Playing It Safe

Living or ExistingSome folks habitually “play it safe.” They won’t board an airplane. They won’t go overseas. They won’t step too far out of their comfort zone. In their minds, life is too precious to jeopardize it in such frivolous ways.

Jesus told a story in Luke 19.11-27 which included a man who played it safe. It’s the story of the ten minas (one mina was about three-months’ wages) which a nobleman distributed evenly among ten servants, telling them to “Engage in business until I return.” When he returned, the nobleman found several servants who had multiplied his money. But one fearful servant returned the single mina he’d been given, saying, “Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man.”

The nobleman-now-king took the mina away from him and gave it to another servant who had most-successfully multiplied his money. Everyone was dumbfounded that he would take away what little the one servant had and give it to the one who had the most, but he answered, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Safe!The fearful servant tried to play it safe, but too late he discovered he had done exactly the opposite. The king told him he should have at least put the money in the bank so it would have earned a little interest! Do SOMETHING, even if it’s small.

Fear freezes. We must not let fear control us to the point that we fail to DO SOMETHING. Everyone knows there is something wrong with the lady shut up in her house, refusing to come out because of her phobias. But many live that way, holding to their daily routines, their safe routes, their points of protection, their comfortable zones, and woe to the one who would nudge them off course!

Whole churches play it safe for years. Comfortable pew warmers smile, sit, chat, and go home. Did the preacher say something about helping the poor? Can we just write a check for that? Did someone encourage us to teach the gospel to our neighbor? Well, we have such a good relationship with the neighbor, it would be a shame to ruin it with talk about religion. The whole world around us is dissolving into an ethical and moral nightmare; are we content to watch it crash and burn and not speak the words of life necessary to fight against evil? We’ll complain amongst ourselves at the deterioration of society; then we’ll go home and allow Netflix to entertain us with the same filth we protest against.

Rock ClimbingMen play it safe by not addressing sin in their own lives, by not confessing sin to other faithful men who can support, pray, and help. We don’t address sin in our families for fear of straining relationships…yet the relationship is really strained because of the sin! We play it safe when we don’t stretch ourselves to grow in the talents and abilities God has given us to use for His glory.

We need to stop playing it safe. When the King returns, will He find us working to increase what He entrusted to us, or will He find us sitting on our couches, eating ice cream, and immersing ourselves in the world’s entertainment? I hate to admit I do way too much of what’s in that last sentence.

Jesus didn’t die so we could watch Netflix. Jesus didn’t die so we could play. Jesus didn’t die so we could increase our wealth. He died so we could have life and that we, in turn, could become life givers and producers in His kingdom!

Jesus didn’t play it safe…and He doesn’t want us to, either.

Two Months to Live

Showing the BibleI just got off the phone with a man whose brother-in-law has been told has two months to live because he has aggressive, stage four lung cancer.

My friend said, “I want to send him a Bible verse to encourage him in this time…can you give me some ideas of what to send him?”

“Is he a Christian?” I wanted to know.

“Well, he’s Catholic, but he never goes to church anyway,” was the answer.

“I see.” I told him I’d try to text him some verses.

But I knew that someone who is not a faithful believer won’t get much hope from the Bible!

I finally texted my friend:

I’d encourage your brother-in-law to read one of the gospels and get acquainted with Jesus really well. I’m not sure how encouraging Bible verses will be if he’s not in a good relationship with God and Jesus.

Food for LifeThen I sent the following verse suggestions, which might help lead the man where he really needs to go. But before you read them, let me ask you:

What would you say to this man? How would you counsel someone with only a couple of months to live?

John 14.1-6

          1      “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.
2      “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
3      “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
4      “And you know the way where I am going.”
5      Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”
6      Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

1 Corinthians 15.42-58

          42      So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised can imperishable body;
43      it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;
44      it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
45      So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
46      However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.
47      The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.
48      As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.
49      Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
50      Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
51      Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,
52      in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
53      For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54      But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.
55      “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”
56      The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;
57      but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58      Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

Philippians 1.21-26

          21      For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
22      But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.
23      But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;
24      yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.
25      Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith,
26      so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

Rebuilding the Old Altars

Standing AloneHow did I miss such an obvious key in the Mount Carmel battle between Yahweh and Baal? It stares me in the face now as I read 1 Kings 18, and I reckon it was there last time I read through it–unless someone slipped it in on me.

After the prophets of Baal finished their frenzied pleadings, gashing themselves with sharp swords and spears, and yelling for several hours, a terrible and significant nothing happened. Their god either wasn’t answering or he didn’t exist.

But what Elijah did next contains even more significance. He “repaired the altar of Yahweh that was broken down” (1 Kings 18.30).

Why was it broken down? King Ahab had married the witch, Jezebel, who had introduced idolatrous Baal worship into Israel with a passion. Ahab had all but wiped his kingdom of the reminders of the One True and Living God, Yahweh, the God of his fathers. The broken altar on Mount Carmel remained as a witness against Israel for turning their backs on their God.

Lone FlowerElijah repaired that altar. His business was to turn the people from their wicked ways and return them to Yahweh, their true God. Elijah prayed, “Yahweh God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Yahweh, hear me, that this people may know that You are Yahweh God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again” (1 Kings 18.36-37).

The fire fell, consuming the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the water which soaked everything, and even the dust.

How else could the people respond? They cried, “Yahweh, He is God! Yahweh, He is God!” (1 Kings 18.39)

Are we waiting for God to turn our hearts back to him? Do we stand in the crowd with arms folded to see if the True God is still around, if He is mightier than our idols? Will we submit to Him now, or will we wait for fire to come from heaven?

The spiritually-minded among us understand we must repair the altars of Yahweh! We must return to the old paths of worshiping Him and Him alone! Let us rebuild those things which have been torn down because of sin, for we have all turned our backs on Yahweh and allowed His things to be destroyed.

Lone FlowerOur country seems to think majority makes truth. Get enough people to raise their hands, and that’s the way it should be, right? Wrong! I asked my kids yesterday, “How many people must agree together before something is true?” My ten-year-old quickly replied, “None. It doesn’t matter how many people believe something, it doesn’t make it true.” Elijah was one standing against 850. But in reality the contest was between Yahweh, God of heaven and earth, and nobody, because the gods of this world are absolutely nothing! Worthless lies. Empty promises. Baal didn’t answer because Baal wasn’t there!

Will you blend into the crowd today or stand for God in the face of the crowd? With spiritual vision, can you see that those with Yahweh greatly outnumber those with other gods? Stand today and rebuild those things which have been torn down. You are not alone!