Archives for the month of: March, 2015

sacrifice 2

 A baseball player may hit a sacrifice bunt that gets him out, but advances a runner from his team. A soldier, policeman, or fireman sacrifice their own safety to protect others. A parent may sacrifice himself to protect his child. Our culture values convenience, money, and time, and we usually must sacrifice at least one of those to have the others. Deep down man has always understood the concept that what is easy must be sacrificed to achieve what is good and eternal.

The Old Testament sacrificial system required that man offer sacrifices of unblemished livestock or the first fruits of his harvest to acknowledge his sin or honor God. God sacrificed his perfect son to end that system, but it did not end our need to recognize the sacred and sacrifice the profane in our lives.

The problem is now we seem to be far more comfortable with sacrificing the sacred to honor the profane. We sacrifice the Sabbath for shopping or recreation or entertainment, but the vast majority of Americans don’t honor God on the Sabbath anymore. God created marriage as a sacred covenant with sex as a means to intimacy and procreation; we’ve sacrificed that intimacy and made it a spectator sport in our entertainment and publications industries. We’ve sacrificed integrity for fame and money. We’ve sacrificed our deep relationship with God and relegated him to a distant acquaintance that we only visit on major holidays or when there is a crisis. We’ve become far more comfortable with bad language and immoral behavior than with holiness. We can spend hours watching a movie, cheering at a sporting event, or reading a trashy book, but we sacrifice prayer and Bible study because we don’t have the time.

When you sacrifice enough of the sacred things in your life, you lose perspective on their holiness. Jesus’ sacrifice came through his death. Our sacrifice must come through how we live.

Rom 12:1  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.

Every choice you make requires you to sacrifice something. This day intentionally examine your choices. Be willing to sacrifice what is easy for what is good; what is lesser for what is better; what is profane for what is sacred. Let your sacrifice lead you to what is holy and eternal.

thistles

 Part of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the garden was that Adam would have to work the ground to provide his food, but it would produce thorns and thistles as well as food. Eden had no thorns or thistles, but Adam would contend with them every day outside of Eden. They were part of the landscape…part of how things worked outside of Eden.

Thorns hurt…a lot. They can puncture or tear flesh, and it may takes days for the pain to subside and the wound to heal. The thorns in our lives never go unnoticed. They are the big, painful events. They can look like a heartbreak, a crisis, a setback, or dead end. They do not go away quickly and they can leave wounds in our self-image and our dreams.

Thistles are not the big painful parts of life outside of Eden; they are more the constant, prickly irritations that we must work around every day. They look more like frustrating interruptions, unplanned complications, and difficult people. They are visible when our best intentions fall far short of our hopes and when our joy is stolen by petty problems and selfish people. These “thistles” can sidetrack our positive attitude and cause us to focus on the prickly present, rather than the ultimate good.

God warned Adam that he would face thorns and thistles in his life outside of Eden. For the rest of his life he would have to deal with them as he provided food for his family. As a result of disobedience, God could not allow him and Eve to stay in Eden. Leaving Eden was their punishment; thorns and thistles were just part of the way of life in the world outside the Garden.

We can’t go back to the Garden of Eden, but we can have intimacy with God in the midst of the reality of a life lived with thorns and thistles. They are not a punishment God gives us daily; they are just the reality of where we live. God can use them to strengthen us or to refine us, but how we respond to them is our daily choice. Adam had to produce a harvest despite the problems; so do we. May our focus always be on the abundant fruit God calls us to produce, not on the thorns and thistles vie for our attention.

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We can embellish it, spin it, or stretch it. We may run from it or hide from it, but our response to the truth doesn’t change the truth. Courts ask us to “Swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” because too often we try to make the truth into something it is not.

 Most of us have a problem with the truth. We want to embrace the “truth” that supports what we want to think and dismiss any evidence that might prove us wrong. We disdain those who disagree with our version of the truth, and have turned every issue into an “us” and “them” predicament. We are far less interested in actually knowing the whole truth than we are in proving our enemies wrong. When we sublimate the truth to winning the argument, we become the ones who embellish it, spin it and stretch it. Ignorance is no excuse; neither is arrogance.

Never has our nation been so sharply divided as now. In politics, race relations, morality, and religion, there is an increasing polarization of opinions. We argue about everything from financial strategies to educational reform to foreign policy. Both sides of every issue assume that they have the truth, and those who disagree with them are uninformed or malicious. Both sides of every issue seem far more likely to attack each other than to seek the whole truth and work for common good.

When did different ideas become mutually exclusive? Where is the line between what is non-negotiable and a different perspective? Can Democrats be just a right about helping the poor as Republicans are about enabling people to rise out of poverty? Is there a need to protect the right to free speech of all people, including the ones who disagree with what is politically correct? Can we recognize the flaws of institutions and people we like? Can we honor the goals of those who don’t share our priorities?

Jesus said “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32) What do we have to learn before we will actually “know the truth”? What will knowing the truth set us free from? What does it look like to fight for the truth?

I suspect the whole truth is far more about understanding ALL the facts than it is about destroying those with whom we disagree. The truth just is. We can’t change it. But if we truly want to find it, I suspect we will find ourselves in the company of people we respect, even when we don’t agree.