But at What Cost?

It’s a question that affects most of life. You probably don’t consciously ask it before every decision you make but it’s always lurking somewhere in the back recesses of your mind. You want to know how a certain course of action will affect you – will it affect you positively or negatively? Will it help or hurt? Will it benefit your life or detract from it?

And if the effect is negative, just how negative will it be? We can all endure some degree of pain or adversity but there’s a point beyond which we are not willing to go. We are not willing to pay the cost.

But often in life – probably quite often – the yardstick that we use to gauge our actions is, But at What Cost?

Should I drive 55 mph in a 25 mph zone? What will the cost be if I’m pulled over?

Should I go back to school for another degree? What will the cost be?

Should I leave my present job and take another one? What will it cost me?

Should I cheat on my income taxes? What will the cost be if I’m caught?

We face a hundred questions that arise during a typical day and we analyze the potential risks and rewards of our options.

When the cost is low we’re more likely to engage in the behavior in question.

When the cost is high we’re much less likely to engage in the behavior in question.

The yardstick, But at What Cost? is not intrinsically wrong. It’s kept a lot of people out of trouble. But it’s not the best way to go through life.

The better yardstick is, Is it Right? Is what I am planning to do the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do?

God is clear on this point. Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:17). In all of our actions, our relationships, our decisions, and our activities God has but one standard for us – Is It Right?

Determining your actions by the standard of Right instead of the standard of Cost will not necessarily make your life easier. In fact, it can make your life much harder. Sometimes it will cost you and the cost cab be high. But living by the standard of Right is the way God wants you to live.

Don’t sacrifice the difficult way of Right for the easy way of Cost.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

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What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?

Former presidents, current leaders and lawmakers and former political adversaries remembered George H.W. Bush as the president who guided America through the end of the Cold War, while dedicating his life to serving his country and doing so with remarkable kindness and class.

So read an article with the headline, Bush remembered by presidential peers, family. You can read the entire article here.

By all accounts, former president George H. W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, was a good and decent man. He is remembered that way by both his friends and political foes.

It’s a nice way to be remembered – as a man with remarkable kindness and class.

Far too few people in today’s world, especially in the line of work that he was in, will be remembered that way. Or even close to that.

So, how will you be remembered? What will they say about you when you are gone?

I can already hear some of you saying, I don’t care, I won’t be around to hear what they say.

That’s true enough. But your spouse will be; and your children will be; and your grandchildren will be; and people who love you will be. And they would like to hear good things about you.

If you can’t be a man or woman of remarkable kindness and class for yourself – do it for them.

And for Christians the reputation you leave behind is even more important. It will not only reflect on your family and friends, it will reflect on your church and more importantly on your Savior.

If you can’t be a man or woman of remarkable kindness and class for yourself – do it for Him.

The Apostle Peter put it this way: Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:11-12).

Have your conduct honorable. Other translations put it like this:

  • Always let others see you behaving properly (CEV)
  • Keep your behavior excellent (AMP)
  • Live such good lives (NIV)

The point is that of all people, Christians, when they die (and we all will), should be remembered as good, decent, kind people.

So, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?

It’s not too late to change the perception.

Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 6:15).

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Learn to Let Go

One of the problems that we as Christians experience in life is not being able to let go of situations that cause anxiety, stress, pain and even anger. It often seems that we are incapable of simply letting them go.

We pray about them and we ask God to remove them (that’s good), but for some unknown, divine reason He doesn’t. And since we cannot know the mind of God, we wrongly assume that He doesn’t care. You’ll have to take this one on faith – He cares, even when we think He doesn’t.

I wonder if we put too much on God. Not too much in the sense that He can’t handle it, but too much in the sense that we can and should handle it.

Not everything requires God’s intervention.

Sometimes we just need to let it go. Not always – but sometimes. The wisdom comes in knowing when it’s right to let something go.

I think the Apostle Paul indirectly touches on this issue in Romans chapter 12. That’s the passage that famously says things like, Repay no one evil for evil. And Do not avenge yourselves. And Heap coals of fire on his head.

