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You can’t handle the tooth!

Our bodies are wonderfully and fearfully made.  They are self-healing, growing, adapting machines; the likes of which no human invention will ever come close to!  God made our bodies wonderful, but still temporary and with some limitations.

10 years ago, I had the displeasure of cracking a tooth via another tooth.  I had apparently been grinding my teeth due to stress and damaged a molar. I received a root canal, and two days later was on a 14 hour flight for a previously planned trip. No pain killers. Not pleasant.

Recently my crown fell off.  Before getting it glued back on permanently, I decided to see a specialist about my tooth, as it had been giving me pain off and on for several years. The specialist noted that the root canal was in bad shape – the tooth, canals, the bone, and pockets around the root showed signs of infection. He recommended a re-treatment of the root canal, though there was no guarantee it would remove all infection permanently, but upon much counsel and a variety of factors, I decided that I will have the stinker removed.

This is not a rant about what the bible says about dental care, and while I have learned some dangers of root canals, I mean not to broach that topic.  (Asking two people their advise would render 3 answers anyway…) Instead through this ordeal, I tried to see if there were any spiritual analogies.

My tooth, and most of the roots that once held it in place are dead. Synthetic goo is holding what remains of my natural tooth in place while a crown is glued on top. What was once a living member of my body is no longer functioning as it was meant to.

So the question I ask today to myself, and to you, is this:
What dead things in my life stand in the way of abundant life? 

Do we hold on for dear life to the things that are dead in our life? Squeeze to death things which have no life?

Jesus said of himself, “I am the way, the truth, the Life” and yet if we’re honest with ourselves we can see things in our lives that do not produce positive fruit, or any fruit at all.

These “things” might be activities, possessions, words, media, focus, and actions that are not glaringly “wrong,” (not murder, stealing) yet are not the types of things that lead us to life.

Watching TV is not inherently wrong. Watching seven hours of TV a day while we don’t spend one moment in God’s word? That is a problem.

Perhaps an exit checklist I should be using when gauging what should stay or go in my life is:

  1. Does it bear negative or no fruit?
  2. Does it help us fit synergistically into the body of Christ?
    Then:
  3.  Does it need to be amputated?

Does it bear any fruit?

We read in Matt 7:19 that “every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

We may think that simply not bearing bad fruit is good enough, yet in John 15 we see a different story. In John 15 verse 2, we see that simply bearing no fruit is not good enough.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

God does not take kindly to us being stagnant.  Going back to the analogy of the body – why would we put in effort to support and maintain a member of our body that won’t ever do anything? It seems a lot of effort for nothing.  Likewise, why would God want children in His Kingdom who do not bear any fruit at all? Why would we maintain things in our lives, things that we cherished before we became a new creation in Christ, that have no life in them?

Even neutrality is an enemy of progress.  Revelation warns of the danger of being lukewarm, noting that “hot or cold” is preferable.  Perhaps that’s why Paul was chosen for his important role in the church – it is much easier to change directions of a moving train than to get it started.  Paul had fruits, though they were misguided and against the church, but Christ was able to steer him in a different direction without a loss of momentum.  We need to bear fruit, and that fruit must be good.  While we’re not saved by our own works, its clear that we will be held accountable for the fruit we bear.

Does it help us to fit neatly into the body?

Eph 4:16 is a familiar passage showing how the body of Christ should work together like cogs in a machine – with every part serving a purpose for the greater synergistic whole.

From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

A dead member of the body, or dead works in our life, can be compared to a tooth with rotting roots. It may look shiny on the outside, but bring nothing to the table.

The body is made up of many members, and if one is not up to snuff, the other members can share the load, but this is not meant to be a permanent situation!  After a while, the dead cog in the machine will start to wear down the surrounding parts.

Does it need to be amputated?

Matt 5:29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

This seems like one of the greatest “overstatements” in the bible. Cutting off a part of the body on the chance it could cause us to sin? Yet, we know that God doesn’t mess around with sin.

In my tooth situation, it may seem a stretch to apply this to a tooth, yet my infected root canal is causing harm to my body, and until the source of the infection is completely removed, there is always a chance it will come back.

When any part of our body dies, we cut it off, so the “deadness” doesn’t spread. Infection, disease, and other issues arise from a dead member.  As is the case with many physical issues, there is a spiritual parallel.

