A Glimpse Into Life Under ISIS

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When You Can’t Take the Words Back

Words create worlds.

Words are powerful, and the way you use them determines the culture you create. It’s true in a business organization, it’s true in church life, and it’s true in the home. I am recognizing more and more the sheer power that language plays in all these arenas, but this weekend I became more acutely aware of the “home” area. But we weren’t at home this weekend. We were camping.

And, admittedly, I’m not a great camper. I’m trying to learn how to be because my oldest son is, in fact, a really great camper. But by the time I got to night 2 with my 3 kids, staring down a night in the 30′s, with everyone drawing their energy from hot dogs and just a few hours sleep, my patience was running thin. And because it was, my words were running thick. I said some things that I shouldn’t have said.

It was one of those moments when, directly after a statement is made, you wish you could have it back. I knew it was too much, too direct, and the way I knew it was by how good it felt. I felt so righteous and so justified, and I know my heart; the vast majority of the time when I feel that way something has gone haywire.

But words are powerful; you can’t take them back no matter how much you wish you could. Once it’s been said, it’s been forever said. And words have a way of lodging themselves in our memories. They set up camp deep inside our minds and stay there.

So what do you do when you can’t take the words back?

You recognize the power of words, and you use them again.

James wrote about the power of words in chapter 3 of the book that bears his name:

“Now when we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide the whole animal. And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell. Every sea creature, reptile, bird, or animal is tamed and has been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil full of deadly poison” (James 3:3-8).

Though James was instructing us about the negative potential of words, the power works both ways. Granted, a positive use of words might not necessarily be equivalent to the negative, but the power still remains:

“Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21).

When you can’t take the words back, make sure the next ones are ones you don’t want to:

“I’m sorry.”

“Please forgive me.”

“I was wrong.”

These are words that flow so much harder from the tongue than the ones of impatience and anger, but these words have power, too. Don’t neglect that power while you’re mourning what’s already been said.

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Why is Patience Such a Big Deal?

Love, joy, peace – these are the fruit of the Spirit that seem to get all the press. They should – these are all attributes that make the Christian distinct. What makes them even more distinctive is the fact that, for the Christian, these fruits seem to grow in the least likely of environments. That’s because they aren’t dependent on the environment; they grow based on the strength of the vine they are attached to.

When we love those who hate, when we have joy in the midst of pain, and when we have peace despite the churning circumstances around us, we show that the source of these characteristics is not those circumstances but instead the work of God in us.

But once you get passed these characteristics in Galatians 5:22-23, the passage in which Paul lists these many fruits of the Spirit, you find one attribute that we often don’t pay as much attention to. That’s patience.

Patience is a big deal. And like love, you, and peace, it’s one of those things that when displayed shows the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Here are 3 reasons, then, why patience is indeed a big deal:

1. Patience is an act of humility.

When we become impatient, we betray our inner assumption that we had the best thing planned. When our plans for our day (or our lives, for that matter) are interrupted and we have to go a different way, our level of patience shows how convinced we are in our own ability to make plans. When our plans are disrupted and we patiently adapt and act accordingly, we show that we humbly recognize how short-sighted we are in vision and wisdom.

2. Patience is an act of service.

I’m finding this to be more and more true as a parent. There are three little people who live with me, and most of the time those little people need something. Sometimes it’s help with homework; sometimes it’s a drink of water; sometimes it’s a 47th reminder about a rule we have in the home. During each of those needs, I’ve got the choice about whether I patiently help or whether I impatiently respond. Every time I choose patience, I am choosing to put my own desires on the back burner and embrace the holy inconvenience of service.

3. Patience is an act of faith.

One of the core questions we must answer every day is whether we truly believe God is sovereign or if we do not. If we do, then we must also recognize that He ultimately is the One directing our steps. Many times those steps aren’t the ones we would have chosen for ourselves; they’re the ones He chose for us. So, then, when we are patient, we display our firm belief that God not only is ruling over the circumstances of the world, but that ultimately His way is indeed right.

