Sunday, August 30, 2009
I've had a mentor over the past three years who has truly helped to shape my view of Christ and what it means to follow him. I've stolen numerous sayings, quips, and cliches that make people laugh when I speak or write and even have them considering me witty once in a while. On the rarest occasion some "fooled" individuals have falsely called me smart or bright (hard for you and me to believe) because of the truth in these little sayings stolen from a disciple of Christ. One of my favorite sayings that He would send people off with after an inspiring message was for those in attendance to leave that day and to "Give 'em heaven" as they enter back into the world.
The moment I read today's scripture my mind immediately went to the thought of "giving 'em heaven" versus "giving 'em hell". When we turn from evil and respond by "doing good", we actually turn from giving people hell in favor of giving them Heaven. If we are to give people Heaven, we are showing them with deeds and words what a life of perfect love, lived in the presence of God truly looks like. It is not a life that a political system can come up with, and it's definitely not an idea your yoga instructor has developed in his or her pursuit of truth. Keeping with this idea of giving 'em heaven being what life is actually about for the follower of Christ, than why is it that we have always been told to "give 'em hell" before we play in an athletic event, perform in a concert or go for a job interview? Isn't hell the complete antitheses of God's perfection? If we are to love people, then why would we want to "give 'em hell"? What is so great about hell, that I think I need to give it to everybody? Of course I'm being sarcastic, but seriously...think about it, when we are told to give somebody hell, we are actually being told to give them the kind of treatment that helps them to NOT see God. Personally, even on my off days filled with doubt and fear, the idea of doing anything with the hopes of being outside of the presence of God is not only scary but is downright evil and foolish.
Now, the part of me that wants to take a mental break because it's Sunday didn't want to take this initial thought any further. But the Spirit in me, the one that reminds me that "everything is permissible, but everything is not beneficial", is telling me that we need to take today's passage a little further. You see, whether or not you like it, God has allowed evil into this world. I don't understand why, but I do know what evil is. In a few words, evil is just the absence of good. To make this clear, this is not what you and I consider to be "good". Instead, evil is the complete opposite of what God considers to be "good". My favorite explanation of evil can be done in a word picture of one of my favorite foods, the donut. As you know, donuts are in a word, awesome! They are truly one of the greatest breakfast goods, snack foods, and dessert foods ever created, but now I'm digressing. The basics of what I'm trying to say is that good is a lot like the actual donut. It is a real thing. It is tangible and it effects the senses. The center of the donut is called the "donut hole" (and I'm not talking about the actual ball of sugar dough that typically tastes better than a donut because it's bite sized and full of flavor). Where the donut hole is on the donut, is actually the place where the donut had a piece of dough cut out. The donut hole has a name, but the donut hole is not actually a real thing. Instead, the donut hole on the donut is just the absence of the "good" thing. Much like God's original creation was perfect, when man decided he knew best, pursuing the ability to "be like a God", he took a large cut out of God's initial "good" creation. The result then was a "good" creation that had pieces of the good taken out by the will of man. The places where there appear to be empty spaces or gaps in God's creation are otherwise called evil. Make sense?
When we do evil in this world, namely the pursuit of self over the pursuit of loving others, we are actually committing acts that are not in God's plans for what He considers to be good. As we read today's verse, we see that in order to live eternally, we must not only turn from evil but to also DO good as a response. Personally, it has become a pastime of mine to point out all the evil, the true absence of God in this World, this Country, myself, my family, my Church and my friends (look out, kidding). The problem however, is not only that I'll be judged by the same measure in which I judge, but that my response is not to do good as a resolution to the evil that I'm on the prowl for.
About two weeks ago, as I was sharing this personal shortcoming with a friend he asked me what I hoped to gain with all this "witch hunting". I honestly couldn't respond, a rarity for me as you can tell. As I've pondered this over the past couple of days I can't help but notice that my issues haven't always been in seeing the evil, as that may truly be a gift from God, but it's in my reaction to it. Even though there is a knowledge of the truth of good and evil in my head, there is no response to it in my own actions. Other than some words that I typically use to puff myself above those other "weak minded" Christians around me, my response is to just keep talking about the evil. As I have aimed to "get it", I've missed out on truly getting it.
Today as you consider what God is saying through this Scripture, please keep in mind that there is an absolute truth, an absolute good and an absolute evil in this lifetime. Where absolute truth and goodness dwell is in the eternal perspective of God's kingdom. Where evil seems to be, is actually an opportunity to "refill" it with goodness and truth the way God intended it to be. When we live for the goodness, truth and the beauty of God in Christ, we begin to live in eternity which is what today's message truly is about. As you head into this week choose to not only point out all the evil but to respond by filling in that absence of God with His love, his truth and his perspective. In taking this approach you will be "Giving them heaven" even when the world is telling you to "give 'em hell".
Friday, August 28, 2009
Couple other things:
I've been meaning to say that if I don't know you personally, I'd really love the chance to meet you via email and have you let me know how you came across the blog.
I've also had a lot of people ask if I mind if they send this to family, friends, post on Facebook, Twitter, etc...The answer is always yes, but keep the following in mind. I don't do this for me but to glorify our Father in Heaven. If you believe He would be blessed, then please send it out! If you believe it would glorify me at the expense of using God's name then I urge against you sending this out. Hope this makes sense. I'm not looking for fame, only hoping to spread the truth and love of our Lord Jesus. I trust that He'll use this the way He wants to (He already is proving that).
Just so you all know, I initially was writing this for close friends and family (I have a healthy fear that I'm an awful writer) so that they may see the truth of God in His word. For whatever reason God has used it to bless my family, friends, myself and those I don't know beyond my imagination. Thanks again for all the notes you send and thank God for being such a loving Father!
I'll leave you today with a quotation from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that should have you skipping into the weekend:
"Into all our lives, in many simple, familiar ways, God infuses an element of joy from the surprises of life, which unexpectedly brighten our days and fill our lives with light."
Live in the light today and focus on all the positive things going on in your life, God lives in the ordinary and specializes in making it into the extraordinary. Take note of your blessings and live with a grateful heart this weekend!
Thursday, August 27, 2009
About 4-5 weeks ago I was having lunch with my best friend here in Irvine. We got together because as business continues to get tougher it appears to be a great time to figure out something new to do. We've always had a knack for creating businesses and with so much free time, getting together to create something new seemed like a great idea. Fortunately for us, God had some other plans that day, plans that have completely shifted my thinking since we met.
After we sat down for lunch and got geared up to discuss what our new great plans would be, the personal questions started. "How are the kids?", "How are you dealing with the lack of work?", "You ever thought about getting out of California?", "Why does it seem like we work four times as hard for an eighth of the money?". That last question brought a strange understanding of my own life over me, it was like I stepped outside of myself and saw that all my striving, all my hard work was actually being done for three reasons. The first was out of a fear that God would not provide. Even though He says He will, I believed that if I didn't "figure it out", we would eventually end up living in my parents garage. The second was that "I" had to take care of my family. This goes along with the first fear, but it is different in that I was placing the stress of the world on my own shoulders believing that if I was taking a day off, I was actually letting my family down. The third reason for my striving follows the second in that if I was hanging out in my house at 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon, I look like a failure to the world around me. Basically, the third reason for my striving is that I was consumed with making sure others see how hard I work so that they know I love my family. All three reasons are lies brought on by the Father of lies himself. Of course there is a way out of this rut and the remedy to these issues all come down to the basic things I've been writing about: trusting God, abandoning self and discerning the truth.