What spiritual infections may result from keeping things in our lives that have no life in them?

Keeping these things around can be a distraction, or they could cause infection that spreads to the healthy parts of our life! Hence the need for amputation for the greater good!

Men and brethren, what shall we do?

It is very easy to think we’re doing alright simply avoiding breaking the commandments, yet we’re called to an even higher standard of bearing positive fruit, and removing the things that do not.  It is easy to think we’re alright because we avoid murder and grand theft, but there is more expected of us than just passing with a “C” grade.

Take a look at individual things in your life, and ask:

  • Does it bear any fruit?
  • Does it help me fit into the body?
  • Does it need to be amputated?

Let us remove anything “dead” standing in the way of life.

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Personal Responsibility

I heard a funny story of an old married couple talking in the car after eating out:

Wife: “Oh bother, I left my sunglasses on the table…”
Husband: “How could you forget your glasses at the restaurant?”
Wife: “Sorry…”
Husband: *sigh* “Let’s go get it… you are so irresponsible!”
Wife: “I am sorry!”
Husband: “While you’re in there pick up my credit card and hat”

Do we have a double standard when it comes to responsibility?
What does it mean to have personal responsibility?
How do we respond to things that happen?

Responsibility is a duty and a job. We have a duty to respond to life circumstances in a proper Godly way. Am I taking responsibility for the quality/direction/outcome of my life? The lives of family members?

Personal responsibility is a choice. Adam and Eve did not hold to this standard: God expected them to take personal responsibility but they failed and could not have imagined the consequences of their actions.

“Mom – my teacher said I was the most responsible in the class!”
“Wonderful! But wait… what did she actually say to you?”
“The class was in chaos all day, and she always told me I was responsible!”

Responsibility is the foundation of our identity.
Deut 30:11,15,20 – you’ve got to make the choice.

You can know people, families, and groups by what they do and the choices they make. Israel lost their identity by making the wrong choices.

We tend to hide from our wrong choices, but we ARE accountable and need to take personal responsibility. When we hide from responsibility, it takes several forms: forever students, living in parent’s basement for life, never counting the cost and moving forward in life, etc…

Do we really believe we can do all things through Christ’s strength? Perfect love casts out fear, but we fear ALL the time!  We see ourselves and others always trying to justify our stagnation: “I am the way I am because of ____” [passing the blame]

In group situations, you can clearly see the diffusion of responsibility quite often. [i.e. news stories of nobody helping a trampled man in NYC, because it’s always someone else’s responsibility]

“O, do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks! Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle. But you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God.” – Phillips Brooks

Sometimes we are tempted to cry out, “stop the world, I want to get off!” Life can be depressing, difficult, and often times we just want to quit, run away, or escape. We try to immerse ourselves in various vices to distract ourselves: TV, shopping, drugs, video games, etc… We escape any responsibility for our lives, and sit in misery as our willpower to change dwindles.

We fantasize about differing life circumstances, believing that things would automagically change:

“If [circumstance] would change, then I’d be happy”
“If I could find a spouse, then I’d be happy”

If we’re not happy now, circumstances won’t change that! The time is NOW to take personal responsibility and change your attitude and perspective on it. Our identity is found in Christ, so circumstances cannot dictate who we are!

“But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” Gal 6:4

This is not an admonition to be overly prideful, but to take stock of yourself, and accept the responsibilities that are our own, along with acknowledging that you are fearfully and wonderfully made with a purpose only you can fulfill.

How often do we feel sorry for ourselves? Does that affect our identity?
What determines my feelings when bad things/feelings happen?
Do I allow a way of thinking or a label to dictate actions?
How easily can we harbor guilt or grudges?
How easy to admit we’re wrong?

“If I could kick the person in the butt who is responsible the most for my troubles, I wouldn’t be able to sit for one week” – Teddy Roosevelt

Do we glorify God in our bodies/vessels/temples?
Do we give God glory for all good in our lives?

“…As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh 24:15) Following God’s laws fulfills our responsibility to God and man. In so doing we love God; love man, and thus fulfill our personal responsibility to ourselves.

