt, apparently hates me. I say that because three years ago when I volunteered to help with youth group, I asked what topic he wanted me to teach first. He said, “I’d like you to teach about creationism and evolution – what is Biblical, what is maybe Biblical, and what definitely isn’t Biblical – and how to evangelize to evolutionists.” Right. Because THAT isn’t controversial at all.
 
Then here we are and he asks me to start teaching on Sunday mornings as well. Fine, and my first assignment is to restart our Luke series. OK no problem. But then as I’m studying for the passage a few weeks ago, I realize that he has assigned me to teach about money and materialism. On December 29—the Sunday after Christmas. Look, nobody likes a sermon about money anyway, but doing it the day after Christmas, the time of year where most of you have the biggest credit card bills and smallest cash accounts of the year? That’s just awful!

So to start with, I want to let you all off the hook a bit. You see, when Jesus preached this sermon, you know what He didn’t end with? “Will the ushers come forward and take up the offering, please. Peter needs a new
microphone, and James & John want these nice seats on stage, and Judas wants a new children’s wing added.” There was no local church, and this wasn’t a local church fundraiser—even if that’s how it is normally taught. So I’m not here to try and raise funds okay? Now if you happen to give to Grace later, I won’t track you down in the parking lot and return the check or anything. But that isn’t our primary purpose. Jesus here is teaching about materialism and your personal attitude toward your money. That's what we're focused on.
 
Okay, so now that we are getting started, let me remind you where we are. If you are new here—or a very unobservant member—you might not know how we normally teach at Grace. We pick a book of the Bible and start in chapter 1 verse 1, then we teach through the end of the book. As a result, you are able to see the context really well…today’s passage is a great example of something that is usually taught as two separate sermons when really it is part of one message.
 
Now currently we are in the book of Luke, which was written by a guy named….Luke. (That’s the kind of top notch Biblical scholarship you get when the seminarians have the day off.) Luke was a Gentile—like everyone in the crowd. Luke was a doctor—like most of the people in the crowd. Luke was a high IQ convert who was hired by a man named Theophilus to investigate Jesus. Theophilus was having some doubts and wanted to know what was going on, so this book is basically a doctor’s investigative history, talking to the eyewitnesses, putting together an orderly account.
 
For those who can remember our last lesson—way back before Missions Month and Advent season—as we get into Luke 12, Jesus has become super-popular. He is so popular by this point, on account of all the miracles and teachings, that the Bible tells us people are literally trampling each other to get to the front of the crowd. And that brings us to our passage today.
 
But before I unpack the passage, I want to make sure you understand a common pattern in Jesus’ teachings, which will help us here. Jesus’ teachings often take this pattern:
 
1. Someone from the crowd asks a question
2. Jesus answers the question to the crowd in parable form
3. Later, Jesus tells His disciples more info about the same question
 
That is important because the second half of our passage today—where He talks to the disciples—is usually
 taught as a sermon about worry and the first half about generosity…but in fact, both are part of Jesus’ one single answer. So don't miss that.
 
 
1.  QUESTION FROM THE CROWD
 
READ VERSE 13-15
 
Now what is going on here? Well, in Deuteronomy we are told how God set up the inheritance laws of ancient Judaism. The older son received double the portion of the younger sons. So take my family for example: I have two sons, Alex and Ryan. And I have an estate worth literally dozens of dollars. So if I were to divide this vast estate among them, I would divide it into three parts: Alex would get two, Ryan would get one. And Ryan would complain to high heaven about how unfair it is. As an older child, it seems fair to me…and what can I say, it’s God’s word, guys. Older kids deserve more.
 
Anyway, there were exceptions to this. Maybe the older son had dishonored the family. Maybe the older son had left the faith. Maybe the older son had a mental handicap that precluded him from running the business. Whatever it was, the Sanhedrin would assign local rabbis to serve as arbiters for such lawsuits or disagreements. This guy in our passage today is coming to Jesus and asking Him to serve as arbiter.
 
And Jesus…basically blows the guy off. He shrugs and says, “Not my problem.” Jesus tells him that He is not
the judge in this case, and the guy should seek the appropriate channels.
 
 
2.  PARABLE TO THE CROWD
 
READ VERSE 16-20
 
But then Jesus turns to the crowd and elaborates on the point of inheritance and money, with what we call the
Parable of the Rich Fool.


So why is this guy a fool? Notice that—unlike most of the rich people Jesus talks about—he didn’t do anything
unethical or illegal here. As far as we know, he owned the land and the harvest came legitimately. There is no
hint that he is shorting wages or anything. So why is he a fool?

He is a fool because of verse 19: the rich fool is seeking what? “RELAX, eat drink and be merry.” The rich man thinks that he will receive peace through his bank account.
 
