Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Pride and Jealousy

I was reading in 3 John this morning and verses 9-10 are verses I've tended to quickly skim over but the Lord brought it to my attention this morning:

I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.

As I was reading this passage this morning, I was reflecting on the fact that I always thought... how dare Diotrephes prevent this church from hearing what John wrote to them! But as I look at it more closely and look at my own heart, I see my own tendency to pride. Have there been times in which someone had better insight into something, and I chose to speak rather than listen? That sounds much more holy doesn't it? I just spoke rather than listened--one of those sins that we as Christians tend to sweep into the "it's okay" pile. But at the root of my desire to speak rather than listen was pride--I was "loving to be first". How many times have I put others down so that I look better? This is an area that God has really been working on my heart in the last several years. It was something I was constantly doing. I made excuses in my head like: "It's all in fun"... "I don't really mean it"... "They do it too"... etc. But at the root of all those things was the pride which God opposes. Take a look at Psalm 138:6:
For though the Lord is exalted, Yet He regards the lowly, But the haughty He knows from afar.

Proverbs 3:34:
Though He scoffs at the scoffers, Yet He gives grace to the afflicted.

Proverbs 29:23:
A man’s pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.

Matthew 23:12:
Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

Luke 1:52:
He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble.

James 4:6:
But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

1 Peter 5:5:
You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

May we walk in humility today, being quick to hear, slow to speak, putting others and more important than ourselves. What do we have that we did not receive? And if we did receive it, why do we boast as if we had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Love: Because God is Our Father

Often times in our Christian walk, we lose the "because" in our actions. We treat others with love and respect because it is what is expected of us by others. It is easy to start relying on the opinions of others and acting accordingly. I believe this is actually a great gift from God that He puts others in our lives to spur us on to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), but that can't be our ultimate source of why we do what we do. It is also true that the fear of man brings a snare (Proverbs 29:25). When we start relying on the opinions of others (who ultimately will fail us because they are fallen sinful beings just like us), where their opinions stray from God's ways, we can start to also sway from God's ways. I was reading this morning in 1 John 4 and it was really clarifying for me. Take a look:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

John starts out be encouraging us to not believe every spirit. This is a sobering reminder that not everyone who names the name of Christ is truly a believer. This is another warning that we need to rejoice when others spur us on to love and good works, but continually come back to God as our source of why we love others. He goes on to say that love is from God and our actions of love demonstrate that He is our Father. Of course, we can appear to love and not really love. We can put on a display of "love" in order to make other people love and appreciate us, and that is actually not love at all. Motives are so tricky. We can love for the right reasons at one moment and the next moment love out of selfish motivation. We need to continually come back to Christ as our why. He came and died for us. Now we have an example of the most amazing love there is... and out of that, we can love one another.

Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

One of Jesus' last commands to his disciples was to love one another as Jesus loved them. Little did they know that He was about to lay down his life for them. He had poured into his disciples, served them, washed their feet, fed them, but he was about to die for them and they were about to start to understand what love really looked like. May we love today because we have been loved by a Great God and He is our Father.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Doing Everything for Him

One thing the Lord has been impressing on my heart lately is the importance of doing everything that we do for Him. It is so easy to do certain things for Him, especially the more directly ministry-related things (church, Awana, etc.), while doing almost everything else just because it is what we do. Often times it may not be noticeable from the outside. When I'm sitting at my desk at work, coworkers might not see me typing extra fast and decide that it must be because I'm working for the Lord and not for men. But Lord willing, they will see me as a diligent worker and see the Lord through me. It is so vital that we do the right things... and not just the right things, but do them with the right motives.

