Time always Tells

Time tells so much. Time tells the truth. Time is something we love to spend and fear to lose. Time, and how one uses it, speaks volumes about one’s character.

In Ecclesiastes 3 Solomon writes one of the Bibles most favorite thoughts about time when he says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” Solomon speaks of time to be born and to die, to laugh and to mourn, and he names more. (click here to read the passage)  Life is seasons. Some seasons are good. Other seasons are hard.

Our culture spends many resources and much effort on avoiding hard times and trying to cause the good times, yet no matter how much money one spends or how frivolous one lives, seasons of all sorts come and go.

We must choose to live in the moment not for the moment. This requires seeing more than this moment or the moments we believe this one moment will cause. Moments become idols when they are magnified beyond Eternity. The emotions tied to certain moments and experiences cause us to overvalue them in life. It is not that these moments are unimportant; they are simply not ultimate. Tim Tebow (a young man that has learned how fleeting moments can be) is quoted to say, “When you live for the moment it will always let you down.” It is not the moments fault. It is ours. We expected more than that moment could ever deliver.

In Ecclesiastes 3 Solomon teaches that “God has set eternity in the hearts of man.” Eternity is an inescapable reality. God created us for eternity. The natural desire for humanity to seek that which is beyond itself reveals an appetite. Appetites remind us of realities. Hunger reminds us of food. Thirst…water. Eternity…God. The problem with this hunger or appetite is that nothing we can find on earth satisfies it. (God has put eternity in our hearts yet we cannot understand what he has done from beginning to end.) We desire it yet we cannot truly fathom it at the same time.

What you worship in this life will be your reward. As we consider eternity we must consider what it will contain. If the moments of your life are focused on things that are destroyed by moth and rust (Matt. 6:19-21), those things are your reward. If you live fully for now, now is your full reward. Valuing eternity means valuing the emotions and moments of life, for what they are.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 brings this book to a telling conclusion. In all his negativity about the vanity of life Solomon ends with a positive take on duty itself. Duty is a great privilege when we desire to do what we were designed to do. We love to do what we ought to do when we live our lives in love with the one who created that “oughtness” within us. We must seek to love the One we live for more than how we live. Live in love with Jesus and the duties and responsibilities of life will not change, but they will hold deeper value and richer meaning.

Life is to be lived now, but all of life is not about right now. Eternity is ultimate, because to “live is Christ and to die is gain.” Jesus came that we “might have life and that life to the full.” This full life is not something we will receive one day, it is the promise for this very day. Yet we will lose the value of this day if we forget the value of eternity. The moments in life are correctly captured in the context of eternity.

Sneaky Little Masters (Part Three)

victory

So I struggle with treating success like an idol…what do I do now?

That is not really a question I thought I would be asking. It is, however, a reality I live with. A generally successful person can, in times of struggle, come face to face with an unhealthy priority they were unaware they had.

I want to clarify my use of idol here. I do not bow down and worship success. I simply allow it to come before God and anything that is before him is above him, and there is nothing or no one above him.

In Matthew 23:25-28 Jesus throws down some WOES to the religious leaders of his day. He tells them that they wash the outside of the cup and call it clean or that they whitewash tombs and pretend they are not filled with death. He teaches that it is not just the outside that must change but the inside, too. It is the root of the matter that musty change, not just the fruit of it.

So, how do I experience that? Here are some practical points from Matthew 23.

You might have a success idol if…

1. WHAT happens matters more than WHY it happened.
Does why matter to you at all about the things you hope to accomplish in life? Or is what you are striving for your only concern?
2.  WHAT I am matters more than WHO I am.
When you deal with a success idol what you become trumps who you are. If you are not careful you can have an “everyone loves a winner” mentality towards life…which eventually causes you to act like a loser.
3.  WHAT I do matters more than HOW I do it.
Do ends justify means? Winning at all costs comes at a very high price to everyone involved.

Burning a success idol requires…
1. Emptying the cup.
Emptying the cup means pouring it ALL out. Money is perhaps the best illustration of this. You are not faithful to God with money because you give a certain % at church. Every penny is his. You are not faithful to God without the % either, but that % is much easier to give when it is all his anyway.
2.  Open the door.
The best way to clean out the stench of death is to open the door and let the light of truth in. Opening the door to your sins and struggles usually requires sharing the worst about your self with someone else. “Confess your sins one to another.” Are you?
3.  Pray inside out.
Get to the root issue, don’t just treat the fruit.
4.  Be what you are.
Jesus’ final illustration was a tomb. A tomb is a tomb. It is what it is. Often our greatest struggle with success is desiring to be what we are not…or the desire to not be what we are. Be what God made you.

The greatest truth we must all remember about our struggles with success is that Jesus is greater than our biggest failures. Give to Jesus your best. Give to Jesus your worst. And give him everything in between.  You cannot give him one without the other.

