The Three Excuses: Excuse #3

I recently got married, and that’s why I can’t come. (from Luke 14:20)

This person is so overcome with relationships that he loses out on God’s kingdom.

Do I recognize this person in myself?

It’s hard to believe that the very relationships God gives us with parents, spouses, children, friends, etc., can be the very relationships Satan can use to destroy us.  Satan can keep us so involved with our families and friends that we don’t have time for God.

All my relationships must be under the authority of Jesus, and less important to me than Him.  This is not because God is egotistical, but because everyone and everything good does revolve around Him!  If we leave God out, or if we try to rank Him as less important than earthly relationships, we will completely fail not only towards God, but also in the very relationships we are trying so hard to value.  No one can take the place of Jesus in our lives, and only bitter disappointment is on the horizon of such expectation.

The scary reality: the man in this parable is being called to forget his relationships to come into the presence of the king—and he chooses his stuff.  But his life is taken from him as a consequence for his refusal to come.  In the end, he loses everything, his family & friends and, far worse, his eternity.

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  Whoever does not take up their cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.  Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for My sake will find it.  (Matthew 10:37-39, NIV)

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The Three Excuses: Excuse #2

I bought five pairs of oxen, and I need to see how they plow.  (from Luke 14:19)

This person is so overcome with work—achievements and supervision—that he loses out on God’s kingdom.

Do I recognize this person in myself?

My job can become a big distraction that drains my life away from God’s purpose, if I’m not using my job to glorify Him.  But what about the little jobs?  What about housework, cooking, checklists, even attempts to be busy in self-good works instead of God-good work?  Can I become so busy trying to earn praise from God that I don’t hear His call in my life?  My acts of service, my blog, everything I do is worthless if I do it to try to merit my relationship with God.

The scary reality: the man in this parable is being called to forget his personal business to come into the presence of the king—and he chooses his personal business.  But his life is taken from him as a consequence for his refusal to come.  In the end, he loses everything, his career dreams and, far worse, his eternity.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.  The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature.  So God did what the law could not do.  He sent His own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have.  And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving His Son as a sacrifice for our sins.  He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4, NLT)

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Published in: on August 4, 2011 at 11:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Three Excuses: Excuse #1

I bought a field and I need to see it. (from Luke 14:18)

This person is so overcome with material possessions—acquisition and inspection—that he loses out on God’s kingdom.

Do I recognize this person in myself?

Home mortgage is a big expense that can distract me from God’s purpose . . . but what about the little expenses?  For years, I was plagued with various “collection addictions”.  I would try to collect everything in a set.  It started all the way back with Happy Meal Toys.  I wanted every single one, and when I got them all, rather than enjoy them, it was time to start a new collection.

What about when I spend money on myself that God has given me to spend on others?  This is the most difficult part of material possessions for me to fight.  I have to ask myself, Do I need this?  Does God have a better use for this money, like feeding children who have nothing to eat?

The scary reality: the man in this parable is being called to forget his worldly stuff to come into the presence of the king—and he chooses his stuff.  But his life is taken from him as a consequence for his refusal to come.  In the end, he loses everything, his property and, far worse, his eternity.

And He [Jesus] said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’  And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax,eat, drink, be merry.’  But God said to him, ‘Fool!  This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’  So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:15-21, ESV)

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If I call this Cost-Benefit Analysis you probably won’t read it . . .

I just got a lesson in Cost-Benefit Analysis.

What is most valuable?

WAIT!  Don’t click off my blog yet!  I know: “Economics, run!  RUN!!  RUN!!!”

It makes my brain hurt, too.

Don’t worry, this is not going to get more technical that a can of cream soda.

Here’s what happened:

A few weeks back I bought a laptop table.  Since laptops can overheat and since I think that may have been what got my last one, I wanted a portable, ventilated laptop table to set it on.  The problem is, the table is really tall on really long legs.  Well, actually, that isn’t the problem.  The problem is that I forget the legs fold.

The laptop table and I have gotten to know each other well over the past few weeks, so I decided to use the cup holder this morning for my coffee.  No problem.

This afternoon, I decided I would put my cream soda can in the conspicuously shallow cup holder.

No problem.

I had to get up, and I laid my laptop table down on the floor.

No problem.

I went back to get my laptop table, and tried to balance it as I lifted it somewhat clumsily back to my lap.

Big problem.

The soda can tipped over, and I was immediately faced with a cost-benefit analysis.

Choice 1

Remembering that I was holding the table, and not the laptop itself, which is slightly elevated on the table, if I tried to stand the can back up I would drench the bottom of my laptop in cream soda.

Choice 2

If I left the soda pouring out, the bottom of the laptop was still at risk for getting wet, and plus soda was spilling out all over the laptop table and soon the couch.

Choice 3

If I tilted the table, I could prevent the soda from spilling all over my lap top, but I would in essence be pouring soda all over my couch and rug.

Since you know I’m writing this blog now, you can probably guess which choice I chose.

When we’re forced into a decision where we have to give something up to keep something else, we reveal what we really value[1].  I value my laptop more than my couch.  I wouldn’t go destroying my couch, but if I had to choose between the two, I’d protect my laptop.

There are a lot of people in the world who call themselves Christians.  The term has come to some people to mean somebody who vaguely believes in the Bible or celebrates Christmas or goes to church or something.  But if you read in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John how Christ describes those who will follow Him, we see the truth about Christianity.

Christ is so valuable we are expected to give everything up for Him.  It is the only rational cost-benefit analysis we can do when we realize that He gave even His own life up so that we could live with Him forever.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 13:44, NIV)

[1] In actuality, we make cost-benefit analysis all the time.  But sometimes we are more aware of these decisions.  Maybe it’s easiest to see when the consequence of either choice will be immediate and very different in nature.  But truth be told, we make cost-benefit choices every second of our lives.