The reason behind these statements is because revenge belongs to God (vs 19). When we step into territory that belongs to God, we’ve stepped over the boundary.

So what are we to do while we’re waiting for God to do whatever He’s going to do?

There are several things. Naturally we should pray. We should spend more time with God so He can change us. We should try to learn what we can about God, sin, ourselves, forgiveness etc. because God is always teaching us.

But we should also learn to let go. Just. Let. It. Go.

Responding to some things in life is God’s prerogative, not ours (vs 19).

Let go of what’s not yours.

Let go of what you can’t change.

Let go of whatever is toxic in your life.

At the same time let go of your anger (Col 3:8). Let go of your bitterness (Eph 4:31, Heb 12:15). Let go of your desire to get even (Rom 12:18). Let go of anything that does not promote godliness in your life (1 Timothy 4:7-8).

You’ve probably heard the expression Let go and let God. It’s an expression that is easy to misuse. But it applies here. In fact it’s exactly what Paul is advocating for in Romans 12. Let go of what is not your right. Let go of what you can’t change. Let go and let God be God.

It’s not easy to do. You will have to learn how to do it. And that means learning to control your mind and thoughts. The mind is a hard thing to control. It wants to control us.

But the key to letting go is controlling it. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:6 that we are to bring every though into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

In the context of that passage he was referring to ungodly philosophies that exalt themselves above God. But the principle is still there – that every though is to be made captive to Christ. That includes our thoughts.

When we learn to control our minds and thoughts we will find that it’s possible to let go and trust our problems to God (Prov 3:5-5).

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Loving God More

Loving God is an interesting thing. Many Christians think that they love God simply because they say that they love God. But loving God surely has to be more than just an affirmation. It’s too easy just to say it.

I can say that I love someone without it really being true.

When Jesus was asked to name the greatest of all of the commandments in the Bible, He said: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). He identified this as the first (in priority) and greatest of all of the commandments that God has given us.

We are to love God with every fiber of our being. Loving God is of no little importance.

But how to do it is the issue.

How can we love God more?

This morning I read this passage which sheds some light on the subject. Jesus said: To whom little is forgiven, the same loves little (Luke 7:47).

Loving God begins with understanding just how much we have been forgiven. Without a proper understanding of our indebtedness we will never love Him the way we should.

The event that led up His statement was a dinner to which Jesus had been invited. During the meal a woman who possessed a less than stellar reputation came into the room and began to act rather strangely.

A brief explanation will help us understand the situation. When guests visited a home they would be greeted with a kiss on the check similar to the custom of some cultures today.

Then because of the hot climate some provision would be made to have the dusty feet of the guests washed before they reclined on low-lying cushioned “couches” or mats arranged around a central table. Depending on the exact arrangement of the mats, it was possible for the feet of another guest to be a little too close to your nose. Not a pleasant thought if their feet had not been washed.

Apparently the normal customs were not provided at this particular dinner.

Back to the woman and her strange behavior. The story says that she began to wash and dry the feet of Jesus. Nothing too strange at this point – these were accepted norms in the culture. It would not have been unusual for the other guests, if they were not paying close attention, to assume that she was one of the house servants.

But she went beyond what was expected and began to kiss his feet and to anoint them with a fragrant oil. Definitely not normal behavior.

If the other guests, however, were paying attention they would have noticed something unusual in the demeanor of the woman. She was in deep anguish of soul. The text says that she stood at His feet behind Him weeping: and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wipe them with the hair of her head (Matthew 7:38). Definitely not normal behavior.

That brings us to the question: What produced this unusual action?

The clue is in the words of Jesus: To whom little is forgiven, the same loves little (Luke 7:47).

This woman was not just a sinner – she was a sinner who had been forgiven. And she understood the magnitude of her forgiveness. She understood that she had sinned greatly and that God had forgiven her greatly. This was no little thing to her.

Her love for Jesus sprang out of her understanding of her forgiveness.

