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Enslaved -Mastered by Sin

Enslaved -Mastered by Sin

 

Slavery is perhaps the most common problem on the planet.  There has been to my knowledge no time in human history in which at least one person has not been enslaved.  (Except perhaps before the fall)  This makes slavery the longest running problem we have yet to solve.

To truly do a discussion of slavery justice we need to define our terms.  There are actually in just about every culture two types of slavery.  Its important to distinguish between these two things because many of us may be fine with and even have experienced one form of slavery.  While the other form has much worse implications.

Indentured Servitude

Indentured servitude is the most accepted form of slavery, and many of us have experienced it at some point in our lives.  The basic idea is that you are a slave in order to pay off a debt.  This has looked different in different cultures but the most relatable version would have to be what happens to middle class children!

No! you did not read that wrong.  Middle class children and teens are the largest segment of our american population that deal with this form of slavery.  You in fact probably experienced a form of it when you were young.

Take yourself back to the young headstrong child you once were and think about that time we all had when we (or more likely our sibling who pinned it on us) got into trouble.  Specifically remember when you broke something or destroyed property.  If you had a family like mine you were marched over to whoever owned said destroyed property and told that you had to pay them back for there “stupid whatever” that you broke that shouldn’t have even been there in the first place.

Now as a child or teen, again if you were like me, you didn’t have a whole lot of money.  What this led to then was the next four weekends of your life mowing grass, doing dishes, and washing clothes all for no pay until finally you have worked off your debt to old lady “what’s her name”.  That in a nutshell is indentured servitude.

Oppressive Servitude

Oppressive servitude is the type of slavery however that most often keeps us up at night.  It is an inhuman act of betrayal and violence that has been practiced for almost all of time.  It is the taking of another person or people from there life, at no fault of there own and forcing them to work in terrible conditions, until they are no longer of use.

This type of slavery has taken many forms from sexual slavery of young girls, to the enslavement of africans as cheep labor.  Each of these is despicable and causes a deep yearning in my soul to seek out and to save those who find themselves captured.

It is in this mindset of yearning that we should consider our spiritual lives and the role Christ plays in this world.

See the Bible makes clear that we enter into this world enslaved to sin. (John 8:33)  Make no mistake if you are reading this you were enslaved to sin. (Rom 6:5-7)  This means that by the very nature of slavery we are oppressed by sin and we do many things at the call of our “dark master” of which we should be ashamed.

Its at this understandable point that we start to compare ourselves to the above descriptions, and because we all think of ourselves as generally good and decent people who have never murdered, cheated, or stolen we put ourselves into the category of the oppressed servitude. In delusion we consider ourselves simply victims of chance.

How could sin have done this to us?  Dragged us out of our comfort and contentment and enslaved us!

However, look again at the descriptions that were given, and search your heart for the truth.  None of us were dragged kicking and screaming into slavery.  Sure we were born bad, but we were created for righteousness.  It is in an examination of the evidence that we are forced to admit, we are not oppressed but simply indebted to our “dark master”.

See we all committed acts that have run up our account.  We owe more than we could ever pay and because of that debt we were turned over from birth to our “dark master”.  We are then starting in a world trying to work off a debt that can never be payed only increased.

It is in this reality that we see the true beauty of God.  Who did not rescue us from random chance. Who did not rescue us from an enemy force.  We see the beauty of a God who rescued us from a debt of our own creation.  Who rescued us from our own pride and self worth and asks nothing of us in return except to trust in Him.

Make no mistake you are enslaved….but you do not have to be.

unchained

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2016 in Uncategorized, Unchained

 

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Time and Place

“For everything there is a  season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” Ecc 3:1

It is amazing that God ordained all things to happen inside his timing and will.  He set up the rules and order of this world and set all things in there place.  God has, as Ecclesiastes 3 says, given everything a season and a time.

What does this mean for our lives though?

Has God so controlled our lives and actions that we have no freedom?

