Friday, January 27, 2017

Arrogance and Pride



I suspect that many readers have heard the admonition “Pride goes before the fall” (Proverbs 16:18). It is talking about one of the things that god “hates.” I suspect some of you are now saying that God doesn’t hate anything? Well, He does and pride and arrogance are on the top of the list. Proverbs 6:16 says there are six things that God hates and one more is an abomination to Him. Yes, “a proud look” or “haughty eyes” is number one, numero uno! This is right before a lying tongue and wicked, murderous hearts. What’s the big deal you might say?  It seems that pride is the original sin of Satan and Adam and Eve in the garden.  They wanted to be like God or God if possible and they thought it was possible. The fall has been cataclysmic for Satan and mankind. Now that I have your attention, let’s look at some other thoughts of God on the subject.

God has some even more direct words on our subject. “Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate” (Proverbs 6:13).  This is from a “Wisdom” book of the Bible. In Isaiah God said, “I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and I will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible” (Isaiah 13:11). He is speaking against Babylon and the coming judgment of His creation. It was considered the crown jewel of religion and evil. How about that in one sentence. It was the “Evil Empire” of not Star Wars but the real world. Remember that Islamic leaders call the United States the “Great Babylon.” Perhaps it takes evil to know evil. Proverbs says, “pride will bring him/her low” (Proverbs 29:23).  God speaks of Nebuchadnezzar, the evil King, in Daniel 6:20, saying “But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him.”  I am beginning to get the drift of God’s guidance on arrogance and pride. I think it might be helpful now to turn to how boasting or pride might be thought of as OK. 

Paul is speaking of boasting in 1 Corinthians 1:31, saying Therefore, as it is written: Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” He is speaking of how God chose us lowly ones to be his in Christ Jesus, so we can boast of God and God alone. Jeremiah the prophet says it well “This is what the Lord says: Let not the wise man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight” (Jeremiah 9:23-24). 

I am led to think of the worship song by Amy Grant, which says, “If there is anything good that happens in life, it’s from Jesus!” I am getting this concept better and better as I grow in Christ to know God better. I have come to a place to know that there is nothing good in me, except what God has given me. There is a camp song that rings in my ears at times:
 “You’ve got to walk that lonesome valley; you’ve got to walk it by yourself; oh nobody else can walk it for you, you’ve got to walk it by yourself.
I have traveled the trail with my horse and saddle; I’ve walked the way of the mountain man. Oh, nobody else can walk it for you, you’ve got to walk it by yourself.

You might ask what this has to do with life? It is that as I travel the trail, I have learned I pray the lessons of arrogance. It was not long ago that a family Christian friend said to me, “you were very arrogant, but you have changed.”  I am glad, but know this admonition of the Lord “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall”  (1 Corinthians 10:12). 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Generosity



“God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).  The key here is that we should willingly give to the poor, the needy joyfully, for it is God’s will for us.  Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). James, Jesus’ brother, said “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). This verse is one that much of our society today seems to not know or understand- it is all from God.  We are not “self-made” anything. It is all from God. “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  

He gave it all that we might live in His grace or undeserved favor. God does not need our gifts, He owns it all anyway. He wants us to be givers for our sake. God says, “Give and it shall be given to you, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over it will be poured into your lap” (Luke 6:38).  God is saying,  “It is more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35). 

This concept is hard for most to believe, perhaps because we are scared of losing what we have if we give it away. We believe that there won’t be enough left for us. You may have heard the thought that there are no hearses with U-Haul trailers behind them. We seem to want to keep what is not ours anyway. We are afraid to lose or we have lost in a crisis or bad investment and we don’t want to risk again. Joel 2:25 says “I will repay what the locusts have stolen.” God knows all about it and “My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Paul had learned the secret of being content in all circumstances and “that I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12). 

I think that God has a way through our fears and to generosity. “My son give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my way” (Proverbs 23:26).  God wants our hearts, undivided. “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them a heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).

God is saying that “Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice” (Psalm 112:5).  Proverbs tells us “A generous man will himself be blessed” (Proverbs 2:9). 


