Don’t Pray for Patience

I have said this in different contexts, so I feel obligated to mention here on the new blog.  I was talking to our men’s group Wednesday morning.  We are still working our way through the Fruit of the Spirit.  That morning we talked about patience, kindness and goodness.

Here is the trap that we fall into.  We think that we want to be more patient, and we recognize that we need God’s help.  So we pray for God to help us become more patient.  Here is the problem.  The way that God teaches us patience is to put us into situations that call for patience.  Who wants that?  Who wants to be put in frustrating situations?

Here’s the reality.  Life is full of such situations whether or not you are praying for patience or not.  We just become more aware of them as God is putting our need for patience in the front of our minds and hearts.  (All it takes for me is missing a stop light or someone in front of met to go 2 miles under the speed limit in front of me.)  Honestly, there are few traits I need more in my life than patience. I wish that my first responses to what life throws out was grace, kindness and calm. What a difference that would make in my life, my family, my church, etc.  So despite all of the advice that I have given over the years, I am now praying for patience. I’ll keep you all posted.

Best Movie Villains

December 8, 2009 by cloften  
Filed under General Insanity, Silliness and Rants

Ok, we’ve all got Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader and the Joker on the list.  Who else ya got?  Let me know here.

Straining Gnats and Swallowing Camels

December 8, 2009 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

In Matthew 22, the various religious sects of his day begin trying to trap him by engaging him in the various religious debates of their day.  He very shrewdly answers all of their challenges and then ultimately shuts them up with focusing the conversation on what we now call The Great Commandments–love God and love others. He also shows their ignorance of the theology of who Messiah is/will be.

Then in Matthew 23, he begins teaching the disciples and the crowds and goes off on teachers of the law and Pharisees, exposing their hypocrisy.  They have devotion but do they have a heart for God and people?

Then Jesus says something that I love.  Those of you who know me, know that I love vivid imagery and great illustrations.  I may not be able to create them, but I admire them. “You strain out a gnat but you swallow a camel (Matt 23:24).” So you are walking along trying to keep something nasty from getting in your mouth and accidentally swallowing it.  You keep the gnats out, but you accidentally swallow a camel.  The Pharisees remember to tithe their herb garden, but neglect justice, mercy and faithfulness. They are proud of their attention to detail in one area of their lives but neglect the more important issues.

What about you? Do you stress and emphasize the minor points of your doctrine and neglect the more important? Are you more concerned about the debates that go on between churches or a hurting world that needs the message of Jesus Christ?  Is how you worship more important than the God that you worship? Is your life characterized by religious devotion or justice, mercy and faithfulness?

You keep quoting that parable. I do not think it means what you think it means.

December 3, 2009 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

There is a well-used Christian expression (I really love Christian expressions, if by love you mean get highly annoyed by) that comes from a parable in Matthew 20, the parable of the workers in the vineyard.  Read here. In this parable, Jesus talks about a vineyard owner who is hiring people to work for him.  He hires people first thing in the morning and agrees to pay them a day’s wage (a denarius).  He keeps going back throughout the day, hiring more people, but he doesn’t say what he will pay those who only work part of the day.  Finally he goes back at the end of the day with only one hour left to work, or “the 11th hour.” (There’s our expression)  He tells them that he will pay them what is fair.

After the day is over, he starts paying everyone.  Starting with those who only worked an hour, the owner ends up paying everyone the same amount–a full day’s wage. The men who worked the whole day were outraged that they got paid the same as those who worked an hour.  The landowner’s response is like a punch in the face:

‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

The parable is referring to people who come into God’s kingdom.  When many of us quote this, we think of it in terms of when you came to faith.  So someone who comes to faith in the “11th hour” is someone who follows Christ at the end of their life.  The application of the parable then is for those of us who came to faith earlier to not be resentful of those who find God later. “Berrrnnnn”(That’s onomatopoeia for loud annoying game show buzzer sound)

Jesus is talking to the Pharisee’s.  Jewish people are the one’s who have been in the vineyard all day.  People new to the kingdom–the Church, Gentiles are the ones who come in at the end.  That’s you.  Regardless of when you came to faith, you are one who has come in at the 11th hour.  The payment that you have received for your time in God’s vineyard is way more than you deserve.  That is why it is referred to as gift (Romans 6:23).  Nothing you have done merits or earns the favor and gift of eternal life that God offers.

If you start identifying yourself with the people who have been working in the field all day, you can fall into the trap of the Pharisees where you begin to believe that you have earned God’s favor.  You haven’t.  It is a generous gift from a loving God.

Words That Aren’t Words

December 2, 2009 by cloften  
Filed under General Insanity, Silliness and Rants

Here it is.  The list of non-words. Let me know what you think.  Post your comments on this page below.



Joy–conditional or unconditional happiness

This morning at our men’s group, we talked about joy.  I said that the simple man’s definition of joy is extreme happiness.  I said this knowing that it would raise some eyebrows.  We are told that there is a difference between joy and happiness.  Happiness depends on circumstances, and joy does not.  I understand why people say that and this may be splitting hairs, but bear with me.

Biblical joy is based on your circumstances, primarily one circumstance in particular.  God has forgiven us and given us eternal life with Him.  His Spirit lives inside of us and empowers us.  He is changing and redeeming us, day by day.  That is the circumstance that we find ourselves in as Christ-followers–an incredible circumstance.  That should bring us joy.  It is not that joy is not circumstantial, it is that the one circumstance is so overwhelming and incredible, no other circumstances can compare.

If I were to win a million dollars and then 5 minutes later discover that a five dollar bill had fallen out of my pocket, would that rob me of the joy I felt from winning the million?  I would like to think that it wouldn’t.  In the same way, what can rob us of the joy of knowing that God is redeeming us, has saved us and that we will have billions and billions of years to experience his presence fully?  Can the ups of downs of day-to-day life?  Can the worst that life has to offer rob us of our joy?  It shouldn’t, if our hearts are focused on the intense joy that comes from knowing God.

Before anyone thinks that I am getting too preachy, here me say this, I am giving this lesson primarily to me.  Whether you are impacted by this or not, I need to write it and then read it and then read it again.  The routine ups and downs of my day greatly effect me.  My joy is typically determined by what has happened in the last 30 minutes, not by what God has done and is doing for me.  My hope and prayer is that I can live out what Peter proclaims here:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious JOY (emphasis added), for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I Peter 1:7-9

“But Hate is Such a Strong Word” (video)

December 1, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Teaching

The “Ain’t” List

December 1, 2009 by cloften  
Filed under General Insanity, Silliness and Rants

This week’s list that we will create are the best words that aren’t words. Post your suggestions here and we’ll make a top 10 list.  Clearly “ain’t” is at or near the top of the list. What have you got?

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