7 Godly Sins? – the Sloth of God

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7 Godly Sins? – the Sloth of God

If God lets tragedies and disasters happen which He could have prevented, is it Sloth?

Joshua 3:1-17

Israel Crosses the Jordan

Early in the morning Joshua rose and set out from Shittim with all the Israelites, and they came to the Jordan. They camped there before crossing over. At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place. Follow it, so that you may know the way you should go, for you have not passed this way before. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, a distance of about two thousand cubits; do not come any nearer to it.” Then Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” To the priests Joshua said, “Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass on in front of the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went in front of the people.

The Lord said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses. You are the one who shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’ ” Joshua then said to the Israelites, “Draw near and hear the words of the Lord your God.” Joshua said, “By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites: the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan. So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; they shall stand in a single heap.”

When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.

There is a short comic strip that will ruin The Lord of the Rings for you with one glance. Whether you are a fan of the book or movies, it doesn’t matter. Despite Tolkien’s beautiful language and powerful imagination, some people have pointed out the major plot hole that the stories could have been 2 and ¾ books/movies shorter if they had just called the eagles to fly them over Mount Doom to begin with, instead of waiting until the very end. Here is a short video that explains why that would not work:

We can laugh and joke about ideas like this, but many have taken this same situation and applied it to God and His relationship to people in in our world. If God is all-powerful, why doesn’t He just do all the work for us and save us from danger, toil, and snares. Wouldn’t he be considered slothful or lazy if He did not?

God wiped out the entire Egyptian army in one fell swoop. Why then did He make the Israelites carry His ark and fight their way into and through the Promised Land? These are valid questions…Good questions even. But they do not offer the complete picture. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves is it easier to give a man a fish and feed him for a day or to teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime? Most would say just feeding him is easier. Easier is not the same as better though, and the easier path often ends up being the path of sloth in the end.

It might be easier for parents to feed children through feeding tubes, keeping them locked in rooms, safe and secure from the world. Most would call that abuse though, not the kind of love that goes the extra mile. It is harder to let them go and grow, making their own decisions, and gradually allowing them to join in the work of the entire family. That is what I believe God is trying to do with us.

It means allowing us the freedom to try, even though God could always do better Himself. It is not because He desperately needs us to help Him. Rather I think it is that we desperately need to be a part of His work in this world to give our lives purpose. Even Jesus called the disciples to do things He could have easily done Himself. Here he asks them to go tell people about his resurrection, right before He planned on visiting them and showing them Himself. There is no logical necessity of the act from the perspective of just spreading the news about the resurrection. Jesus Himself was much more credible. But I think it was important for the growth and development of the disciples themselves.

Matthew 28:1-101

The Resurrection of Jesus

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Pointing our finger at the laziness of God regarding tragedy and disasters is a bit of a cop out if we are unable or unwilling to do anything to prevent or bring healing to them ourselves, and looking for sloth in God usually only exposes it in ourselves.

What is one thing you wish God would do for you today?

What have you done about that situation yourself?

What is one thing that God wishes you would do today?


  1. (Mk 16:1–8; Lk 24:1–12; Jn 20:1–10)
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Working on the Weekend

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Working on the Weekend

John 4:1-6

“Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.”

This handful of verses is used by John to set the stage for one of the most famous stories in the gospels: The Woman at the Well. Today, let us take just a moment to look at Jesus, just before He met this woman who would go on to inspire the faith of her entire city.

John tells us that the whole journey started because the Pharisees were getting uppity in the Jerusalem area because Jesus was gaining more disciples than John (even though Jesus wasn’t baptizing any of them). It seems likely that the Pharisees had a respect for John the Baptist as a kind of ultra-conservative religious figure, even though John publicly mocked them. Jesus however, played a bit too fast and loose for them. He ate with sinners.

Perhaps Jesus did not want to stir up trouble too early. Maybe He simply had finished teaching in this area and was ready to move on. We do not know His exact. motive for sure, but Jesus left town and headed north, making His way back home to Galilee. Rather than try to go out of His way around Samaria, He chose to go through it.

This put Jesus in a vulnerable position, for Jews and Samaritans had a kind of heated religious and racial rivalry. Whereas the Roman Empire would have kept the two groups in check in the bigger cities like Jerusalem, I imagine that there was less protection in these smaller places like Sychar.

Jesus was also physically vulnerable simply from walking this far and needing water. Most sane people got indoors and would have been resting quietly during the hot noonday sun. Jesus did not have the convenience of shade and shelter though. Perhaps he should have left earlier that morning. Regardless, the transient Savior of the world found Himself at the edge of the one decent source of water for this town, and while everyone else was inside resting, He found Himself staring into the face of one of the towns more notorious sinners.

I don’t know that this event happened on the weekend. The Jews did not celebrate 2 day weekends, but a Sabbath that went from sundown to sundown. I suspect that if this was a Sabbath day, John would have mentioned it. However, it was a time of rest, and Jesus was tired and thirsty and needed rest Himself. It was a need for rest that brought Him to this well in the first place.

Yet this time of personal need did not stop Him from serving God and transforming lives around Him. As I mentioned above, this is one of the most famous stories of Jesus teaching and transforming the life of another. What would have happened if He simply felt too tired to even speak to this woman? What would we have lost today if Jesus had simply helped Himself to a drink, rather than asking for help?

How do invite others to help you in your own personal needs?

Where do you have opportunities to share God’s grace to others through your own needs or weakness?