I want to be a cheerful giver. How about you?

Friday, January 13, 2017

God of All Comfort



You may be going through some difficult times in your life. But God is a God of comfort even in the tough times. Scripture is proof of this as well as the testimony of millions. "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly in Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-4).

I am reading a commentary be Warren Wiersbe called “Be Comforted.” It speaks as the ancient Jewish Rabbis calling Isaiah, “The Book of Consolation.” God through His “Suffering Servant” says to His people, “Be Comforted.” He is telling them that the warfare is over and He will return double what it has stolen in Babylon exile. His is a voice of peace. The voice of God saying, “speak tenderly” is encouraging and uplifting, or at least it should be.

The word comfort appears often in Scripture, however, perhaps the most encouraging and consoling verse appears in 2 Corinthians 1:2-4. I often use this verse to open funerals and memorials services.
 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

He is indeed the God of compassion and all comfort. He is the Counselor who brings healing and mercy to us in times of trouble. He covers us with his love in times of loss and grief. There is no greater source of solace than the Lord. His love endures forever and will never leave or forsake us the Bible tells us often. Psalm 23 tells us that even though we walk through the valley of death to fear no evil for His rod and staff "comfort us." 

As we “cry out” to God He hears us, even before we call. He knows our pain and fears. He knows our needs and ways. He wants to bring us hope in the hurts of life, even when they don’t seem to leave us. Job’s wife said to her husband in trial, “curse God and die.” Job answered, “Should we not take the bad with the good?” The whole book of Job goes on, increasing the trial for him, yet he praises God in it.  However, he does cry out to God wanting to know what was going on in his life. God just told him who He was and that Job should worship and call on Him in the trial. He told Job that he was with him and was his friend.


He is our friend and will comfort us in our trials and troubles. It is God’s will to bring us “goodness and mercy” so we can dwell in the house of the Lord forever. “Comfort, comfort my people, says the Lord.”

Friday, January 6, 2017

Sing a New Song



“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God” (Psalm 40:3). Isn’t that good news? I so often sing a song of griping or grumbling, things God detests. God is in the praise of His people, Psalm 22 tells us. He draws near when we praise Him, not because He has an ego that needs praise. We are the ones who need to get out of ourselves and connect with the only One who can change our song. “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day” (Psalm 96:1-2).  He wants us to declare what He has done for us, because we can’t help ourselves. This is a worshipful discipline to God. Songs come from the heart or center of our being. Paul says in Ephesians 5:19 “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God our Father for everything, in the name of our Lord  Jesus Christ.” 

The psalms are songs or hymns to God proclaiming what God has done. “You have turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent” (Psalm 30:11-12). This psalm speaks of turning grief to joy. This is a difficult verse or concept. I once led a program called GriefShare, a support group for people grieving the loss of a loved one. The motto was “Mourning to Joy.” Several distressed people stormed out of the group when they heard this seemingly insensitive thought. But God is a heart changer as we reach out to Him and other godly people for help. In fact, the Bible says to sing our praise and thanksgiving to God in our pain. Perhaps Psalm 100 is the loudest proclamation of this word.
A psalm. For giving grateful praise. 
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. 
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs. 
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
    and His courts with praise;
    give thanks to Him and praise His name. 
For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
    His faithfulness continues through all generations.

God is faithful in His lovingkindness towards us. Therefore we should enter into his gates with thanksgiving and praise. Sing a new song!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year!

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? I don’t as a rule. But I do have projects or habits I wish to continue in the New Year. I have also chosen a word to pursue as an ever-increasing characteristic in my life next year. I have chosen “Joy” or rejoice as part of the fruit of the Spirit to live more intentionally. I am carrying along previous year’s words of “faithfulness, kindness and gentleness.”

I tend to watch news too much. The treads running through news programs are: pain, destruction, fear, crisis, illness, scandal and happy.  You can choose you own, but clearly the attention and headline grabbers are all negative, except happy.