Because it seemed as though I was having an epiphany that day I couldn't help but share what was going on in my head. Each question I asked Him, I realized I was truly asking myself. Questions like, "Why do we believe it is a curse to be at home in the afternoon, having to hang out with our families? Isn't it actually a blessing if we take on a Godly perspective?" or "Isn't it funny how we so frequently complain when we're busy that if we can just do "this" or "that" we will finally be able to do what we "want" to do?". It wasn't that long ago, during the busy times that both of us wanted to spend more time with our family, go on trips, and spend more quality time with God. The irony of course is that ever since we got what we wanted, we have fallen victim to the lies of this world, lies that tell us we're a failure if we don't focus on providing "the old fashioned way".
Today's verse is the answer to all of that striving I was doing. I'm sure if my friend reads this He would say the same thing. You see, today's verse says so much, yet again it was one of those we may breeze by because we already "get it". Today's scripture really must be broken down into two parts or thoughts. The first part of the passage says that the "righteous" (the ones we have previously determined are being made righteous through their relationship with Christ and the indwelling of His Spirit) give generously and lend freely. Are you free to give or lend regardless of your financial position because you trust that God will continue to provide what you need? I personally struggle with this and in order to trick myself, I will randomly give large gifts when times are good to make up for the times I don't give during the lean days. It's the old balancing act of giving and then at the end of the year I average it all out over twelve months and feel pretty good about myself. Without realizing it, I have fallen into the trap of making money my security, and that is the reason I give on my own terms instead of "freely".
The second thought about today's verse is much different. It ties into that heavenly perspective we've discussed over the past month. Though I know this scripture is talking about giving out of a complete trust in what God will provide, it is not just talking about the giving or lending of money. I truly believe if "time is money" as they (who are they?) say, then the time we give or lend to others, even at the expense of not making money is another act of trust and obedience in God. When I read the last line, "their children will be blessed", I can't help but think about the shame I would have if my child (or wife for that matter) failed to see the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in me as I don't spend time with them in favor of making more money. What a shame it would be if I showed them that providing only has to do with money and what we need to sacrifice in order to get more. What shame and lie it would be if I told them that I can't spend time with them because I need to "provide for them". What a shame it would be if I told my children to trust God as I ran out the door showing them that I actually only trust myself.
Today's message should really hit you men out there right between the eyes. The men who find their identity in their work, in their job or in their career. I want to remind you that blessing your children means so much more that just "providing" financially, giving them a car when they're sixteen, sending them to private schools or to college. Blessing your children is teaching them that we can give freely, we can lend without fear because we trust a God that is big enough to take care of all His children. Have you considered that many times it is you that takes care of "of the least of these" for Him by trusting God to provide as we give of our time and money? Take a step back today and look at the message you are relaying to your kids, your wife (or husband), your family and your friends. Are you telling them with your actions that you are the answer to life and the "master of your destiny", or are you blessing them by teaching them what it truly means to be a "cheerful giver" out of your trust in our loving Father?
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
In the past two verses (Psalm 37:23-24) we have come to see just how close our LORD walks with us, holds us up, leads us and loves us. Today's verse is a reminder of His great goodness and His provision over all of those He calls sons and daughters. Considering the times people around the Globe are going through, I can't help but look at this Scripture and consider the temptation of Jesus in the desert. I don't know about you, but it seems as though there is some serious testing going on in my life. Some of the testing is on whether or not I will continue to follow Him regardless of my circumstances. Other times it's about how much of my life (or the control of those lives around me) I'm willing to relinquish to His care even when I have no idea how we're going to make it through the day as a family, nation, etc....
Personally, I have had to deal a great bit with the faltering economy as I have made my living in Real Estate since 2003. The change in lifestyle that has come along with the economic downturn has been both challenging and stressful. Though trusting God through all of this was once intimidating, these days I have truly felt the comfort of God's peace and seen His provision even during the times that I had no idea where our food, shelter or money was going to come from. Instead of doubting His existence (which is usually the easiest option for me), during this "season" of my life I have had to choose whether or not I would stick around long enough to see if His Word could be trusted and He would provide for both the present and the future. In all honesty, many days over the past two years I have wanted to abandon Him for the comforts of financial freedom that I am certain I could obtain through the specific gifts He has given me, but I have decided instead to take the long term approach and invest in His Kingdom by learning to let go of my own life for His sake. Though sometimes, in my own finite point of view, it seems like He is holding me back, I forget what a blessing it is that the God of the Universe actually "holds me" regardless of what I'm going through.
As I study today's passage more in depth, trying to obtain a true understanding of what God is saying through David I came across the Hebrew word for "forsaken" and it really got my wheels spinning. "Forsaken", in the Hebrew language is translated as the word, "'azab" which in English actually means "to loosen". If I understand "loosening" correctly, you have to actually be bound to something in order for you to be loosened. Therefore, I'm realizing more and more, that God not only walks with His righteous ones, but is actually bound to them by His own Spirit. Regardless of what happens, when we are walking with Him, we can trust that He will carry us through it; because we are so closely bound to Him, for God to let us fall, would mean that He is losing a piece of Himself.
An even more important/inspiring segment of today's verse is found in the last few words in which David reminds us that He has never seen the righteous man's, "... descendants begging bread". Every time I hear the word "bread" in Scripture my mind goes right to Jesus in the desert when Satan is tempting him in Luke 4. Christ's response when He is hungry and is being tempted by Satan is to quote from Deuteronomy 8:3 in which Jesus says, "...man does not live on bread alone...". As I scan back into the Torah I feel an insatiable urge to help you understand what Jesus is actually saying and how it ties in with the truth of today's scripture. Deuteronomy 8:3 says,
"He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD."
You see, the descendants of the "righteous of today", like the descendants of the righteous man Abraham, have the ability to understand that all good things come from God. There is nothing that we need that He doesn't know about and many times in our lives, difficulties, as we mentioned yesterday are put there that we may persevere and become complete in our faith in God. Deuteronomy 8:3 is actually saying that we must trust God in every aspect of our life. Not our own abilities, not in what we think we need, not in what everyone tells us we need. We are to trust Him and wait in expectancy as we know He will provide what He knows we need (not what we want). To be blunt, if we are walking with Him, we can trust that He will provide for us, otherwise there is not point in walking with Him or trusting Him.
Furthermore, the reason that followers of Christ need not beg for bread, is because the bread of this life is not eternally satisfying. It's the word of the LORD that gives us the energy to push through difficult times and the peace and patience to withstand hardships. It's the word of the LORD and not "bread" that give us life and a purpose for living. It's the word of the LORD that reminds us of His great grace and mercy and gift of eternity through Christ. If we were so consumed with getting what we think we need (bread), we will miss out on what God knows we need. I urge you to trust in the fact that God knows far more than you do and you can take Him at His word that not only will He provide for you but He will lead you where you need to go.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
"though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand." Psalm 27:24
Boy do I need to read this verse. As I ponder the truth of this Scripture I can't help but think about how frequently I stumble. Most of the time my stumbling comes in my own lack of faith in the realness of God and the lack of trust in His greater plan as I endure hardships and testing. Other times, it comes with a fear that God's plans for me probably involve me living in the bush in Africa or in the some icy region of Mongolia in which I'll be cut off from society and be remembered by like six people that I was a martyr killed by the Yetty. I often talk about how God's plans for us are so much bigger than we can imagine and most of the time after I finish writing this blog my thoughts become as annoying as somebody decelerating on to a freeway. I'll keep hearing that little voice in my head saying, "Crap! What is He going to do with me in order to prove just how big His plans are for everyone else to see". What's so saddening and frustrating for me is that I have these feelings and thoughts even as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Just today I was talking to somebody about what a moron I can be. How I fear so many things and how I seem to live in constant discouragement with not "living up to God's standards". I appear as though I specialize in the habit of thinking God is so big, that my little problems or uncomfortable circumstances are irrelevant to Him and He's got bigger problems to deal with. But Psalm 37:24 is such a great reminder of the character of our Jehovah. He is such a wonderful Father and His love for us is infinitely greater than our minds can imagine. We also must remember that Psalm 37:23 speaks of how God chooses to not only walk with us, but to lead our steps and prepare a way for us. Today I'm reading that we can expect to stumble, but because of our Lord and His Spirit in us, we will not be thrown off the track if we keep holding onto His hand. He will lead us and guide us if we are willing to let go of our life to the Shepherds care, even in our toughest times. The choice is up to us, do we let go and do "it" on our own when things get hard, or do we deal with wherever He is leading us knowing that it is for His glory and our growth?
