Sunday, January 29, 2012

Head Not the Tail

Head Not the Tail
Jan 30, 2012
Deut 28:13 "The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom."

I have heard a phrase repeated over the years, often times coming out of our pulpits, and it goes something like this: "I am the head and not the tail." It is a feel-good saying that boosts morale and gives a feeling of victory over life and it's many difficult situations. I have heard it said in reference to overcoming the evil one and in reference to claiming a blessing from the Lord. It's a pep talk phrase that sounds really quite appealing, especially when we are in need of encouragement. The statement, though, however rooted in Scripture, is not exactly Scriptural. Nowhere in the Bible does it said that we can declare we are the head and not the tail of anything in this life. Let me explain.

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ made it clear that if we want to be the first in anything, we must endeavor to be the last. It is a teaching quite hard to swallow, but the Lord taught several times that the last will be first. He was trying to convince us to become like a servant on this earth; He promised a reward of honor in eternity. Jesus instructed us to take a self-imposed position of service to others, to take a humble approach to life, being void of all arrogance and the desire for the lime-light. It means considering others better than ourselves, it means giving and not receiving, and it means propelling everyone else ahead of our own wants and desires. This teaching from Jesus, though, seems in contradiction to the Scripture in the Old Testament that says, "The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom." How can we be the top and not the bottom while at the same time being a humble servant? This creates a dichotomy in the Bible.

To understand this dichotomy, we must comprehend our own standing in relation to the Lord's position. Our job is to obey the Lord's commands and follow His teachings however humbling they may seem. The Lord, then, has the position and authority to raise us up in good standing among men, as He sees fit and as it brings glory and honor to His name. We are not to TAKE the position of being the head, but allow the Lord to bestow it upon us. It is a blessing, not a right. We cannot declare it to be so, if the Lord has not allowed it. And the Lord has only suggested He would make us the head and not the tail if and only if we obey all of his commands. I might consider myself to be a pretty good person, but I would never be arrogant enough to declare that I have obeyed all His commands. If the Lord wants to scrutinize my life, He may decide it is to His honor to lift me up among men. If He does not, I must still be willing to follow all his teachings, being a servant to others.

In the world's eyes you may never appear to be the head and not the tail. But that is okay. As long as you are following the Lord and obeying all His commands, it does not matter what you look like to the world. You are not allowed to declare you are the head of anything; this is for the Lord to bestow upon you. The complete understanding of these two scriptures is found in 1 Peter 5:6, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." Learn from the words of King David regarding this same topic. He declared the Lord's position in Ps 3:3, "But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high."

Don't make yourself the head of anything, you might be sorely disappointed in becoming the tail of something less than desirable.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Deut 28, Deut 31, Ps 3, Matt 18:4, Matt 20:16, 1 Peter 5:6

Sunday, January 22, 2012


January 23, 2012
2 Corinthians 10:3 "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does."

Picture a battlefield: thousands of fighting men in hand-to-hand combat, swords flailing and dripping with blood, clashing metal heard between the screaming. Before the advent of a fire powered weapon, the fight had to be face-to-face. The weapons were held closely in hand and both parties did whatever it took to kill the opponent. As the battle commenced, men were bloodied and cleaved until they fell to the ground dead, establishing a victor. It was a horrific way to die, and possibly just as horrific to live through after being severely wounded. Battle has never been a pretty business. While in each battle there is typically a winner, many personnel losses are experienced on both sides. There are always casualties of war and the battlefield is a place of intense destruction. A battlefield is no place for someone who is ill-prepared to fight.

Enter your life. While your life may not be a picnic, it probably doesn't look like a literal battlefield most days. Sure, you have rough days, but they are nothing compared to a horrific battlefield of intense destruction. Or are they? I would submit to you, that though you cannot see it, there is a battlefield filled with intense destruction above your life right now in the heavenly realm. The Bible says that we fight battles not against any human, but against the demons in the heavenly realm. While you cannot physically fight it, there is a battle going on, and your life is often the reason for the combat.

In the Old Testament, the famous prophet, Daniel, was approached by an angel who had just come from such a battle. The angel told Daniel that the enemy was fierce and strong and the battle was long, longer than expected. In fact, the angel was bringing Daniel an answer to his prayer request but was delayed because of the intense fighting. While I have no idea what a battle looks like in the heavenly realm, I doubt they use a deck of playing cards in a civil, take turn fashion. I doubt there are Geneva Convention rules of engagement, and I am pretty confident the fighting is never fair. I would expect nothing less from the devil than to use the most horrific agents of war: biological weapons, chemical weapons, atomic weapons--these are nothing compared to the tactics used by the evil one. There is no doubt in my mind that you have emotionally experienced days, weeks, or even years of intense difficulty in your life, leaving you feeling bloodied on the battlefield. You have felt the consequences of the spiritual battle over your life.