We can determine the direction in our lives for better or worse. Now is the time to reorganize goals, and cease hiding behind masks in our life! Choose to put on the new man! Take the responsibility to put away our old self and put on the mind of Christ. (Eph 4:22 – 5:2)

Let our works speak life; this is our responsibility to others. Let us put away the old man; this is our responsibility to God and ourselves.

Let us take control, get the help we need, and give it all to God. Be accountable to God, to ourselves, and to others, and live and abundant life!

B.U.S.Y.

“Oh sorry, I meant to get ahold of you, but I’ve been really busy!” “Hey, I wanted to do that, but I’ve just been so busy.” Have you ever used this excuse? Why are we always so busy?

busyI live in America. It’s the wealthiest nation on the planet (for the time being). Keeping in mind the old saying “Time is money,” think about how rich Americans really are. Compared to many developing countries, America is rather poor in its “time” reserves. No one seems to have enough! 

Why are so many of us so busy, and what can we do about it?

Despite the desire for time to relax and reflect, many are tangled in hectic schedules that suck up their time like an industrial-strength vacuum! Rushing to make appointments, meetings or sports practice, we should ponder how we can change our lives to have time to think.

Something works against our desire to find that kind of time. But there are positive steps we can take. Both the negative and the positive can be represented by using the word “busy” as an acronym, each letter standing for another word.

Brought—Under—Satan’s—Yoke

Here is the root of the problem. There is a devil. His name Satan means “adversary.” This powerful spirit being is evil and cunning, and he hates us. (See our Bible study aid Is There Really a Devil? to learn more.)

Satan knows that if he can’t get us to actually reject God and His laws, then he can prevent us from having a close and active relationship with our Creator by keeping us super busy!

We give in too easily, and thus we have “no time” to seek God. But strangely enough we find the time to check Facebook, e-mail, watch movies, hang out, travel and read novels.

So let’s move on to the positive—a way to save our time going forward.

Breathe—Understand—Simplify—Yearn

Breathe! It’s impossible to create extra time in the day! Trust me, I’ve tried! Spending some time in Africa I noticed the cultural difference in terms of time management priorities: Relationships came first, then deadlines and punctuality. While there needs to be a balance, it was interesting to note that life didn’t have to be as crazy busy or stressful as mine was in America!

Sometimes at work I literally have to remind myself to breathe. This is not how God planned things! Our bodies were not meant to be constantly this busy. Take time to step back from stress and breathe!

Understand God’s plan. Sounds daunting, yet young people need to seek God wholeheartedly! “ Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them ‘” (Ecclesiastes 12:1
, emphasis added).

Understanding God’s ways and seeking Him first will help us to have the right perspective on life. Obeying God brings us into His time rhythm, which greatly revolves around the seventh day of the week—the Sabbath—as a rest day. Faithfully taking that day off to vertically orient ourselves toward God greatly refreshes our lives and shields us from the devil’s influence.

Simplify your life. In an age of distractions, we are far too easily influenced by society’s norms and trends. Video gaming, hyper-social networking and television add to the cloud of devices, events and activities that steal our precious time. The tempting but trivial smorgasbord of distractions leads us away from the more important things in life.

Several years ago I began a life without cable television—a big step for me! Next I freed more time by nixing my Internet movie service. These things aren’t always bad, but they can become our go-to activities when we have an ounce of free time. What is there in your life making you unnecessarily busy and keeping you from connecting with God and family?

Yearn for the right things. Ask God to help you focus. We make time for what’s important to us, so it’s important to have the right things be important! “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalms 90:12
, New International Version, 1984). After a long day of work, my heart yearns to play video games to relax, but wisdom reminds me to find something more fulfilling to do instead, including reading the Bible a little and praying a while to God.

Time offering

These steps can help us to reprioritize our lives. However, you might think that your priorities are fine; I did. But Jesus Christ wants us to make Him and His way of life our top priority, to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is [our] reasonable service” (Romans 12:1
).

Today we typically think of sacrifices and offerings in financial terms, showing that God is more important than our money. Yet our time is extremely important to God as well. Instead of being so busy with everything else, our great Creator wants us to be living sacrifices by giving Him the right amount of our time.

We are busy today—possibly busier than at any time in history. Satan the devil will constantly try to consume our time to distract us away from God. But you can take steps to use time wisely. What will B.U.S.Y. stand for in your life?

[originally published10/20/2012]