The more I let today's scripture settle in, I begin to recognize that we should not be surprised even when we are walking with the Lord if we stumble along the way, otherwise Psalm 37:24 doesn't make any sense. The big reminder is that not only is He with us but He is holding our hand through everything, our mistakes, lack of faith, hurts and sins. He is also with us in our trials, no matter how far away He seems or how indifferent He appears to be. The New Testament speaks boldly on this issue. James 1:2-4 says:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
Can you believe that we are told to consider it pure JOY when we face trials? Why is that to be a joyful occasion? The reason is that the testing of our faith in tough circumstances is what allows us to be considered "complete" in our faith in God. I am certain that God is more concerned with making you complete than He is concerned with making you comfortable. I know that many of you who read this are going through tough times right now. I love hearing from you and how I can be praying for you, or how you see God working in you. But let's face it, we all have problems that make us wonder if God is even real. What I want to remind you tonight, and what David was reminding us in this scripture is that we can expect to stumble even as we walk with God, but that we also need to not try and save ourselves during those times of stumbling because we "...will not fall, for the LORD upholds...".
Can you trust this word in your life? Times of stress and difficulty are the circumstances in which we get the opportunity to continue holding God's hand and see if He is trustworthy. I urge you to accept His offer to forgive you of your sins if you ask for it. I beg you to let go of your life so that you may find it as Jesus so accurately states. Lastly, I plead with you during your most difficult and trying times to let go of wondering if God loves you, or contemplating if He actually cares for you in favor of humbling yourself enough to trust that He works everything out for the good of those who love Him. Let Him make you mature in your faith as you learn to handle your life with humility. Only in humility, through perseverance are we made into the people God intends us to be.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
A couple important things as we get into today's verse. It's a bit of a mouthful but bear with me. The Hebrew translations of the words/phrases above actually define (and suggest) a walk with God that is so much more intimate than what we read in English. The first translation we should start with is the phrase "good man". This phrase in Hebrew is the word "geber" which is literally translated as a "valiant man or warrior", meaning in the eyes of God, a good man (or woman) is one who is battling evil as a person of courage in God's army. The second translation is for the word "steps". In the original language the word "steps" is translated into "mits'ad" which does literally mean "a step" but it also means "to be going or stepping with someone". This is important because of the reminder that our steps are never alone when we are willing to surrender our life to God. The third translation needed is for the word "ordered". In Hebrew, the word used for "ordered" is the word "kuwn" which literally is defined as "to be set up".
Therefore, when we look deeper at David's words we actually see that the walk through life for the "Warrior of God" is meant to be done WITH God (side by side) as we let Him create the path (ordain). Because we accept a walk through life that is set up for us by God, and then lived out by walking the path with Him, the LORD can't help but delight in the way, because the way is actually His. In some aspects this is beyond exciting for the Man or Woman of God who is willing to lay down their life that they "might find it" as Jesus suggests. But for me, and many of you this idea of letting God actually lead the path is intimidating and tough. Especially when God actually uses discipline and chastening in order to shape us in the image of Christ. Though the words in the previous sentence are true and nobody likes to deal with pain, reading today's word is actually one of hope, one that should quench your fears and give you freedom. If you've ever decided to walk without God out of a fear that you may deal with pain if you walk with Him, then you are forgetting one extremely important thing, God never leaves your side when you let Him dictate your steps. You are never alone!
How many of you invite God along on your life hoping He doesn't become a back seat driver? I'm guilty of this. I share with Him my goals and dreams and because they just seem so perfect (to me) I can't imagine that He wouldn't want to follow me along (and because He's God I kind of expect Him to pick up the pieces where I blow it along the way). I even come up with cool ways to "trick" God into following me along claiming that I'm doing something because He "made me" a certain way, or I must use the "gifts He gave me" in order to get something accomplished. But as I read today's Scripture, I realize how frequently I only ask God to bless what I'm doing, or give me peace through it, and never ask if this is where He'd want to lead me. Instead of having Him delight in my steps because He's leading them, I ask Him to bless them because if I'm honest with myself, I plan on going at life alone while He watches anyway.
Once again, this Psalm comes back to us letting go of our whole life to God's care. It takes major trust to turn over the so-called reigns on this life, especially when we begin to understand how God handles His children as we grow in character and the likeness of Christ (Hebrew 12:6) . If we truly desire to walk in God's delight, then we must surrender our life to Him, walking on the path with Him that He has planned for us. In surrendering our own life, we allow His Spirit to fill us with His peace, hope, wisdom, vision, and most importantly His love. Trust that no matter how much you believe God loves you, He loves you infinitely more than that. He wants to lead you into His perfect peace and into a life abundance that only he can define, one in which He delights in your every step.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Today I was actually wondering what God may give me that is "new" since this verse basically appears in Psalm 37:9 (you can still re-read it) when it says, "For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land." I figured I would point you to day 9 since it is already complete and go about my merry way this afternoon and keep my fingers from feeling like they are going to fall off. However, the Spirit of God made something very clear to me in the wording of these two verses. I checked the original language to make sure this wasn't something cute a translator did to make them "seem" different and what God showed me is very interesting.
In verse nine, the word David writes has everything to do with our own will. It speaks of our own "hope" and it speaks of the "evil" being cut off from God. Earlier in the Scripture we spoke of the ways of evil men, and what their actions look like in order to be called evil. In today's passage we read this almost from God's point of view as opposed to our own. He is saying that He is the one who makes decisions on who gets "what" from His eternal will. It's not what we want or hope. It's what He knows in His eternal goodness and wisdom. He quickly reminds us that HE OWNS EVERYTHING! That's why He's able to give it away for us to inherit. He owns the air we breathe, the land we live on, the food we eat, and the souls that cry out within us. He owns Heaven and He owns Earth and nothing we can do can change that. In becoming aware of who owns all creation, we become aware of just how small we actually are. The beauty of today's Scripture is actually in recognizing that God wants to share everything with us! How do we share in it? By becoming "blessed" according to Psalm 37:22.
The beginning of the verse says that whoever is "blessed" will INHERIT the Earth/Land/World, etc. He then says that those He curses (the evil, wicked, self-seekers) will be "cut off". Cut off from what? They will be cut off from His inheritance. So basically our time here is preparing us to receive what God Himself wants to "will" to us. What's even more amazing is that an inheritance is given to people (typically family) who the "Willer" believes is worthy to receive it. Therefore, God believes that we are worthy to receive His inheritance. But how are we worthy? What do we have to do to prove it? Nothing other than letting go of your own self.
If being considered "blessed" is what it takes to inherit His Kingdom, then what does being "blessed" look like to God. It looks like a growing relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. More than that, it is accepting the Spirit to take residence within you that Jesus promised would council you, give you hope, and make you like Him. Becoming like Christ is nothing you can do yourself, the only way to truly become like Christ is to submit your will to the Spirit. Having the Spirit in us is what makes us Blessed! In the Spirit we learn what to pray for people, how to hear from God, and how to love like Jesus loved. It is living in the Spirit that we are truly "blessed" as we find communion with God the Father. It was Jesus Himself who said, "But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it". In other words, life is found on the small road, away from the conscious living for "self" that goes along with so many Christians as well Non-Christians on this "wide road to Heaven" culture.