Patience is a big deal – probably bigger than we think it is. But our part, as God works in us, is to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. That includes exercising the muscle of patience. You’ll have a chance to exercise that muscle today; as you do, do so as an act of humility, service, and faith. And even if you’re only getting that kid a drink of water (again), know that you are embracing the work of God in you.

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Lewis, Clark, and the Gospel Exploration

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Corps of Discovery, and named U.S. Army Captain Meriwether Lewis its leader. Lewis then selected William Clark as his partner. Their journey would take an arduous two years and would go up the Mississippi River, then west across the Continental Divide, eventually all the way to the west coast.

According to Jefferson himself, one goal was to find “the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce.” Jefferson asked for the expedition to explore the land the United States had acquired during the Louisiana Purchase, land that was officially part of the country but had yet to be fully explored and evaluated.

In other words, Lewis and Clark were laying claim to what had already been claimed. They were “discovering” what had already been “acquired.”

Such is the case with the gospel.

If you’re a Christian, Jesus has purchased your heart and soul. He has planted the flag on your life and declared it to be His territory. There is, then, from your east coast to your west, top to bottom, no part that is not owned under the lordship and authority of Christ.

It is acquired but not discovered. It has been claimed but now must be laid claim to. So the question for you and I is whether or not the gospel is taking more and more territory in your heart. It’s not that there is an area of your heart that hasn’t yet been claimed; Jesus has done that once and for all. What’s happening now is the exploration and discovery of the fullness of His claim.

These nooks and crannies of our soul must be explored. They must be researched and discovered. And in each one, the flag of the gospel must be planted as we claim that which Christ has already claimed. We apply the gospel, day in and day out, to all of these areas of our life in order to actualize the reality of the ownership and authority of Jesus.

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7 Things to Pray for Your Children

Encourage post from Jon Bloom here about how to pray for your children:

1. That Jesus will call them and no one will hinder them from coming.

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.(Matthew 19:13–15)

2. That they will respond in faith to Jesus’s faithful, persistent call.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

3. That they will experience sanctification through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit and will increasingly desire to fulfill the greatest commandments.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

4. That they will not be unequally yoked in intimate relationships, especially marriage.

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)

5. That their thoughts will be pure.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

6. That their hearts will be stirred to give generously to the Lord’s work.

All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord. (Exodus 35:29)

7. That when the time is right, they will GO!

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

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The Best Things About the Boring Parts of the Bible

This is such a great post from Nancy Guthrie:

10

After a poetic Creation and a cosmic disaster, the story of the Bible slows down in Genesis by tracing the sons of Adam and Eve’s son, Seth through numerous generations. Why do we need to know this? Because God made a promise recorded in Genesis 3 about a particular descendant of Eve. The whole of the Bible is most significantly about this descendant. So, the tenth best thing about the boring parts of the Bible is:

Tracing the line of descendants from Adam and Eve forward keeps us tuned in to what is most important in the Bible’s story, or really who is most important — the promised offspring who will one day be born and will do battle with the offspring of the ancient serpent and win.

9

In Genesis 6-9 we witness the population of the world narrowed down to just Noah and his 3 sons and their families. The begats of the Bible pick up again in Genesis 10 focusing in on the descendants of just one of Noah’s sons — Shem — and finally on one descendant of Shem — Abraham — to whom God makes incredible promises. Further lists help us to trace the coming of the promised descendant through Isaac and Jacob and Judah and David until we read in Galatians, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman.” Keeping our focus on this promised One helps to keep us from making the Bible all about us instead of all about him.

The book of Exodus begins with the vivid story of a baby in a basket on the Nile River who becomes the deliverer of God’s people from their slavery in Egypt. On their way to the Promised Land, God gives Moses detailed instructions for the design of the tent they are to construct in which God will come down to dwell among them. In the detail of the design we see gourds and open flowers woven into the fabrics, a basin made to look like a lily, lampstands made to look like trees with branches. The writer of Hebrews says the tabernacle and later the temple were, “copies of true things,” and “a shadow of the good things to come.” So for #9:

The detail of the tabernacle and temple design reminds us of Eden and fills us with anticipation for the beauty and perfection of the new heavens and new earth.

