Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Sin of Pride

God has been really blessing. He has continually poured out His grace and love... giving enough light for the next step and yet being wise in not showing me everything in order to keep me dependent on Him. I was thinking about His wisdom in doing this as I was reading Proverbs 26:5-12 this evening.
Answer a fool as his folly deserves, That he not be wise in his own eyes. He cuts off his own feet and drinks violence Who sends a message by the hand of a fool. Like the legs which are useless to the lame, So is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Like one who binds a stone in a sling, So is he who gives honor to a fool. Like a thorn which falls into the hand of a drunkard, So is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Like an archer who wounds everyone, So is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by. Like a dog that returns to its vomit Is a fool who repeats his folly. Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
It just struck me... you answer a fool according to his folly for one reason: so that he doesn't become wise in his own eyes--that is the real danger! God hardly makes it clearer... He is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). We have been reading in Revelation during family devotions and I don't know about you, but I don't much like the idea of God being opposed to me. It wouldn't be honest to say that pride is not an issue in my heart. It most certainly is. I like to be right. I like to win. I like to have a plan and watch it work perfectly. I like to be honored.

I believe that all these desires are not wrong in and of themselves... actually, I think that God gave these desires. So often, we try to kill desires that are God-given rather than looking at them through His eyes... through Biblical glasses and "taking into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." Throughout scripture, He talks about many of these things in a positive way:
The desire to be "right" is a good one... "The Lord will repay each man for his righteousness and his faithfulness"(1 Samuel 26:23).

The desire to "win" is a good one... "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win" (1 Cor. 9:24).

The desire to make good plans is a good one... "The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord" (Proverbs 16:1).

The desire to be honored is a good one... "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time" (1 Peter 5:6).
I know exactly what you are thinking... but, Daniel, your desires mentioned above are not good ones. Let me say that the desires are good... even from God, but the heart and how I use those desires is far too often pride-filled. As I look at these verses, I can't help but notice that what God wants me to understand about these desires that He has given me is that they are supposed to humble me. I am supposed to be "right" in the fullest sense... I am supposed to live righteously. Living "right" is submitting to Him--humility! My desire to win isn't supposed to be for my own fame, it is to prove one more time that God is faithful to help me keep running when I clearly can't on my own strength--humility! My desire to make good plans and see them come to pass should not turn me to pride in my own wisdom, but realize that any wisdom is from the Lord and if "my plan" does come to pass, hopefully, it is because it is His will and He has done the work of grace to cause my heart to be in line with His--humility! The last one is the most obvious one... my desire to be honored should not be one that is based on my own merit (because I have none of my own), this desire must be fully reliant upon God because He knows when it is wise to honor me. He also knows when I need to be dishonored for my own good and for His glory to be renewed again in my heart.

God, teach me true humility. Guard me against turning the desires that You give for Your glory into an opportunity to glorify myself in the eyes of men. Teach me to honor You not just with words, but with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. Cause me to love Your glory... make it my passion and joy. Do whatever it takes to glorify Yourself in me.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Joy in the Small Things

I have been struggling a bit with my involvement in church ministry. It is so easy to be so involved in ministry that I miss out on the fellowship which is so vital to the Christian life. Several weeks back, the Lord blessed with a week off right when I needed it most. God continually amazes me with how He knows exactly what I need when I need it. He never fails to come through... not even once! I have felt that personal ministry opportunities have been lacking in my schedule and really didn't know exactly what to do about it. I am a firm believer that all of life is ministry; however, some situations lend themselves better than others for personal ministry. God can and does use even the smallest of actions for His glory, but it is a blessing when He enables us to focus on personal ministry. We had the Bible study at the park again tonight and my part of the personal ministry ended up being playing with a young father's boys for an hour while he talked with one of our elders. We prayed in the car on the way to the Bible study that God would bring someone who knew the Lord but needed to turn back to Him. God did exactly that! It was so neat to see the body of Christ work together:

It started with God bringing this young father and his sons to the park.