No!  Rather God has placed markers and “signs” and given us his word that we might understand that every action, desire, and outcome has a place.  No thing that happens to us is ever out of Gods control, and we need not fear finding ourselves in a situation that He has not planned.

Solomon uses quite a few “this/that” statements to show the control and placement of things in this world.  These few verses are easy to both over and under spiritualize, however they are powerful statements of Gods control and plan for our world and lives.

Born and Die (V.2)

Solomon starts out slow and easy by just letting us know that God has ordained a time for our birth and our death.  No accidents occur in Gods world.  No one has been born or ever will be born that God did not know about first.  Just as know one has been born a surprise to God no one has died as a surprise to God.  We enter and exit this world as a planned creation of God, and he watches out for us throughout it all. (Matt 10:29)

Break Down and Build Up (V.3)

Christ is referred to as the potter (Isa 64:8) and we the clay.  If you ever watch a potter throw a clay pot it is fascinating to watch.  Sometimes after working on a pot and building it up for hours a flaw might be found in the construction.  If there is a fault found a potter doesn’t try to fix that hole or just put clay over it, instead he breaks down the work he has done back into a pile so that he can start fresh.

As the clay, solomon points to the fact that there are God ordained times of building where we might rise as leaders and teachers, however because of our own flawed nature when we get out of sync with God or prideful there is also a God ordained time of breaking down.

Silence and Speech (V.7)

It is ordained through the discernment of the Holy Spirit, and through the reading of the Bible the knowledge of when to speak.  There are times that we are called as Christians to speak up and say what God has taught us. (David and Goliath being a good Old Testament Example) However, there are also times that God has given us the wisdom to stay silent.

Most of us, unfortunately, have a case of the opposites.  When someone is running down our God or God is calling us to share we stay silent.  When someone is asking us about gossip or we have opinions we speak.  God has called us to seek out the times when he has called us to speech and silence.  Pray only that He gives us the wisdom to know the difference.

War and Peace (V.8)

Similare to speech and silence it can be hard to discern which of these God has ordained in a specific situation.  As humans we tend to go to war over little things and keep the peace when barbarians are at the gate.

Understand,  God has given us the call to war as a tool to be used.  There is nothing wrong with standing your ground and holding a position you believe.  We are called however to make sure to only use that tool when it is appropriate.

Romans says it best like this “in as much as it is up to you, live at peace with all men” (Rm 12:18)  This is a call to use discernment.  A call to say that if its not a must issue than choose peace.  However, if it is against the Bible or Gods authority ….prepare for war.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2016 in Ecclesiastes, Uncategorized

 

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Bursting the Bubble of Wealth

“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that i must leave it to the man who will come after me.”  -Ecc 2:18

Wealth is an amazing thing.  I was blessed to grow up in a home that while not “wealthy” certainly provided me with a life of ease.  I didn’t have to work to put food on the table, my parents didn’t take my birthday money for gas money, and I always had presents under the tree at Christmas.  I lived a blessed life.

However, there are those who had much more money than I.  Families and people who could have bought and sold all that I had twenty times over and never made a dent in there money.  This also is a blessing.  How then can Solomon find any fault or struggle in the gaining of money and wealth?

Solomon, who was one of the richest men who ever lived, says that even the accumulation of wealth is ultimately vanity and striving after the wind.  He uses these three points to show how living a life that is about money and wealth is a life empty of any reason to live.

  1.  Ultimately we don’t get to Keep It

“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that i must leave it to the man who will come after me.” -Ecc 2:18

Solomon begins by simply recognizing the inevitability of his own demise.  Solomon knows he will die.  Sooner or later his life is going to come to an end and everything he has ever owned will pass on to his relations.  He will no longer own any of his stuff and he will have no say over how it is spent. Solomon will have worked his whole life only to give his money to those who didn’t earn it.

