John T. Willis

Friday, December 28, 2007

Gluttons and Drunkards

In Holiday vacation times in the United States, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Easter, many people typically "over-eat" and "over-drink." These behaviors are a daily problem for millions. Doctors and counselors [and many in the general public] think of and refer to these practices as "diseases," so as not to offend those who are addicted to food or drink and in order to give the impression that those who are "obese" or are "addicted to alcohol" suffer from a "condition" over which they have no control, about which they can do nothing to change their lifestyle, and for which they are not responsible.

According to the Bible, gluttony and drunkenness are "spiritual" problems that bring reproach on God the Creator, harm others whom God's people should love and help, and injure the participant's own physical health, influence, and self-control. God does not divide an individual into compartments or categories, such as physical, moral, social, political, recreational, mental, and religious. On the contrary, God created and sustains a "whole person." To think, say, or do things which dishonor God, hurt others or demean oneself is sin--a word which modern humans try to avoid at all costs in any way they can. But still, it is sin. There are some important truths about gluttony and drunkenness which deserve serious consideration.

1. It is ironic, but true, that those who are "obese" are often outspoken about the "dangers" of alcoholism, and those who are "alcoholics" are often outspoken about the "dangers" of obesity. Interestingly, several times the Bible speaks of gluttony and drunkenness in the same passage in such a way that it is clear that both of these practices are displeasing to God for essentially the same reasons. Proverbs 23:20-21 is one example:
"Do not be among winebibbers,
or among gluttonous eaters of meat;
for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
and drowsiness will clothe them with rags."
(See also Deuteronomy 21:20; Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34).
Over-eating and over-drinking prevent one from attaining the maximum potential for which God created that individual.

2. Gluttony and drunkenness are symptoms of a much deeper "spiritual" problem which also produces adultery and laziness: ingratitude. God gives humans the gifts of sex, creativity, food, and drink, as well as abilities to engage in sex, work to support a family and to improve society, eat, and drink. God's intention is that a human use each of these for the purposes for which God designed each gift. Sexual activity is a beautiful behavior between one man and one woman who are married to each other. But one abuses God's gift of sex if a man or a woman has sex with more than one living member of the opposite sex. Similarly, God created food for a person to eat in order to maintain good health. But one abuses God's gift if that person eats too much or too little. Whether it be sexual abuse or obesity or drunkenness or laziness, such practices indicate that the one engaging in them is not really thankful for God's blessings but is using them selfishly. Pride or self-centeredness or ingratitude is a human being's basic heart problem.

3. God intends for his people to be "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:13-16). They do this only when their lives are such that others can see they are seeking to honor God as Creator and Lord, to influence those around them to be like God (see Ephesians 5:1-2), and to glorify God in their own bodies and minds and relationships (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

All of us are sinners. We need one another's prayers and help to let God transform us into the people he wants us to be. May God help us see our own shortcomings and needs, repent of each one, and strive daily to be more like Him.

John Willis


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Proverbs 15:20-25

The primary themes in Proverbs 15:20-25 are: (1) the contrast between wisdom and folly; (2) speech; and (3)the fate or destiny of those who practice certain behaviors.

15:20--A wise child makes a glad father,
but the foolish despise their mothers.

15:21--Folly is a joy to one who has no sense,
but a person of understanding walks straight ahead.

15:22--Without counsel, plans go wrong,
but with many advisers they succeed.

15:23--To make an apt answer is a joy to anyone,
and a word in season, how good it is.

15:24--For the wise the path of life leads upward,
in order to avoid Sheol below.

15:25--The Lord tears down the house of the proud,
but maintains the widow's boundaries.

