Pardon Me ~Your Humility is Showing


BraggingArrogance and showmanship – in the form of self-righteousness – annoy God. On the other hand, we who are Christ followers are told to be bold and bright – letting the light within us shine in such a way that it will be seen by everyone.

We’ve all cringed a bit when people seem to boast about the enormous amounts of time they spend on their knees in prayer, and how they’ve worn out their Bible (make that “Bibles”) from constant use. We find ourselves feeling a bit annoyed by this display of piety. Yet haven’t most of us boasted in similar ways?

In the 6th chapter of Matthew, here’s what Jesus teaches: “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

And here’s what he teaches us about prayer (also in the 6th chapter of Matthew): “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Yet earlier, in the 5th chapter of Matthew, Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

From my perspective, the decision about whether or not to “make my good deeds known” is a matter of the motivation of my heart. Here’s the question I must continually ask myself: “Is what I’m about to say for God’s glory…or for my glory?” I can tell the difference—usually. And I believe the ultimate “test” of my motivation is exposed in the response of other authentic Christians. (I specify other authentic Christians because anytime we open our mouth we are at risk of being misperceived by people who “project” their own self-righteous flaws onto us.)

The Bible does not tell us to avoid practicing our righteousness before others. Rather, we are told to not practice our righteousness—or to pray—to be seen by others. Which brings us back to the motivation of our heart. “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. ~ Matthew 6.1

Praying or reading your Bible in a public place, such as a restaurant, may be a display of self-righteousness. Or, it may be an act of genuine gratitude for God’s Word and his provision. It’s a matter of one’s heart motivation.

I believe we need to be bold in our Lord. I believe we need to be “out there” proclaiming the good news of what he has done – and is doing – in our lives, and what he will do in the lives of others who will humbly receive his gift of Life. And when we boast, we must be reminded to “boast in the Lord.” ~1 Cor 1.31

Let us be continually checking our motives, and asking God to search our hearts, and expose anything within us that distracts others from the glory of our God.

We are his servants, and we are honored to have been invited to serve the King of kings and Lord of lords by serving his people—boldly…and for HIS glory!

Was Adam a Wimp…in the Beginning?


Adam (3)When did Adam become a wimp-of-a-man like us, blaming his wife for his foolish mistakes? Did God create him to be a milk toast kind of guy…a man who was too cowardly to take responsibility for his disobedience? Not likely. God created Adam in his own image.

I picture the newly created Adam as a confident man. It seems to me the moment his lungs were filled with the breath of God, and his eyelids opened, revealing the inexpressible beauty of his surroundings, Adam’s connection with his Creator would have instilled a deep sense of confidence. He had no competition, he had no hero image to live up to, and he had no shoes to fill. It seems that his primary inclination would have been to explore the wonderment of his surroundings—fearlessly. He would have been inclined to walk confidently with God in the stunning beauty of the garden.

Even so, Adam disobeyed God. Intentionally. He betrayed the One who breathed life into his body; the One who had instilled within him the almighty Spirit. Adam was not tricked or deceived; his choice was deliberate. We know we are inclined to disobey God, but we attribute our inclination to our “fallen nature.” Adam did not have a fallen nature. His nature—in the beginning—was pure and virtuous. So what could he possibly have been thinking when he took the bite of the forbidden fruit?

Something changed in an epic way when Adam took the bite. Perhaps at that very moment Adam became aware of his plight. He realized how ill-equipped he was to take responsibility for his rebellious choice, once he stepped out of the intimate fellowship he had enjoyed with his Creator friend. At that moment, Adam became a wimp like us. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say we have become wimps like him, since he was the first.

What if there was a way to regain the masculine strength Adam had in the beginning?

Actually, I believe there is a way to regain the sense of confident manhood we are intended to possess. But it doesn’t happen the way we think it should happen. It is not the result of our effort, or by pretending to be better than we are. It happens when we surrender our weaknesses to God. Men, it is in the admission of our weakness that we connect with God’s strength. God’s gracious strength flows into our lives through the humility of our spirit.

“God said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” ~2 Corinthians 12.9

…and yet have BELIEVED!


Empty tombWhile Rose and I watched the crucifixion of Jesus during the final episode of the Bible, I felt ashamed for the times I have not been faithful to God’s call. I regretted the times I avoided the “discomfort” of bearing witness to the work of God in my life.

Watching as our Lord was beaten mercilessly—as an innocent man—was almost too much to bear. There were times when I wanted to look away. But I was reminded that since he was willing to be beaten to death as the payment for my sin, how could I look away! How can I ever be a faithful witness to his grace if I cannot even bear to watch as he took my place?

After the beating, and the gruesome death, in three days the morning came. And the resurrection! I thought my heart would burst as I shared in the elation of Mary and the others when they discovered that the tomb was empty. All of my shame melted away as I witnessed Jesus’ kindness toward his disciples, even Peter. Their past failures and disbelief no longer mattered. Jesus died to release them, and us, from the penalty of sin. And he died to release us from the guilt and shame of our past foolishness.

I imagined what it would have been like to have been visited by Jesus after his resurrection from the dead. The look in his eyes supercharged my desire to “risk” being faithful to him, especially when things get a little uncomfortable. One day we will look into his eyes—and he will look into ours—as we give an account of the opportunities, and the gifts, he gave us to serve him.

Jesus commended his disciples for believing in him. And then he said something that reignited my faith: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” ~John 20.29

Rose and I looked at each other with a renewed awareness: That’s us! We, and all those who believe because of the witness of the disciples who were there to see with their eyes our risen Lord, are those who have not seen. Nevertheless, he has given us eyes of the heart to believe. Jesus tells us we are blessed for believing.

May we each experience a surge of confidence as we go about our day-to-day activities. Our Lord suffered the death that was meant for us, so that we can have everlasting life. How can we do less than bear witness to his amazing grace in our lives!

Runnin’ Naked…and Lovin’ It!


Running Silhouette“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” ~Hebrews 4.12-13

So here’s the question: Knowing the Bible “exposes” our innermost thoughts and desires, do we feel comforted…or condemned? Do we think of the revealing Word of God as a good and beneficial thing, or as a frightening thing?

It seems to me that the answer depends on our level of trust in the goodness of God. The more we trust him, the more safe we feel in our “nakedness” before him. Otherwise, we feel violated by God’s “intrusion” into our secret thoughts and desires.

I’m beginning to welcome the search light of God in my life. Knowing that he is for me and not against me makes all the difference. Although in the past I typically imagined God exposing the “bad” things lurking deep within my soul, it has occurred to me there are a few good things within me that God is exposing. For instance, one of the things he is exposing is my deep and enduring desire to be the man he designed me to be, and to be a husband and father and grandpa that will honor him.

He is exposing my willingness to learn to trust him more fully.  He is revealing my confidence that he is the One who will complete the work he has begun within me. Today, my greatest challenge is to live in humble submission to the things he reveals to me…as I live in his Word.

Sometimes when we’re reading the Bible, we simply quit reading too soon. Immediately after we read about God using his Word as a sword to slice and dice our innermost thoughts and desires, we read this:

“This High Priest of ours (Jesus) understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” ~ Hebrews 4.15-16

May we invite—and welcome—God’s loving revelation that brings healing into our lives and relationships, and peace that boggles our minds.

‘SINtense!


Verb TenseKnowledge of the tense of a verb can sometimes be critical for accurate interpretation of the Bible. For example, consider the following verse:

“No one who is born of God practices sin, because his (God’s) seed abides in him and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” ~ 1 John 3:9

Look at the verb sin. At first glance, the verse seems to imply that one who is “born of God” can never commit a sin, and yet Scripture teaches us this is not a reality:

1 John 1:8 – “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
2 Chronicles 6:36a – “…for there is no one who does not sin…”
Ecclesiastes 7:20 – “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”
James 3:2 – “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.”

When we understand that the verb sin is in the present tense, it becomes clear that John is saying that one who is born of God cannot habitually commit sins as their general pattern of life. The verb “practices” is also present tense and conveys the same thought. All believers commit sins, but not habitually or as their lifestyle. (Note the importance of a Biblical definition of sin, which not only includes intentional disobedience, but also “missing the mark,” and the “sins of omission” – knowing the right thing to do but neglecting/refusing to do it. The “sin” highlighted in 1 John 3.9 is the sin of “omission or commission, in thought and feeling or in speech and action.”)

Application: If our lifestyle is a lifestyle of continual sinning with no desire for holiness: Hebrews 12:14 – “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord,” we must examine whether we are genuinely new creatures in Christ: 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” and born from above: John 3:3 – “Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again’” and 2 Corinthians 13:5 – “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?”

Armed with this knowledge, we can understand that a proper understanding of 1 John 3:9 requires a proper understanding of the verb tense.

May the Author enlighten our minds to receive the truth of his Word, and may we walk in the Light and by the power of the Holy Spirit!

(adapted from preceptaustin.org)

A Call for Your Heart ~ (Part 2)


imagesCAV88UL8The voice we once heard…His voice…is now a distant cry. And yet it’s there…that voice calling out…longing for our return! “Come out…come out and resist.”

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” ~ James 4:7

So how in the world do we begin to resist when everything around us tells us to ignore the call? Our flesh is weak; the cravings for instant gratification are strong.
The Word of God is clear. It is a bold statement, a present imperative – a calling for decisive, effective, definite obedience. An imperative leaves no room for options. It’s a God-given command.

If you have breath in your body, and have the ability to read what I’ve written, then please pay attention for a moment!

Jesus endured an unimaginable death! With a cat of nine tails embedded with chards of glass and metal, the Roman soldiers ripped the flesh from His body with 40 lashes, until His body was spent and disfigured. In mockery, a crown of thorns was driven into the flesh on His head. He then picked up His cross and drug and carried it through the streets of Jerusalem, up the hill to the place called Golgotha. There His body was thrown on the cross, and nine inch nails were driven through His feet and hands…he was lifted up…His disfigured and bloody body put on display. The crowds cheered and mocked Him as His mother and disciples anguished for the Son of God….Mary’s precious son, the disciples’ Master and friend…God’s gift to mankind.

There on Calvary’s cross our Savior in this final hour looked up to the heavens and said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” Mercy and grace on display for all the world to see! He didn’t have to endure this death! He could have wiped mankind from the face of this planet and rescued Himself (and the few who believed). Instead He endured the Cross so that you and I could experience His redemptive power of mercy and grace! Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price! He CHOSE to pay the price for US!

I love the Message version of Romans 5:6-11: “Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. Now that we are set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, the consummate blood sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way. If, when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we’re at our best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life! Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah!”

Jesus’ words, “Forgive them for they know not what they do”…they resonate so loudly! Do you hear His voice? Do you hear Him calling your name? He died for you; He longs to have relationship with you! He chose you…He chose me!

He tells us in John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other”.

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” ~ Hebrews 10:19-24

“Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and will not faint!” ~ Isaiah 40:28-31

“So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” ~ Hebrews 10:35-36

“Papa God, I pray for those that hear Your voice today. Ignite a fiery passion in our hearts! Place Your favor in our lives as You have promised. Give us courage and strength to surrender our baggage and carry on in our journey with You! Purify our thoughts, purify our hearts and help us day by day to persevere and grow stronger in our relationship with You! Help us understand that our source of power is in Your Holy Word! Help us to treasure it and take it in every single day! In JESUS’ name I ask these things, amen.”

His voice…His calling. Your heart…His heart…choose to obey and persevere! ~ In His Strong Love ~ rose

Satan Goofed


joseph coat of colorsSatan made a mistake. If he had been thinking more clearly, he would have enlisted Judas to protect Jesus so the prospective Savior could live to be a ripe old age. If Satan could have somehow averted the crucifixion, and the subsequent resurrection, there would be no redemption. But the Enemy used Judas to fulfill prophecy, playing into God’s plan to rescue us from the wages of our sinful disobedience. Satan’s diabolical plan to kill Jesus was a necessary part of the plan of salvation—our salvation.*

Satan makes the same mistake every time he tries to trip us up along our journey. Every time he throws something into our path to destroy us – to take us out of the game – he is unwittingly playing into God’s plan. Our trust in God does not increase during the comfortable times in our life. (We do have comfortable times, don’t we) Out trust in God’s sovereignty grows only during the times when we are compelled to cling to him for dear life.

There’s a story in the book of Genesis about a plan to take a guy out, but the plan backfired. Joseph was a bright-eyed youngster who experienced harsh complications in his life as a result of the jealous schemes of his older brothers. (I think there is a special place in heaven for younger brothers who have had to endure the evil plots of elder brothers.) Young Joey was a menace to his brothers, so they sold him to slave traders.

Those who are familiar with the story know that God eventually used Joe to save the lives of the brothers who had tried to kill him. In fact, God used Joe to save an entire nation. Here’s the thing: Joe would not have been in a position to rescue a nation if his brothers had not done what they did.

The more we learn to trust our heavenly Father, the more alert we become in the midst of “bad things.” We become more alert because we have learned that an out-of-the-ordinary thing in our life might very well be the event God will use to accomplish something really good. Sounds strange, but some of us actually get a little excited—in a trembling kind of way—when we realize God is entrusting something to us that is beyond our capacity to handle…on our own. We know he’s about to do something that will ultimately bring him glory. And we are invited to play a part in the plan.

The Enemy wants to entangle us in doubt and fear. Since the beginning, he has always been trying to thwart the plan of God. But every attempt he makes to destroy us is another opportunity in God’s hands to accomplish his plan in our life. Every time.

Possibly something comes to your mind that illustrates this powerful truth in your own life. Perhaps there was a time in your life when you felt as though you were “going under.” But you didn’t go under. Instead, God used the difficult time to accomplish something good. Maybe you will have an opportunity to share your story with someone who needs to be reminded of God’s faithfulness this week. We serve an all-powerful God who always has—and always will—use everything the Enemy throws our way to accomplish his ultimate purpose.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” ~Genesis 50.20

*The idea that Satan, or anyone for that matter, could have derailed even the slightest detail of the execution of God’s eternal plan of salvation is preposterous. Yea God!

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