Gratitude: It’s Important!

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“As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”  Luke 17:11-19 (NLT)

Who are you in this story?

This is a curious story about Jesus. He has healed many people before this, but in this narrative, the emphasis is not on the healing, but the response of those healed.

Why?

Numerous answers are possible, but I believe it may be best summarized by the noted author and Christian apologist G. K. Chesterton who once said: “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”

Ah! Now, do you see yourself in this story?

If you are a believer, you have been healed! You have tasted of the goodness of God and been a recipient of his grace and love.

Have you come back to express your gratitude (V. 15)?

Why are some people not grateful? I can only surmise, but possible explanations are:

  • They think they did it.
  • They don’t know whom to thank.
  • They are too busy.
  • They are not happy with what they have.
  • They believe they deserve more!

Nancy Leigh DeMoss, in her book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy writes especially about that last possibility – that many of us are ungrateful because we actually think we deserve more. Notice how she discerns the real issue:

“That’s because we forget God does not owe us anything. We are debtors. We are the ones who owe. We think we deserve more (or different or better) than we have, and therefore we forget or minimize the blessings God has already given and continues to give.”

I don’t know if that is the answer for why the nine didn’t return to thank Jesus, but I know that comment stings. I’ve been guilty of that: minimizing the blessings God has already given! For instance:

  • I have a car, but I want a nicer car.
  • I have a house, but I want a bigger house.
  • I have plenty of clothes, but I want fancier, more expensive clothes.

I want to be like the one leper in this story and as I see it, this passages teaches us several things about gratitude:

  1. Gratitude must be expressed!

One of the primary points of this story is that gratitude must be expressed through our thanksgiving. Ten lepers were healed, but only one returned. Jesus didn’t un-heal those other nine, but he did ask, “Didn’t I heal ten? Where are the other nine?” (V. 17).

Also look at 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT)

We are meant to demonstrate our gratitude because it allows us to express how thankful we are for what God has done for us.

I don’t ever want Jesus to have to ask where I am.

  1. Gratitude rests on the goodness and graciousness of God!

The one leper who returned, he fell at Jesus’ feet and “gave thanks” which literally means “good grace” or “good favor”. In other words, he was a recipient of good grace and he freely expressed his thanks for that “good grace”.

All of us can and should be the one who returned because we have all been recipients of God’s goodness and his gracious love. Psalm 106:1 beautifully reminds us of this:

“Praise the Lord!

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever!” (ESV)

Frequently I still have to remind myself that a mark of maturity is recognizing that while I may not have all I want, I have more than I deserve, and for that I am grateful for the goodness and gracious love of God.

  1. Gratitude realizes all of life is a gift – the good and the challenging!

I do not know why the other nine didn’t return to thank Jesus, but I do know why the one did – he knew it was an undeserved gift. We should seek to remind ourselves of this daily. Again DeMoss is perfect here:

“[Gratitude] It’s a choice that requires constantly renewing my mind with the truth of God’s Word, setting my heart to savor God and His gifts and disciplining my tongue to speak words that reflect His goodness and grace until a grateful spirit becomes my reflexive response to all of live.”

We are grateful because God’s ‘good grace’ has been shared with us!

We don’t know exactly why the other nine lepers didn’t come back. All we know is one did come back.

Have you?

RA

James, Devotion #5: The Wise Person

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Here’s what I hope you discover today:

  • We are commanded to ask “in faith” so God can give!
  • Wisdom comes from God, and it is more than just knowledge!
  • The doubter drifts between ‘two-souls’ and so he is disordered!

IN THE WORD

Read James 1:5-8:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways..” (ESV)

The last time we investigated James 1, we discovered that our trials have a purpose, and as we go through our trials (“when you encounter various trials”) we are to deliberately (“Consider”) have a joyful attitude knowing that trials can bring numerous benefits.

Today, as we focus on 1:5-8, James continues to help those going through trials by informing them what to ask God for, and how to ask God.

We are commanded to ask “in faith” so God can give!

James bluntly reminds us:

  • James is commanding us to ask “from the giving God” (V. 5). In other words, it is natural to God to give, and he wants to bestow what we ask for.
  • James, the half-brother of Jesus, demonstrates his knowledge of Jesus and his teachings. Notice how similar this is to what Jesus himself taught in Matthew 7:7-11.
  • We receive from God not because we deserve it, nor because we earned it, but because we ask for it through the medium, or vehicle of faith.
  • This is the second time the word “faith” appears in James. In James 1:2, we were told “your faith” would be tested; now, we are told that asking “in faith” brings results!
  • Faith is the medium, or vehicle by which we receive salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9), wisdom (James 1:5), and the only way we can please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Wisdom comes from God, and it is more than just knowledge!

