Monday, May 31, 2010

Speck in My Eye

Speck in My Eye
June 1, 2010
Matthew 7:3 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

It is very easy to diagnose other people's problems and it's just as easy to tell them how to change. It is interesting, though, that seldom do others ask you to point out their faults or offer your astounding insight into how they might change. People like to think that their own body odor doesn't stink and its hard not to point it out. If you think "other people" is actually someone else, you are mistaken. I am "other people" and so are you. Your body odor stinks, and so does mine. We are ALL human and others want to change your faults just as much as you want to change theirs. The only thing is, we can't seem to diagnose our own faults, just everyone else's.

Jesus was very clear about pointing out other people's faults. He calls us all hypocrites if we choose to try it. He was extremely harsh and used a hyperbole to get his point across. He compared other people's faults to sawdust and our own faults to a wooden plank or board (more literally translated a beam that supports a house). While the hyperbole is not actually true, other people's faults only being as small as sawdust, Jesus wanted us to get His point. Funny, though, many of us can quote this scripture, but few of us actually understand it fully. Jesus explained what He meant after He used such an exaggerated statement. He said, "How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." There are two things that Christ wanted us to glean from His statement.

The first thing that Jesus wanted us grasp was an understanding of grace. If we instantly start out by correcting the faults in others, we are showing them very little grace. Sure, they may have faults that actually need changed, but is it really critical that you point it out? Jesus was downplaying the severity of other people's faults by calling them "sawdust." Oftentimes, sawdust can be left for the wind to take care of, requiring no real attention. You can actually overlook sawdust, maybe even ignore it. Scripture says that "Love covers over a multitude of sins." It suggests that if we love others (which we should love others MORE than we love ourselves), then their trivial little faults are not ours to deal with. If we love others, like we should, we should be able to overlook their faults and deal with more important matters. We should be extending them grace, and not make a big deal about their faults.

By extending grace to others and their apparent issues, we can pay more close attention to our own, which is far more critical. He said we should address our own problems first, because they are as enormous as a board stuck in a small eyeball. Jesus wasn't saying our faults are really that much bigger than other people's faults, He was saying that our faults should be more obvious to ourselves if we are truly living a Godly life. A Christian should be comparing himself to Christ only, first using the Bible as a guide. In this way, a Christian can be introspective with his own life, measuring it against what scripture says. If we are doing this, which we all should, then our own problems should be a little more obvious (as obvious as a board or plank). But the main point that Christ wanted us to grasp was the severity of where our faults could take us. If left unchecked, our faults, however tiny they might seem, could become severe someday. By severe, I mean small things in our lives can become huge stumbling blocks, placing our lives in jeopardy of Hell.

Jesus wants us to take care of our own problems first, because if we don't, they will become serious, as serious as a large piece of wood stuck in a small eyeball. More important than an eyeball, though, is our soul and the possibility of ending up in Hell. This is why Jesus' hyperbole was so harsh; He wants to save each and every one of us from the sinful life that could send us to Hell. While it is not easier to extend grace to others and work on our own faults, it is far more important. This is what Jesus wanted all of us to walk away with, the understanding that the only person who can ensure you don't go to Hell is you. You cannot fix another person or keep their life from entering Hell, but you sure can keep your life from going there. Start everyday with asking Jesus to illuminate your own faults and then asking for His help to fix them. If you do, it will start to make other people's own "sawdust" look a lot bigger to them. (By "other people," I mean you and me, again).

1. How many times a day are you tempted to point out other people's faults?
2. How many times a day do you ask the Lord to illuminate your own faults?
3. How can you make sure you address your own problems every day, to avoid jeopardy of Hell?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Proverbs 10:12, Proverbs 17:9, Luke 6:42, Rom 14:13, Phil 2:3, 1 Peter 4:8

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ineffective Prayer

Ineffective Prayer
May 24, 2010
James 5:17 "Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years."

The prophet Elijah was probably one of the most effective prophets in the Old Testament. He was a man who developed a deep and personal relationship with God and served Him all the days of his life. The Lord even entrusted Elijah with a great degree of power, physical power, enabling him to perform miracles. Elijah, moved by the Spirit of the Lord, declared there would be a drought for several years. The Bible says that, "Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years." That is a pretty powerful miracle, causing a drought for such a long period of time. I know I can't make the rain stop for three years----or can I? If Elijah was a person, just like me, just like you, then how did he make the rain stop for three and a half years? The answer: the Bible says he prayed earnestly for it.