In order to receive the "inheritance", stop trying to prove how worthy you are to God and others and get on the narrow road of trusting in Christ and abandoning yourself that you may obtain an eternal perspective living in God's Kingdom. This can only be done by accepting His Holy Spirit to take over your life, it cannot be done on your own.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Today is one of those days that this blog could go one of like forty directions, but because I'd like you to read the whole thing, I will dial it in to where the Spirit is leading me. First, I have to state the obvious that it's hard to not prove some "great" point about the wicked borrowing and not repaying as the reason for an economic meltdown in the United States. I could just as easily discuss how this credit loving, consumer culture has possibly put America in a hole so large that even so-called Christians are questioning whether or not God cares anymore? Ironically, that mentality of wondering if God cares anymore is exactly where this verse is leading us today. We have become so "fat" on the "good life" that our relationship with God is one based on false gratitude as opposed to a healthy "fear" of Him. (please read J.P Moreland's book "The Los Virtue of Happiness" for a true definition of the "good life" as defined by the "ancients".) It may be hard for you to take, but it's most likely that God, the way you see Him, is no more than a fairy tale or "wish giver" who is here strictly for you. His make-up is more Aladdin than Shepherd, and that is the reason why we tell Him what to do as opposed to trusting Him as the provider and giver of what we need.
When we first look at this verse it is so easy to breeze over it as it appears we keep reading David saying the same things over and over. (Did I really just use the words "it" and "over" that many times in a sentence. It's so hurting in the creativity department I will keep it just to keep me humble). We more or less take this Scripture as another definition of the wicked when compared to the righteous (us) and in our lack of humility automatically assume that because we did an alter call twelve years ago, or show up at church on Sundays, have parents (or children) that are Christians or pray before we go to bed that we can be thankful that we don't fit in that "first part". We assume repentance is a once in a life "thing", and once it's done we not only receive the grace (which is free) but also the benefits of what the World tells us we need. How quickly we forget that His Kingdom is "not of this world" and His ways are bigger and wiser than our own. His grace is enough!
Unfortunately for us (me included), we are part of a generation of consumers that have taken this passion of more, bigger and better into what we expect in our relationship with God. Whether we admit it or not, I'm willing to bet that 95% or more of your relationship with God (going to church, joining a "life group" or "small group", praying, etc...) is about you getting what you want, and the thought of giving yourself away only comes when you get something out of what you are willing to give. We attend churches because they are easy and we can count on them to always "give us what we want". They make you feel good, they don't offend, they are entertaining, they are funny, they add another "notch on our belt", and they don't condemn us even though our spiritual growth has become horizontal (knowledge of culture) as opposed to vertical (relational with Christ, which includes the relationship with His body). We join "small groups" because it's "hip" and we are told we're supposed to on Sunday by some guy who doesn't even realize that the Spirit has left his man made church building. Same thing with the new "amazing" (a word that the church has ruined the definition of ) ministry we "have" to join because we then look "awesome" to those around us. We go on mission trips because we heard somebody else "felt great" when they did it. Whether you realize it or not, you have become a consumer of Christianity who fails to repay or give away the same gift you have received from Christ. You have made God the ultimate vending machine and gone is the death to self that Jesus preached as you look for ways to get more from Him as you know you don't have to repay. It's the death to self that changes us from a consumer to a giver of self but we have become wicked like the world around us as our goal is to satisfy and gratify our wants. You, me and all other believers who have sub-consciously "conformed to the ways of the world" and are living like this life is all there is as we consume everything in sight.
As followers of God, we too often try to borrow things that are gifts (i.e like a bite of a sandwich which as you know, you can't borrow since the bite is not something you can give back), and fail to recognize that when we consume in our relationship with Him, we are unable to respond by giving ourselves away (which is the only way to repay Him, i.e "go and make disciples"). To be honest, in God's "economy" there is no borrowing, and only free gifts. It's the worldly teaching that teaches us to try and earn grace when it's free, or prove to God that He should "take care of us" even though He says He will. Both of those things are gifts that don't need repaying. Instead, those gifts are to be an example of how we can give "generously to others". We must not forget from earlier passages in Psalm 37 that true "righteousness" is only obtained when the Spirit takes over your life. Therefore, when the Spirit is taking over your life, you become a "giver" because the Spirit is a giver. Basically, we are wicked until we allow the Spirit to make us like Jesus. If you are consuming the Christian lifestyle, and are not following Jesus repent and allow Jesus to be "in" you as He leads you.
If you fit the definition of the consumer Christian above it's time to recognize that WE need to move in the direction of letting go. The more we let go of ourselves, the more the Spirit is let in and we begin to give freely like our Father in Heaven. Though it is painful to let go of yourself and nobody wants to deal with "pain" we forget in our consumption of this life that many times it's actually the peace in our "painful giving" that makes us most like Christ.
Monday, August 17, 2009
"But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away. " Psalm 37:20 (KJV)
"A puff is the end of all their puffing" was once aptly stated by C.H Spurgeon when discussing this verse. Those who love themselves more than God have one thing to look forward to (or not look forward to if you know what I mean). I don't understand why this is the case with God, but if He is truly the loving, just, caring, all-knowing God that He says He is in scripture, than I have to trust that what He does and considers eternally good is better than any idea that I can come up with on my own. Regardless if what I read Him saying in His word appears "mean" or "out of touch", I recognize that I have a God who gives all of those created in His likeness an opportunity to let go of being an enemy of His in exchange for becoming a "son" or "daughter". It's in repenting of this wicked life to take on the life of Christ that we become "born again" so that we may inherit the promised eternal Kingdom of God.
With so much self-promotion, so much blatant blasphemy, so much trying to nudge (or should I say shove) God off His throne in this culture it's hard to imagine who isn't exactly an enemy of God. Personally, I don't find much comfort in this Scripture (other than reminding myself of my own justification by Christ) when I also fight the constant battle of trusting myself into a true friendship with God. Like most people, I find it hard not to "puff" up myself in order to get what I want in business, relationships, friendships and any other place I can "get ahead" in my short stay here on Earth. Even though Spurgeon reminds us what happens to the "puffers," my short term fears are in a Spiritual MMA fight against my own eternal perspective.
When it comes to getting over myself, I've been having a terrible time lately putting an end to, "what I think" about everything. It makes life tough as I let go of what I personally aspire to become and take on the uncertain pursuits of what God calls me to. I go through stages in which this life seems so meaningless, so hard to find joy, and so hard to not become apathetic even as a follower of Jesus Christ. I find myself angry all too often, typically with "Christians" about the same things I don't like about myself. It is a lack of patience, a lack of trust, a state of fear, and more than anything a clear lack of the Spirit in their life (regardless if they say that right things) that has me wondering who really loves Jesus enough to not become like the wicked who will fade like "smoke".
The more I read through this Psalm and all of God's word, I recognize that my fears from the paragraph above are also meaningless. Everything in Scripture leads up to Christ and grace. We can't do anything on our own to get us into a right relationship with Him. Furthermore, the free will God gives us is to be offered back as an act of obedience instead of an act of sacrifice. When we give it back as an act of obedience we are responding to who God says He is and acting in a trustful manner that He will provide as He sees we have need. When we give up our will as an act of "sacrifice" it actually becomes about us and what "we gave up" because we think something "better" may be in it for us. The difference is small but it's clear. I urge all of you followers of Christ who are reading this today to get over yourself. It's not about the service and "things" you can do for God He's after, instead, it's about what God can do through you as you submit with obedience and trust your will to Him. If you want to be certain that you will not burn up and fade away like "smoke", get over yourself, get over trying to "save people", get over TRYING to do the Jesus thing, and remember what Jesus says to His disciples in Matthew 16:24-26,
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?"