Here’s what James tells us about wisdom:

  • Of all the things we could ask for (money, power, health, love), James demands if we lack wisdom, ask for it.
  • Wisdom is putting knowledge to use. In the Hebrew tradition, wisdom is not just intelligence or facts, but it is skillfully living in the proper, godly way of life. Observe what these other verses teach about wisdom:
    1. Job 28:28: “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding.’” (NASB)
    2. Proverbs 2:6: “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (NIV)
    3. 1 Corinthians 1:30: God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.” (NLT)
  • In summary, wisdom is a gift from God, ultimately seen as reverence for God (the “fear of the Lord”), personified in the life of Jesus, that we might know how to skillfully live the godly life.

The doubter drifts between ‘two-souls’ and so he is disordered!

James concludes by describing the doubter:

  • In comparison to the one asking “in faith” and receiving, “the doubting one” (literally what V. 6 says) is like a wave of the ocean: spineless, chaotic, tossed about with no aim or direction, and dangerous.
  • “The doubting one” should expect to receive nothing because he has faith in nothing (at least not in God). He may believe in many things, but faith is confidence and trust in the word and promises of God. This, “the doubting one” does not possess.
  • “The doubting one” lives as if he has “two-souls” (the literal meaning of the word “double-minded”) and is consequently “unstable” and disordered in all his ways.
  • Literally, “the doubting one” is “unstable” because, as the original word suggests, he is at war with himself, mostly because he does not know himself, or his Creator. The word “unstable” is the same word used later by James in 3:8 of the tongue (“it is an unstable and unrestrainable evil”), and 3:16 of disorder of any kind associated with all kinds of evil.

IN THE WORLD

Let these instructions from James soak in as you reflect on these questions:

  • What are you asking “the giving God” for these days?
  • How is Jesus the “wisdom” of God today?
  • As James describes “the doubting one”, this is not a person who is at times perplexed or may doubt why God says or does this or that. James describes “the doubting one” as a person who continues to doubt and has no confidence in God at all. In closing, can you see the contrast James is depicting between the wise person and “the doubting one”? List how different these two people truly are.

RA

You Said It!

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For years now, I’ve kept a research journal. As I work on different projects and do research, occasionally, I’ll come across a quote that has nothing to do with the current project I’m working on, but it’s a great quote that inspired me.

Here are a few excerpts from my research journal that I’d like to share with you. I hope they inspire you as they have me.

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” Edmund Hillary

I love this quote from Edmund Hillary, who along with his Sherpa climbing partner Tenzing Norgay, in May of 1953, became the first people ever to climb to the top of Mount Everest.

I have always been fascinated with Mount Everest. It is the highest point on earth, with the summit being 29,028 feet above sea level. And yet, people have been climbing, or attempting to climb Mount Everest for years. Just think about that! At its summit, there is 66% less oxygen to breath, and, if that alone doesn’t tell you how gargantuan that mountain is, remember that jet planes typically fly between 30,000 and 35,000 feet! Yet, every year, people pay up to $100,000 and more to climb it.

How do they do that? How did Edmund Hillary do that? Technically, as Hillary explains it, he didn’t conquer the mountain, but he had to conquer himself: the physical pain, mental battles, the fears and doubts, and many other self-imposed obstacles.

It reminds me of Romans 8:37 and that startling, though often misunderstood verse:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (NIV)

Honestly, I’ve yet to find a good English translation of this verse because of that phrase “more than conquerors”. In the original Greek, it’s just one verb deriving from a word that means “exceeding victory”. Have you ever bought a pair of Nike shoes? Well, the Greek word nike is used here, just with a prefix attached to it in order to intensify its meaning. So what this verse is undeniably teaching is that followers of Jesus are “incredibly victorious”, or “super-conquerors”. 

Really? You and I are “incredibly victorious” or “super-conquerors”? Yes! But here’s the key, and what I appreciate about Hillary’s quote. We are “incredibly victorious” not because we will it, or because we try hard, or because we’re just lucky. We can overcome mountains because “through him” we can be “incredibly victorious”: in other words, it’s the power of Jesus, his strength, his ability, and the fortitude of the One inside of us by the power of his Spirit that enables us to conquer whatever challenge lies before us.