8

As we continue in Exodus we read exacting detail about the clothing that was to be made for the high priest who would serve in the tabernacle. It was to be holy, glorious, and beautiful like God himself, which is appropriate since the priest represented God to the people. The priest also represented the people to God. He wore an ephod and a breastplate that had stones with the names of the twelve tribes on them. So when the high priest entered the Holy Place, it was as if he took the people and their concerns into the presence of God with him.

The detail of the high priest’s clothing assures us that our Great High Priest, Jesus, carries our burdens on his shoulders and our concerns on his heart as he intercedes for us in the presence of God.

7

In Leviticus 1–7 we find detailed instructions for offering sacrifices which were like flashing neon signs saying: “sin brings death . . . sin brings death.” But the sacrifices also revealed that God accepts the blood of an innocent substitute to pay for sin.

The requirements of Old Testament sacrifices help us to see what sin costs as well as the fullness of our forgiveness made possible through the once-for-all perfect sacrifice of Christ.

6

Let’s face it — the laws about what make a person ceremonial clean or unclean found in Leviticus 11–15 are strange. Yet when we study them, we see that everything that makes a person unclean is something that reflects the effects of the curse of sin on this world. Animals fed on other animals only after the curse. Bodies bled and developed disease only after the curse. Mold and mildew, the visible evidence of decay, came into being only after the curse. Everything designated unclean in Leviticus demonstrated that things are not the way they once were in the Garden—the way God originally intended them to be.

The laws regarding clean and unclean in Leviticus give us hope that we who are unclean can be made clean through an acceptable sacrifice, and will one day be made holy to enter into the presence of God.

5

Jesus, who was perfectly clean, took our uncleanness upon himself so that we might be made clean and he is at work even now, by his Spirit, making us holy. God will not abandon our world to its uncleanness forever! He will make it clean.

The book of Numbers begins and ends with a census. In Numbers 1 we find the record of the generation who rebelled and refused to believe that God was giving them the land of Canaan and therefore died in the desert. In Numbers 26 we read the census record of the second generation as they prepared to enter into their inheritance and abundant life of the Promised Land. Why do we need this information?

The census records of Numbers encourage us to examine whether our names are to be counted among those who refuse to believe and will die in the wilderness of this world, or if we are counted among those who believe God’s promise of an inheritance and have life in the abundance of the Promised Land to look forward to.

4

In Joshua 13 -21 we read the geographic details of the land in Canaan given to each tribe. Because we are unfamiliar with the ancient geography, it can be a boring list to us. But if we were familiar with these places and with these people, we could better imagine the sense of wonder among God’s people as each tribe was given a huge amount of territory in the Promised Land. Likely the people of each tribe would have looked at each other and said, “All of this for us?”

The allotment of territories to tribes in the land of Canaan gives us a preview of what it will be like when our greater Joshua, Jesus, leads us into the eternal Promised Land where we will inherit all that God has promised.

3

One day our Greater Joshua will read out the inheritance that will be ours in the new heaven and the new earth, and we won’t be bored! Surely we will breathlessly say, “All of this for us?”

First Chronicles includes chapter after chapter of genealogies that begin with Adam and stretch to the descendants of Judah, Benjamin and Levi—the kingly and priestly tribes—who made up most of those who returned to the land after exile.

The genealogies in 1 Chronicles help us focus on where history is headed—the son of David, seated on the throne of the universe.

2

This list should reorient our hearts toward the coming of our great king when we will hear a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

When Nehemiah was trying to figure out who among the returned exiles should take up residence behind the rebuilt walls of Jerusalem, he pulled out the book in which the names of those who returned to Judah when the opportunity was first given by Cyrus’ decree to come home were listed.

The list of names in the book Nehemiah read that included all those whose hearts God stirred up to leave Babylon for Jerusalem should make our hearts glad to know that God likes to keep lists of those whose hearts he has stirred up with a longing for his city, those who will inhabit the New Jerusalem.