This battle going on may be the reason for the delay in an answer to your own prayer requests. This battle going on may be the reason for some extreme difficulty in your life. This battle going on may be the reason you or your children are on a dark road of intense destruction. While you cannot fight this battle with your hands holding a weapon, you don't have to give up, allowing the evil one to gain a victory over you. The Bible says that your job is to pray. That's right, pray. We are to pray that the enemy does not succeed over our lives. We are to pray that the enemy does not inflict losses. We are to pray that we will be protected from his weapons of mass destruction. If your life is not a picnic, then you have extreme reason to pray. There is a battle going on, though you cannot see it, and it is affecting your life. You are feeling the impact of the spiritual battle and you are being given reason to fight. This is a call to arms, and you will be bloodied if you are ill-prepared to pray.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Daniel 9:21, Daniel 10:13-14 & 20, 1 Cor 15:50, 2 Cor 10:2-4, Eph 6:11-13, 1 Peter 2:11, Rev 12:17, Rev 17:14, Rev 19:11-21

Sunday, January 15, 2012

You Know Better

You Know Better
January 16, 2012
Philippians 3:16 "Only let us live up to what we have already attained."

When you were younger did you ever have a parent or other adult catch you in the act of doing something foolish? There is a look an adult can give that suggests we should have known better. You've seen it; I'm sure. The look says, "You should know better than to do that; your actions are disappointing." Just reading this likely brings back memories of times long gone, of doing something you now regret, something you should have known better than to do but you did it anyway. All of us are guilty of this, having done something childish when we should have known better than to do such a thing. In fact, I'm not sure we ever grow out of this, overcoming this in life. My wife pointed out a recent article she read about an eighty-year old man caught in foolish crime, a childish act. She shook her head in frustration and suggested to me, that at his age, he should have known better. At what point do we ever mature?

The Bible speaks clearly about this, as the Apostle Paul had the same frustrations with some of his church members. There were individuals making some decisions that were disappointing to Paul. He reminded the church that they were better than that. He reminded them of their spiritual maturity and told them that he expected better out of them. He coached them to rise above their foolish acts, challenging them to live up to the level of maturity they had already attained. It is easy to forget that we have come a long way in our walk with the Lord, overcoming so many childish ways. But for some reason we continue to have weak moments, we revert back to doing foolish things, things that we know are less than what we should do at our level of maturity. We act childishly in our jobs, in our marriages, with our children, even in front of the Lord. And if we are honest about it, we all know better.

We slip into a pattern of making foolish decisions, doing things we would warn others not to do, yet reason we cannot rise above it ourselves. The Lord would say that today is a new day and a chance to be better than we were yesterday. The Lord would say that we should try again, forgetting the failures of the past and rising to the level of maturity He has cultivated inside of us. He would tell us to rise above the past that He has brought us through. Though you might have made some poor decisions yesterday, today is a new day, a day to make it right, to be better. Remember that we are a new creation in Christ and that our old self is behind us. We need to continually put the old, immature self behind us.

When we act foolishly, it doesn't just bring shame upon ourselves, but it also reflects poorly on the Lord, as we are a representation of Him on this earth. When we wear the badge of Christianity, our lives should be pointing to the Lord and the work He has done inside of us. Many of us have been changed radically by the Lord, bringing us out of a miry past filled with bad decisions. Each day is a new chance to represent the Lord to others, displaying the level of Christianity that brings honor to Him, being mature in all that we do, staying far away from the past from which we have been forgiven. If you've done some disappointing things, today is an opportunity to rise above that, showing others the maturity that is inside of you, showing others the work that the Lord has done in your life. Represent Him well; you know better than that.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 1 Cor 13:11, 1 Cor 14:20, 2 Cor 3:18, 2 Cor 5:17, Phil 3:15-17

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Still Good

Still Good
Jan 9, 2012
Genesis 1:31 "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day."

When the Lord created the Heavens and the Earth, He created it with intention. His creation was not random, but very specific, on purpose. If you read the story of Creation in the book of Genesis, the Lord (with Jesus by His side) commented on His own handiwork saying, "it was very good." This happened throughout the entirety of the Creation story. The Lord didn't create junk; He didn't create anything that displeased Him or that was disappointing. There was satisfaction in what He brought into being; The Lord's work was good. Adam and Eve were part of that good handiwork and you and I are, by extension, the same. You and I were created with good intention, and the Lord determined in advance that you and I were good. Despite the fall of mankind into sin after the creation, we are all still "good."