I think the best translation of this passage I’ve seen to date is the New Living Translation:

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. (NLT)

So, what mountain are you climbing? Do you realize the obstacle is not the mountain?

“Those who stop believing in God do not then believe in nothing, they will believe in anything.”                                                                                  G.K. Chesterton

This famous saying from the English author and Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton is profound in what it reminds me of – everyone believes in something! Oftentimes I hear people say, “I don’t believe in God; as a matter of fact, I don’t believe in anything.” That’s just not a true or precise statement.

Here’s why. There are two incontrovertible truths regarding humanity: we love, and we worship. It’s been said many different ways – we crave relationships and meaning, community and wonder, the immanent and the transcendent – but they all point to the same reality: we were created for each other, and our Creator. Yet, we’ve messed that up, and instead of honoring God and respecting him, we’ve replaced him. Observe carefully that previous choice of words – we don’t just reject God, and believe in nothing or no one: we replace God. That’s why Calvin could accurately describe the human heart as an efficient idol-making factory.

The prophet Jeremiah reminded the Israelites of the seriousness of such a course of action. The horror of our sin is not that we just reject God, but we put something in his place. Notice the analogy Jeremiah used to express this:

“For my people have done two evil things:

They have abandoned me—

    the fountain of living water.

And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns 

that can hold no water at all! (NLT)

Fresh, nourishing, life-bearing water is offered, but instead we choose to get our own water, and seek to be satisfied with the dirty, stinky, infected, harmful water-like substance, that is also in limited supply! Why do we do it? We have to believe in something. We have to love something. We have to dedicate our lives to something, even if it’s broken, putrid and worthless.

What do you believe in?

“The bottom line is that we [Christians] have been called by God to be the church, not simply to go to church.” George Barna

Will you join me in making a promise? Let’s change our vocabulary; instead of saying this weekend “I’m going to church”, let’s start speaking more accurately and biblically.

We can start speaking more accurately by saying, “I’m going to New Hope Community in such-in-such a city”, or “I’m going to First Baptist” in wherever you live, but we must stop treating the word ‘church’ as a thing.

In the entire New Testament, the word church never refers to a brick and mortar building like what we mistakenly call a church today. The closest you come to it in the New Testament are passages like Romans 16:5 and 1 Corinthians 16:19 where Paul says to “greet also the church in their house” or “Aquila and Priscilla greet you . . . together with the church in their house”. At the most, the word ‘church’ could refer to a home where Christians gathered, but even then, as the two Pauline passages demonstrate, the term still refers to the people gathered in that house.

Biblically we can start speaking better by embodying this truth: if you are a Christian, you are the church! And the more pressing task before us is not to find time in our busy schedules to go to church, though it is important and commanded for us to gather with local Christians on a weekly basis and fulfill the functions of the church (Hebrews 10:25), but the preeminent issue is to daily exhibit the presence of God in our lives. I love this impactful quote from Mark Dever that summarizes this beautifully:

“The Christian proclamation [the sermon] might make the gospel audible, but Christians living together in local congregations make the gospel visible (John 13:34-35). The church is the gospel made visible.”

Consequently, let’s stop telling people where we’re going this weekend. Instead, let’s just be the visible church today, wherever we are.

RA

 

Book Reviews: Christmas 2014

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Yes, I can’t believe it but I’m already in Christmas mode, and it’s not even Thanksgiving week yet! The good news is there’s plenty to read if you’re interested in some new Christmas books. Here are three new Christmas books that I’ve read and also recommend (to some degree!).

Robert Tate Miller. Forever Christmas. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2014. (Click here)

Miller, a former screenwriter for the Hallmark Channel, has written a good novel for the Christmas fiction genre. I do recommend this book, but with these comments:

  • It is an enjoyable book and quick read! I finished its 182 pages in one afternoon.
  • While I enjoyed the journey our protagonist Andrew and his wife Beth took, it was predictable. The story is almost like a Christmas Groundhog Day, but you only get one chance to learn your lesson. And yes, as I alluded to earlier, I knew the ending before Miller took me there.
  • The story is not explicitly Christian in any way, but it is implicit. While it’s true I haven’t read much from this genre in recent years, I did expect it to have more of a direct Christian message, since it’s published by Thomas Nelson, a large Christian publisher, and especially since the story centers around Christmas day! But no. Without ruining the story, at the end, it does lend itself to allegorical interpretations with the Christian message, and Miller obviously seems to even prompt this interpretation with a number of questions in a “Reading Group Guide” at the end of the book.
  • So ultimately, I do recommend this book because it will put you in the holiday mood, and it could lead to some good discussions with family and friends if you initiate it.
  • Lastly, I could easily see this being one of those Hallmark Christmas movies they play endlessly during the holiday season (I love those sappy movies, but I can already hear my wife mocking me!).

