Monday, June 25, 2012

Ask the Pastor: How do the Ten Commandments Apply Today? Part 8

Ask the Pastor: How do the Ten Commandments Apply Today?
Part 8: You Shall Not Steal

            Exodus 20:15 lays out a simple command that most Christians should have no problem obeying, right? Yet as our society becomes more and more corrupt, it seems that the moral conscience of professing believers has followed at an alarmingly close distance. No true follower of Christ would consider walking into a bank or store and stealing from the register.  No, that type of stealing is still considered heinous and wrong. But what if there are other ways that people today and stealing and violating God’s commands, including some Christians?
            Ways Americans are stealing and dishonoring God today. There are a number of practices that have become way too acceptable within our society today, and which even Christians are guilty of. Some of these are things that people don’t even think about as being stealing, but upon closer analysis definitely run contrary to God’s command against stealing (taking something that is not ours).

  • Taking office supplies home for personal use. Every year millions of dollars of pens, paper clips, copy paper, rubber bands, staples, and other office supplies make their way from the business which purchased them and to which they belong and into the homes of employees who use them for personal purposes. It amazes me that someone who would never dream of taking $10 out of the cash register at work has no problem taking $10 in office supplies home over a period of time. One can argue about this all day (they are insignificant in value, the company wont ever miss them, etc), but when it is boiled down, when someone takes something that belongs to someone else without consent it is stealing.
  •  Stealing cable or internet. What was once relegated only to the world of cable TV has now become increasingly popular with wireless internet connections. Don’t want to pay for TV? Just tap into someone else’s connect and run it into your house. Or, only want to pay for one hook up in your house, but actually get two? Do the same thing! Today there are those who don’t want to pay for internet, so access the web through their neighbor’s unsecured wireless network. What are all of these things? They are stealing from the company that provides the service. When there is an agreement between a company and a customer (one cable hook-up in a house, internet usage for one household only), and you take more, you are stealing money from that company- this is a violation of God’s moral law!
  • Using sick leave for vacation. This has reached epidemic levels in our society today. Joe wants to stay home from work but realizes that he has used all his vacation time. So, instead of fulfilling his obligation to his company, he calls in sick. He has just stolen 8 hours of time and money from his place of employment (and lied about it!). This is something that should never be named among God’s followers!
  • Taking payments under the table. This is rampant among certain industries in our culture today. It is simply accepted that if you can get paid in cash and not report it as income that you should. This goes back to the principle of authority in the life of the believer. Christians should never obey based on their opinion as to the validity of the rule, but rather based on the validity of the authority that made the rule! Yes, sometimes authorities make rules that Christians cannot obey because they come in conflict with scriptural teaching (the current debates surrounding healthcare laws are a good example). But scripture is the determiner of whether a rule is legitimate or not, not the person. It is our responsibility to obey and respect the authorities over us. It amazes me that as a pastor people would be horrified if I took half my pay as cash each month and only reported the half that was in my paychecks, but those same people wouldn’t have any problem with a waiter or waitress doing the exact same thing. Why? Because stealing money from the government as a waiter or waitress is cultural accepted while doing it as a pastor is not!
  • Pirating music, movies, and written resources. This became a big issues a few years ago, and continue to be one today. It is amazing how many Christians have no problem simply taking a CD or DVD that they like and burning copies of it to give to friends or worse, distribute to other people at church! CDs and DVDs are copyrighted for a reason, and ANY violation of that copyright without written permission from the owner is stealing from that company! In many churches this has moved into the areas of sheet music and written resources as well. As Christians, this is an area in which we must show the culture that we are different!
                        There is a multitude of other ways that we steal. Goofing off at work, showing up late and leaving early, taking long lunches or coffee breaks all take money out of our employer’s pockets. Lying on income tax forms in order to get a larger refund is stealing. Students who cheat on exams are stealing grades that are not truly theirs and that they did not work to obtain. 

            If it is so bad, who do we blame? While we can make a lot of excuses as to why we steal (more on that in a minute), the blame for the lack of character that causes someone to steal and then make excuses for it lies squarely on the shoulders of the American family. Parents can’t just teach their children integrity, it has to be demonstrated. The story is told of the girl who was punished for taking a toy from another child and was sent to the bathroom to clean her face, after which she dried her tears with the towel her parents had stolen from the Holiday Inn. What is that girl learning? You need to wait until you’re older before taking things that don’t belong to you! Parents, we must model for our children genuine lives of integrity AND teach them the biblical principles that apply in this area!

