Monthly Archives: July 2014

Living Above The Rules

I hate exercising.  I love getting exercise and being active. But exercising for the sake of exercising? Yuck.

I know I should, and goodness knows I need it but I cannot bring myself to keep at it for even a couple of weeks.  I look at myself in the mirror and tell myself, “I really need to start doing some sit-ups.”  But I don’t.  I run up a flight of stairs and wheeze to myself, “I have got to start jogging!” But I haven’t.  Even though I know it’s what I should do I don’t have the ability make myself do it . . . except once.

When we first moved to Benalto I heard about a plan to begin a Senior Men’s Football team in Sylvan Lake.  Immediately my ears perked up. I was in my early 40’s and knew this would be my last shot (and a very long one at that) to ever play football again. All of a sudden I found myself eager to exercise.  For four months I worked up a sweat in the basement doing crunches, and push-ups, and squats and a few things I don’t even know the name for.  And get this: I enjoyed it!

Now as it turned out they just couldn’t pull all the necessary pieces together to get the team off the ground and had to abandon the idea.  In reality for me it was likely a blessing or I may well be writing this from a wheel chair. But it wasn’t too long after that announcement was made that I began finding excuses to not go down to the basement.

In a very limited way this is a picture of the two ways Romans 7 describes of approaching life. The first way it calls the law or written code.  It’s trying to live by a list of rules, like the 10 commandments.  You may find this surprising by Romans says this approach results in spiritual death.  As long as it’s an external motivation telling us we shouldn’t do something, we want it all the more and become a slave to sin.

The alternative is called the new way of the Spirit.  That’s referring to God’s Spirit within us causing us to actually desire that which is holy and righteous.  Living this way produces results that will echo literally forever. Sound good? It only comes when you by faith accept Jesus’ death as your own and submit to his resurrected life to live through you.

Slave to sin or slave to God.  Those are your only choices. Trust me, the latter is infinitely better.

Want to know more? Email me at pastor@benaltobaptist.com


Slaving Away

Apparently in ancient Rome up to half the population were slaves.  At the risk of sounding like I’m advocating slavery, we need to understand that slavery in ancient Rome was somewhat different than the slavery we in North America are familiar with. Though often slaves were taken from conquered nations slavery itself was not racially or ethnically based.  In fact it was not unusual for it to be economically based.  What I mean by that is if a person was on the verge of bankruptcy he could offer himself to his biggest creditor and become that person’s slave.  In doing so he gave up all rights of self-determination and put himself totally and completely under the authority of his master.

I tell you this because that’s the image Paul is summoning in Romans 6 when he says whatever you give yourself to you become a slave of.  But he only gives us two options: sin or God.  Now some of you may object that there must be other alternatives somewhere in between the two extremes and you’re welcome to argue the point.  But you’ll have to argue it with God not me because I’m just telling you what God has said in the Bible.

So, he continues, quit sinning.  Don’t offer yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, instead offer yourself to God as an instrument of righteousness.  There’s far more to be said on this than there is room for in this little article, but here’s what I want to get at.  Let’s assume that you don’t want to be a slave of sin, how do you stop?  If you’re like me you’ve determined, and promised, and tried harder but still you sin.

The first and maybe obvious thing is to offer yourself as a slave to God giving up all your rights to self-determination.  But many of you have done that and still struggle.  Want help?  Stop trying to not sin.  Uh, what? Here’s an illustration that may help.

Picture in your mind a moose.  Visualize his great antlers, the hump on his shoulders, the long legs and big nose.  Got it? Ok, now stop thinking about moose.  Come on, stop it.  Can’t do it can you?

Now imagine a kitten; a cute little ball of fluff, playing with a ball of yarn.  Jumping and rolling. . . I bet you stopped thinking about the moose, at least ‘till I mentioned it again.

When you focus your attentions and affections on Jesus your “moose” begins to fade away.


Building Character

Did anybody ever say to you after some minor calamity befell you, “Aw, that’s ok, it builds character?”  When as a child you fell and scraped your knee, or as an adolescent you ran into a tree with your bike, or as a teen being turned down at the school dance, or any number of normal, part-of-life incidents you’ve had to suffer through.  “It builds character.”  Not very comforting was it?  But did you know it’s actually biblical?  Romans 5:3-4 says that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character.

Now there’s a lot more to the statement in the bible than in the shallow platitude we heard growing up, and it helps to understand a couple of words a little better, the first of which is “suffering.”  We typically think it’s only talking about big important stuff like unjust imprisonment or persecution or some such thing.  But nope, this encompasses even the little every day, ordinary aches and pains of life.  Aching joints, disappointments, even the annoying dog that won’t quit barking.  All the big and little things in life we suffer through.

And these produce endurance, or patience.  That’s a word that doesn’t have an adequate English equivalent, but it’s something like “determined, passionate patience.”  It says, “I can take this because I know what’s coming.”  And what is coming? Character!

But character means more than you think.  This word carries a military sense with it; that you have faced the enemy and been found faithful and trustworthy.  What character is really referring to is that when the crunch of suffering comes Jesus has been seen in you; that you have depended on him and his faithful and trustworthy character has shone through.

And that produces hope.  Hope, or confidence, that one day you will live fully in the same intimate, dependent relationship with Jesus that Jesus does with the Father.  But for all this to happen we need to go back to verse 1 and 2.  Do you have “peace with God?”  Are you “standing in that grace?”  It all begins there by faith through Jesus.

Once begun this process of building character is intended to take over every moment of your life.  Think of how much more significant each day would be if you approached all types of discomfort and disappointment as an opportunity to know and experience the glory of God?  This goes way beyond just the power of positive thinking.  It is literally encountering the power and glory of God himself.  Maybe Paul wasn’t irrational to say “we rejoice in sufferings.”