We say, “Happy New Year!” The ball comes down at Times Square and clocks tick midnight around the world, ushering in a new year. The old is gone, the new has come.  But has anything really changed? Do you still have the same bad habits and relationships? Is the world still a mess? It is hard not to answer yes to these questions. So what do we need to do to change things? How about trying harder to be happy? Yes, we can develop disciplines that will help us lose weight or exercise more in the New Year. Some might try to read more or even start going to church. But do these things really change you to be new?

There is really only one thing we can do to become brand new. That is to respond “yes” to the invitation to join the family of Christians, to be a “child of God,” to be “born again.” But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).  God created all people, but not all are children of God.  Paul talked a lot about becoming new. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2Corinthians 5:17). This speaks of our pasts being forgiven and how our way of life will be totally changed.

This passage from old to new is a spiritual one that changes all things in the life of a believer. This is a change that he speaks of in Romans 12:1 wherein we are “transformed by the renewing of your minds.”  This is a process of leaving our conforming to the world to a new one of pleasing God and doing His will as the Bible details. This is not magic or something we can buy, this is giving our lives over to the One who made us in the way He designed. This is the “new creation” that brings peace and mercy through the circumcision or surgery on the heart as Galatians 6:15 tells us. The world has been cut out of us. We may be in the world, but not of it. You will become set apart, alien and brand new.


So, what do you choose? Do you want the same all problems and solutions or a whole new view and perspective on all things? I for one am joyful in the New Year that I have chosen God as my Good Shepherd and I will want for nothing. He is my guide, guardian, leader and power within me through His Holy Spirit. This world is a mess within which to live. “But Jesus looked at them (the disciples) and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:26). Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Year of Bounty


Many would say adios to 2016. I think that makes sense in many ways as I look at dear friends with very trying health issues, deaths, political chaos, more moral ground given up to political correctness, increasing national debt, viral pandemics, Middle East continuing wars, earthquakes and hurricanes. Yes, it was the worst of years and the best of years.

“And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:4-8).
It is unfolding just as the Lord has prophetically told us. The beginning of “birth pangs” is here as the end times commence. For some it is frightening, for me it is with a sense of hope and even “joy.” Why would I feel this way? All these signs tell us to look up for our redemption draws close. Yes, Jesus is returning very soon to take His redeemed with Him to heaven and to begin the promised tribulation on earth as He pours out His wrath. So why can I entitle this essay a “Year of Bounty”? Expectation and prophetic truths are unfolding just as Jesus said. I read what the Psalmist says in Psalm 65:11-14 (NKJV),

“You crown the year with Your goodness,
And Your paths drip with abundance. 
They drop on the pastures of the wilderness,
And the little hills rejoice on every side.
The pastures are clothed with flocks;
The valleys also are covered with grain;
They shout for joy, they also sing.”

The NIV calls it God’s “bounty.” Just read and meditate on these words of promise and plenty. They cover the whole earth from shore to shore, valley to wilderness mountain. God is saying that He will bring abundance to us. This “goodness” is to prosper us and to make us joyful. That is why I have chosen the word “Joy” for 2017. It is because “The joy of the Lord is my (your) strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Yes, trials and suffering are certain, but God’s peaceful and powerful presence in our weakness is also. James tells us to “Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters when you come into trials of every kind, for the testing of your faith develops perseverance and staying power must become strong so that you may grow up” (James 1:2-4 paraphrase mine).  And he goes on to say, since this is a very difficult teaching that, “If any of you lacks wisdom on what to do, ask God and He will generously tell you what to do with love if you do not doubt” (James 1:5-6 paraphrase mine). Ask with trust and confidence that God has the answers and will provide all you need to deal with the trials, bountifully.

Joyfully, I move into the New Year, even though there are many very difficult issues in my life and those around me. God will provide the lamb (answer) and He already has. God has provided His Son as a sacrifice and redeemer-healer. He has provided a living abundance for all who would call upon His name and trust Him as Lord and Savior. Just call out. Better yet, be like those chosen ones in Psalm 65 “They shout for joy, they also sing.”


Happy New Year!!