Monday, January 22, 2007

The Trouble with Brothers

I read the Bible through each year.  It is a wonderful way to gain God's perspective on life.  I highly recommend it for anyone.  What I do not recommend is reading the Bible like a novel.  Read it intelligently by reading a couple of chapters from the Old Testament and a chapter or so in the New Testament each day.  In a year you will have read the entire Bible.  Our church website has a daily Bible reading plan ( 

Last week,  during my reading, a couple of passages came into amazing focus for me.  In Genesis 37, Joseph's brothers were fully involved with a three alarm jealous hatred for their younger and more favored brother.  So when he came with his multicolored coat and his account of yet another dream, they reached the end of their rope.  Gen. 37:19 -20 states that when he appeared, they said to each other, "Here comes that dreamer!" Come now, let's kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we'll see what comes of his dreams."

The cruelty of these men toward their brother is hard to imagine even in our world where cruelty is displayed daily in high definition clarity.  They threw Joseph into a pit and sat around eating, drinking, and talking about killing him.  All the while, their  younger brother cried, moaned and pleaded.  Their hearts had grown so hard toward him that his suffering became inconsequential.  In the morning,  a caravan of Midian traders on their way to Egypt passed by.  One brother, maybe less blood thirsty or more fearful of God, convinced the others to sell Joseph for eight ounces of silver.  Currently, silver is trading at about $12 and ounce.  Life and brotherhood can be cheap.

I then turned to the New Testament and found myself in Matthew, chapter twelve.  Jesus was in a synagogue with a hostile group of religious leaders who were all about entrapment.  They were combing through Jesus' words looking for any reason to discredit or destroy Him. John spoke of these men in John chapter one, verse eleven, when he said,   "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him (NKJV).  These religious leaders found a man in the congregation with an arm that was either defective from birth or badly damaged in an accident.  They asked Jesus if it would be lawful to heal him on the Sabbath.  Jesus replied; “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? (NKJV). 

The light came on in my head.  I saw a similarity between Joseph's brothers sitting around a pit and these religious leaders sitting around a different kind of pit.  Joseph's brothers had no compassion for him.  These leaders had no compassion for the man with the withered arm.  Both passages deal with the value of people verses possessions.  The trouble with brothers is that often the people who should care do not do so.  Well, they care, but the problem is that they care about the wrong things.  Jesus came to do many things, not the least of which was to challenge our status quo in life; to make us realize that people matter more than things.  How easy it is to allow priorities to get out of perspective. 

Matthew then quoted Isaiah in describing the characteristics of the coming Messiah.  "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory."  The trouble with brothers is that we are all too human.  The religious-type or the family-type or even the near neighbor do not value people for very long.  We can treat people like material things, like reeds and candles, but when they are bruised, we find it quicker and easier to break them off and cast them aside.  When they are already on the smoldering end of their career, we find it more expedient to snuff them out.  Jesus is just the opposite.  He gently strengthens the bruised reed.  He cups his hands around the smoldering wick and softly blows new wind, and a fresh fire once again emerges.  No wonder Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Ed Litton

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Jesus Hates Clutter

At the beginning of the New Year, there are plenty of tips in magazines to help you with your resolutions.  Weight loss tips abound, but it now seems that there is a lot of information on helping you to organize your workspace and get rid of clutter in your life.   True anti-clutter freaks pride themselves on having open, clean, and organized lives.  It is rare to find two married people who both hate clutter.  Usually one is as neat and clean as like Felix Unger of the Odd Couple, while the other is like Oscar Madison. 

I have come to the conclusion that Jesus is a bona fide clutter-hater.  Now, I do not like to identify Jesus with the word hate, although we know God hates sin.  I think I stand on solid ground to suggest that Jesus hates clutter.  In the opening chapters of his gospel, John relates a story that proves my point.  Notice as you read this passage that Jesus is very politically incorrect.  He exhibits anger (righteous anger), he violates several peoples’ personal space, he makes judgments, and actually throws people out of a religious place.

John 2:14-17   In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep
and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15  So he
made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both
sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and
overturned their tables. 16   To those who sold doves he said, “Get
these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!
17   His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house
will consume me.”

Jesus clearly despises the religious clutter that accumulates in our lives
and churches.  He found His Father's house filled with people who
were making a financial killing selling sacrifices to out-of-towners and to  frankly lazy worshippers.  This sale of sacrifices destroys the very concept of a personal sacrifice to the Lord. We also see that there were money changers.  Anyone who has ever traveled out of this country knows that if you exchange money, you stand a good chance of being cheated.  The same was true then.  There was a third, grievous action taking place daily in God's temple.  It seems that because the temple was the center of life in Jerusalem, working people carrying burdens and heavy loads had to maneuver around the Temple area.   Someone relaxed the rules and maybe for a small fee allowed them to save time and carry their loads right through the Temple area.  Jesus was outraged.  Zeal for the house of God consumed Him.

Zeal for His Father's House still consumes Jesus.  It no doubt grieves the LORD when His church places things, even good things, in the way of people meeting God.  2007 is a great time to get organized, uncluttered and start taking worship seriously.

Let me make a few simple suggestions:
1. Get ready for church on Saturday.  Prepare clothes and meals, and make a plan for how the LORD's day will be spent.
2. Arrive at church on time.  Be ready and anticipate that Jesus will be there.
3. Come ready to be used to encourage, admonish, lift up and share what God is doing in your life to be a blessing to others.
4. Don't come to church alone.  Pray, invite and let God use your influence for His glory.

Let’s be like John the Baptist, another clutter-hater.  Matthew 3:3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:  "A voice of one calling in the desert,  'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.' "

Ed Litton