I’ve also read two new Advent books for this season that were both inspirational:

Louie Giglio. Waiting Here For You: An Advent Journey of Hope. Atlanta: Passion Publishing, 2014 (Click here)

John Piper. The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014. (Click here)

Louie Giglio, the founder and speaker of the widely successful Passion Conferences, and now the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, centers his diminutive advent book on these four themes:

  • God works while we wait,
  • If we are truly waiting on God we won’t miss anything,
  • While we are waiting on God, we are waiting with God. God is there the whole time (I love that truth!)
  • Who you become while you are waiting is just as important as what you are waiting for.

Interspersed with his comments, he has plenty of poems, lyrics from hymns, and even pictures (unexpected in such a small book).

John Piper, popular author who also pastored the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis for over thirty years before he retired, has a message for each day during December. His messages don’t have much in the way of poetry or hymns, but are filled with short, direct explanations and applications of the Scripture for the day. The highlight of this book is the last chapter, which is a Christmas sermon from Piper. Everyone should get this book for that alone – it’s that good!

In closing, here’s a beautiful example from Piper of what Christmas is: “Christmas means: The infinitely self-sufficient God has come not to be assisted but to be enjoyed.” (62)

May we all recover the true meaning of Christmas this holiday season!

RA

James, Devotion #4: Joy is not a Joke!

 

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James 1:2 is one of the most misunderstood passages in the book of James, partly because what it commands seems so diametrically opposed to what we should do. In fact, many commentators begin by discussing this point first – it would have been their first post. But as I see it, you can’t begin to comprehend how and why we are to be joyful during our trials unless you understand first the reasons for the joy. Therefore, that is why it’s post number 4 for me.

With that, why is James not joking when he says we should be joyful during our trials? Specifically, James is not saying you have to:

  • Be happy when you get cancer;
  • Be happy when you get fired from your job of twenty years;
  • Be happy when a loved one dies.

Well, then what is James saying here? Let’s dig in!

IN THE WORD

Read James 1:2-4:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (NASB)

As we begin our investigation of this passage, observe that James is not telling you to be ‘happy’ at all! Our English word ‘happy’ is an emotion that is based upon circumstances that occur in your life. The word James uses for “joy” has nothing to do with our English word happy.

Consequently, some things to know about this “joy” James speaks of:

  • It is the major theme of James 1:2-4. This is evident once one understands the context of James 1 (as we’ve discussed in the previous posts), but also observing the subtle emphasis he places on the word since it’s the first word in his original Greek sentence. While this is not always true of Greek word order, a case can be made for it here: James wants you to understand “joy” and his next few sentences will explain why.
  • We are not just to be joyful, but experience “pure joy” or be “entirely joyful”. Why? In the original language the word “all” is used, functioning as an adjective modifying “joy”. So James is declaring that we are to experience “complete joy” no matter what is going on. Or, to underscore the original text, we are to experience “all joy” all the time!
  • You will not always ‘feel’ this way, but we are commanded to ‘think’ this way. I cannot stress this point enough!! That’s why in English this verse begins with the word “Consider” or some translations have “Regard” because the verb used here is a verb of thought: you must think this way, even if you don’t feel this way.

Now, carefully notice what joy is not:

  • Being ‘happy’ even though horrible things have occurred (our English word ‘happy’ would not even be used in that case);
  • Pretending to be ‘happy’ in front of people (you know, putting on that ‘happy’ face though you hate life!);
  • Always being ‘happy’ all the time (who could do that?).

This is why I said earlier joy has nothing to do with being happy. What is joy? Here is my definition: Joy is a state of being, mostly demonstrated by trust, contentment, and peace, based on who we are in Jesus Christ because of what he has done for us, and is still doing through us by the power of his Spirit!

How and why can I be “completely joyful”? I can because I “know” (see verse 3):

  • My trials have a Purpose, as we’ve discussed in Devotion #2;
  • My trials develop Perseverance in me, or as I translated it “a willingness to cling to God no matter what”;
  • As I progress through my trials, my Perseverance will enable me to become Perfect, which as we discussed in Devotion #3 is not sin-free, but daily striving toward perfection as modeled in the life of Jesus!