            So, why do so many people steal? There are a plethora of reasons, but I’ll point out a few. First, in many areas people simply don’t know and apply the Word of God to real life. They know that God’s Word says not to steal, but they never meditate on what that actually looks like and how it should permeate their lives. Second, some have fallen under the illusion that stealing is only wrong if you get caught. The problem is, God is always watching, and He will deal out consequences as He sees fit, both in this life and the life to come. Third, some steal because they can. I love the storyline of the movie “Flywheel,” made by Sherwood Baptist Church (the same church that made “Fireproof,” “Facing the Giants,” and “Courageous”). The main character rips people off as a used car salesman and believes that simply because he can get the prices that he gets that he is justified in doing so. He eventually comes to the realization that this is not an attitude that God will ever bless because it runs contrary to the Word of God. There are many other reasons people take what is not theirs (I deserve it, I can’t help it, I’m jealous, etc). At the end of the day, there is no excuse before God for taking something that does not belong to us!
             What about stealing from God? How do people today steal from God? Well, unbelievers steal from God every day that they live while not giving Him the glory that is due to Him. But what about Christians? Do we actually steal from God at times? Oh yeah! Malachi 3 lays out a situation in which God confronts Israel for not giving Him the tithes and offerings that He required. They were stealing from Him. Believers do the same thing. Christians steal from God when they: refuse to honor His day and set times aside to worship Him, refuse to spend time with Him on a daily basis in both His Word and prayer, when they call themselves Christians but refuse to live up to the name that they bear. All of these (in addition to others) steal from God things that belong to Him. 

            So, what do we do? I’d encourage you to analyze your life. Are you taking things that aren’t yours in any area? Are you robbing God? An employer? Your family? Allow the Holy Spirit to gently prod you in areas that you might be violating God’s Law in. Repent of them, make restitution where necessary (this is a hard step, but is absolutely mandatory if you want to experience God’s blessing), then make the needed corrections in your life to live in accordance with God’s will. Learn His Word and develop your prayer life so that you are more sensitive to His leading. Be actively involved in a faithful local church so that you are maximizing the positive influence of godly believers in your life and minimizing the world’s influence, as well as giving God the time that He deserves from us as our Lord, Savior, and Creator. Give Him the glory with your life and strive to be more like the One whose name we bear!

I’d love to interact on this subject or any others through this blog (by leaving a comment below) or my email: God Bless!!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Resting in Him

"If you're worried, and you can't sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep."

I love that, can you almost hear Bing Crosby in "A White Christmas" crooning away? 

There's a lot of truth to that, you know. I find that what often keeps me up at night is exactly the opposite.  I am recounting events of the day (should I have said that?) or even worse worrying about the future (as if I could change it).

And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? Mt. 6:27 NASB

See, it doesn't do any good to worry, but often I think that somehow it will.  Maybe I can think of a way to change my circumstances, I think.

And why are you worried about clothing?  Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!  Mt. 6:28-30 NASB

Comforting words of Christ Himself, wouldn't you say.  God will take care of us.  I can leave it all in His very capable hands.

So when that anxiety creeps back up on you and you are laying in bed staring at the alarm clock telling you it is only 3 a.m. - do you just start "counting your blessings" like reciting some magic spell?  Well, yes and no.  You can start doing that (and certainly we are to be thankful people), but what happens when you run full circle and your problems are staring you back in the face.  

This is when you rest on your view of God. 

Think about it.  What you think of God will shape your beliefs which will guide your actions.  This is the time to remember that He is in control.  He loves us with an incredible love.  He forgives us when we come to Him in repentance (yeah, He forgives it ALL).  Mark these passages in your Bible that tell about the character of our God.  Get to know Him in prayer and through the truth only found in His Word. 

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  
Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, 
and you will find rest for your souls. 
 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Mt. 11:28-30 NASB

Rest is not truly all we are after, is it?  We long for the "rest for your souls" that Jesus has offered.  And it is ours for the taking.  The Christian life was not meant to be a heavy burden.  Christ has offered to sustain us through whatever trial may be keeping us up at night.  Will you trust Him with it?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Book Review: The Girl's Still Got It

 The Girl's Still Got It: Take a Walk with Ruth and the God Who Rocked Her World

Liz Curtis Higgs' newest book The Girl's Still Got It is an in-depth look at the book of Ruth allowing you to experience the story as if you were right there in Bible times with Ruth and Naomi.  Higgs has obviously done an incredible amount of research, but writes in a style that invites you to sit down at her kitchen table and chat like old friends.  From late teenagers to senior saints, everyone will benefit from this easy to read look at this beautiful narrative that many of us have already come to love.

The book contains 12 chapters with thought-provoking study questions found in the back.  Higgs moves verse-by-verse through the book of Ruth without making you feel like you are reading a commentary.  I know I have read Ruth numerous times, and yet I still learned a lot (as far as the details of the story go).  But more than that.  I was challenged by God's Word (explained so well by a gifted teacher) to trust in God's sovereignty. 

You can find out more about the author at her website here.  Or if you just want to read the first chapter to see for yourself (trust me, I was hooked right away) then go here.

5 out of 5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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