All you need to "DO" is let go of your life for His sake, stop the puffing and striving and trust that in letting go of yourself, the Spirit of Christ will get the things of God done through you so that you don't have to guess if you're doing them "right" yourself.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Do you believe that your inheritance as a follower of Christ is God's divine providence? Do you really believe that God knows what you need more than you do? That He'll allow you to enjoy "plenty" in times like these? In a culture in which hurry and worry make up the majority of our day and the urgent seemingly outweighs the important we are frequently running through this life like thoroughbreds with blinders on. Our outlook is just that...OUR outlook. Though we believe in God, tell everyone else that He knows what's best for us and are taught that He has a plan through Christ to let us spend eternity with Him after we die; we rarely stop sprinting towards what we think we need and instead take the time to look around at what God has already given us. If we would just learn to be content with a gallop through this life instead of a sprint; we may be able to begin to grow the grateful heart that allows us to experience joy in times of disaster and appreciate having enough food for the day regardless of what we have in the "Fridge" for tomorrow. It's in trusting God's divine providence that this word from David is fulfilled.
I have a habit of looking for brilliant quotes in the morning. They help to give me perspective throughout the day and have been a major blessing in my maturity as a follower of what one friend calls the "revolutionary rabbi". Though I struggle with fear and worry about whether or not I'll ever become "what I'm supposed to become" or if I'll ever feel "at home" in this life, I'm learning day by day to let go of my own dreams and desires in favor of trusting God and what He has for my family and me. This morning I came across a truthful word by a well known Russian author named Alexander Solzhenitsyn that helped me to change the fearful thinking that was already consuming me when I woke. Though he is not known to be a Christian (from what I've seen), his words were more Christ-like than many sermons I hear from some of the most well known Christian churches in America. He states, "The meaning of earthly existence lies, not as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering, but in the development of the soul." Have you considered that sometimes "less is more" as the old cliche goes?
David's word today in Psalm 37 spoke to me in a brand new way after I read this quote. Before reading the quote, out of own fear of having nothing (by worldly standards) I automatically assumed that this piece of scripture is God's battle cry against famine and disaster in my life. I began to fantasize about what God was going to give me and because of that, I placed on the "blinders" once again. However, if my existence lies more in the development of my soul than in the development of my "false self", times of famine and disaster may actually be the biggest times of personal growth in terms of character and perspective. As mentioned yesterday, it is in the Valley's that we are able to understand the majesty of being on a mountain and it's the times of hurt, pain, sorrow, and a loss of control of our own life that we learn to let go, slow down, open our eyes and trust God.
Though I could speak so much on the development of the soul I want to end today with a question to all of you that was presented to me about a month ago. What satisfies your soul? When I was asked this simple question I began to think about the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect income, the perfect "life". However, as I read today's scripture and consider the truth of the quote above I can't help but think that once again I was way off in my original thoughts and eventual answer. When I consider now what satisfies my soul, it is in knowing that my life is entrusted to God's perfect plan. When I realize that I can trust that He is able to grow me in times of disaster and famine even more than in times that I consider to be stable and comfortable I began to understand what is truly meant by today's passage.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The message today is one that gives us an eternal perspective. It is one of patience and peace. One of hope and a future. One of eternal blessings and gifts. It is a reminder that whatever you are going through, God not only understands it but He knew you would experience it since the day you were born. Throughout scripture we are constantly reminded of God's faithfulness to His people. From the Manna in Deuteronomy 8 to Jesus telling us to store up treasures in Heaven instead of Earth and to not Worry about the "things of this life" in Matthew 6:19-34. God has always desired that we take on a certain understanding of who He is and how he provides. He desires our obedience more than sacrifice as stated in 1 Samuel 15 and He cares what we care about, especially when our desires have become His.
I came across a quote today by Elisabeth Elliot that truly encompasses this passage. She states, "The God who created, names, and numbers the stars in the heavens also numbers the hairs on my head...He pays attention to very big things and to very small ones. What matters to me matters to Him, and that changes my life." Why is it that we believe we must do everything on our own? Even more importantly, why do we worry about things happening to us now when we have a God that not only knows what's going on, but is able to bless us for eternity. Instead, in our own fallen perspective we refuse to travel the easy road that seems difficult and opt instead for the difficult road that appears easy.
Today for me is a day of honesty. I frequently struggle with fear and worry, not just in a sense of feeling anxiety, but more in a sense that I need to fix everything in my own power before I become uncertain; I guess you could just say that I fear uncertainty. My moods are more often influenced by what I think I need, and I become frustrated when I ponder how I can be downcast when I have a God who "knows my days" and is preparing an eternal inheritance for me. I believe in the realness of God's Kingdom, but I also desire to set up my own comfortable kingdom here on Earth. I claim that I know He'll take care of me, yet I pray that He won't make me suffer through hard times. I tell others that God can do miracles, yet when he allows me to be in a place that I need a miracle to get out of, I quickly resort to my own abilities in order to do everything I can to not enter into that "riptide" of suffering. I consistently lack the kind of Faith needed to not only move a mountain, but to just trust in God to provide for today.
How many of you today are going through difficult times in your life? Sure we remind ourselves that God loves us and knows what we're going through, but do we believe He is big enough to help us grow through our circumstances? Do we read His word in a way that comforts us because of what He is capable of giving us, but leave out the part that He tells us to only focus on today or that we may suffer many things in this world but to take heart because Christ has overcome the world? Do we willfully avoid difficult situations only to strip God of the opportunity to perform a miracle in our life? I urge you today (as I urge myself) to let go of what we think we need. Trust God that He knows everything about us including what is needed to get through today. Trust that we not only can experience a peace that passes all understanding by trusting Him, but we also invest in an "eternal inheritance that will last forever".
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Times have definitely been tough. Money is tight, emotions are high, and stress is now felt in your body as well as your head. Remember that it's a blessing to know that when we place our lives in God's complete care He will give us what He knows we need instead of what we think we need. Let Him be the water that makes you grow today.
We must not also forget that wherever there is a "Mountain Peak" there is also a valley. It's the things that happen in that Valley that allow us to recognize when we are on the Mountain. Without the Valley's, we would never know what being on the Mountain would feel like. God uses both to shape our true self.
As I go through some tough transitions myself (mainly vocationally), I understand what it's like to be uncertain. But I am constantly reminded that in these times of uncertainty God is able to do His best work as I have no idea what I can do to "maintain" my own current lifestyle. Join me in trusting in His amazing power and sovereignty this week. As the quote above states, the only true comfort we can have is knowing that we have a Creator who cares for us, knows what we're going through and plans on using all times, both good and bad, to shape us in order to glorify his goodness. When we hope in God instead of ourselves we begin to see His supernatural power to have complete control over all of His creation.
Have a wonderful week!
P.S-New Psalm 37 posts coming soon!
Friday, August 7, 2009
If it seems like David is saying the same things over and over again, you'd be absolutely right. However, you'd also be wrong to some extent which is more of a mystery than it is a contradiction. Think about it, most people when explaining how they feel, say the same things twenty different ways until what they are saying "clicks" to all people. I personally do this every time I share something I know to be important, even at the expense of being slightly annoying because I won't let it go until everyone "gets it". Today's verse, like the first sixteen we've gone over, when read in the original language, gives some interesting insight as to the way evil "ends" in the finite realm. Even though Psalm 37:17 is basically saying what has been expressed through the first sixteen verses of the Psalm, The LORD reminds us once again that He will have his way with the wicked and bless the righteous and just.