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The Three Excuses: Introduction

Then He [Jesus] told the man who had invited Him, “When you invite people for lunch or dinner, don’t invite only your friends, family, other relatives, or rich neighbors.  Otherwise, they will return the favor.  Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the handicapped, the lame, and the blind.  Then you will be blessed because they don’t have any way to pay you back.  You will be paid back when those who have God’s approval come back to life.”

One of those eating with Him heard this.  So he said to Jesus, “The person who will be at the banquet in the kingdom of God is blessed.”

Jesus said to him, “A man gave a large banquet and invited many people.  When it was time for the banquet, He sent his servant to tell those who were invited, ‘Come! Everything is ready now.’

 “Everyone asked to be excused.  The first said to him, ‘I bought a field, and I need to see it.  Please excuse me.’  Another said, ‘I bought five pairs of oxen, and I’m on my way to see how well they plow.  Please excuse me.’  Still another said, ‘I recently got married, and that’s why I can’t come.’

“The servant went back to report this to his master.  Then the master of the house became angry.  He told his servant, ‘Run to every street and alley in the city!  Bring back the poor, the handicapped, the blind, and the lame.’

“The servant said, ‘Sir, what you’ve ordered has been done.  But there is still room for more people.’

“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go to the roads and paths!  Urge the people to come to my house.  I want it to be full.  I can guarantee that none of those invited earlier will taste any food at my banquet.’ ” (Luke 14:12-24, GW)

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Published in: on June 14, 2011 at 11:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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Parables

When I used to hear the word “parable”, I expected a shallow story that was more culturally relevant in Jesus’ day than in ours, with some application for us and some lost or irrelevant application.  I didn’t see the genius, the purpose, the perfection of Jesus’ parables until one day when He graciously opened my eyes.

There is no way, if I spent the rest of my life uncovering His parables, that I could understand them to their fullest extent.  They contain such radiant Truth, such pure values, and such perfect, infinite multi-layering as only the Son of God could craft.

My prayer is that when we open up the Bible to a parable, whether we’re familiar with them or just starting out on a journey of discovering, God will open our hearts and expand our minds so that we can glimpse the fantastic glory and inescapable applicability of His precious Word.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.  (2 Timothy 2:15, ESV)

Published in: on June 14, 2011 at 9:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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Eternity

It would be pretty strange if a friend invited me to spend time with her and I said, “I want to be around you every day next year—every single day!  But, right now, let’s not even associate, ok?  In fact, I’d rather people not know we are friends.  But next year!  Every day together.  Looking forward to it.  Right now isn’t a good time, though.

“I’m just too busy.

“Having too much fun.

“You wouldn’t understand what I’m doing.

“I don’t want to hang around you just yet because you won’t really like the things I’m doing.  Actually, for the next 365 days, I’m going to be doing the stuff you hate and say is wrong.  I hope you don’t mind.

“That special project you really wanted me to help you with?  That’ll have to wait, I guess . . .

“Oh, and don’t send me anymore emails, ok?  I don’t have time to open them right now.

“But next year—yippee!  Can’t wait.”

Would I have this friend next year?

Many times, we often do this very thing to God.  We tell God we’re too busy to follow Him.  Having too much fun.  Or we just exclude Him out of our lives, sure He wouldn’t understand our perspective . . . quite often because we know our perspective is evil.  We don’t want to spend any time with God. We follow our own will, telling ourselves we’re merely postponing His will, not disobeying it altogether.  We don’t read His Word.

And yet, in the next breath, many of us tell God we’re looking forward to spending eternity with Him.  We’re so glad we made a decision 44 years ago, or 6 years ago, or 2 months ago, to follow Him.  So glad we’re going to Heaven.

Jesus told a perfect parable about people like this during a dinner He was having at a religious leader’s house:

Then Jesus said to His host,

“When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors for they will invite you back, and in this way you will be paid for what you did.  When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind; and you will be blessed, because they are not able to pay you back.  God will repay you on the day the good people rise from death.”

When one of the guests sitting at the table heard this, he said to Jesus,

“How happy are those who will sit down at the feast in the Kingdom of God!”

Jesus said to him,

“There was once a man who was giving a great feast to which he invited many people.  When it was time for the feast, he sent his servant to tell his guests,

‘Come, everything is ready!’  But they all began, one after another, to make excuses. The first one told the servant,

‘I have bought a field and must go and look at it; please accept my apologies.’  Another one said,

I have bought five pairs of oxen and am on my way to try them out; please accept my apologies.  Another one said,

‘I have just gotten married, and for that reason I cannot come.’

The servant went back and told all this to his master. The master was furious and said to his servant,

‘Hurry out to the streets and alleys of the town, and bring back the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.  Soon the servant said,

‘Your order has been carried out, sir, but there is room for more.’

So the master said to the servant,

‘Go out to the country roads and lanes and make people come in, so that my house will be full.  I tell you all that none of those who were invited will taste my dinner!’ (Luke 14:12-24, GNT)

What happens to those who are not ready to come to the dinner?

They never come at all.

We are not saved only for what has not yet come.  We are saved for the here and now.  And what does this sobering warning from Jesus tell us?

Anyone who isn’t saved for the here and now, anyone who isn’t ready to serve God immediately and never feels His urging . . . isn’t saved at all.

I don’t want to be a dinner guest once invited, now rejected, when eternity comes.

I want to answer in obedience and begin my journey towards that banquet right now.

Scripture taken from the Good News Translation in Today’s English Version- Second Edition Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society. Used by Permission.

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