Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Driving A Hard Bargain

Mike Hosey, An Elder

To drive a hard bargain is an American idiom that means to be uncompromising when making a deal. The person who drives the hard bargain is the person who has the advantage in any negotiation.  His or her advantage is so great, and the position of the other negotiator so poor, that the price for the bargain can be set at almost any level.  In reality, when a person is able to “drive a hard bargain,” negotiation does not truly take place. Instead, the disadvantaged negotiator simply capitulates to the bargain driver either out of need for the deal, or out of an overwhelmingly strong desire for the deal. Or, they walk away from the deal altogether.

God drives a hard bargain. Every. Single. Time.  This is because his advantage over us is overwhelmingly, demonstrably, inarguably great. He is the creator of everything, the owner of everything, and the controller of everything. There is nothing that we can offer him that he does not already have. Our failure to recognize this truth sometimes compels us to engage in immature thoughts about what we think we have to offer.  The usual thought process goes something like this:  Dear God, if you get me out of this fix, I will do x, y, or z.   Interestingly, the reverse offering is also frequent:  Dear God, if you get me out of this fix, I will NOT do x, y, or z.   But the truth is that God is not that interested in what you do or don’t do.  Just think for a moment about any human behavior separated from motive. If you think your tithe has worth to God you are mistaken, he already has your money and can separate it from you at any time. What has worth to God is you giving your tithe cheerfully because you love him and wish to obey him. The tithe itself is of no value.  The condition of your heart is what holds value. If you do good things because you expect good rewards, your deeds are self-serving and of no value to God (Isaiah 64:6).  But a heart that desires good deeds because they are good, and because they help to establish the love of God among men, and to change them into something better, is of immense value (Hebrews 10:24, Titus 2:7-9, Philippians 2:13). If you avoid doing wrong things because you fear punishment, then you are not truly being good, you are simply preserving yourself.  What God desires is that you have a transformed heart that willingly follows Jesus with a desire to be like him. Such a heart is of very great value. God knows that once your heart is actually changed, you will tithe for the right reasons, do good for the right reasons, sacrifice for the right reasons, avoid evil for the right reasons, and most of all love him for the right reasons.  This state is a total transformation for the better, and God’s love and your well-being so completely reflected in it that he is unwilling to compromise or negotiate on the process.  Perhaps A.W. Tozer realized this when he noticed, “God never negotiates with men. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross put an end to any kind of negotiations. It is now Christ or nothing. It is now God’s word in its entirety or nothing.”

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Beauty of Ugly Feet and Toenails. . .

Mike Hosey, An Elder

Most people don’t put “feet” and “beautiful” in the same stream of thought.  Generally speaking, feet get a bad rap, and are more often associated with stinky socks, smelly sneakers, the aroma of the boy’s high school locker room on a Friday afternoon in May, sweaty ickyness, cold clamminess, or toenails.  And let’s face it toenails and the rest of that stuff are NOT beautiful unless you’re a troll, or Oscar the Grouch.

But as is often the case, God doesn’t always see things in the same way that we do.  On at least two different occasions in the Bible (Romans 10:15, and Isaiah 52:7), feet are described as beautiful.  They’re described that way because they transport the people who bring good news.  When I was a soldier training at Fort Sam Houston, TX, there was a truck that rolled around the post.  We called it the roach coach.  There was really nothing beautiful about the appearance of that truck. But whenever I saw it, I had a good feeling.  It was full of cold drinks, snacks and a variety of goodies. It wouldn’t have mattered if the truck looked like a train wreck in a wet chicken coup, its appearance wasn’t important. Its contents were, and because of that, I saw it as attractive.

Notice that in those feet verses the focus isn’t so much on what God sees as beautiful (although I think he does see those feet as beautiful) but rather on what the recipients of their messages see.  Feet that normally appeared ugly, now appeared beautiful because they brought the best news possible – that people could be friends and children of God once again. When you are outside the will of God, and when you are not friends with the person who sustains all life, you are in a desperate place. 

Interestingly, these messengers were in a win-win situation.  God considered them beautiful for their obedience to the Gospel, and their fellow man considered them beautiful for playing a part in their rescue and restoration.  And even more beautiful than all of this, is that you can be just as beautiful as they were when you take the message to those people who haven’t yet received it.  When they do receive it, you too, will be beauty in their life! So no matter how ugly you think your feet are, they can be among the most beautiful objects in the world to the people you touch with the gospel!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Fire in HIs Smokey Bones

Mike Hosey, An Elder

The word of God is so powerful, and so potent, that it can never be contained. In fact, it’s like a fire which has within it either a destructive or driving force (Jeremiah 23:29, Jeremiah 20:9, and Jeremiah 5:14).  The prophet Jeremiah knew this first hand. God gave him a very unpopular message.  Essentially, his message was one of impending judgment on the Hebrew people.  In Jeremiah 20:7-9, the prophet was faced with the unpleasantness of his task. He was thoroughly discouraged.  He felt like (and was) a laughingstock for the message he was bringing.  So strong was his discouragement that he accused God of deceiving him (Jeremiah 20:7). Right after that, he writes that the Word of God had become to him, “a reproach and a derision all day long (Jeremiah 20:8)!”  In Jeremiah 20:9, he is on the verge of walking away from the task and quitting, but he realizes that he can’t.  The Word of God is a fire in his bones, and burns in his heart.  He realizes that he simply cannot hold it in!  This is because the word is alive and active and sharper than any two edged sword. It is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Because Jeremiah could feel it in him, he knew that active and living word was going to find its way out of him and reach its intended audience. He was wrestling with a living fire, and knew he couldn’t win. 

Because Jeremiah was willing to receive the word of God, and to be a doer of the word rather than just a hearer (James 1:22), he became one of the most influential prophets of the entire bible. The word he agreed to take in, would not stay put. He impacted not just the Hebrew people, but the entire human race. 

If you are a true follower of Christ, you are just like Jeremiah.  You have in you a living word that is intent on (and intended to) get out of you and into others. But there are some difference between you and Jeremiah.  In the time of Jeremiah, there was no church.  He was alone in his mission.  You are not.  You are surrounded by others who also have the Word of God in them, and you have the ability to stir up the fire in your bones, and fan it so that it is the most effective (Hebrews 10:24-25). Unlike Jeremiah, when you are discouraged, you have a cure for it right here on earth (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

And also unlike Jeremiah, you have a message of good news (1 Peter 1:3, Hebrews 2:5-9, Ephesians 2:5-6, 2 Corinthians 4:14). One of the greatest truths of that good news message is that sin no longer has dominion over us (Romans 6:14). But it does have dominion over so much of the world.  The Word that is in you can fix a lot of that, so get it out of you, knowing that it WILL do what it was intended (Isaiah 55:11) which is to save the world from sin.