Redeeming Time

Colossians 4:5  “Walk in wisdom toward those whose are outside, redeeming the time.”

I think of redeem as meaning to set someone (or something) free by paying a price.  Examples are buying a slave in order to free him or paying ransom to free a captive.  Following that definition, I suggest that we are to set our time free from waste and frivolity by paying a price.  The price we pay is avoiding the cheap amusements so readily at hand.  We buy up moments well spent by trading away over-priced pleasures.  (Keeping in mind the true value of periodic rest.)

The scarcity of time that makes it so precious is especially relevant to wise interaction with those outside the body of Christ.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version.  Copyright 1979,1980,1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee.   Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

 

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Bad Source Wrong

Being sincerely wrong is not the same as justifiably wrong.  A person may be sincerely glued to a wrong opinion with part of the glue being pride.

 

 

Husband Pastors

I Cor. 14:34-35  “Let your women keep silent in the churches …. but they are to be submissive….and if they want to learn something,  let them ask their own husbands at home ….”

If someone is earnest about living and thinking Biblically, he or she will listen to Bible teaching and have questions.   Some people rarely have questions because they have little interest in the topic.

To whom should a wife direct her questions?  Not to the class teacher, but to her husband.

Surely not every husband can answer as well as the class teacher.  So why the rule?  Perhaps it helps create and maintain spiritual unity in the home.  Perhaps because the wife’s questions motivate the husband to find answers.  Perhaps to foster Biblical dialogue in the home.  We can be sure a good reason or reasons exist.

Appetites and Worship

The most noticed appetite and the easiest to analyze is our desire for food.  It is good for an appetite to keep us faithful in eating.  If someone lacks that appetite for long, we conclude he is sick.  The appetite for food is not only good for us, it is good to us.  What could have been a tasteless, routine necessity was made into a frequent source of pleasure.  Equally obvious is that this appetite must be restrained.  Without restraint it causes damage along with benefit.  Such analysis fits other appetites.

The desire to be a material or financial provider is good.  In excess it turns into  greed.

Recognizing this pattern typical of appetites should cause us to ask:  at what point does this particular appetite become bad?  What are the negative forms for which I should be on guard?

What about the appetite to achieve in ministry? Initially good, this desire can become self-centered.  The desire of make a significant contribution can warp one’s decisions, cause self-exaltation, and be a detriment to harmony in the Christian body.

I am attracted to an old word:  temperance.   Where the old King James had “temperance,” the NKJV, the New International, and the English Standard Version have “self-control.”  Perhaps a combination of the two is helpful.   When I think of temperance I think of moderation and balance.  I think of a balance that fosters pursuit and then restraint.  Temperance is the opposite of lasciviousness (a lack of restraint on the appetites).

Is there any appetite that does not require restraint?   What about the seemingly in-born inclination to worship – that causes scattered peoples of the world, generation after generation to worship?  The problem here is not too much worship, but misdirected worship.  Given to the one true God, there can be no excess of worship.  When we catch ourselves over-indulging on food, in fun, in the pursuit of achievement and significance; let us return to worship.

 

 

 

 

Group Christianity

Some of God’s instructions require obedience by individuals.  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” is directed to individuals.  “Honor your father and your mother” needs to be fulfilled by individuals.  Being part of a group that obeys these instructions falls short of the intent.

“[L]et us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together ….” requires a group.  I cannot experience by myself all that God wants me to experience.

Worship should occur in individual hearts and in groups.  “I will sing of the mercies of the LORD” (Psalm 89:1) and “O come, let us sing to the LORD.” (Psalm 95:1)

“Sing to the LORD with the harp…with trumpets and the sound of a horn ….” (Psalm 98:5-6) I don’t think God intends that every Christian learn to play a harp and a trumpet.  But I think our church culture should produce someone who plays a harp and someone who can play a trumpet.  Our current church culture is producing numerous skilled athletes but few who can play a harp or trumpet.  Hmmm.

“Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet …the lute … stringed instruments and flutes …with loud cymbals ….” (Psalm 150: 3-5).  A few decades ago it was rare for a small church not to have one or two people who could play the piano.  Today, rare is a church without a drummer.

Perhaps the emergence of electronic reproduction acceptably reduces the call for in-house trumpeters and harpists.  Any congregation with a sound system can sing along with a band.

Come to think of it, we can download the finest Bible expositors and experienced counselors, and fellowship via Skype and Facebook.  We’re good to go!  Eventually we can be fed through a tube, breathe with a ventilator, and replace pondering with computer intelligence.

