Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Talking Dead

Two things in life are undisputed certainties:
  • Everyone dies
  • Death is forever

Everyone dies, and death is forever.  How shall we then live?

If there is no God, then one can choose to either live for himself (carpe diem; eat, drink and be merry), or he can choose to live so that the world is a better place, or live to be remembered, etc. 

But if there is a God and He is going to put us someplace forever or raise us again … we should live for Him, according to His word. 

Wouldn't it be nice if we could speak to someone who is already dead?  If we knew for sure, we could live accordingly.  But God wants us to live by faith, not by sight. 

It seems like if we could be like Scrooge and hear from an old friend now dead, the warning or encouragement would be really great.  As it turns out, we sort of have that in the bible.

Jesus told us a story that gives us some great clues, and he gave us some insight into what someone might want to tell us from beyond the grave. 

I have paraphrased this story and put it below, for your consideration.  I expect to write more about this in weeks to come, so I hope you’ll read this story now – and read it daily for the next week or two.  Pray on it, and ask God to reveal truth to you.  He will, if you seek it/Him, but you gotta be persistent.  

This week I’d like you to consider the rich man’s warning from the grave.  See that he wasn't a generous person in life, and see what becomes of him and what he aches to say to his family, but it’s too late. 

I suppose we all know someone who died.  If Jesus’ story tells us the truth about the afterlife, then those who have died are either in paradise or torment right now.  And no matter where they are, if they could come speak to you, what would they say? 

  • Would the dead tell you to spend lots of time enjoying silly things? 
  • Would they encourage you to be more shallow, more concerned about your appearance, seeing the latest movies, the latest posts on social media? 
  • Would they say you should make a real effort to be more generous, more forgiving, more loving? 
  • Should you actually work to be stronger, resist temptation and devote your life to God, or should you spend your time begging forgiveness while barely putting forth any effort to make God smile? 
  • Should you live according to the rules of a religion or church, or should you live according to what you think is right, or should you live according to the bible?

It matters how you live the rest of your life.  Let Jesus’ story below encourage you to hear the voice of the talking dead.  What would they be telling you about the kind of life you should be living? 

Now consider this story, and keep in mind the things that matter and the things that don’t, and challenge yourself.  Did their family life matter?  Relationships with others?  Church attendance?  What really made the difference, and what message would each speak from the grave … to YOU?

While you remember that everyone dies, and death is forever, and learn the wisdom of this story, and apply it to your daily life:

There was a well-dressed, stylish rich guy who was happy, and lived the good life. 

Also there was a guy named Lazarus who was poor, sick and starving to death; he was so poor and sick he had disgusting skin sores that dogs would lick.  Since he couldn’t move himself, others would lay him near the rich guy’s house to beg for scraps.  But poor Lazarus was so gross he was hard to even look at, much less help.

Eventually they both died.  Angels carried Lazarus’ soul to Paradise, but the rich man went to torment.  When the rich guy looked up he saw God - far away - and Lazarus was with Him in Paradise. 

The rich guy cried out,
‘God, have mercy!  Please send Lazarus to bring me a drop of water just to cool my tongue, ‘cause I’m in agony in this flaming fire!’
God replied,
‘Son, remember that during your life you had it good, and Lazarus was miserable.  But now he’s being comforted here, and you’re in agonizing pain. And besides – you can see there’s a huge, bottomless canyon between us and you – impossible to cross.’
Next he pleaded,  
‘Then I beg You, Father: send him to my family to warn them, so they won’t also come to this place of torment.’
God said,
‘They have bibles, let them study them.’
Then he argued,
‘No, God - if someone goes to them from the dead, they’ll change their ways!’
God concluded by saying,
‘If they won’t listen to Me through My word, then a ghost won’t convince them.’”

Luke 16:19-31 (KPV)

Will you listen to the voice of the talking dead? 
Will you take steps to improve?  If so, what will you actually do?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Death of the Ignorant

It is appointed for men to die; and after this comes judgment
(Hebrews 9:27)

Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience…?
Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
Who will render to each person according to his deeds:
  • To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality: eternal life
  • But to those who are selfishly ambitious & don’t obey the truth:wrath and indignation.

There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil …
- but -
…glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good…. 

For there is no partiality with God.
(Romans 2:4–11)

We disciples know that everyone will stand before the throne of God one day and He will judge.  Everyone dies, that’s a fact.  People disagree about what happens next; but those of us who believe the bible is true must accept the fact that at some point after we die, we will be judged by God. 