Sneaky Little Masters (Part Two)

victory


Anything kept for or to ourselves is, inherently, before God. Thus, it is an idol.

This statement is from part one of this blog. God commanded us to have no god before him. Jesus clearly taught that man could not serve both his selfish desires (mammon or money in most translations) and God at the same time. It is one or the other.

In Ecclesiastes Solomon, the most interesting man in the world, wrote about the vanity of all the things he experienced in life. (Remember Solomon was the richest, most famous, most successful person of his day. He had everything this world offers.) In chapter 2 he writes that it is vain to live wisely because all one earns is eventually left to another. The one it is left to could easily be a fool. He teaches how vain it is to work and toil because in the end you die the same. Yet he concludes that it is good for man to eat and drink and enjoy his toil….why? It pleases God.

Success is a small, short, little trophy.
Success is the idol that Solomon is ultimately speaking of. As he speaks of living wisely and working hard he is speaking of the things that we sum up with that one little word…success. Success is working and accomplishing and achieving in life. It is living wisely and attaining in this life.

Our earthly successes are, however, very small in the scope of history, much less eternity. Our earthly successes are short in the scope of our own lives or their value to others. Time keeps ticking and success is short-lived. Success quickly becomes failure if one does not keep moving forward. Success is little in the emotional and personal benefit it actually offers. Success is often not as satisfying in the moment as we hoped it would be, much less in the scope of our ongoing lives.

Success, however, is a good thing. We are called by God to give our very best and to work unto him and not unto man. The problem is the priority we give success.

We get burned when we magnify right things in wrong ways.

Success is no more the problem in our lives than money is actually evil. The love of money is the root of evils.   It is the priority and place it gets in our lives that causes it to be a source of sin and rebellion against God. Success gets more than it gives when it gets more than it deserves.

I wrote in part one that I would be preaching this past Sunday about an idol I struggle with. This is it…success. I love to succeed. Honestly, I have for the most part in my life known success. There are very few things in life I feel I have failed at. I was not as good at certain things I wanted to be good at along the way, but I did not fail at many.

This year I have dealt with what I feel is the biggest failure in my leadership. Our church has set some goals we are not reaching. We have some things we must do to move forward in our mission and we are struggling to get there. I set out and led out on an initiative to move us forward, and it has not worked as planned. I see that as failure.

Others tell me other wise, but I struggle to see it differently. Some times preachers just need to be real. This is my greatest struggle with an idol. I realize God has us right where he wants us, but I see that as failure too. If this is what God wanted then why did I lead us towards something that looked so different? I have a very black and white view of success. It is far less subjective to me than it is to many people I love and know.

You see, I love giving God my successes. I want his glory. I truly and sincerely desire the spread of the Gospel and building up of the Church. It is all for his glory. The problem is that I love giving God my successes, not success. Success is mine to keep . God can have the glory when I get done.

This struggle is real enough in my life right now that I am taking personal growth steps to learn more about myself and God so that I can be healthier in this area. I will blog tomorrow about some steps for identifying and burning success idols.

But, God put this question on my heart and mind as I studied this topic and I want to ask it to you. Maybe it will help you evaluate your love for success and the priority you give it in relationship to God.

Is God worthy of your biggest failures?

If God asked you to do something that did not “work” would you be okay with that? Can obedience to God, at least in seasons and moments in life, look like failure to the world and be obedience to God? If so, are you okay if God so asks?

Till tomorrow…

Sneaky Little Masters

victory

The Ten Commandments start like this…

“And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.  “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,  but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20)

This commandment, to many modern hearers, sounds fairly easy to follow. Fewer and fewer people in the modern world ever bow down to an inanimate object they made and call it a god. Yet this commandment, like it was for the nation of Israel, is harder to obey than most of us realize, or at least, want to admit.

Jesus tells his followers this 1000s of years after the giving of the 10 Commandments.

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matt. 6:24)

The problem with idols is that we don’t see them as idols. We actually see them as good things in our lives. An idol is anyone or anything we put before God.

Our thinking about idols is usually not wrong. It is simply incomplete. We believe we can choose to not give certain passions, desires, or hopes entirely to God and them not become idols. That is how money becomes evil and robs us of our ability to serve God. Money is no god, until you keep it to and for yourself.

An idol can be anything. Money is the most typical one. It can be your spouse or your family. It can be your job or your career. It can be a hobby. Your child’s sports endeavors.   A sin pattern. Alcohol. Drugs. The list goes on and on and on.

Anything kept for or to ourselves is, inherently, before God. Thus, it is an idol.

I have one. I have come face to face with it this year in a way I have never experienced before. It is a sneaky little master, this idol. I almost took this Sunday off because of the topic we are addressing in our Burned series. Why? It is the idol I have come face to face with this year.

 Idols are sneaky little masters because we think they serve us while all along we are unintentionally serving them.

Consider this as you prepare for Sunday.
How does doing a good thing become a wrong thing?