Contradictions

purple flowers

Contradiction…we all know and understand the meaning behind this word.  Two things that oppose each other.  In English class we call them antonyms.  The two words that mean the opposite of each other.  The usual purpose behind a debate is caused by two or more people that have different usually opposing ideas that they not only feel very strongly about but also think is the only correct way to think.  We see this in our government on a pretty consistent basis these days.  Contradictions are not usually our favorite thing to discuss at a party, and yet the Bible has some contradictions that when looked at on the surface make no sense but when put into practice make perfect sense.

 

Here are a few:

  1. Matthew 10:39 “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

How can we find our life if we lose it?  Usually when I lose something, like a sock in the wash, it is lost.  We do not try to lose things on purpose so that we can then find them.  What was Jesus’ original intent when He spoke these words?  If we deny Christ in hopes of saving our lives, we lose the hope of eternal life.  When we surrender our lives to Christ, we gain the hope of eternal life.  Living a life surrendered to the will of God the Father will find the true purpose and the true meaning of life.  True purpose in life is not found in doing my will, but rather surrendering my will to the Father and doing His will.  Yes, a contradiction.

  1. Proverbs 11:24 “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give and only suffers want.”

This one is certainly an enigma.  When we give we grow richer and when we withhold we are in want.  So many in our culture strive to have the best house, the best car, the best clothes…Three generations from now or even at our funerals will our house and our car be the things that are remembered?  Rather, when we attend funerals no one usually talks about another’s possessions but their character.  When we are generous with our love, compassion, gentleness, kindness, encouragement, friendship, hospitality, joy, peace…we grow richer.  When we are stingy with our kindness being so focused on meeting our own needs, we suffer.  It seems when I notice the needs of another and freely give of my time and talents, my heart grows richer.  When I fail to notice the needs of others and am so focused on my own needs, I feel even needier.  Loving those that do not deserve it or encouraging those that may not reciprocate fills my heart with more joy than keeping that love for myself.  Notice the pain in someone’s eyes and love them.  Notice the loneliness in someone’s life and be their friend.  We should be giving so freely that when it seems the cup is empty, God has refilled it with more than we had to start with.

  1. Proverbs 11:25 “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched and one who waters will himself be watered.”
  2. Acts 20:35 “…It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

What is the conclusion of the whole matter?  Live a life of contradiction.  Give when it seems there is nothing left to give, and God will reward you.  “Moreover, it is required of stewards that a man be found faithful.” (I Corinthians 4:2).  Will we be found as a faithful giver or a faithful withholder?  God has so richly given to us, should we not follow His example and be faithful givers.  Generosity (giving freely) is not always money.  We all have an endless supply of love, compassion, gentleness, kindness, encouragement, friendship, hospitality, joy, peace…why not give it all away.  Live a life of contradiction.  Jesus did!

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A lesson from a Chainsaw

 

fallen tree

I had to go to Weingartz to get my chainsaw checked out.  I am eagerly anticipating putting in a garden this year, but since we live on an old Christmas tree farm there are a few trees that are in my way. There was also a beautiful flowering tree right in the middle of this plot of land that needed to be cut down.  Cutting down this flowering tree was a big job and I had to make sure I did it before it began to bloom, otherwise, I would have many second thoughts.  The evergreens were on their last leg (or branch) and looked rather spindly.  The flowering tree will live on as the fence I need to put around the area to keep out the raccoons, groundhogs, deer, rabbits, and whatever else thinks it might just want to make supper out of my garden.

Anyway, back to the chainsaw.  I got it stuck a few times, and was having trouble with the chain. I thought I had it fixed, but being a bit of a newcomer to the chainsaw gang, I went to Weingartz for a bit of advice.  Sure enough once it was taken apart and put back together, the reason for the chain problem was clear.  After a new bar, new chain, and a tiny screw were used, the chainsaw worked like a champ.  My blade was crushed and my chain was missing a few teeth.  As I was paying, the service tech said, “It will be a lot easier to use now and won’t be so much work.”  I knew exactly what he meant, because it had become a lot of work.

The spiritual application to this story came as I was cutting down and cutting up more trees for my garden.  (Manual labor is a good medium for me to think, but I sure am sore.)

Psalm 116:1, 2 “I love the Lord because He has heard my voice and my plea for mercy.  Because He inclined His ear to me, therefore, I will call on Him as long as I live.”

I read these verses and was overwhelmed.  God wants to listen to me.  God created me for relationship with Him.  As I kneeled in prayer that morning tears running down my cheeks, I thanked God for wanting to have a relationship with me.  Who am I that the Creator of the Universe would want to have a relationship with me?  Not only does He want to have a relationship with me, but He also wants to listen to me.  Again, I say, “Who am I?”  How often have my prayers been repetitive pleas?  How often have my prayers been incomprehensible except for the understanding of my all-knowing God?

“Psalm 119:9-16 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.  With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!  I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your statutes…In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.  I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.  I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.”

The key to being pure here is God’s Word.  This is more than sexual purity.  This is purity from sin.  How do we keep ourselves pure from sin?  Guard, not wander, store, learn, delight, meditate, and not forget God’s Word.  The more time we spend reading God’s Word, the more it infiltrates our thoughts and our actions.  We are hearing from God.

As we spend time in the presence of God through prayer and Bible reading, we begin to act like Him and talk like Him.  When I meet a friend for coffee, I usually allocate at least one hour to spend listening to them and talking with them.  If I met someone for coffee and ten minutes later got up and said, “It’s been nice talking to you.”  They might have a few choice words for me.  Spending time with God each day developing a relationship with the Creator of the Universe through prayer and Bible Study should be the most important part of our day, and yet it often is not.

