Sunday, October 29, 2017

Humbling Circumstances

Humbling Circumstances
October 30, 2017
Romans 12:3 "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you."

Paul wrote in one of his letters, that by the grace given to him, he was able to advise us all to be humble on our own accord, by our own volition. To understand his statement, understand first what he meant when He said, "by the grace given me." This sentence was written in the 12th chapter in his letter to the church in Rome. Scholars believe this was one of his last epistle's written, about 57 A.D. Scholars also believe it was written about a year or two after his second letter to the church in Corinth. Recall in 2 Corinthians Paul talked about his thorn in his flesh. He said he prayed and prayed that the Lord would take it away after the thorn was given to him. Someone or something gave Paul a thorn in his flesh. Regardless of the literal meaning of his thorn, Paul said it was given to him to keep from being conceited, and that God's grace was sufficient for him to endure throughout all of that situation.

Paul's thorn in his flesh was meant to keep him humble and that he had to lean on God's grace to carry him during that enduring circumstance. No one knows if the thorn was every even removed throughout his life. But we do know Paul learned to lean on the Lord's grace. Fast forward to his letter to the church in Rome and he alludes to the Lord's grace in his life from the thorny circumstance. Basically he tells the church in Rome to trust him when he says you should be humble on your own accord. Paul knew from experience it was better to be humble on your own than have the Lord grant you a thorn in your flesh to keep you from being conceited. We have been warned, like a parent telling a child to learn from the mistakes of those who have experienced it already.  Humbling circumstances have a way of humbling us. Paul said to humble yourself so the Lord doesn't have to for you. Learn from Paul's experience, though few of us will.

Each of us has something in our lives to keep us from being conceited and arrogant. You think you did it on your own? Keep thinking that and the Lord will be quick to grant you a thorn, possibly permanently. For some of us, if life is easy, then we don't need the Lord. That is exactly where the Lord does not want us, on easy street. Easy street is the least path of resistance to arrogance. Jesus said it was hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven, not because they are rich but because of the tendency to lean on wealth in this world rather than lean on the Lord. Paul needed to lean on the Lord at all times and his thorn helped him do just that. 

Few of us learn from our parents who tried to warn us from their own mistakes. Paul attempted to warn us, to humble ourselves with sober judgment. It is easier to humble yourself than live with a thorn. Humbling circumstances are mean to do just that, keep us humble. There is a perfect way to avoid humbling circumstances. Humble yourself, on your own, unlike Paul, and you can avoid the humbling circumstances. Think of your situation in life right now that gives you the most anxiety, the one you spend time wishing you could avoid it. That circumstance may be there to keep you humble. If you didn't have that situation, you might think you don't need the Lord. I have one, a humbling circumstance, it keeps me grounded and forces me to depend on the Lord. Without it, I may become conceited and think I don't need the Lord, that I can do it all on my own strength. Some of you are where you are because you haven't learned to lean on the Lord or you haven't learned to rid yourself of conceit. It is only the arrogant that need humbled. Examine what is humbling you right now.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matthew 19:23-24, 2 Corin 12:1-6

Monday, October 16, 2017


October 16, 2017
2 Timothy 2:13 "If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself."

The word "unfaithful" suggests cheating on someone, not being true to your vows of dedication. It certainly promotes vivid emotions. The Apostle Paul did not use the word unfaithful when writing to his favorite disciple, Timothy, rather the word "faithless." The choice of words used to communicate with Timothy is interesting though. In the second letter to Timothy, the tone of communication is clearly different than the first letter to Timothy. The first letter carries far more elementary topics and the second letter builds on those topics, representing the maturity of Timothy's understanding. Paul takes a break from his lengthy discourse in the second letter to Timothy and gives him a summary song to learn. The summary song, not necessarily meant to be sung, was meant to be memorized as a short collection of idioms to spark meaning when easily quoted. The full stanza is:
     "If we died with Him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself."

In the set of verses, Paul uses opposites. He juxtaposes dying with Christ as well as living with Christ. He said the opposite of owning is disowning. He says if we endure, living as powerless, then we will reign. Then Paul says if we are faithless the Lord will remain faithful, because the Lord cannot disown Himself. The Lord's portion in that line is to remain faithful, as in He cannot leave or deny or revoke His intention. The Lord does this despite someone being faithless. What does it mean to be faithless? The opposite of faithful is unfaithful, not faithless. Does it mean to doubt or deny? Does it mean to cheat, as in know the truth but not walk in it? It can mean many things to many people, but the apostle Paul used it to communicate the perfect opposite of trust or ability to acknowledging the truth. It does not mean to cheat, because that would mean being confident in the truth yet denying it. Paul was saying that when we doubt, or question the truth, or forget it altogether, that the Lord maintains that truth as an absolute.

You and I have the propensity to doubt, question things when it gets tough or the timing does not submit to our ideals. But the Lord would say that no matter how much we doubt the truth about our lives or His Word or His plan, the Lord would maintain it, standing there with the truth in His hand, ready to help us take it up again in absolute terms. You have come to the knowledge of many truths, about the Lord, about your life, and about your participation in the Lord's plan. If you doubt those truths at any time, forgetting them or wondering the accuracy, the Lord wants to help you in that unbelief. His desire is that you have clarity and peace about the knowledge you should hold dear. If it no longer seems certain than take it to Him and ask Him to re-establish its validity in your heart. It is always true and valid, but sometimes we lose heart as human beings. If you lack faith, the Lord maintains all that is true. Doubting does not make something untrue, just untrue in your heart. 