1

In Revelation 21 John tells us, “Only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” will populate the New Jerusalem. We will not be bored when that list of names is read! We’ll be on pins and needles listening for our names.

The New Testament begins with a genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. And oh the grace we find in this boring part of the Bible! There in the lineage of Jesus is Abraham who pretended his wife was his sister and gave her to a godless king; Judah who fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar, his daughter-in-law; Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute who put everything at risk to get in on the promises of God; Ruth, a Moabite who left everything behind to make Israel’s God her God; David, who took another man’s wife and then had her husband killed; Solomon who allowed many foreign women to turn his heart away from loving the Lord. So the #1 best thing about the boring parts of the Bible is:

The genealogy of Jesus shows us that Jesus welcomes flagrant but forgiven sinners into his family.

This gives outsiders and outlaws like you and me hope. He is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.

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The Lady, the Tiger, and the Kingdom of God

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46).

Jesus had a way of doing this. It’s as if the kingdom of God is so big, so expansive, so mind-blowing, that Jesus slowly rolled out attributes and characteristics because He knew it was too much for us to handle all at the same time:

- The kingdom is like a man who went out into a field…

- The kingdom is like a father with two sons…

- The kingdom is like a field…

And here, He rolls out both the great value and tremendous cost of the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom is so valuable that it’s like finding something of such value that one immediately counts the cost of acquiring it and then is willing and ready to sacrifice whatever must be given in order to have that treasure in the field and pearl of great price. But while this parable emphasizes the great value of the kingdom and the cost associated with that kingdom, it’s not necessarily about the experience of coming into the kingdom.

What I mean is that some choices are entirely logical. If, for example, you were brought into a room and shown two open doorways. Through one you could see treasure by the boatloads all there for the taking. Through the other you could see a garbage dump. And then you were given the choice of which door you want to talk through. Obviously, any sane person would choose the door to the treasure room because their eyes showed them what they were moving towards.

Sometimes the kingdom is like that – you get a glimpse, if only in part, of the true nature of God’s kingdom, and suddenly it brings into focus all the sacrifices you might have made for that kingdom, and they fade to nothing in comparison. But most of the time, it doesn’t happen that way. That’s why we are so prone to sin. It’s because in the moment, we don’t perceive the value of the kingdom. We perceive the temporal goodness of the sin, and we want that thing NOW rather than what we can’t see that we’re supposed to experience LATER.

It reminds me of the short story called “The Lady or the Tiger”. In the story, the king of the land punished criminals by placing them in an arena before spectators which had two closed doors. Behind one was a maiden, behind the other was a ravenous tiger. If the guilty party chose the door with the lady, he would immediately be freed, marry her, and live happily ever after. But if he chose the tiger, he got… well… the tiger.

The story goes that the king’s daughter fell in love with a commoner, and when the king found out, he was enraged. He placed the man in the arena, giving him the same choice. But the princess had found out which door led to the lady, and which led to the tiger. So when the man entered the arena, he looked to his beloved, and she ever so slightly – but clearly – gestured toward one of the doors. It’s here, though, that we as the audience are left to wonder whether the door she gestured toward housed the lady or the tiger.

Would she want her love to escape even it meant he would marry another? Or would she instead condemn him because if she couldn’t have him then no one could?

In other words, the real question in the story – and in the kingdom – is whether you trust the person telling you which door to take.

And here we see Jesus, the Son of God, and He is pointing us toward what He claims is a priceless pearl. A treasure of immense value, though hidden. He is gesturing. Imploring. Telling us to sell it all, and even though it might cost us dearly, that it will in the end be worth it.

But do we trust Him? That will determine which door we choose, and which field we choose to buy.

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The Act of Meeting Together is Sanctifying In and Of Itself

Recently I wrote a post that found its base in Hebrews 10:24-25:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

In that post, I tried to put forth a couple of reasons why we might give up meeting together. The flipside, of course, it realizing why we should meet together. And there are of course a bunch of answers for that:

- We need to remind each other of who God is.