 

Martin Luther said that the busier he got, the more time he spent in prayer.  On exceedingly busy days, he would get up early and spend three hours in prayer.

God wants to hear from us.  He told us this in His word.  God also told us to delight in His word to help our lives stay pure.

When I took my chain saw back out to the trees, the words from the repair man came back to me. “It will be easier to use and won’t be so much work.”  True to his word, it was easier and not so much work, and the chain didn’t come off anymore.

So will be the days of our lives.  When we start our day cultivating a deep and intimate relationship with our Savior our Christian life will be “easier and not so much work.”  We will still face temptation.  We will still face trials.  Yet, when we start the day focused on our Savior, His Word will come back to us.

Not only will the Christian walk be “easier and not so much work,” but also we will have an intimate relationship with the Savior of the Universe.  I want to be first in line for that!

What are you on a quest for?

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Have you ever been on a quest?  I love a good adventure.  I love to read about an adventure in a good book, watch a good adventure on TV, and hear about another’s true life adventure.  Life in its greatest sense is an adventure.

Life with God is an even greater adventure.

We never know when we trust Him where it will take us, who we will meet, or the challenges we will have to overcome.  Yet, so many refuse to trust Him because they are afraid of the risk.

Afraid of the unknown.  Afraid of the adventure that will lie before them.

Afraid of the cost.

We get into our comfort zones and refuse to leave them.  Not willing to “move from the boat to the water.”

We keep an unseen ledger sheet in our heads and our hearts and every cost is weighed out by what is to be gained.  Too many times our fear of the cost outweighs the risk of our faith.

What would it cost vs. what we would gain revolves in a never ending battle in our hearts and our heads.

So what if:

  1. We confessed our sins and our faults to others. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16).

When we have secret sins that would mortify anyone if they knew about them, do we confess them?  What would it cost us if we openly and honestly confessed our sins?  (It’s not like God is asking us to publish our sins on every form of media possible.  Rather, He is asking us to be open with a few people that will hold us accountable.  Plus, those we have hurt or offended must be included in this process so forgiveness can be granted).  We may lose our dignity.  We may lose our reputations.  We may lose favor.  When we keep on sinning or cover up the sin, it becomes a cancer that eats away at our very souls.  We never have the chance to be healed from the sin “that so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1).  Confession brings about healing.

  1. We loved as Christ loved us. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8).

The cost of love is sometimes the highest cost of all.  “But God demonstrated His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).  The love of God cost Him His Son’s life.  Why?  “To cover a multitude of sins.”  (I Peter 4:8).  Jesus’ righteousness became our righteousness.  What if we loved someone else so much, our love covered their sins and changed them from an ugly cancer to a new creation in Christ?  We do not have the ability to save them, but our love may be what causes them to seek Christ.  Remember Jesus’ love for the woman at the well.  What about the woman caught in the act of adultery?  What about His faithful love for us?  What if our love covered a multitude of sin in someone’s life and they were radically changed?

  1. We had the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O King.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17, 18).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had so much faith in who God was that they were willing to tell the King, “Whether we live or die, we believe that God is God.”  That is the faith of a mustard seed.  That is the faith that moves mountains.  Faith, that whether our prayer is answered how we pray it or not “Whether we live or die,” still believes that God is who He says He is.  Then thanking Him for the work that He is doing in our lives through every situation, we resolve to walk through faith “making known His deeds among the people.” (Psalm 105:1).  Sometimes deliverance does not come the way we pray, because God is doing a different work in us than answering our prayers the way we pray them would allow.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were delivered from the fiery furnace.  It was many years, before Joseph saw the hand of God in the situation he had been placed. Yet, he never changed who he stood with…the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Through all the trials that Joseph endured, God changed him.  The boy who boastfully proclaimed his dream of ruling over his brothers and strutting around like a proud peacock in his coat of many colors was transformed through his years in Egypt into a humble man who was able to confidently say, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20).  The cost of faith is great.  We may never know like Joseph the good that God can bring from an evil situation, but we must always be confident that if we are walking by faith and able to pass the tests of morality and humility as Joseph did, God will mean it for good.  We must have faith!

  1. We had the meekness/humility of Moses. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“Now the man Moses was very meek (humble), more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3)

Humility often costs us our pride.  We may have to confess our sins.  We may have to admit someone else is right.  We may have to swallow our pride and say that both opinions are right, but I choose to let your opinion or your way stand.  Humility is costly, but pride is costlier.  Humility may cause momentary pain, but pride usually costs us relationships.  Look at the cost of Satan’s pride.  Look at the cost of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride.  Look at the cost of Peter’s pride. (Before the cock crows three times, you will deny Me.)  Humility causes momentary pain with long term benefits.  Pride causes momentary satisfaction with long term pain…not just for us but for those we lord our pride over.  Will humility be your banner or will pride be your grave marker?

  1. We had the courage of Peter. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“And Peter answered him, ‘Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’” (Matthew 14:28).

For each of these things – confession of sin, self-sacrificing love, faith, and meekness – courage must be used to execute them.  The boat seemed safe.  Ask the other disciples if they felt safe in the boat?  Ask Peter if his risk of fear vs. courage was worth the sensation of looking at Jesus while walking on the water?

We are all on a journey, a quest.  We all must answer the questions: What is the cost?  What is the gain?  The journey with Him is the choice we must all make.  What are the things we must pack as we go on this quest of following God?  Will you take with you confession of sin (vulnerability and authenticity), self-sacrificing love, faith, humility, and courage? Or will you take secrecy of hidden sin that eats away like a cancer, selfishness, doubt, pride, and fear?  Will you reach for momentary pain and long term benefits or momentary satisfaction and long term pain?  Only you can make the choice.