When speaking of the "power of the wicked being broken", the Hebrew word for "broken" gives an amazing definition that is able to challenge the minds eye unlike the English language is able to do with words. In Hebrew, the word for broken is "Shabar". Defined in English, the word shabar means to "burst, break in pieces, bring to birth and/or tear". Sit and dwell on this for a moment...the ways of the wicked will eventually come to pass, but not a comfortable passing like a rolling tide or the water through the feathers of a duck. Instead, the evils ways eventually come crashing down like a dam or levy that was not built to handle the force of the water against it. In this finite life, there are limits, and the more those without God become obsessed with their "own way" and "own ability", they lose track of the fact that they are pursuing something that will eventually come toppling down to the point that they will never recover in their own power.
Having a seven month old daughter, I can remember just yesterday what it was like to have a pregnant wife. Even though she was able to eat as much as she wanted, got to purchase whatever it seemed like we would need, and we were able to have frequent alone time together, we knew those days would soon come to pass. At some specific point in time (around 36-40 weeks of pregnancy) the days of brownies, pickles, ice cream and fried chicken sandwiches would be over. Each day that went by Kelsey and I began to realize that she really needed to focus on the fact that some serious changes would need to take place and she would no longer be able to lift things, fly in a plane, eat at all hours or go for a jog. We also needed to realize that if we continued in the lifestyle of eating whatever we wanted (you know I was in on that ice cream and fried chicken), buying whatever we wanted, and acting like nothing mattered besides the two of us, recovering to a normal life when Lily arrived would be virtually impossible as we would be unhealthy, dead broke, and arguing with child services (or my Mom, which could be even tougher) who would say we were unfit to have a child.
The word Shabar says so much about the life of the wicked because the life they lead is one that is undeniably finite with an ending that is incredibly uncomfortable. Much like a pregnant woman eventually gives birth through pain, sweat and tears; the consequences brought forth by God to the evil persons who have lived a life of pleasing self at the expense of everyone else comes with divine power and swiftness.
In his interpretation about the wicked men that David speaks of in the Psalms, C.H Spurgeon once said, "God makes implacable men, incapable men". The word implacable is defined as "difficult to appease or pacify". How difficult is it for those living a life of constant discontent, striving to please themselves in their own power, to come back to trusting in God? Strong enough that God brings everything not done for Him to destruction at some point in time, even at the expense of bringing every evil man to his own knees that he may understand his incapability's as he has chosen to live without the God who gives him the ability to do everything.
I encourage you this weekend to spend some time searching your own heart. Make it your priority to focus on Christ and what was given to you by both His death and resurrection. We know that as we follow the LORD and allow His Spirit to take over our lives we are made righteous and just receiving an eternal prize. Becoming like Him is never done in our own power as it is the Spirit that makes us more like Him as we let go of ourselves. It is through grace so that "no man should boast" that we are able to take on the life of our Savior. Recognize after these first seventeen days that a life lived for yourself is a life that is doomed for a destruction that is neither comfortable nor eternally profitable. The ways of the wicked have an ending date and in order to enjoy a life of eternal peace, joy, love, patience, goodness and kindness give your ways, thoughts, dreams, goals, desires and hopes to God and let Him change you from the inside out.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
This morning was wonderful! I had an early meeting cancelled and got to spend some great time with Kelsey and Lily before heading off for a haircut. Getting a haircut is always a treat as I've been going to the same spot for the past 10 years in the same neighborhood I grew up and I look forward to drinking from the "well of wisdom" that is my Vietnamese-born stylist. It also doesn't hurt that she massages your scalp when she washes your hair and makes me actually believe that I'm not going bald, but that is neither here nor there.
What makes her so amazing to me is that just a few years back she explained to me how she was a Buddhist and didn't believe in God at all. She even had a shrine in the back of her salon set up for her mother and grandparents. She grew up in a small incredibly poor village in Vietnam, lived on one to two meals a day as a child and lost her mother to Cancer when she was only fifteen. Each year that went by I would share more and more with her about my own life and what Christ had done for me personally in hopes that she would aspire to a relationship with Him. Though she always had common sense (which is no longer that common), her broken English and Buddhist upbringing drew an imaginary line that would separate our world views. Then, one day, two years ago after she got married she started to ask me about Jesus. She went on to explain that she had three dreams about Him in which she could see his face and hear his call. Her only response was to follow Him and live a life trusting that He new better than her. Just to make it clear, I'm not guessing what her response is, that was her answer my past few visits when I asked her again and again about those dreams. Today, in only two short years, the Spirit has given her a perspective on life that I can only pray to obtain. She constantly reminds me to give up on my habits of worry and fear because they only grow the more we focus on ourselves. She also manages to remind me that she's happy living in a mobile home because it's Much better than a "what do you call them...a hut?". Now that's Godly wisdom.
When I read today's verse I can't help but think about her and how she has grown in her faith in Christ. She continues to stress to me the importance of trusting God regardless of circumstances and openly shares with me her past financial difficulties as well as her current ones, only to explain further that it's irrelevant because she now finds her joy and peace in God and the gifts he's given her. I find it amazing who God uses to help shape us, and for me over the past two years the wisdom of God delivered to me through her broken English could only be divine (I can't stress enough that understanding a "mute" person on the phone is much easier than translating her English most of the time) . As my business has dwindled and my moods have become fickle based on Earthly circumstances, every three to five weeks I can count on getting some eternal perspective from a mid 30's woman who's English is as good as America's automobile industry. God is truly amazing!
I don't know about you but so many times I need to be reminded that a life lived with and for God is a life so rich and joyful that it outweighs any amount of material things I could accumulate. So many times I end up in discussions with friends about why we should "live on less", or that we shouldn't "try to make money" only to miss the point of what life is about. In TRYING to not focus on money and "things" we only end up focusing on... money and "things". It's kind of like the old saying that "negative publicity" is still publicity. The more we speak about money and what WE should do with it, we lose track of the fact that all money comes from God and the question is what He would have us do with it anyway. For some, that means making a lot, for others that means making a little. Either way, the money is always a tool and never a means to making us feel secure in this lifetime. When money is what makes us secure, like it or not, you now have something in common with the evil who see this life as all that there is.
So how do we find contentment in this life when it comes to money? In speaking on contentment in Christ, which is what this Psalm is truly about, I always point people (and myself) to 1 Timothy 6:6-10 which states, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
To break this down, our focus is always on trusting God and nothing else. As one friend has said to me he believes in "Jesus plus nothing". What God has for us may appear to be "little" by earthly circumstances but nothing surpasses the greatness of being one of God's chosen ones and knowing that according to His Word, he will always provide enough for today. Wealth, as mentioned in Timothy is always fleeting as we can take nothing when we leave this world. Today, regardless of circumstances, regardless of the economy, regardless of how you feel, trust in the fact that the gift of knowing God, and the ability to trust Him is worth far more than any wealth this life has to offer. If you don't believe me or my hair stylist, ask Him, He'd love to speak an eternal perspective into your heart.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
"But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken." Psalm 37:15
When discussing the schemes used by the evil to defeat those considered less than them, it is important to point out that swords and bows were both military weapons used at the time this Psalm was written. After reading yesterday's verse and seeing how it leads into today's, it is hard to ignore the fact that the evil actually see the poor and needy as enemies and view interaction with them as a war that needs weapons. Scary to think that each time we deal with the evil and wicked, we must be prepared to be chopped to pieces if our demise is of benefit to them. Today's scripture is a reminder of the consequences of our own evil actions as we "play with fire". Numerous times in Scripture we see this truth of evil ones literally being killed by their own evil plans. A classic example is Saul, who after losing his anointing for his lack of obedience to God in 1 Samuel 15, literally died by his own sword later in life instead of being taken apart by those he saw as less than himself (The Philistines).
