Throwing Your Life Away

How much are you worth? What price do you put on yourself? How cheaply would you sell yourself to someone?

The questions have a certain silliness about them, because we don’t imagine that we will ever sell ourselves. But in fact we have all done so already. We sell ourselves short all the time.

Compromise

Maybe the word ‘compromise’ will give you another notion of how you sell yourself or throw your life away. When you make a compromise, accepting less than you wanted or demanding less of yourself that you could, you have sold yourself short. You have accepted a lesser bid for your time, your personal authority and your life than you could have asked for. Some people sell themselves short, while others sell themselves out altogether.

What Am I Throwing Away?

Have you ever disposed of something only to realise later that is was valuable to you and you should have kept it. This happens often and can be by accident or by ignorance. Maybe you have thrown something away last week and then discovered that you need it this week. Maybe you thought it was broken but it turned out to be in perfect working order.

When you throw yourself away what is it that is at stake? What are you throwing away?

You can throw away your time, investing yourself in something or someone that is just eating you up for no real purpose. A mother might say to her daughter, “If you marry that man you are throwing your life away.” What the mother means is that the man is of no value and so spending a lifetime as his wife is a waste of the bride’s life.

You can throw away your talents and potential. A father might say, “Don’t study that easy course, because you have enough brains to be doing the hard course and getting a better outcome. If you do the easy course you are throwing your life away.”

You can throw away your personal, moral authority. God has given you the ability to stand on His side and do business with all of His authority behind you. But if you compromise with sin and evil you are throwing away that personal moral authority.

The Bidding Begins

Early in life we find ourselves being asked to sell ourselves cheaply. Bids are made for our attention, time, commitment and so on. Take for example a young man who is asked to compromise his morality by listening to a dirty story or looking at sordid pictures. This will cost him his innocence and make him a slave to immoral thoughts and motivations. Surely he would not want such a penalty.

However, most young men do not understand the cost of their compromise, so they are unlikely to hold back because of proper understanding of the consequences.

What will aid the young man is his conscience and the inner sense that this thing he is being asked to do is tainted. The attitudes and actions of those tempting him will signal that there is something a little shameful or illicit in what is being offered.

Another thing that can save this young man is the instruction of his parents never to allow such offensive things into his life. Wise parents will instruct their children to avoid things that enslave lives.

The Highest Bid

If the young man is reluctant to participate at first he will find that the bidding is raised quite quickly. At first it will simply be temptation to do something illicit. When he declines he will find that the stakes are being raised to include his reputation or acceptance in the group.

Those tempting him might suggest that he is weak by being afraid to participate or they may advise him that he is not fit to be included in their company if he is not a willing participant.

If he further declines, then someone might try to sell him on the excitement that is on offer, or assert their own superiority to the man because they have already participated without injury, and so on.

What is happening in such exchanges is that the bidding for the young man’s soul is rising, until the tempters cause him to yield.

Sold

When the young man gives in he is “sold” out. He has settled on a price at which he will trade off who and what he is for something. In the end he may do what he is being tempted to do, not for the thing itself, such as to view pornography, but to keep the friendships which are now at stake.

By this process people are selling themselves all the time.

Not For Sale

The only ones who are not sold out are those who do what God wants them to do in every situation all the time. Those ones will resist every temptation and threat. They will stand alone and stand for God no matter what the cost.

The book of Daniel records that Daniel and his three friends each did this in various ways. The challenge to ‘dare to be a Daniel’ represents the idea of resisting temptation and threats so that the right thing can be done all the time, without fear or favour.

Sold Cheaply

I can think of several school friends who sold themselves cheaply. They readily bought into sensuality, drugs, lying, cheating, irresponsibility and so on. They did it so cheaply that they received nothing in return. They did not hold out for respect, privilege or gain, but hastily jumped into the slime to slide into shame, addiction and worthlessness.

Many people do this, especially if they are without the protection of loving and wise parents who guide them to wise choices and a wise lifestyle.

The Israelites sold themselves cheaply in the days of Jeremiah. They abandoned God and built broken resources for themselves that did not work (Jeremiah 2:12). They were keen to throw away their true value for that which is worthless.

If people think they are worth nothing they see no problem in selling themselves cheaply. Yet every person is of inestimable worth and should never be sold out at all!

Bought Back

The wonderful news is that the sacrifice of Jesus allows us all to be bought back from the hand of those who have enslaved us or bought us cheaply. The Bible uses the word ‘redeem’ to describe this process of paying the price needed so the item is returned.

Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.

If you have abandoned your personal sovereignty in a vain attempt to get some gain for yourself, like Eve selling herself for nothing in the Garden of Eden, then you need to be redeemed by the blood of the lamb. That was the price paid for your freedom. Make sure you are bought back from the grimy slavery to sin and are given a fresh start to live as a sovereign child of God who can change the world with His grace and power.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge Returns to the Truth

This is the day that Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in Devon, England, in 1772.