If I were to ask you if prayer helped any given situation, you would probably answer yes. If I asked you if praying for ten minutes in the morning would help your day go better than yesterday, you might say yes. If prayer helps, then why don't we do more of it? If ten minutes of praying helps, then why not pray for an hour? If one hour of prayer would help a situation, then why not pray for three hours? I wonder how long Elijah had to pray to stop the rain for over three years? Since I have never stopped the rain, it would probably take more time in prayer than I have ever invested. I say invested, because, to describe Elijah's prayer as earnest is to use a financial term. If something is said to be earnest, it is a representation of the whole amount invested. I imagine receiving an investment of three and a half years of drought would require a large amount of earnest deposit. In this case, the earnest deposit was prayer. If I want a return on my time spent praying, I'd better be willing to spend more time praying. There is another financial word, "spend."

I've heard that the pastor of the largest church in the world, currently a single congregation of over 830,000 members, spends a great deal of time in prayer. He is reported to spend at least three hours a day in prayer, oftentimes more. I don't have three hours a day to spend in prayer because of all the tasks I have to accomplish. Or do I? Maybe if I spent three hours a day in prayer, the work that I must accomplish would be easier or more productive, freeing up more time to pray. Maybe if I spent---I mean invested---three hours a day in prayer, I might have a more profitable job or much larger readership to my Devotional Bytes? Maybe if you invested three hours a day in prayer, that problem you're trying to solve on your own might be resolved by God instead? Maybe if you invested more time praying during the day, you would alleviate all your anxieties and have a fuller, richer life?

While I don't know the number of times a prayer is required or how much time in prayer is required to accomplish what I would like to accomplish, I do know the Bible recommends how I can make my prayers more effective. It is found in the verse just before it talks about Elijah's prayer being earnest. Scripture says that, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." It tells me that the only thing special Elijah had going for him was his righteousness. It tells me that if I want my prayers to be effective, I had better start with a righteous lifestyle and complete it with earnest time in prayer. While I don't have the answer regarding the prayer required for your specific situation, I do know that prayer, if not used, is ineffective. And just as much time as Elijah had to invest into stopping the rain for over three years, he had to invest much prayer to get it to start raining again.

I have decided that I would like to die with one regret; I would like it to be that I invested "too much" time in prayer. This is a good goal for you, too.

1. How much time are you currently investing in prayer every day?
2. Could your quality of life improve if you invested more time in prayer?
3. How can you make it a habit to invest more of your time in prayer?

Add. Scriptures for Study: 1 Kings 17:1, 1 Kings 18:41-45, 1 Thess 5:17, James 5:16

Sunday, May 16, 2010


May 17, 2010
Philippians 3:14 "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

Some days it's hard to get out of bed in the morning. It is easier for me to get up at 5 a.m. to go to work than it is for me to waken at 5 a.m. for a morning jog. My motivation is in the consequences. If I don't go to work on time, I'll lose pay and possibly my job. But if I sleep in and skip that jog, well, the consequences are far less threatening. Some mornings, though, I jump out of bed with enthusiasm, as I have the day all planned with things I'd like to accomplish. The excitement is the anticipation of success when I've completed my task or compensation received for a job well done. Every day my motivation changes; what drives me is different than what drives you. It is interesting, though; that ALL motivators are future-based, meaning that what motivates a person is the anticipation of something positive or negative toward the future. If there were no future, there would be no motivation. Thankfully, there is a future for EVERYONE, even the atheist. This is what should motivate a Christian.

The Apostle Paul wrote a very poignant verse. He said, "I press on toward the goal for the prize." He was telling us what motivated him; this should be the same thing motivating you and me. The motivator for us should be the realization of our future, spending eternity in God's presence, where He has the opportunity to say to us, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." Even the atheist will stand before God some day, but it is doubtful God will say such nice things to him. You and I should live each day with this future in mind, the knowledge of our future in Heaven with God, our future reward. This future reward should be in our thoughts every day, motivating us to keep pressing on in our Christian walk and the work that God has called each of us specifically to do. This is a positive motivator, giving us the opportunity for enthusiasm in all that we do.

