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.

 

No Excuses

Some good proverbs point in opposite directions.  Consider “haste makes waste” versus “the early birds gets the worm.”  These proverbs require and deserve integration.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

Do as you can until you can do as you would.

We tend to like doing things we can do well and avoid doing things we cannot do well.  That’s reasonable as long as we integrate the truth that

There are things we should do, even though we cannot do them well.

 A man with COPD should breathe.  A woman with arthritis should walk.  Someone partially blind should watch.  A person with meager study skills should study Scripture.  Even if my evangelistic efforts are clumsy, I should evangelize.   An introvert with a small house should be hospitable.

God told Moses to deliver a message to Pharaoh.  Moses protested “I am not eloquent …. I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”  (Exodus 4:10).  God replied, “Who has made man’s mouth?  Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind?  Have not I, the LORD?  Now therefore, go ….”

Still, Moses suggested an alternative.  “Oh my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever ….  So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses….”

Our inadequacy may fit God’s plan.  “God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty …. that no flesh should glory in His presence.”  (I Corinthians 1: 27-29).

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

God Gives Children, With Instructions

“[B]ring them up in the training1 and admonition of the Lord.” Eph. 6:4  The verse is addressed to fathers.  The mother’s first responsibility is to help her husband.  She is especially able to help bring up children in the training and admonition of the Lord.

Imagine Adam and Eve newly created.  Adam has been told to “tend and keep” the garden.  Eve is supposed to be Adam’s “helper.”  Help him how?  In many ways, but perhaps the first, most obvious way is to help tend and keep the garden.  They work together.  However, they discover that he can move boulders better than she can.  And her nimble fingers are the better for picking blackberries.  Hence the beginning of “man’s work” and “woman’s work.”  No sinister chauvinism – just efficiency.

Then a child is born.  Someone needs to spend less time in the garden in order to spend lots of time caring for the baby.  Well, she can breast feed and he can’t.  In between feedings and other baby care there is plenty of other “house” work.  So it happens that she spends more time tending and keeping the children than he does; that becomes the most time-consuming way she helps her husband.

But he remains the head of the marriage.  The instruction to bring the children up in the training and admonition of the Lord comes to him.  For him to become the assistant child-trainer is errant.

“How can I fulfill that leadership responsibility? “ Partly by adopting God’s instruction to recipients of the OT law. “You shall teach them [God’s words] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Deut. 6: 6-7.

It was my dad who taught me how to become a Christian, how to throw a football, how to handle a rifle, how to saw a board, how to drive a car, how to reduce danger while walking the streets of Chicago, how to handle money, how to get odd jobs, and he was my primary Bible teacher.

I recall a Saturday (This was typical.) when he was preparing to drive to the hardware store.

“Scottie, come with me.”

“Why?”

“Because I want you with me.”

Significant instruction took place when he and I were in the car. Once he launched into a story.  I already knew the story; I knew the moral of the story.  I didn’t interrupt, but I wondered if he was repeating this because he had forgotten or because he assumed I had.

Children are to be trained.  I think that implies instruction, modeling, and supervised practice … followed by more instruction, more modeling, and more supervised practice.  A word of caution is appropriate.  Do not exasperate your child by becoming irritated by the amount of instruction, modeling, and supervised practice required.  “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”  Col. 3:21 The time required for adequate training may be more than you scheduled.  Change your schedule.

Sometimes a father needs to relabel a goal.  Perhaps your goal is to paint the fence before noon.  If you work by yourself the goal can be met.  If you change the goal to “paint the fence and teach my son to paint a fence” you are less likely to become irritated by the additional time required.

“Bring  them up in … admonition ….” (Ephesians 6:4).  “Admonition” means putting in mind.

For a child to close the door when he enters or departs is not difficult.  Most likely he has no objection to closing the door.  The problem is remembering.  The task is not in his mind.  The parent’s job is to put it in his mind.  Timely words may be sufficient; the parent hollers to the hurrying child: “Remember to close the door.”  Or timely words may not be sufficient.