In the beginning, the Lord made man in His own image, in His own likeness. We still possess all the same qualities of our Maker, which include the innate desire to bring things to life. The Lord knew you and I would want to carry on this same life-giving concept using all the abilities within our grasp. Though we cannot create something out of nothing, we all certainly try. This longing was built into us by the Creator as evidenced by our workmanship, inventions, writings, and even children. You know this to be true as you have tried, possibly unsuccessfully, to create something in your lifetime. Those efforts may have yielded limited satisfaction. You may be missing the similar satisfaction the Lord had on those first six days of creation. But there is an opportunity to have the same kind of satisfaction the Lord had, if we create the right kind of life.

Scripture says that you and I were created to do good works. The specific words found in the New Testament read, "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Notice that we are all still considered the Lord's handiwork thousands of years after the initial creation. And notice further that the Lord prepared works for us to do, even before we came into being. And notice even more closely that those works are considered "good." The same satisfaction the Lord had in His initial creation is the same satisfaction He intends for us in our works. Satisfaction is found in good works. But just what are those works?

Those works are the same works the Lord performed in the creation story, bringing things to life. Though you and I cannot create life, we can bring things to eternal life. That is, we can bring things to Jesus who has the ability to extend life eternally. Our works, the only works considered "good" are the things we do to bring others closer to the Lord, to a deep and intimate walk with the Savior who can give true life to someone's soul. You have been destined to lead others to eternal life from the very beginning. It is what you were purposed for, created with great intention to lead others to eternity. Despite a sinful nature, you are still good enough to lead others to the Lord. And in that there is perfect satisfaction.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 1 & 2, John 1:1-2, Eph 2:10, 2 Peter 3:3-4, 1 John 1:1, 1 John 2:14

Monday, January 2, 2012

Jesus Wept

Jesus Wept
January 2, 2012
John 11:35 "Jesus wept."

Jesus wept. Yes, Jesus cried; He was deeply moved to tears on several occasions out of His great compassion. In fact, the Bible has more accounts of Jesus displaying compassion for others than any other feeling or emotion. In this particular verse, "Jesus wept," the Bible was recounting the story of Lazarus' death. Remember the story for a moment. Jesus was off preaching in another city when news came to Him that Lazarus, His friend, was sick. Jesus didn't seem concerned by the sickness and ignored the request to come to his aid. He even assured everyone that Lazarus wouldn't die, that he would be OK. By the time Jesus got to where Lazarus lived, Lazarus had died and was in the grave for four days; he was rotting flesh. Jesus appeared to Lazarus' friends and family, assuring them that Lazarus would rise from the dead.

The Bible says that Jesus wept RIGHT AFTER He had assured everyone publicly that Lazarus would rise from the dead. Why in the world was Jesus weeping? He wasn't crying because He was sad that Lazarus had died. He wasn't crying because He had arrived late and didn't simply heal Lazarus' sickness. Jesus even knew Lazarus' soul was safe from Hell. He KNEW Lazarus would rise from the dead, so why was Jesus sad? Jesus wept because He was moved with compassion by the sorrow that everyone else had over the death of Lazarus. Jesus wept because He had empathy for the experiences of others. In the story, Lazarus' friends and family were grieving because of the great loss. Jesus, even though He realized there wasn't really a loss (because He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead), still grieved alongside those who were grieving.

This reveals so much about the character of our Lord. The things that matter to us are the things that matter to the Lord, even if they are a non-issue in His mind. The state of Lazarus didn't phase the Lord, dead or alive. Jesus was moved by the emotions of those around Him; He was moved to tears from His compassion for them. If we understood this about the Lord, His true compassion for our situations, it would change how we bring them to His feet. If we understood that the Lord really cares for us, then we would be more willing to bring Him our problems and concerns. Jesus weeps when you weep.

Christian, if you are carrying around a concern and you think no one understands or even cares about what you are going through, then you couldn't be more wrong. The Lord has a deep concern for the things on your heart and has always been concerned for what matters to you. He is deeply concerned for the burden you might be carrying alone and wants to assure you He is alongside you right now in whatever you are going through. If you let Him, He will walk through your difficult situations and experience every emotion you experience. And not only will He walk with you, He will carry you when you cannot walk any longer. The only caveat is that you must show Him your emotion, being honest with yourself and Him. When you become vulnerable with Him about what you are dealing with, you open the door for Him to begin His work. Don't be afraid to show Him your emotions, He can handle them and all your concerns.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ps 103:8&13, Ps 116:5, Is 49:13, Lam 3:22, John 11, Romans 12:15, 1 Cor 12:26, 2 Cor 1:3