Coleridge represents the restless abandonment of truth in the pursuit of truth. He readily devoured those things that led men away from faith in God, only to return to the roots which he valued so little in earlier years. Philosophies, idealism, drugs, irresponsibility and self-will are readily evident in his life.

Samuel’s father was a vicar in the village church and master of the local grammar school. As the youngest of fourteen children young Coleridge failed to develop a good sense of financial management and responsibility. An avid reader he first set out to fulfil his father’s wish that he become a clergyman. Introduced to Unitarian ideas in his first year at Cambridge, Coleridge was immediately drawn to it, as he also was to the older sister of one of his friends.

Coleridge accumulated a large debt while at college, which his older brothers had to discharge for him. He was then distracted by Plato’s Republic, and idealistic notions of going to America to set up the ultimate republic in Pennsylvania with a fellow student named Southey. When Southey married, Coleridge wed the sister of Southey’s bride, Sarah, thus commencing an unhappy marriage that ultimately fell apart. Coleridge still loved his friend’s sister, who was engaged to another man.

Assisted by Wordsworth, Coleridge abandoned the idealised republic and set about writing poetry. The two men travelled to the continent where Coleridge learned German and began translation, while also coming under the influence of the philosophies of Immanuel Kant, Jakob Boehme and G.E. Lessing.

When he returned to England in 1800, he settled with family and friends at Keswick. Over the next two decades Coleridge lectured on literature and philosophy, wrote about religious and political theory, spent two years on the island of Malta as a secretary to the governor in an effort to overcome his poor health and his opium addiction, and lived off financial donations and grants. Still addicted to opium, he moved in with the physician James Gillman in 1816. He continued to publish poetry and prose, notably Sibylline Leaves (1817), Aids to Reflection (1825), and Church and State (1830).

In secular circles he is remembered as being “in the first rank of English poets” and a leader of the British Romantic movement. He wrote such famous works as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan.

While his early life was scarred by a broken marriage, addiction to opium and Unitarian theology, the last 20 years of his life saw him back in the Anglican fold as a ‘practicing Churchman’.

He wrote Confessions of an Enquiring Spirit, dealing primarily with the authority of Scripture. “For more than 1000 years,” Coleridge wrote, “the Bible has gone hand in hand with civilization, science, law … in short, with the moral and intellectual cultivation of the species, always supporting and often leading the way” (quoted in Our Roving Bible, page 142).

Samuel Taylor Coleridge died at Highgate, London, on 23 July, 1834.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Profit as an Idol

“All is fair in love, war and enterprise!” That seems to be the motto of western culture. And the heartbeat of enterprise is “Profit”! The Almighty Dollar reigns supreme in a materialistic culture and any course of action which turns a profit causes the enterprising to salivate.

So, for all intents and purposes, the materialistic western culture has raised an idol called ‘profit’. That is why the advice for all buyers in America is “Buyer Beware”. It seems that everyone accepts the right of the seller to rip-off the buyer. And why not, if profit is the universal morality?

I once purchased a $10 phone card in California, only to find that it had only $5 credit. When I contacted the company to rectify the fault I discovered it was not a ‘fault’ at all. The card was manufactured with only $5 phone credit. So I asked why they printed it with $10 on the card. The answer is that it is up to the retailer to advise me that the card only has $5 credit. Now, that’s deceptive, playing on the buyer’s acceptance of the clear impression given on the card that it is a $10 card and should provide $10 worth of credit.

When I shared this with others they smiled. They reminded me that in America the rule is “Buyer Beware!” If I was stupid enough to trust people then I deserved to be taken advantage of.

Profit Motive Overturns Morality

If ‘profit’ is the treasured moral value, then rip-off is the name of the game. Anything and everything that turns a profit is kosher. This then becomes the reality for everyone, from street peddler to global corporation. The Enron shenanigans reflect what must be reality for many corporations. Monopolies gain control of markets, not to benefit the consumer, but to optimise their profits. Facts are denied, as we saw in the tobacco industry and many drug and contamination cases. Responsibility is wrongly assigned, and so on.

Moral Foundations

Now, to be fair, no-one goes into business to lose money. But society is founded on moral principles. The most effective set of moral principles ever inculcated anywhere and at any time through human history is what we refer to as the Judeo-Christian values given to us in the Bible. When a culture moderates all of its practices by the standards expressed in the Mosaic law of the Old Testament and the teachings of Christ in the Gospels then it is able to dethrone the evil idols which would otherwise take over the society.

Sadly, the west has fled from Biblical standards and actively destroyed its Judeo-Christian foundations. Consequently we have evil idols rising from the sea of humanity. These are ugly beasts with fierce countenance and shameless blood-lust. They devour people’s houses, incomes, health, families, social assets, potential, reputation, and more, until they have wrung every drop out of the helpless.

One of these beasts is simply called ‘Profit’. Unrestrained, it is a leviathan. Caged by godly morality, it oils the wheels of enterprise.

The Challenge

I challenge you not to buy into the seduction of this evil spirit. When you find yourself gloating over someone taking advantage of another, stop to hear the sinister evil coming from your own chest. Don’t applaud those who defraud. Don’t envy those who perpetrate evil. Don’t justify the means by the end result of profit.

