Beware the Foreign Figurehead

November 21, 2014 at 2:08 pm | Posted in Matthew, The Fives | 11 Comments
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The first two beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount deal with people who are blessed because of the situation in which they find themselves: the poor in spirit and those who mourn. But the third beatitude pronounces a benediction upon people who are exercising a certain virtue:

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:5

A person who has the capacity to be meek is someone who already appears blessed. It is a person who has strength, but then, in humility, and out of a desire to love and serve others, brings that strength under control.

Jesus says that the blessing for being meek is inheriting the earth. How much of a blessing is this, though, really? The earth – the arena of Adam’s fallen and sin-sick race – has become quite a shabby place. And perhaps that is the point at which Jesus connects the idea of meekness with receiving it as an inheritance.

See, Adam, the first man, was supposed to exercise dominion over the earth. This was a great honor. As the image-bearer of his Supreme Creator he was supposed to use his position to make His Creator seem great – in other words, to “glorify” Him. However, Adam – acting as our accurate representative even before we showed up – blew it big time. He did not glorify his Creator. He acted like the Creator was a promise-breaker: unwilling, unable, or at least unlikely to keep His Word concerning disobedience. And therefore Adam lost his dominion and our “inheritance,” if you will.

So, here we are, a little over 6000 years later, give or take, and the Creator has managed to redeem us at the greatest possible cost, and restore our inheritance. But how do we claim it? By acting like it should have been ours all along? By no means. We are to remember that this earth is a temporary inheritance compared to the eternal home we shall inherit in Christ Jesus. We are to think of Heaven as our home, and to think of ourselves as foreigners in this world. A faithful ambassador of his king, when visiting a foreign land, does not set himself up as a “figurehead.” Instead, he makes it clear that he is on a mission for his Lord. He brings under control the authority he has been granted, and exercises it temperately, reminding everyone that “the earth” is going to be reclaimed by its rightful Owner one day soon, and that He will deal accordingly with those who pretended that they owned it, and that He will demand an accounting from those He sent to be His emissaries.

All Dressed Up with Somewhere to Go

July 16, 2010 at 8:06 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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Few things will stir up a hornet’s nest of disagreement among Christians like the issue of what type of clothing is appropriate. This should not be the case, however, since the Bible’s principles for Christian dress are clear: modesty and distinction (I Timothy 2:9; Deuteronomy 22:5).

Colossians 3:12 deals with a less divisive, but equally important, issue: What the Christian should be wearing on the inside. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;”

Imagine what it would be like if Christians wore special belts around our waists that made us feel, in our deepest parts, a desire to forgive those who are suffering from having done horrible things (bowels of mercies). What if we had special shirts that made us go to great lengths to do good for others (kindness)? Or how about hats that made us think neither too little, nor too much, of ourselves, but simply kept us from thinking of ourselves at all (humbleness of mind)? What if we had shoes that kept our feet moving in response to God’s power, instead of trying to run ahead in our own power (meekness)? Maybe we could even put on overcoats that helped us bear with patience the faults of others, while we remember how much the Lord puts up with from us (longsuffering).

I suppose, in the world’s eyes, we would look pretty funny. They would say we were “all dressed up with nowhere to go.” But, perhaps, in God’s eyes we would appear as one big unified body, ready to go wherever God sent us, ruled by His peace, doing His will, and seeking His glory (Colossians 3:13-15).

Quarterback Commandment No. 7

May 19, 2009 at 12:12 pm | Posted in Quarterback Commandments | 1 Comment
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This is a continuation of the series of Quarterback Commandments given by Bill Parcells to Tony Romo, quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.

Quarterback Commandment No. 7: Throwing the ball away is a good play. Sacks, interceptions, and fumbles are bad plays. Protect against those.