There is a negative motivator, too, if your future in Heaven as compensation does not motivate you to be enthusiastic in your work here on earth. It is found in James 4:17, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." The "good" that James is referring to is the Good Work you are predestined to do by God. It is similar in meaning to the Gospel as being described as "Good News." God has Good for you to do all the days of your life. These Good Works, should you become aware of them by God, are your job. You know what I am referring to, those times when you have a pressing in your Spirit to take action on something, when your inner thoughts compel you to act according to God's will. It is your job to take that action, for the cause of Christ. Your compensation for this job will be given to you in Heaven. Should you choose not to do your job, you are in sin. Hopefully, you don't live your life with this negative motivator, but maybe it will help you stay on track with your Heavenly job.

If you don't know what it is you are supposed to be doing, then you have not been listening to God. He has something for each and every one of us, every day of our lives. He wants us to know what we are to be doing. He wants you to be the one pressing on in your work despite all the obstacles coming your way, even if you don't know the reason WHY. I write these words every week to you, as I am directed by God to write them. If I don't write them to you, then I am in sin. I press on, then, in my work to God, toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

While I have no idea what motivates you, the positive or the negative rewards God has for your actions, you do have a future and you should move forward in your Christian walk, no matter what obstacles threaten to slow you down. I suggest memorizing this scripture and saying it to yourself every morning, especially when it's seems difficult to get out of bed. "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

1. What are your motivators in life?
2. How are you motivated to work for God?
3. How can you ask God every day, what you should be doing for Him?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Matt 25:35-45, Eph 2:10, Philippians 2:13, James 4:17, 1 Peter 2:11-12

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Presence and Prosperity

Presence and Prosperity
May 10, 2010
1 Chronicles 13:14 "The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom in his house for three months, and the LORD blessed his household and everything he had."

While there are limited ways to convince God to bring prosperity to you and your household, I am aware of three found in the Bible. The first, and most obvious, is to bring your whole tithe to church. The second is to obey His commands and follow His ways in all that you do. And the third way is to bring God's presence into your house. In the Old Testament, God filled a wooden box with his presence. I'm not sure why God chose to fill a box, but nonetheless, that is where He decided to place His physical presence here on earth. That box was called the Ark of the Covenant. It was originally supposed to stay in a tent inside the Holy of Holies, which was the Temple of God, but King David was intent on building it a permanent place. In the meantime, the Ark was a possession of interest to the Israelites and to warring nations who wished to impose damage upon the Israelites; it had to be kept safe.

King David was actually afraid of the Ark, the presence of God, because there were a few areas of David's life where he was not serving God whole-heartedly. So David decided to temporarily store it in the house of a man named Obed-Edom. The presence of God rested in that box, and lived in the house of Obed-Edom. Scripture says the Ark stayed with him for three months and everything in his household prospered during that time. There is a reason for this. The Bible compares God and Satan to Light and Darkness, respectively. It is a simple fact that when standing in full light of day, there is no darkness. This is the same with the presence of God. Satan does not stand too well in the presence of God; he flees. While the Ark of the Covenant (God's presence) was staying in the house of Obed-Edom, Satan could not be around. Since Satan was not around, he was not present to attack the blessing of the household of Obed-Edom.

Transition to the New Testament, and God chose a new dwelling place. Instead of a box of wood, God now fills the hearts of those who love Him. God lives inside you and me, if we choose to allow Him to enter in through the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross. If God lives inside you and me, and we are full of His light, then darkness cannot stay. Satan cannot be there and he cannot attack you. If you want the presence of God to dwell in your house, make sure it is an inviting place for Him to stay. God will not keep His presence upon your life if you are a wretched, awful person; He WILL NOT live there. I've visited many people, some whom I would NEVER want to stay with; a few of these people are my own relatives. If I could not stand to live there, how could the presence of God? Conversely, there have been many times in my own life, where I'm sure my heart was not a very inviting place for God to live. This is the same reason David sent the Ark to live in Obed-Edom's house. The frightful thing about that, though, when God is not abiding, Satan wants desperately to inhabit that place and attack all who live there.