This evening, we were putting some fliers on doors for a Grief Seminar in the community that our church is putting on next weekend. It was a constant battle in my heart when I'd see an open garage or someone in the yard to want to skip that house out of fear of awkwardness or whatever the case may be. I walked up to one garage with a few guys in there... shirts off drinking beer watching a football game. It's at points like that where the Lord really has to work in my heart and remind this often hard-headed guy that those guys need the Lord as much as I do. One of the other people I walked up to was leaving and I wasn't even going to go to that house yet, but this young man didn't look like he would be the kind of guy that would do anything but laugh at me handing him a card that says, "Grief" on it... and yet when I did (thanks to the Holy Spirit not letting me get away with walking on), he thanked me several times and said that he really needed this right now. It almost brings me to tears because I wasn't going to stop and hand it to him. I was going to put it on his door, but whoever was home likely would have taken it and thrown it away before he got back. Yet, God was gracious to him and to me by granting the courage to do it because of Him--because He is worth it. I feel so pitiful sometimes... so weak and lacking in boldness. People are dying every day because they believe in Jesus and I can't walk up to someone and hand them a flier. It comes down to motivation. Am I passing out fliers for Daniel, or am I passing it out for the God of the universe?

I was encouraging a friend recently that we work for a King--the King of the universe. We would do well to remember that as we go about our daily lives whether that be at home, work, softball, interactions with neighbors, grocery shopping, filling up the gas tank, etc. Take a look at this:
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
This is something that seems to come back to me often. I wish I could learn this lesson one time. One of the two sermons that I've had the opportunity to preach was on this very thing--how quickly I lose focus! I am such a poor judge of people's hearts. Who am I to think that I know who needs and doesn't need to hear the message of hope that comes from the God of all comfort?! A friend of mine was challenging me on this very thing yesterday. As he was sharing about his own life and how he has often been wrong in this area... that man looks on the outward appearance but God looks at the heart, I was challenged but didn't do anything with that challenge. God gave me something to do this afternoon. I love how He is so faithful to teach me things. He can speak truth to me through His Word and through others and then follow it up with a chance to put it into action. I am so grateful that he works through our weaknesses and grants us more courage and more faith as we are obedient in small ways.

God, make Yourself so glorious in my heart that I'd do everything for Your glory! Cast down the idol of myself and fill me with Christ so that I might love Him and please Him. Grant me boldness to do whatever I do because of Him rather than for me. Show me when my motives are anything other than to glorify You. Thank You for Your faithfulness and grace.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Buried--but not still buried!

Our sermon last week was about Jesus being buried and what that means for us as God's children. I was reading in this morning in Acts 2 when the man who denied knowing Jesus three times stood in dependence on the Lord and spoke boldly for His name's sake. I love the way he compares Jesus' burial to David's burial (the king they respected the most). Take a look:
Acts 2:29-39 “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”
With David, all we have are memories... the things he has written... stories about him... etc. With Christ, He said that it is for our benefit that He died, was buried, and raised again to sit at the right hand of the Father, for if He didn't, the Holy Spirit would not have been sent to us (John 16:7)! The Holy Spirit is sent to guide us in all the truth (John 16:13). God made Jesus both Lord (Master, ruler, owner of everything, the one with all authority) and Christ (Messiah, the Anointed One, savior). What is David to us today? He is a man that died many many years ago, a man after God's own heart, but a man that made a mess of a lot of things during his life time. We have some of his words as encouragement to us as we try to live to please the Lord. But with Christ, we have the Holy Spirit with us! We have a living Savior! We have the hope of being resurrected someday (1 Cor. 15)!

It says that the people hearing this were pierced to the heart. I think we are often not pierced to the heart by His Words because we have hardened our hearts. But I think we would do well to understand why they were pierced to the heart and why we ought to be. It wasn't just them that crucified Jesus. It was us. Romans 5:8 says that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. The people listening asked an important question: "What shall we do?" We must ask the same question... whether we have a relationship Jesus or not, we must ask ourselves the same question. Peter says to these men and women that they ought to repent and be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit. For me, having repented and having been baptized, this is the most important decision one can make. To repent and submit ourselves fully to Christ is to have hope of eternal life with Him. But every day is a day of repenting for me as a child of God. No, we don't become perfect all of a sudden... and no, my repenting doesn't earn me salvation. Jesus' death and resurrection paid the entire cost of my sin. My repenting is the appropriate response to Him for all He has done. I must turn from my sin and turn to Christ as my ruler.

As we celebrate Easter, may we remember that He was buried, just like David... but He didn't stay buried. Since He didn't stay buried, "what shall we do?"

