Monday, February 29, 2016


I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. (2 Corinthians 12:15, ESV)  

An offering grudgingly given is not blessed (2 Cor 9:6-15). Service offered only out of a sense of obligation will not be a blessing to others. The widow’s mite was materially far less than the other offerings, but spiritually it was far more (Mk 12:41ff). The difference was the attitude with which it was given.

Indeed we are obligated to give, obligated to serve, obligated to glorify. But if obligation is all we feel, then our giving, our service, our worship has failed. There must be gladness in our service, joy in our worship, eagerness in our giving. Those who glorify are glad to do so. There really can be no glorification without gladness.

That is not to say that we should not assemble to worship when we are feeling down. That is not to say that we should not serve even when we would rather be served. It is often in the midst of worship that our spirit is enlightened (Ps 73:16-17). It is often in the midst of service that our attitude sweetens. As someone has said, “It is easier to act your way into a better way of feeling than to feel your way into a better way of acting.”

It truly is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Those who have learned to gladly be spent in the service of God have always found it to be so. But we must be willing to be spent. Occasional dabbling in service will not bring on blessing.

Two or three pushups per week will make no difference in your health. An occasional healthy meal will make no difference in your waistline. An occasional and grudging effort to honor God will not transform your life. But service gladly given will transform our lives and the lives of those around us.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Only Human?

We frequently hear the excuse, “Well, I’m only human.” Most often this is used by one who has done wrong and does not want to take responsibility for the wrong. But does this excuse make sense?

To be human is to be created in the image of God (Gen 1:27). To be human is to be of the species given dominion over the earth (Gen 1:28). To be human means to be only slightly lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5). Is this what we mean when we say, “I’m only human”?

For a Christian to use this excuse is doubly frustrating. For the Christian was not only made in the image of God, given dominion over creation, and made only slightly lower than the angels; the Christian is also redeemed by the blood of Christ (Lk 22:20) and made the dwelling place of God by the Spirit (Eph 2:22).

Yes, we are marred by sin. Yes, we have many faults, sins which we must admit (1 Jn 1:8). But being so quick with the pathetic excuse that we are “only human” is ignoring at least half of the truth. Being human does mean being a sinner, but it also means being a creature with access to God’s help and therefore capable of improvement.

If a worker on a construction site is given a bulldozer and told to knock down a small house, the boss is not going to accept the excuse, “I’m only human; I cannot knock down a house.”

A Christian, created in the image of God, redeemed by Christ, empowered by the Spirit, dare not use the “only human” excuse. We can do better. If we truly love God we will do better.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12, ESV)

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV)
“For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:29, ESV)  

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Hardwoods, Hardheads, Hardhearts

I like to work with hardwoods. I find greater satisfaction in building with walnut, cherry, or oak as opposed to using fir or pine. It is easier to work with the softer woods like fir or pine, but these woods do not hold up to wear. Woods that are easier to cut will also dent and damage more easily. So, despite the extra effort involved, I would rather build a table of hardwood rather than of softwood.

It is even more difficult to work with hardheads. The greater effort needed to work with hardwoods may be worth it, but the greater effort needed to work with hardheaded people pays off less frequently. They will not listen. They will not learn. It is frustrating to work with the hardheaded, but occasionally one gets through. When that happens (as in the case of Saul of Tarsus) the result may be of lasting value.

As frustrating as it is to work with the hardheaded, I would rather work with the hardheaded than the softheaded. Some people believe everything they hear. The softheaded person never learns, he just swings from one opinion to the next, never holding to any idea long enough to do any good. It is hard working with the hardheaded, but if one succeeds the result is of lasting value. With the softheaded, nothing lasts.

Hardheartedness is the worst of all. It is difficult to work with hardwoods or hardheads, but sometimes the results are of lasting value. But I have never found a way to work with the hardhearted. Like the hardheaded, they do not listen, but unlike the hardheaded they will not act even if somehow convinced. For the hardhearted, all I know to do is to pray. If God does not change their hearts, there is nothing we can do.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. We are all a little hardheaded sometimes, at least on some subjects. We are all tempted to be hardhearted as well. That is just a natural result of life in this sinful world. Let’s try to be better listeners, not softheaded but open to new truth. Most of all, let’s join in prayer that the Lord may create in us a clean heart (Ps 51:10) and grant us a heart of flesh in place of the stony hearts we often have (Ezek 36:26).

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Reputation or Reality?

People pay extra for certain brands that have a reputation for quality, whether the reputation is deserved or not. In a recent reliability survey, three of the biggest names in the car market had terrible scores. In 2015, Audi, Jaguar, and BMW ranked 22nd, 23rd, and 24th out of 26 manufacturers. I know that there was a time when these brands really did build a quality product, but in 2015 they were very close to the bottom of the pile.

This reminds me of a church. Jesus said to the church at Sardis, “I know your works. You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God” (Revelation 3:1-2, ESV).

How is it with us? Are we still growing, still climbing, still striving to honor our Lord? Are we doing our best, or just seeking to get by? Are we striving to do more, or reminiscing about the past while just marking time in the present?

I once heard of a famous artist who was asked, “Which of your many paintings do you consider your finest?” He replied, “The next one.”
That is the attitude we should have. Whatever we may have done in the past, we should be able to do more now. We have had more opportunity to learn God’s word, more opportunity to practice our daily walk with him. The Spirit has had more time to transform us (if we have not been resisting him). Our best days are not in the past. Our best days are now, or they would be now if we would wholeheartedly apply ourselves to the task of honoring the Lord.

Yes, we live in times that can be discouraging, but remember that Jesus also said (to all the seven churches), “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10, ESV).

The best days are not in the past. They are now, if we will trust him and faithfully serve him.