The war we fight today is much different than the wars of ancient times. Today, we equip ourselves with information, worldly wisdom, and experience in order to better fight our wars with our present day "swords", also known as WORDS. For whatever reason, the way people get ahead today is to put others down through gossip, libel and slander. Gone are the William Wallace's of "Braveheart" and in are the media, journalists, TMZ and our own gossip. To us, the "poor and needy" besides being the obvious, would also be considered those "out of the loop" or those we consider to be "without a clue". In Christian circles, the poor and needy are the stereotypical overweight, prayer warriors, with no friends, who don't leave the house and are considered weird. Of course this stereotype is once again defined by those outside the faith, yet even we "cool" Christians make our own Brothers and Sisters the punchline of our jokes in order to seem more in touch with those in the World. Instead of responding to these poor and needy in love, as mentioned yesterday, we plot to use them and mock them, killing them with our words in order to give ourselves a better social standing. As the phrase says, "we have chosen to love things and use people instead of loving people and using things". Because success today is synonymous with fame, celebrity or notoriety, people have chosen to pursue today's success by putting others down for the sake of puffing themselves up, regardless of who we "kill" in the process.
I personally struggle mightily in this area and have suffered severe consequences at the expense of my own sword/words. More often than not, when I have an opinion on something (which is too frequently) I react out of my humanity instead of consulting the Spirit. Many times, I aim to appear smart, bright, brilliant, in touch, or funny even at the expense of the degradation of another human being. I can think of numerous times that I schemed to get ahead, make myself feel better, or look "great" to the multitudes by speaking poorly of somebody that I consider to be in my way of success only later to find out that I have to answer to my own accusations. Talk about feeling low, silly and "wishing I was dead", there is nothing worse than bringing somebody else down, only later to have to "eat your words".
God's message in today's short passage is incredibly clear. If you choose to hold on to your own life, to use the same weapons that are used by the evil in order to glorify yourself, you will absolutely have consequences. If you choose to take advantage of people by using your own words as your present day sword, as an eight year old once told me "God has a place for people like that". How often do we speak too quickly, typically out of anger, only later to deal with explaining what "we really meant". I urge you today to take 1 Peter 3:8-9 to heart which states, "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."
Refuse to kill yourself today with your own weapons. As we see in present day war, "friendly fire" is nearly just as deadly as fire from the opposition. As we walk around with our "sword" in hand, be careful to use it for good instead of evil and trust that God has promised a life to those who come to Him through His son Jesus Christ. As Peter states above, "live in harmony...,be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble..." as this is a great help in getting over ourselves enough to trust God.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
I have a real heart for those with less than me. I always have had this "compassion" (give me a second while I pat myself on the back) and I managed to marry the most beautiful Woman on Earth who shares the same heart for those who don't "have". However, I have something to confess, even though I have a heart for the poor and needy, I constantly mock them. Most of the time I mock them based off of stereotypes and though there is conviction in my mocking, it rarely stops especially if it makes others like me more. As I catch myself mocking these "poor and needy" I've noticed that it is typically out of my own insecurities of who I am in this life. Because, I'm not a "success" by the standards set by the Oprah's and Bill Gates's of the world, I feel as though I constantly need to put down those who are already down, in order to push myself ahead.
Each time I read this scripture I realize that it is one that defines the cowardice of those who don't know God and in many cases (like mine) those who believe they do know God. By definition a coward is a person who "lacks courage in facing danger, difficulty, opposition, or pain." Out of fear, we humans typically avoid any difficult situation, pain, etc... in order to have continued "success" by our own definition. In being a "success" we are able to develop a mindset that we are greater than we truly are. Success in our own power is what allows us to place ourselves on the throne that belongs to God. As we have continued successes on our own (in our own gifted-ness), we easily lose track of the one who gave us the ability to do anything at all. In forgetting who gave us this ability (God), we quickly live a life apart from Him which in turn leads to evil and wickedness (in this scripture it is plain to see that any person who puts down the poor and needy and lives for their destruction would be considered evil). It's hard to believe, but many times, those who believe they know God the most, have lost track of who He is in their life as they are busy getting ahead by putting others down. This is just as true for Bernie Madoff as it is for the Pastor who puts down and takes advantage of a church body he thinks is his as opposed to God's. Furthermore, the way the evil take advantage of the poor and needy is very interesting. The Psalmist reveals that the evil use two ways to get ahead. The first is that the evil have a need to always win. The second is that there is a specific type of person that the evil always choose to defeat.
What I mean by "always win" is that those who do evil constantly scheme their ways into personal victory. Notice how David writes, "The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow...". The way of the wicked is to devise multiple ways to defeat whoever they are fighting. Out of cowardice, a loss of any kind for an evil person is the equivalent of death. In this case David states that the wicked not only have a sword, but they also use a bow. If they can't beat you one way, they will beat you by another. The evil would rather please themselves today instead living a life of trust in God's eternal perfect kingdom. To them, this makes sense considering an eternal life in God's Kingdom means pain, trial, and difficult circumstances in this life. Therefore, the evil will fight until death and have multiple plans and tactics so that they cannot lose.
The second interesting part of this Psalm is that the wicked and evil aim to get ahead by devising plans to rid those beneath them. The terms, "poor and needy" are always associated with those whom God considers closest to Him. Throughout scripture we constantly see and hear God's heart for the downtrodden, broken, orphans, widows and poor. The irony of course is that the evil have always, out of cowardice, gone after those with less to get ahead in this life without realizing that they were aiming to take advantage of God's chosen ones for their own benefit.
Today, If there is some way that you are planning to take advantage of those beneath you for your own benefit and there is a check in your Spirit, you need to take heed to that check. This is just as true for the CEO of a company, as it is to a Father who takes advantage of his wife and kids in order to make his life "easier". Keep in mind that worldly success breeds complacency in our own ability. Success is much like sugar on a diet... once you get a little in your own power you feel as though that since you've already "blown it" you might as well keep going and call it your "cheat day". Before you know it, we cheat ourselves out of this life daily by relying on self more than God. As we rely on self, we join the team of evil and wickedness who's main goal is to bring down those God loves. Are you living to be rich now or rich eternally? Choose God and know that if you are being taken advantage of, it's because you are one of the "poor and needy" that God loves so much.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Doing this day by day can be difficult at times because like this verse, much of the Scripture we go over needs the verse right before or right after in order to gain total context. Briefly, yesterdays verse basically said that the evil plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them. We discussed who the evil are, how they conspire to bring down or mock the righteous, and why we need to be careful to not fall into the trap of joining the "teeth gnashers" in order to gain acceptance.
Today is another reminder of God's goodness as well as His patience and justice. As I study this verse, over and over I unfortunately can't help but think and imagine about how God laughs. In my own humanity I almost visualize Him like Count "Chocula" from the cereal boxes and hear Him give his best Vampire impersonation of "ooohh hoo hoo ahh ahh". But the more I meditate on these words and recount God's character, I can't help but hear the mockery and even sadness in this laugh towards those who think they know better than Him. It's not a laugh of evil, but more like the laugh of a grown up who has heard a 3 year old try to teach a dog math. The grown up laughs not only because teaching a dog math doesn't make sense since we can't do it, but it's also a waste of time. Though it's easy to see how those who both follow Christ and hate Him can envision God as a "know it all, power hungry, angry jerk"; in this passage, I can't help but see how much more He knows than us, and that all of our actions have consequences.