If you doubt something, it is OK to talk to the Lord about it. Ask Him to re-establish it in absolute terms in your heart. Let Him place it there again.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Malachi 3:6, Mark 9:24, James 1:6-7 & 17, Hebrews 13:8

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Seas Have a Voice

Seas Have a Voice
October 9, 2017
Psalm 93:3 "The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves."

Many of the Psalms were written to music, as in a ballad or celebration to what is going on in the psalmist's heart and life. Psalm 93 is a short, five verse song, comparing the Lord's magnitude and strength to that of the ocean. The psalmist sings that the seas have a voice, with their dangerous and pounding waves, declare how magnanimous is the Lord of Heaven. It is not known if this is the psalmist writing and singing from the safety of the shoreline, being afraid of the stormy ocean, or if this was written from a death defying experience on the open waters. Maybe this is a storm in the psalmist's heart and the ocean is an allegory for his problems that cannot be controlled or harnessed. Whatever the case may be, any of the above mentioned scenarios hold true. The ocean is vast and powerful, dangerous, but the Lord is bigger than it all and the ocean declares it so.

The psalmist may have written it to encourage his heart, reminding him no matter how big the situation, how powerful or scary or dangerous, the Lord is bigger and mightier than it all. The Lord made that which is feared, and the psalmist was suggesting one need have more respect for the Lord than the pounding waves, or dangerous situation. The pounding ocean waves, representing a formidable scenario to a weak human being, declared the Lord's greatness. Simply stated, the potential problem declared how strong the Lord was and is and will be in our lives. The psalmist wrote these words to encourage himself, to sing the words that lifted the Lord up above the scary scenario. If the psalmist wasn't afraid of the situation, he would not have used the words "pounding waves," "thunder of the great waters," and "breakers of the sea."

He writes that the Lord is above it all, stronger and mightier, secure enough to not be rocked by the pounding breakers. In the last verse he determines that the Lord is steadfast, resolute and unchanging. He was declaring the Lord, no many how many scary situations arise, the Lord will be bigger than all of them, for all eternity. You would not know how big your God is without a big and scary situation needing overcome. There are a million scenarios right now in this world to be feared: earthquakes, floods, terrorists, and rogue gunman, bill collectors, doctor reports, and loneliness. The Lord is bigger than them all, resolute and unchanging, mightier than whatever situation you fear right now. 

Whatever you are fearing, the Lord is bigger. It is the Lord you should fear, not your situation. He can calm the waters, move the mountains, heal the sick, and pay any debt. Make sure you are right with the one who can overcome your breaking waves. They will not overtake you.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Psalm 93, Psalm 111:10, Mark 4:35-41, 1 Peter 5:7

Monday, October 2, 2017

Get Behind Me

Get Behind Me
October 2, 2017
Matthew 16:23 "Jesus turned and said to Peter, '"Get behind me, Satan!'

Jesus called Peter a bad name; He called him Satan. Peter and Jesus had many famous conversations; usually with Peter arguing with the Lord. On one night the two had a dynamic exchange in which Jesus suggested Peter was either being controlled by Satan or possessed by Satan or was Satan, himself. Peter was trying to convince Jesus that the idea of Jesus being put to death should and would not happen. Of course Jesus knew it had to happen, but Peter thought surely there would be a way for Jesus to escape death, to which Jesus replied, "Get behind me, Satan." These seemingly aggressive words were actually directed at Peter, not Satan. Yes, Jesus was calling Peter, Satan, sort of.

The quote must be reviewed in full context. Just prior to the harsh discourse, Jesus asked the disciples if they truly knew who He was. Peter answered that He was the Christ. Jesus was thrilled with Peter's answer because it had not yet been revealed that Jesus was the Christ. Peter was the first to figure it out, the real identity of Jesus. Jesus was proud of Peter's personal revelation; it showed he was paying attention and was sensitive to the Lord's work.  Peter declared that Jesus was the Savior, and Jesus was impressed, commending that Peter was truly a critical man in the Lord's plan. Then Jesus went on to explain as the Christ, He had to suffer and die, to fulfill all that was written about Him.  This is where Peter argued and suggested there was another way. Then Jesus got slightly aggressive, and called him Satan. I bet Peter was shocked.

The word that Jesus called Peter was not actually the same name that is given to Satan, although it translates to that in our modern text. Peter was not possessed by Satan and Jesus was not speaking to Satan; Satan was not in the room. The word Satan means adversary, or one who opposes as the enemy, specifically opposed to the work of redemption. Jesus used a word that was a diminutive of Satan when He used it against Peter. It was as if Jesus was adding the letters "ish" or "esque" to the name of Satan when He used it in context. Jesus was referring to Peter's words as something that would sound like they were coming from Satan. Jesus wanted to get Peter's attention, to understand the words Peter was suggesting were actually opposed to the redemptive work of the Christ through His death. If Peter was right, and Jesus did not suffer death on the cross, there would be no redemption, no salvation of sins. Peter had declared Jesus was the Christ but if the Christ did not die for the sins of mankind, then Salvation could not be attained. If this happened, then Satan would have won. Jesus was telling Peter that his human thoughts and reasoning would have opposed the plan of salvation just as much as Satan opposes it.

Jesus was not calling Peter, Satan, but referring to the opposition as something in favor of Satan and siding with the enemy. Jesus was nipping it in the bud, refuting the thought rather aggressively, to make sure the reasoning did not spread or continue. We must ensure our ideas do not get imposed upon the work the Lord is trying to accomplish. We must make certain not to cross the line and enter human reasoning into the equation, rather always seeking the Lord's design for it all, even if it includes death. The Lord's design for our lives, His plan to use you, may not make sense but to deny it would be akin to siding with the enemy, being like-minded with Satan.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matthew 16:13-28