Note briefly some of the great truths for daily living these proverbs teach:
1. Like Proverbs 10:1; 17:21, 25--so 15:20 stresses to children of any age what they can do to bring joy or sorrow to their parents. In the eyes of the world, a person's behavior reflects on his or her parents. This can be a great motivator for doing the right thing IF a person's parents are godly.
2. A fool reveals her or his folly to the world by living recklessly without restraint, blissfully unaware of the wrong she or he is doing and the harm it brings to others.
3. The key to success is careful planning, which involves consulting as many good and experienced people and sources as possible, and listening to the best advice. One would not think of going to a doctor who had not spent several years studying under successful older doctors and professors to learn the parts of the human body and how they function, the various kinds of diseases, and the proper treatment for each medical problem. Similarly, faith communities make a great mistake if they employ people to be ministers, pulpit preachers, missionaries, and the like who have not spent years studying the Bible, modern culture, effective communication, missions thought, and how the teachings of the Bible apply to contemporary society at home and abroad under older ministers, preachers, and professors who have been effective in ministry.
4. Many "major" in talking. Wherever they are, they love to talk. Such people are poor thinkers and poor listeners. Godly talk is brief, but says the right thing to the right person or persons are the right time.
5. The Bible often reminds us that there are two ways to live on earth [see Psalm 1]. The wise takes the "upward" path which leads closer and closer to God, even though it is more difficult and more demanding. By doing this, he or she avoids Sheol, which here refers to a life which takes spiritual vitality out of a person.
6. Those who are proud, arrogant, self-centered seek opportunities to take advantage of those who are defenseless: widows, orphans, aliens, the poor [see Exodus 22:22-24; Isaiah 1:10-17, 21-23; 10:1-2; Micah 3:9-12). But God loves those who suffer oppression, and thus intervenes to deliver them from the proud and to punish the proud (see Deuteronomy 10:12-18).

John Willis

Monday, December 24, 2007

God Continually Works Actively in His World

It is very easy to overlook great truths in the most familiar Biblical passages. One such passage is Jesus' teaching that his followers are to love their enemies in Matthew 5:43-48. Let us notice the reason Jesus gives to Christians for doing this in verses 43-45:

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, SO THAT YOU MAY BE CHILDREN OF YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN; FOR HE MAKES HIS SUN RISE ON THE EVIL AND ON THE GOOD, AND SENDS RAIN ON THE RIGHTEOUS AND ON THE UNRIGHTEOUS."

The argument Jesus gives here to persuade and motivate his disciples to love their enemies is that when they do this, they are imitating their Father in heaven. The assumption behind this argument is that good, obedient, loving children desire to and actually do imitate their parents.

But what does God do to love his enemies, as an example to his children [Jesus' followers] to love their enemies? Jesus names TWO specific things:
1. Some human opposes God by blaspheming God's name or disobeying one of God's commands or pretending to love God when he or she really does not or in some other way, and God ACTIVELY MAKES HIS SUN RISE ON THAT ENEMY OF HIS, thereby blessing that person who has ridiculed God.
2. Some human takes God's name in vain or denounces God for doing something that person does not like or the like, and God ACTIVELY SENDS RAIN ON THAT ENEMY OF HIS, thus empowering his or her crops to flourish and giving him or her a wonderful day.

But these two examples of Jesus "will not stand up in court," "cannot bear the heat of careful scrutiny," if God does not ACTIVELY WORK IN HIS WORLD--by causing the sun to rise each day and by sending rain.

Many Christians CLAIM the Bible is their authority for beliefs and practices and worship, but are VERY HESITANT to accept the Biblical teaching that God ACTIVELY WORKS IN HIS WORLD, even though Jesus Himself claims that His Father does.

John Willis

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christianity is All About Service: Paul

In his Epistles, The Apostle Paul repeatedly emphasizes that he is a servant of God, a slave of Jesus Christ. Whereas the churches he had established, and many Christians throughout the centuries, including millions of Christians living in the twenty-first century, exalt Paul as an "Apostle," a successful "Missionary," a "Leader" of the Christian movement in the first century, again and again Paul admonished his hearers and readers to think of him and refer to him as God's "servant." One passage which advocates this is 1 Corinthians 3:5-9:

"What then is Apollos? What is Paul? SERVANTS through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but GOD GAVE THE GROWTH. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but ONLY GOD WHO GIVES THE GROWTH. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. FOR WE ARE GOD'S SERVANTS, working together; you are God's field, God's building."

Eva Nicholson once wrote:
"A Christmas candle
is a lovely thing;
It makes no noise at all,
But softly gives itself away,
While, quite unselfish,
it grows small."

What a beautiful description of every true follower of God!!!

John Willis