Next, God gave the boldness to one of the ladies at church to go up to him and tell him that she and her husband would be willing to play with the kids if he wanted to join the Bible study.

Next, God gave the courage for him to come and join us.

When everyone had to leave, God graciously chose to use me to play with the kids so that God could speak through one of men at church to this young father.

That right there is the body of Christ at work. He did all the work, but graciously chose to use us as willing vessels. Each of us had different parts with different difficulties. I clearly had the easiest part, but an essential part all the same. It is such a joy to be used by Him. I really see this as filling that hole in my heart for personal ministry opportunities. No doubt, the Lord will grant opportunities to talk with people, but if God wants to use me to play with kids so that He can speak through someone else, I am all in!

The message was about self-righteousness this morning. Pastor Tim talked about the desire that we have to "sit in the important seat". In this case, the "important seat" was ministering to this young father. I have no doubt that God used the sermon from this morning to prepare my heart to minister how He wanted me to tonight. I am so thankful for how He speaks through His Word.

God, You are so good and so faithful. Give me a tender heart for Your ways. Thank You for teaching me through Your Word and preparing me to not only serve, but to truly love it. God, it was such a small thing that You chose for me to do; yet, You gave such joy in doing it because it was for You. I ask that You would continue that work of grace in my heart. Humble me where I need to be humbled. Show me the areas in which I have neglecting serving You and give me the boldness to do it regardless of it is big or small. You are so good and faithful. Teach me Your ways, I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Missions Right Here

The sermon was exactly what I needed to hear today about the freedom that we have by living within the boundaries that God specifies for us. Pastor Tim used the illustration of sky diving and someone without a parachute jumping next to us telling us how we are so limited and slowed down by all those straps and everything tightly bound around us. He is celebrating the freedom he has... nothing to hold him back... he is truly free! The reality is that he is under the force of gravity. We can see the big picture... this person is headed full speed to his death. Just like the man with the parachute isn't standing at the edge of the plane saying, "I won't jump out without a parachute... I won't jump out without a parachute", but rather takes great joy in the "limiting" properties of the parachute knowing that it is what keeps him safe, we ought to have absolutely no attraction for evil. When God and His perfect limitations are the source of our joy, we cannot even consider another option.

I was thinking about 2 Corinthians and Galatians 5:13 this afternoon...
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty!... For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Romans 6 makes it clear that we are always slaves to someone or something... either sin, resulting in death, or Christ resulting in sanctification and eternal life. True freedom is found only in full obedience to Christ. When we can say, "I delight to do Your will.", we are free.

I have to be completely honest and say that I didn't really feel like going to our park ministry night this evening. We were basically going to have a Bible study at the park and everyone and anyone is invited. I went even though I really didn't feel like it. I am so glad that I did... it was such an amazing encouragement to me. If you have ever seen those missions videos where people are talking about the Lord and people just start walking up to come and listen in... that is exactly what happened tonight at the park. I got to play football with kids for a while... it was such a joy. It almost brought tears to my eyes when a father came walking up followed shortly thereafter by his son who was carrying a Bible that he just bought at a garage sale yesterday for 25 cents. Oh, he was so excited! People need the Lord! God has put the desire in their hearts to know Him. He is looking for willing vessels to carry the treasure of His Word to people that He has already done a work in. God, thank You for blessing the Bible study outreach tonight despite my lack of faith. Please make me a much more willing vessel for You!

His Preservation

One of my favorite things is to wake up in the morning without any kind of alarm clock. I generally set one just in case (especially if I am up late the night before)... but I love it when I wake up before the alarm clock feeling resting and just ready to jump out of bed and start the day. Mornings generally seem rushed with all the little things to get done before leaving for work and most importantly, my time with Him. I was reading random passages this morning and ran across 1 Chronicles 29:17-18 (one of David's prayers).
Since I know, O my God, that You try the heart and delight in uprightness, I, in the integrity of my heart, have willingly offered all these things; so now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here, make their offerings willingly to You. O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, our fathers, preserve this forever in the intentions of the heart of Your people, and direct their heart to You.
All of life is worship. We are worshiping something or someone at all times... may it be that Christ is the object of all of our worship. As Romans 12 says... present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God--this is your reasonsable service of worship. It is reasonable because He gave all for us so that we would live no longer for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose again on our behalf.

