The United States enjoys what is largely a free-market economy. Those entering and competing in the free-market economy vie for the attention of the consumer and do so, in part, with slogans or catchphrases designed to capture the attention. We hear or see examples of these slogans constantly on the radio, TV, and even in print magazines. One slogan that comes to mind is from Porsche. Summarized, the idea behind the slogan for Porsche is that this brand of car is so wonderful that there can be no substitute. If you want to drive a nice vehicle, it must be a Porsche.
When working with couples in premarital counseling, we study a range of topics germane to wedding and marriage, such as finances, children, in-laws, chores in the home, expectations, and the like. Our first session appropriately addresses related spiritual topics. The three I normally stress are God’s design for marriage, raising children in a Christian home, and roles within marriage. When discussing roles within marriage, the couple and I explore Ephesians 5:22–33.
In this psalm, after the Israelites had been exiled in Babylon for seventy years, we see God’s restoration of His people—not merely restoration from exile but foreshadowing our spiritual restoration in Jesus’ death and resurrection, as well as the total restoration to come at Christ’s return.
When I was eleven years old and in sixth grade, my mom took me to an informational meeting at church regarding Boy Scouts of America. Attendees discussed the idea of organizing, or I should say reorganizing, a troop. The organization came to fruition, and I was blessed to take part until my eighteenth birthday, when I completed my Eagle Scout rank. My scout leaders taught me a great deal regarding citizenship, the outdoors, manhood, self-reliance, responsibility, and more.
With the onset of autumn comes the end of summer work at our house. One of our summer projects each year is growing tomatoes. We make every effort to create the ideal growing environment for them. We purchase large animal watering troughs that we fill with high-quality soil, water daily, fertilize, and trim off any dead fruit or branches. Nevertheless, we struggle with all the things that can go wrong with tomato crops: early blight, late blight, cat’s face, splitting, and the like. Despite all our efforts, the plants usually produce less than we desire.
During nearly thirty years of professional church work, I have often wondered which sin is most damaging to the local congregation. In my experience, it is not disregard for worship and Bible study, arguments over money, lack of unity regarding mission and ministry, lack of forgiveness, theft, or even adultery. In my experience, the single sin which most damages congregations is mismanagement of conflict between brothers and sisters in the faith. There are numerous reasons. Foremost, this mismanagement destroys trust, which damages relationships. But it also breeds gossip and character assassination, which can lead to loss of good reputation and even loss of employment. Mismanagement of conflict blurs the facts and leaves the conflict unresolved. Such unresolved conflicts are infected wounds in the Body of Christ. Let’s look at what Jesus has to say.
Telling nice people things they don’t want to hear is an unavoidable part of being a faithful pastor. On one occasion, a pleasant couple from the neighborhood came to my office. The husband and wife wanted to know my opinion of ghosts and spirits.
It seems the land on which our house is built is the perfect breeding ground for thistles, a particular type of weed that is painfully prickly and extremely difficult to remove. No matter how many plants my wife and I remove, there are always more. Related to this month’s reading from Matthew, the parable of the sower, these thistles can grow abundantly regardless of the location or quality of the soil.
A quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin regarding taxes is “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I have yet to encounter anyone who is pleased to pay taxes. What is more, were one to survey every taxpayer in the United States, such an effort would produce an endless variety of opinions on how much taxation is appropriate and what are legitimate uses of tax dollars. Matthew, a tax collector, lived under the disdain of those from whom he collected taxes.
Having just passed my fiftieth birthday, I am well into adulthood. I noticed several years ago that I not only look but also behave like my father. My hands are an excellent example. The shape of my fingers resembles his, as do my fingernails and wrinkles. Even more interesting is that when driving, I place my hands on the steering wheel in the same places he did. This happened naturally since he was deceased before I learned to drive. There are a myriad of other examples in both appearance and behavior. The point is that beyond my birth certificate, there is evidence that I am my father’s son.