Forrest Gump’s pet line for finishing his thoughts was “that’s all I’ve got to say about that.” When the Apostle Paul was teaching the close of his letter, he was thinking along similar lines.

This verse functions as a catch-all for whatever else he could not stuff into his brief thoughts here. Essentially, “I don’t have room to give you an exhaustive list of ‘thou shalt not’s’, so here is a succinct list of of qualities that any unnamed future activities should qualify for.” Perhaps spoke of more than he could possibly know.

When you consider that the world today has been transformed by technology and science, and that 90% of the earth’s surface can be reached in less than a week, and sometimes a few days, these guidelines are something that a 2000-yr old book would have trouble predicting. Despite this gap in time, the Bible speaks just as true and as fresh S the day it was written. Any reasonable person can view this list and know what these words mean and what they intend. Anything that lacks moral excellence, or is not praiseworthy is to be avoided. Can you think of anything that might fit this distinction? If you can, then you know enough. It doesn’t take much intellectual effort here. What follows is the will to put aside the morally questionable and embrace the pure and the holy.

You might have to tape this verse to your mirror or your fridge or even your desk. Wherever you are making important decisions, or even minor ones, this verse is a helpful guide for when the Bible doesn’t specifically say so. If you’re still not sure, ask a trusted Christian friend. But don’t let this verse be far from your thoughts in the gray areas.

God bless you on this Monday!

Which One Are You?

Paul divides people into two broad categories with this text. On the one hand are those who are led by their flesh and its desires. They are motivated by the world and what pleases themselves. On the other hand are those motivated by what pleases God and they follow the desires of the Holy Spirit. These he says are fundamentally incompatible.

For the one led by the flesh will find himself on the path to death. I’ve seen this in heroin addicts. As an extreme example, the heroin addict is addict to a substance that gives them extreme pleasure, but consumes the rest of their lives. Everything else is forfeit, family, relationships, job, personal health, everything is sacrificed for the sake of heroin. It is that powerful a god. But the god being served is self, because self demands the pleasure that comes from the substance. And often these end in overdosed and death. To a greater or lesser degree, every addiction to self, whether it be substances, lifestyles, work, and even family and church, all of these are pale imitations of what we really need, and this fail to satisfy.

So what were we made for, if none of these other things bring us life? We were made for God, and only God can satisfy our deepest needs. We need belonging. We need relationship. We need satisfaction and contentment. We need trust. We need truth. It’s not your typical needs list, is it? But imagine your life without them.

Every one is offered to a greater or lesser extent by the world. And the world fails to deliver, always demanding more. Yet God delivers on these needs from day one. When you have faith in Jesus Christ, the path of life become clear, and Jesus fills your heart with what you really need, the satisfaction you’ve longed for from all of earth’s pale imitations. With God you belong. With God you have peace and contentment. With God you have genuine, honest, loyal love. God will never lie to you. You may not like what He has to say, but God will always tell you the truth. It’s a powerful thing.

The path of following your own desires leads to death. The other path, following what God wants, leads to real living. There really are only two paths. Which one are you?

No Place Like Home

As Moses was preparing the people to move in to their new land, he reminded them of a few caveats that would be essential to their extended stay, their attention to the covenant they had received from God. God’s promises to protect them and prosper them was dependent (to a degree) on their ability to keep the law and obey the Lord. If they wanted to stay in the land of promise, they were required to keep the law they had been given. Their ability to raise their families and maintain their property was based on their ability to obey the commandments.

My ability to stay in my home and raise my family is dependent on my agreement with the bank, and my ability to pay my mortgage. Actually today is the day they tap me on the shoulder and ask for their monthly contribution. Now if I ignore them, I might get another month or two, but the days of my stay here would definitely be numbered. More than this, the state of Kentucky demands a certain fee for owning property every year. As a landowner in this state, they might overlook a delay in payment, but I could not go long before they would take action to collect what they are owed.

For the people of Israel, God was a landlord, as much as any rent collector, but His rent was collected in personal ethics, living up to the standard of behavior He had called them. Dues were received as sacrifices for sin, resisting temptation and obedience. If they failed to obey, the Rent collector would come by in judgment, and eventually, they were oppressed by actual overlords of other nations, even evicted when their sins became too great.

So how does this apply to us? Are you enjoying the blessings of God? If so, be thankful. But note that Jesus also said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Our blessings are not dependent upon our ability to obey, as much as God’s grace to give. But like the Israelites, if you in the community of blessing, there is an expectation of obedience. “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” “Should we go on sinning that grace may abound? May it never be!” If as Christians we do it obey and continue to sin, then there has been no change in us. Why should God continue to bless us? Will He not spew is out of His mouth? We should never take the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ for granted, but be thankful and actively obedient every day in our gratitude for saving us from sin. It is in this way that we know we will never be evicted.

God bless you today!

No Law Against Such Things

“There ought to be a law against that!” I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that statement. Oftentimes, the speaker is frustrated with a life circumstance, or situation out of his control. Insurance didn’t approve a treatment on a technicality. Trooper stopped you but not the other fifty people that whizzed by. Politicians are making money hand over fist while you scrape by paycheck to paycheck.

I think we have plenty of laws, ridiculous laws, inane laws, but plenty of them. We’ve become a society dependent on law to solve our problems. And we thus determine morality by whether or not it is “against the law.” If it’s not “illegal” then it must be morally permitted, right? This is the trap of abortion and homosexuality. Those used to be against the law. Now they are not. Slavery used to be legal, now it isn’t. Which is right and which is wrong? How do we know?