Admonitions continue for years. “Remember to put your toys away.” “What do you say when someone gives you a gift?”  “Did you brush your teeth?”  “Finish your homework first.”  “Lock the car door whenever you leave it.”  Non-Christian parents admonish.  Our admonitions should reflect the Lord’s values.  Those admonitions include “Brush your teeth.”  They should also include things like “Do all things without murmuring and disputing,”  “Children, obey your parents,” Work on memorizing the Scripture verse,” and “visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

Child-rearing by Christians should be consistent with Bible doctrine. Our children are natural born sinners.  They are not innocent even though they are cute and affectionate.  Positive reinforcement alone will not be adequate.  Because they are sinners correction will be a prominent part of their life.  To neglect adequate correction is neglecting a need.  “The rod and reproof wisdom give wisdom.  But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” Prov.29:15  A young child should not be “left” to his own choices, preferences, and inclinations.

Reality is that “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.”  Prov. 22:15  Left to his own choices, preferences, and inclinations, he will make foolish choices.  The Bible prescribes a remedy.  “But the rod of correction will drive [foolishness] far from him.”  No other means of correction has such authoritative recommendation.2

Proverbs 23:13  “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.  You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell.”  Failure to use a rod puts a child at great risk.

Does spanking your child cause you grief?  It should.  “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.”

“…fathers … bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

 

1 According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary the Greek word here translated  “training”  ”primarily denotes to train children.”  Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W.E. Vine,         MacDonald Publishing Company , Mc Lean, VA.

2Scott Long, Liam Gets a Spanking, Why and How, scott@cyberhedge.net

 

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

 

When Does the Rapture Occur?

Old Testament references to a Day of the Lord clearly indicate that a Day of the Lord is a day of God’s wrath.  There have been Days of the Lord aimed at Egypt, Babylon, and Israel.  There remains a climatic Day of the Lord against all nations.  The mere statement that Church saints are not appointed to wrath (I Thess. 5:19) suggests that either (1) the Church is removed prior to the Day of the Lord, (2) or they are protected during that Day.

Acts 2: 9-20 reveals that an unprecedented stellar disturbance will occur “before” the “great and notable day of the Lord.”

I Thess. 4:15-17 describes the rapture without indicating when it occurs; however, 5:1 does concern “the times and the seasons” of the rapture.  Verse 2 equates or associates the rapture with the Day of the Lord.  The Thessalonians already know about the “times and seasons” of the rapture/Day of the Lord.

Because unbelievers are “in darkness,” the Day of the Lord will surprise them like a thief in the night.  The Day should not so catch believers.  The instruction to watch (vs 6) indicates that believers will see that day. Perhaps the breastplate and helmet (vs 8) will protect them from the battle. Somehow they will be protected as the 144,000 will be.

In II Thess. 2:7 NT believers are promised “rest.”  When?  “[W]hen the Lord Jesus is revealed …in flaming fire taking vengeance ….”  That seems like the Day of the Lord.

II Thess. 2:1 is a clear description of the rapture (“the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him”).  The most obvious assumption is that “His coming” in verse 1 is the same as “His coming” in verse 8.  That “coming” is when He consumes the “lawless one,”  i.e. at the Day of the Lord.  There is no reference in the NT to two stages in the second coming of Jesus.

Suppose it is late 1944.  Throughout Germany the news is proclaimed:  “The Allies are coming, the Allies are coming.”  Is that good news or bad?  It depends on which side one is on.  Likewise, “The Day of the Lord is soon” is good news to the saints and bad news for the wicked.

Suppose your family is eager for guests to arrive.  Perhaps grandparents who live far away are coming or perhaps a friend you have not seen in thirty years.  As the predicted arrival time nears, you watch out the window.  Then a car pulls into your driveway.  Where do the hugs take place?  At the door or on the driveway?  Probably you run out to the driveway to greet them, then escort them into the house.  This may picture                    I Thessalonians 4: 14-17.

Verse 14  God will bring believers up from the grave, even as He did Jesus.  Thus, (verses 14-17) both believers “who are alive” and “those who are asleep” will meet Jesus, in the air, and escort Him to the earth.  The Day of the Lord arrives when the Lord arrives.  Will we participate in the war of wrath or will we be front row spectators as Jesus suddenly destroys His enemies and establishes His kingdom?  Of this I am confident:  we will be wherever Jesus is (4:17, John 14:3).   The analogy of Malachi 4:1-3 may suggest that we will join the battle.

 

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