Ultimately that is what will happen to all of our wealth.  We can only enjoy it while we are here on this earth.  We can use it for good or evil.  We can use it all or nothing.  The only thing we can’t do is take it with us. 

2.    Ultimately we cannot Protect It

“and who knows  whether he will be wise or a fool?  Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun.” -Ecc 2:19

Solomon not only recognizes that one day he will die, but also that when he goes his idiot kids are gonna get everything.  Solomon realized there is no way to be sure that his kids spend his money well.

There is a difference that has been pointed out between being wealthy and being rich.  I can never remember which is which, but the basics are “a wealthy person made there money,  a rich person inherits it”.  Our world is filled with examples of people who ran into this problem. A hard working father/mother builds up a fortune only to see there children with no morals or work ethic tear that fortune down.

Solomon points out to us in these verses the futility of living for money.  Even if you were to get all you could hope, and are ok with passing it on when you die.  You do not get to decide what is done with it once you are gone.  Whoever gets your stuff gets to decide how to use your money.

3.    Ultimately we cannot Enjoy It.

” What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun?  For all his days are full of sorrow…”  Ecc 2:22-23a

Solomon continues as he points out one simple truth that we all understand even if we don’t say.  The more wealth you have, the more worry of loosing wealth.  Solomon acknowledges that all his work and toil to attain such wealth has caused his heart nothing but “sorrow and vexation”.  When you work for wealth you heart is never satisfied.

The sad truth of wealth is that no person if they set wealth and riches as there goal ever said “now I have enough“.  They continue to work and worry and snuggle to get more and more always believing that the next hundred or next thousand will satisfy. Solomon is trying to show us early in life that the only thing that satisfies our desires is Christ/God.

“For apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?  For to the one who pleases Him, God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. ” Ecc 2:25-26

In the last few posts we have talked about Solomon’s frustrations with life.  We have “burst the bubble” of many vanity that plague the human race.  However the ultimate point is summed up in these last two verse.  All pleasure and joy and good things are given to those who strive after Him.  To those who are not believer he has given the ultimately futile task of gathering and collecting.  I pray that anyone reading this finds there satisfaction in God, and not look for it in the business of collecting.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2016 in Ecclesiastes, Uncategorized

 

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Bursting the Bubble of Pleasure

“‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.’ But behold this also was vanity”  Ecclesiastes 2:1

As I work on this lesson I find myself realizing that this is the stage of life, as Solomon describes them that I find myself.  I am enraptured with pleasure.  Good friends, good food, and good fun are the places where I find joy.  So it is with a heavy heart that I must write that these things fun and enjoyable as they may be cannot bring lasting or ultimate pleasure!

Solomon continues his discussion of useless things here in chapter two of Ecclesiastes by bursting the soap bubble of pleasure.  He comes to it as a man just off a night of self reflection, and begins to discuss the parts of his life where pleasure and achievement were everything to him.  

It is in this discussion of his life of pleasure that Solomon makes note of two things that are important to understand about pleasure and achievement.

  1.  Pleasure is Good, but Too Much is Sorrow

“Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness.”               Prov. 14:13

Pleasure is a gift of God!  There can be no denying this fact.  For some reason back in the middle ages and even before people got a view of God as this heavenly school teacher who was just there to wag a finger and take away all the fun.  At one point a child even using his imagination was considered a sin, but this is not the God we see pointed to in our bible.

The God we see in the bible is a God who led his people to a land of pleasure flowing with “milk and honey”.  A God who threw feast and party for every little event in the lives of the Jewish people.  Even James in the new testament says “every good and perfect gift is from above”

There is a down side to pleasure though, this comes in the law of diminishing returns.  The essence of this law is that the more you do something the less pleasure you will get.  This means that to get the same amount of pleasure you will have to increase your activity.  We see this most acutely in drug addiction.  At first one hit of whatever drug you use will get you high, but as you continue using you need more and more of that drug to get the same high.