There is a sure-fire way to allow God's presence to rest in your life. After you open up your heart to Him and accept Jesus as Lord of your life, you must make every part of your life an inviting place for Him. Here is the secret to making that happen, it is found in Psalm 22:3. It reads, "Yet you are Holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel." Another translation of this verse says that "God inhabits the praises of His people." God loves praise and wants to be where His people are giving praise and honor to Him. The transition to your own life, then, is to make everything you do an act of worship to God. He will see your praise and inhabit that place, making your life His dwelling place. This means when you are washing the dishes or doing a random, mundane project for your boss, do it with an attitude of praise as to God. When you are driving down the road, make sure your driving is an act of praise to God. When you are frustrated with your children or your spouse, make sure that you are still functioning in a manner worthy of God's presence and praise. Live a life of praise and God's presence will also fill your house, with blessing and prosperity to follow.

Incidentally, Obed-Edom was not an Israelite, but his first name means . . . worshipper.

1. Does God dwell in your house at ALL times?
2. How can you consider your life a function of praise?
3. How can you make every thing in your life an act of praise?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Josh 24:15, Psalm 22:3, Acts 17:24, Rom 12:1, 1 Cor 3:16-17, 1 Cor 6:19, 2 Cor 6:16

Sunday, May 2, 2010

To Respect a Man

To Respect a Man
May 3, 2010
Ephesians 5:33 "However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."

Yes, a man's job is to love his wife, taking precedent from Jesus' sacrifice for the church. And a man should love his wife, like he loves himself. A woman has scriptural responsibility toward her husband as well; a woman should respect her husband. It is probably harder for a woman to respect her husband than it is to love him sometimes. A woman can love a man without actually liking him. I've seen many a woman cry at her father's funeral, because she really did love him, even though she did not get along with him. I've seen many old married relationships where the woman stays with the man because she does love him, though she has, over the years, learned to not actually like who he has become. Women, by nature, love people; they were blessed with the aspect of God that men don't have, the ability to love almost everyone regardless of flaws. Women can love someone and yet not actually get along with him/her. But respect, that's a different story. If a woman does not respect someone, it shows, and everybody can see it, especially her man.

That is why a woman is directed to respect her husband, because it does not come naturally, unless she thinks he deserves it. News Flash: rarely is there a man who actually deserves respect! If a man has to love a woman, before she might be loveable, a woman has to respect a man before he might be respectable. Men have this innate ability to become what they are called, to do what they are encouraged to do. If a man is called a loser, he will become a loser. If a man is told he can't, then he won't. But if a man is respected, he will become more respectable. In a man's eyes, respect is more important to him than someone's love, as it tells him that he is worthy to be loved. Men like the feeling of being respected. They are empowered by it; they want more of it. If they are shown respect, then they will want more respect and start to act more respectable; he wants to earn it. It sounds backwards to women, but then again, men are backwards from women. It is a woman's act of love to respect him.

Respect for a man is similar in meaning to the directive that a woman is supposed to submit to her husband. This is in Ephesians 5:22, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord." Before women everywhere, send me their two cents on submission, it is not what most think. Submitting to a man does not mean obeying him, it means respecting him and the work in the home he is supposed to do, as he is directed by God. If a man is functioning as the Lord directed him, then a woman needs to respect him in his efforts and help provide an environment where that can take place. A woman can only do this if she is first actually submitted to God; then she can set herself aside and respect the man for his work (be that spiritual or physical work).

There have been many times in my own marriage where I was not respectable, but my wife showed me respect. It humbled me, and made me want to actually be respectable. There have also been many times when I was hurt by her lack of respect and it made me not want to be respectable. And in my eyes, if she didn't respect me, then she certainly could not love me, which made it more difficult for me to love her in return. It creates a downward spiral in a marriage relationship and takes both to bring it back out. If a woman does not perceive that her husband loves her, then she has a harder time showing him respect. And if a husband perceives that his wife does not respect him, he has a harder time showing her love. On the other hand, it is the opposite that can bring a marriage back. If a man starts showing her love, then she will start respecting him more. And if she starts respecting him more, he will show her more love. It's amazing how a little effort on the part of both individuals can propel a relationship to new heights.

Though it is not very romantic to consider that a woman might not love her husband someday, and as much as I don't think love and respect should be mutually exclusive, the Bible is clear a woman should show respect to her husband, both privately and publicly.

1. How can men be respected even when they don't seem respectable?
2. How can respect for a man be physically demonstrated?
3. How can a woman submit to God and give her husband the freedom to do what he sees right in the Lord's eyes?

Add. Scriptures for Study: Eph 5:22 & 24, Col 3:18, Tit 2:2, 1 Peter 2:17