 

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version.  Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Mad Laughter

The Preacher who wrote Ecclesiastes had experienced the shortfall of mere earthly satisfactions.  Having been disappointed by life “under the sun,” he became a cynic who exaggerated the emptiness of good things.  He said, “There is no remembrance of former things ….”  (Ecclesiastes 1:11)   That is an exaggeration; people read history books.  But his bitter words reflect a truth.  Humans fail to adequately learn from history.  They repeat the sins and foibles of the past.

I am suggesting that many of the Preacher’s statements are hyperbole. Hyperbole can be a useful means of communication.

Ecclesiastes 2:2 “I said of laughter, ‘It is madness’ and mirth, ‘What does it accomplish?’”  The intended answer is “None;” an exaggeration.  What is the reality made conspicuous by the hyperbole?

Laughter and pleasure can be compared to salt.  Salt enhances the taste of many foods, but salt alone is not delicious.  Laughter and pleasure enrich much of life, but when pursued exclusively they lack flavor.

In Defense of Cookies and Cheap Food

I began writing this article as a “tongue-in-cheek” amusement.  Some of that may show through, but my goal became serious.  I am seeking a truthful balance.

My dad was leaving a promising banking career to pursue “full-time Christian work.” The bank manager sought to offer fatherly, respectful advice.  “You realize what you’re doing is economically foolish.”  His emphasis on “economically” was the respectful part. One result of my parents’ decision was a family lifestyle noticeably less affluent than it would have been if my dad had remained in the bank.

My dad never regretted his career decision.  But I remember him expressing weariness with being financially “strapped.”  Given their limitations, I’m impressed by some of the things to which my parents gave priority:  a used piano, a new cornet, a vacation from the Midwest to visit relatives and the Seattle World’s Fair, a trip to Washington, D.C., and an expensive encyclopedia set.  The point to this family history is that …

To choose a limited, below average income and low financial rank is morally acceptable.

Also true is that it is right to live within your income.  The combination of (1) below average income and (2) living within that income   means one will do without some good things. Thus it may be morally preferable to drink tap water, eat noodles containing preservatives, buy meat from cows shot with growth hormone, and sleep on something less than the finest mattress.  My house security system may not be the ultimate, and my fire extinguisher may not be top of the line.  My car may be more vulnerable in a crash than more expensive models.

Physicians constantly offer cost/risk analyses.  The drug that heals me may cause unwelcome side-effects.  Someone may properly decide that the risk exposure created by less expensive food is morally preferable to the risk of not fulfilling other cost laden responsibilities.

Should we ignore all quality assessments?  No.  May quality products once properly passed over become the better choice?  Yes.  May the well-balanced cost/risk decision best for one be different for others?  Yes.

Now about cookies.  This reasoning may encounter more cynicism, but I’ll proceed.  I Corinthians 6:19 remains a bottom line.  My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; therefore I am responsible to treat it well.

Proverbs 17:22 affirms that “A merry heart does good, like medicine ….”  For me, cookies promote merriment … health-enriching merriment.  I estimate that when consumed in moderate doses, cookies do me more good than harm.  Of course, I must estimate my body’s tolerance for sugar and accept responsibility for controlling my appetites.

Appetites are gifts from God; they require restraint.  Feeding our bodies could have been a mundane mechanical process, but God made it a pleasurable process.  Pleasure is good, but the appetite for pleasure must be restrained.  People have a good appetite for achievement.  Failure to restrain that appetite produces a workaholic.  Lasciviousness is a failure to restrain an appetite.

God could have issued laws such as “Forty-five hours of work per week is good.  More is bad.”  “Twenty grams of honey per week is good.  More is bad.”  But He gave us greater freedom that brings more responsibility.  “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required….”  (Luke 12: 48).

Some people may grant my reasoning in regards to honey, but reject it in regards to white sugar.  They contend that white sugar is like heroin – destructive beyond the bounds of proper use.  That may be.  I’ve decided it’s more like meat from cows injected with antibiotics, which I deem proper in moderation.

Let it be emphasized: restraints are needed.  And healthy restraints can co-exist with the spirit of I Timothy 4: 3-4, which describes a danger in “commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving ….”  Is white flour among the foods “which God created?”  Is expensive, poverty- inducing health food part of the food “which God created?”  Perhaps both are inferior to the original and as acceptable as typically polluted air.  The air in some cities is polluted to a level that tends to cause health problems.  I don’t believe every Christian has a moral responsibility to leave such a city.

I hope those persuaded otherwise will accept me (Romans 14:3-5).  I don’t require their permission, but I value their like-mindedness, even in defense of cookies and grocery store food.  I am more inclined toward some do’s and don’ts than many with whom I worship.  I’m probably more leery of “worldly influence” than some.  On the subjects herein I’m more permissive than some.