The wise person will live a life of preparation for the day on which his or her eternity will be determined.  But most people are not so wise.  Most of us live for reasons other than for the day of decision.  Some live for themselves, or their families or their church or political views.  Some just want to have fun.  Others want to be respected, cute, funny, powerful, rich or other things. 

One of the great tragedies is the abundance of ignorant, divided Christians today, who split themselves into groups and imagine some are “saved,” and some are “lost,” and then they debate the means of reckoning. 

Here is a brief, and simple guide to the most important things we need to know about Judgment Day and The Judge Himself.  Entire books have been written on each topic, but I want this article to be short.  Also, I know that the readers here will either:
  • Accept these words and act on them, or
  • Accept them and fail to act, or
  • Be tempted to debate. 
Whatever option you choose, I know that answering all objections won’t change minds, so I’ll make this brief.  You would do well to accept these words … and ACT on them. 

Judgment Day

We will be judged according to our deeds

Much of the western Christian world is divided between views of “works” and “grace.”  That’s too bad, because the scriptures don’t consider them mutually exclusive.  In fact, if you read the passage from Romans above, you’ll see they’re connected.  If you go back to near the end of Romans 1, you see that Paul is writing about disobedient people, but then he turns to the church and says that if they (the church) judge these people, they need to be careful themselves.  Then he writes about “taking lightly” God’s grace.  And then he talks about us being judged according to our deeds. 

The fact is that we will be judged according to our deeds, actions or works.  Not one single New Testament passages says otherwise. 

Many (maybe most) who call themselves Christians will be condemned

These passages are two of many.  Take them deeply into your heart:

“Not everyone who calls me Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven,
-          but -
…he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?’
And then I will declare to them,
‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’
(Matthew 7:21–23)

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.
(1 Corinthians 10:12)

Many who never accepted Jesus as their Lord will be approved  

There are many examples of those who are not God’s children being accepted by God.  Bathsheba’s first husband was a Hittite, it was a Syrian who God cleansed of leprosy, and a Gentile woman whose daughter was purged of an evil spirit.  Even the famous Ruth (ancestor of David, Solomon and Jesus) was a gentile.  And of course the thief on the cross was no disciple and did nothing to be saved but ask for it.  Quoting again from the passage above:

When Gentiles (who do not have the Law) do instinctively the things of the Law, these … are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”  
(Romans 2:14–16)

These three facts about judgment make sense, if you think about it.  Should God refuse to give grace to one who never knew Jesus but lived a good life, and then extend grace to a person who claimed to be a Christian but lived like an judgmental jerk?  Consider Jesus’ words:

“A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said,
‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’
And he answered, ‘
I will not’;
But afterward he regretted it and went.  The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘
I will, sir’;
But he did not go.
Which of the two did the will of his father?”  
They said,
“The first.”
Jesus said to them,
“Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.”
(Matthew 21:28–31)

Three things to Know about The Judge

Our Father (Yahweh) will be the Judge on that day.  It’s easy for us to take for granted the grace He offers, but this foolish.  Consider these three facts for you, your friends, and for non-Christians

God is Just (Righteous or Fair)

In the bible these three words mean the same thing: justice, righteousness and fairness.  Again:
Just = Righteous = Fair

There are more passages about this than I can list here, so I won’t.  But it’s important that you understand the implication of this:
Never fear that God will send a good person to hell. 
There will be no one in hell who doesn’t deserve it. 
Not one single innocent will burn in hell … not one.

God is Merciful

One of my favorite things about God is His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness.  God forgives people who deserve punishment.  My favorite story that illustrates this is the one we call “The Prodigal Son” parable by Jesus (see Luke 15.11-32).  In that story, the younger brother acted selfishly and foolishly.  He wasted his inheritance, he lived according to his own rules, he had parties and friends and lots of sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll … and he came to ruin.  His older brother, meanwhile, stayed home and worked and was obedient.  But the father forgave the rotten son, anyway, after he had repented (changed his ways) and came home. 

All disciples know someone who is living foolishly and misbehaves.  Sometimes we love them and hope they’ll be saved, anyway.  Sometimes we are angry that they have been disobedient to God, like the older brother (especially when their sin hurts us personally).  But whether we like it or not, or agree with it or not … God is merciful.  Heaven will be full of forgiven sinners. 