Notice that the man has a number in his head—a storehouse size. And then as that storehouse finally gets filled, what does he do? Makes a bigger number. He tears down the storehouse and builds a bigger one, one which holds “many years” worth of grain…basically this is a retirement fund. Do you see that? This is a 401k or an IRA. This is someone with a “magic number” he wants to get to (an always-moving number) that he thinks, “If only I can get HERE, I will have peace.”
 
I gotta admit something…I am the rich fool. I got a reminder of that as I studied for this sermon. You see, I too have a number. I have a number in my head of how high my savings account needs to be in order for me to relax. But the last few months have been rough. A few months ago, we had a friend who was in a financial place where they were about to be foreclosed on. We were able to help them out, paying for their mortgage and some extra to get them back on their feet.
 
And the storehouse shrunk a bit.

Then we had Christmas shopping come, and I don’t like to have debt so we pay in cash when possible. And
maybe we were more generous than usual or more frivolous, I don’t know…but it took a big bite of the savings.

And the storehouse shrunk a bit.

Then my wife got kidney stones, as many of you know. And even though Sara and others helped tremendously, that makes it my responsibility to provide food. Some days (as those who follow us on facebook know) that turns into PB&J sandwiches with M&Ms…but usually it is take out. Which is WAY more expensive than Jessica cooking.

And the storehouse shrunk a bit. And now I’m starting to get nervous.

Then, every light on the dashboard goes off on our 4Runner. I read on the internet and it says not to worry—and the internet is never wrong, of course. It’s just an oxygen sensor, $50 and they can reset it. Take in the car and what do we find? A $2500 bill as the entire catalytic converter system was hosed.
 
So now my storehouse is empty. And I am in a panic. I told Jessica, “It feels like I’m losing control.”

And that’s when it hit me. Money had made a fool of me.

You see, I didn’t lose control…I never had it to start with. Money never had the ability to guarantee me a working car or a healthy wife. Money never had that ability...I just tricked myself into thinking that it did. All that my empty storehouse did was teach me the lesson that was already true: that money was powerless to provide any real peace. Only God can do that.


3.  MORE INFO TO THE DISCIPLES

READ VERSES 22-29

So money makes the rich fools when they see it as the source of their peace.

But surely that isn’t the case for the disciples, right? These guys were dirt poor! They have to be feeling pretty good at this point of the sermon. I mean, the disciples were poor before they quit their jobs to follow around the homeless preacher. They were so poor that once, to get lunch, they stole some poor kid’s sack lunch of fishes and loaves.

But Jesus has a message for them, too, doesn’t He?

Being poor may mean that you don’t seek your peace through money, but that doesn’t mean you also are not overly obsessing about it. You too may be allowing money to take over your life. Because you think that money is the source of your provision.

Yet see what the Bible is promising here in the text—that God knows what you need and will provide it. That you are His little flock and He will care for you. We see that in Psalm 23 and with the manna in the desert and all throughout Scripture…the Lord will provide. He is our provision and our strength, not something which can be purchased by money.
 
Yet again, we allow ourselves to be easily made fools by money: for money gives the illusion to the rich that they can buy peace, and to the poor that they can provide security in provision.
 

APPLICATION

I don’t like being made a fool, no more than you do. So how do we avoid it? How do we keep from being made
fools?
 
Jesus gives us two very practical applications we can take away and use this week. Let’s look at how HE comments on the sermon.

READ VERSES 30-34

APPLICATION ONE;  IF YOUR HEART IS RIGHT THE MONEY WILL FOLLOW (V.31-32)


First, Jesus says that if your heart is right, your money will follow it. Check out v.31-32. If we seek God’s kingdom—that is, be Gospel-focused—then our money will take care of itself. God will give us “these things”—that is, peace and provision.
 
So what is the Gospel? Well, to put it as simply as I can: the Gospel is that when you were helpless, God made you the heir to all of creation…and someone else (Jesus) wrote the check. You received something you did not earn. You have inside you something of infinite worth, and someone else had to do the work. You didn’t buy it. Your money didn’t provide it. This eternal peace came freely to you, not due to your own action.
 
If God gives you eternal peace without you having to pay a dime for it, why do you think you need a giant storehouse to buy temporary peace?
 
I love what Tim Keller once said, pointing out that in 1 Cor 13 the three Christian virtues naturally lead to generosity. The three Christian virtues are faith, hope, and love, right? 1 Cor 13. If you have these, think about the natural fruit that results:
  • If you have faith, then you trust God's promise that peace and provision will come from Him
  • If you have hope, then  you believe God's promise that He will make you co-heir to all creation
  • If you have love, then you cannot pass by one who is hurting, because when YOU were hurting Jesus didn't pass you by
 
Faith, hope, and love LEAD NATURALLY to generosity.