Beware the moral compromise which you set up inside yourself when you worship God on Sunday and then worship profit on Monday.

There’s profit in human embryos, abortion, drug dealing, deception, prostitution, tyranny, theft, extortion, blackmail, exploitation and a host of other things. If profit was prince then nothing else would be sacred. When you allow greed for profit to entwine your heart you are already being drawn to all kinds of evil.

How to Destroy this Idol

You need to revoke your worship of Profit. You need to commit yourself to God, trusting Him for the provision of all that you need. Then commit your business and your dealings to God, asking for His blessing on your enterprise. Commit at least a tenth of all you make to God. And ask God to keep your heart clean from greed, moral compromise, idolatry and evil.

Britney Spears the Red-Rubber-Ball!

The buzz is “Britney”. Britney this, Britney that. Singer, dancer, actress, author and songwriter. Pop diva with a suicide note. Fallen star. Rehab. Troubled singer. Out of control. It’s a feeding frenzy for the gossip columns and total dismay for her fans. She has sold over 83 million records and been idolised around the world – yet she is a divorcee who allegedly talks of killing herself and her sons. She apparently thinks things could be better if she were dead!

So what’s really going on? Who is Britney? I believe Britney Spears is two things at the moment. She is a red-rubber-ball. And she is a sign to her fans. Let me discuss them both quickly for you.

Britney set off on a course that was to deliver her just about everything a young girl could want. Fame, expression for her talent, success, adoration, love, children, money. Britney has enjoyed it all. But in the process she tried to anchor her life in these very things. And they are not anchors at all. Many of them are illusions. Her deep heart cry is for meaning that goes deeper than money can buy. She wants to be loved – not by adoring fans but by people who value the shriveled -p person on the inside of her, not the arrogant and defiant persona of success she has had to maintain for many years.

Without an anchor, life has picked Britney up and bounced her around, like a red-rubber-ball. She has bounced one way and the next. She has bounced off people and bounced off the walls. She is ‘out of control’ because she can’t stop the bouncing. She once thought she could be master of her own destiny, but now she is mocked and taunted by her own failure. Without an anchor the only way out is death. I, for one, pray that she does not end it all in such failure and folly. I want her to find the reality that money can’t buy her. I want her to find the kind of loving commitment that only God can give her.

At the same time as being a red rubber ball, Britney Spears is a sign to millions of young people looking on. Her life is a very clear signal to those who will stop to observe. All that Britney has achieved, that millions of young girls would love to match, is illusory. Yet the spell of the smoke, music and magic has intoxicated a generation who wish to move as Britney moves and feel what she feels. So God is sending all those precious lives a signal. It’s as clear as the moon in the sky, unless the smoke has kept it from your view. There is no reward in the Britney road! There is no prize for becoming a cigarette butt. The pain of Britney’s super-star existence far outweighs the rewards of the journey.

3,000 years ago, the wisest man that ever lived, who outclasses Confucius and Nostradumus, said that there is a way that seems right to a man, but it ends up on the road to death (Proverbs 14:12). Britney, with suicide note on hand, is on that road. All she did was follow what seemed right at the time. Others supported her in the exploitation of her success. She thought these things would make her happy. She thought he was in love with her. She thought a baby would change everything. She thought all those things were ‘right’. Now she treads an unsteady path, with her heart filled with thoughts of death.

Keep an eye on the red rubber ball. Britney Spears – the red rubber ball! Pray for the poor kid. She desperately needs the grace that God is ready to give to her. But also watch and learn. She is a sign to a whole generation. Watch the signs – because they help you understand things that loud music, smoke, sex and drugs make hard to see.

The Bible – Enlightening

This is yet another post on the topic of the Bible – the book I uphold as the most important book in all the world. The Bible is the most Enduring, Authoritative, Profound, Resilient, Enlightening, Impactful, Endorsed and Significant book in all of human history.

The Bible is an Enlightening book. It has the power to “turn the lights on” for people. While many books are filled with information that informs the mind, the Bible has the ability to inform the heart of the reader. As well, the Bible contains information about important things which are not revealed anywhere else. Add to that the experience which the Bible is able to create in its readers of transforming their thinking and their heart.

The Bible is often credited with opening people’s eyes. Even when people read a very familiar passage which they have read even hundreds of times before, it is common to experience a revelational insight. The experience is that of something suddenly making sense on the inside. I have enjoyed this experience many times. And it is not some temporary illusory perception, such as my school friends described from their use of hallucinogenic drugs. Those revelations gave the impression of an insight which was unable to be recaptured or nailed down when the drug-induced state wore off.

Revelation that comes through the Bible is able to be documented, explained, referred back to, built upon and integrated into a person’s whole life. The enlightenment which comes from the Bible is truly a gift to the reader. The Bible’s ability to produce such enlightenment in people of all ages, cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, education levels, and so on, makes the Bible an amazing gift to humanity.