For those whose football parlance is somewhat lacking:

“Throwing the ball away” is when the quarterback intentionally throws a pass that no one can catch. This ends the play, and the next play starts where the previous one started, without any loss of yardage. The reason for doing this is that, among the possible outcomes of a pass play – sack (the quarterback is tackled before throwing the ball); interception (the pass is caught by someone on the other team); and incomplete pass (described above) – the incomplete pass is the least harmful.

A “fumble” is when someone carrying the football during a play drops the ball. Fumbles often occur during sacks, and often result in the other team grabbing the loose ball, which is disastrous.

The gist of Parcells’s commandment is: Rather than trying to force the best result out of every play, quarterbacks, when faced with a possible disaster, have to learn when to settle for a less-than-stellar result, so their team can have another chance on the next play.

Spiritual application: Christian ministers must learn to avoid strife over non-essential issues which will ultimately hurt the cause of Christ.

As you minister for Christ Jesus you will find yourself opposed. You will also find yourself having to decide where to draw the line as far as with whom you will minister and fellowship. A Christian minister often finds himself in the position of encountering opposition, much the same way a quarterback faces defenders who want to keep him from moving the ball downfield.

Thus, like a quarterback, a Christian minister must learn that there are times when it is better to salvage what he can from a bad situation, than to try and make a bad situation into a good one. “Live to fight another day” is the military slogan.

The Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, instructed Timothy to be a very aggressive Christian quarterback:

Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

II Timothy 2:1

But He also let him know that it’s good, once in a while, to throw the ball into the first row of spectators:

But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.

II Timothy 2:23

Titus got similar instructions: Play hard, and keep trying to win the game until the final whistle blows:

This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

Titus 3:8

But do not get bogged down by forcing the issue when the game is not on the line:

But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

Titus 3:9

So, as a Christian quarterback, I would like for everyone to use the King James Version of the Bible, but if you want me to go with you to visit your lost cousin in the hospital, and you insist on taking along your New King James, or even your NIV, I’m not going to refuse to go.

I believe that Jesus Christ is going to rapture His Church out of this world before the Tribulation starts, but if you don’t believe that’s precisely the order of the end-times events, I still want you to faithfully attend my Sunday School class.

When R.G. Lee, one of the best preachers of all time, pastored the First Baptist Church of New Orleans, he was allowed to go, once a week, and speak on the campus of Tulane University. He would answer questions from students, many of whom were skeptical about the truth of the Bible. On a particular occasion, a young lady raised her hand and asked, “Well, if what it says in Genesis is the literal truth, would you mind telling me just where Cain got his wife?”

Dr. Lee, not taken aback at all, responded, “Ma’am, I don’t know and I don’t care. If she was good enough for Cain, she’s good enough for me.”

Clearly, this was a good example of avoiding foolish contention, strife, and unlearned questions.

If I’m playing quarterback, and it’s fourth and long with no time left on the clock, with my team trailing by six points, I’m going to stand in the pocket, ignore the rushing linemen, and do my best to throw the ball to my receiver in the end zone even if he’s surrounded by defenders, because giving up on that play is not an option. In the same way, you and I are not going to be able to minister together if you do not believe that men are saved by grace through faith, and not of works, or if you believe that the Bible is errant and fallible, or if you believe that Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t really the Son of God. Again, in military language, although it is good to live to fight again another day, the slogan, “there are some hills worth dying on,” is also true.

It is against a good quarterback’s nature to slack up, to give up on a play, or to admit that he can not improvise his way out of a bad situation. In other words, quarterbacks are not, by nature, meek. However, Parcells must believe that, to be successful, a quarterback’s natural boldness must be tempered by meekness in some situations, as part of the overall effort to win a game.

Did not Jesus Himself give us a similar example for the Christian life? Never giving up in accomplishing His ultimate objective, He nevertheless knew when to walk away from strife and contention:

He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.

Matthew 12:19

During His boldest pronouncements, He sometimes invited peaceful submission rather than forcing His will upon His enemies:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Matthew 11:29

He even taught His disciples that sometimes it was better to throw an incompletion than to take a sack, give up an interception, or fumble the ball:

And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.

Matthew 10:14


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