The Most Important Thing

We know God will judge, and we know He will give grace.  Will there be enough grace for me?  Will there be enough grace for my friends and family?  What is the rule for the distribution of saving grace? 

The answer is that no one knows. 
Many claim to know, but no one does. 
But there is one thing that we know for sure, and if you keep this in mind as you live your life, and as you share with others or withhold: The Judge is also the Father of a murdered son; murdered to provide the grace for salvation. 

God is the Father of a murdered son
When you stand before the throne of judgment, and you try to look into the face of this Father, will you be able to whine about how hard your life was?  Will you be able to make excuses?  What will you have to say for yourself?  

When a person gets drunk and kills a friend’s kid with his car, are they still friends? 
If you allow your child to starve so you can feed me … how will you feel about me when I come around with excuses for how I didn't even say “thank you”? 

What matters when we face the Father of a murdered son?  Remember: the Father is not our accuser, but Satan is our accuser, God’s son is our defender, and the Father is the Judge! 
What will you say then? 

Jesus was very, very clear about this matter.  He discussed it many times. 
Jesus never said cussing is a sin, or told us we had to go to church every Sunday or belong to a certain religion.  Jesus didn't make great theological speeches about grace and works or issues of sexuality or abortion.  But Jesus was very, very, very clear about how we should prepare for Judgment Day.  He was clear to warn us, and also to offer us hope. 

Read the passage below, then Matthew 24.42 – Matthew 25.46. 

And then live accordingly

“Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels … nor the Son, but the Father only. 
For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
(Matthew 24:36–39)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

For Christians Only

Do you look stupid?  
Do you look odd or silly or ugly?  
Stop and think about your own looks for a moment, and ask yourself a simple question: 
             How do I look? 

The answer isn't hard to deduce.  We look differently to different observers.  To a genius, most of us seem dumb.  To a supermodel, we aren't beautiful.  To our family … well, that depends on your family.  At work maybe we appear one way, and at a reunion, another.  

How do we appear to God? 
Sadly, very few people (even those who call themselves “Christians”) consider this. 
We say we want to please God. 
We say we fear Him. 
We call Him Lord, and pretend He governs our lives.
We even tell people the most important thing in a human life is: To love God with ALL your heart, ALL your soul, ALL your mind, and ALL your strength. 

Is that true of you? 
Challenge yourself.  Do you try to be “good looking” to God - or to other people?  When you update your clothes or hair or other things to keep up with the latest trends, are you buying something you need, or something you merely want?  And when you do … who are you pleasing?  God, others, or yourself? 

It used to be (in my parent’s generation), a person who was preoccupied with his or her appearance was considered “vain,” and silly.  No one (then or now) admires a shallow or silly person.  We laugh at comedians and other clowns, we watch silly people perform on screen for our amusement, but no reasonable person admires them.  Or do we? 

“Admirable” used to be something reserved for people who made sacrifices, who worked and sweated in order to help or defend others.  I don’t hear much about that anymore.  People want to be attractive more than admirable.  Most would rather be liked than respected

For people in the world, this is understandable.  There’s a spiral downward into shallowness that just happens.  As people get more money, they want more material things.  They want to never get a wrinkle or gray hair, they obsess over shoes, ties, jewelry, handbags or tattoos; they are slaves to fashion.  They no longer cut their own fingernails, but go to a “salon” for a mani-pedi (or whatever it’s called). Even men these days are pretty.  Tattoos can make a man look tough without him actually having to be disciplined, strong and resilient.  And these “men” aren't ashamed!  No one is embarrassed to be shallow.  Rather, they’re embarrassed if they’re not just as shallow as their neighbor. 

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that so-called Christians are headed in the same direction and are indistinguishable from people in the world.  When Christians spend more time and money on their own physical appearance than they do helping others or serving God … isn't that a problem?  Shouldn't the followers of Jesus be embarrassed to be so vain? 

We even distort scripture in service to our vanity.  I can’t count how many times I've heard people distort this passage to believe that “modesty” is about covering up body parts:

Women should adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.  (1 Timothy 2:9–10)

If you read that passage carefully, you’ll see that “modestly” isn't about covering-up, but it’s about not spending a ton of money.  No gold or pearls or costly garments, Paul wrote.  Instead of that, he suggested one be involved in “good works.”  Wow – can you imagine what Paul would make of women these days? 

What do you suppose God thinks of a person who spends more time, money and energy dealing with her hair color or her bangs (or lack thereof) than in expanding or strengthening His kingdom?