The Law of Diminishing returns holds true weather you pleasure is gained from drugs, sex, gambling, video games, or any other pleasurable activity.  If all you are gaining is pleasure than it will eventually turn sour and sorrowful.

2.   Achievement is Good, but Cannot Bring Happiness

“So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem.”  -Ecc 2:7

Solomon was, as has been said before, one of the wisest men who ever lived.  Due to his wisdom he was also one of the greatest kings both Israel and the world had ever seen.  Solomon outlines some of his greatest achievements here in this chapter.  He achieved more than any other king of Israel and yet he still found no lasting joy in his achievements.

No one can say that being productive and having great works and achievements is a bad thing.  The Bible has plenty to say on those who are lazy and slothful, but achievement can have its own dangers.

Achievement for achievement sake, however, lends itself to becoming an escape to the rest of life.  Those who become “workaholics” fall to the same vanity and uselessness that we discussed about pleasure.  Eventually the law of diminishing returns causes you to need more and more; and bigger and bigger achievements.

However, Achievements also has its own unique struggle and that is the struggle of becoming a god to yourself.  When your good works, and your achievements become so  important that God becomes a secondary character in your life.  You begin to elevate your own interests above the interests of others.  The ultimate end of this struggle comes as you get to the end of your life and there are no more achievements to be gained.  Then you become useless, and your god is no more.

Solomon looked on pleasure and achievement and pronounced judgement.  Without God they are useless and vain pursuits.

 

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2016 in Ecclesiastes

 

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Bursting the Bubble of Wisdom

“And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven” Ecc 1:13a

Before i begin to describe what Solomon has to say on the subject of wisdom and its uselessness, I feel i should take at least a second to explain the title of my blog.  In studying the book of Ecclesiastes I was struck by a description of vanity that was given by Waren Wiersbe:

“It is whatever is left when you pop a soap bubble.”

So as we look into the first few chapters of Ecclesiastes we should be looking for those things that remain after Solomon bursts a few soap bubbles.

Solomon started out his final book on wisdom describing the monotonous way that life seems to progress.  Nothing new happens and everything just cycles back to where it came from only to cycle back there again.  It is strikingly similar to how many eastern religions view life!

On the surface you can see where these religions might get this idea, Solomon lays it out clearly for us.  All of life that we can see is cycles, so why not believe that our lives are just on a cycle as well.  What use is being good, or moral, or kind if we are just the latest cycle of a never ending pattern?

It is these traps of wisdom that Solomon describes as first catching his mind.  In these very verses he changes from historian to philosopher as he applies all his wisdom and learning to the problems of life.  Solomon then comes up with three basic principles that he sees in life.

1. Life is hard, but ultimately from God

“I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven.  It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.”

Solomon found that ultimately life is a gift from God as is work, but that does not mean that life is in any way easy.  Since the fall of man the work that God gave us has been cursed to be hard (Gen 3:14).  The gift of God was corrupted and what was meant to be a joy and a purpose has turned into a chore.  However we are still called by God to work and to find joy in him as we do the work that he has given to us.

2. Life once lived cannot be changed

“What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.”

Solomon was using his wisdom not only, to look at what life was about now, but also to  examine his past life.  He uses this proverb to illustrate the point that to try and spend our days making the past where we messed up look strait is just “vanity and striving after the wind.”  There is only one who can make our lives clean and that is God.  Solomon ultimate statement here is that you can spend your whole life trying to make up for what you did, but it won’t change anything.  Instead we should live our lives for Christ who has forgiven our pasts and made purposeful our future.

3. Life’s problems cannot always be solved

“And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly.  I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.”

Solomon uses his last moments talking about wisdom to make clear that he was the smarted and most knowledgeable man that had ever lived at his time and the one thing he figured out was that he would never have it figured out.  You could search for answers till you are blue in the face and still never find them because they are questions that will not be answered this side of heaven.