- We need to sit under the preaching of God’s Word so that we might know Him more.

- We need to be surrounded by people who can encourage us in our faith and in good deeds.

- We need to sing and speak and read so that we might remember the promises of God.

And the list can and should go on and on. But these are all things that happen when we meet together. The truth is, though, there is something very sanctifying about the very action of choosing to meet together at all, apart from what happens during that actual meeting. Let me hold up my family as a case study.

It’s Wednesday morning, 6:55 am. My wife and I are, most of the time, standing in the kitchen together. One of us is usually making eggs; the other one of us is about to head up the stairs to wake the zombies and taste their wrath because they’ve got to get up and go to school. Then comes the breakfast, the brushing of teeth and hair, the gathering of books, and we’re off – me to the interstate, the lovely Jana Kelley to the minivan and the drop off line.

Then the day is really rolling. For me, it’s an endless stream of conversations, emails, and meetings at work. By the time it’s 3 pm, my eyes are usually bleary from looking at a screen all day. For Jana, it’s delivering kids to this school and then that one, then a regular system of other errands and necessities that have to happen on a weekly basis so that our home doesn’t implode. About the time my eyes are bleeding from the screen time, she’s back in line at the pick up to gather kids, then onto the homework, the piano lessons, and even more household management. And this is where it gets tricky, because Wednesday is community group night.

And community group night is at our house.

So after the homework is done, the kids are fed, and I get home around 5:45, we’ve got roughly 30 minutes until the folks start showing up. And many weeks, most weeks, it’s really, really hard. Much harder than watching TV. At least once I think about how easy it would be for someone to be “sick.”

And that’s why the act itself of meeting together is sanctifying – it’s because when we choose to meet together, there’s an element of faith and sacrifice associated with doing so. And those two things move us forward with Jesus. Think about it – what would you (or do you) have to sacrifice in order to regularly meet with the people of God? Here’s a few things:

- You must sacrifice your time which could be spent doing something else.

- You have to sacrifice your priorities in order to make room for this one.

- You have to sacrifice your comfort (especially if you’re an introvert) and give of yourself to this meeting.

- You have to sacrifice your rest.

And in each of those things, you flex the muscle of faith in order to propel and motivate you into making that sacrifice:

- You believe that the time you spend here will not be wasted.

- You believe, no matter how important the other things you have going on are, that this is essential for the sake of your heart.

- You believe that what God is doing in you is more important than feeling good at a given moment.

- You believe that ultimate rest is bigger than sleep, but instead is finding true Sabbath in your accomplished status before God through Jesus.

So, friends, maybe this week you’re wondering if it’s the week to skip. Maybe you’ve got a lot going on. Or maybe the guy leading that environment just isn’t awesome at doing their job. But maybe you should meet together anyway, because the sanctification doesn’t begin and end with what’s discussed in the group. The act of meeting itself has great value.

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A Word on Aging from John Piper

John Piper observes:

All of the 10,000 people in America who turn 65 each year have wrinkles. Our skin is more flaccid. Our complexion is more mottled. Our equilibrium is more tenuous. And our hair is more scarce. The effect of aging on our appearance and our bearing is universal. No one escapes. Except by death.

The reason for this is that God has subjected the creation to futility (Romans 8:20). It is in bondage to corruption (Romans 8:21). Even new creatures in Christ groan, waiting for the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23).

In other words, when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, God established a connection between moral depravity and physical deterioration. He intended to make clear that, even if we ignore the dreadfulness of a sinful heart, we will not be able to ignore its witness in the debility of the body.

This is a hard pill for beautiful and robust Boomers to swallow. We have been strong. We have been pretty. Even sexy. And now we realize: We will never have it back. It is over. For good. Until death stops the process we will only get weaker, more wrinkled, more mottled.

Some of us cannot let it go. We resort to plastic surgery in the hopeless attempt to make the looks of youth last a little longer. An article in Psychology Today observes,

Cosmetic surgery is still on the increase throughout developed countries. . . The “looks industry” is alive and well.