How many so-called Christian women do you know whose most beloved outfit in her closet is her good works?  How many men do you know who see more money as an opportunity to serve more, love more and give more instead of buying more? 

Materialism and vanity are alive and well in Jesus’ church. 

How much is too much? 

Each disciple must decide for himself or herself. This is one of those beautiful scriptures that is written to be a guideline, not a rule.  (Although many try to turn it into rules)  And when we are given guidelines, then we reveal our heart by our response:
  • If you want to please God, you’ll go out of your way to see just how modestly (inexpensively) you can clothe yourself. 
  • If you want to please yourself, you’ll see how much you can excuse, justify and/or rationalize. 

Jesus would rather starve than turn stones to bread at Satan’s request (Matthew 4.3-4).  Paul would rather die than take money from the Corinth church (1 Corinthians 9:14-15).  All who want to please God will take “moderation” to an extreme (if necessary), and those who want to cling to their earthly desires will bend modesty to suit what they want, and that will always come ahead of what God wants. 

Again: when we are given guidelines, our response reveals our heart.  Or to put it another way: I can tell what you value often by just looking at you (and so can everyone else).  Do you dress for success?  Do you dress to please a specific person, to show off your assets, to look older or younger or sexier?  What you do with your appearance usually reveals your values to observant people.
God, of course, already knows your heart. 

Christians also surround themselves with “friends” who support them in their habits.  Among the worst influences are modern “churches.”  Churches feed us at every opportunity and never speak of the sin of gluttony.  They have no regard for the hard things, like sensible diet and regular exercise; and high regard for those who can put on their “Sunday best.”  Cover up your fat, lazy body with dark colors and vertical stripes, and you’ll fit right in at most churches.  You can spend a fortune on clothes, shoes, accessories.  Waste hours each week beyond simple good hygiene and add to that makeup and hair products … and you’ll be right at home with most church people.  And why are churches like this?  Because they care more about your attendance and contribution than your effective service for the Lord.  Despite the clear teaching of scripture, they think “church growth” is about having more people attend, instead of making those who do attend even stronger. 

The people at church are usually just like the assembly itself: all show, and no go.  All form and no function.  It’s all about how you look – not who you are.  So be sure and also say the right things, because it’s better to be a complimentary liar than a blunt truth-lover … even among “Christians.” 

My hope and prayer is that you’ll take this little article personally.  I hope you’ll examine your own heart and closet, and challenge yourself.  Make it between you … and you.  Don’t pick on others about this, but rather give yourself a thorough checkup.

Like getting out of debt or losing weight, this is a much greater challenge for some and less for others.  If you’re super-deep in debt, it’s going to be a long, long journey.  If you haven’t exercised in a long time, that first walk, jog or bike ride will wreck you.  For others, you’ll find these things easy, and you’ll find it hard to be compassionate – even with yourselves.  But find your way, and help a brother or sister … for God’s sake.  Strive to be good looking to Him first! 

Examine yourself and see where you are.  And then … challenge yourself.  See if you can make your wardrobe last just a bit longer this year than last.  See how few pairs of shoes you can own.  See how little time you can spend on your hair and makeup. 

One of my personal favorite challenges is to see how much advertising I can resist.  The web, magazines, TV … we are surrounded by advertisements to buy more stuff, eat more stuff, to need the latest thing, to want the newest (and therefore “coolest”) gadget, etc.  Better buy it now while it’s on sale … or you’ll (horror) miss out!  After all, they tell you: you “deserve” it.  You’re “worth” it.

I like to see how many generations of software how many phones I can skip before upgrading.  I like to see if I can find clothes that are durable, and whose appearance is just barely good enough.  I like to deliberately miss big chunks of TV and/or sports. 

Yes, they tempt me to want stuff.  That’s their job, and they’re good at it.  But my job is to take care of myself, my family and the needy.  The less I spend on myself, the more I have for those other things.  And maybe I can be slightly better looking to my King. 

This is not about just saying ‘no’ to everything.  It’s not about being passionless or ugly or “simple” or a fanatic.  When one is constantly saying “no” to stuff, or saying ‘no’ because he doesn't really want something, then it’s just being a miserly, “Mean Mr. Mustard.”  Being miserly (according to God) exposes you as a fool - (Luke 12.16-21).  Don’t be a miserly fool.  This is ugly to both men and God.