Because "picking" on people is not (I should say no longer) my thing, I really want to touch on the idea that even those who follow Christ, in our own conceitedness have become evil in our thoughts and actions and will absolutely have consequences to pay, even if it is only while on Earth. One passage of Scripture that God keeps placing in my head is Jeremiah 2. It is a piece of God's word that discusses how His chosen people (Israel) have gone astray to pursue a new path, create new gods for themselves, treated God as though He would never give them consequences for their evil actions, and treat Him like He HAS to "take care" of them even if they stop worshiping Him just because they've been called "His" at one point in time.
I suggest you read all of Jeremiah 2 today, but in order to keep this short enough that you won't become preoccupied as you read this, there is one part that really stands out for today's devotional blog. It is in Jeremiah 2:19 and it states "Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me," declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.
The question for today is whether or not you are one of the evil or wicked (though claiming to be a follower of Christ) that God is laughing at. If you are then you're day of destruction is coming. God is speaking directly to His chosen people in this passage and He clearly states that their wickedness will punish them, their moving away will rebuke them and then expresses how they need to RECOGNIZE how he considers them evil when they forsake Him and lose their awe of Him!
How in the world do we get so caught up with this life that we actually develop a heart so hard in specific areas towards God that we don't even recognize our own wickedness? How do we forsake Him in our backsliding ways and expect Him to bail us out as if Jesus is strictly an insurance policy from Geico. Do we really believe that purchasing the "Christ" insurance policy from God is "So easy, even a Caveman can do it!"? How have we lost our awe of a Being that created the entire universe out of nothing? God is so amazing that He literally created Everything out of NO THING.
Today, focus on God. Sit down with Him and listen to His small still (or loud in some cases) voice. Be quiet and be patient with Him and let Him show you the hidden areas of sin, darkness and evil in your life. If you want Him to forgive you through Christ He will, but let Him scrub you clean as you repent of a lifestyle that continually takes your relationship with your creator for granted. Ask God to put Himself back on the throne of your life even if it means taking you off of it by force (which may be the consequence for your evil). As that His Spirit flows through you so that people may experience His love, grace and mercy. Let His peace rule over you today as you come back to Him and the truth that is life in Christ. Let God's laugh for you be one of love and excitement as you CHOOSE to stand in awe of Him and a life lived with an eternal "Kingdom" perspective.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
"The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them;" Psalm 37:12
Caution...today may be difficult for some people to read. The truth hurts and today through this verse I feel as though I'm being called to speak the truth in Love...
It is a difficult world to be a follower of Jesus Christ. This verse is a strong reminder of the hate the true followers of God will feel as they travel about as virtual vagabonds in this life. It makes no sense to the person who doesn't know Jesus that a "Man of God" or "Woman of God" refuses to set up their own idealistic roots on Earth during this lifetime. Half of the hate we feel is because we seem crazy (which in some aspects is justifiable) considering we do believe that the one true God came in human form to take our sins (and theirs) to the cross and die so that we may have life and bring us back into a personal relationship with Him. (Ironically, these same people refuse to believe that anything is bigger or smarter than themselves which is even crazier to me.) The other half of the hate we feel is in the non-believers amazement and disdain for us because we believe in the love of God and the truth of His Word so strongly that we actually do not treat this life like it is the end all. To somebody who strictly lives for pleasure today, that is incomprehensible.
As followers of Jesus we constantly feel the pressure and persecution of those outside our worldview. We are ridiculed for believing in absolute truth, in the definition of marriage (no political messages on here please), and in the "shallowness" that redemption is strictly through Christ. We also feel the hate as we are forced to taste (definitely not chocolate) the words that are constantly shoved in our mouths by those who are against us. The sadness I feel most in this life is that the definition of being a follower of Christ is actually defined by those who hates us. And our response to their definition is a "line" about what we're against instead of what we're for. Amazing!
Here is where today gets interesting though. If you don't want to examine your own life in Christ, I suggest you stop reading after the "Amazing!" line above. I want to speak of the The "gnashing" of teeth statement. It is one constantly associated with those who live in darkness, practice evil and quite bluntly live a life outside the realm of God. Every time Jesus speaks of "gnashing of teeth", he speaks of those who are possessed by evil, those whom the hypocrites will end up with, and those who are outside a life in the "Kingdom of God". Basically, we can find the "gnashing of teeth" anywhere that there will be eternal pain and an absence of the presence of God.
So...Here is what I just don't understand about followers of Christ, if we are told that the evil will plot against us and "gnash their teeth" at us, and that those who are "gnashing" are outside the Kingdom of God, why do we desire to be like them and show them that we're not that much different? Do we not realize that to join this group is to be part of the same group of "The wicked who plot against the righteous...". Is it because we think we are the ones who do the "saving" that we think by faking enough to get close to a person we can "win" them to Christ without His divine hand? Do we actually think that the way to bring the people who are plotting our destruction and doing evil to Christ is to take on their world view so that they think we are just like them and expect them to think we're authentic? How does that show the love of Christ? Being inauthentic is not the gospel, the gospel is God's love through Christ! His unfailing, unconditional love to those who both hate Him and love Him. Loving people doesn't always mean agreeing with them, and in many cases loving people is speaking the truth even when it hurts. I have many non-believing friends, but I don't live like them, or overstate our similarities just because I want them to feel good. The truth of Christ pierces the heart, and if you're massaging egos, you're missing the point.
Also, If you are the "Christian" guy or girl (man or woman) who is living a life of selfishness, saying you "trust" God but are constantly trying to find new ways to "live the dream", you are a friend of the world. If you are sleeping with your partner before marriage, getting drunk on the weekends because you are just trying to have "fun" and using the "be all things to all men" excuse out of context then you are living alongside the "teeth gnashers". If you struggle to love those not named "(place your name here)" and have some anger issues with those who aren't like you, please understand that you are then missing the point of Christ. Maybe you experience a lack of forgiveness or hate me because what I'm writing right now is "judgemental", then you need to get in God's Word in order to understand His truth. Just so you know, constantly being with the "teeth gnashers" and then going to church on Sundays, reading a few popular Christian self-help books, having a Jesus fish on your car or a bumper sticker that states "My Father was Jewish Carpenter" and then claiming you are not like those you "party" with makes you a liar and a hypocrite. I didn't say we cannot be around non-believers, and I never said not to love them, I am strictly saying that if you are living like them (this includes "Christians" living this unrepentant lifestyle) and telling them you are "not like those weird Christians", then you better be aware of how God sees you.
My goal today is to help you understand that without realizing it, we have fallen into the lie that living a life with the "teeth gnashers" doesn't mean that we're not plotting against God's righteous people. If you're living like the people of this world, than you are one of the people of this world. As we've previously mentioned in this blog the righteousness of God can only be obtained by letting go of yourself enough to let the Spirit take over your life. Those trying to make yourself "righteous" are being deceived and are truly no different than the "teeth gnashers" as you are only living for yourself. I have to repent of the fact that all of those areas in the paragraph above are feelings and/or situations I have personally dealt with. Not until I have begun to let go of myself for Christs sake have I begun to understand that I have to make a choice even if it hurts. I either choose to let go of this life, or I have to choose to hang on to it so tightly that I become one of those "Christians" who actually leads Christs sheep astray as we lie to ourselves and others about where we stand.
If you are living a life like those who "gnash their teeth" at us outside the Kingdom then guess what...you are also outside the Kingdom. Abandon yourself to God and trust that He loves you, and will protect you eternally regardless if the "wicked plot against the righteous" in this life.