But the fix might be more in the head than on the face. Joshua Zimm, from the University of Toronto and his colleagues published a study in 2013 showing that facial cosmetic surgery does not significantly enhance attractiveness and only reduces perceived age by 3.1 years.

The growth of cosmetic surgery is not a reflection of the increasing ugliness of people but a reflection of our increasing negative self-perception. The fact that cosmetic surgery is still increasing in popularity despite showing little positive outcome — objective measure of attractiveness or youth — points again to our desire to become perfect.

In other words, Boomers don’t look older than previous generations. But we are less content with looking older. We crave the power and the beauty our bodies once had. We are, to a large extent, still adolescent in our thinking about our looks.

Let the Christian Boomers turn this this around…

Read the rest here.

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The Showcase of Our Self-Righteousness

What destroys the work of the gospel in a person?

All kinds of things, but certainly not least on that list would be self-righteousness. Confidence in ourselves, being proud of how good we are, or internally harboring the belief that “we’re really not all that bad” runs contrary to the core of what the gospel message is. Think about it with me – what do you have to know to come to Jesus?

Not a lot, truth be told. There’s not a class you must take; no certificate you have to earn. But you must know at least two things:

1. Who He is. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God, crucified and then risen, not because of His own sin but as a willing sacrifice for yours, which leads us to the second thing:

2. Who you are. Not who we should be; not who we would like to think we are; not who we aspire to be; but the rock bottom realization that we are, at our core, wicked and in need. That sin is not just something we do, but is the driving force behind who we are, and it’s from this reality that we must be rescued.

And that’s precisely why self-righteousness is so destructive. With each bolstering run on the ladder of our egos, we knock down the sufficiency of the cross. We are, if not in word, crying out at the cross that this really didn’t have to happen. Not for me at least. With our self-righteousness, then, we simultaneously deceive ourselves and rob the Son of God of His rightful glory. It’s clearly, then, something that we should be on guard against. And yet, like so many other idols of the heart, our sense of self-righteousness does not often come on us suddenly, but instead creeps into our thinking slowly, over the course of time, until we unknowingly have begun to resist the truth that we are rightfully condemned before a just and holy God.

But there is an occasion, at least in my own life, that provides an opportunity for me to self-diagnose this creeping kind of idolatry. I can know whether or not I am giving in to my own ego by my reaction to God showing grace to another.

I remember a story Jesus told about a vineyard in Matthew 20. In it, a landowner goes and hires a group of laborers early in the day. They agree to the wage for their service, and the workers start putting the nose to the grindstone. Then, later in the day, the same landowner goes back to where he hired the first group only to pick up a few more workers. And then a few more workers even later in the day. When the day reaches its end, it came time for the money to be handed out. Much to the initial group’s surprise, they got the wage they had agreed to… and so did the other workers. The same wage, for unequal amounts of work.

And Jesus says this is what the kingdom of heaven is like.

And everything in me rises up and says, “It’s like what? Like unfairness? Like injustice?” And that’s when I know.

I know that it isn’t really a sense of righteous injustice rising up in me; it’s my self-righteousness laying claim on what I think I deserve. It seems I have forgotten, based on my reaction, that what I truly deserve is the very condemnation Jesus has rescued me from. It’s at this moment that I, or maybe you if you’re tracking with this, have two options:

1. We can harbor our resentment at the generosity of God, and in so doing refuse to acknowledge the truth that we are still broken people no matter how many classes we’ve been to and Bible stories we’ve read. If we do, that bitterness will grow over time and cause our hearts to calcify until we no longer see the need for grace for anyone, much less ourselves…

OR…

2. We can take the invitation to stop complaining and start celebrating. This is what the father asked of his older son in another one of Jesus’ stories, when this older son was so offended at his father’s generosity. And if we choose this route, sure, it might be a little awkward at that party first, and we might look around at all the younger brothers who came to work later than we did, but as the party wears on, we will be reminded that it’s only by grace that we got the invitation in the first place.

And then we dance.

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