Solomon, in fact, figured out what philosophers years after him would describe this way:  “Ignorance is bliss”  He figured out the dirty secret that the more you know the more you understand that you don’t know anything.  The smarter we get the more we realize its all useless because we can never truly have all the answers.  That is why Solomon ends this chapter with this simple statement:

“For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2016 in Ecclesiastes, Uncategorized

 

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Working and Waiting Without Complaint

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only”  – Matt 24:36

…………………………………………………………………………….Waiting is the worst!

Whether it is waiting for a sentence to begin or waiting for the next season of your favorite show to come out, it is universally excepted that the waiting is the worst part!  It has only gotten worse in our culture of now.

Waiting touches us all as christians in one of our weakest areas, the area of patience.  We like to believe that we have patience, after all we wait for things all the time, but if we were honest with ourselves we would see that the only time we truly practice patience is when we have no other choice.

Is it any wonder then that James calls us to patience in the waiting of our Lords return!

“For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”  – Matt 24:37-39

Matthew makes clear in his gospel that no one knows the day or the hour that Christ will return to gather up those who follow Him.  He also makes clear that just like when Noah was on the earth Christ’s return will be at the time when we are not expecting it and are just going about our normal lives.

Matthew goes on to say that in many places there will be two working and one will be taken and another left behind. (Matt 24:40-42) He warns us to stay awake and alert for the coming of the Lord.

“But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.  Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Finally Matthew uses the analogy of a thief coming in the night to tell us to stay alert and be ready because the Lord will return at the hour we least expect.  These verses in Matthew serve to prepare our minds for what James calls us to later on, a call to patience in our suffering on this earth.

James tells us three things that we should know if we are to wait for our Lord the way that he and Matthew call us to do.

1.  Wait As A Farmer Waits

“…See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.”  – James 5:7b

A farmer is one of the best examples of patience we have in our world today.  He literally spends an entire year waiting for his crops to grow, waiting for rain, and waiting for the harvest.  Is it any wonder then that James calls us first to wait like a farmer waits.

A farmer though he is waiting is also very active in his waiting.  He does not just sit on the porch and look at the field and hope for growth, but instead goes out and tends to those fields, nurturing and caring until the time of harvest.  This is what we are called to do as well, we are called to be active in our world for the Gospel to be nurturing and caring for this world and its people until the time of harvest.

2.  Wait Without Complaint

“Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged;  behold, the Judge is standing at the door.”  – James 5:9

How many of us when asked by our parents, boss, or authority figure to do a task do it with absolutely no complaint.  If we all answered zero we would be very close to correct.  Most of us if asked to do something that is not what we want to do in that moment will grumble and complain like we were asked to kill our best friend.

James and ultimately God is calling us in these verses to wait on his coming working in the fields (see point 1), and to do so without grumbling or complaining.  He is calling us to a life of following Him knowing that Christ’s return could be any day.

With this call to a life without grumbling is a warning that the one who will judge us is just outside the door.  The image is that of an authority figure who you are grumbling about being just on the other side of the door hearing every word.  It is a vivid reminder that our Lord is near at all times.

3.  Wait As The Prophets

“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”  James – 5:11

The prophets we an amazing group of men.  Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Elisha, Elijah, and Isaiah all count themselves among this group of amazing men.  What then is it that James is calling us to follow about these men?

Is it there passion?  Or perhaps is it there strength?

No!  James is calling us to follow there steadfastness, and faith.

Now in language steadfastness means much the same thing as patience, however the evoking image of steadfastness is being immovable even in the midst of a driving force.  See all of the prophets were calling forward to a time that was coming, constantly saying that what they were prophesying was near at hand.  However, very few of them lived to see all of there prophesies come to pass.

This is what James is calling us to!  Calling us to be the workers in the field active in planting and nurturing the harvest, to do so without complaint or grumbling, and to be steadfast in our work even if the end is not in our time.  He calls us to this because as James says “the coming of the Lord is at hand”

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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