APPLICATION TWO:  IF YOUR MONEY IS RIGHT, YOUR HEART WILL FOLLOW (V. 33-34)

But then look what Jesus does, He flips it completely around and says it exactly the other way:


Where your money IS (present tense verb), there your heart WILL BE (future tense verb). Jesus is saying that if you start investing in something, your heart will naturally follow your money.

This goes along with what Doug Mary shared with you guys the other day, that Randy Alcorn once said “Giving is the only antidote to materialism.” That is exactly what Jesus is saying here. Yes, generosity will come naturally from a “right” heart…but if you AREN’T being generous, then give sacrificially! Give up your cable and use Netflix, or downgrade a car…literally sell your possessions so that you can give sacrificially. Your heart WILL become more focused on it.
 
Don’t have a passion for the orphans like you should? Give to Livada or the James Initiative or the Call…that will change. Don’t have a passion for missionaries? We support like a billion of them, pick one and invest in them. Don’t have a passion for the poor? Give to the Foodbank.

Look, I used to zoom past the beggars on the side of the street…until my six-year old reminded me that we were not giving to take care of the poor like Jesus would want. Now? I’m passionate about helping them, can’t pass one by without feeling horrible and turning around. Where your money is, there your heart will be.
 



So as we wrap up today, let me remind you of the big idea.

Jesus’ big idea here is that money makes fools of everyone. It makes us fools because we seek in money things that only God can provide—provision and peace.

 
But Jesus gives us a clear application here: if we want to stop being so materialistic, there are two cures:

1. Get your heart right/focus on the Gospel, and the money will follow

2. Get your money right and the heart will follow
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I'm baaacccckkkkkk

You might have noticed an unofficial hiatus here on Reboot for a while, in which I (Michael Belote) haven't been posting. (Or maybe you didn't notice, because I'm the only one reading...)

Anyway, it's been a busy period for me and some priorities came up that needed several months of serious focus. I'm an Elder at our church and we had some issues arise which required detailed leadership which was quite time-consuming. I am preaching more often, which requires a lot of work. The business I run has grown over 500% since last year, bringing in hundreds of new jobs (yay!) and new headaches (boo!). And we raised money for, and went on, a mission trip to Romania as a family to support Livada Orphan Care. (More on this in a later post.)


Which is all to say...you haven't heard from me in a while.


The good news is that I've kept a very detailed list of things I wanted to post, so you should start seeing a more steady stream of topics that you've become used to. I hope that you haven't all forgotten me in my absence....


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bible Kickstarter Project

For those of you Reboot readers that like having a good, quality Bible I found a new Kickstarter project that might be right up your alley.

Bibliotheca: Biblical literature designed and crafted for reading

Over the past few months I have been searching for a solidly-built Bible, what some refer to as the "unicorn" Bible. One that is the translation I prefer, with a quality text block (quality paper, and properly bound by sewing) that is also the right size, and has good print quality and font size. I'm sure there are many people that don't have this problem, but since I recently switched to the ESV from the NASB and neither of my favorite publishers (Holman and Foundation) make ESV Bibles I was basically left to shopping the selections at Lifeway and Mardel locally. I just couldn't find anything that fit my needs. I need a Bible that is small enough that it can't be considered a brick, a fair bit of margin space for me to add my own cross-references and notes, with text large enough to read while on the podium in the pulpit as I preach (I'm 6'5," so my eyes are farther away from the podium than most preachers you can think of). Throw all that in with the pesky little fact that I want the binding to last me at least the next 10 years. That cuts out all the "two-tone, tru-tone, bonded-whatever" bibles that make up 90+% of the Bible shelves in bookstores.

After spending some time reading (manymanymany) bible reviews on Amazon and CBD.com I stumbled on one review that talked about how much they loved that particular copy and that they wouldn't have found it if it weren't for some "Bible design blog." So I looked it up. Lo, and behold! A blog devoted entirely to reviewing published copies of God's Word. Bibledesignblog.com turned out to be exactly what I needed to better understand the various qualities and differences of which I was otherwise completely ignorant (I contacted Mark at BDB and he promptly replied and said that he was already in on the project and will be posting about it next week, so keep an eye out for that). It's easy for us to settle for any reference Bible that passes muster, especially if it's one that we're just pulling out once or twice a week. But delving into the world of quality built Bibles brought me back to the point... God's word should be up front and center in our lives. We should at LEAST as much thought into the Bible we get as we would if it were a phone we wanted or computer we were considering. The particular copy of God's Word that you get should fit the way you read and study so that design gets out of the way and lets His words come first.