As I sit here preparing my heart and mind for church this morning, this passage is just so applicable. I know that He sees the ways in which I have worshipped Him... and the times where I have worshipped myself or other things. My prayer is that He would delight in my worship of Him and that He would increase my desire to worship Him more fully and decrease any desire that longs to worship anything other than Him. He must increase, I must decrease! As we gather at our different churches this morning, may He smile upon our hearts of worship and preserve the intentions of our heart to glorify Him throughout the busyness of the days, weeks, and years to come. They must be more than just intentions. We can intend all we want, but if it is not driven by the power of His Spirit, it simply won't happen. May He be All and in all.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Bearer of Our Burdens

This last weekend, God blessed me with the opportunity to surprise a friend of mine in Texas and show up at his graduation. Steve is a young man who has continually ministered to me through challenging me to continually walk closer to the Lord. After contemplating the pros and cons of going out there for a visit, the expense is so minimal in comparison to the friendship and fellowship that I have found in him. I realize that I am in a special situation where God has blessed me far beyond my needs and has enabled me to do these kinds of things, but it did get me thinking more about how I spend money. In general, I don't spend much money... but sometimes the cost doesn't even compare to the value of that person or their friendship. I think things like... "If they died, I would definitely want to show up at their funeral to tell everyone how the Lord blessed me through them."... yet, would I spend that same money to go and bless them while they live? Yes, I know this thinking can be a slippery slope and I'm not saying that you ought to spend all your money visiting people; however, I do think it is appropriate when God has provided the means, to honor those to whom honor is due... and just seek to be a blessing to them. I am so thankful for this last weekend. I was blessed far more than I was a blessing, I'm sure!

On the flight back, I was sitting next to a 5th grade boy. He was sitting next to me and across the isle was his grandma and little sister. They were traveling from TX to CO from their dad's house to their mom's. It absolutely tore me apart seeing these two children just absolutely broken down thinking over leaving their dad and going back to their mom. They clearly loved them both, but I could just sense the longing they had to have both of them together. The little boy next to me was fighting back the tears and the girl across the isle was weeping in her grandma's lap. I started talking with the boy a bit about school and sports and whatever came to mind... mostly to get his mind off leaving his dad and all of that. I had been praying prior to getting on the plane, that God would give me an opportunity to be a blessing to someone else. He certainly does answer prayer! I had my iPad (that my boss had got for each of us on the development team) with me and that turned into the perfect thing for the flight. We played all kinds of different games together (he was usually better than me). While we were playing, I got to talk with the grandma a fair amount... she was a Christian and so we were able to have some fellowship in the process. The little girl enjoyed playing different games as well. It was just such a huge blessing to me to be able to minister to them in such a small way (for me)... and yet, a big way (for them).

I was reading this evening in Psalm 68 and verses 19 and 35 really jumped out at me.
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation... O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary! The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!
It was God who was bearing the burden of those two children on the plane and their grandmother. He used me, yes... but He was bearing their burden.

What a blessing it is to be used by Him! Bearing one another's burdens can be one of the most refreshing things because it is Christ who gives us strength. It is when we are trying to bear our own burdens and others in our own strength that we are crushed under the weight of it all. All the while, He is there whispering... Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. When the storms of life surround us and we just long for a moment of rest, we would do well to remember Christ sleeping in the boat as the storm was hitting in full fury... that is the picture of His burden being light.

God, help me to always be taking all to You in earnest prayer so that I would "come to you" in the fullest sense. Give me no rest when I am trying to bear my own burdens because I must learn from You... learn that Your burden is light. Grant me true soul-refreshing rest in You as I depend on You, the One who daily bears my burdens.