But if I can make it a game, then it’s a challenge.  How long can I go between stops at a fast food place?  How much can I save by making my own coffee, or tea, or drinking tap water?  These are things I challenge myself to do.  What’s your record for going without a soft drink, or a donut or other yummy but worthless indulgence?  How long can you make a pair of shoes last? 

Again, this is something you do that’s personal.  It’s something you do for yourself.  It’s your personal “gift” to God, to cut back on consumerism, so you can spend more time and money helping others.  It’s our pleasure (or not) to do everything in our power to please God, and to do more tomorrow than we did today.

It’s a personal choice, but we are helped or hurt by the company we keep.  If your friends make fun of you because you’re “out of style,” or because you still use a flip-phone or because you no longer chase after fashion with them … then maybe you need new friends.  Or maybe you just cave-in and refuse to be different.  You can either be exceptional or you can blend in, but you can’t be both.  If you can find brothers and sisters who want to push each other to be exceptional, you are doubly blessed! 

I’ll be praying for you this week, especially that you’ll challenge yourselves to see how attractive you can make yourselves to God our Father, our Lord and our King.

Since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the desires of men, but for the will of God.

For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, desires, etc…. 
In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead….   

The end of all things is near; therefore:
…be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all…  
…keep fervent in your love for one another (because love covers a multitude of sins).
Be hospitable to one another without complaint.
As each one has received a gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
Whoever speaks … as one who is speaking the utterances of God
Whoever serves … as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies
So that:
In all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

(1 Peter 4:1–11)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Four Letter Word

Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the morning hours;
Work while the dew is sparkling,
Work ‘mid springing flowers; 
Work when the day grows brighter,
Work in the glowing sun;
Work, for the night is coming, when man’s work is done

Our “dirty” word for the day is: work. 

Work has become a dirty word in our culture.  People focus on small things, silly things, childish things.  What used to be praised is now disdained, and vice-versa. 

People used to praise those who were frugal and had a strong work ethic.  Nowadays we are unashamed to be silly

We’ll spend a fortune to go to a music or comedy show, but spend little to help the poor.  We waste hours online in “social” media, but spend very little time studying to improve ourselves.  We will waste thousands of dollars so that we have way too many shoes (they’re “cute!”).  We praise people who have a nice skin regimen, and disdain someone whose hands are calloused from hard work. 

Now a mattress and covers indoors isn't good enough.  Now we “need” box springs, memory pillows, individualized, adjustable beds that support each individual bone in just the right way.  If we can’t have this, we are no longer able to sleep.  We can’t park or navigate a car without electronic “assistance.” 

If you have the latest, fanciest phone or watch or computer or TV, you are seen as successful.  Learning how to live simply is no longer “cool.”  The word “diva” is no longer seen as a shameful thing … now women want to be treated like shallow, silly “princesses” or “divas” and do so without the slightest embarrassment.  Men now spend more time fooling with their hair than they do building something useful.  The days of a man being someone who can grow things, fix things, care for things or even run a shop or business … those days are gone. 

And God forbid anyone should ever break a sweat doing anything other than play. 

“On the plains of hesitation lie the bleached bones of millions who on the verge of victory
…sat down to rest, and while resting – died.”
- Adlai Stevenson

“While you sleep, someone else is practicing”
-Herb Alpert

One expects worldly people to spiral down the whirlpool at the bottom of the toilet, after all, it’s all they have.  “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” or – “Carpe diem” – these are the mottos of the lost.  But should Jesus’ disciples be like this? 

Church services have to be exciting, have just the right kind of music and sermons and cool people to be attractive.  Other groups attract loyal followers by insisting on maintaining traditions and staying loyal to their particular brand of religion.  But where is the group that encourages us to do the hard thing?  To grow, to work, to learn and to become more self-sacrificial?  It does not exist.  The opening lines of this article are the words to an old song.  The publisher of that songbook no longer includes songs about work, because work is a dirty word in our culture.  Work isn't fun.  “Christians” no longer find joy in working for their Lord.  Except very few full-time pastors, almost no one goes to bed tired from helping others.  No one “does without” or misses a meal or tolerates hot or cold temps or (*gasp*) would spend time alone, without constant human contact.  And if we happen to take time to read … we read anything but the boring, hard bible. 

These days the only hard-working soldiers are “prayer warriors.”  Really?  Someone who prays is now a “warrior”?  Yup, we’re just that pathetic. 