 

 

Worship and Obedience

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Worship and Obedience

Psalm 95

A Call to Worship and Obedience

O come, let us sing to the Lord;

let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;

let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

For the Lord is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the depths of the earth;

the heights of the mountains are his also.

The sea is his, for he made it,

and the dry land, which his hands have formed.

O come, let us worship and bow down,

let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture,

and the sheep of his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice!

Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,

as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

when your ancestors tested me,

and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

For forty years I loathed that generation

and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray,

and they do not regard my ways.”

Therefore in my anger I swore,

“They shall not enter my rest.”

I imagine that Psalm 95 was a standard song of Israel. Perhaps it was one of those you sang every year at the Feast of Booths when the Israelites remembered their 40 years in the wilderness and God’s provision during those times. Maybe they sang it once a year the way Christian’s sing O Come All Ye Faithful during Advent. Or perhaps it was even more standard… Something they sang every week like the Doxology

It is not just a song about their history. This psalm is theology set to music. Here, God is portrayed as the frustrated shepherd of a rebellious flock. There is a warning, that rebellion is rewarded with permanent exile – that those who seek their own comfort apart from God’s will face an eternity removed from the comfort He is providing. Like the movie Groundhog’s Day, starring Bill Murray they will wander through a perpetual Monday, never making it to the weekend, until they actually do the work that is required of them each day. To the psalmist, the weekend off is not a divine right, it is a divine reward for a responsible work week.

I think you probably understand the concept of being obedient to God for the reward of entering into the rest He provides. What then is worship? Isn’t that just more work we are asked to do on our day off? Isn’t that a bit hypocritical of good to ask us to have a Sabbath day of rest and then spend it working for Him? Maybe.

Then again, maybe not. Why is worship work? Family dinners spent together require work. They are becoming a rarer phenomenon today, but even several hundred years ago it took a lot of harvesting, cleaning, prepping, and cooking to put together one meal for a small family of four or five people. Everyone had a job as part of it. Yet they did not see the meal itself as work, but as time for rest, nourishment, and celebration – even though they knew someone would have to do the dishes soon after.

They saw dinner as a celebration of the work they had done with God… and that is what I think worship is for us as well. It is res, nourishment, celebration, thanksgiving, … and work as well. It is a different kind of work though. On it we reflect on how faithful God has been to us and where we have been faithful to God. It is our family get- together.

Where do you worship?

What are you doing today that you can celebrate during your next time of worship?

 

Keeping Your Priorities Straight While Changing the World – The Second Priority

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“And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17, ESV)

It is worth consideration that the Son of God chose to work with imperfect people rather than to work alone.

“It all started by Jesus calling a few men to follow him. This revealed immediately the direction his evangelistic strategy would take. His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow. Remarkable as it may seem, Jesus started to gather these men before he ever organized an evangelistic campaign or even preached a sermon in public. Men were to be his method of winning the world to God.” – Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism

We have heard pep talks about teamwork from little league all the way through the current presidential campaigns. You’ve probably heard every bumper sticker slogan about teamwork that is out there. Chances are, you’ve heard at least some of the statistics that show that teams that communicate well and share responsibility typically outperform even the most gifted individuals. You may even have first hand knowledge of that yourself.

Instead, let’s take a different perspective. Let’s ask ourselves the question: Why do we choose to work alone? In the light of all the knowledge we have leading us toward teamwork – why do we so often ignore it all and just do things on our own? I’ve got a few ideas (excuses).

  1. Personality type
    Some of us with high ‘I’ scores on the Myers Briggs test claim our tendency towards introversion keeps us working alone. We may use the phrase, “I work better this way”, when in fact we mean “I’m more comfortable this way”. There is nothing wrong with being an introvert – I’m one myself, but there is something dishonest about claiming comfort as the deciding factor of work quality. Work is not meant to be comfortable in and of itself, the way rest or play might be. Work is essentially about getting a particular task done efficiently and with good quality. If our work quality would improve by having a second or third set of eyes going over the project with us as a team, then we probably ought to do that and if the work would go more efficiently if the project were divided up between team members into smaller, interrelated tasks, then we should put our introverted preference aside and work as a team.
  2. Distrust of others
    Getting a little more honest, we sometimes use a distrust of others as our excuse to avoid teamwork. Distrust is often not a natural, but a learned response we pick up from having one or more significant experiences of betrayal. It is a defense mechanism whose purpose is to protect ourselves from relationships and the possibility of hurt that comes with them. Again, like the personality type, there is a time and place for distrust… mostly short-term situations we can either find some kind of reconciliation or leave. Distrust does not help us in the long term and it won’t help us lead.
  3. Need to be in control
    Insecurity over most any issue often creates a need to be in control. Unfortunately, the reality of our situation is that the greater our position of authority in any organization, oftentimes the less actual control we have over the organization, and sometimes our own lives. It becomes a downward spiral where the need to be in control actually pushes us into places where we have less control over our own lives, causing more insecurity, causing a greater need to be in control, in a cycle that never ends.

Jesus could have used any of those excuses. I don’t know whether Jesus was more of an introvert or extrovert, but He demonstrated enough of a desire to spend time alone or with small groups of people that I probably could have used that reason to do things on His own. He had plenty of reason to distrust others because He was more aware of our sin than we were ourselves. While He did not seem to be insecure, He, being God, really was in control and so He could have used that as a legitimate reason to just do things Himself.

The bottom line is, if anyone had good reason to just take care of things themselves, it was Jesus, and He chose to recruit help. Our second priority, after getting prepared ourselves, is to find others to join us in our work, for the harvest is plenty but the laborers are few.