IN THE WORLD

Let’s close with one question and then a project:

In my life, when I’m in the midst of tough times and I’m ‘struggling through my struggles’, most of the time it’s because I’m letting my feelings guide my thoughts. Can you relate to such a time? If so, how can we prevent that from happening as often as it does?

As further encouragement, read these verses below (preferably in the NIV) to learn more about joy and the importance it should have in a Christian’s life. Allow me to share three passages, and you can read the rest:

Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Notice joy is a fruit of the Spirit and so joy is given to us from God).

Hebrews 12:2: fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (What “joy” was set before Jesus . . . many answers could be given, but one is that Jesus saw the purpose of the cross – he endured (persevered!) for a purpose!).

Psalms 126:3: “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (What could I possibly say to explain that further – Amen!).

Enjoy! RA

Psalms 21:6

Nehemiah 8:12

Psalms 28:7

Luke 2:10

John 15:11

Romans 14:17

2 Corinthians 7:4

1 Peter 1:8

James, Devotion #3: What is Your Purpose?

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Here’s what I hope you discover today:

  • All people will eventually ask themselves this age-old question: What is my purpose?
  • The great philosopher Aristotle believed the answer was happiness, or better, a life of human flourishing through rational contemplation.
  • James answered this question differently – we are to be perfect!

In our last devotion on the book of James, we finished midway through 1:4, and today I would like to take an excursus, or digress for a moment, as we come to an incredibly important Greek word that is used twice in verse 4. I believe understanding a little of historical background surrounding this word can assist us in discerning how James uses it. The Greek word I’m talking about in James 1:4 is the word telos, or as it is commonly translated in English “perfect” or “mature”.

To begin our excursus, I love Greek philosophy and it’s philosophers! They were courageous men who dared to question the traditional answers of the day, and seek new answers to their queries. Aristotle, along with his mentor Plato, undoubtedly were two of the greatest thinkers from that era, and laid the foundation for all philosophy for the next two thousand years.

For instance, Aristotle questioned why are we here, or in his words, what is our telos, or our goal, our purpose. In his day, as in ours, many thought our goal or purpose was pleasure, or honor and fame, and even to attain money and great wealth, but Aristotle knew these were futile goals to base a life on, or simply means to another goal. Aristotle even went so far as to state that people who based their life on pleasure or amusement were living a life of slavery fit for “grazing animals.” [1] Why? Because so much effort and suffering are a part of life, it would simply be “stupid and excessively childish” if all we had to look forward to was brief pleasures and idle amusement.[2]

Consequently, the great Aristotle surmised the telos of mankind must be:

“Moreover, we take the human function to be a certain kind of life, and take this life to be activity and actions of the soul that involve reason; hence the function of the excellent man is to do this well and finely.” (Nicomachean Ethics, Book 1, 7, 15)

Put another way, Aristotle believed mankind, as with everything, has a purpose, a telos, and whatever it is, it must be whatever allows for human flourishing, so that the human being performs in an excellent, or perfect manner! For Aristotle, as he investigated all of nature and mankind, he concluded the purpose of life for humans must be an active life of virtuous living by using our reasoning abilities.

IN THE WORD

What in the world does this have to do with our study of the book of James? Plenty! Read again what James proclaimed in James 1:2-4:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (NASB)

We’ve already discovered that trials will come our way, and we are to joyfully accept them, knowing they are not purposeless. One purpose for trials is that they produce “endurance” or “perseverance”, or as I translated it “a willingness to cling to God no matter what.” But, that’s not the end of the story!

Here’s what else James tells us:

  • He reminds us that having the right attitude and thriving through trials produces “a willingness to cling to God no matter what”, but also that willingness to cling to God no matter what itself produces something – we become “perfect” and “whole”, or “entirely sound”.
  • While some scholars note that the use of “perfect” and “whole” together can simply imply we are to achieve moral integrity, I believe more is being said here. Why? Jesus said the same thing as James, and used the same word – “You shall be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48)
  • Consequently, our telos, or our goal and purpose for living is not to:
    • Chase after physical pleasure
    • Make all the money we can
    • Become famous and popular
    • Or even to tell others about Jesus
    • Give all our money to the poor
    • Etc. etc., etc.

IN THE WORLD

 Our telos, or the reason we exist, is to daily become more and more like God, because we were created in the image of God, and Jesus came to show us how that looks and he gave us the power to live the holy life, by the gift of His Spirit! All else is secondary to this because, for one reason, nothing else will satisfy and fulfill us.