The same will be true in our lives. When we understand our forgiveness it will lead us to not only say that we love God, but to demonstrate our love the way this woman demonstrated her love.

Those who understand just how much they have been forgiven by God will be the ones who Love God More and it will be reflected in their behavior.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

Responding to Violence

Another shooting. More violence. More deaths. It’s getting to the place where it doesn’t surprise us anymore. We almost expect it.

As of this afternoon the death toll in the Las Vegas shooting stood at 58 with another 515 people wounded. 573 people whose lives have been forever changed – and that doesn’t take into consideration the thousands of people – wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, children, moms, dads, cousins and friends of the dead and wounded who have been dramatically impacted.

What are we to make of these life-changing events?

How should we respond?

People are going to have a variety of responses ranging from anger to sadness. And that’s understandable on a human level. However, for the Christian there are some appropriate ways to respond and they will take more than a human effort.

Those who don’t confess faith in Christ will struggle to understand this. In fact many Christians will struggle to respond in a Christ-like way. The struggle is not wrong as long as you end up in the right place.

So here are a few responses and how Christians should understand them.

Hate is Wrong

To be a little more specific – hatred of the shooter is wrong. You can hate the tragedy, or the conditions that drove him to act this way, or a society that has degenerated to this point, but to hate the individual, no matter how grievous their crime is wrong. Jesus taught us to not only love those who love us, but to love those who don’t love us (Matthew 5:43f). Hatred does not solve the problem, it exacerbates the problem (Proverbs 10:12) and leaves you filled with bitterness (Hebrews 12:15).

Sinful Anger is Not an Option

The Bible is filled with warnings about the dangers of anger (Psalm 37:8, Ecclesiastes 7:9, Ephesians 4:31, James 1:19-20), but apparently there is an anger that is not sinful (Ephesians 4:26), such as anger against evil or sin. But the overriding message of the Bible is that anger is not the solution in most situations in life, in fact in the vast majority of cases it is sinful. Jesus equated anger with murder in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:22) so when our response is to be angry with the shooter, we have put ourselves side by side with him.

Revenge is Out of the Question

In a passage of the Bible that falls into the one of the hardest to obey category, we’re told that revenge is out of the question (Romans 12:17-21). As much as we would like to set things right by doing to the shooter what he did to so many innocent people, God says that we just can’t go there. Revenge is His option, not yours. Your only option is to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Prayer is Always Good

Prayer is appropriate at a time like this. Pray for the wounded. Pray for the families and friends of those who died or were wounded. Pray for the family of the shooter. Pray for the people who have been traumatized. Pray for the responders who had to deal with the shooting and with those who had been shot. Pray for the government officials who need to wrestle with this issue. Pray for a solution to violence. Pray for peace. Prayer is always good (Luke 18:1f, Philippians 4:6, 1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Self Inspection is Appropriate

When violence happens we are quick to focus on the person responsible for the violence to the exclusion of examining our own hearts. But how many times have we acted in hatred? How many times have we caused pain to another person? How many times have we allowed violence to control us? Times like this are good times for some self inspection. Again, the Bible has something to say about our hearts and it’s not necessarily good (Jeremiah 17:9, Matthew 15:18-20). A lack of self inspection usually leads to self-deception.

Forgiveness is Always Right

Always. Forgiveness is one of the distinguishing attributes of the Christian faith. We are to forgive regardless of the severity of the crime. It’s fair to say that without forgiveness there would be no Christian faith. It’s that important. God forgives us when we repent of our sin and express faith in Christ (Psalm 32:1-2, Luke 7:47-48, Ephesians 1:7, 1 John 1:9) and He forgives us for the innumerable sins we commit as Christians. How then do we withhold forgiveness from others? We are to forgive regardless of their offense (Matthew 6:15, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13). Forgiveness is always right.