It’s a small wonder that we can no longer endure hardship, forgive a wrong, or rejoice in struggle for the kingdom.  We do nothing to try to become strong and durable.  If you have been a gluttonous, lazy bum for years … it’s unlikely you’ll be able to run a marathon tomorrow.  Shoot – walking an inclined treadmill now counts as exercise. 

Solomon wrote:
Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise.  
Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer & gathers her provision in the harvest.
How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?
“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest”—
Your poverty will come in like a vagabond & your need like an armed man.

A worthless person, a wicked man, is the one who walks with a perverse mouth, who winks with his eyes ….  Therefore his calamity will come suddenly; instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing.
(Proverbs 6:6–15)

Again: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come on you like a thief.”  Let Solomon’s words rattle around in your head for a moment.  Is this you?  Do you tell yourself that you “just need a little rest”?  Are you and your friends mostly silly, or mostly serious – pushing each other to work hard and find joy in your work? 

And one of the most horrifying words in scripture is there at the end, too: “worthless.”  Solomon’s description of a worthless person is weird to our ears - but we’d sum it all up with an emoticon
A silly, shallow, useless, worthless, pointless, steaming pile of “nice.”
Useless – worthless – a waste

While one who is useless or worthless isn't necessarily “mean” or “wicked” …
Still: one who is useless or worthless is never praised by God!

Jesus compared useless people to “unsalty salt” in the SOM.  The same sentiment is expressed throughout scripture. 

Ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but:
… if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.   (Hebrews 6:7–8)

 “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper,
‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’
And he answered and said to him,
‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’”  (Luke 13:6–9)

“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?  So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.   
So then, you will know them by their fruits.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  (Matthew 7:16–21)

Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered. (Matthew 21:19)

Work is a good thing.  Being able to work hard and work well is praiseworthy.  It’s a virtue.  Anyone can sit around and act the fool to entertain or charm others, but very few people of this generation will ever know the joy of a hard day’s work.  For many of us, the hardest thing we ever did was get through school.  Something millions of people do every day, but we make a big deal out of it as if it were something special. 

Nowadays we thrill others by posting online, or ‘pinning’ a picture of a pretty thing, or tweet our love for food, shoes, or a celebrity.

Consider in your own mind Paul’s words:

“We urge you … to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:10–12)

Or consider these words of Jesus (remember him - the one people boldly call “Lord,” but refuse to obey?) 

“We must work the works of Him who sent me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.”  (John 9:4)

How many times in Matthew 24 & 25 did Jesus say that we should “get ready” or “prepare” with a sense of urgency, but also be ready for the long haul?  But then we’re too busy bickering over Jesus’ second coming and/or “rapture” to actually look at the stories Jesus told about work. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  Scriptures are full of praise for hard work.  Laziness, silliness, gluttony, shallowness … these are indulgences of a wealthy culture – a decadent people who are no longer ashamed of things that used to be seen as pathetic.  How can disciples of a crucified Savior now be just as silly and lazy and self-indulgent as the world around them?  Is the only difference between us and the world the fact that we (supposedly) have higher morals?  Good grief. 

Work is good.  Working hard is better, and working hard and with wisdom is best.  One who learns to work hard for the Lord is doubly blessed:
“Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.”  (Ecclesiastes 5:18)

I've been rediscovering the joy of work, and I want to encourage you to find it, too.  More than that, I hope you’ll learn to start praising your friends who have a great work ethic. 

“Industry, prudence & frugality” used to be seen by people as virtues.  They’re still virtues, but for some reason people don’t encourage their brothers and sisters to work hard, and learn to love their work, and to find satisfaction in being able to work hard.  But for disciples, this is exactly that which brings fruit! 

So … find a way for you and your friends to start praising each other for work.  Encourage a work ethic.  Praise those who can make a pair of shoes last for years, instead of someone who has zero discipline and races out for every “sale,” as if there were anything at all praiseworthy in that behavior.  Praise those who teach their children to be hard workers and clever and to be able to resist the silly temptations put in our pathway by advertisers bent on getting our money.  Look for ways to make the world a better place instead of eliminating wrinkles, zits or having the right tattoo.  Be an agent for growth and strength in your group rather than being constantly lowered to the lowest possible level of fear, pettiness and lack of character. 

Working is a privilege from God 
Work while you can
Learn to love work –
And support this attitude among your fellow disciples!

There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?
(Ecclesiastes 2:24–25)

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in the grave.
(Ecclesiastes 9:10)

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, Who will render to each person according to his deeds:
   To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but
To those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.
(Romans 2:4–8)

“…appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:12–13)