In the past, I was hesitant to translate telos as “perfect”, thinking that meant we had to be sin-free, but now, as I shared above, I believe “perfect” is the best word when it is used in this way: Jesus is our standard and the picture of what human flourishing looks like!

So see, Aristotle was right, and also wrong – we all have a telos that enables us to flourish as human beings, but he was simply wrong on how to achieve it – we must have a meaningful, vibrant relationship with our perfect Creator, growing more like Him daily as we live as Christ lived (see Ephesians 4:12-13)! Consequently, we are not just the epitome of rational creatures as Aristotle believed, for we are more: we are meant to be perfect!

Let’s conclude with these thoughts:

  • What is your telos today? Or, to be more explicit, what have you been living for?
  • I really liked Aristotle’s comparison of the life of pleasure to slavery fit for “grazing animals.” Have you ever heard anything like that in the Bible? Even though Aristotle was writing hundreds of years before the New Testament, read Romans 6:16 for a comparison. Now, do you see what he meant by the futility of such a life and how we simply become a slave to our desires?
  • Incidentally, as you aim to be perfect, and more and more like the Father, living as Jesus lived, you will naturally do things like tell others about Jesus, give to the poor, serve gladly, and much more. But this – striving to be like Jesus – should be first. For a reaffirmation of this, read Matthew. 22:36-40.

So, what’s your telos?

RA

[1] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Second Edition, Translated by Terence Irwin. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1999) p. 4, Book I, Chp. 5.

[2] Ibid, Book X, Chp. 6, p. 162.

A Newspaper and the Bible

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It’s been said to read both the newspaper and the Bible every day.

This past Saturday morning I was pretty depressed and downright angry.

Why?

I read the newspaper (online!), and the Bible much later.

Ugh!

Every morning I follow a similar routine. After I get ready for work, I first go to a local coffee shop to drink coffee and eat breakfast. The thing to know is that I’m not there for the coffee or food. My distinct purpose is to read the daily news, and then at least begin my Quiet Time with God, which will usually continue as I get to the office or go to a local college library to do further research on various projects.

As I was doing this Saturday, I was overwhelmed by three of the first five stories I read online. To put it bluntly, I was aghast at what I repeatedly read from one story to another because of the brutality and the complete disregard for the gift of life! Here’s a brief summary of three of those stories based on various sources (as of Saturday morning);

  • 43 college students in southern Mexico have been missing since September. They were last seen traveling to the city of Iguala for a protest seeking to raise money for their school. Last week a break in the case finally came when three people were arrested and supposedly said the mayor of the city ordered the students to be abducted and turned over to a Mexican gang because their protest would interfere with the mayor and his wife’s plans for the day! The gang promptly killed the students, burned them for hours among tires and any other debris they could find, and then dumped the remains in the river.
  • A mother and her boyfriend were arrested this week on charges of murdering and torturing her three year-old son. The alleged reason for this heinous crime – her son wouldn’t eat his breakfast! For that, the report says, they hanged him by his feet, bashed his head into a wall, whipped him with various implements, etc. The police have said it’s the worst case of child abuse they’ve ever seen.
  • In 2010, a husband, wife, and their two young sons were murdered by blunt force to the head in their home outside San Diego. After being killed at home, they were buried in shallow graves in the Mojave Desert. Their remains were finally found in late 2013, and this week, the husband’s business partner was charged with those murders. Why did this business partner allegedly murder this entire family? Investigators don’t have a clue!

You see why I was so upset? So without finishing my quest for the latest news, I finally turned to the Word of God, and this is one of the many verses that distinctly spoke to me:

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;

  ensure justice for those being crushed. 

Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,

    and see that they get justice.”

Prov. 31:8-9 (NLT)

This, and several other verses challenged me not to simply feel sad and despondent about the stories, but to realize we as Christians are called to do something about them:

  • Never live by ‘putting your head in the sand’. It’s easy to think, “Just stop reading the newspaper”, but we must be aware of what’s going on around us, no matter how depressing it might be.
  • Speak and demand justice for the victims who can no longer speak! We must hold our government officials and court systems (federal and state) accountable for ensuring justice occurs in our land.
  • Care for the families that are suffering.
  • Feel the pain and despair, and even cry! Stories like this should make us cry and yearn for that day when we will no longer see stories like this.

The misery and hopelessness of the world should never overwhelm us, but should be a call to action as the people of God: “Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:21 NIV)

And lastly, always remember we should read the newspaper and the Bible every day – both will give us a proper perspective on life: one, what life is like around us, and the other, how we should live in the midst of such a life.

RA