Responding to violence as terrible as this will not be easy. It will take more grace than you can muster. That’s why you need to rely on His grace. With the grace that only God can give, you can respond in a godly way.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

A Lesson from Reality TV (Who Knew!?)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve probably heard of the Duggars – the evangelical Christian family that stars in the reality TV show, 19 Kids and Counting. You’re probably also aware of the recent confession of one of the Duggar’s sons, Josh, that as a 14-15 year old he molested five underage girls (he’s now 27), including some of his own sisters.

I’m not a fan of reality television and I quickly admit that I have never watched a complete episode of any reality program (if memory serves me I’ve seen about 10 minutes of 19 Kids and Counting). I just think that we can do better than to live vicariously through the joys and heartaches of other people, especially a family that is anything but your typical family (that’s why they are on TV and your family isn’t).

According to the news reports that I have read, Josh Duggar confessed his actions when still a teen and asked the girls for forgiveness. However that is not all that should have happened. It appears that the entire situation including reporting to the authorities, professional counseling and appropriate punishment should have been handled far differently than it was. I’m sure these issues will be debated ad nauseam.

There are so many lessons that can be learned from this sad story but if the Duggar’s situation does anything, it should make all of us stop and do a self-evaluation. None of us are without sin. Perhaps your sin does not rise to the level of Josh Duggar’s but that’s missing the point. Sin is sin and we all stand on the guilty side (Romans 3:23). Many who are criticizing the Duggars – and there seems to be plenty for which to criticize them – seem to be forgetting that they stand side-by-side with Josh Duggar.

When the woman who was caught in adultery was brought to Christ (John 8), He didn’t say Whoever has never committed adultery throw the first stone at her, He said Whoever is without sin. Adultery is certainly a grievous sin but Christ’s point was that only those who are sinless have the right to judge the sin of another. He was pointing out the reality that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness.

Yes, there are those who need to deal with the sin of others – parents, various agencies of the government and church leaders – but that’s not most of us. Most of us have no part in the Duggar scandal, except to learn from the misfortune of another. If reality television has any redeeming value it is simply this.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Sometimes You Might Need Some Duct Tape!

Some of the most valuable lessons in life are learned in the school of hard knocks. There are life-lessons that will never be picked up through formal education or in books. Many things are only learned through experience. I’ve (sometimes unfortunately) had to learn many lessons that way. I’ve also learned many great lessons through experience, such as, you can fix almost anything with WD-40 and duct tape!

Popular Mechanics online lists 15 useful things you can do with duct tape, including,

• waterproofing your shoes
• removing pet hair from your furniture
• as a make-shift pest strip
• covering power cords in a high traffic area
• repairing holes in a sleeping bag, beach ball or snow pants

My all time favorite use of duct tape was the pilot in Alaska whose small plane was ripped apart by a bear who smelled fresh bait left in the plane. After surveying the damage the pilot radioed for a plane to drop him three cases of duct tape which he used to wrap his plane and then he flew home!

Another creative use of duct tape happened this past weekend in the NBA playoffs. The coach of the Dallas Mavericks had previously been fined $25,000 for criticizing the refs. In the post game interview, rather than risking another hefty fine, he tapped his mouth shut. Not a bad idea! Words can get you in trouble.

The Bible talks a lot about the power of words. For example,

Proverbs 12:18
There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health

Proverbs 18:21
Death and life are in the power of the tongue

Matthew 12:35
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things

James 1:26
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless

One of the hardest things for any of us to do is to control our words. David, the Psalmist, recognized just how difficult it is and prayed; Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth (Psalm 141:3). If this is an area that you struggle with, maybe that’s how you should pray.

Asking God to guard your mouth, however, does not relieve you of responsibility. We are still accountable for our words. That means we have to stop make excuses for the way we talk to other people.

So here are six truthful statements to ponder:

• No, you don’t have the right to say anything you want to say

• Yes, you are responsible for every word you speak

• No, there’s no excuse that is acceptable for ungodly, unkind words

• Yes, your words have great power

• No, you are NOT a good person if your words are not good words

• Yes, your words tell everyone what is in your heart

One final thought – Sometimes you might need to use some duct tape.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve