Serve With A Humble Heart

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14 NIV)
As I studied the Pharisees, I was reminded that their righteousness was self-seeking. They were full of pride and looked with disdain on all who did not meet up to their standards. They thought so highly of themselves that they neglected to give glory and honor to God. Instead, even their prayers were praises to their name and for their glory.
Asking whether I am truly seeking to glorify God or if I am seeking my own glory and praise would be a excellent way to see whether I am living in the Spirit. If my motive is self-glorification, even if I am doing what externally appears good, it will not please God. My service must be done in his power and for his glory to be acceptable worship. If not, I am one of the people who is a lover of themselves…having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:2-5).
Questioning my motives is extremely difficult. This speaks directly to the heart of the matter. Directly to my heart and what I believe matters. When my motives, along with my outward actions, are right and pure, then and only then will I be glorifying God. This is true and right worship.
I read a quote that reminds me who alone deserves glory and praise. “It’s ludicrous for any Christian to believe that he or she is the worthy object of public worship; it would be like the donkey carrying Jesus into Jerusalem believing the crowds were cheering and laying down their garments for him.” (Charles Colson)
Today King Jesus, I pray that I will carry you into the world and that the crowds will cheer and worship you and you alone. I pray that I can remember that I am a created being and you are the Creator. I am, in a sense, just the donkey that carries you among the people. How wonderful to have the opportunity to carry you and your goodness and love to the world. Thank you for allowing me to serve you. Let me be faithful to serve with a humble heart.

I Get To Hang Out With People

1044394_553660813650_393947467_n[1]“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” Philippians 2:5
My daughter posted this beautiful picture on Facebook today. I was so jealous. She got to swim with the dolphins. I have always wanted to do that. I have had a fascination with dolphins for years. They are beautiful creatures that are highly intelligent. They are also friendly and interactive. Dolphins are social creatures that seem to enjoy playing together. I thought about all of this while lying in bed this morning dreaming of my chance to swim with them.
A grumbling spirit started to creep over me when the Lord revealed truth to me. I get to go to work today! Yes, at first that seems reason to encourage my grumbling spirit, but wait. I am going to be interacting with God’s creation all day. Today, I get to hang out with people! I am blessed.
People are special creations of God. They are created in the image of God Himself. God breathed the breath of life into man and man became a living being. Then He created a unique counterpart for man, the woman. As evidenced in Genesis, God took exceptional care in creating human beings. They are important to Him. What a privilege, in light of this, that I get to hang out with people.
Ok, you still aren’t convinced. Here is the best reason for being excited about playing with people. God is excited about people. He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. He spoke with Abraham. He calls His children to reason together with Him. Jesus came to earth as a man so He could save people. Save them from what? Separation from Himself. Save them for what? Eternity with Him. God wants to hang out with people. The more we become like Him, the more our desires are His desires. That’s why God’s children should be excited about spending time with people.
People are beautiful. They are highly intelligent. Most are friendly and interactive. Humans are social creatures that seem to enjoy playing together. With the Lord’s help, I can change my thinking and begin to dream of opportunities to hang out with people.

Holy God, There is no reason that you needed a relationship with us. You are complete in yourself. Because of this, I know that it is a choice, a choice born out of love that you interact with me. I am so thankful that you Lord have made provision through Jesus so that I am able to interact with you. I am also thankful that much of that interaction is play. I am allowed to enjoy and have fun in your presence. There are times when we have to do hard work, sometimes we have to endure discipline, but Lord I thank you for play time. Let me see the potential in each person. Give me insight into their world so that my interactions will be kind and caring and full of fun and joy. Today let me be excited that I have the privilege to hang out with people. Also, I would still like to swim with the dolphins.

Christian, Involve Your Mind, Be Intellectual

“If you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1-5).

 

Receive, incline, be attentive, seek, call out for, and search for knowledge. This sounds as if  we are expected to put forth effort to strengthen our mind. We need to be proactive in gaining intellectual insight. Is this the attitude of our culture? Is this the attitude of our churches? Is this my attitude?

The intellectual life seems to be out of vogue these days. Most people do not talk about what they are learning or thinking about; rather they discuss what they do and what they experience. Truths are not important in our society anymore, what matters most to people are events, happenings and the busy details of life.

When they do talk about thoughts or the thought life, they share opinions. These opinions are often ideas that they chose to believe because they like the idea, not because it is based in truth. Even Christians have this anti-intellectual mindset. They often base their idea of what Jesus would do on their feelings or worse, they base it on their secular training.  By choosing to define Christian ideas, by man’s ideas, we have given the world and other believers the wrong impression on what it means to live for Jesus.

To make an impact on our world, we must have something impactful to offer. Our watered down version of Christianity that we have imagined in our minds will not have the power to cause revival, let alone reach a lost world. We must get back to studying the Word and base our thoughts of God on truth. “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23). Intellectual effort must be exerted to know the truth.

How can we serve and worship the God we do not know? In John 4, Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman. He told her that they were worshipping what they do not know. The Samaritans had been worshipping according to their national training, not according to the truth of God. It seems that we in America may be in this same mindset. We are called to worship, but we cannot worship what we do not know. We are called to impact our world. We are called to know Jesus.

Our intellectual well being matters. We are called to put forth effort in knowing the truth. To do our best for our God and Savior, we must study. We need to know, (be aware of through observation, inquiry, or information[i]), God and His Word.

 

Thank you Lord, that I live in a time when it is easy to learn about you. I have so many resources to help me. I have access to material and insight from renowned teachers and scholars, past and present. I have an innate curiosity and desire to learn. You have truly blessed me. Do not let me waste my time on worthless pursuits or passivity. Help me to know You and Your Will better as I study to know you more.

For an in depth look at the importance of  an intellectual life that pleases God, I recommend

 



[i] dictionary.com

 

Do All Things Without Complaining

I broke my finger recently. It is the index finger on my right hand. It has been painful, and I have been a big baby about it. I thought about posting a picture of it on Facebook, in order to elicit more sympathy to my cause. I am glad I decided against it: First of all because I might lose readers who get grossed out easily and secondly because I have little reason to feel sorry for myself. I really don’t need that bad attitude encouraged.

Here is the story. I was at work on Memorial Day. I reached into the tube system to pull out a tube full of change. I had been distracted and didn’t realize how long it had been since it dropped. Suddenly I heard a tube rattling in the system overhead. I did not get my hand out quickly enough, and my finger was smashed between the tubes.

After the emergency room, my sister-in-law took me to the pharmacy to get pain meds. My little niece, Amanda, came and spent the night with me so I wouldn’t have to be alone. I was off work for about a week. I read, watched movies, ate, and relaxed. I had to avoid chores because I had a broken finger!

Although it sounds like a little vacation, and it was, I had moments when it was hard to look at it that way. I hurt. I wasn’t sleeping well. The antibiotics and pain medication made my stomach upset. I had a hard time doing simple tasks for myself. I started to get discouraged. I dropped the shampoo bottle while showering. It was hard to wash my hair with a plastic bag over my hand and a bulky splint on my finger. I started to cry and pray.

As I did, the Lord reminded me that my situation was minor in the scheme of things. He reminded me that on Memorial Day many celebrated lost loved ones and I worried about a lost fingernail. He reminded me that I had a beautiful home to relax in, a supportive family to help me, and medication to ease my suffering. Later as I was whining about the difficulty in taking a shower, He brought to my remembrance this video. http://youtu.be/gpBqR7_ilz0

I realized that complaining is a problem for me. I need to have a thankful heart. Too often I believe life should be problem free. When it is not, I am a big baby. Instead, I need to view the obstacles in my path as opportunities to be an over comer. “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5). Who overcomes? The believer in Jesus.

 

I want to thank you Jesus for loving me and caring for me. I want to thank you for giving me power by your Spirit to overcome. Let me show courage in adversity. Thank you for the examples of courage that you brought to my remembrance. They persuaded me to change my attitude. Help me to keep an over comer’s attitude for that is who I am.

I Desperately Needed a Change of Attitude

“Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10

I just finished a conversation with a friend about five minutes ago. She had spent some time with a controlling relative recently. It reminded me of a controlling mom from my past.

I was a softball coach. One of my players had an overbearing mom. She constantly interrupted things to tell me what to do. As is often the case, the mom had no understanding of the game. It was a difficult situation. I tried to avoid the mom and I felt sorry for the girl. I eventually lost track of the family.

I was reintroduced to the girl through Facebook. I was shocked. Many of the pictures she had posted were risque. The places she spent time were unhealthy, and the things she bragged about doing were sinful. I attributed her wayward behavior to rebellion against an overbearing mom, although I am sure this is not the outcome this mom wanted.

This is a sad story, but there is an even sadder one that I am going to share. I relayed this story in some detail to my friend without any sympathy or concern for this family. Instead, I openly displayed disdain. Instead of compassion for this young lady who lives a life of slavery to sin, I showed contempt. This is truly sad. It seems that I need a change of attitude.

This was a perfect opportunity for me to intercede for this family. I have access to the throne of God. I could have prayed that God would intervene and free them from sin and its consequences. As I look back, I also had a perfect opportunity to show concern when I coached the girl. Why wasn’t I in constant prayer for each girl that I was coaching?  Their eternal wellbeing matters more than how well they played softball. My priorities were and still are obviously messed up.

I must remember that each person is created in the image of God. Each is a soul for which Jesus died. If they matter to Him, they should matter to me. But they haven’t.

Now you have heard it, my sadder story. I encounter many people during the course of my day, and many more during the course of my life. Instead of viewing them as precious souls that Jesus came to save, I make judgments based on my own prejudices and legalism.  I desperately need a change of attitude.

 

Father  forgive me and make a change in my heart and mind. Oh Lord, let me love as you love. Let my heart’s desire be for others to come to know you as their personal Savior. Even when I am unable to change their circumstances or intervene to make a difference, I can pray. I can intervene on behalf of the lost because You can change their circumstances and intervene to make a difference. You can also change their heart. To You be all glory and honor and praise.

Resist Temptation

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christand be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:7-14)

 

My son Robby preached a great sermon recently. One of the things he shared was that Jesus never got a release from temptation because he never gave in to it. Jesus had to continue on with temptation nagging at Him. The example Robby used was about cookies. He said, if you are craving cookies and are tempted to eat them, you keep thinking about them. After you give in and eat them you stop thinking about them. Your craving is gone because you gave in to temptation.

This point got me thinking about my view and attitudes about temptation. Somehow I got the idea that the closer you get to God and the more you live like Jesus, the less temptation bothers you. Now I am thinking that temptation may bother us more as we become like Jesus. To be like Jesus means we have to bear up under the temptation. As we resist, the desire and craving initially gets stronger and plays with our minds more.

There is nothing that I could find in the Bible that said that temptation, craving and desire would go away if we resist. What I did find was that the Apostle Paul often spoke of striving and persevering to reach the goal. He talks about discipline and determination. He doesn’t talk about an easy stroll through life but a battle that must be fought, a race that must be won. In fact, we may not get release but we still must choose to serve God. “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). This is taking up our cross daily, resisting the things that tempt us and obeying God.

Unfortunately, we don’t always choose to live this way. One of the reasons is that sin does give that temporary release. It does feel good in the moment. We often justify our sin because of this “good feeling”. We fail to look long term at the consequences. Sin is never the best choice, even if it feels good at the time.

Paul understood this. That is why he talks about loss, a giving up of one thing for something better. The something better is eternal and valuable. What we give up is garbage. What we gain is a relationship with God! We get to know Him and relate to Him by understanding His emotions, thoughts, righteousness, and eternity.

We do have to share in His sufferings. That means that we resist temptation even when it nags at us. That means that we choose righteousness even in the face of adversity. In this way we participate with Jesus in the life He lived and continues to live through us. We participate with Him because He first came and lived life like us. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus knows what it takes to resist sin. He knows how difficult it can be. He knows that the cravings and naggings persist, but He also knows the reward of resisting. It is the abundant life and brings with it eternal reward.

 

Dear Lord, without you persevering through temptation and resisting the cravings of the flesh, I would not have eternal life. You do understand what it means to be tempted and you know that with your power I can stand firm for you. Lord, help me to do that. Let me continue to stand firm even when I experience difficult emotions. Opposing sin and resisting temptation are often mentally and emotionally exhausting. Let me trust in You and not my feelings. By faith I trust that your righteousness will be made manifest in me. I ask for strength to press on and strain for the prize. I love you Jesus for resisting temptation and becoming my perfect and whole sacrificial Lamb. To you be all glory and praise.

 

A Crown of Thorns, A Symbol of Love

crown of thorns 1

“And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe” John 19:2

 

One morning this week I prayed that God would be with me through my day and remind me of his presence. I told Him that I want to know Him better. I went to work and got caught up in the commotion of the day. But then the Lord in a rather unexpected way reminded me that He is close to me and He loves me.

I was organizing some things in a back room. It was quiet and I was by myself. I picked up a heavy item that needed to be moved. I accidently dropped it and set off a chain reaction of crashes, the domino effect. One of the things that fell was a huge bougainvillea and it fell on my head!

Ouch! One of the thorns stabbed my head and a couple of others scratched me. The one that stabbed me actually broke off in my head and I had to scrape the point out of my scalp. I had been “crowned” with thorns. Through the intervention of the Spirit, my thoughts immediately turned to the Lord and His crown of thorns. I remembered the words from John 19:2. The soldiers made a crown of thorns and put it on Jesus.

I knew that my pain was nothing in comparison to what Jesus went through. I was hurting and I had just a few scrapes and one stab wound. Wow, I felt bad. So I can’t imagine the pain the Lord suffered and He suffered it for me. And the crown of thorns was only a small part of the agony that Jesus experienced.

What amazing love that crown of thorns pictured for me. “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). I suffered because I was clumsy. He suffered because I was sinful. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He loves me so much that He demonstrated it when He suffered and died for my sins, and he shows it to me day by day.

He showed it to me when He answered my prayer. He was with me through my day. I was reminded of God’s presence in my life and my thoughts were steered towards Him. Being crowned by thorns reminded me that I am loved, because I better understood His suffering and what it meant for me.

Although pain is never fun, I can see how God used it to benefit me. My little disaster could have been so much worse than it was. But the Lord was with me and used this small discomfort to turn my thoughts to Him and to remind me of His goodness.

 

Thank you, Jesus, for taking the negative and making it good. It is hard to understand how you can take an instrument of torture like a crown of thorns and turn it into a symbol of love and hope. If you can do that, you can certainly take the most despicable things and make them good, even lovely. I pray that you do that for me. Take the wrong, the sin and the pain and turn it into glory for your name.