Monday, February 23, 2015

Counting the Cost

This concept is really well known in the business world, perhaps not as well known as it should be in our personal finances, but when it comes to our life direction, it is absolutely essential. In the business world, if we don't count the cost correctly, we might bid low on a job and lose money. In our personal finances, we might start a project and not be able to finish it... or in the worst case, have to declare bankruptcy. When it comes to our life direction, we either determine to follow the Christ or to live our own way. We need to count the cost for these choices.

Let's look at the cost of these choices:

If we determine to live for Christ:
  • We must give up living for ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
  • We must be willing to suffer for the sake of Christ (Philippians 1:29, 1 Peter 3:13-17, Matthew 10:22)
  • We must have new priorities--now Christ must take first place (Colossians 1:17-18, 1 John 5:21)
  • We must be willing to give up anything for the sake of Christ, perhaps family, friends, jobs, possessions, health, money, comforts, etc. (Luke 9:57-62)
  • We must commit for the long-haul... not just for the moment (Matthew 24:13

If we determine to live for ourselves:
  • We will spend eternity separated from God in hell (Revelation 20:11-15).
  • We will live a life of being humbled by God (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5-6)
  • We will find ourselves hoping in worthless things that will always let us down (Isaiah 44:9-20).
  • Our lives will ultimately be useless (1 Peter 1:18)
  • We will have no lasting peace (Romans 5:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:3)

We have a decision to make. We must count the cost of both options. We would do well to carefully consider the words of Jesus. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? This is not an easy choice, but is the most important choice we will make.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Fear of the Lord

I was reading these verses today and really encouraged and challenged to live in the fear of the Lord.
And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding. Job 28:28

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever. Psalm 111:10

How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, Who walks in His ways. Psalm 128:1

The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate. Proverbs 8:13

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10

The fear of the Lord prolongs life, But the years of the wicked will be shortened. Proverbs 10:27

In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, And his children will have refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, That one may avoid the snares of death. Proverbs 14:26-27

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord Than great treasure and turmoil with it. Proverbs 15:16

The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility. Proverbs 15:33

By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, And by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil. Proverbs 16:6

The fear of the Lord leads to life, So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil. Proverbs 19:23

The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord Are riches, honor and life. Proverbs 22:4

Do not let your heart envy sinners, But live in the fear of the Lord always. Proverbs 23:17

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And He will delight in the fear of the Lord, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear. Isaiah 11:2-3

The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high; He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness. And He will be the stability of your times, A wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; The fear of the Lord is his treasure. Isaiah 33:5-6
So what are the benefits of living in the fear of the Lord? Wisdom, hatred of evil, understanding, blessing, hatred of pride and arrogance, knowledge, longer life, strong confidence, refuge, life, avoid snares of death, joy, good rest, riches, honor, lack of envy toward the wicked, decisions made based on His wisdom, stability, and treasures.

My prayer is God would help me fear Him more and more every day so that I would honor Him and reap all of these amazing benefits of living for His fame.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

I am second?

You may have seen those videos going around Facebook from people saying, "I am second". If you haven't, from the two or three that I've watched over the course of my life, they are talking about prioritizing God and others. But really, we are not "second"... we are far further than the list than "second". I was reading Romans 12 in light of the end of Romans 11 this evening...
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
As I read this passage, I see that we are to present ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice. This moves us down to 2nd because we are living for God. Then we read on, we are told not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. Reading on, we see that we are given gifts to be used to serve others. In fact, it seems to imply (and we know from Philippians 2:3) that we are not actually second, we are actually last! We are to give preference to one another, we are to serve the Lord as we serve others. We are to rejoice... not just for our own reasons, but to celebrate with others and share in their joys. We are to weep with those that weep... to put aside ourselves for their benefit. Lest we think that we are not actually called to be "last", we are even told to give food and drink to our enemies and be good to them.

Jesus showed by His example and then told His disciples in Matthew 23:11 that the greatest in the Kingdom will be the servant of all. May God give us grace to put ourselves aside... to put aside the ever pressing desire to be "first", and give us hearts to put Him in first place and everyone else before ourselves for His glory. May He give us true hearts of greatness!