And that is the point of the Kickstarter project which I am plugging here. The Bible copies they are proposing are high quality copies made by hand that will stand the test of time better than your typical mass-produced, glue bound copy would. But more importantly, they are designed in a way that brings us back to the story of God's magnificent plan for the redemption of mankind and the creation. The only other attempts at this that I have seen, as far as a readability standpoint, have been the ESV Reader's Bible and the Daily Bible (F. LaGard Smith). As of my writing of this article, there are 120 backers where there had been only 69 an hour ago... and the project has only been live for one day! The project starter states that if the goal is not met that the funds will not be charged, but I will be extremely surprised if it makes it to Sunday without the goal being met. I thought I'd share the opportunity! Go check out the video and try not to nerd-out as Adam Greene talks about how he designed his own font specifically for this translation.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Acts 2:38 - The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Context.

It can be a four-letter-word to some when you bring in points about context that disprove long-held views. The two most important tools to bring to Bible study are context and harmony, context of the surrounding passage and harmony with the entirety of God's Scripture. Whether its a silly example of violation of harmony like taking Matt. 27:5 "[Judas] went away and hanged himself" and following it with John 13:27 "What you do, do quickly" or a violation of context when the questionable televangelist (quoting Acts 1:8) looks directly into the camera, points, and says to the audience "but YOU will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon YOU!" In a Christian culture full of proof texting it becomes even more important for us to be diligent students of the Word that has been given to us.

Max Dawson in Beaumont, TX ran an hour long webcast last night on the phrase "the gift of the Holy Spirit" from Acts 2:38. It was a great study and its worth your time and consideration.

If you're interested in watching the recording you can Click Here. The talk starts 12:27 in to the video.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Life, and Then Some

Well...

It certainly has been a while since I have been able to write for Reboot. It's weird how fast time flies by.

Have you paid much attention to how passions, habits, etc wax and wane over life's seasons? It can be for a thousand different reasons, but as finite creatures there is only so much we can handle at one time. I had the unique positioning over the past few months to know that I would likely be leaving my secular job, after which I would be pursuing my passion: preaching and ministry. As I look back on my life over the past few months my passion has waxed and it has waned, my habits strained. I have been so busy between boxing up my life, preparing my 'job' to be passed on to the next person, (and back and forth and back and forth) that I was hard-pressed just to keep up my daily devotional time and daily 'bible reading/listening' (we do Bible audio every evening, Max McLean is by far the best). My daily thought was: "I can't wait to move, so that I'll actually have the time to read and focus..."

“Who has time? Who has time? But then if we do not ever take time, how can we ever have time?”                                                                                     --The Merovingian, ‘The Matrix Reloaded’

The thing with "I'll do it when's" and "I can't wait until's" are that life doesn't always turn out like you expect it. I can't be sure if it is due to the loss of habit, but when we have a void in our lives it isn't necessarily filled with what we intended. I am convinced (at least in my life) that at least some minimal standard of habit goes a long way, particularly with regard to spiritual life. It has always been the habitual times of devotionals that I have been most resolute, and it has been the lack thereof that I have been the most lazy spiritually. More importantly it is those "stolen" times where we have escaped just to pray, or read God's Spirit-inspired Word, or just dwell on His utter glory and holiness that we have been the most thankful for such time. Thinking about this brought Peter's first epistle to mind:


"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:3-9 NASB)

It's the times where we have to struggle that, I think, we are most passionate and most thankful. Just as gold is refined by fire, we grow in times of trial. This is true whether it is Daniel praying despite it being illegal, first century Christians facing the looming reality of being crucified like their/our savior, or whatever sense we might be tried today or tomorrow. It is the times when we have to resolve to press on in faith even "though [we] do no see Him now", after which or by which we "greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of [our] faith the salvation of [our] souls."

Peter even tells us how we can be fueled to press on:
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'" (1 Peter 1:13-16 NASB)
Actively prepare your mind for action. Actively keep sober in spirit, remaining vigilant spiritually. Continuously fix your hope COMPLETELY on God's grace, the very foundation of our trust and faith. Resolve specifically to not even look upon worldly lusts that afflicted you in the past, and resolve generally not to be drawn toward any other/additional worldly lusts. "For this is the will of God, your Sanctification [...]" (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Sanctification is progressive, a continuous work. We work, though it is not our work that gives the increase but rather God working in/on/through us. We must bear fruit(s) in keeping with our repentance and salvation (Luke 3:8). Paul himself presses this. Paul's own explicit statement of what God's will is is preceded by the direct exhortation to press harder, to work harder, to continue the Christian walk. "...we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more." (1 Thessalonians 4:1)

See, the thing is...
The Christian walk isn't something you get around to. That's why we call it "living for Jesus." We shouldn't do life and then find space here and there for our faith, rather we should live out our faith and THEN find space here and there for life. Lest we forget that "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."(Galatians 2:20)  (Also see: Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12)

"Faith is the deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time."                                                                                 --Oswald Chambers