The text in question today is the fruit of the spirit, the natural produce of a saved heart. A person who is indwelled by the Holy Spirit has these qualities in common: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control, etc. the text specifically says that it is the “fruit” not the “fruits” as if to say that the singular fruit of the life possessed of God is a multi-faceted fruit which reflects all of these qualities. You don’t have one or two, but all of them at once.

For a person to display such fruit, the text says there is no law against it. No law has yet been written that violates love, joy, peace, patience, etc. and you know if such a law were to be written, it would be wrong. But let me be clear in this. I don’t get to define these words to suit myself. Culture doesn’t get to define them either. We cannot define these words away from their biblical context and meaning and make them what we want to hear. I cannot define love as anything by the kind of love shown in the scriptures, i.e., the sacrificial love exemplified in Jesus Christ. I cannot say that this love is illustrated by a same-sex relationship, or an adult-child romance. That would be taking “love” out of context and violate the very principles of love taught in Scripture. And so that same with the others.

We hold our laws to a higher standard. We do not bow to the whims of men who think sins are fashionable and so make them legal. We worship and honor a Holy God who has said what is right. “He has told you O man what it good” Micah 6:8

Study, pray, learn. Worship. Make today count. God bless you today.

Building on the Rock

The wise man built his house upon the rock. The foolish man built his house upon the sand. Jesus draws on some familiar language to illustrate the idea of how you build you life. Do you want to build a life that comes to ruin? Build it on shifting principles that haven’t been tried over time to be true. Build it on popular culture. Build it on the fashionable. Build your house on what’s cool today.

Fashion trends come and go, along with fads and gadgets that are popular for a season. Many companies try to build themselves on these passing trends and go under within a month. They try to chase the wind wherever it’s blowing.

Other companies are built on solid ground, stuff or services that will always be needed, and whose demand will only increase with population, like electricity, healthcare, even the internet, which is here to stay. The key, like seeing the internet for the first time, is to judge whether something that looks like a fad will actually become a necessity (like cell phones). That’s tricky, and most people don’t get it right.

So the wise man builds his house on the rock. Of course the only sure rock is Jesus. But what he is referring to here is His message. At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus adds these words about the wise and the foolish. The one who has listened to His words is like the one who builds his house on rock, built to last and built to weather the storms. That tells me that that the truth Jesus tells here is rooted in Himself, because He is a rock in the sense that He can be relied upon, to be steady, but also as an eternal observer of human nature (let alone the Designer). When Jesus says that a certain action is the wise course, He means it. He defines wisdom here as living according to His word. Truer words could not be said.

Enough for today. God bless you all! Have a great Friday!

Keeping Your Oath

I was listening to the news the other day and heard a very interesting question. Should a person’s faithfulness in marriage be counted toward or against their ability to serve the public? We’ve seen how infidelity in the oval office has been explained away as a “private matter.” But is it really private? I remember a Saturday about years ago when I stood before a body of witnesses, and publicly confessed my faithfulness to a woman that I am still married to. That day really frightened me because I had to confess to private feelings and make public, lasting commitments in front about 200 of my closest family and friends, and before God. It sure didn’t feel like a “private matter” at the time.

Marriages are not private affairs. They are licensed by the state, and performed by a state representative, whether it be the justice of the peace, or a minister permitted to do so by law. If a man makes a public commitment to a woman before the state and a body of witnesses, doesn’t that have some effect when that man then swears an oath to office? If a man will not be faithful to a woman in marriage which he has sworn “till death do us part” before the state, how can he be trusted when he swears an oath to a public office.

In a marriage, it is much harder to be faithful than as a public servant. A marriage is built upon the thousand tiny decisions to be faithful; not to look after other women, not to imagine being with them, and so on. Marriages require far more diligence, more work to communicate, tolerate, and even love one another. Marriage doesn’t happen by chance, but by the thousand careful decisions to make it work that take place everyday. Stopping by to pick up a flower, just to say, “I love you.” Picking up the dirty laundry and doing it without being asked. Offering to take the kids out for a while so your wife can get some time alone. Marriage is built on selflessness, the thousand little decisions like these to make it work and be successful. It is much easier to be unfaithful in marriage than in public office. It is much easier to make a mess of a marriage than it is the governor’s office, because no one is watching, and few people care if a marriage breaks up. It happens all the time.

Public Service on the other hand is constantly monitored by the media and those after your job. It calls for greater scrutiny and accountability. You pay much closer attention to it because you have to make it work, or you lose your job. If marriages had that much scrutiny, there would probably be less divorces. If Marriage called for that much accountability, like some celebrity marriages have, then they would last longer.

Most importantly, the commitment you make in your marriage is made not just before the state, but before God. The commitment to public office may require a Bible to make the oath, but it is not made before God, but before Men. If a man can’t be trusted to honor his commitment he made to one human being, his wife, how on earth can he be expected to honor his commitment to a thousand, or three-hundred million? Can I trust a man to honor his commitment to me if he’s been unfaithful to his wife? In the end, we are measured not by our great decisions, but by our small ones.

You know what the secret to success is, in anything? It is embodied in Matthew 25:21, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.” The one who gets the brass ring in God’s eyes is the one who has been faithful and a good steward of the things he has already been given.

Do you want to be successful in the new year? Faithfulness is its key. What commitments and responsibilities have you been given already that you need to work on? How can you demonstrate that you are “faithful with a few things”? When God sees He can count on you to manage a few things, he will give you more responsibility, and if you are faithful, more success.

Something to think about for your voting decisions.